Below is the eleventh public query critique I’m offering up on the blog. 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.
If being shy around girls were a serious disease, sixteen-year-old Jason Martyr would be on the terminal list. ha! It turns out girls are the least of his worries when a secret government agency abducts him, claiming he has a rare genetic ability to travel through time. I’m not a fan of the phrase “it turns out” because 1) I see it a lot in queries and 2) it’s a passive, abstract phrase. I’d suggest cutting it, but this premise has me excited, so I’m not that bugged by it. The agency threatens Jason’s family and friends to ensure his cooperation. Let’s swap this to give it more immediacy. Always end on the strongest point: “To ensure his cooperation, the agency threatens Jason’s family and friends.” Later you mention the “perfect girl.” Does he have a particular crush? Is she threatened as well? If so, this would be a great place to put it, putting a name and personalizing the threat.
His Jason’s mission is to go back in time to and stop a ruthless group called the Masters of Infinity[comma] from altering history and taking control of the future. This was a long sentence. Break it up and rework the second half to give specifics about the Masters of Infinity. With the sentence as it was, we lose that awesome name in the middle. You could rewrite this as “…Masters of Infinity, a group of ___ wanting to take control of the future by altering history,” but that’s a bit blah, so I’ll leave the rewrite to you. Their next attack is a 1937 coup attempt aimed at deposing FDR and installing a fascist dictator in his place. If the Masters succeed, the U.S. may never take part in World War II, setting off a catastrophic domino effect through the rest of the timeline. Ooooooh. Honestly, at this point, I’m assuming you’ve already snagged an agent since you sent this to me 3 weeks ago. Granted, I don’t read a lot of YA time travel, so an idea like this could have already sold, in which case the problem is timing. I hope the timing is on your side!
P.S. Find/Replace those double spaces after each period. That’s carried over from typewriters. I assume you won’t be sending agents a manuscript printed with a dot-matrix printer. Double spaces should only be used if typing in a monospace font, like Courier.
All Jason wants is to return to his normal life and the quest for the perfect girl. This is where the query starts to falter. Hopefully your premise will get you far enough that the agent will look at your pages. Otherwise these stakes aren’t personal or intense enough. The only thing keeping him from saving the world is laziness and hormones? Make it personal. Again, if there was one girl in particular, does he feel like he needs to prove himself to her? Is he up against crippling self-doubt? Before that can happen he This is a bit wordy. “First he” easily cuts three words. must survive martial arts training from the most dangerous fighter in the world, and then prevent the Masters’ henchmen from carrying out the coup. Since you stated that this was his mission already, this is redundant. His enemies know he is coming, and have some lethal surprises in store for him. I think you could cut everything in this paragraph except for this line, and you’d have a tighter query. But I would like to get a stronger, deeper reason for what he does what he does. Jason will go home when he completes the mission – if he survives.
[Fun title in ALL-CAPS], a work of speculative fiction for the YA market, is complete at 82,000 words. It features action sequences similar to the television series Chuck, and light science fiction aspects similar to Roland Smith’s Cryptid Hunters series. It is a stand-alone novel with series potential. While Chuck is one of my favorite television series of all time, it’s difficult to compare a written action sequence to a visual one. I’d cut the “action sequences” part and mention that it’s similar to the TV series Chuck and Roland Smith’s Cryptid Hunters series.
I can definitely see the Chuck similarity. Remember that when we meet Chuck, he’s a failed genius working a dead-end job and has been betrayed by both his best friend and his girlfriend. He’s pathetic, but we know he has potential. What Jason is lacking is Chuck’s motivation. Chuck wants to figure out what happened to him, he wants to feel successful, and he wants to feel like less of a loser. Incorporating the emotional stakes into your query will help sell it.
I have a bachelor’s degree in journalism and MBA with emphasis in marketing, both from the University of Missouri.
Thank you so much for your time and consideration.
PLEASE let me know when this book comes out.
Oh, and…er…if you want to send me a revised query, I’ll look at it.
4 thoughts on “Query #11 April 2015”
Thanks for the great critique, Lara! I’ll revise and get back to you. I’ve been thinking of putting together a blog post listing my top 10 Chuck episodes – will let you know if I do.
That would be awesome! Just warn me if there are spoilers. We haven’t seen the last two seasons yet—we’ve been catching up on Arrow 🙂
I think most of my favorites are from season 3, when Chuck was in full Kung Fu mode almost every show.
I think Season 3 is my favorite, too. When he breaks into the vault in the first or second episode with all those acrobatics? It slays me.