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Query workshop … critiques Jenny Kaczorowski

Tuesday, 12 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 Jenny Kaczorowski 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 Jenny…


Jenny Kaczorowski

Amid working as a grant writer for Sound Art, a non-profit that teaches music in inner-city neighborhoods, and raising two kids, Jenny decided to do something with all the snippets of stories she wrote during microeconomics and began writing for young adults. She likes her heroines smart and quirky, her heroes nice, and her kisses sweet. Her debut, THE ART OF FALLING, is coming from Bloomsbury Spark in Winter 2013. You learn more about Jenny on her website or follow her on Twitter (@jennykacz).


And here is her first critique …


Dear Agent:

Elephant-sized mosquitoes. Rebel uprisings. Being kidnapped by lemurs. Blank-year-old Annie Last Name planned is prepared for all these thingsof it when she trades in a piece of her final college summer for a trek (More specific! What is the purpose?) through the jungle that will look great on her Brown med school application. What she didn’t plan for was Felipe, the gorgeous Nicaraguan doctor charged with supervising her (Doing what?).

I like where this first paragraph is going. I have in idea of Annie as a very drive, focused college students with big dreams of a prestigious medical school. I think it would be tightened a little would improve flow and I want more details about the trip since that is where the story happens. I know the name of school she hopes to attend, but not what she’s doing in a Nicaraguan jungle. Also, keep it present tense to make it more immediate.

Tedious. Sheltered. Exhausting. This was how blank-year-old Felipe Last Name describes Americans. He puts up with the do-gooders and religious types who tagged along with his medical team only because his job requires it. That is, until he meets Annie – a smart, curvy redhead, who insists on sticking her freckled nose into all of his procedures.

Again, present tense keeps it moving. This is set up, but it can be presented in an active way. I don’t get the same sense of who he is, which may be okay, but I’d like a little more about who he is or why he does what he does. Something that give insight into what drives him.

Despite their near combustible attraction, Annie and Felipe are from vastly different worlds, and navigating the ins and outs of their relationship becomes harder than navigating the rolling waters of the Rio Coco (How? Why? Details!). When Annie’s meddling (is she interfering or trying to learn?) finally goes too far, she sinks her chance at a glowing letter of recommendation and splinters their blossoming relationship (Can blossoms splinter? I think there’s a better way to say this). Before she heads back to the States, she must find a way to repair what she’s broken, and Felipe must find a way to forgive her (For what? How did her actions hurt him?).

This last paragraph leaves me with a lot a questions. Does their work prohibit them from having a relationship? Do their roles as student/overseer affect them? Does the culture class create friction? I want more details about the ins and outs. I want to know about the hows and whys of her meddling.

PLAYING DOCTOR is a New Adult contemporary romance that takes place over thirty days in rural Nicaragua. It is told from dual points of view and is complete at 73,000 words. I believe this story will appeal to readers of Cora Carmack’s LOSING IT and Megan McCafferty’s JESSICA DARLING series.

This sounds like a fantastic concept and a fascinating setting. I definite think this could go far! But don’t hold back too much because that can be frustrating. Give enough details for the story and the characters to stand out.

I have published multiple articles in legal journals. However, this is my first foray into the world of fiction.As a college student, I spent several months in Nicaragua, where I traveled with a medical brigade through the indigenous region. Unfortunately, I did not meet any gorgeous doctors. 

Pursuant to your submission guidelines, I have included the first [X] pages of my manuscript below.



And here is her second critique…


Hi Brenda

I am writing to introduce my novel, Sachael Dreams, a New Adult romantic fantasy story. It is the first novel in a planned series, the ‘Mine Series,’and complete at approximately 85,500 words. Does it work as a stand alone? Agents need to know this story works even if a whole series doesn’t sell.

This is personal preference, but I like to jump into the story first. That is the part that captures the attention of readers so put it front and center!

My novel tells the story of Estelle and Azariah.Blank-year-old Estelle, a brief description of who/what she is, has always completed a submergence ritual (what’s is that?) at full moons, but after she finds a rare shell on the beach at Ravenscar on one of these nights, she starts to have dreams in which she is seduced by a Sachael (That is a lot of info and I’m already confused! I’d recommend starting with who Estelle is. Why is she interesting? Why do I care about her?). Sachaels are a male breed (of what?) who travel to land to impregnate human females to ensure survival of their species. But it only takes one of them, Azariah, to act differently – to risk all he knows in the search for true love (You’ve switch perspectives now and I’m not sure what happened to Estelle or what his acting differently does). His initial decisions cause uproar in his world, mainly with his father, but as the story progresses he proves to everyone that he made the right choices, perhaps even secured a future where Sachael cruelty could be stopped all together. Show me how this happens instead of telling me it does happen.

I’m assuming your manuscript is written from both of their perspectives, but for the query, it’s usually best to focus on one. Tell us Estelle’s story – make us care about her and how her life if affected by Azariah.

As Azariah learns more about Estelle he begins tosuspects that somehow she is a Sachael, and wants her to return to his underwater world (underwater?! That’s so cool! But I was thinking angels, not water people).with him. But, before she can travel to this new world she is caught by Orontes, an Oceanid and enemy of the Sachaels, who wants to drag her into the sea for reasons of his own. With all her new found knowledge of what she is, will she must find a way to escape and be reunited with Azariah before Orontes puts his own plan into action (or what?).

Now I’m starting to get an idea of your world and your story! Don’t worry about introducing your story so much as just telling it! I feel like the good stuff got buried under explanations about the purpose of your query and set you. Skip to the good stuff!

Fantasy queries can be hard to write since there is so much to cram into so little space. However, the basic elements are the same in all stories. The structure that worked best for me is the three Cs:

Character: Estelle. Tell me who she is and why she’s important. Name, age, what is she like?

Conflict: What does she want but can’t have? What prevents her from getting what she wants?

Crisis: What will happen if she doesn’t get what she wants? What happens if she does?

Put each of those into a paragraph and you should have a much clearer picture of this fascinating story and world you’ve created. After that:

Sachael Dreams is a New Adult fantasy, complete at 86,000 (round up) words. It is the first in a planned series, but can stand alone.

I see so much potential in your story, but right now it feels bogged down by information I don’t need while not giving enough of the story. I think a bit more focus and depth will go a long way in making your story shine!

I am a finance manager, 43 years old, and the mother of two young boys. I have lived in York, England, all my life, and seem to spend most of my time juggling family life and crunching numbers at work. As a welcome change from working in finance I have written for many years for my own enjoyment, revelling in the escapism that fantasy allows.

I’ve attached the first three chapters of my manuscript as a separate document per your submission guidelines.

Thank you for your time.

Yours sincerely,

Thank you Jenny 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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