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Query Workshop … critiques by Erin Entrada Kelly

Wednesday, 13 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 Erin Entrada Kelly 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 Erin…

Erin Headshot
Erin works as a full-time editor for a publishing group in greater Philadelphia. She’s published more than 30 short stories worldwide and recently signed a two-book contract with HarperCollins. Her debut middle-grade novel is set for release in early 2015. Read more here: www.erinentradakelly.com and follow her on Twitter: @erinkellytweets.


And here is her first critique …

Dear Agent-to-be,

I am seeking representation of my young adult contemporary fantasy, Mega Girl. [Start with a hook, not the typical ‘I am seeking representation…’. The agent knows you’re seeking representation—otherwise you wouldn’t be writing to her. Open with the next paragraph. Get right into the good stuff.]

Being a super strong teen [Is this the most compelling way to describe Lauren? “Super strong” can mean a lot of things. Provide some really vivid detail and impactful language. I.E.: Being a 16-year-old girl who can destroy metal bars like Play-Do and crush a 4,000-pound car with her bare hands has its perks … Something really awesome and descriptive for your awesome character! Also: How old is she?] has its perks, but also has and its problems. Lauren Chapman, aka, Mega Girl (YA contemporary fantasy/[word count?]), has them in spades. [It’s a good idea to include word count in your query. Although the world doesn’t begin and end with word count, you don’t want the agent wondering about it. They’ll want to be sure that your work falls into the realistic realm of WC for YA.]

Overprotective father? Check.

A gold-digging arch nemesis with a penchant for sparkly rocks? Check.

Friend drama? Check. [Although the use of a checklist is playful, don’t sell yourself short. Make sure you’re really TELLING the agent what your book is about. Overprotective father and gold-digging arch nemesis are fairly self-explanatory, but what does “friend drama” mean? You probably have a really compelling storyline here, but how will the agent know?]

An obnoxious, wannabe sidekick? Check.

Failing grades? Check.

A group of heroes that didn’t want to let her into their ‘club’ to begin with? Check. [What kind of heroes and what kind of club? Is it a ‘club’ or is it a clique – and if it’s a club, what type of club is it and does it have anything to do with the plot?]

Prepping for a date with one of the hottest guys in school? Check! OMG, Check.<— I really like your use of “OMG” here. Shows a command of voice, which is ESSENTIAL in YA.

Enough sleep to deal with all of this? No Check. [I’d consider cutting this sentence. It doesn’t really add anything to the query. Plus, it’s redundant with the following paragraph.]

All this, plus dealing with a body that happens to have the potential to squash metal bars like polymer clay, Lauren’s got to save the day [Save the day from what/who? This sounds like an important part of the storyline—something we need to know.], save her relationships and get to that first kiss before it all goes south. <—I really like the way you end this sentence. It reiterates the romantic angle of the novel and before it all goes south highlights the fact that there’s conflict.

I am a former freelance and features writer and have decades of experience reading comic books. This is my first novel. This book could either be a standalone or a series.

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



And here is her second critique…

Dear Agent,

Sixteen16-year-old Melinda doesn’t believe in magic or witches, but when her father purchases buys an old house [I took out “three-hundred years” because of redundancy in the next paragraph] three-hundred-year-old house at the center of a magical uprising, that must has to change fast. Her life depends on it.

Their new old house holds a door to Pleasantwick, a magically protected society built by young witches who fled Salem just before the witch trials. For three hundred years Pleasantwick , and the door,havehas been hidden from the outside world for three-hundred years, but. But now an uprising, driven by a man known as Devaris, threatens Pleasantwick’s existence. He and his men are entering the common world in pursuit of soldiers for his army.

Luke is a witch, sent from Pleasantwick to stop Devaris, but. However, when he’s drawn to Melinda he ignores Rrule #1: avoid contact with commoners. As Melinda falls for Luke she’s drawn deeper into his world and his war, forcing her to choose between her own life and the boy she loves; and Luke to choose between Melinda and his world. But it turns out she’s more involved than any of them realized. Devaris needs Melinda to carry out his plan. Because she may have the one thing he needs: the bloodline. <—I like how you’ve dropped this important plot piece here. Adds conflict. But I have a few questions that I think would round out this query well: Why is there an uprising? And what kind of “bloodline” does Melinda have that Devaris needs? Is this a war of kingdoms? What kind of girl is Melinda, other than one who doesn’t believe in witches? You can make this query feel more complete just by adding a couple sentences. Think about how it would read if it were told from Melinda’s POV, in more of her voice. Voice is everything in YA.

UNDER THE VIOLET SKY [love this title!] is an 86,000-word YA novel that intertwines contemporary and fantasy with historical fantasy.

Thank you very much for your time and consideration.


Thank you Erin 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

  • As the author of the second query, I’d like to thank Brenda for another great event, and Erin for helping out with the workshop! I found Erin’s comments very helpful. 😀

    • Yay! Thank you, Michaele. Please feel free to email me anytime if you need more help along the way. ekentrada (at) gmail.com. I’d be happy to read your first few pages, if you need a second look. 🙂 Best of luck.

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