(Revised) Beating the Heart- Query Critique :)

Share your blood sweat tears query for feedback and lend your hard-won expertise to others
esther
Posts: 17
Joined: December 21st, 2009, 6:54 am
Contact:

(Revised) Beating the Heart- Query Critique :)

Post by esther » December 25th, 2009, 11:58 am

Scroll Down for the Edited Version!!!

Okay, so, I’m one of those new to blogging, but not new to this blog.
I’ve been hovering for months, but haven’t found the courage to post anything substantial.
So, here I go, or rather, here goes my first attempt at a query and at a "real" post (butterflies in my stomach)!


Dear (Agent),

Jason’s heart doesn’t beat, not until he meets Michelle.

Michelle grew up in her aunt’s home, believing her parents never wanted her. She also thinks they’re dead. It’s not until she gets a phone call that everything starts spiraling out of control. Michelle is forced out of her peaceful home, into a mansion she never knew her parents owned, living under her step brother, Chris, and attending, Xavier Phillips, the best prep school in the East Coast.

What she doesn’t know is her new home is a secret research facility where Jason along with two of his friends, are test subjects, their species called Pulsapians for their slow beating hearts that allow them to have supernatural powers. Their goal: to find Delilah, Michelle’s mom who first sought after the research facility to find a cure for herself only to fall in love with Eddie, the leader and eventually conceive Michelle. Now, with Delilah missing and Eddie found dead following her trail, the research facility under its new leader, Chris, is forced to turn into a search party, hacking into other facilities worldwide to piece together clues to Delilah’s whereabouts. It’s only when they hack into Metamorphose Industry that they find a real clue- a black-mailing picture, its contents all pointing towards Michelle. She gets that phone call.

Jason is different from the other Pulsapians: he is farther along the evolutionary road. While Taylor and Danielle’s hearts can occasional accelerate, he finds his heart beats in the same, ever so slow rate. And he’s tested it, with drugs, with extreme sports and even with girls, but nothing happens. The Pulsapians are then given a new assignment- babysitting Michelle at school. It isn’t until Jason is face to face with Michelle that he realizes something is terribly wrong. He can’t breathe. He can’t move and he thinks he’s having a heart attack, just like how his parents had died. Her mere presence sends fire carving its way through every vein, all starting from his heart. He hates her. Rather, he can’t stand to be around her. Everything’s fine, until he finds that he is, for the first time, experiencing an emotion. He’s falling in love. They’re falling in love.

Michelle’s journey takes off as she uncovers secrets of her identity.
She and Jason work to find a “cure,” the only hope they have to be together.
And the Society battles to find Delilah.

All three converge when Michelle finds only she can set everything straight.
But it’ll take a sacrifice. Is she willing?

“Beating the Heart” is a 120,000 word work of paranormal romance, looking to fall into the right hands.
Thank you for your consideration and I hope to hear from you soon.

Best wishes,
(Author: me)

I know. It’s long. Any suggestions??
Any type of feedback will be very much appreciated
Both positive and negative (especially negative)

Oh, and Merry Christmas!



Attempt 2:

Thanks for the great comments and suggestions!
I had another stab at this. I know this isn't anywhere near perfection, but i'll put it out there anyways...
Please, please tell me the parts you don't like (and like if you want) :)

Dear Agent,

[this is where I'll attempt to flatter the agent]

Michelle grew up in her aunt’s home, believing her parents never wanted her. She also thinks they’re dead. It’s not until her mom is missing, her dad found dead on her trail, and a blackmail threatening her life, that she is forced to move out of her peaceful home into a mansion she never knew her parents owned.

What she doesn’t know is her new home is a secret research facility. She meets Jason, a test subject and a Pulsapien, a new breed of mutants stemming from lineages riddles with heart-disease patients. As a Pulsapien, his extremely slow heart rate allows him to possess what every boy could only dream of: superpowers. Jason has the usual: strength, speed, agility, and to top that, he’s charming and extremely smart. But his debut into the paranormal costs him way more than he could pay. Jason’s heart doesn’t accelerate whatsoever, caging him in a body that can no longer feel or, in the evolutionary sense, be deterred by human emotions. In this way, Jason’s heart barely beats, that is, until he meets Michelle.

The Pulsapiens are given a new task- babysitting Michelle. It isn’t until Jason is face to face with Michelle that he realizes something is terribly wrong. Her mere presence sends fire carving its way through every vein, all starting from his heart. He hates her. Rather, he can’t stand to be around her. But he must. It’s his obligation, and soon enough, his desire.

But Jason is dying a slow and agonizing death with Michelle in his life, the only cure a heart transplant. Together, they undergo series of "unethical" experiments to find a “cure” for Jason, only to find Michelle is a perfect donor match for Jason. With Jason slowly wasting away, they reach a dead end not only with their experiments, but with finding Michelle’s mom as well. Hope comes, but in the form of another blackmail. Michelle is wanted from the same research facility her mom is kept for her potential to destroy a fast growing population of Pulsapiens. She must choose to either stay, letting Jason die in her arms, or trade herself in to save her mom, leaving Jason physically alive, but trapped in the emotionless shell he once was. It’s not a hard decision, but when she discovers she can save Jason from an empty life, there is no longer a choice. She must save her loved ones, but at what cost? It’ll just take one life and one heart- hers.

Jason must find Michelle in time to save her, her mom, and himself from a life he fears the most- a loveless one.

“Beating the Heart” is my first novel and is a XXXX word work of paranormal romance tinged with Christian themes.
Thank you for your consideration and I hope to hear from you soon.

P.S. Every twenty seconds, a person in the United States has a heart attack. Because of the prominence of heart disease, I believe this story has relevance and is highly relatable.

Best wishes,
(me)

I think i'm having a problem cutting down on the plot. As you can see there are two major plots (Jason/Michelle relationship and Searching for mom Mission), and I can't take out one or the other because they tie in so closely at the end.
Any suggestions? any part you think isn't necessary?
Thanks :)
Last edited by esther on January 1st, 2010, 5:15 pm, edited 14 times in total.

Dakota388
Posts: 55
Joined: December 9th, 2009, 11:17 pm
Contact:

Re: Beating the Heart- Query Critique: Feedback por favor :)

Post by Dakota388 » December 25th, 2009, 12:22 pm

esther wrote:Okay, so, I’m one of those new to blogging, but not new to this blog.
I’ve been hovering for months, but haven’t found the courage to post anything substantial.
So, here I go, or rather, here goes my first attempt at a query and at a "real" post (butterflies in my stomach)!

I'll give this a quick read-through before my wife kills me for spending Christmas on the computer.
Dear (Agent),

Jason’s heart doesn’t beat, not until he meets Michelle. doesn't beat? Literally? Vampire or something? Or figuratively?

I would start here. I like this as an opening.Michelle grew up in her aunt’s home, believing her parents never wanted her. She also thinks they’re dead. It’s not until she gets a phone call that everything starts spiraling out of control. Michelle is forced out of her peaceful home, into a mansion she never knew her parents owned, living under her step brother, Chris, and attending, Xavier Phillips, the best prep school in the East Coast. This sentence seems too long and full of a ton of information. Also, a general rule is to try and only use 2, maybe 3 proper names in a query. It is too difficult for the reader to keep track of. If Chris is so important that his name needs to be here than use it but if you can get by with "her step brother..." that would be better. The name of the school might not be so important for a query either. As I read through, there are way too many names.

What she doesn’t know is her new home is a secret research facility. She meets Jason, a test subject and part of a species... where Jason along with two of his friends, are test subjects, their species called Pulsapians for their slow beating hearts that allow them to have supernatural powersIf their powers are important to the query (I'm sure they are to the book) show us what their powers are and how they might save the day or something.. Their goal: to find Delilah, Michelle’s mom who first sought after the research facility to find a cure for herself only to fall in love with Eddie, the leader and eventually conceive MichelleToo much back story. This sentence is more of an info-dump than important to the query.. Now, with Delilah missing and Eddie found dead following her trail, the research facility under its new leader, Chris, is forced to turn into a search party, hacking into other facilities worldwide to piece together clues to Delilah’s whereabouts. It’s only when they hack into Metamorphose Industry that they find a real clue- a black-mailing picture, its contents all pointing towards Michelle. She gets that phone call. Though you have good stuff, your query isn't streamlined near enough. Pick your main character and focus on his/her trials, forgetting everyone else nonessential to that particular goal. Try to shoot for 250-300 words tops for the synopsis portion. It will take a lot of hard editing, I know, but if you are open-minded, you will get there.

Jason is different from the other Pulsapians: he is farther along the evolutionary road. While Taylor and Danielle’s hearts can occasional accelerate, he finds his heart beats in the same, ever so slow rate. And he’s tested it, with drugs, with extreme sports and even with girls, but nothing happens. The Pulsapians are then given a new assignment- babysitting Michelle at school. It isn’t until Jason is face to face with Michelle that he realizes something is terribly wrong. He can’t breathe. He can’t move and he thinks he’s having a heart attack, just like how his parents had died. Her mere presence sends fire carving its way through every vein, all starting from his heart. He hates her. Rather, he can’t stand to be around her. Everything’s fine, until he finds that he is, for the first time, experiencing an emotion. He’s falling in love. They’re falling in love. Try to tighten this up. I like a lot of the aspects of your story but this query is too detailed and not focused. A suggestion. Write a sentence that tells what your story is about. One sentence. Then write your query from that. Throw in a cool aspect here and there if it strengthens that goal so that it shows how your book is different.

Michelle’s journey takes off as she uncovers secrets of her identity.
She and Jason work to find a “cure,” the only hope they have to be together.
And the Society battles to find Delilah. Don't summarize what you have just told us. Let the story tell us what you want us to know.

All three converge when Michelle finds only she can set everything straight.
But it’ll take a sacrifice. Is she willing?

“Beating the Heart” is a 120,000 word work of paranormal romance, looking to fall into the right hands.
Thank you for your consideration and I hope to hear from you soon.

Best wishes,
(Author: me)

I know. It’s long. Any suggestions??
Any type of feedback will be very much appreciated
Both positive and negative (especially negative)

Oh, and Merry Christmas!
I didn't mean to be too critical. Trust me, I've wanted to jump from a ledge about a thousand times during this query process. (I still may.) Good luck and welcome to the board.
"The Light of Epertase"-A fantasy novel coming August 1st from Rhemalda Publishing

User avatar
shadow
Posts: 302
Joined: December 7th, 2009, 5:06 pm
Location: The moon
Contact:

Re: Beating the Heart- Query Critique: Feedback por favor :)

Post by shadow » December 25th, 2009, 7:58 pm

I shall try thy query! Just kidding but i will try!

Jason’s heart doesn’t beat Is he dead then??? I know what you mean by what you said but it probably won't work. You should rephrase., not until he meets Michelle.Maybe something like Jason has no meaning in life, until he meats... Just a thought.

Michelle grew up in her aunt’s home, believing her parents never wanted her. She also thinks they’re dead. It’s not until she gets a phone call that everything starts spiraling out of control. How does that happen? Let the plot shine.. Michelle is forced out of her peaceful home, into a mansion she never knew her parents owned, living under her step brother, Chris, and attending, Xavier Phillips, the best prep school in the East Coast. Looks a bit like a run on to me but I see what you mean. This is getting to the climax

What she doesn’t know is her new home is a secret research facility where Jason along with two of his friends, are test subjects, their species called Pulsapians for their slow beating hearts that allow them to have supernatural powers. That sentence really threw me off. Awkward. Their goal: to find Delilah, Michelle’s mom who first sought after the research facility to find a cure for herself only to fall in love with Eddie, the leader and eventually conceive Michelle. Gets a bit tangled. Try to make it more to the point. Now, with Delilah missing and Eddie found dead following her trail, the research facility under its new leader, Chris, is forced to turn into a search party, hacking into other facilities worldwide to piece together clues to Delilah’s whereabouts. It’s only when they hack into Metamorphose Industry that they find a real clue- a black-mailing picture, its contents all pointing towards Michelle. She gets that phone call.

Jason is different from the other Pulsapians: he is farther along the evolutionary road. While Taylor and Danielle’s hearts can occasional accelerate, he finds his heart beats in the same, ever so slow rate. And he’s tested it, with drugs, with extreme sports and even with girls, but nothing happens. The Pulsapians are then given a new assignment- babysitting Michelle at school. It isn’t until Jason is face to face with Michelle that he realizes something is terribly wrong. He can’t breathe. He can’t move and he thinks he’s having a heart attack, just like how his parents had died. Her mere presence sends fire carving its way through every vein, Now I understand your beginning. You should mention that he isn't human there. Hmm rather interesting.all starting from his heart. He hates her. Rather, he can’t stand to be around her. Everything’s fine, until he finds that he is, for the first time, experiencing an emotion. He’s falling in love. They’re falling in love.

Michelle’s journey takes off as she uncovers secrets of her identity.
She and Jason work to find a “cure,” the only hope they have to be together.
And the Society battles to find Delilah.

All three converge when Michelle finds only she can set everything straight.
But it’ll take a sacrifice. Is she willing?

“Beating the Heart” is a 120,000 word work of paranormal romance, looking to fall into the right hands.
Thank you for your consideration and I hope to hear from you soon.

Best wishes,
(Author: me)

I know. It’s long. Any suggestions??
Any type of feedback will be very much appreciated
Both positive and negative (especially negative)

Oh, and Merry Christmas!esther

I actually liked it, but the overall novel length is a bit long. Luck!!!
~shadow~
All things writing, visit my blog http://arielemerald.blogspot.com/

ImageImageImageImage

saraho
Posts: 11
Joined: December 7th, 2009, 6:22 pm
Contact:

Re: Beating the Heart- Query Critique: Feedback por favor :)

Post by saraho » December 25th, 2009, 11:11 pm

Hey! I'm stuffed on rice and turkey and slightly drowsy, but I'll give this a shot!
esther wrote: Dear (Agent),

Jason’s heart doesn’t beat, not until he meets Michelle. I'm not sure, but I think I read somewhere else that Nathan isn't big on one-liner/movie tagline-esque beginnings because it seems to cliche or gimmicky. You'd have to double check with him on that, but it might be good to leave it out. At the same time, I do actually LIKE the line, so maybe when you actually start to talk about Jason, you can weave this in somehow.

Michelle grew up in her aunt’s home, believing her parents never wanted her. She also thinks they’re dead. It’s not until she gets a phone call that everything starts spiraling out of control. Michelle is forced out of her peaceful home, into a mansion she never knew her parents owned, living under her step brother, Chris, and attending, comma not needed Xavier Phillips, the best prep school in the East Coast. I'm not sure I see how the fact that she once thought her parents were dead connects to her leaving her home and living in this mansion and going to that school. Do they live there with the brother? Did they send the phone call? I'm not sure why and it could just be me and the turkey, but something just doesn't click there for me.

What she doesn’t know is her new home is a secret research facility where Jason My first reaction here was "who's Jason?" Then I had to look back to the first line. I think it's one of those things were you might want to formally introducing him here rather than dropping the one-liner and letting THAT be his introduction.along with two of his friends, are test subjects, their species called Pulsapians for their slow beating hearts that allow them to have supernatural powers. That's an interesting idea that I've never heard before - a cool way to explain someone's powers (though what KIND of powers? Specifics might be good). However, I think a big piece of information like this - that different species exist and they have magic - could be introduced in a somewhat more interesting way. Here it almost feels like an after thought. Also, at the beginning you said that Jason's heart doesn't beat, but here you say their hearts beat, just slowly. Which is it?Their goal: to find Delilah, Michelle’s mom who first sought after the research facility to find a cure for herself only to fall in love with Eddie, the leader and eventually conceive Michelle. Now, with Delilah missing and Eddie found dead following her trail, the research facility under its new leader, Chris, is forced to turn into a search party, hacking into other facilities worldwide to piece together clues to Delilah’s whereabouts. It’s only when they hack into Metamorphose Industry that they find a real clue- a black-mailing picture, its contents all pointing towards Michelle. She gets that phone call. Sounds interesting again, but there's way too much information here and it's all kind of jumbling together for me.

Jason is different from the other PulsapiansThey're a different species...are they humanoid? I'd assume that they are, but I have no real clue based on the query unless I missed it: he is farther along the evolutionary road. While Taylor and Danielle’s hearts can occasional accelerate, he finds his heart beats in the same, ever so slow rate. And he’s tested it, with drugs, with extreme sports and even with girls, but nothing happens. The Pulsapians are then given a new assignment- babysitting Michelle at school. It isn’t until Jason is face to face with Michelle that he realizes something is terribly wrong. He can’t breathe. He can’t move and he thinks he’s having a heart attack, just like how his parents had died. Her mere presence sends fire carving its way through every vein, all starting from his heart. He hates her. Rather, he can’t stand to be around her. Everything’s fine, until he finds that he is, for the first time, experiencing an emotion. He’s falling in love. They’re falling in love. This sounds really cool, but again I think it's way too much detail for the query. Think about what's really important, who are the characters, the villain (if there is one), the conflict and what's at stake.

Michelle’s journey takes off as she uncovers secrets of her identity.
She and Jason work to find a “cure,” the only hope they have to be together.
And the Society battles to find Delilah. You probably won't need to have these three lines here after you've erased the little details and made it clearer what the main point/characters/conflicts of the story are.

All three all three what?converge when Michelle finds only she can set everything straight. Yeah the sentence is confusing. How can she set eveything straight?
But it’ll take a sacrifice. how and why?Is she willing?

“Beating the Heart” is a 120,000 word work of paranormal romance, looking to fall into the right hands.
Thank you for your consideration and I hope to hear from you soon.

Best wishes,
(Author: me)
All in all it different sounds really imaginative and unique. I personally would like to see more unique and different stuff in paranormal romance. I think you just need to leave off the details and focus on the main information the agent needs to know and then organize that information so that it flows!

Anyway, I hope I helped! Merry Christmas :D
*~Sarah O.~*

esther
Posts: 17
Joined: December 21st, 2009, 6:54 am
Contact:

Query Length

Post by esther » December 26th, 2009, 8:56 am

Nathan,

I know there seems to be a sweet spot for an ideal query, but do you see any trends based on genre?
It seems logical a Sci-Fi (or anything along this line) may require more space to explain.

I've looked through, and I don't think I've seen an answer to this one.
Thanks :)

Alexandra Little
Posts: 17
Joined: December 7th, 2009, 1:04 pm
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Contact:

Re: Query Length

Post by Alexandra Little » December 26th, 2009, 1:37 pm

The guideline for most queries, even by genre, seems to be that you should be able to fit it onto one page, even when including salutations, signatures, and contact information. The same holds true for email queries. I've read quite a few sci-fi/fantasy queries and they all fit the one-page guideline, though they might have to take extra sentence or two for a bit a world building.

If you are looking for some fantasy queries, here are Lisa Shearin's and Sarah Rees Brennan's:

http://pubrants.blogspot.com/2006/08/qu ... arins.html

http://pubrants.blogspot.com/2007/09/qu ... ed-me.html
WIP #1: young adult fantasy, rewriting/editing
WIP #2: young adult fantasy, first draft
WIP #3: young adult fantasy, twinkle in the author's eye

User avatar
Bryan Russell/Ink
Posts: 430
Joined: December 20th, 2009, 10:44 pm
Contact:

Re: Query Length

Post by Bryan Russell/Ink » December 26th, 2009, 5:00 pm

I think a lot of SF&F queries fall into that trap, thinking that they have to explain their "world" and write a longer query. Hey, the world is cool! But that's often not the case. Most of these details are not what an agent or editor needs (or wants), I think. The query's job is still to tell a little story. Hook, character, conflict, rising action, climax (or hint of possible climax, anyhow). Tell a story, engage the reader. Quickly and tightly. World and setting details out of context rarely do that, or so I've found.

Best of luck,
Ink
The Alchemy of Writing at www.alchemyofwriting.blogspot.com

User avatar
shadow
Posts: 302
Joined: December 7th, 2009, 5:06 pm
Location: The moon
Contact:

Re: Query Length

Post by shadow » December 26th, 2009, 7:28 pm

I very much agree with Ink. One page for all!
All things writing, visit my blog http://arielemerald.blogspot.com/

ImageImageImageImage

Dakota388
Posts: 55
Joined: December 9th, 2009, 11:17 pm
Contact:

Re: Query Length

Post by Dakota388 » December 26th, 2009, 8:12 pm

But always check individual agents' websites. I am doing a query for an agent right now who wants one paragraph for the synopsis. Another agent spoke of her desire of no more than three sentences. In general, I think 150-200 words are good for that portion of the query. My understanding is always one page or less for the whole query.
"The Light of Epertase"-A fantasy novel coming August 1st from Rhemalda Publishing

askmonkey
Posts: 29
Joined: December 18th, 2009, 2:08 pm

Re: (Revised) Beating the Heart- Query Critique :)

Post by askmonkey » December 28th, 2009, 8:31 pm

Hi! This looks like an interesting story! I want to know more about the pulsapiens and about their superpowers, but I agree that the query feels way too long with too much detail. I got kind of bored in the middle while reading and your story isn't a boring one.
Dear Agent,

[this is where I'll attempt to flatter the agent]

Michelle grew up in her aunt’s home, believing her parents never wanted her. She also thinks they’re dead. It’s not until her mom is missing, her dad found dead on her trail, and a blackmail threatening her life, that she is forced to move out of her peaceful home into a mansion she never knew her parents owned. <--this sentence doesn't really make sense. hasn't her mom been missing this whole time? how long has her dad been dead? whose received the blackmail and who is threatening whom? why is she forced to move to her parent's mansion?

What she doesn’t know is her new home is a secret research facility. you said that she didn't know about the mansion. doesn't that then imply that she didn't know it was a secret research facility? Just say she discovers that it is a research facility or somethingShe meets Jason, a test subject and a Pulsapien, a new breed of mutants stemming from lineages riddles (<--typo) with heart-disease patients.

I'm a little confused here. are these "mutants" just people who have been bred from heart-disease patients? or was there some genetic manipulation?

As a Pulsapien, his extremely slow heart rate allows him to possess what every boy could only dream of: superpowers. Jason has the usual: strength, speed, agility, and to top that, he’s charming and extremely smart. seems strange to call his powers "super powers" and then say that they are "usual". But his debut into the paranormal costs him way more than he could pay. I'm not an expert, but this so far sounds more sci-fi to me than "paranormal" to me paranormal=vampires/ghosts/psychic abilities or am I missing something? Also "more than he could pay" is a bit cliche

Jason’s heart doesn’t accelerate whatsoever, caging him in a body that can no longer feel or, in the evolutionary sense, be deterred by human emotions. why "in the evolutionary sense"? i don't understand what you mean by this

In this way, Jason’s heart barely beats--that is, until he meets Michelle.

The Pulsapiens are given a new task- babysitting Michelle.by whom? It isn’t until Jason is face to face with Michelle that he realizes something is terribly wrong. Her mere presence sends fire carving its way through every vein, all starting from his heart.I had to read your whole query letter to figure out that you mean that she is literally killing him. when i first read this, i thought you were just saying that he was figuratively "burning with desire". He hates her. Rather, he can’t stand to be around her. But he must. It’s his obligation, and soon enough, his desire. not sure I like this last sentence. it's a bit over the top.

lengthwise at this point it feels like the synopsis should be nearing the end, but in fact you have another long paragraph afterwards.I'm wondering if the previous paragraph is necessary? The only point you need to make is that michelle is killing jason somehow. the part about him being made to "babysit" her is extraneous.

But Jason is dying a slow and agonizing death with Michelle in his life, the only cure a heart transplant. don't understand really understand how her presence is killing him. this seems to be a central premise for the novel, so I would make sure the reasoning is clear. (wait--is this the paranormal aspect?) Together, they undergo series of "unethical" experiments to find a “cure” for Jason, only to find Michelle is a perfect donor match for Jason. eliminate the quotes. i would also consider eliminating the mention of the experiments. just say he needs a transplant and michelle is a perfect match With Jason slowly wasting away, they reach a dead end ("dead end"= unfortunate use of words with dying character)not only with their experiments, but with finding Michelle’s mom as well. Hope comes, but in the form of another blackmail. Michelle is wanted from the same research facility her mom is kept for her potential to destroy a fast growing population of Pulsapiens. <---garbled sentence She must choose to either stay, letting Jason die in her arms, or trade herself in (to who? unclear)to save her mom, leaving Jason physically alive, but trapped in the emotionless shell he once was. It’s not a hard decision,wait---choosing to kill herself or kill jason isn't a hard choice? confused. but when she discovers she can save Jason from an empty life, there is no longer a choice (<---confused by this part completely. are you saying something new or is this the same thing as the previous sentence?). She must save her loved ones, but at what cost? It’ll just take one life and one heart- hers.

Jason must find Michelle in time (since when was Michelle missing?)to save her, her mom, and himself from a life he fears the most- a loveless one. <--this sentence can be deleted.

“Beating the Heart” is my first novel and is a XXXX word work of paranormal romance tinged with Christian themes. i'm wondering whether the "tinged with Christian themes" adds anything.
Thank you for your consideration and I hope to hear from you soon.

P.S. Every twenty seconds, a person in the United States has a heart attack. Because of the prominence of heart disease, I believe this story has relevance and is highly relatable. i'm not an agent, but I don't think you should include a PS because it's not very professional looking. also, I don't think this seems like a good angle for marketing your book.
Overall comments: I start to get a feel from Michelle/Jason's relationship from your query, but the "searching for mom" plot line doesn't make any sense to me at all. I think the main problem is that with this query I have no idea who the "bad guy" is that kidnapped her mother, or how that person and her mom have anything to do with Jason. I would either make this more clear or delete this plot line from your query entirely and stick with the michelle/jason plot.

Note: I wrote the above comments before reading your previous version because i wanted to do a cold read. I think the mom's plot line as well as the reasoning behind jason's illness around michelle make more sense in the previous version. so if you can somehow integrate both versions a little better, you may have a winner.

Kaitlyne
Posts: 103
Joined: December 6th, 2009, 7:41 am
Contact:

Re: (Revised) Beating the Heart- Query Critique :)

Post by Kaitlyne » December 28th, 2009, 11:24 pm

esther wrote:
I'm going to start by saying I actually liked the older one better, though it was too busy. I'll give my critique anyway. :) Of course, standard disclaimer of this is all just my opinion and should be taken with a grain of salt. :)


Dear Agent,

[this is where I'll attempt to flatter the agent]

Michelle grew up in her aunt’s home, believing her parents never wanted her. She also thinks they’re dead. It’s not until her mom is missing, her dad found dead on her trail, and a blackmail threatening her life, that she is forced to move out of her peaceful home into a mansion she never knew her parents owned. (I think the second line of this is much better than the first in terms of being interesting. Would it be possible to say something like, "Michelle's dad was found dead on the trail, and that's bad enough, but the biggest problem is that he's been dead for the past twenty years" instead? Something to highlight that fact? And then you can mention that now she's having her own life threatened, and while she thinks her long-dead mom might be alive,too, she can't find any trace of her, or something along those lines. Also, I don't think her living with her aunt is important, or her moving. Or if you do include the moving, put it somewhere else because personally I feel like it's distracting from the drama. I mean it's in the same line as having her dead dad discovered and her life threatened...somehow I don't think those things really all stand on equal footing.)

What she doesn’t know is her new home is a secret research facility. (Do you mean this literally? As in her house? It's a little unclear. Maybe it'd be better to say "Her new town houses a secret research facility.") She meets Jason, a test subject and a Pulsapien, a new breed of mutants stemming from lineages riddled with heart-disease patients. As a Pulsapien, his extremely slow heart rate allows him to possess what every boy could only dream of: superpowers. (I'm not really sure how having a low heart-rate automatically leads to superpowers. I mean, there are athletes out there who have normal heart-rates of 30 beats per minute and they don't have superpowers. My first thought reading this was "wow, that's far-fetched," which isn't really a good thing. I'd leave out all of the heart stuff in general (you're trying to cut as much as possible, too), and just say because of the experiences have left him with strength, agility, etc.) Jason has the usual: strength, speed, agility, and to top that, he’s charming and extremely smart. But his debut into the paranormal costs him way more than he could pay. Jason’s heart doesn’t accelerate whatsoever, caging him in a body that can no longer feel or, in the evolutionary sense, be deterred by human emotions. (I don't understand this sentence. When you say his body can't feel, that implies to me that he literally has lost his sense of touch, which seems incredibly difficult and I'm wondering how he can function with all the superpowers if he has no sense of touch. If you mean emotionally, definitely don't link that to his body because it's confusing. Also, I don't understand "deterred by human emotions." Do you just mean he hasn't been exposed much and doesn't like them? Or that he's incapable of feeling them?) In this way, Jason’s heart barely beats, that is, until he meets Michelle.

The Pulsapiens are given a new task- babysitting Michelle. (why?) It isn’t until Jason is face to face with Michelle that he realizes something is terribly wrong. Her mere presence sends fire carving its way through every vein, all starting from his heart. (way too wordy. I'd cut this line completely) He hates her. Rather, he can’t stand to be around her. But he must. It’s his obligation, and soon enough, his desire. (You've just gone from hating her to wanting her in a sentence. It would be much better to do this paragraph with something like, "Jason is tasked with watching over Michelle, but there's a problem: he can't stand her. But over the next few months, he starts to (something or other), and against all odds finds himself attracted to her." Okay, that was terrible, but the only thing about this that's important is that Jason hates Michelle and then starts falling for her. there is no reasoning behind that.)

But Jason is dying a slow and agonizing death with Michelle in his life, the only cure a heart transplant. Together, they undergo series of "unethical" experiments to find a “cure” for Jason, (I don't understand why either of those words are in quotes. I'm also now wondering if she's not his sister lol, but that could just be me. ;)) only to find Michelle is a perfect donor match for Jason. With Jason slowly wasting away, they reach a dead end not only with their experiments, but with finding Michelle’s mom as well. Hope comes, but in the form of another blackmail. Michelle is wanted from the same research facility her mom is kept for her potential to destroy a fast growing population of Pulsapiens. (Okay, this just came out of nowhere. This is the first mention that she could destroy them, we have no idea why, the searching for her mother thing just came back out of nowhere...it's like you're trying to fit the entire plot in here, and you can't do that in a query letter) She must choose to either stay, letting Jason die in her arms, or trade herself in to save her mom, leaving Jason physically alive, but trapped in the emotionless shell he once was. (Again, I don't understand. So is it the fact that he's around her that's causing him to die? Because your previous sentence didn't make that very clear, and if that's the case it probably should be. So her choices are leave a guy she cares about or he'll die? Easy choice) It’s not a hard decision, but when she discovers she can save Jason from an empty life, there is no longer a choice. She must save her loved ones, but at what cost? It’ll just take one life and one heart- hers.
Jason must find Michelle in time to save her, her mom, and himself from a life he fears the most- a loveless one.

“Beating the Heart” is my first novel and is a XXXX word work of paranormal romance tinged with Christian themes. (It's Christian or it isn't. If you want to market it as a Christian work, say so. If not, a lot of books out there have Christian themes. Don't mention it. Also, it doesn't come out in the query at all (though I'm assuming now that Jason dies to save them all).
Thank you for your consideration and I hope to hear from you soon. (A lot of agents really hate to hear this. Sounds really ambiguous doesn't it? But apparently the implication is that you want them to get to it quickly, and they probably won't because many agents have a decent enough backlog that "soon" isn't a factor. I know you're just being nice, and I'd want to add it as well, but it's best just to leave it off and not chance annoying anyone with it).

P.S.Every twenty seconds, a person in the United States has a heart attack. Because of the prominence of heart disease, I believe this story has relevance and is highly relatable. (Leave off, because this sounds like you're trying to be preachy or just reaching for a non-existent market. This sounds YA, and I think most of those who suffer from heart disease are much older than YA. Also, this isn't really a book about heart disease in the traditional sense, but a weird paranormal experiment, etc. While a person might have to relate to being on a transplant list, I think you're reaching big time here.)

Best wishes,
(me)

I think i'm having a problem cutting down on the plot. As you can see there are two major plots (Jason/Michelle relationship and Searching for mom Mission), and I can't take out one or the other because they tie in so closely at the end.
Any suggestions? any part you think isn't necessary?
Thanks :)
I will say that I liked the premise (though more so in the last query) and the story sounds interesting. The problem is that this query is 250 words (yes, I checked) longer than what it should be, has far too much to say, has no focus, and when paired with a 120k word count might work against you. :/ First of all, I'm not entirely sure why you don't consider this a YA book. I know there's more to defining genre than just the age of the MC, but there wasn't really anything in here that sounded to me like it wouldn't be YA. I've heard that mostly has to do with voice, however, so not having seen the actual manuscript, it's a bit hard to tell. If it really is YA, the word count is even longer than general, and while 120k probably won't necessarily get you a rejection on it's own, most books are long because they're overwritten and wordy. One of the best bits of advice I was given when I first started writing my query was that, due to the word count, it was best to make it as concise as humanly possible because otherwise the agent would see my wordy query and assume that the book was equally wordy and overwritten.

Have you had anyone critique your work, btw? Just to make sure that's not the case for you? If I was over on the AW forums I'd suggest you posting your first chapter or something to see, but I'd try to find someone who is good at pointing out that sort of thing and having them look over a few pages. It might mean that the work needs some more tightening up before it's ready to submit.

So yeah, your letter is definitely longer than it needs to be, so let's look at how to fix that. Personally, I was more interested in the mom plot than the Jason one, but that could be because I like my love stories as part of something bigger. ;) Which would you consider the main plot? Which is most important to Michelle? I know they're probably both incredibly important to her, but which is the one that the whole story focuses on? I'd go with the mom plot and then perhaps slip in a bit about Jason (more on that in a moment).

Second, keep the whole thing in Michelle's POV. I think part of why it feels so much like it's floating around everywhere is because it's constantly changing or losing POVs. Start with Michelle, and write the entire query as it applies to her and her experiences. Then, you want to cut down the plot to the absolute bare bones. You don't need tons of the story in there, just enough to give a good impression of what it looks like. You also don't need to give the ending away. In a synopsis you will, but here it isn't necessary and you can cut off before there. Also, you want to be concise and not get too poetic and wordy. The query just isn't really a good place for it. Anyway, I'm going to give you a quick example of what I mean. Obviously it's not going to be incredibly well written and I'll probably screw up your plot, but just to show you what I mean:

Michelle couldn't believe it when her father was found dead on the road--as far as she knew he had already been dead for fifteen years. Now she finds out her mother might be alive, too, and if she hopes to ever meet her, Michelle's going to have to find her.

She moves into her parent's old house, where she meets Jason, a charming, if distant, young man, but soon when (something or other) happens, she realizes he's more than she thought. It turns out he was sent by a secret research facility in town, the product of experiments that have left him gifted with strength, speed, and intelligence far beyond average. The same facility that might be holding her mom.

Now Michelle must break through the secrecy surrounding the facility and save her mother with Jason as her only ally, but when Jason starts getting sick, the byproduct of the experiment, Michelle must decide who to save, a man she's growing to love, or a mother she never knew.

*****
I don't know, something along those lines. That's obviously not great, I'm just trying to show you what I mean. And that also is only 170 words long, which allows you another bit for your information about the genre, word count, thanks, and info about the agent as well. You would obviously have to rework it to fit the story and make it fit to your voice, but hopefully it shows an example. The hardest thing about this is getting the mindset of "as minimal as humanly possible." Obviously our stories have much more than this in there. We just want to give enough of an idea of the overarching story to bring in interest.

Anyway, all this is just my own two cents. Hope this helps!

Oh yeah! Something I forgot to say! I wanted to clarify that I don't think the low heart-rate thing is a bad thing in the story as a whole. It sounds interesting, especially the fact that his heart-rate somehow doesn't increase in general. I thought that was cool. I just pointed it out here because a lot of times without the explanations available in the work, it's harder to make things sound logical in a query, so I thought it would be better to leave off. That's just my opinion, of course, so it's entirely possible other people would see the same exact sentence and think, "Cool!"

If you want someone to look at the first chapter and give you a line edit, I'd be willing to do it so toss me a PM if you're interested.

esther
Posts: 17
Joined: December 21st, 2009, 6:54 am
Contact:

Re: Query Length

Post by esther » December 29th, 2009, 12:51 am

Thank you Kaitlyne and askmonkey for your suggestions!
It definitely got me thinking in a new direction (hopefully, i'm thinking in the correct direction this time)

I think i'll start over... again. But I'm hopeful I'll oneday get the query right.

As for the first chapter, I did think about posting it, but I feel it's not quite ready yet. (basically, i'm chickened out!)
But I'm thrilled to know someone thinks my story/premise is interesting!
Thanks again, it means a lot :)

User avatar
Holly
Posts: 500
Joined: December 21st, 2009, 9:42 pm
Location: Gettysburg, PA
Contact:

Re: Query Length

Post by Holly » December 29th, 2009, 6:11 am

Alexandra Little wrote:The guideline for most queries, even by genre, seems to be that you should be able to fit it onto one page, even when including salutations, signatures, and contact information. The same holds true for email queries. I've read quite a few sci-fi/fantasy queries and they all fit the one-page guideline, though they might have to take extra sentence or two for a bit a world building.
Agree, plus you can also free up a little more space if you put your contact info in a one line header instead of stationary with multiple lines, or contact info in the letter itself.

Kaitlyne
Posts: 103
Joined: December 6th, 2009, 7:41 am
Contact:

Re: Query Length

Post by Kaitlyne » December 29th, 2009, 6:47 am

esther wrote:Thank you Kaitlyne and askmonkey for your suggestions!
It definitely got me thinking in a new direction (hopefully, i'm thinking in the correct direction this time)

I think i'll start over... again. But I'm hopeful I'll oneday get the query right.

As for the first chapter, I did think about posting it, but I feel it's not quite ready yet. (basically, i'm chickened out!)
But I'm thrilled to know someone thinks my story/premise is interesting!
Thanks again, it means a lot :)
Don't worry, you'll get there. :) I think I went through five or six before finally landing on something I decided was usable (and it's still far from perfect I'm sure). And trust me, I know posting stuff for critique is nerve wracking. :) Whenever you get it to the point that you're comfortable you know where to go. :)

askmonkey
Posts: 29
Joined: December 18th, 2009, 2:08 pm

Re: Query Length

Post by askmonkey » December 29th, 2009, 1:36 pm

I'm glad you found my comments useful!
I just wanted to say one thing--I completely agree with Kaitlyne that your novel sounds like YA. The protagonist is high school age, dealing with high school relationship/fitting in/parent problems (and supernatural ones too :) ) Actually when I read the query, I thought it *was* YA even though you didn't say so anywhere.

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Bing [Bot] and 1 guest