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Query & 1st Page Workshop with Chimera Editing Services … Day 2

Friday, 16 January 2015  |  Posted by Brenda Drake

 Query & 1st page workshop

15 critiques for ’15!

My wonderful critique partners have started a new freelance editing business and agreed to sponsor my January workshop. Jami Nord and K.T. Hanna have helped me spruce up my manuscripts and now they’re helping fifteen lucky and brave writers with theirs. The winners have already been picked. In the next few days, stop by and read Jami’s and Katie’s critiques and learn from their advice. Today we have our next two critiques up. We aren’t mentioning names or titles. It’s up to the writers if they want to reveal themselves.

If you’re interested in hiring Chimera Editing Services, go visit the website to learn more about their reasonably priced services …


Chimera Editing Services



Critique by K.T. Hanna


Stealing drugs from your grandparents is bad. Stealing fish-drugs from your grandparents’ aquarium while high and then vomiting into the sea lion pool is worse. For sixteen-year-old Laura Angela Sweetling, it was called Tuesday night.
Note: Love this intro

Four months later and fresh out of rehab, Laura knows she has some amends to make. Flowers will do, except her Her mom and grandparents have decided to agree on something for once: A summer of volunteering at the aquarium stretches before Laura with no way out. And there’s no way out. On her first day, an even bigger shock awaits: her mom is the newly employed Volunteer Supervisor. Nepotism, much? It’s practically a family reunion and Laura wishing wishes she drowned in the sea lion pool.

While Laura she struggles to stay clean and repair her damaged familial relationships, an activist protest in the walrus exhibit makes her question everything she thought she knew about the aquarium. Laura must decide which current she’ll follow: the aquarium and its staff that feel like a second home, or the grisly truths she begins to uncover about captivity. New friends, a new crush, and summer school can’t distract Laura from the choice she has to make—one that could break up the Sweetling family forever.

Gilmore Girls meets (other title), SWIMMINGLY is a 75,000 word YA contemporary novel. I was a volunteer at the New York Aquarium my junior year of high school. The experience was very important to me and lent itself perfectly to this story. [I would perhaps condense that line. EG: My experience at the New York Aquarium during high school was instrumental in writing this story] Thank you for your time and consideration.

Note: I would almost suggest to make your second comparison title BlackFish – the Sea World Exposé as this touches on those subjects.

First 250:

Cloud nine has descended to cloud six. I need cloud eleventy-hundred right fucking now. [note: swearing has its place. I know, I use it myself in fiction, but you use fuck or another variation 5 times in the opening 257 words. This is not necessary. Pick and choose – make its use count.]

Horrible rap music blares through the speakers, setting the mood for the dumbest thing I’ve ever done. My eyes are shut, faced pressed against the glass. I will not puke in this car. Puking in the greasy fast food garbage I’m sitting in because Nick can’t be bothered to clean his beat up (dying mess of a) [this didn’t add anything to the description for me. Superfluous wordage] car at least once every six months would be the low point of this night.

The robotic voice of the GPS dictates we should make a U-turn and Nick listens almost immediately [try not to jump into non pov character’s heads. If he listens, how does she know? Show me physical markers instead of telling me. Failing that I would suggest a rephrasing such as: and Nick yanks the steering wheel, swerving into oncoming traffic], swerving into oncoming traffic.

“What the fuck [this one works] is wrong with you?” I screech, gripping the dashboard. My head slammed slams [watch your tense slips] into the window, feet trying to grip the car mat to anchor myself. Nick laughs, howling like a wolf that doesn’t know the moon isn’t full yet. It’s barely even visible, actually. Cloud nine is up there, hiding the moon, while I’m down here.

Cars grind their horns and Nick sticks his middle finger out of the window.

Fucker, [Damn it, anything else, there are other words to choose from. Don’t hone in on fuck] I made a typo,” I say, picking up the tiny GPS and jabbing my finger at it. Why did Nick even insist on using this thing? I know how to get to that godforsaken aquarium and we were going the right way. The glow from the GPS hurts my eyes, making me squint. This is probably how old people read.

It’s not like I would have done any better if I wasn’t high as fuck. Dyslexia.

[Swearing is fine, but the amount used in this small space detracts from the rest of the story. Watch your tense slips and your constant cloud nine analogy. Don’t overuse things that I assume will have greater significance further on in the book.]

[The query is pretty solid and the opening is interesting, but I don’t have enough of it to be certain that you’re starting in the right place.]



Critique by Jami Nord


Dear (Agent),

(Personalization goes here), I am hoping you might be interested in my 105,000-word fantasy novel, THE KEYS TO MIST AND LIGHT. It is the first in a planned trilogy about a “messiah” who refuses to sacrifice herself to save her world.

On the Eastern Edge of Mavornia, humans commit atrocities in the name of the Domchaum religion. Its leaders are unwittingly helping a demon find the keys to unlock a portal that can destroy the world. On the Western Edge, Lockrey Margathom, the daughter of the clan chieftain, is searching for her purpose in life,. She does not yet know she is the Redeemer when she discovers she’s the next “messiah”, cursed to fight the demon and die to save Mavornia She will have to fight the demon and give up her life to save Mavornia… unless she decides some worlds need to die.

(This doesn’t give me enough to really understand what the meat of the story is. Does it involve a quest, court intrigue? What’s the actual structure of the plot? Who does she befriend, fall in love with, become enemies of, etc. Spend more time on the plot, conflict, and characters. Especially with epic fantasy being a market that has a lot of tropes, convey the depth of the story and what makes this stand out. Spend less time on why you wrote the book, it does you no good if the book itself sounds vague.)

I’ve always struggled to understand people who use “god” as an excuse for violence. Through the guise of a fantasy adventure, I wanted to explore this human paradox and challenge it with a protagonist inspired by real-life heroines, such as Malala Yousafzai. (This is better to leave for a discussion after they’ve already fallen in love with your novel. Religion tends to be a polarizing topic, and often agents are afraid if someone comes across too polarizing. It might impact sales/ability to sell the book.)

I am querying you because I was impressed by your friendly professionalism in York and found your insight incredibly helpful. In addition, you’ve said you like strong female characters and books with issues. I think this work might fit on your list between Taran Matharu and J.D. Oswald.

While studying history at Cornell University, I interned for the Irish parliament during the peace process where I learned first-hand how religion colors political and socio-economic issues. I worked for James Fallows on his book Breaking the News, How the Media Undermines Democracy and briefly at U.S. News and World Report. In 2012-13, using my experience in communications and PR, I worked as a sports agent for a 4-time Olympic gold medalist and generated publicity valued at $33 million during the 2012 Games. (This doesn’t tie into the novel, or writing, though it’s cool. The other parts do, so leave those, they sound impressive enough on their own.)

Nicholas Kristof published my poem “The Doorbell” about the Iraq War on his New York Times blog (available by searching my name and the title) and I contributed a chapter to the first two editions of Skyhorse’s Cutting Edge Therapies for Autism. I have material ready for a sequel. My nationality is American, but my home (for the last seven years) is England.

Please find below the first page of the novel., (Redundant – they’ll see it.) Many thanks for taking the time to consider my work.



First 250:

The mist seeped into the chamber through hairline cracks around the window. It hovered momentarily, then descended to ooze across the stone floor. Dying embers in the fireplace fizzled and smoked, the soft, orange light extinguishing as it passed. When it crawled upon the pillows where the young woman slept, she shivered beneath her covers and rolled over to her back.

The weight of blackness inched its way across the contours of her lithe form, pinning her down. At her golden face, it paused, savoring the moment. It would soon cut her life force and if she was the supposed ‘Redeemer,’ the war would be won before it was fought.

Deep in troubled sleep, she inhaled and the mist drifted into her body… exploring… searching for a way to penetrate her being. Was it her face the angel had seen so many star cycles ago? No matter. It would douse the spark of her soul and end any threat she posed.

As it probed her consciousness, the mist left behind a trace of itself. Images and emotions. People huddled together in a small hall, crying as flames closed in on them. A circle of cloaked figures surrounding a body with a severed head. A blood red knife.

The mist drifted toward her core – her life force – warmed by strange heat emanating from within her body. Heat unlike anything it had ever felt. Instinct told it to stop, but that wasn’t its nature. It had to go on. Cautiously, it delved deeper, preparing for the shudder of death. Reaching out its tendrils, it closed in on her essence, ready to absorb the light of her life. Just another moment. Just a bit further. It was all about to end.

(I’m really not sure this is the best way to start this. I’m assuming the rest of the story is told in either first person or  third close to Lockrey, and this feels like a prologue that tells us things before we need to know it. Especially if Lockrey, when we switch to her point of view doesn’t know this, it feels a bit too much like telling. It’s not as engaging as it should be. Start with her doing something, having conflict, examining something strange, whatever, just as long as it’s in the same POV the rest of the story starts with, and make her an active participant in whatever it is.)

Thank you, Jami and K.T.! Everyone else, make sure to stop by Monday for the next two critiques.

Filed: Workshops

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