Query Workshop B-8: THE SHOW MUST NOT GO ON

Before we start I have winners for the three entries into the query workshop from Beyond The Hourglass Bridge Blog. All three critiques will be up on my blog on Saturday. Winners please email me your queries stat at brendadrakecontests@gmail.com. If you don’t wish to participate, please let  me know and I’ll choose another winner. And the winners from Random.org are…

Aimee Salter
E. Arroyo
Emily Cushing 

It’s day four 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. And here’s my next critique…

         

 Dear Agent,
THE SHOW MUST NOT GO ON is a 70,000-word YA dystopian fantasy novel. It can stand alone, but has trilogy potential.
Sixteen-year-old Lori Gibbs’s parents have registered her in Easten’s Talent Show. If she impresses the judges, her parents move into the Palace for life. If she fails to impress, she’ll hang.
Easten is a fertile island surrounded by metal walls to keep natives in and visitors out. In Easten, pride is everything, and a parent’s pride rests in how talented their child is. Lori can fly, a rare gift, and with that comes her parents’ plan for her life: levitate, impress, secure them a Palace room so everyone knows they created the best child, and then go home to pop out her own talented children.
But ever since Lori’s best friend was hung for not impressing, Lori has had trouble controlling her anger towards Easten’s system. And worse, she starts to bond with another contestant, even though unapproved friendship is forbidden. Davis is a smart, timid fifteen-year-old with a talent of holding his breath. His mom is dying of cancer, so she figured she had little to lose by registering him.
While Davis is sure he’ll do well, Lori knows the truth. Davis’s talent is just as lame as his love for Easten and even lamer than the boy whose talent was picking up marbles with his toes.
Lori devises a plan to save Davis. If she doesn’t try, she’ll lose her only friend and become a part of the system she’s vowed never to follow. But if she gets caught, she’ll hang alongside him.
If you would like to read sample chapters or the full manuscript, please let me know. Thank you for your time and consideration!
  
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B’s critique …
 

Dear Agent,
THE SHOW MUST NOT GO ON is a 70,000-word YA dystopian fantasy(pick one or the other)novel. It can stand alone, but has trilogy potential. (Don’t do this)
I prefer to start with the hook and put the title and word count after the query and before the closing.
Sixteen-year-old Lori Gibbs’s parents have registered her in Easten’s Talent Show. If she impresses the judges, her parents move into the Palace for life. If she fails to impress, she’ll hang.(Oh, great start.)
Easten is a fertile island surrounded by metal walls to keep natives in and visitors out. (We don’t need this – we can learn it in the story.) In Easten, pride is everything, and a parent’s pride status rests  on how talented their child is. Lori can fly, a rare gift, and with that comes her parents’ plan for her life: levitate, impress, secure them a Palace room so everyone knows they created the best child, and then go home to pop out her own talented children.(I’m vacillating from thinking this last part needs to be tightened up to thinking it’s fine and shows voice and back. Maybe we can get some other opinions – like a vote or something?)
But ever since Lori’s best friend was hung for not impressing, Lori has had trouble controlling her anger towards Easten’s system (Is that all? Just having trouble controlling her anger? I think she’d be furious and scared and long for a way out.). And worse, she starts to bond with another contestant, even though  unapproved friendship is it’s forbidden. Davis is a smart, timid fifteen-year-old with a talent of for holding his breath. His mom is dying of cancer, so she figured she had little to lose by registering him for the show.
While Davis is sure he’ll do well, Lori knows the truth. Davis’s talent is just as lame as his love for Easten and even lamer than the boy whose talent was picking up marbles with his toes. (Ha!)
With Davis’s time running out, Lori devises a plan to save him. If she fails, she’ll lose her only friend and become a part of the system she’s vowed never to follow. But if she gets caught, she’ll hang alongside him.
If you would like to read sample chapters or the full manuscript, please let me know. (This is understood, so you don’t need it.) 
Thank you for your time and consideration!

I love how you open with the bit about how if she doesn’t impress she’ll hang. I don’t think we need to know everything about Easten in the query. The agent will learn about Easten in the manuscript. I think you just need some tightening on this and a few things cut to get this in better shape. Great story!

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 leave 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

7 comments to Query Workshop B-8: THE SHOW MUST NOT GO ON

  • This is a really interesting story concept. Really unique.

    My vote is to leave that one section as is. I think it really speaks and gives a good hint of the voice of the character and her opinion.

    I agree with the rest of Brenda’s comments. I also personally think the mention of the word count, etc. should be at the end. The hook is the most important. Word count is later.

  • I’d cut the line about Davis’s mother because it’s so distracting it’s the only thing I can think about. You say she doesn’t have much to lose but that seems really illogical. If he succeeds she gets to die in a cushy palace room. If he fails she still dies but with the added bonus of getting her son killed. That is a horrible consequence and a huge thing to lose. Either I or the query is missing something. Your choice is add in a line explaining why taking that chance is no big deal, or just cut her out of the query. I don’t think it’s that important to know why Davis is in the competition, just that he’s there and Lori wants to save him.
    Sorry about the nitpicking, I just get really distracted by logic holes. Other than that I thought the story was strong. I especially liked introducing the story with the stakes, and agree that should be the beginning of the query. Good luck!

  • I agree with Brenda, tightening the last sentence in the first paragraph will make it more concise. “levitate, impress, and secure their status as gifted parents,” or something like that. I might suggest cutting it out entirely and going with:

    “Sixteen-year-old Lori Gibbs’s parents have registered her in Easten’s Talent Show. If she impresses the judges, her parents move into the Palace for life. If she fails to impress, she’ll hang.

    Ever since Lori’s best friend was hung for not impressing, Lori has had trouble controlling her anger towards Easten’s system.”

  • I agree with Brenda’s and Jennifer’s comments on tightening up your query. I love the premise of your story. Best of luck!

  • I have to say that, at first, it was slow. I didn’t connect very well with it, but by the end you had me hooked. Sounds like a good read!

    I agree with the suggestions made, though.

  • I’m intrigued by the idea of her hanging if she fails in a talent show, but I’m thinking the first paragraph could be made stronger. My first impression was wondering why I cared about a talent show, but I think it might be because it focuses more on her parents than Lori. What are her reactions and feelings about this?

    The last line in the second paragraph (about children) amused me, and I think it’s because it gave me an idea of the voice. Right now I do feel like there’s a bit of a whimsical quality to the story.

    Which goes away when I read about the best friend being hung. I think we need to see Lori’s anger toward the system needs to be more apparent earlier on. Then again, the “marbles with his toes” also makes me think whimsical or humorous. I think I’m having a bit of an issue determining whether this is meant to be serious, humorous, or some mix of the two.

    I think there are some decent stakes set up here, but I’m not sure the query is really made out to show that at this point. It sounds like an interesting premise, but I think the query could be made stronger.

    What if you went along the lines of “After sixteen-year-old Lori Gibb’s friend is hung for failing to impress Easten’s lush palace, the last thing Lori wants to do is compete. But when she bonds with Davis, a contestant who’s destined to loose, she isn’t going to let Easten’s talent show take him, too. Never mind that she might actually win with her talent of levitation. She devises a plan that could save Davis and get her out of the horrid system. But if she’s caught, the last thing she’ll remember is a noose.”

    Granted… you’d want to put it in your words and such, since I have a horrible time with writing queries, but I don’t know. It’s what I thought of when reading the query.

    Good luck with it. 🙂

  • Thank you all SO much for your help! This really has been an amazing opportunity. I’m off to make some changes to my query 🙂

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