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How To Critique a Query


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#21 Mark Friedlander

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Posted 14 December 2010 - 05:49 PM

I guess what had in mind when I posted the original comment was that it is unproductive to give the one with no aptitude for fishing a gift certificate to the fish market.
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#22 Robin Breyer

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Posted 14 December 2010 - 07:21 PM

I guess what had in mind when I posted the original comment was that it is unproductive to give the one with no aptitude for fishing a gift certificate to the fish market.


Hm... I think you got that backwards. A person who likes fish but has not aptitude for fishing would greatly appreciate a gift certificate to the fish market.

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#23 Pete Morin

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Posted 14 December 2010 - 07:24 PM

Hm... I think you got that backwards. A person who likes fish but has not aptitude for fishing would greatly appreciate a gift certificate to the fish market.


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#24 layinda

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Posted 14 December 2010 - 07:36 PM

Maybe they'd switch to bacon. You don't have to catch it. :wink:

#25 Jean Oram

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Posted 14 December 2010 - 09:00 PM

Maybe they'd switch to bacon. You don't have to catch it. :wink:


Unless of course it is running around in the mud, in which case it simply becomes a good time had by all.

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#26 gaius

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Posted 14 December 2010 - 09:31 PM

except the pig...oink, oink

#27 Carson Spencer

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Posted 14 December 2010 - 09:34 PM

I like chasing cows through the mud. So I guess I am going to have to go with beef.:laugh:

#28 maryj59

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Posted 15 December 2010 - 10:56 PM

I'd like to thank you for starting this thread! Based on my own experience, to see your query completely rewritten is actually a bit hurtful and discouraging. Questions where things are unclear, however, are VERY helpful, and I don't at all mind seeing suggestions of different ways to phrase things. So that's what I try to do when I respond to others' queries. I also do try to find something positive to say, so that I'm not simply being critical.

#29 Juls Duncan

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Posted 16 December 2010 - 08:32 AM

I find it helpful when someone helps me with the structure of wording and sentences. Therefore, I don’t mind if my query is torn apart. You all see things that I missed… And I like the threads about the fish, pigs, and the cows... Juls

#30 EMDelaney

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Posted 19 December 2010 - 10:34 AM

Hmmm. I believe I had to learn to like seeing my query ripped apart because it was.....over and over and over and........ LOL.

I hadn't really given it much thought about whether I "liked" it or not. Some rip it apart, re-writing the entire thing. Some get out the red pen (Pete), some make short simple observations and some bloviate eighteen sentences in regard to their two word suggestion change.

Frankly, I appreciate them all. I do think when we are critiquing others we should be mindful that their project is just as important as we felt ours was. Don't treat it as a game. It is serious business.

Mary mentioned always trying to find something positive to say. While this feels good, it does nothing for me personally. I want it rough and I appreciate being told of each shortcoming. Others don't take critique so well and I understand this. In this regard, if I reading something by Pete Morin for example that I wanted to comment on, I know his style, I'm just gonna reach up and slap him. He can take it. If I am commenting on someone more sensative, I adjust my comments. If I don;t know their style, I stay generic.

With newbies, there is usually plenty to comment on. As someone mentioned earlier in thread, when somebody starts out announcing that they are new there will usually be a good bit to comment on. I can't see it as productive to -re-write their work at that time. That is too much..too soon! Mary's philosophy of pointing out positive things first at that point may be the right thing to do so as to make them understand that we are not their enemies.

When someone goes and starts a rant thread (Safari Tom) after only three days of being here and virtually no attempts to factor the suggestions made by more experienced folks here, well, that is different. It is time to slap him in the head (which Jean Oram so gracefully did), take him in for exorcism/de-tox and then see if he can be fixed. Some folks come here with an open mind, some come here with a chip. Very few know, when they log in for that first time what a precious FREE service they are about to recieve. I'm no expert, but my guess would be that they will fail the agent rejection process miserably also.
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#31 Robin Breyer

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Posted 19 December 2010 - 12:20 PM

Not just the Agent submission process, EM, but the Agent and Publisher critique. When I was writing screenplays and had an agent, she ripped two of them to shreds with comments. I've heard that is normal for Agents and Publishers, even after they like your writing and your story, that want to make it the best and aren't afraid to tell you so. I just look at the query critique process here as a taste of that. If you can't take our criticism, how are you going to take theirs.

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#32 Mossaz

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Posted 19 December 2010 - 04:57 PM

As a newbies newbie, I think any comment, any shred and any rip is a wonderful thing. it's no good to pass it around to friends and family and have it praised, when you know that small voice inside is telling you something different.

Yea, a rewrite by someone else isn't the goal but some of their ideas may be spot on. If you guys with the experience stop commenting, or tone it down in the advice department, then whats the use?

Pete, your red ink kills me! Keep it flowing to all and if someone can't take it, then it's likely problems are just around the next bend.

#33 Jean Oram

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Posted 19 December 2010 - 05:50 PM

Mary mentioned always trying to find something positive to say. While this feels good, it does nothing for me personally.


I like to add little sweet nothings into my critiques if not just to keep the writer from jumping off a bridge, but also to keep them from destroying the things that are working in their query. If you don't know what really pops, sings, or works for the reader you might just eliminate/edit it to heck/destroy it.

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#34 AC Mejestic

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Posted 19 December 2010 - 06:46 PM

One question I have is this: How do you know your opinion is worth giving? I don't want to ruin someones wonderful work with a horrible idea.

#35 gaius

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Posted 19 December 2010 - 07:42 PM

The world is flat?

#36 Robin Breyer

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Posted 19 December 2010 - 09:05 PM

Gaius, I have heard that there are some that still believe the world is flat, but I have never met one.

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#37 Jean Oram

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Posted 19 December 2010 - 09:10 PM

One question I have is this: How do you know your opinion is worth giving? I don't want to ruin someones wonderful work with a horrible idea.


My thoughts on this is that it is up to the person receiving the critique to determine what works for them and what doesn't. You can't incorporate everything that everyone says. It simply won't work. But often every comment can at least get one thinking.

When I first started offering advice, I would try to find a query that had only one or two comments on it and would try to find just one thing that I thought could be improved. (I had to get in there before everyone else said it all! But I also learned a lot by reading other people's thoughts on a query as well as reading many, many agent blogs as well as devouring everything I could learn in pitch and query contests.) If I could find one thing that I thought could be improved in a query, I was delighted. (Especially if later someone agreed!) Sometimes in the beginning it was something minor like a bumpy sentence that was convoluted. Or maybe it was a few misspellings. From there, I worked my way up to more in-depth critiques that focus more on the AQC 'formula.'

Personally, I think everyone has an opinion worth listening to when it comes to critiquing queries. Because if a 'blind' reader can't make sense of your query, how is that going to work with an agent? Either a query makes you want to read more, or it doesn't. And that information can be provided by anyone. (Even though it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly where it becomes yawn-inducing.)

Gaius, I have heard that there are some that still believe the world is flat, but I have never met one.


Thomas Freedman anyone? :wink:

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#38 RileyRedgate

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Posted 19 December 2010 - 11:24 PM

Gaius, I have heard that there are some that still believe the world is flat, but I have never met one.


Get ready for your world to become 293857 times better. I had a fantastic chuckle at this one.
http://www.alaska.ne...arthsociety.htm


Personally, I think everyone has an opinion worth listening to when it comes to critiquing queries. Because if a 'blind' reader can't make sense of your query, how is that going to work with an agent? Either a query makes you want to read more, or it doesn't. And that information can be provided by anyone. (Even though it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly where it becomes yawn-inducing.)


My thoughts exactly! I mean, agents are readers, just like anyone else, even if they are far more qualified. Though, arguably, some members on AQC are just as qualified as agents! And if it works, it works, and if it doesn't, it doesn't. Opinions vary, sure, but in my opinion it's GREAT to know what completely loses someone that I may have thought was good. I love it when someone asks for clarification, because if they don't get it, there's that chance the agent wouldn't either. In my opinion, pretty much everyone is qualified to read queries, because agents are all types of people too.

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#39 Taurean Watkins

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Posted 19 December 2010 - 11:45 PM

I only have this to add-

Everyone has a valid opinion of what's interesting and what's to them is boring.
That said, if people just HATE what you love, that can cause a bias that doesn't help the writer improve things. I've come across this problem too many times to be told it doesn't exist.

For example, I'm not interested in politics and government issues because to me it comes off as an exercise of people wanting perfection in their politicians and even the most minor mistakes is blown to insane proportions.

Like Karen Carpenter sang in the song "I need to be in love"

"I know ask perfection of a quite imperfect world, and fool enough to think that's what I'll find."

It seems here in the U.S. we have the habit of "Only sighting what our leaders do wrong" as if nothing they did right matters. I don't think that's a healthy mode of thinking, and I know not everyone feels that way, but it seems among the political insiders, it's in the minority.

I'd like to think no one gets these important jobs if they're completely inept at it. I mean, if everyone involved in government is so horrid and awful, wouldn't be even more worse as a country if that were true?

In contrast, leaders in other countries have the "The leader is NEVER wrong, and no one can say so without being killed or put in jail."

My point, I would not be a good candidate to critique a novel or nonfiction book about these subjects, as I don't understand them, and they depress me, which is why I stopped trying.

So what i could say that someone who knows more about this world, and maybe even is in it, that could be just as helpful?

#40 Brendacarre

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Posted 20 December 2010 - 01:45 AM

If you can't take our criticism, how are you going to take theirs.


Brilliant, Robin. :wink:




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