Query Critique #1

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Thanks all for joining in for my first ever query critique.  What I’ve done is some in-line changes and then gave my overall comments at the bottom.  I invite ALL of my followers to chip in and offer suggestions.  Mine is only one opinion and I’m sure this author would LOVE to hear yours as well.  Remember comments are moderated, but as long as they aren’t harsh or deragotory they will go through.  


Dear Ms. Souders,
Normal does not describe Ellyssa.  She is genetically engineered to be faster, stronger, more intelligent, and emotionless.  Not to mention, she’s a telepath.  One of the few lethal soldiers of tomorrow. 
**This sounds a bit dull.  It’s interesting material, but 1) it’s not said in a way that it would catch my interest. 2) it does not sound so much different than other books out there now. 
When I saw the first sentence my thoughts automatically went, “So?  Why should I care that she’s not normal?”  I’m not saying this to be mean, but I think it’s a good question.  Why should I, the reader, care that she’s not normal?  Also, what does being genetically engineered to be all these things have to do with anything?   What’s it mean to the story?  The reader?  The protagonist? 
 I would think about how you can spice this up.  What does all this mean for her.  Why is this important?  Why is this your hook? MAKE this your hook.  Right now, I feel like I’m reading the beginning a documentary.  LOL. 
Think of this as your story in one sentence.  If you were going to pitch this to me in person, but you only got one sentence, what would you say?
But when she crosses paths with a dark-haired prisoner, her world built around the concept of Aryan purity disintegrates. (**How so?**)  He speaks to her. Not vocally, but by pushing his thoughts through her psychic wall and into her mind. (**This kinda sounds painful**) An inconceivable possibility according to her indoctrination.  After all, he is not from her society.
Okay, so, why is this a big deal?  Is she a prisoner too?  Or is he her charge?  What is he to her?  What does he become?  How does she feel about this?  Why is this impossible?  And what does him being from another society have to do with anything? 
I should start seeing a little of the plot here, but I’m not.  I’d like to see why she’s here, what she is, what she’s doing.  I’d also like a bit more detail on him.  What he is, for example.  How does this make your protag feel?  What does this change for her?
Unable to resist the allure of his unspoken words, Ellyssa finds herself in turmoil, feeling emotions and running away from her life.  What’s worse is she isn’t even sure where she is going or why, but what she ends up discovering is that her ideals are more flawed than she was led to believe.
What are his unspoken words?  Is it this that leads her to running away?  Or is it that he loves her?  What?  Why are her ideals flawed and what does this mean for her?  Why would any of this be a problem for her?  What does ANY of this mean for her? What does running away mean?  Is she in trouble?  Does no one care?  Is she going to die? I’m not seeing the plot behind this.  I AM seeing the potential behind the story, but I CAN’T see anything beyond that.  Why do the ideals change?  For the good?  Or bad?
What does this all mean for her?  What’s at stake for her?  Where’s my cliffhanger ending?
Take for instance the HUNGER GAMES.  Katniss has two choices, kill or die.  What’s at stake for the protagonist here?
PERFECTION is a young-adult, dystopian fantasy complete at 99,000 words.
Two things here, I would just say dystopian not dystopian fantasy.  It’s one or the other.  They may say to combine them later when you’re going to sell it, but for now stick to one genre or the other or you’re not going to look like you know what you’re doing.  And 2) You’re bordering on too long for YA.  I would look at your MS and see if there is somewhere at ALL that you can cut or combine, tighten.  See if you can bring it into the low 90s at the very least. But if you ABSOLUTELY think you need this amount of words to describe things, than by all means keep it, but I’ve found the more I write, the better I get at tightening and I end up cutting a lot of stuff I don’t need.  I cut 10k out of my last WIP.  Just saying.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Okay, all in all you’ve done your research on queries, this is in a good format. It’s in a good length.  You’ve got the essentials done.  The part that’s missing is I have no clue what this story is about.  I haven’t seen the plot.  All I know is that there’s a girl, named Ellysa, who’s a genetically engineered soldier that’s had something strange happen that makes her question her ideals. 
I don’t know why that’s happened?  What this means?  Or how she feels about it.  In fact I don’t get much of your voice in this at all. 
I feel nothing for your main character, so I don’t have that WANT to keep reading.  If there were pages attached, I’d probably read further, but I may not.  As I don’t feel vested in your character enough from the query to care. I.E. No Hook. 
Also, it sounds very much like every other girl soldier dystopian on the shelves.  How is this DIFFERENT from everyone else? 
Go back to some books you’ve read lately.  What made you want to read that book?  The book blurb, right?  How did it catch your interest?  Try to capture that and put it in your query.  Good luck! 

5 Responses to “Query Critique #1”

  1. Liz Czukas says:

    >Jess, you did a great job with this one. I agree–I don't see much of the plot here. And I don't see what sets this one apart from the other dystopians out there. And I love a good dystopian. I want to want this one, but I don't see the hook.

    Will her running away cause the whole social structure to crumble? Is there a villain, and if so, how will her actions affect him/her?

    If you haven't written a synopsis for your project yet (this is to the query writer) you might try doing that first, and see what essential information needs to get into the query.

    Good luck!

    – Liz

  2. Roza M says:

    >I've beta read this story, and I think she should try focusing on the plot of the rebel army and the center.

    Maybe come in from this stand point:

    Ellyssa was trained to hate these guys, and the dr. that created her plans on using her to exterminate the entire race.

    She runs away, and gets taken in by the rebel army, the same people she is supposed to destroy.

    (they hate her as much as she is supposed to hate them, but she has no where to go. no one to trust. )

    Hope this helps =)

  3. Ebyss says:

    >I just wanted to pop on and tell everyone thanks for the great suggestions.

    I've done some work on rewriting and it is a completely different query. I mean completely different.

    It helped so much to be asked Why? Why? What happens? And why?

    I'm still tweaking a bit and hopefully I'll be able to incorporate more suggestions as they are made.

    You all are bestest (Yes, I made the word up).

    Thanks again Jess for hosting such a wonderful, helpful site.

  4. Ezmirelda says:

    >I agree with all the suggestions, especially the one about cutting down on word count. My friend got rejected by harpercollins because her word count was a bit too high for a YA novel. I'm sure there's places that would need tightening.

    I love the irony of how you named your story Perfection even though it's about a dystopian government.

    Good luck with your query. 🙂

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