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Query Workshop … critiques by C. Elizabeth Vescio

Monday, 4 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 C. Elizabeth Vescio 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 C. Elizabeth Vescio


C. Elizabeth Vescio

Author C. Elizabeth Vescio likes to play in the dark world of cynicism and death. Her first novel, Elegantly Wasted touched on the demented and humorous side of a delightfully dysfunctional family. Vescio is an award- winning photographer and avid font snob. She lives in Las Vegas with her husband and three dogs. You can find her on Twitter and Facebook.

And here is her first critique …

Dear Agent,

I would find a better hook. That  first sentence really has to pull me in and this one doesn’t. It’s just a short statement. I get the angle- but really make sure this first sentence pops.

Everyone knows his name. The soon to be king of Tasmar influences the lives of nobles and commoners alike, if not always for the best (consider leaving this line out and putting in a good hook). Thinking only of himself and the perfect melodies he composes, the prince taxes his kingdom mercilessly to give himself a bit of privacy (I know the beast/prince was horrible- you could cut right to his curse unless his time before the curse is important. If so, tell me why.). Isolated in his forest castle, he learns just who holds the real power when he turns away an old woman—an Enchantress in disguise. Cursed to be the Beast that is the reflection of his soul, and believed dead by all who knew him, he is separated not only from his crown and shy bride-to-be, but his own identity. Refusing to associate his hideous form with his own name, the now Nameless prince has one year to earn true love, or he will die. If he can find his fiancé, Mirabelle, and help her see past the monster to the man beneath, he can be saved. However, when Mirabelle falls for another, Beast must learn not only how to let go of a love that was never meant to last, but how to find true love—if it exists.

While this is a great concept, what you’re telling me in this pitch is pretty much what I already know about Beauty and the Beast. Below, you name unique aspects of this story… I would incorporate those into the pitch above.

Nameless is a young adult retelling of Beauty and the Beast from the Beast’s perspective. As opposed to Alex Flynn’s novel, Beastly, Nameless is set in a traditional time period with an older narrator (age 18). Unique aspects of Nameless include Beast’s younger brother, and a dream world where Beast interacts with the Enchantress who cursed him. Complete at 60,000 words, Nameless works as a stand alone novel, but is intended to be the first of The Prince Chronicles.

This is good, you’re giving me the facts… list why you are querying this specific agent.

 My work has been featured in Stories for Children Magazine (2009), and Open Doors: Fractured Fairy Tales (Wayman Publishing, 2012). My short story, Sleepless Beauty (a retelling of Sleeping Beauty) will appear in the One More Day anthology (J. Taylor Publishing, 2013), and my story, Sweet Nothings has been accepted into The Chronicles of Alistair Gruff (Anassa Publications) set for a tentative 2014 publication.

 Nameless is a simultaneous submission. Thank you for your time and consideration.


And here is her second critique…

Dear Agent,

In all honesty, I had to read this a few times to understand what was going on. However, it seems like a very good story with a great world you’ve created. I would find a better hook- one that pulls me in. If Ignacio and Kameko aren’t surprised… then I’m not either.

Ignacio and Kameko aren’t surprised when their dad doesn’t show up for Ignacio’s thirteenth birthday. The flying squid that pulls them out their house in San Francisco and drops them off in Nova Fairy is a bit of a shock. OK, Dad really is High King of the Fey. But as the kids explore the Fairyland version of San Francisco, they discover that Dad hasn’t just checked out of their lives, he’s abandoned Nova Fairy too. Building your own fantasy world and then pitching it is tough. I don’t know anything about this world and you’re pitching to me like I do. Think of a way to relate this to me… “most kids would like an Xbox for their birthday… not to find out their father is really missing fairy royalty…” or something to that extent.

 A new King and Queen have taken over, and their rivalry is about to start a civil war (this seems like the main part of your plot. I would explain more of why this is going on and why the main characters are involved). The monsters they summoned have gone rogue, so they arm Ignacio and Kameko with fairy magic and pit them against one another. And power has a price – the magic will turn them into statues if they can’t stop the war in time.

With Nova Fairy falling apart, the King and Queen aren’t the only ones trying to pull Ignacio and Kameko’s strings. A Selkie princess, a winged baby who might be immortal, and the exiled High Queen all want a say in Nova Fairy’s future. Embracing the Fey might give the kids the edge they need, but it could cost them their humanity.

OBERON’S CHILDREN: THE KING IN GOLD AND THE SUNSET QUEEN is a 62,000 word stand-alone Middle Grade Fantasy with series potential. This is my first novel. My short story “Blight”, co-written with Christie Yant, is forthcoming in the anthology BY FAERIE LIGHT (Broken Eye Books, 2013). Consider putting why you are querying this specific agent.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Thank you, C. Elizabeth Vescio, 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

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