Query Worship B-1: PURE SEA, GREY WAVES

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 first critique…

 
  

Dear Agent:

In an underwater village, no light-skinned Pure dares to befriend the Greys. Their scales are so much darker than the Pures, obviously, so they must be inferior. But when one loud-mouthed child sneaks into Alphi’s Pure heart, she will do anything to protect him — even attack the village’s light-skinned leader.

Threatened by the furious villagers, Alphi swims through the ocean to her uncle’s magical city. Her desperate desire for open-mindedness rushes through her gills like fresh water, but that ends when her uncle — the city’s leader — turns his wand on a Grey. There is no escape. There is no hope. Under her uncle’s watchful gaze and stuck in this city, Alphi must endure every prejudiced remark in silence. Then, whispers of a Grey rebel group reach her ears, and hope whirls in her mind. Maybe she can fight with them. Maybe the rebels would accept Alphi, even if she is a Pure.

She stays silent, waiting for her chance, and when the rebels attack the city wands ablaze, Alphi joins in. But the fight is one against her uncles, her loved ones, and as the racial tension escalates, so does the bloodshed. Bodies fall on both sides, and caught in between her family and her ideals, all Alphi can hope is that she chose wisely, a black-and-white decision for justice — but in this Grey world, nothing is that clear.

PURE SEA, GREY WAVES is a YA Fantasy that is currently hovering around 85,000 words (It still needs one more revision).

Thank you again!

 “““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““

B’s critique …

Dear Agent:

In an underwater village, no light-skinned Pure dares to befriend the Greys. Their scales are so much darker than the Pures, obviously, so they must be inferior. But when one loud-mouthed child sneaks into Alphi’s (How old is Alphi?)Pure heart, she will do anything to protect him — even attack the village’s light-skinned leader. 
I like the clash of the races in this opening, but it doesn’t hook. I think the hook is lost in the structure of this paragraph. Also, you may want to start off with the main character. Maybe something like this…
‘In an underwater village, Alphi is a light-skinned Pure, and wouldn’t think of befriending a Grey. With their darker scales, the Greys are considered inferior to the Pures.’
  
Threatened by the furious villagers (How is she threatened? And why?), Alphi swims through the ocean to her uncle’s magical city. Her desperate desire for open-mindedness (Is this the only thing that drives her?) rushes through her gills like fresh water, but that ends when her uncle — the city’s leader — turns his wand on a Grey (What does he do with his wand?). There is no escape. There is no hope. (No hope for what?) Under her uncle’s watchful gaze and stuck in this city, Alphi must endure every prejudiced remark (Remarks from who? Why are they directed at her?) in silence. Then, whispers of a Grey rebel group reach her ears, and hope whirls in her mind (If she’s a Pure, why does this rebel group give her hope? Are you leaving something out of this paragraph?). Maybe she can fight with them. Maybe the rebels would accept Alphi, even if she is a Pure.(What happened that made her want to turn to the Greys? Does this have to do with the loud-mouthed child? If so, it isn’t clear in this paragraph. Plus, is it just because the child is a Grey or did this child do something else to get himself in trouble?)
She stays silent, waiting for her chance, and when the rebels attack the city wands ablaze, (What do you mean here? Do you mean –> the city with wands ablaze? Or do you need a comma between city and wands?) Alphi joins in. But the fight is one against her uncles, her loved ones, and as the racial tension escalates, so does the bloodshed. Bodies fall on both sides, and caught in between her family and her ideals, all Alphi can hope is that she chose wisely, a black-and-white decision for justice — but in this Grey world, nothing is that clear. (I really like the last part of this paragraph. It’s hooky, but what are the stakes? Losing her loved ones or her ideals? And what’s not clear?)
 
PURE SEA, GREY WAVES is a YA Fantasy that is currently hovering around 85,000 words (It still needs one more revision). I love the title of this.
 
Thank you again! (I think this is directed to me, but, just in case it isn’t, make sure to end your letter as you would a professional correspondence. Such as, ‘Thank you for your time and consideration.’)

What I think you need in this query is clarity. I’m not sure what’s going on here and what Alphi is really fighting against. The second two paragraphs read like a play by play of action in the story instead of a synopsis of the plot. Narrow in on the plot, conflict, and stakes in your query. Such as, when Alphi does this, this happens, and she has to do this or this really bad thing will happen.

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

24 comments to Query Worship B-1: PURE SEA, GREY WAVES

  • I have to agree with the critique. There are some hooky bits in here, but it is a little confusing as to what is going on. I do like the title, though and from what I can tell of the story, really fits. I would love to see the revised query as well.

  • I see a unique story here and prejudice is a powerful subject. I also found myself confused all of the details thrown in without being tied together. For example, the child mentioned in paragraph one isn’t connected. Try picking only the 2, 3 top MCs and only the main plot, no subplots and work it through that way.

  • I like the story concept here. The part that confused me was how she felt the need to get involved. You told us about the child in paragraph 1, but the he/she isn’t mentioned again. Does that character have any further bearing in the story? If so, I think the query would be strengthened by focusing on that relationship. And if not, maybe that detail isn’t necessary, and you can focus your word count somewhere else.

    I’m no professional, so take my opinion with a barrel of salt. 🙂 Good luck!

  • I also liked the story concept, but got confused. Actually, my first impression was this was a story about prejudice. It’s tricky, labeling ‘greys’ as inferior as it judges for the reader when, perhaps, a word like ‘perceived’ would allow the reader to relax more into the story. But, make no mistake about it, the author’s got a strong plot. This picky stuff can be cleared up. Good luck!

  • First of all, to the author, I have read this before 🙂 on another pitch party or something. It seemed to me that it was a great original idea and I do hope to see the book in print so that I can buy it and read it!
    Secondly, I thought the other pitch I read (I believe a few months ago) was way more clear. I was under the impression that they were merpeople. Here I can’t really tell.
    I think Brenda Drake, has some great insight that will help clarify your pitch because, to me, this pitch confuses me.
    Again it sounds like a very intriguing story. Good Luck!!

  • I have to agree with the crit and comments here. It sounds like an interesting world but too much is going on within the pitch. Narrow it down, giving us enough to understand the stakes and who the character is and why we should care/read.

  • I agree with the critique and previous comments. This seems like a good concept, but the query is very info-dumpy. I think condensing it down would definitely help.

  • I’d like to know what spurred her to reconsider everything she was taught and what action caused her to become an outcast. We know these things happen but not why.

  • I agree with what everyone else has said so far. I want to know why Alphi decides to end the prejudice and why she feels trapped in the city.

  • I agree with what most people have said so far. To me, it reads more like a synopsis, which doesn’t work since you have such limits on word count in a query. You sacrifice introducing your character in order to cover the range of the story. But there definitely is an interesting story in here!

  • I’ve read this somewhere before too, and this query is getting better! I immediately thought Alphi was a mermaid because of what you said about “scales”. Why does she think escaping to her uncle’s city would be any better than her own? And yes, tell us exactly what threat she faces from her own village. Does befriending a Grey mean death? Or imprisonment? I think your third paragraph is really strong. PS: mention Alphi’s age in the opening lines.

  • Laurie Litwin

    I, too, love the title. I think the premise is great, as well. I do think there is a lot going on in the query. I would try to pare the story down to it’s core and with with those ideas.

  • Such an interesting premise! I had two things I wasn’t clear on:

    1) she will do anything to protect him — even attack the village’s light-skinned leader.

    How did she attack? Was this person hurt? Did the leader do something to provoke it? i.e. try to take child?

    2) Under her uncle’s watchful gaze and stuck in this city, Alphi must endure every prejudiced remark in silence

    Were the comments here directed at Alphi? Because of the grey child? (I think is still with her right?)

    It sounds like you have a great story here, it just gets a little lost in the details. I like the stakes and the last paragraph is great. Good luck!

  • Thank you SO much guys, and thank you Brenda for this amazing opportunity! This is JUST what I needed — fresh eyes. It’s helped so much 🙂

    My revision is coming soon 🙂 Thank you once again! This is AWESOME. (I capitalize words a lot.)

  • Right now it feels like the query is reading more like a synopsis. Perhaps focus on one specific incident that gives insight into the story (I was most interested by “turns his wand on a Gray” and the last paragraph about the choice between family and the rebels she feels is right), then focus on that incident. I do like the phrase: “rushes through her gills like fresh water,” since it gives a sense of voice.

    Good luck with it. 🙂

  • This comment has been removed by the author.

  • Wow, I’ve deleted this twice now. Sorry guys!

    HERE it is now 🙂 Thank you SO much for this, it really helped!! I loved all your crits and I hope I’ve incorporated them in this new revision 🙂

    Alphi McClure lives in an underwater village, and she hates it. The Pures, Alphi’s own kind, live on a coral reef and force the Greys into a dark trench, waving their lighter-colored scales and fins as justification. Silently boiling over, Alphi breaks when one Grey infant sneaks into her sixteen-year-old heart — and she shatters when the village’s leader attacks the boy.

    Unable to take the hate any longer, Alphi swims to her uncle’s magical city, but Archumber is even worse than her village. Stuck in this city which tortures Greys for magical sport, Alphi knows there is no escape – but a Grey rebel group simmers underground, plotting to overthrow her uncle who rules Archumber. When whispers of rebellion reach Alphi’s ears, a drop of hope spreads in her agony like a breath of fresh water. Maybe the rebels would accept her, even if she is a Grey. She waits for her chance.

    The group attacks the city with wands ablaze, and Alphi joins, turning her own wand against Archumber. The fight is one against her uncle, her loved ones, but as racial tension escalates, so does Alphi’s indecision. Bodies fall on both sides, and caught in between her family and her ideals, all Alphi can hope is that she chose wisely, a black-and-white decision for justice — but in this Grey world, nothing is that clear.

    PURE SEA, GREY WAVES is a YA Fantasy that is currently hovering around 85,000 words (It still needs one more revision). Thank you for your time and consideration.

    • This is much better, and I agree with the changes K.L. made. The start is lackluster and the second sentence still isn’t clear enough. I liked this for the start…

      “In an underwater village, sixteen-year-old Alphi is a light-skinned Pure, and wouldn’t think of befriending a Grey. With their darker scales, the Greys are considered inferior to the Pures.”

      I’d give the age right up front instead of using “sixteen-year-old heart”.

      Of course, it’s only my opinion and others may feel differently. So let’s see what others say.

  • I’d take out “it still needs one more revision.” Overall, I think it is way better! We have a sense of plot and conflict now.
    The sentence that starts with “the fight is one against her uncle” you need to take out the comma after uncle then put an “and.” And I would end that same sentence after “loved ones.” I would take out the indecision part and because the following sentence is redundant.
    Hope this helps. Good luck and nice job!

  • I agree; finish and tidy up the mss, then begin querying. Other than that, Brenda’s comments are solid and fair.

    Good luck!
    Jennifer

  • I think this one is so much better. I understand what’s driving Alphi more, the theme of racial injustice is more clear, and the plot points flow much better. Great job. I think this comes full circle!!

  • I like the revised version SO much better. Signs of a great writer to be able to turn that around like that.

    I would lose the “like a breath of fresh water.” It seems unnecessary and forced. I’d try to get rid of any other superfluous language as well. I think if you tightened it a bit more, it would be even stronger.

    Good job!

  • The revision is definitely stronger. It can be tightened some, but that’s really my only critique. Awesome title, btw!

  • You guys are fantastic. Ughh I can’t stop smiling right now as I type this! Thanks so much for helping me out with this — I wouldn’t have been able to do it without you guys. I’m saving this post and bookmarking it for a very long time (preferably, forever) 🙂 Thank you so much!

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