Query #9 February 2015


Below is the ninth public query critique I’m offering up on the blog. This will happen once a month (as long as I get a response). I choose one query per month. If your query is not selected one month, it will be in the drawing for the next month. Please do not resubmit unless you’ve made significant edits. To enter, see the rules here. If you want a guaranteed critique (plus line edit) of your query or synopsis, private ones cost $35 each.

My comments are in blue below. To read the original query first, simply read only the black text.

Her life is a lie but Fiona doesn’t know it, until a chance encounter and a brush with death blows the lid off her neatly packaged world. These are all cliches. “Blows the lid off” is a cliche, too, but you’ve made it fresh with “neatly packaged world.” Still, this hook doesn’t tell me what makes your book unique.
Fiona’s in the spotlight cliche again, and this time it’s a little more serious than a step from the closet. Is this a reference to her coming out of the closet? Because that’s not clear. A mysterious girl, created in a lab as an eternal sixteen-year-old, plops beside her on a park bench, and instantly ensnares her mind. Now, she’s smack in the middle of a deadly pursuit.
Cut the cliches and the set up of these two paragraphs and get to what’s important: “When a lab-created girl plops beside her on a park bench and ensnares her mind, __teen-year-old Fiona is about to get even more unwanted attention than when she came out of the closet.”
A black ops team is on the hunt; their project’s running loose, and if she becomes active, the entire world will suffer. I’m not sure what’s going on here. Is the girl who sat next to Fiona and ensnared her mind this “project”? What is that girl’s name? I want to know more about her, even if it’s just a sentence, so that I’m really concerned when I read that a black ops team is looking for her. And how will the world suffer? Give us a precise idea of what could happen. The squad of government-trained assassins will stop at nothing cliche, especially in queries. to keep their secrets from surfacing, but Fiona’s determined to safeguard this long desired sense of belonging, which stems from her new friend’s presenceThis is a bit awkward and needs to be its own sentence. Flip it to make it less awkward: But Fiona has long desired the sense of belonging which stems from her new friend’s presence, and she’s determined not to lose either.
On the run, confused, and desperate, Fiona turns to the strongest person she knows, her girlfriend/martial arts instructor, Isoko. With the help of the woman she loves, Fiona fights to uncover the truth behind Project Snowfall. However, the more she digs, the more her own existence begins to unravelI don’t know what this means. I know what the words mean, but I don’t know what it means in the context of the story. It’s too vague. What kind of things come into question? How can someone’s existence unravel? When I hear that, I picture the melting Nazis in Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Your title is stellar. If you want to share it in the comments, feel free, but I need to keep the workshops anonymous. [GREAT TITLE], a YA techno-thriller, is complete at 53,000 words. Told in an omniscient third, this LGBT themed novel is geared toward general suspense lovers, literary action seekers, and those with a flair for the romantic. This is pretty much akin to saying “everyone will like my book.” Again, be specific. Marketers can’t sell books to everyone—they need a direct audience to target. That’s why agents and readers like comp titles. Try “my book will appeal to fans of ___ and ____.” While [TITLE] works as a stand-alone, it has series potential; comma, not a semicolon. and would appeal to mature teen readers through adults.
Thank-You Just “Thank you,” no hyphen. for the time you took in considering my query.
This is a great start, and your concept alone should garner some requests, but I’d like to see fewer-to-no cliches and some more specifics. Feel free to revise and resubmit to continue the workshop.

2 thoughts on “Query #9 February 2015

  1. Kosoko Jackson (@KosokoJackson) says:

    I have a quick question that isn’t addressed (not sure if this is the place to post it). The length, 53K isn’t that a little short for the YA genre? Without any edits, the novel is around 212 pages. Wouldn’t this be a red flag for agents? Or no? Again without compt titles its hard to see who this book will appeal to, but I know most YA books in the thriller genre are at least in the 80s. So I’m curious about that!

    • Lara says:

      Great point, Kosoko! I honestly don’t look at the word counts during my query critiques, since I don’t require the MS be finished for workshop participation. I’d probably want a complete YA thriller in the 60-90K range, ideally, so this is a bit short.

      That said, I’ll respond twofold. One, I am much less worried about a short MS than an over-long MS (one 100K or more for anything other than adult Sci-Fi makes me assume many words would see my editorial axe). Genre aside, I consider 50K–100K a novel I’ll work with.

      Two, YA tends to be shorter than adult thrillers. I can see an 80K–100K adult thriller being norm, but for a YA thriller, not so much. 53K fits in the guidelines given here: http://literaticat.blogspot.com/2011/05/wordcount-dracula.html

      WE WERE LIARS is 50K, and that didn’t seem too short, but it’s literary. THE CONSPIRACY OF US is a YA thriller at 89K. I’m not an agent, but I wouldn’t be able to say whether this book in particular is too short without reading it first.

      Thanks for your response!

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