Friday, February 22, 2013

Forging Fridays - Double Header!

Today is our fifth Forging Fridays post! Yay! Again, I won't be stating the identities of the volunteers for Forging Fridays unless otherwise requested. If you feel like unmasking yourselves in the comments, be my guest. But, I won't mention anyone by name. On to our queries! Yep... two queries, as promised. 

Today is a Double Header! *applause* *cheers* *confetti* 

Query 1 - 

Dear [Agent],

[Personalized] I am seeking representation for my YA Contemporary Fantasy BECOMING JINN. (excellent start, but I would recommend including word count here)

Wishing doesn’t make it so, Azra does. (Great hook!)

Azra has always known who she is. A Jinn. But Azra has also always known who she doesn’t want to be. A Jinn. This reads awkward, maybe rephrase to something like "And that's exactly what she doesn't want to be" or just rephrase so it's less repetitive. On her sixteenth birthday, Azra’s genie magic kicks in. For the rest of her life, she’ll go where she’s told, perform on command, and do it all without question. Screw that. With a flick of her wrist, she jettisons the Jinn handbook. Is this literal? I'm a little confused, but this should be completely clear as to whether this is a real thing. This sentence takes us out a bit because it's distinct in closeness of voice from the rest of the query. It would be just as powerful to say something that keeps us in the same place, like "so she does the only logical thing and sends the Jinn handbook as far away from her as possible" or something like that.  Her powers, curiously strong for a new genie, fuel her ability to wing it. But when her cockiness causes her to skip a vital step this is unnecessarily vague, we need to know what she is doing wrong for us to decide whether we care or not, she not only risks exposing Jinn magic to humans what are the consequences of that? Will the world implode or will she just get a slap on the wrist. Make us care. but also puts a baby’s life in danger this makes us care, but it's a big leap from what we know. Why is this baby involved at all? If you're going to mention him/her, give us some connection. Either one would be enough to draw the attention of the Afrit who rule over the Jinn world her throwing the book wasn't enough, I take it?, but the combination lands her on probation. Little do the Afrit know they’ve granted Azra’s wish by forbidding her to use magic. ...okay, now I'm really confused. She's being punished, does that mean she failed and both exposed the magic and the baby died? This all needs to be clear and if this isn't the main conflict, then we need a lot less detail actually. If this is just what leads to the main conflict, as it seems in the next paragraph, then it should be summed up with something like, "after a spot of trouble involving (looks like you're going for humor, so twist it in a way to be funny) the Genie council forbids her use of magic" voice.
Happily reduced to doing mischief like a normal teenager, Azra sneaks a peek at her mother’s diary. The secrets about the father she has never met, the source of her strong magic, and why the Afrit have been watching her so closely reveal as many answers as they do questions about who Azra really is and who she wants to be. Okay, so here we have an entirely new plot. We really only need one mentioned. And as far as I can see here, I'm not sure there is any need for her losing her magic to be mentioned. It doesn't seem she cares and it isn't what allows her to read a diary, so maybe don't even mention it? Focus on the central plot, if it's about her family and discovering herself, then that's all your query needs to be about. When her probation is lifted, Azra must figure out how to grant the most important wish she has ever been asked — one that challenges the most fundamental rules of the Jinn — without losing those she loves most, and herself, in the process. And here we're vague again. Give us specifics and consequences or we can't make the leap to caring. 
See, when genies are involved, there’s always a trick. I like this, but it does steal a little impact from the consequences in the previous sentence. If you're going to keep it, I'd recommend losing "See".
With fantasy elements set in the contemporary world, BECOMING JINN will appeal to readers of Lauren Oliver, Kristin Cashore, and John Green. Be very careful when using big names like this. I'm not saying don't do it, but it's creating very high expectations should they read on. Instead, I'd try to find a cross of two books that haven't been combined before. Like...I don't know Aladdin meets...Anna and the French Kiss or something. I know that doesn't make sense, but find the combo that fits so it seems like you're filling a vacant space on new ground instead of trying to fill the monster size shoes you've mentioned here. Make sense?

A professional editor and writer for more than seventeen years, I have a B.A. in journalism from (redacted) University. I am currently the editor for the yearly series of public policy journals published by the (redacted). I am a member of Grub Street in Boston, having attended the 2012 Muse and the Marketplace conference. Never heard of this. You don't need the extra details, so only keep it if it's a big deal. 

Thank you for your time and consideration. A sample of the work follows. I would be happy to send you a full or partial manuscript. These last two lines are implied when querying. I'd recommend removing them.

Overall, you're on the right track here. You have voice and you understand the format of a good query. I'd just work on honing in on your main story. Good job!  

Query 2 - Having a weird issue with fonts here...

Dear Agent: Make sure to add in a personalization here also. :)

Virtue in a vial—without it the world can’t survive. Intriguing...go on. :)

Sixteen-year-old Bevin wants to be in control of the Patience that runs through her veins when you say "runs through her veins" and "virtue in a vial" I think drugs. Are we talking they inject themselves with extra virtues because that's the imagery I'm getting here. Also, of all the "virtues" I can think of, Patience is not a particularly interesting one. If you've made it so, tell us how this virtue (and controlling it) is a struggle for her in a world where everyone is born with one virtue but each person needs more than one to survive Why do they need more than one to survive? And what makes Bevin someone we should care about. We don't have a reason to care yet.. When the prices of virtues begin to rise, she must figure out a way to grow into her Patience what does this mean? Are we talking about controlling Patience again here?, her best chance at being able to get more virtues how so?, even if it means using the seven deadliest virtues which are what? I wouldn't mention this if you don't want to tell us what they are.

Bevin grew up in a household with cupboards full of vials but the only virtue that doesn’t taste right on her tongue is her own Ah, and now we're getting more about Bevin, maybe find a way to start with this? Should hers "taste right?". Now global trade declines and residents higher up begin to hoard vials as prices are jacked up, leaving those in the middle and the lower end without the means to survive I think we're starting too wide in scope here for a query. You can tell us all of this in the book. For the query, you need to focus on the main character and what is at risk for HER. Will her little brother die? Have her parents already? What are the deadliest virtues and why is it a risk to work with them? What makes her uniquely suited to this task? Is it her Patience?. When Bevin learns that seven teenagers, each born with one of the most deadliest either deadliest or most deadly here virtues are going to stop the inflation, Bevin must find a way to save herself in order to protect what is left of her country before it comes to its downfall.

Only after being tricked into giving away a birthright sooo vague, We're bouncing back and forth here between too much detail and too little. Focus on the things that matter and be specific about those things. she never knew she had does Bevin realize just how much help she can be to the nation. Now time is running out and she must decide what is worth fighting for to save remove "to save" here, it steals impact her country, her birthright or what’s left of her Patience.

Complete at 80,000 words, VIRTUE NOT VALID is a science fiction novel for young adults that will appeal to readers of Veronica Roth's DIVERGENT and Lauren Oliver’s DELIRIUM. Again, as with the query above, these are HUGE names. Make sure you're giving yourself a space to fill and not just stepping in behind people who are already there.

Thank you very much for your time and attention. 

Okay, so this idea is super unique and I really like it. I just think you need to hone in on Bevin and her story. It's great that there is more to the book and there should be, but for the query, we're focusing in on her, what is happening to her, why should we care, what does she have to do, why her, what/who is she up against, what are the consequences if she fails? Answer these questions and you have everything you need for your query.


Phew!* Okay, that's it for today. Two queries is a LOT! Thank you so much for volunteering, oh mystery writers! :) I really hope this helps you both. You are brave to send in a query, to me or an agent. Well done! :)

So, what do you guys think? Agree or disagree with my assessments? Discuss! Also, happy Forging Fridays! May we all be tougher and stronger thanks to our days in the fire. 

Also, we need new volunteers for Forging Fridays! I'm down to only one query in my pile! So send them in! Details on how to submit your query here.


  1. There is some pretty fantastic feedback here on both of them. I specifically like the advice to narrow it down to what is happening to the MC, why, and what they have to do, and why we should care.

    Queries are hard to write! Both stories have very interesting premises.

    For a Package Design class in college, one of my classmates designed the "Seven Deadly Sins" perfume set. (It was hilarious) I immediately thought of that when reading the 2nd query.

    I hope the author's have good luck rewriting their queries so I can look for these books in a couple of years! :)

    I wish I had something constructive to add, but I am still learning myself.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Chris! :) You know how much I appreciate it. These are very interesting concepts! Can't wait to see what happens with both books.