Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Critique Party #8

Remember - I'm moderating the comments. This is meant to help one another, so be nice.

Our goal is to help each writer make their page stronger.


Dear Dream Agent,

Fourteen-year-old Mandy Samkirk is the only person who can return light to the world, but she isn’t sure she wants to.

Mandy’s parents have been keeping secrets. Not only is Mandy a marvel – complete with magical powers – but she is being forced to leave her life and friends behind for some ridiculous boarding school. How cliché.

When Mandy’s father is murdered right before her eyes, she is thrust into the heart of a battle she never knew existed. The marvel world is under siege by Temne – who consume light, or your inherent goodness – causing the world to get darker. The days creep by until the earth is covered in perpetual darkness, and death is certain for all.

Legend says there is only one who can bridge the gap between magical and non-magical beings to restore harmony to the precarious balance of good and evil. This harmony holds the key to restoring light to the decaying planet.

Even with the fate of humanity resting on her shoulders, Mandy isn’t sure she can face the villain she loves.

When battle is imminent, Mandy finds the courage to make a decision she never expected.

Emerald’s Keeper, a YA Paranormal novel, is complete at 61,000 words. I believe it will appeal to fans of Aprilynne Pike’s Wings as well as Holly Black’s Tithe.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,
Holly Dodson

8 comments:

Sarah Enni said...

Holly,
Oooh I love the sound of this story!
I like that you kept your sentences brisk, and got straight to the point. I do think some key details are left out, though, which raises some questions.

I really, really like the first 3 sentences. Then you mention the boarding school, but the next sentence is about her father's murder and a battle. I'm confused -- I thought she was at a boarding school? Doesn't that mean she's separated from her father? Maybe we don't need the info about the boarding school, since obviously the murder is much more important.

The description of the Temne and the impending threat is fantastic.

I like the next paragraph, too -- establishes how Mandy is important in the scheme of this grand battle, and sets up crazy amounts of conflict.

Then in the next sentence you mention that Mandy loves a villain, but don't elaborate. Who is the villain? I thought a whole race of Temne were the villains? Is there one in particular? How does she know him? Why is she in love with him?

Beyond that, like I said, I think the sound of the query overall is great - right to the point and really professional.

Susan said...

Hey, Holly,

Good job on the letter! It's succinct, states the stakes, and opens questions (in a good way).

I agree with Sarah's points -- especially the part about mentioning the main villain.

I also think you should specify in the last paragraph exactly what sort of decision Mandy is faced with -- lay out the stakes and difficulty for us.

**An idea (a very rough idea):

...harmony holds the key to restoring light to the decaying planet.

But there's a twist in the legend -- a choice to be made. To save humanity from the Temne, Mandy must sacrifice the people she loves the most.**

One thing: In some ways, the story in this letter doesn't quite match the story I've been reading -- is that because of the massive revisions you made?

I only mention this because I want to make sure you're selling the book you actually have. In the letter, you make it sound like the murder is an inciting incident, but in the draft of EMERALD that I read, it didn't happen until the middle of the novel. I also don't recall a legend about Mandy...

:) I'm just gonna assume these aspects were things you changed in more recent drafts.

My final comment is for this line: I believe it will appeal to fans of Aprilynne Pike’s Wings as well as Holly Black’s Tithe.

I think you can just say, "Pike's Wings or Holly Black's Tithe." Change the "as well" to "or". It's a little easier to read.

Great job!

KO said...

Oh no, does this mean the critique party is coming to an end?
I like this Holly, it sounds like a truly unique paranormal plot—and as we all read on the blogs—that is critical in your genre. I think paranormal needs a bit more info in the query, because you have to get a sense of what this world is like—of course balancing that with not so much world-building that you end up with a chapter. IMHO, the elements are all here, but maybe could be shifted a bit to make the query stronger.
Dear Dream Agent,

Fourteen-year-old Mandy Samkirk is the only person who can return light to the world, but she isn’t sure she wants to. Though the fate of humanity rests on her shoulders, Mandy isn’t sure she can face the villain she loves. [I moved this second sentence up b/c i think it’s important to know right away what is at stake. Obviously, in most scenarios every person would opt to return light to the world and to save humanity. It’s a no-brainer, and you don’t want agents to think you don’t realize that. Mandy’s situation is unique! The only way she can restore light is to battle to the death with her one love. That sets up the conflict much more strongly and realistically.]

Mandy’s parents have been keeping secrets. Not only is Mandy a marvel [love this word]– complete with magical powers – but she is being forced to leave her life and friends behind for some ridiculous boarding school. How cliché. [I like that you acknowledge the similarity to HP in a clever way.]

When Mandy’s father is murdered right before her eyes [I agree with Sarah- when she’s at school?, before she leaves for school?—how is she there to see it if she’s off at school? The School part is clever, but perhaps could be dropped, and instead presented in the same tongue-in-cheek way in the first pages], she is thrust into the heart of a battle she never knew existed. The marvel world is under siege by Temne – who consume light, or (one’s) goodness – causing the world to get darker [also agree—Temne is a great moniker, and I LOVE the idea of consuming light]. The days creep by until the earth is covered in perpetual darkness, and death is certain for all. [As a biology nerd I’m wondering, is this a spiritual thing or a physical thing? Is it that the world is literally darkening, meaning crops can’t be grown, ecosystems fail, weather patterns collapse, people lack vitamin d, tides falter, etc—or more that people, by losing their inherent goodness/light exist in a world that is physically the same, but filled with an overwhelming darkness of humanity. I think clarifying this will strengthen the query.]

Legend says only one can bridge the gap between magical and non-magical beings to restore the precarious balance of good and evil. [you avoid the word “fated” which is good- because I hear that can be a turn-off to some agents.] This harmony [I don’t think you need harmony in the proceeding sentence to get the meaning here] holds the key to restoring light to the decaying planet. [okay, here is more of a sense of the physical problems, but I think some mention would be better earlier]


When battle is imminent, Mandy finds the courage to make a decision she never expected. (great set-up—really intriguing without falling into clichés or giving away too much)

Emerald’s Keeper, a YA Paranormal novel, is complete at 61,000 words. I believe it will appeal to fans of Aprilynne Pike’s Wings as well as Holly Black’s Tithe.

Thank you for your time and consideration. [I read on many agent blogs that they hate “I look forward to…”—of course you can tailor it, and remove it from the ones who mention not liking it on their websites.]

Sincerely,
Holly Dodson

KO said...

I like this Holly, it sounds like a truly unique paranormal plot—and as we all read on the blogs—that is critical in your genre. IMHO, the elements are all here, but maybe could be shifted a bit to make the query stronger.
Dear Dream Agent,

Fourteen-year-old Mandy Samkirk is the only person who can return light to the world, but she isn’t sure she wants to. Though the fate of humanity rests on her shoulders, Mandy isn’t sure she can face the villain she loves. [I moved this second sentence up b/c i think it’s important to know right away what is at stake. Obviously, in most scenarios every person would opt to return light to the world and to save humanity. It’s a no-brainer, and you don’t want agents to think you don’t realize that. Mandy’s situation is unique! The only way she can restore light is to battle to the death with her one love. That sets up the conflict much more strongly and realistically.]

Mandy’s parents have been keeping secrets. Not only is Mandy a marvel [love this word]– complete with magical powers – but she is being forced to leave her life and friends behind for some ridiculous boarding school. How cliché. [I like that you acknowledge the similarity to HP in a clever way.]

When Mandy’s father is murdered right before her eyes [I agree with Sarah- when she’s at school?, before she leaves for school?—how is she there to see it if she’s off at school? The School part is clever, but perhaps could be dropped, and instead presented in the same tongue-in-cheek way in the first pages], she is thrust into the heart of a battle she never knew existed. The marvel world is under siege by Temne – who consume light, or (one’s) goodness – causing the world to get darker [also agree—Temne is a great moniker, and I LOVE the idea of consuming light]. The days creep by until the earth is covered in perpetual darkness, and death is certain for all. [As a biology nerd I’m wondering, is this a spiritual thing or a physical thing? Is it that the world is literally darkening, meaning crops can’t be grown, ecosystems fail, weather patterns collapse, people lack vitamin d, tides falter, etc—or more that people, by losing their inherent goodness/light exist in a world that is physically the same, but filled with an overwhelming darkness of humanity. I think clarifying this will strengthen the query.]

Legend says only one can bridge the gap between magical and non-magical beings to restore the precarious balance of good and evil. [you avoid the word “fated” which is good- because I hear that can be a turn-off to some agents.] This harmony [I don’t think you need harmony in the proceeding sentence to get the meaning here] holds the key to restoring light to the decaying planet. [okay, here is more of a sense of the physical problems, but I think some mention would be better earlier]


When battle is imminent, Mandy finds the courage to make a decision she never expected. (great set-up—really intriguing without falling into clichés or giving away too much)

Emerald’s Keeper, a YA Paranormal novel, is complete at 61,000 words. I believe it will appeal to fans of Aprilynne Pike’s Wings as well as Holly Black’s Tithe.

Thank you for your time and consideration. [I read on many agent blogs that they hate “I look forward to…”—of course you can tailor it, and remove it from the ones who mention not liking it on their websites.]

Sincerely,
Holly Dodson

KO said...

sorry for the double/now triple duty!
It said mine was too large, so I tried to cut a bit and do it again.

Holly Dodson said...

You guys are the best!

Susan, a whole heaping lot was added in revisions. :) I've been battling with the to tell or not to tell who the villain is. I suppose that could intrigue an agent though...seeing as it's not really what it sounds like.

There I go being vague again lol I'm scared to tell my secrets!

Alicia Gregoire said...

I like the premise a lot and the opening line really hooked me. I also like how you addressed the clicheness of being sent to boarding school. The names of things are great as well.

A few questions to help make the query stronger.
- What are the stakes aside from death for all?
- Who is the villian? Did he murder her father?
- Does Mandy know what the secrets are?
- What obstacles are getting in Mandy's way?

The more specific you can get in the query, the better it will be.

The story sounds great!

LTM said...

yay, Holly! This sounds like a fascinating book, and you've gotten so much good feedback that all I was thinking about has been covered already. The only thing I didn't notice is the switch from boarding school to her father's death.

Should that have been "until her father is murdered and she must..."

something like that? (I was a little lost re: how that tied together.)

Otherwise, sounds like fun! Yay, and GOOD LUCK w/this! :o)