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Query Workshop … critiques by Trisha Leaver

Wednesday, 6 November 2013  |  Posted by Brenda Drake

Woman laptop grass

Welcome to the query workshop. From November 1 through November 19 several talented friends of mine will critique queries submitted to the workshop by some brave authors. Today we have Trisha Leaver pulling out her ink pen and giving suggestions to her writers on how to tighten, sharpen, and shine their queries.

Here’s some more information about Trisha…

TrishaTrisha Leaver

Trisha Leaver lives on Cape Cod – the land of sandy beaches and perpetual tourists – with her husband, three children, and one rather excitable black lab. She spent all of my childhood living inside my own mind, creating characters and stories that only a child’s imagination could dream up. She now breaths lives into those imaginary characters writing realistic fiction and psychological horror young adults.

Her YA Contemporary, SECRETS SISTERS KEEP, is coming winter of 2015 from FSG/ Macmillan.  Her co-authored YA Psychological Horror, CREED, is coming fall of 2014 from Flux.

Website: www.trishaleaver.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorTrishaLeaver

Twitter: https://twitter.com/tleaver

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7029937.Trisha_Leaver


And here is her first critique …

Dear Agent XYZ,

Based on your representation of Such-N-Such author’s novel XXXX, and your interest in XXXX genre, I hope INFINITY, a 76,500 word NA Paranormal Romance set in modern day Fallbrook, California, about a reincarnated servant of the Otherworld, will appeal to you. Personal taste, but I would move this to the end, start off the query with a plot-related hook that will catch the agents attention.

It’s not every day you turn seventeen, twice. Exactly two things happen to Liv Hartley the day she does: freshman orientation and a tattoo. (Side note…most college freshman are 18, plus NA is as much about your characters age as it is about the college setting.  IMO…she needs to be at least 18.) College she’s got covered. After all, she was a senior when she died the first time. The tattoo, that’s something new.

She’ll soon discover there are more consequences to having the coveted infinity symbol—the symbol all messengers of the Otherworld receive the day their contract comes due—than she thought. Wait…so did she “get this tattoo” or did it mystically appear on her seventeenth birthday. I am confused here Like helping souls cross over, or delivering a message to a Demon intent on possessing her, or figuring out why her shield glows red, or deciding which of the two hottest boys on campus she’s going to fall for. Too many “or’s” in this sentence. I would limit it to 2 and make sure they have a direct correlation to the infinity symbol she is marked with and the responsibilities that come with that symbol.  And why didn’t the tattoo appear on her FIRST 17th birthday? What is the significance of dying twice? Again, confused here. There’s only one thing she knows for sure, no one gets out of life alive, not even if you’re already dead.  I would challenge this — she died twice, so apparently she can get out alive J

INFINITY is the first book of The Infinity Series. It will appeal to the fans of Jennifer Armentrout’s Lux Series and Amy Bartol’s Premonition Series will enjoy INFINITY.

I am a debut novelist also working on an adult urban fantasy series and an adult post-apocalyptic sci-fi novel. I would only include pubbed credits.I live in San Diego with my patient husband, energetic son, and one loyal dog. I am active on Facebook and Twitter @CCDowling and have an author’s website at www.ccdowlingauthor.com. I would put these social media links in your signature line, not in the body of the query

Thank you for your time and consideration.  Included are a synopsis and the first ten pages per your submission guidelines.

And here is her second critique…

Dear (name of agent)

World War II was never a place Kale Jackson thought he would find himself. But being a time traveler has its side effects, and even more so since he can’t control it. When he travels through time, he doesn’t know where he’ll end up or how long he’ll be there. (This is implied by the previous statement that “he can’t control it.” It’s repetitive; I would cut it) One minute he could be sitting on the porch in the middle of summer, and the next he could be standing under snow covered trees. Neither of these examples – snow covered trees or summer porch – are all that unappealing making me wonder why this time travelling is problematic to him.  I need a conflict here, something to show me the stakes and dangers involved in this “ability” 

 Kale’s ‘problem’ has never been this bad before. So why is it now?  What inciting factor changed him? He used to be normal—went to school like a normal (already used this descriptor) teenager and played baseball with dreams of going to the Major Leagues. Kale has kept his ability a secret from those closest to him for his whole life, Why does he keep it a secret? but now that things are getting worse and Kale is traveling more often without knowing why, You say nearly the same thing in the first sentence – repetitive. He realizes he can’t do it alone anymore. Good – but I still need to know why, what internal or external factor caused this sudden unpredictability in time traveling.

Kale quickly learns he needs to tell his secret before he may not come back at all.

For me, what is missing in this query is an inciting incident, something that sets this change in his ability into motion. All I am getting is that Kale is a time travel who is suddenly travelling more now than ever before.  Why? Where to?  And is becoming more dangerous.  You tell us he might not come back, but why? Aliens? Mutant cowboys? Fatal bullet wound while he storms the beach of Normandy?The only stakes you have laid out are that it is “inconvenient” for his teenage dreams and sports schedule.  I need something bigger than that to suck me in. Give me details!

 COLD SUMMER is a YA science fiction novel complete at 96,000 words.

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


Thank you Trisha for taking the time to participate in the query workshop! Everyone join us tomorrow for our next set of query critiques. Please feel free to drop questions in the comments.


Filed: Misc, Workshops

  • K.R. Conway says:

    Ah – query Hell! Well done Miss Trish – great grabs and insights, one and all. I especially loved the critique points on Cold Summer.

  • Emmie Mears says:

    I agree — great job, Trish!

    With the second query, I assumed it was going to be about Kale finding himself in the middle of World War II, which, because it is my personal worst nightmare*, would have had me hook, line, and sinker if that were the case. I definitely agree with Trish — the query needs more evident stakes. A high schooler plunked into the middle of WWII? Big Stakes. A highschooler inconvenienced by blips back in time? Not as much.

    *I used to live in Poland, and one day my flatmate and I walked onto the Rynek (market square) to see it covered in giant swastika banners with soldiers marching across the square. We both had heart attacks…and it took us about five minutes to see the cameras. They were filming Katyn, which later won an Oscar.

  • CC Dowling says:

    Thank you for the critique! It was very helpful.

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