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I'm Afraid Not--YA/NA Urban Fantasy

Fiction Fantasy New Adult Young Adult

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#1 T.K.Huynh

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Posted 21 January 2019 - 06:07 PM

On principle, I will return the favor for any critique on my query, and I greatly appreciate any and all input. Just let me know in the comments which query I should look for , and I will get on it.

 

 

Dear Agent,

 

The boogeyman doesn’t typically come in the shape of a nineteen-year-old with a penchant for manipulating emotions. But what a fitting name for a monster who kills with fear.

 

In the age-old war between flesh-eating ghuls and psychic sentinels, Aleksandra “Shura” Naryshkina is a terror—in every sense of the word. She’s one of a select few sentinels with the ability to instill enemies with crushing fear, which can turn the tide in battles. Countless ghuls want her dead. So when a coalition of them threatens the town where her brother attends school, it’s almost certainly a lure to trap her. But she doesn’t care what happens to her. She’d destroy the town and every sentinel in it to protect her brother. Maybe that’s what the ghuls want.

 

The only way to beat the boogeyman, after all, is to make her work for you.

 

I’m Afraid Not (84,000 words) is my first novel. It works as a standalone, but can expand into a series. The world and characters are informed by my degree in anthropology, with a focus in Central Asian mythoi, cultures, history, and warfare.



#2 lnloft

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Posted 21 January 2019 - 09:29 PM

I'm not going to do a line-by-line, because I don't think there's much to say in that sense. Basically, you've got a good starting point, but you don't say enough. The sweet spot for a query is generally ~250 words, so you've got plenty of space to expand. Shura is one of the psychic sentinels, right? Make sure that is crystal clear. Beyond that, be specific about what happens. How does she know they want to attack her brother's town? "During a routine scouting mission, Shura takes a ghul prisoner, who reveals a terrifying fact: a coalition of ghuls plans to attack the town where Shura's brother lives." That's again a rough idea (with no basis in what actually happens in your book), but details like that help flesh out your query. What does it mean about going undercover? How might Shura have to sacrifice anything to save her brother? Is that her personal morals, the lives of others, her own life? What is at stake? Take what you've got here as your outline, and then expand it with details until we've got a couple paragraphs. Make sure it's absolutely clear what Shura wants and what happens if she fails. The ending of your query, as is, is too vague to have the proper punch. I don't know what the "make her work for you" line really means.

 

Oh, and regarding the hook: a lot of agents will see a rhetorical question as a reason to stop reading. Best to not use it.

 

Good luck.


Nothing to reciprocate on right now; I'm off in the query trenches.


#3 A Fatalist Dawn

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Posted 22 January 2019 - 10:32 PM

The boogeyman doesn’t typically come in the shape of a nineteen-year-old with a penchant for manipulating emotions. But what a fitting name for a monster who kills with fear.

Personally, this hook isn't doing it for me. In particular, I really don't like the second line and the way it comes across.

 

In the an age-old war between flesh-eating ghuls and psychic sentinels, Aleksandra “Shura” Naryshkina is a terror—in every sense of the word. She’s one of a select few sentinels with the ability to instill enemies with crushing fear, which can turn the tide in battles.

You can combine and condense here. Get rid of generalities like saying she's a "terror."

 

Countless ghuls want her dead [for what reason?]. So when a coalition of them threatens the town [in what way?] where her brother attends school, it’s almost certainly a lure to trap her

The last part is leaving Aleksandra's POV. It's better to say she assumes it's a trap. I like how the inciting incident is presented here. The ghuls can't get to her, so they'll go after the person she loves most. However, "threatens the town" gives me nothing. What is the specific threat? 

 

Also, what is the setting, by the way? I think that's a fair question, given this is UF. A paragraph ago, we were introduced to an epic war between ghuls and sentinels--is this war taking place in this town or a different world? 

 

But she doesn’t care what happens to her. She’d destroy the town and every sentinel in it to protect her brother. Maybe that’s what the ghuls want.

OK, there are sentinels in this town, and the MC is probably anti-heroic. Aleksandra's voice also comes through well here.

 

I think at this point in your query, I don't want to know what the ghuls want but what Aleksandra wants. I think you did a great job of illustrating what she wants (protecting her brother) and how far she's willing to go to achieve it.  However, I'm missing the stakes. What will happen to her brother if she fails to protect him?

 

The only way the ghuls can defeat to beat the boogeyman, after all, is to make her work for you them.

Let me take a moment to tell you how much I fell in love with this line. In a short sentence, you've encapsulated your MC's struggle against the ghuls. With some tweaking, I actually think this could serve as a much better hook to lead with.

 

I’m Afraid Not [put in all caps instead of italics] (84,000 words) is my first novel. It works as is a standalone novel with series potential, but can expand into a series.

You don't need to mention it's a debut. "Standalone with series potential" is standard.

 

The world and characters are informed by my degree in anthropology, with a focus in Central Asian mythoi, cultures, history, and warfare.

 

As Inloft mentioned, the query is a bit lacking. Don't skimp out on plot points that help us understand your MC's situation. Details are necessary and important. The important thing is striking the correct balance. Say more with less. Keep working at it. I'd be happy to look at an expanded version.


Check out my poetry book, The Groundwork of Realization (2018).
 





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