Query Free-for-all

So, I’m still bad at updating this, and editing my manuscript is a slow process that needs regular breaks. Plus #Pitchwars is coming up soon. So, here’s my solution: Let’s have a query feedback session. If you want feedback, post your query in the comments below.

Only rule is if you post, you’ve got to leave feedback on two others (keep checking back if you’re one of the early ones.) Be concise, be helpful, give what you’d like to receive in return. I’ll try and get to as many as I can, but more eyes are always better. It doesn’t have to be a #pitchwars manuscript, but it’s a good opportunity to meet people if you are planning on entering. There’s a strong fellowship amongst last year’s entrants.

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25 comments

  1. To get things started, here’s mine:

    Byran Tarn came to the great city of Neros seeking other people’s fortunes. After three years, he’s built up a reputation as a skilled thief, but less actual money than he would have liked. When he’s enlisted for a well-paid job with a major crime lord, Byran’s prepared to swallow those unhelpful moral urges and take it.

    Accompanied by his were-kitten best friend and an unlicensed wizard with a weak constitution, Byran breaks into the home of Orlando DelRayn, a collector of magical items. All goes well until Byran drops the stolen item and it transforms into a confused and very naked man.

    This leaves Byran with a dilemma. The mob don’t take kindly to people betraying them. On the other hand, while he’s a self-admitted shady character with lax grip on personal morality, even Byran feels reluctant to hand an actual person over to them. With the mob closing in on one side, and the powerful and enigmatic DelRayns on the other, Byran needs to get to the bottom of his new house-guest before people start losing kneecaps. It doesn’t help that he’s starting to fall for the mysterious magical man.

    LOCK, STOCK AND TWO SMOKING GOBLINS, complete at 70,000 words, is an adult fantasy. It’s Guy Richie mockney with magic and a bi protagonist.

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    1. I’d add “a” before “lax grip.” This sounds really good! The query was clear and I was drawn in throughout. And that’s a killer opening line.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. This looks really good, Rose. The only thing little nitpick I have is the use of the word ‘actual’ twice in the query. (actual money and actual person). Maybe if you could find a way to change one of those or omit it, it might flow a little better. Great job though!

      Liked by 1 person

    3. Sounds interesting! I would swap “the stolen item” for “a stolen item.” I went back through the first part of the query because I thought I had missed what THE stolen item was.

      Good luck with Pitchwars!

      Liked by 1 person

    4. Marvelous job! I don’t have a whole lot to recommend beyond a slight tweak of your introduction of the stolen item/naked man. I didn’t realize he was the love interest until the last sentence. Perhaps when you introduce him, you could say “…and it transforms into a confused and very naked, very handsome man.” My only other comment is I don’t know that it’s necessary to point out your protagonist is bi, but that’s entirely up to you! Best of luck in your querying 🙂

      P.S. I accidentally posted this comment below as well. Please disregard that one!

      Like

  2. Thanks for doing this, Rose. Here’s mine:

    The only horses 17-year-old Jaden Roberts can touch are the ones she draws in her sketchbook. The live animals are wild as the wind and just as fast—at least since the gamma ray burst hit Earth 300 years ago.

    Though she’s a Time Traveler, The Society won’t allow Jaden to venture back to the era when horses were tame and humans, powerless. But the temptation to get near the animals she adores is too much. So she decides to go, just once.

    In the Oklahoma countryside, Jaden discovers two beautiful horses, and to her surprise, an even more beautiful Regular boy named Chance. Her one-time visit to the forbidden past turns into many more, and her love for horses rekindles the passion Chance lost after his brother died and his mother left. It’s not long before Jaden begins to fall for him. Hard. Two small problems though: Chance has no idea she’s a Traveler, and the gamma ray burst will hit his world in less than two months’ time.

    When The Society catches on to Jaden’s secret travels, she panics and goes back to Chance’s era once again. But with the apocalyptic event now only days away, she must choose: leave him behind forever or abandon her world and risk her life to face the blinding lights of the exploding star by his side. What she will soon discover is the real reason Travelers aren’t allowed to mingle with the Regulars.

    THE TRAVELER is a 70,000-word YA sci-fi romance with series potential. It will likely appeal to fans of Marissa Meyer’s CINDER and Veronica Rossi’s UNDER THE NEVER SKY.

    Like

    1. I think you can probably cut So she decides to go, just ones. Saying the temptation is too much implies she’s going to do it.

      Other than that, I think this is great. You’ve got the set up of her travelling back in the beginning, the romance, and then the stakes.

      Good luck!

      Liked by 1 person

    2. My first question is when does the story take place (i.e., what year)? The second question that forms in my mind while I’m reading this is how far back in the past/what time period does she go to be with the horses? Also, is it important to mention why the Society won’t let her time travel to when horses were around?

      Great world building and intrigue at the end! Lovely job.

      Liked by 1 person

    3. This is something I would definitely want to read.

      Leave the part that Jaden’s temptation to travel is too much, and delete “so she decides to go.”

      The third paragraph contains 2 POV’s without clearly distinguishing them from one another. The information they contain is good (though I think it’s unnecessary to say Chance doesn’t know Jaden is a Traveler) but it would be better if you rework that third paragraph to separate what’s going on with your two MC’s.

      Again, something I definitely want to read! Well done!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Love this idea! Here is mine (minus the obligatory opening sentence and bio at the end):

    I am hopeful that I can interest you in my non-linear, multiple-points-of-view fantasy narrative, NOWHERE BEHELD, which is a re-telling of the Arthurian Legend set in two worlds.

    For Finbar Shaw, life is good. He has a great family, a decent job, and Vivian Kent, the love of his life. When a tattoo appears on his palm and leads to an enchanted door, Fin and Vivian discover that Camelot is not just a fable.

    Camelot has been destroyed, and the last Knight of the Round Table has been killed. Those who hope for King Arthur’s promised return are being hunted by his sinister usurper. Without the assistance of his knights, Arthur’s return is impossible. Camelot’s last hope lies with Fin, the bastard son of Arthur’s queen, and Vivian, the daughter of a knight, both hidden away in a different world for safety.

    Together, Fin and Vivian possess the ability to restore Arthur to his throne, but when the man who toppled the kingdom moves against them and recruits Vivian’s estranged twin, they are left with a choice. They can return to their world and separate to remain safe, or help Arthur and risk suffering the same fate as the Round Table.

    Complete at 87,000 words, NOWHERE BEHELD is a Fantasy told from multiple points of view. It could be described as NARNIA meets OUTLANDER. I have attached the first three chapters as well as the synopsis as per the guidelines on your website.

    Like

    1. I think you could combine the first and last paragraphs. You mention the title, and multiple points of view twice having the separately, and the other information mentioned feels like it belongs together. Don’t forget to include the age group it’s aimed for, either.

      I like the way you set Fin out in the first line of the next paragraph, but the line after doesn’t quite flow right. It doesn’t seem connected and almost feels like you’re missing a reason that he thinks Camelot is a myth (beyond the obvious). Does the tattoo just appear suddenly, or does something trigger it (like finding an ominous looking copy of Mort D’Arthur?)

      Vivian, the daughter of a knight – is she the daughter of one of the Knights of the round table? If so, might be worth naming him.

      I think you need something to say why they’re invested in saving Arthur. As you point out at the beginning, he’s got a great life in the other world, including a family, so why would he risk himself? Is it revenge on his father’s kill, for example?

      Hope this helps!

      Like

    2. A few notes.
      1. I think you can combine the first and last paragraph, and put them at the end.
      2. Watch your passive voice. Camelot has been destroyed, and the last knight has been killed. Try to make that active, instead.
      3. The second plot paragraph changes POVs, a little bit. That would worry me, and make me wonder if the MS would have similar issues. You start by talking about Finbar, who I assume is the main character. But then in the next paragraph, you’re talking about Camelot and treating Fin as a distant third person character. I’d try to keep the same perspective throughout the query. If you’re telling it from Fin’s POV, then continue that, and talk about what he learns in Camelot, covering some of the same information, just from a different angle.
      4. Lastly, I’d consider your comp titles. Because I’ve read both those titles, and I can’t imagine what it means to have them combined. First, they’re both portal fantasies, so I get that. But one is a romance, one isn’t. I’m not sure which elements of each I’m supposed to combine.
      5. Your final plot paragraph is good in its format — they must do x or y will happen. But I’d look at the stakes. As written, they don’t jump out and grab me, and the stakes are really important to the query. It feels very general — if you could find a way to weave in something specific, it might add a lot to the query.

      Hope this helps.

      Like

    3. I’d recommend starting off with Finbar (take out the first sentence). The first sentence can be combined with your last paragraph:

      “NOWHERE BEHELD, a re-telling of the Arthurian Legend set in two worlds, is complete at 87,000 words and told from multiple points of view.”

      Be careful starting out with describing a perfectly content character. Instead, I recommend starting your story with Finbar at the section where the strange tattoo appears and build your setting and world around that.

      In the paragraph where Camelot has been destroyed–is it important to mention King Arthur’s usurper by name?

      I hope these comments are helpful to you!

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    4. This sounds intriguing! What era are Fin and Vivian from? The present? It might help to include that so as to differentiate their world from the world of Camelot.

      I’d revise the sentence about the tattoo to say: When a tattoo appears on his palm THAT leads to an enchanted door.

      “Those who hope for King Arthur’s promised return are being hunted by his sinister usurper. ”

      I don’t know if it matters in a query or not, but I’d eliminate the passive voice in this sentence and revise it. Something like, “Arthur’s sinister usurper is hunting those who long for their king’s return.”

      This sounds like a very cool book that I want to read 🙂 Good job!

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  4. Thanks for hosting this! What a lovely idea. My query is below.

    After falling off of a collapsing Ferris wheel, twenty-year-old Jakima Johnson should be dead. Instead, she awakens in a sequoia forest, held captive by the pirate lord, Captain Fang, who gives her an ultimatum: open the TreeGates to Aelestia or her brother dies.

    Using her new, untamed magical abilities to control the elements of the earth, Jakima opens the passageway to a medieval world she never knew existed, nearly killing herself in the process. As the pirates journey toward civilization with their captives, Jakima learns of a rebellion and the political unrest as the Eight Noble Houses of this world all seek to rule Aelestia—a medieval land that segregates its people based on vocation, race, and magic.

    Captain Fang makes a bargain with the ruling House of Aelestia—Jakima in exchange for an end to their banishment on Earth and the return of their ship. The Nobles, eager to secure their rule, agree—revealing that Jakima is the last of a powerful line of magic. They intend to make her into a weapon, using her elemental powers against the rebelling factions. To find her family and rescue her brother from captivity, Jakima must navigate Aelestian politics and learn to control her new abilities. If she fails, this warring nation could fall into civil chaos once more, and she might just become the very weapon that the Nobles desire.

    THE SEED OF KINGS is a standalone adult fantasy novel with series potential, complete at 115,000 words.

    Like

    1. Falling from a collapsing ferris wheel is certainly a unique start! There are a lot of details in the first paragraph and I’m not sure you need them all. Do you need to state it’s a sequoia forest for example (is it important to the plot?) And TreeGates to Aelestia doesn’t mean anything to me yet, so you might be worth changing this to a more generic description (portal to a world of magic / gold / free pirate ships etc).

      I’m a little confused about where the first couple of paragraphs are set. Is the forest in the real world, and have they gone through the portal in the second or not? Not a big deal, but a little clarification might be good.

      Nice stakes in the last paragraph.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. A little disclaimer before I hit “paste” — this is my first query. Ever. Please be gentle! 😉

    ***

    Reeling from the ugly breakdown of her marriage, Andi Sawyer and her eleven-year-old daughter Charli are starting life over in Andi’s Wisconsin hometown. Though terrified of giving another man the opportunity to break her heart, Andi finds herself inexplicably drawn to John Walker, the moody, haunted-eyed stranger next door…a stranger with secrets.

    The last thing reclusive actor and rock star Jonah Wilder wants is to get involved with a small-town single mother and her special needs child. His good looks hidden behind a heavy beard and long, unkempt hair, he takes on the new identity of “John Walker” and flees Hollywood to battle a vicious heroin addiction. Tortured by guilt over the deaths of his wife and baby daughter, Jonah’s defenses are ironclad — until he meets his new neighbors. With them, John Walker sees his future. But Jonah Wilder only sees his tragic past.

    Complete at 86,000 words, CATCH THE FALLEN STAR is a contemporary romance.This story will appeal to readers who love the fantasy pairing of a famous actor/rock star hero and an everyday small-town heroine.

    Thank you for your time and consideration. As per your submission guidelines, I have attached the first five pages of my novel. Upon your request, I would be more than happy to send you the full manuscript.

    Like

    1. For a first query, it’s great. I love this line in particular – With them, John Walker sees his future. But Jonah Wilder only sees his tragic past.

      I’d change the first line to Reeling from the ugly breakdown of her marriage, Andi Sawyer takes her eleven-year-old daughter Charli to start life over in Andi’s Wisconsin hometown. Otherwise it sounds like the daughter is also reeling from her marriage breakdown.

      Cut this bit – a stranger with secrets. You always want specifics in a query, and you give (at least some) of John / Jonah’s secrets in the next paragraph. Maybe instead mention the event that gets them talking to each other / kicks off the potential for romance?

      fantasy pairing – I think you should replace this tropes. I don’t write romance myself, but I believe tropes are important. I’m sure someone will correct me if wrong 🙂

      Upon your request, I would be more than happy to send you the full manuscript. You can cut this as it’s a given. The agent will expect you to thrust the manuscript in their grabby hands when they request 🙂

      The romance is nice and strong, and I can already see the pairing. I love the dual nature of your love interest. I think at the moment, you’re missing stakes, especially for Andi. Other than getting over her marriage, what is that she wants? What’s standing in her way of getting it? I think if you add a third paragraph after John/ Jonah’s one, giving a bit more of the plot and what the characters are trying to achieve / their stakes, you’ll be there.

      Hope that helps!

      Like

      1. thank you so much!!! Andi does have a stake, in the form of her former husband returning and Charli wanting her family reunited. Jonah has left WI, and Andi can’t stop thinking about him.

        I’d read that you should leave the agent wanting to know more so you dangle some enticing mystery in your query. That’s what I attempted to do with mine, leaving details for the synopsis LOL….again, being a newbie to all of this, I’m not sure which way to go.

        Your comments have helped me enormously, so thanks again, and thanks for hosting this!

        Liked by 1 person

    2. I think this is really good, especially for a first attempt on a query. I do have a couple suggestions: I wouldn’t mention John Walker’s name in in the first paragraph–it makes it a tad confusing when you start with a different name in the 2nd paragraph (though it’s soon explained). Also, it sounds like this might be a dual POV story–if it is, I would mention that in the query. Lastly, the stakes are a little weak. If you can, present a choice: Jonah Wilder either has to ____ or else _______. (You could also possible have 2 sets of stakes–one for Jonah and one for Andi. Great job, though!

      Like

      1. Thank you! It is a dual POV story, limited 3rd. Since most 3rd person romances (and other genres in my reading experience) are written dual (or more) POV, I didn’t think it was necessary to point it out. But I will if it’s needed. There are definite stakes for both of them and I do see where I am lacking in that aspect. I’ll definitely work on incorporating those in. Thank you again 🙂

        Like

  6. Marvelous job! I don’t have a whole lot to recommend beyond a slight tweak of your introduction of the stolen item/naked man. I didn’t realize he was the love interest until the last sentence. Perhaps when you introduce him, you could say “…and it transforms into a confused and very naked, very handsome man.” My only other comment is I don’t know that it’s necessary to point out your protagonist is bi, but that’s entirely up to you! Best of luck in your querying 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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