Query Workshop B-2: COLD SUMMER

It’s day one of the query workshop with me and three of my blogging friends. Two queries on four blogs for ten days. It’s going to be awesome. So, let’s get this party started. Here’s my next critique…

 

Dear (name of agent)

Kale has no future. He can’t stay long enough to go to school, get a job, or even keep the friends he once had. As a time-traveler, having a normal life is impossible for Kale. Especially when he’s being dragged back to World War II every few days, only to return to a house he doesn’t like to call home. It’s hard having two lives when he doesn’t think he belongs to either.

Uncle Jasper is the closet thing to family that Harper has. After years of being away, she’s coming back to her Uncle’s farm house where she spent every summer as a child. With her father dead, and a mother in deep depression, Harper is staying for good. She can only hope starting her senior year in a new place will help her forgot that constant ache in her heart and the fact her mother no longer wants her.

Together after years of being apart, Kale and Harper find out the past can’t change, but the future will be what they make of it.

COLD SUMMER is a YA science fiction novel, complete at 86,000 words.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

“““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““`
B’s critique…

Dear (name of agent)

Kale has no future. He can’t stay long enough to go to school, get a job, or even keep the friends he once had. As a time-traveler, having a normal life is impossible for Kale. Especially when he’s being dragged back to World War II every few days, only to return to a house he doesn’t like to call home. (Why doesn’t he like to call it home? Does it change while he’s gone? Are his parents mean?) It’s hard having two lives when he doesn’t think he belongs to either.

I’d rearrange the above paragraph for clarity and add something about his home life. Something like this…

Kale has no future. As a time-traveler, having a normal life is impossible for him. He can’t stay long enough to attend classes, get a job, or have friends. Especially when he’s constantly dragged back to World War II every few days, only to return home to parents who think he’s a delinquent because of his frequent disappearances. It’s hard having two lives when Kale doesn’t think he belongs to either.

Uncle Jasper is the closet thing to family that Harper has. After years of being away, she’s coming back to her Uncle’s farm house where she spent every summer as a child. With her father dead, and a mother in deep depression, Harper is staying for good. She can only hope starting her senior year in a new place will help her forgot that constant ache in her heart and the fact her mother no longer wants her.

Together after years of being apart, Kale and Harper find out the past can’t change, but the future will be what they make of it.(I think you need to join the two points of view better here. What happens when the two come together? Where’s the plot, conflict, and stakes? Put that here.

COLD SUMMER is a YA science fiction novel, complete at 86,000 words.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

You have two great characters, but I have no idea what happens to them in this story. I love the title and the time traveling bit.
 
I hope this helps. If you decide to revise and would like me to read it again, just post it in the comments of this post.


Okay, everyone, what do you think? 


And don’t forget to stop by the other blogs and read their query critiques. For each critique you in the comments, you get an entry into the drawing to win one of three first chapter critiques from me.

Becca C.
Becca (Becks) Coffindaffer
 Marieke Nijkamp

Sarah Nicolas
 Sarah Nicolas

27 comments to Query Workshop B-2: COLD SUMMER

  • Once again, I have to agree with the critique (not being a brown noser here! :-p)

    I really like the concept of this book. Time Travel has such fascinating possibilities to it. I really like the second paragraph. It has a lot of hook to it. I wonder how it would read if you led with that one and then added the time travel bit in as a secondary thing. Because really, the story is about Harper and dealing with her family. The complication is that she’s also a time traveler.

    Good job on the query and would love to see the revision. 😀

  • Thanks Brenda! I’ll definitely revise and comment back! 😀

  • I love the concept here, and I get a strong sense of character from both Kale and Harper. I agree with the critique – there seems to be a paragraph missing at the end. How did they know each other before, and why were they separated? What draws them together now? Is the time traveling a part of their life together, or is it what stands in their way? I want to know what happens next, which is excellent!, but I don’t think agents like to be teased this much. 🙂 Good luck!!

  • I agree that there needs to be more clues as to the plot. I also though the introduction of Harper was a little clunky. Since it dealt with a bad home life, I thought this was more detail about Kale and why he didn’t like to call the house home. I did a double take when I got to “she” and realized I’d brushed past the new name and had not realized this was new character.

  • I have to agree with Brenda here. The premise is really intriguing but all you’ve done is introduce the characters. We don’t know what the story is about, why we should care if they can handle the future together. What is the conflict? What drew them together? What’s keeping them apart?

    Good luck!

  • I agree with Brenda (and Kelly Metz’s comment above). It sounds like a good idea, but there needs to be just more then characters being introduced.
    To me, I didn’t like how you separated the two characters into two separate paragraphs. It through me off. Talk about one (probably Kale) and then move Harper into it when she needs to be spoken about. I don’t know if I explained that well, but, anyhow, focus on one point of view.
    (I know it is hard, believe me, I had to do it, too. Especially when both characters are so important to your novel.)

  • This comment has been removed by the author.

    • You’re getting closer, but what are the stakes? Will Kale get stuck in the past? Will Harper lose her mother? Harper’s story isn’t pulling me in. If you decide to go with one POV, I’d use Kale’s. It’s more fascinating. Also, you use many words to say something you can say in fewer words. tighten your sentences as I did in the critique about attending classes. If your query reads wordy, agents will think your manuscript will be too wordy.

  • Gwen- for some reason it isn’t letting me reply to your comment.
    But anyways, yes it would be okay. I was doing the same thing you were: breaking up the POVs in my query because I have two MCs.
    Someone told me that I should stick to one MC and then incorprate the other into that POV. I didn’t listen, at first, until many others gave me the same advice. And when you get multiple people saying the same thing, I think it is a call for concern.
    Now, stepping back and seeing your query, I finally understand why they were saying to use one point of view.

    Using one POV and incorporating the other was kind of hard to start, but I think it may have worked out well. I guess we’ll see when mine goes up sometime this week.

    Does anyone else agree with me or is it not that big of a deal??? Brenda?

    • I definitely understand what you’re saying. Maybe I’ll write two versions and see which works better. It would be a lot less confusing and more solid. Thanks! 😀

    • I’ve seen it done both ways. Some agents prefer you use one POV, but it’s not a set rule. If done seamlessly, it can be a fabulous way to get a feel for your story.

      How are the POVs at odds? How does each move the story forward? What growth do they get from each other? The voice is what makes your story unique. Your pitch must tell us who the main characters are, what the conflict of the story is and how each individual journey connects together. If you can’t show us the tension, plotting, and emotional impact by using both POVs in the query, then choose who is the MMC and do it in his/her POV. There is always one POV story that moves the other story forward. Just like the birth of twins, one comes out first.

    • Here’s a sample I have in my saved files on how to a dual POV using one POV: http://queryshark.blogspot.com/2011/03/199-ftw.html

    • Awesome. Thank you so much, Brenda! 😀

  • Cool, thanks
    (For some weird reason the reply button is not working for me?)

  • I believe the query would be stronger if beginning with “As a time-traveler…” The sentences before are warming up to the main meat, and can be taken out.

    Again, a detail like “Uncle Jasper is the closet thing to family that Harper has” tells us the same information as the following lines, and can be taken out.

    The line “and the fact her mother no longer wants her” can be defined more clearly. Instead of “no longer wants her,” perhaps offer a few details on why. “and the fact that her mother takes to staring at the garden instead of conversing with her daughter…” or something like that.

    I agree with Brenda that the query needs to address what happens when the characters meet. This seems to be the real conflict and resolution of the story, and the most important to bring to an editor or agent’s attention.

    Good luck! And take care,
    Jennifer

  • I think Brenda gave you a great suggestion in her critique. I like the way she set up your first paragraph. As for the multiple POV’s, I don’t know what’s kosher, but when I read it the first time it was really jarring for me to switch from Kale to Harper. My suggestion would be to stick with Kale’s POV. At the least, we need more information that ties their storylines together. As it is, I don’t know what it means that they’ve spent “years apart”. Do they know each other from a past life? Or did they know each other as children? Clarifying this will help. Good luck!

  • Laurie Litwin

    I think your first paragraph is a little confusing. I, also, have no real sense of the main plot of the book. I get the time travel part, and your MC doesn’t like it. But I want to know more. What exactly does he not like? I can only imagine how tough a dual POV would be to write. You have a great start, it just needs a few tweeks. Good luck!

  • I just have a couple of questions:

    1)Why doesn’t Kale like to go home in the present? School problems? Family problems? Maybe elaborate just a tad here.

    2)Together after years of being apart, Kale and Harper find out the past can’t change, but the future will be what they make of it

    Did this mean they’ve been together as a couple before? She’s only a senior in high school so how long could they have been together the first time. Maybe I’m just reading this wrong.

  • “She can only hope starting her senior year in a new place will help her forgot FORGET that constant” < --- one grammar mistake. I think that the main thing that I feel is missing is in the third paragraph. How do these two characters relate? Why did you chose two POVS? How will their stories wind together? If you do decide with two POVs, the twin stories must wind together in the third paragraph so the agent doesn’t think there are two distinct stories at play. Also, I feel this reads a bit slow, almost, and that might be due to the wordiness (Brenda, you read my mind!). To speed up the tension, tighten it up. One last thing is that I’m not sure WHY Kale is time-traveling; meaning, how does it affect his character arc and story? Because it seems like he has two stories almost — one, a commercial one, to get past the time-traveling, and the second, a literary one, to come to terms with his father. How does one affect the other? I have to say though, I love Kale’s story so far. It’s so ingenious and such a fresh spin on an old concept — time-traveling, but forced to? And he DOESN’T like it? I like it 🙂 Hope I helped! Feel free to toss all this away, and take my crit with a grain of salt 🙂

  • I’d consider starting it something to the effect of “As a time-traveler, Kale has no future.” To me, the idea that a time traveler has no future hooks me more than a normal life being impossible (which seems fairly obvious to me). Then I’d go on with saying “he can’t stay (in one time period… etc) long enough to go to school…” etc.

    Good luck. 🙂

  • I’m not a fan of the two different points of view. It confused me, and I wasn’t quite sure who was who. Too many characters and stories going on. I think if you gravitate towards one point of view, it will be a much stronger query. I also agree with sbibb on the beginning line.

    The premise definitely seems interesting and intriguing. I would want to read the pages to see how you start it out!

  • I was confused when I read this…because first you talk about Kale, then you bring in Harper. I think some clarity there would help.

    But I like the overall idea and it does sound intriguing.

  • I really like the title. I think Brenda’s crit was spot on. If you focus on the conflict, consequences, obstacles and stakes, the third paragraph will be a lot stronger.

  • Overall, this is a great premise.
    I agree with some of the other commenters that there needs to be a connection established earlier between Kale and Harper.
    Also, I am always curious about what purpose the time travel serves. Is there unfinished business?
    Good luck!

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