Query Peer Critique

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jhoward
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Query Peer Critique

Post by jhoward » December 8th, 2009, 1:28 am

I am both anxious and ready for your review of my query for my first novel. I am a lifelong reader and writer ready to brave the world of publishing. I welcome your help and thank you in advance.

Dear Agent,

Pulled off a cliff by a strange young man, sixteen year old Sydney Hart plummets into an extraordinary dimension, lands in the middle of a tug-o-war love triangle and catapults on a trajectory to danger as she battles dragons, unearths concealed clues and fights to restore the peaceful balance to the place she was born, Barathio.

Ten years after her mother and autistic brother are killed in a car accident Sydney’s father mysteriously disappears. On a cool summer day, contrary to her usual headstrong nature, she finds herself a docile captive to a strange yet chivalrous young man who pulls her into another dimension only to discover he is Bren, her ‘not so dead’ brother. Sydney learns Bren can navigate through dimensions and has done so in search of her for the past decade. His unique ability to see multiple dimensions at once was nearly impossible to control on earth, resulting in his bizarre behavior being mistaken for autism. They soon realize their reunion has unwittingly activated a series of events that puts them directly in the path of a hunter who covets Bren’s ability to traverse dimensions and compromises the sacrifice their parents provided to protect Barathio from the evil rule of Ze’el and his dragon army. As they embark together on a perilous mission to defeat Ze’el and confound the hunter, they discover letters and clues left behind by their parents and encounter exquisite and horrific creatures, both friend and foe, including Aran and Justin who join the quest and continually vie for Sydney’s divided affections.

[Details here from research about individual Agent and why I am submitting to them]. BARATHIO, my first novel, completed at 80,000 words , is a young adult fantasy which flirts with philosophical science fiction. Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.
Last edited by jhoward on December 22nd, 2009, 12:06 pm, edited 2 times in total.

bunderful
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Re: Query Peer Critique

Post by bunderful » December 8th, 2009, 1:57 am

I am not a professional but I am a writer and so I will offer you a critique that is just my opinion.

In the very first sentence I am already confused: how can you be pulled off a cliff (who or what pulled her off?) and then plummet? wouldn't you fall? but then you wouldn't need to plummet too. And then she catapults? Confusing.

Second, more general comment - the second paragraph is too long. Should be broken up. I found myself skimming it rather than reading it.

I feel like there should be a comma after "accident"

Why do we need to know that it's a cool summer day?

Why and how does she become so docile if she is usually so headstrong? Is she ill? Injured? I'm confused.

I like the idea of her brother not really being autistic and I think that this is your key selling point - perhaps play it up more - even in the first paragraph. Maybe this story is really about him, and not her - even though Sydney is your main character.

Not sure about the combination of "exquisite and horrific"

Aran and Justin - wait? are they friend or foe? who are they? just random characters? are they really critical? then I want to know more about them.

"flirts with philosophical science fiction" - really? why? you didn't talk about philosophy at all so far. That doesn't seem to describe the novel at all from what I've read above. Why is it philosophical science fiction? seems more like fantasy to me so far.

But don't forget, I'm not a professional and these are just my initial reactions.

That's my 2 cents. I hope it helps.

- Rena

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ElisabethMoore
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Re: Query Peer Critique

Post by ElisabethMoore » December 8th, 2009, 2:23 am

Take this with a grain of salt. But since you asked, here are my thoughts:
jhoward wrote:I am both anxious and ready for your review of my query for my first novel. I am a lifelong reader and writer ready to brave the world of publishing. I welcome your help and thank you in advance.

Dear Agent,

Pulled off a cliff by a strange young man, sixteen year old Sydney Hart plummets into an extraordinary dimension, lands in the middle of a tug-o-war love triangle and catapults on a trajectory to danger as she battles dragons, unearths concealed clues and fights to restore the peaceful balance to the place she was born, Barathio.

Ten years after her mother and autistic brother are killed in a car accident, Sydney’s father mysteriously disappears. On my third read through I decided that this had something to do with the parent sacrifice mentioned later, but as it stands this is not tied into the rest of the query. On a cool summer day, contrary to her usual headstrong nature, she finds herself a docile captive How does she find herself a docile captive? Why is she docile if she is usually headstrong?to a strange yet chivalrous young man who pulls her into another dimension only to discover he is Bren, her ‘not so dead’ brother. Sydney learns Bren can navigate through dimensions and has done so in search of her for the past decade. His unique ability to see multiple dimensions at once was nearly impossible to control on earth, resulting in his bizarre behavior being mistaken for autism. I like this premise. They soon realize their reunion has unwittingly activated a series of events I don't like this wording and it is telling, not showing. What exactly happened? Was the hunter alerted to Bren's whereabouts in some way? Was Sydney unwitting bait in a trap of some kind? that puts them directly in the path of a hunter who covets Bren’s ability to traverse dimensions and compromises the sacrifice their parents What sacrifice? I thought one was in the car accident Bren apparently survived and the other recently disappeared. provided to protect Barathio from the evil rule of Ze’el and his dragon army. As they embark together on a perilous mission to defeat Ze’el and confound the hunter, they discover letters and clues left behind by their parents and encounter exquisite and horrific creatures, both friend and foe, including Aran and Justin Are these friends or foes? Since they are vying for Sidney's attentions, I am guessing friends, but the sentence is unclear. who join the quest and continually vie for Sydney’s divided affections.

[Details here from research about individual Agent and why I am submitting to them]. BARATHIO, my first novel, completed at 80,000 words, is a young adult fantasy which flirts with philosophical science fiction. Thank you for your time and consideration. I would end here and leave out the next sentence. I look forward to hearing from you.

gilesth
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Re: Query Peer Critique

Post by gilesth » December 8th, 2009, 8:57 am

Wow! This sounds like an AWESOME story!

About your pitch: I'd like to know more about specific direction the story takes. My recommendation is to leave out all but the most important background information (definitely keep the part about the brother's ability and how it was mistaken for autism), but forward movement is what's needed, I think. Not looking back to events that shaped the story. IT feels a bit jumpy, too, so maybe focus on the relationship between the brother and sister and use that to tie the rest of the pitch together. That relationship is, after all, why Sydney is out on her journey, right?

Anyway, that's my two cents. Good luck!

jhoward
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Re: Query Peer Critique

Post by jhoward » December 8th, 2009, 10:27 am

Thank you all for your helpful suggestions. I, of course, I am going to work on it with your critiques in mind. I welcome more, keep 'em coming.

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Nathan Bransford
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Re: Query Peer Critique

Post by Nathan Bransford » December 8th, 2009, 7:27 pm

jhoward wrote:I am both anxious and ready for your review of my query for my first novel. I am a lifelong reader and writer ready to brave the world of publishing. I welcome your help and thank you in advance.

Dear Agent,

Pulled off a cliff by a strange young man, sixteen year old Sydney Hart plummets into an extraordinary dimension, lands in the middle of a tug-o-war love triangle and catapults on a trajectory to danger as she battles dragons, unearths concealed clues and fights to restore the peaceful balance to the place she was born, Barathio.

Ten years after her mother and autistic brother are killed in a car accident Sydney’s father mysteriously disappears. On a cool summer day, contrary to her usual headstrong nature, she finds herself a docile captive to a strange yet chivalrous young man who pulls her into another dimension only to discover he is Bren, her ‘not so dead’ brother. Sydney learns Bren can navigate through dimensions and has done so in search of her for the past decade. His unique ability to see multiple dimensions at once was nearly impossible to control on earth, resulting in his bizarre behavior being mistaken for autism. They soon realize their reunion has unwittingly activated a series of events that puts them directly in the path of a hunter who covets Bren’s ability to traverse dimensions and compromises the sacrifice their parents provided to protect Barathio from the evil rule of Ze’el and his dragon army. As they embark together on a perilous mission to defeat Ze’el and confound the hunter, they discover letters and clues left behind by their parents and encounter exquisite and horrific creatures, both friend and foe, including Aran and Justin who join the quest and continually vie for Sydney’s divided affections.

[Details here from research about individual Agent and why I am submitting to them]. BARATHIO, my first novel, completed at 80,000 words , is a young adult fantasy which flirts with philosophical science fiction. Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.
I think there are definitely some interesting elements here.
- The first paragraph felt a little bit choppy to me since I wasn't quite sure how one thing was leading to the next. I wonder if you could tell the story in one arc in the query.
- "Sydney learns Bren can navigate through dimensions and has done so in search of her for the past decade." I find the phrasing here a bit awkward/passive, esp. "has done so in search of her."
- "resulting in his bizarre behavior being mistaken for autism" more passive voice
- I wonder if we hear a few too many times that Bren negotiates dimensions and if that could be summarized more seamlessly before getting to the bigger battle with the dragon army.

Good luck!

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Re: Query Peer Critique

Post by J.Jessamyn » December 8th, 2009, 8:35 pm

Just my opinion - I'm definitely not an expert.

- I think that entire first paragraph/sentence can be removed. It's rather confusing, and since the paragraph after it is an elaboration on the story, it feels very redundant.

- The second paragraph as a lot of information in it, and it doesn't feel very organized to me. It almost feels like it "speeds up" at the end of the paragraph because so much information is crammed in those last few sentences, and to be honest, I have no idea what's going on. What exactly is Barathio, the name of these other dimensions? It's not clear, just that they're trying to keep it from being taken over. I'm not seeing how the parents sacrificed themselves is tied in, either. Perhaps saying that they discover their parents were trying to help/protect them first and then mention the sacrifice aspect?

- and if you're particularly attached to that opening sentence that I say you could do without, maybe there's a way to put some elements of it in your closing paragraph since it's so summary-like (hope that makes sense...)

Just my thoughts, I hope I wasn't too harsh. Good luck! :-)
~J. Jessamyn~

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SmurfHead
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Re: Query Peer Critique

Post by SmurfHead » December 8th, 2009, 11:09 pm

This story sounds really interesting. I agree that parts of the query do seem abrupt, but I'm certainly curious to hear more!

I wonder if this query might benefit from being a bit longer. If I was writing it, I'd probably do a little bit more set-up about Ze'el and the dragon army. Right now, I know they're evil, but only because I'm being told so. What, specifically makes them evil?

I'd re-work this sentence: "They soon realize their reunion has unwittingly activated a series of events that puts them directly in the path of a hunter..." For the sake of brevity and to give the phrase a little more pop, I would say something like, "But Syd and Bren's reunion puts them directly in the path of a hunter... etc." It's an interesting plot development and the extraneous words take away some of the natural punch that the statement carries.

I'd also like to see more of an explanation of this: "including Aran and Justin who join the quest and continually vie for Sydney’s divided affections." Who are Aran and Justin? And how does Syd feel about them? You say her emotions are divided, but the romantic aspect of the story feels a little empty right now. On the page, I'm sure it's a really intriguing element (who doesn't love a bit of angst?) but I need more information about this in the query. Right now it just seems vague and, thus, not as exciting as it could be.

And I'd like to hear more about the "perilous mission." What's perilous about it? At the moment, the interpretation of this could change a lot from one reader to another, so maybe a brief description of a particularly perilous aspect of the mission could be beneficial.

I guess I'm asking for a bit more specificity. To paraphrase Query Shark... Who is Syd? What does she want? What choice must she make, and what's at stake either way? I get a sense of that now, but with more info on the dragon army, the hunter, and other elements, I think I would be even more engrossed by your story.

Phew... Seems like I don't like anything about the query, but that's definitely not the case! I'm a sucker for young adult fantasy, so this story seems really promising. You've got an intriguing story and I really think this query could shine with a bit of revision.
"Mind-bottling, isn't it? ...You know, when things are so crazy it gets your thoughts all trapped, like in a bottle?"

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KFran
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Re: Query Peer Critique

Post by KFran » December 9th, 2009, 10:40 am

Dear Agent,

Pulled off a cliff by a strange young man, sixteen year old Sydney Hart plummets into an extraordinary dimension, lands in the middle of a tug-o-war love triangle and catapults on a trajectory to danger as she battles dragons, unearths concealed clues and fights to restore the peaceful balance to the place she was born, Barathio. (I love this sentence, its really fun and really gives us an idea of the story. I’d loose the word tug-o-war though. – adding – after reading the whole query, I don’t think you need this sentence, even though it’s a lot of fun!)

(this next paragraph doesn’t really follow the first, and is a bit repetitive. Think about how to tie it together better? Also, this big paragraph was a bit hard to read, think about making it two paragraphs) Ten years after her mother and autistic brother are killed in a car accident Sydney’s father mysteriously disappears. On a cool summer day, (don’t need to tell us about the weather) contrary to her usual headstrong nature, she finds herself a docile captive to a strange yet chivalrous young man who pulls her into another dimension only to discover he is Bren, her ‘not so dead’ brother. (I like this idea very much, Bren being her brother!) Sydney learns Bren can navigate through dimensions and has done so in search of her for the past decade. His unique ability to see multiple dimensions at once was nearly impossible to control on earth, resulting in his bizarre behavior being mistaken for autism. (love this concept!) They soon realize their reunion has unwittingly activated a series of events that puts them directly in the path of a hunter who covets Bren’s ability to traverse dimensions and compromises the sacrifice their parents provided to protect Barathio from the evil rule of Ze’el and his dragon army. As they embark together on a perilous mission to defeat Ze’el and confound the hunter, they discover letters and clues left behind by their parents and encounter exquisite and horrific creatures, both friend and foe, including Aran and Justin who join the quest and continually vie for Sydney’s divided affections. (love the twists and turns!)

[Details here from research about individual Agent and why I am submitting to them]. BARATHIO, my first novel, completed at 80,000 words , is a young adult fantasy which flirts with philosophical science fiction. Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.

I really like the concept you have here. I think it’s unique and it would surely hook me if I saw it in a store. I think just trimming out the first paragraph and rewording some of the second would help you out a lot. Let us know when you get an agent!

KFran

jhoward
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Re: Query Peer Critique

Post by jhoward » December 9th, 2009, 2:20 pm

Thank you all who have added your valued input. If you feel so inclined to do so again here is my revised work in progress.

Dear Agent,

When their reunion in the dimension of Barathio compromises a protective charm and threatens the only society who has eluded the tyrannical Ze’el, Bren and Sydney Hart must decide if they again separate their sibling ties or remain together and face Ze’el and his formidable army of dragons.

The sudden appearance of an eccentric stranger pulls Sydney Hart from her habitual daydreams of her presumably dead parents and autistic brother. She immediately feels a connection with him and contrary to her usual headstrong nature, she finds herself a willing captive to this odd yet chivalrous young man who pulls her into Barathio. She discovers he is Bren, her ‘not so dead’ brother whose abilities to see and navigate multiple dimensions are difficult to control on earth, resulting in his behavior being mistaken for autism. They soon learn that years ago their parents provided a sacrifice, their family’s departure from Barathio, as payment for a protective charm that would shield their people from the evil rule of Ze’el. Their reunion not only compromises the sacrifice but puts them directly in the path of a hunter who covets Bren’s abilities.

As Bren and Sydney embark together on a perilous mission to defeat Ze’el and confound the hunter, they are joined by Aran and Justin who continually vie for Sydney’s divided affections. She finds herself drawn to both the witty, charismatic nature of Aran and the honorable personality exuded by Justin. As they try, at times in vain, to focus beyond their romantic interests and on the quest at hand they discover letters and clues left behind by their parents and encounter exquisite and horrific creatures, both friends and foes. Their journey leads them to Ze’el and his army of dragons where they fight to restore the peaceful balance to Barathio.
Last edited by jhoward on December 9th, 2009, 11:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.

J.Jessamyn
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Re: Query Peer Critique

Post by J.Jessamyn » December 9th, 2009, 8:21 pm

I'll give it another shot, I guess
jhoward wrote:Thank you all who have added your valued input. If you feel so inclined to do so again here is my revised work in progress.

Dear Agent,

When their reunion in the dimension of Barathio compromises a protective charm and threatens the only society who has eluded the tyrannical Ze’el, Bren and Sydney Hart must decide if they again separate their sibling ties or remain together and face Ze’el and his formidable army of dragons.

The sudden appearance of an eccentric stranger pulls Sydney Hart from her habitual daydreams of her presumably dead parents and autistic brother. She immediately feels a connection with him and contrary to her usual headstrong nature, she finds herself a willing captive to this odd yet chivalrous young man who pulls her into another dimension, Barathio. I'm not sure if you need to clarify that it's another dimension again - you did that in the first paragraph :-) She discovers he is Bren, her ‘not so dead’ brother whose abilities to see and navigate multiple dimensions are difficult to control, especially on earth resulting in his behavior being mistaken for autism.I think some punctuation editing needs to be done with this sentence, it reads a tad awkwardly They soon learn that years ago their parent’s lose the apostrophe provided a sacrifice, their family’s departure from Barathio, as payment for a protective charm that would shield their people from the evil rule of Ze’el. Their reunion not only compromises the sacrifice but puts them directly in the path of a hunter who covets Bren’s abilities.

As Bren and Sydney embark together on a perilous mission to defeat Ze’el and confound the hunter, they are joined by Aran and Justin who continually vie for Sydney’s divided affections. She finds herself drawn to both the witty, charismatic nature of Aran and the honorable personality exuded by Justin. As they try, at times in vain, to focus beyond their romantic interests and on the quest at hand they discover letters and clues left behind by their parents and encounter exquisite and horrific creatures, both friends and foes. Their journey leads them to Ze’el and his army of dragon’s don't need the apostrophe here, either where they fight to restore the peaceful balance to Barathio.
Still seems to be in need of some tweaking and polishing, but overall it reads much better for me. It flows a lot better and clears up some of the confusion I was having from your original. Good job!
~J. Jessamyn~

jhoward
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Re: Query Peer Critique

Post by jhoward » December 9th, 2009, 11:46 pm

Thanks J.Jessamyn, I appreciate the obvious grammar I so callously overlooked and the great wording advice.

jhoward
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Revised Query-Hoping for fellow writers critique

Post by jhoward » December 24th, 2009, 4:01 pm

I posted a couple versions of this a while back. As a work in progress I offer up for your review the next version. Thank you in advance to all who stop and offer your help. In this version I cut out MANY of the plot particulars and kept simply to barest of the center most crux of the story. I am hoping that it still makes sense and, obviously, grabs interest (so they will want to discover those omitted details).

Dear Agent,

Her brother’s autism is the key to liberating an entire world. But Sydney Hart must choose to stay and fight beside him. Without Syd, the crusade will fail.

Sydney’s self pitied life as a sixteen year old in foster care takes a u-turn when her ‘deceased’ brother resurfaces. Using his ability to navigate dimensions, they leave earth and crossover to their birth home: Barathio. They begin to unravel their families arduous past and their impending destinies through letters and clues hidden by their parents. Fifteen years ago the voluntary extradition of the Hart family was payment enough to bestow a protective charm on a small corner of Barathio. Lord Ze’el has spent those years consumed with conquering the last unmolested people and obtaining the Hart’s unique abilities.

The siblings piece together the hidden clues, revealing a potent conglomeration of circumstances. Harts are in Barathio again. The charm is compromised. Ze’el and his dragon army are more than ready. And only they can end Ze’el’s oppressive reign.

[TITLE, word count, genre, etc]

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