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Query Workshop … critiques by Rae Chang

Saturday, 2 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 Rae Chang 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 Rae…


Rae Chang

Rae is an aspiring YA author, composer, gf food blogger, nerd, cooking instructor, youth mentor, legal secretary, freelance editor, and my blog assistant. She’s currently a student at BYU and loves swords, dancing, composing music, food, video games, mentoring, and of course BOOKS! Follow Rae on Twitter.

And here is her first critique …

Dear God-like Agent:

After modern (perhaps define “modern” – maybe “21st-century”?) goddess Pandia travels through time and flirts with Julius Caesar, Cleopatra complains to the gods. (In Egyptian mythology, you generally pick a specific god and pray to them. Why is Cleopatra, an Egyptian, complaining to a Greek god about his daughter’s flirtation with a Roman? This is a cool hook, but I’m kind of confused. Also, what is the nature of this “complaint?” Why is this flirting such a bad thing when Romans were known for their many sexual affairs? Perhaps she prays for vengeance instead of complains? You already have “complaint” in the next sentence, so you don’t need it twice.) Pandia’s father, Zeus, is tired of (repeated?) complaints about his daughter (throughout time and space?) and sentences her to community service in Italy. (Sounds hilarious. This, I like very much.)

To commute her sentence, she’ll have to show she values mortal needs more than her own.  Before she leaves, Zeus makes her vow to remain uninvolved. (Why does she have to remain uninvolved? Why are mortal needs more important than the needs of a goddess, who supposedly is more all-knowing and more powerful?)

Pandia’s not worried about her punishment. She’ll show Daddy she respects mortals and if she happens to meet a few handsome young men while she’s doing her time, E’ la vita. (Very nice. These two are very nice.) To her surprise, Zeus doesn’t send her to modern (see above note on “modern”) Italy to mend her ways. Pandia’s stripped of her goddess power and sent to ancient Pompeii. (This sounds a little passive. I would rewrite as “He strips Pandia of her powers and sends her to ancient Pompeii.” Or you could combine the two sentences and say “But Daddy has a surprise in store; instead of sending her to modern-day/21st-century Italy, he strips her of her powers and dumps her in ancient Pompeii.”) When her knee accidentally connects (“connects” is a rather vague verb – it doesn’t give me any sense of movement or action) with a lecherous official, Pandia’s enslaved in Pompeii’s gladiator barracks. (Again, sounds a bit passive. Maybe “he arranges for” or “he enslaves her” in . . .) After another mishap, she finds herself in the local amphitheater’s center ring, a sword in her hand and a swarthy gladiator named Caladus by her side. (Caladus’ introduction feels a bit forced – maybe “side by side with swarthy gladiator Caladus”?)

To escape Pompeii, Pandia will have to prove she’s learned her lesson, but showing Daddy she values mortals is way harder than she thought, especially when they expect her to kill one. (Wait, who is she killing?)  Worse, she vowed to stay uninvolved, and Caladus is proving awfully tempting. (What is so tempting about Caladus? Does she want to save him? Does she want to have sexytime with him? Does “uninvolved” = “no romancing mortals”?)  And Mt. Vesuvius is rumbling. (I love this last sentence. But there are a few tense changes in these 3 paragraphs. Make sure you pick a tense and stick with it.)

TWIST OF FATE is a NA Time Travel Romance, (Does “time travel” need to be capitalized? Is “Time Travel Romance” a proper noun as a genre?) complete at (You don’t really need “complete at.” If you are querying, it sure as heck better be complete.) 73,000 words. I live in rural Maine and work as a Clinical Documentation Specialist/RN at a local hospital.  This is my first novel.

I’ve pasted (I would say “included”) my first 10K below as per your submission guidelines.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

(Overall, I love this concept, but I am very confused as to the stakes and why things are important. Just tighten up and clarify to help a potential agent understand what is at stake and why things are happening.)

And here is her second critique…

Dear Agent:

Eighteen-year-old Dawn’s been called a lot of things—immortal scum, abomination and, her favorite, traitorous bitch—but thief was never one of them. Yet when her sisters (how many sisters?) are kidnapped and held for ransom, a thief is exactly what she’ll have to become. (Yes. THIS. This first part is so much better than the original. I like. Mucho.)

To free her sisters, Dawn must steal a powerful charm (steal from who? Are they going to make trouble?) capable of releasing the woman who ordered their capture (where are they releasing her from? Why does she want to escape?), an imprisoned demon queen. If she (replace “she” with “Dawn” – there are a LOT of “she’s” in this paragraph) refuses to cooperate, the demon queen plans to serve Dawn’s sisters to her starving army, one severed limb at a time. (YES. I love this imagery.) There’s no way in hell Dawn’s going to let that happen. (Yes, again! This rewrite is phenomenal!)

All Dawn needs to do is slip past the charm’s steamy (steamy? This could mean he has a sauna. Maybe find a better adjective than the banal “steamy” or “sexy” or “hot”) owner, Kalan, and she and her sisters can be home in time for dinner. But Dawn’s not qualified to steal bubble gum, much less a well-guarded charm. And she soon discovers Kalan has his own agenda, with seducing her as the first step in his plan. (I would rewrite this as “has his own agenda, starting with seducing Dawn” – more to-the-point)

Complete at 100,000 words, SHATTERED is a new adult fantasy. I believe it will appeal to fans of Cassandra Clare’s phenomenal worldbuilding and Game of Thrones’ morally ambiguous characters. I have included the XXX in the body of this email. (I would be wary of mentioning Game of Thrones since it’s a huge bestseller, and I’m just a little wary of the term “new adult fantasy” considering that many agents do not yet recognize subgenres in NA.)

Thank you, Rae, 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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