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

Thursday, 15 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 first two critiques up. We aren’t mentioning names or titles. It’s up to the writers if they want to reveal themselves.

Before we get started, it’s time to announce the winner of the query and first chapter critique giveaway from Chimera Editing Services. So here we go … the winner from Rafflecopter drawing is …

Kim Cook!

WOOT! Kim, please email me at brendadrakecontests@gmail.com for instructions on how to claim your prize.

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 Jami Nord


Dear (Agent),

(Personalization goes here) My contemporary category romance, RESCUING RILEY, placed in The 2014 Maggies. The manuscript is complete at 56,000 words.

Growing up, Riley Cooper (you don’t need to bold names) could only dream of being part of a close-knit family like his neighbors, the McBrides. Riley knows Meghan McBride has always had a crush on him(,) but she’s his friend’s younger sister and definitely off limits. Now a Marine and home between deployments, Riley runs into a grown up Meg and their chemistry sizzles. They spend the night together(,) but in the cold light of day, Riley realizes his mistake. He tells her to forget him and returns to Afghanistan where his life changes forever during an urban firefight.

Meghan McBride (Unbold) has loved Riley Cooper her whole life. She tries to convince him her feelings are genuine but he returns her love letters unopened, including the one where she tells him of the consequences of their night together—a baby. Her pride won’t allow her to do more to track him down. She loves her dad(,) but feels he adopted her only out of a sense of responsibility. She doesn’t want that for her own daughter.

The story opens f(F)ive years after their night together.(,) Riley is back, struggling to put the pieces of his life together. He agrees to do some contracting work on a home Mac McBride owns in rural Vermont to repay Mac for past kindnesses. Riley expects to find a house needing repairs. What he finds is Meg and her adorable chatterbox daughter, Fiona.

Fiona may be convinced the man who comes to help is “T(h)or”(,) the legendary Norse god, but Meg knows Riley is trouble on two feet. How will she guard her heart and her daughter’s tender one if he refuses to leave until the repairs are finished?

Deep down, Riley yearns to be a part of Meg and Fiona’s life(,) but failure to protect those he cares about have left him bitter and empty. As a child, he couldn’t protect his mother from an abusive boyfriend, and as an adult, he couldn’t protect a young Marine under his command. Every time he looks at Meg and Fiona, he wants to be the man Meg deserves and that superhero for Fiona(,) but can he trust himself to protect those close to him?

I am an active member of RWA, Georgia Romance Writers, and Chattanooga Area Romance Authors.

Thank you for your time. I hope to work with you and look forward to hearing from you. (Redundant. Your query is VERY tight and concise, yet gets to the heart of the story. EXCELLENT job! Be careful of sentences where you conjoin phrases with a “but”. There’s a lot of them, and most were missing their commas.)

First 250:

Chapter One

She, Meghan McBride, had Thor in her driveway.

Well, not really(,) but the man reaching into the back of the black F150 had the broad shoulders and tight buns she imagined would belong to the Norse god. She couldn’t see his face but at six in the morning, she wasn’t about to quibble. Coming away from the window, she grabbed her ratty chenille robe, raced down the hall and fumbled with the deadbolt. No time to dress. Or visit a spa. She stepped onto the porch and glanced down. Damn!

She was barefoot

He must be the man her dad had hired to work on their central Vermont vacation home. The Thor impersonator turned and Meg clutched at the nubby fabric of her robe as if to use it as a shield. This couldn’t be happening. Not at dawn and not with her looking like Nick Nolte’s mug shot. Meg closed her eyes then opened them again. Nope, still there. Not a Norse god. Not an apparition. Not even a nameless contractor. No, life wasn’t that merciful. Riley Cooper. What was he doing here(,)? And looking as if he could put a new roof on the house while defending it against marauding giants. Her lungs forgot how to work. Breathe. (Combining the sentences keeps the paragraph from getting too stacatto.)

Riley’s attention shifted to her, his head jerked back and he studied her with an eerie stillness.

Oh, yeah, definitely Riley. But not the one she remembered. This one had a whole bad boy persona going on with his close-cropped hair, Hollywood stubble and chiseled cheeks. (YUM! I like this description of him a lot.)This version looked as if he kicked ass and took names, as if innocence and idealism had been ground out of him. Had the Marines and Afghanistan done that to him?


His lithe stride brought him to the porch steps.

She should have thrown on some clothes before coming out. Maybe a slinky sequined cocktail dress paired with killer heels. As if she owned anything like that. She always knew she’d see Riley again but wouldn’t you know, none of the scenarios she’d imagined ever went like this.

(Overall, very nice. Gives an immediate sense of how she feels about Riley, attracted but cautious and a bit shy. Her voice is good, but watch the balance of short vs long sentences, too many of either in a row can cause the flow to get disrupted.)


Critique by K.T. Hanna


When fifteen-year-old Izzy Silverstein learns her older sister, Leah, has six months to live, it feels like someone has stepped on her heart and squished it to bits. So when Leah makes a stunning recovery, Izzy should be happy, relieved, all that and a basket full of puppies. But she’s not. [This paragraph is too wordy. You could easily par it down: When fifteen year old Izzy Silverstein’s older sister Leah makes a stunning recovery from her terminal illness, Izzy knows she should be happy. Relieved even, but she’s not.]

There’s something bizarre about Leah’s recovery, but before Izzy can Nancy Drew out the details, their Dad packs them into the car and heads for their grandparents’ farm. During the middle of a blizzard, out in the ass-end of nowhere, and smack dab in the coldest cold snap in recent memory. [This is a good paragraph, includes voice which is a nice touch]

Izzy suspects her dad knows the answers, but he isn’t talking. And when Leah begins showing signs of being less like a hospice patient [Didn’t we learn that she recovered? So wouldn’t she be more like a recent hospice patient?] and more like a superhero, it becomes more confusing. Leah is stronger, faster, and there is some silver stuff in her blood that seems to fix her injuries Illness? What injuries does she get as a sick person or former sick person? This bit is confusing.] Most worrying of all, however, is that in addition to her new abilities she’s become violently unstable. [her physical health? Her mental health? Does she have strength? Is she exhibiting destructive powers? This is very vague. The more specificity, the better. More details entice.]

Turns out their Dad stole cyborg technology from his top secret job, and his bosses want it back. With time running out, Izzy must find her courage because the guys who hold the patents to Leah’s insides are coming, and all that stands between the Silversteins and death is Izzy, sledgehammer in hand, ready to bust some bad guy head. [This whole section just doesn’t raise the stakes enough. Does the company he works for have a name? Can we get some more specifics than those guys, and top secret job? The Company is coming to collect their patented technology from Leah’s body, and if Izzy doesn’t find the courage to fight them off, her sister’s miraculous recovery will mean all their deaths.]

Complete at 70,000 words SILVERBLOOD is YA/SF novel, and is a mashup of Jodi Picoult’s MY SISTER’S KEEPER and Marissa Meyer’s CINDER.  I have a BFA in creative writing from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Thank you for your time and consideration.

First 250:

The doorbell rang, and out the side-window I spied a large, unmarked, delivery van. [Reads a little awkward – EG: The doorbell rang and I spied a large unmarked delivery van in the driveway. It’s the side-window part that makes it read a little off.]

“Yeah.” I opened the door a crack.

“Delivery for,” his eyes dropped to a clipboard. “Eli Silverstein,” he finished, shoving an electronic signing pad in my face with his grease stained paw.

“Do I look like Eli Silverstein?” My phone alarm buzzed, reminding me to get my ass in gear before I bought another

“Nice moves.” I squiggled my signature onto “Look, kid, just sign the form.”

Two more delivery dudes humped a big white, plastic-y [voice and all aside, plastic works just as well and isn’t made up] looking crate thingy, up the stairs. With a lot of sweaty armpits and uber manly grunting, they got it to the top step. Things slowed down. Lead guy spun, grabbing for the crate with an almost ballet-like grace as it tipped, toppled and hit the porch railing, the insides breaking with a tinkling [shattering perhaps? Tinkling seems more akin to glass ornaments gently nudging each other.] crash.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa.” Delivery guys two and three, hoisted it back upright, and a weird silvery liquid dribbled out of a row of small holes on the bottom and onto the white boards [I assume these boards are the porch wood?]

“Nice moves.” I squiggled my signature onto the pad [Even though she’s running late, it doesn’t seem right that she would sign for something that is very obviously broken. If you sign for it, you’ve accepted it so her next line doesn’t really make sense.].“Hope you guys have insurance.”

“You have any problems,” he handed me a yellow slip of paper, [space] “you have your Dad call this number.”

Speedy Delivery – For all your shipping needs. Fast, Friendly, Affordable. Guess they couldn’t figure out another F word. Grabbing the pad, he gave the busted box a weird [Why is it weird? What about the pat makes her think it’s weird. Do his eyes shift, does he glance around furtively? Suggest leaving the weird out of it.] little pat with his meaty hand before leaving. 

[I love this concept, and apart from the nitpicks, there is some nice voice that shows through not only in the query but also in the first page. With some tweaks and refining, this will tug at the reader and make them want to read on.]

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

Filed: Workshops

  • Jessica says:

    Thanks so much!

  • Jami, thank you so much for the helpful comments! I’ll be sure to use your advice when I query.

  • Joe says:

    Hey Brenda, what a helpful soul you are. I am trying to finish my first manuscript and I must admit the querying process is one I have no confidence about and am very happy to find this from you. I see some great advice in just these first two examples and know I will read every word and correction on each to broaden my knowledge and add to my arsenal of knowledge. I will be back (sorry Arnold S.).

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