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Query Critique: YA Urban Fantasy

Posted: December 8th, 2009, 11:22 pm
by SmurfHead
Hi, everybody! Thanks in advance for taking a moment to look at my query.

Mainly, I'm concerned about the length of this letter. I submitted an earlier draft to Evil Editor, and the consensus was that the first query lacked detail and so seemed rather vague and boring. With that in mind, I revised considerably, but now I'm worried about whether or not this version of the query letter is WAY too long.

In any case, I'd absolutely love to hear what you all have to say--the good, the bad, and the ugly. Thanks again!


Dear Awesome Agent:

<Insert brief, personalized info.> I hope that you’ll be interested in my YA urban fantasy, SHIFT.

For Annie, being the new girl got old a long time ago. After traveling the country with her free-spirited aunt, the sixteen-year-old knows all about packing up and moving on, but fitting in? Not so much. When she lands in yet another school, Annie surprises herself when she befriends Henry, a classmate and fellow outsider.

But when Henry helps Annie survive a dangerous encounter, her miraculous recovery from a gunshot wound comes with a catch. The next night, Annie’s body stretches into an impossible shape, one with four legs and sharp teeth. In the morning, she finds herself outside and alone in a strange part of town, her mind swimming with memories of shapeshifting. She seeks answers from her supposed rescuer, Henry, and discovers that she (along with him and his family) is a werewolf or “shifter.”

Since most shifters grow up in close-knit packs, keeping outsiders at arm’s length, Annie feels stuck in an odd middle ground between the ordinary world and the secretive shifters. She grows closer to Henry, but their relationship is strained by Annie’s divided loyalties. Meanwhile, Annie’s unexpected disappearances generate tension at home.

When Annie’s transformations become more difficult to control, her hope for a regular teenage life slips even further from her grasp. Soon, she faces pressure from her fellow shifters to adopt a more discreet lifestyle with fewer connections to normal humans, while her aunt demands an explanation for Annie’s erratic behavior. As the complications of being a shifter overshadow the obligations of her human life, Annie must choose which half of herself to embrace or risk alienating herself completely.

SHIFT is complete at around 55,000 words and is my first novel. Thank you very much for your time and consideration, and I look forward to hearing from you.


Sincerely,

SmurfHead, America's Sweetheart

Re: Query Critique: YA Urban Fantasy

Posted: December 9th, 2009, 12:05 am
by rose
I don't think it is too long. It reads well, sounds interesting and feels complete. I have some comments and questions, though.

Annie surprises herself when she befriends Henry, a classmate and fellow outsider. Perhaps you could forshadow their alikeness a bit here, by saying that Annie is surprised to feel an affinity for Henry.

But when Henry helps Annie survive a dangerous encounter, her miraculous recovery from a gunshot wound comes with a catch. The fact that you start this with "but when" leads me to think that it is acuatlly Henry's help that came with the catch. If this is what you mean, you might make it more explicit.

Annie’s body stretches My personal word choice here would be morphs.

In this next paragraph, I would switch the sentence order around as follows to build on the fact that you have just said that Annie, Henry, and his family are all shifters:

Annie grows closer to Henry, but their relationship is strained by Annie’s divided loyalties. Henry, like most of his kind, grew up in a close=knit clan that kept outsiders at bay and Annie feels stuck in an odd middle ground between her ordinary world and the secretive shifters. Meanwhile her continued late night disappearances are beginning to cause problems at home.

And the last suggestion has to do with your concluding phrase:
or risk alienating herself completely. Alienating herself from whom? Her aunt? Henry? schoolmates? The world? It seems like you need to say more here.

Beyond that, good job all around,

rose

Re: Query Critique: YA Urban Fantasy

Posted: December 9th, 2009, 12:17 am
by jhoward
I offer my novice opinions for you to take or leave. Thank you for sharing your opinions on my query. I appreciate it. My comments are included below.

For Annie, being the new girl got old a long time ago. After traveling the country with her free-spirited aunt, the sixteen-year-old knows all about packing up and moving on, but fitting in? Not so much. When she lands in yet another school, Annie surprises herself when she befriends Henry, a classmate and fellow outsider.

But when Henry helps Annie survive a dangerous encounter, her miraculous recovery from a gunshot wound comes with a catch. The next night, Annie’s body stretches into an impossible shape, one with four legs and sharp teeth. In the morning, she finds herself outside and alone in a strange part of town, her mind swimming with memories of shapeshifting. She seeks answers from her supposed rescuer, Henry, and discovers that she (along with him and his family) is a werewolf or “shifter.”

Since most shifters grow up in close-knit packs, keeping outsiders at arm’s length, Annie feels stuck in an odd middle ground between the ordinary world and the secretive shifters. perhaps it is meant to be obvious but is she not part of the pack simply because she is not in his family?She grows closer to Henry, but their relationship is strained by Annie’s divided loyalties. perhaps meant to be obvious again but divided loyalties are they between her aunt and Henry?Meanwhile, Annie’s unexpected disappearances generate tension at home.

When Annie’s transformations become more difficult to control, her hope for a regular teenage life slips even further from her grasp. Soon, she faces pressure from her fellow shiftersare there more than just Henry and his family? to adopt a more discreet lifestyle with fewer connections to normal humans, while her aunt demands an explanation for Annie’s erratic behavior. As the complications of being a shifter overshadow the obligations of her human life, Annie must choose which half of herself to embrace or risk alienating herself completely.

SHIFT is complete at around 55,000 words and is my first novel. Thank you very much for your time and consideration, and I look forward to hearing from you.

You hint at a romantic relationship between Annie and Henry but your query does not really build on that at all. If that is a tension builder in your book than make it that in your query as well. Sounds like you could have a possible nail biter here. Good luck.

Re: Query Critique: YA Urban Fantasy

Posted: December 9th, 2009, 1:50 am
by choculagrl
Sounds like a good story...agree with previous poster that "morph" sounds better than "stretch" but the query is easy to understand overall.

Re: Query Critique: YA Urban Fantasy

Posted: December 9th, 2009, 10:01 am
by KFran
For Annie, being the new girl got old a long time ago. After travelling (misspelled?) the country with her free-spirited aunt, the sixteen-year-old knows all about packing up and moving on, but fitting in? Not so much. When she lands in yet another school, Annie surprises herself when she befriends Henry, a classmate and fellow outsider.

But when Henry helps Annie survive a dangerous encounter, her miraculous recovery from a gunshot wound comes with a catch.

The next night, Annie’s body stretches into an impossible shape, one with four legs and sharp teeth. In the morning, she finds herself outside and alone in a strange part of town, her mind swimming with memories of shapeshifting. (I was a little confused here. I’d let us know what the ‘catch’ is right away. Annie is a shapeshifter – or just remove this paragraph because you continue on below with the answer.)

She seeks answers from her supposed rescuer, Henry, and discovers that she (along with him and his family) is a werewolf or “shifter.”

Since most shifters grow up in close-knit packs, keeping outsiders at arm’s length, Annie feels stuck in an odd middle ground between the ordinary world and the secretive shifters. She grows closer to Henry, but their relationship is strained by Annie’s divided loyalties. Meanwhile, Annie’s unexpected disappearances generate tension at home.
(I don’t think you need this)


When Annie’s transformations become more difficult to control, her hope for a regular teenage life slips even further from her grasp. Soon, she faces pressure from her fellow shifters to adopt a more discreet lifestyle with fewer connections to normal humans, while her aunt demands an explanation for Annie’s erratic behavior (misspelled?). As the complications of being a shifter overshadow the obligations of her human life, Annie must choose which half of herself to embrace or risk alienating herself completely.

SHIFT is complete at around 55,000 words and is my first novel. Thank you very much for your time and consideration, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Great job, I love the premise! Goodluck.

Re: Query Critique: YA Urban Fantasy

Posted: December 9th, 2009, 10:49 am
by SmurfHead
rose, jhoward, choculagrl, kfran... May I bake you cupcakes? :)

Seriously, you guys have really helped me out. I feel like I've been looking at this query for ages... well, okay, a few weeks. I knew that it was a decent draft, but not submittable. Problem is, I had no idea what else to do to it. Yay for fresh eyes!

I think the second paragraph does need some restructuring. I also need to add some clarification on the fourth paragraph that the MC isn't out going to wild werewolf parties or something, but is dealing exclusively with Henry and his family. And I think the final letter may be a little shorter than the first version. If it seems clear without the third paragraph, my nail-biting over length might be allayed.

The nail-biting about rejection? Ehh... maybe not.

Re: Query Critique: YA Urban Fantasy

Posted: December 9th, 2009, 5:14 pm
by Ryan
I read somewhere to not admit or broadcast being a rookie or first-timer so I'd take out the part about this being your first novel. They'll figure that out soon enough. By saying that directly it sort of sounds like an apology and doesn't come across as you being confident in your work.

Good luck!

Re: Query Critique: YA Urban Fantasy

Posted: December 9th, 2009, 5:47 pm
by SmurfHead
I guess I see what you mean, Ryan. It would be simple enough to just slice out that part of the sentence, though without it, I wonder if my insane lack of writing credits is more obvious.

Or maybe I'm just being paranoid. I guess it does come from a desire to say, "I don't have writing credits, but it's my first novel, honest!" Technically, it isn't my FIRST novel, no. It's certainly the first one that's been submission-worthy, however I'm beginning to think it might be best just to say, "SHIFT is complete at around 55,000 words" and leave it at that.

Re: Query Critique: YA Urban Fantasy

Posted: December 9th, 2009, 6:57 pm
by Nathan Bransford
I personally think it's fine to simply say that it's your first novel.

Overall I think the query is in a really good place. It is on the long side, but there aren't any details that feel extraneous, and it has a nice flow to it. As others have said in the thread, I also was just a bit unclear why her loyalties were divided - if she's not really allowed into the shifter packs, why does she feel loyalty to them over Hank? That seems like an important part of her quest in this novel, and so I wonder if there's a way to explain that just a bit more.

I also wonder if you could infuse just a bit more personality into your description Annie. You mention that she's an outsider, but it's unclear to me whether this is by choice or whether she doesn't fit in. I wonder if in the next draft you could find a way to hint just a bit more about what she's like as a person.

Still, this query is really close and it's an interesting idea.

Re: Query Critique: YA Urban Fantasy

Posted: December 9th, 2009, 7:02 pm
by shadow
I might say that I can't add much critique because so much helpful advice has already been given! So great that everybody is helping out :) Anyways, Don't at all fret about not having any writing credits. I think that Nathan blogged about that already. As long as the novel is great and they like it then that's all. No body will care how young or old, or whatever. Good Luck!