I'm author ELLE STRAUSS and welcome to my website!
I write fun, lower Young Adult (teen) fiction to do with whimsical things like time-travel, fairies and merfolk.
When my serious side peeks out, she's called LEE STRAUSS. She likes to write upper YA about real things that have happened in the past, or made up things that could quite possibly happen in the future.
This blog is about books, mine and other fab authors', but occasionally I'll share about other topics.
Thanks for dropping by!
Thursday, July 7, 2011
A Query Critique - Elle Style
Stephanie was brave enough to post a query for critique in yesterday's comments, so here it is. I hope all of you, and especially Stephanie find it helpful.
This is how I break down Query writing:
Tell us who the story is about. Add the circumstance, the conflict and the twist.
I should confess that I didn't use this four step template when writing the query and pitch I used as examples in that post. It's more of a recent breakdown based on my latest pitch, which works.
Let's take a look at how this template would work with Stephanie's Query.
Dear Ms (or Mr.) Fantabulous Agent, the first letter should be addressed Ms or Mr. After you've had first contact, it almost always moves to first name basis.
I'm going to skip ahead to the part half way down the query where the word count is given. I think this should be stated closer to the front of the query, as agents want to know basic stats right away. Also, at 100, 000 words, there is going to be a lot of plot points. The question for the writer is, which ones to include in the query and which ones to leave out. Sometimes it's easier to write the query before the book is written, because it's at this stage, usually, where the writer is aware of the main and important plots. As it gets developed, those main plots get harder to identify. The four points of query writing should help with this.
Daughter to a bear trainer in the Hippodrome, Theodora must provide for her two sisters after her father dies. This states Who it's about. It wouldn't hurt to hint at her age here. Also if you begin the query with the title (and stats) I already understand some of the context. As it is, I don't fully clue in until I get to the words Constantinople and Byzantine Empire (though I know Hippodrome should be a clue, but I'm not that quick!). She claws her way past every actress in the city—including her older sister—to become Constantinople’s premier actress, all in the hopes of enticing a wealthy aristocrat into becoming her patron. She gambles on the wrong man. He abandons her in the frontiers of the Byzantine Empire, despite his promises to marry her and elevate her to the nobility. Alone with an infant, she sells her body to make her way back to the capital. The Circumstance. This is presented clearly here. It's interesting, and now I'm waiting for the conflict. There Theodora is introduced to Emperor Justinian. He wants her. This is the intro to the conflict. I'd start a new paragraph with this sentence.
But Theodora can be Empress or mother, not both. The conflict. Group with previous two sentences
The Emperor needs a wife who can provide him with an heir, not a woman with a son to tangle the line to the throne.Not sure that you need this line of explanation. Theodora must decide what’s more important: pleasing the emperor who claims to love her or keeping the son he can never know about. This is the twist. However, you could word it as a question to create more intrigue. What will Theodora do? Saying she needs to decide what is important, doesn't give it a lot of energy, as all readers would agree the son is more important. I think Theodora knows this too. What is her true angst? Can she deceive the Emperor and keep her son hidden risking exposure and execution or should she flee with her son, even though it means returning to a harder life? (Something like this. She needs a hard choice.) A question will keep your readers turning pages to find out, and hopefully your new agent too!
THEODORA: MISTRESS OF BYZANTIUM is historical fiction complete at 100,000 words. As stated before, I would put this at the beginning.
I am a history teacher who has traveled to Istanbul for research and am currently at work on my next novel about XXXX, one of England’s notorious and charismatic medieval queens. Perfect tidbit about Stephanie and she's also showing the agent that she has more than one book in her.
Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.
Thanks again, Stephanie for submitting your query for critique.
What do you think? Do you have advice for Stephanie?
Feel free to post your query in the comments if you'd like a critique--Elle style.