Workshop Wednesday

  • By: Jessica Faust | Date: Oct 26 2011

By repeated request we’ve started Workshop Wednesday. It will definitely play out through 2011, and beyond that we’ll just have to see. We’ve received well over 200 queries at this point, but we are choosing at random, so don’t be afraid to participate as per the guidelines in our original post.

For anyone wanting to comment, we ask that you comment in a polite and respectful manner, and we ask that you be as constructive as possible. If you can be useful to the brave souls who submitted their query and comment on the query, that’s great. Please keep any anonymous tirades on publishing or other snarky comments to yourself. This is and should remain an open and safe forum for people to put themselves and their queries out there so that everyone can learn. I’m leaving comments open and open to anonymous posters, as I always have; don’t make me feel the need to change that policy.

And for those who have never “met” Query Shark, get over there and do that. She’s the originator of the query critique, the queen, if you will.

Dear Ms. Faust,

Sixteen year old transfer student Hannah Slaughtery never imagined her future would involve fighting against monsters she doesn’t believe in with people she’s not even sure she likes.

I like this opening. It grabs my attention and I think it works. If I wanted to get picky, although I don’t know that it matters in the grand scheme of your query, I would wonder why you bother to mention that she’s a transfer student. I don’t know that it matters for a query.

But when she and four other students attend a retreat at Piaculum Academy, they discover they are the next generation of Partizans, a band of supernatural warriors dating back to the dawn of man. Each must decide how much of themselves they are willing to sacrifice as they stand against the Formorians, a ruthless and tyrannical empire of demons who have been wiping out the Partizan lines for generations in order to make way for their own ascension.

I like this, I only wonder if you aren’t complicating things too much by over-describing. Do you need to name the groups in the query or can you simply say that they discover they are the next generation in a line of supernatural warriors charged with standing against an empire of demons . . . ? I also wonder, for the book’s sake, if you need a bigger conflict. In other words, if they don’t know if they are willing to sacrifice themselves, do they care about their own ascension (I assume you mean to power)?

All of that pickiness aside, I think this paragraph works.

As Hannah struggles to comprehend her legacy, she is distracted by the unexplainable, yet undeniable connection she feels toward Finn, another Partizan, who is obviously hiding something from her.

I think the problem I have with this is that I don’t feel the action of the book or the big climax or conflict. I feel a little blah about all of this. You tell me the setup, but you don’t really tell me a lot about Hannah’s individual struggle, and I don’t think her attraction to Finn is it.

Mentored by Garrett, a First Crusade era Catholic priest turned vampire, Hannah begins her metaphysical transformation to become a witch, knowing only one thing for sure: the carefree days of her youth have come to a screeching halt.

In the framework of your query this feels dropped in, and maybe this is the heart of the series. Maybe we need to learn more about this transformation. Maybe this is really the core of your query.

The Partizans, a YA paranormal is complete at 72,000 words and has series potential. Thank you for your consideration and I look forward to hearing from you.

Overall I think this is a good query and I definitely think you’ll get some requests off it. I do, however, worry that it’s a little flat, that you could insert some excitement, some action into it that would push it over the edge and give it that oomph to get you lots of requests. I think your book overall is probably different and intriguing, but that doesn’t come through in a big enough way in the query. The query sounds a little like a lot of other queries, which is why I think you need to work on focusing on more action.


10 responses to “Workshop Wednesday”

  1. Avatar Lehcarjt says:

    Seems like a good solid query to me – good job.

    Couple of thoughts though…

    I'd like to see how this story is different from all the other YA paranormal romances out there already. It feels very much the same as other stories and to be honest I'm soooo tired of YA Paranormal that a story has to feel 'out of the box' to get me to pick it up.

    This is really, really nit-picky, but I'm not crazy about your proper nouns (Piaculum, Formarians, Partizan). Something just rings off about the titles.

    I'm also not crazy about the names Finn and Garrett (both hugely trendy names right now). And Garrett is a German based name which seems odd for a 1000 year old crusader (who would have been Italian or French (I think?)). Of the two men, Garrett is also the more interesting – which might not be good in terms of showcasing the romance.

    Still, the query does it's job so take all of the above in light of that.

  2. Avatar Kate Douglas says:

    I like this–I do think that describing her as a transfer student is important. That tells me she's been thrown into an unfamiliar situation. I agree that the use of all the names takes away from the impact of the proposal. In this case, less would be better, but it does sound really interesting.

  3. Avatar Danielle says:

    I, personally, didn't think it sounded like every other YA out there. However, I also didn't like the proper nouns…but it's hard to find original names for groups when you're writing a story like this.

    I agree with what Lehcarjt said about Garrett's name. You'd think the author's research would have produced a more era-friendly name…unless he changed it to fit it to the present? I mean, who would want to walk around today with the name "Tommaso Parentucelli" or "Silvio Piccolomini"

  4. I agree that the action in the book is probably bigger than what the query describes; I understand how difficult it can be to distill an entire novel into a few hundred words, but a little more punch would really make this query shine. Still, it seems pretty solid and interesting. I too also want to know if Hannah's got some bigger struggle than being attracted to Finn, and the part about becoming a witch feels a bit odd–I thought she was becoming a warrior, and was picturing more combat than magic. Maybe the warriors have witch powers
    (will they all?), but the two don't necessarily feel connected here.

    Also, I want to know what happens if the Partizans choose not to sacrifice much of themselves at all. What are the bigger consequences? But I guess if I'm asking that, it means I'm intrigued, which is good@

  5. Avatar Levonne says:

    Very constructive. Thanks for providing a Workshop Wednesday!

  6. I have a question…

    I've read that the "hook" can be a log line, and I've seen other people (query shark, just today) say to avoid them. Does it just depend on the agent who happens to be reading it, and their preferences?

  7. Avatar Kristan says:

    I completely agree with Jessica's analysis, all of it.

    I don't think the story sounds particularly different from the rest of the market, but I'm not sure that's a bad thing. It has a clear spot on the shelf, next to other YA paranormals/fantasies. I can imagine a lot of girls picking this up — and IF the action is as heavy as the query would suggest, perhaps some boys too.

  8. Avatar Lucy says:

    Something readers don't seem to be catching–so maybe, author, you want to bring this out a little more–is that we're (apparently) dealing with Irish mythology here. Hence the Formorians, etc.

    I think if you make it a bit clearer, it could add some distinction and interest to your query, besides the things that have been mentioned already.

    Also, maybe it would help sharpen the conflict if you point out exactly what Hannah may have to sacrifice–and will she, or won't she?

  9. Avatar Anonymous says:

    I'm bothered by the name, Formarians. Did the author mean Fomorians (without the first "r"), the early mythical inhabitants of Ireland?

  10. Avatar jfaust says:

    Anon 10:17:

    I've deleted your comment because you broke the #1 rule of Workshop Wednesday which is to respect the writer who had the guts to submit their query for critique.

    Please leave your bitterness and disrespect out of the conversation.