Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Query Crit #7

Dear Awesome Agent,

When a renegade Were’s misuse of magic threatens folk and mortal alike, Warder Trainee Mona Lisa Kubrek must find out who is causing the damage, why he has picked certain targets and what he hopes to gain all while still learning and coming into her abilities as a uniquely non-magic wielding member of the folk community.

Mona Lisa Kubrek’s life turns upside down when her best friend from high school calls her. Meeting her friend and seeing the magic workings set upon the pregnant woman, Mona cannot help but use her Warder ability to manipulate the spell's settings, despite the fact that her training master has told her she’s not to alter workings without his permission. Her friend is just the tip of the iceberg as Mona finds more harmful spells, as well as Weres manipulated by them, at every turn. After surviving a magically induced bridge collapse Mona meets Protector Josiah Carthage ‘Cart’ Dupree, called in by the area's Folk leaders to assess the situation. As they investigate further she realizes there’s a pattern to the renegade’s madness and her life is at risk along with most of the Buffalo(NY) Were pack. Tasked with finding the culprit Mona's increasing closeness to Cart becomes problematical as she discovers why Warders earned their name.

Warder is a 105k contemporary fantasy romance, the first in an anticipated seven book series set in an alternate reality with a magic mythos I feel is unique.  Like many contemporary fantasy romance series, each story has a different couple as the main characters and an over-arching villainous plot tying the stories together.  Currently I have chosen to write the story with a low to moderate heat level, however I could foresee changing that if requested. I have been writing and improving my craft  around the demands of 'real life' for the past ten years, only recently venturing into submitting my work and becoming successfully published this year.


  1. The story sounds intriguing but I think it gets a little muddled. We have magic, Weres, Warders, and Folk and I am not exactly clear on what each is. Sometimes if your use a unique word in your novel, it's suggested to use alternative words for the purpose of the query so its clearer, or you give a brief description of what your unique words mean if it's important to the query.

    This is nitpicky but you don't have to state Mona's entire name again at the beginning of the second paragraph since you already mentioned it in the first paragraph.

    This is just advice I've heard before but for your bio it's advised not to talk about how long you've been writing/improving, what adjustments you can make at request, or the fact that you anticipate it to be a seven book series. Instead just let the query speak for itself and gain the agent's interest.

  2. I’m with A.J. on the terms, particularly what it means that she has “Warder ability,” and what “folk” means. It sounds like you have a really complex world here---we just need to be able to access it in the context of the query!

    Your first sentence might be a little long. Maybe let the first sentence tell us the conflict (the things she has to find out), and make a second sentence that tells us why it will be harder for her (she’s learning).

    The second paragraph feels a little like part of a synopsis more than a query. It recounts a couple of events that sound like they’re essential to the story, but without having read the novel it’s difficult to grasp their impact. The last couple of sentences get to the central conflict of the story, so my suggestion would be to summarize whatever you need to in order to get there. I’m not recommending taking all the life and specificity out of the query, just framing the main problem.

    Buena suerte!

  3. A.J. & Anna nailed it in my opinion.

    I felt confused after about the second sentence (admittedly, high fantasy is not my forte). I don't think it was just the terms, but sentence framing (i.e. length).

    If possible, I'd try to condense your first para to a 25-word-or-less hook.

    A.J.'s last comment is important--no craft talk, how "hot" the story is, etc. If you don't have any publishing creds, ignore area all together. By highlighting it, you're drawing more attention to your lack of creds than anything. Trust me. I've learned that the hard way.

  4. Thanks everyone. I know this needs work and appreciate the comments!

  5. I agree with A.J., Anna, and Liberty. The first sentence was quite a lot to take in. It will help to break it down a bit. Also, Buffalo (NY) is a bit awkward. I can understand why you chose to write it that way, but a simple rephrasing would fix it so you wouldn't have to. I'm with the others about the last 'bio' paragraph. From what I have read and heard on agent websites and agents on Twitter, mentioning the series part in a query is usually a turn off, especially if you are a debut author. I would recommend leaving it out altogether, or writing the first one as a stand-alone with "potential for a series". There wasn't anything in the query to make me realize this was a romance until the last paragraph. What are the stakes for the relationship? Is it love at first sight or is there any conflict that could get in the way of the relationship?

  6. You’re making some classic beginning query mistakes (which is perfectly fine and normal – everyone makes them at some point or another! :). Things like too much slang from your world without context, cliches like “life turned upside down”, mentioning this is the first in a LONG series, offering to change things for the agent, etc. All that stuff? Cut it. Seriously. Focus only on the plot –what happens? What are the stakes (be specific – it’s those unique details that make a book stand out from the slush)? What is the main character's internal/external conflicts? Of course, you do need to include some world-building elements, but make sure they’re clear and have context.

    Also, you need (IMO) a stronger hook. The first section is summary and the run-on sentence is not going to impress an agent. I’d suggest cutting that part entirely and reworking the first line to something more striking.

    And finally, I did not get a sense (at ALL) that this was an adult romance until it was specifically stated. The first paragraph made me think Middle grade, and the second made me think YA with the mention of high school. You may want to mention her age up front so that’s more clear.

    Don’t get discouraged though – you’ve got an intriguing story and frankly, queries are dang HARD TO WRITE. We all struggle, so you’re in good company :)

  7. (madly scribbling) Thanks so much!