Sunday, November 7, 2021


Dear QueryShark:

College is supposed to be full of new experiences, but a failed assassination attempt shouldn’t be one of them. At least, that’s Anna Michael’s opinion.



You want your first sentence to be as taut and compelling as possible.

Reordering the sentences will help with that:


College is supposed to be full of new experiences, but 

A failed assassination attempt shouldn’t be one of the new experiences of college.  


This is awkwardly worded but you get the idea. Start with the thing that's going to hook your reader's attention. 


 But when you look at that revised sentence, it still doesn't really do the job well, does it?


Revision is almost never one and done (well, typos: fix and finished)

So, let's remember that starting with the main character's name is almost always a good idea.


Anna Michaels wasn't expecting an attempt on her life to be one of her new college experiences

Still not great, but that's also the nature of revision.

So let's reorder the elements again:


Anna Michaels didn't think one of her new college experiences would be surviving an attempt on her life.



You prod and poke and try a gazillion ways to make this sound taut and compelling.


 Once you think you've got it, let it rest for at least a day, then go back the next day and look at it with fresh eyes.


At least, that’s Anna Michael’s opinion.

I think we can all agree this is not something we think is a benefit of enrolling in college.

The problem with starting with something as attention getting as a failed assassination attempt is that your reader is keen to know what happens next.


And if you don't provide that info, the reader is disappointed.


There is no connection between how you start and the next paragraph.

All Anna wants is to find her father’s murderer and protect her mother. 

And what does this have to do with her going to college? 

Did you include college to signal her age?

I think that's going to confound you if college is never mentioned again.


And now she’s fleeing her hometown with two strangers who claim to know her better than she knows herself. They introduce her to a world that exists alongside her own, a world where a girl can walk through walls and a boy can affect time.


Unless walking through walls and affecting time are gender-specific abilities you might reconsider how you describe them.

She uncovers a forgotten childhood where she grew up surrounded by magic . . . as the daughter of the king and queen. And a deadly coup has just made Anna the sole member of the monarchy. 

being specific usually helps your reader get a fuller picture. Anna is the sole surviving member of the monarchy not just the sole member.

The strangers, Brie and her brother Max, want Anna to save the magical community. It means discovering who wants to end the monarchy—and why. Were they responsible for the death of her father? As Anna gets involved deeper and deeper into the insurgency . . . she might not be on the right side of this war after all. 

Really? Why?

What's at stake here?

The King and Queen are dead, Anna is the next in line.

So what?

In other words, what happens if she isn't on the right side?

What's at stake for her? For the kingdom?

Max knows more about her altered memories than he’s willing to tell her. Even though she trusts him with her life, maybe even falls in love with him, she knows she shouldn’t. A relationship with him would mean forfeiting the crown and everything they’re fighting for.

Anna must decide if finding her father’s killer and stepping into the role of queen is worth the sacrifice of her identity and family, when she’s already lost her parents and the woman who raised her. She learns one thing: It will be the death of Anna Michaels.

Long live the Queen.

SIX & TIME (123,000)  is a New Adult


New Adult isn't really a category you want to use.

It started off being just what you'd think it would be: books for people who are post-YA. Then it morphed into something more like erotica light: 50 Shades of Something Wicked This Way Comes kinda thing.


If your main characters are college age, this is adult fantasy.


But the problem here is that you're describing a book that uses many themes associated with YA.


Confusing indeed.

When agents are confused, they pass.  Clarity is essential in a query.

contemporary fantasy novel complete at 123,000 words.  

You don't need to say it's complete. That's assumed.


This is the first in a planned series. It will appeal to fans of Avatar: the Last Airbender and The Ash Princess (by Laura Sebastian).


Always include the author with the title of your comp books.

Titles are not subject to copyright; more than one book can be called The QueryShark's Guide to Tasteful Writers.


Also The Ash Princess is YA.  Your comps must be on the same shelf as your book. (You'll gnash your teeth trying to find NA comps, which is another indicator you need to revise the ages, or the category)


While I work with numbers as a tax professional during the day, I am ruled by writing at all hours.


This is the kind of hyperbolic statement that makes you sound like an amateur.

I hope you've got a life other than writing.


This is the kind of thing that makes you sound LESS enticing not more.


Leave it for another forum.


 I am pursuing my Master in Fine Arts with a focus in Creative Writing. (you might want to add which school)

Thank you for your consideration. 




- Here's where I shoot myself in the foot. This book can NOT stand alone. I know, I know. But I reached 100,000 at the "halfway" mark of the original novel, so I decided to split it in two with a cliffhanger ending.


Talk about one quick way to make your readers HATE YOU.


Back in the day when cliffhangers were more the norm, you only had to wait a week to find out what happened.


There can be a year between Book One and Book Two.

Some are faster, but the fastest I've ever seen was three months.


You're asking NEW fans to wait three months to resolve things?

This is a recipe for disaster. And disaster these days means being trashed on Goodreads, Amazon and any other forum people can use to complain in.


The closest I've read to a cliffhanger recently was Lee Child's 61 Hours (pubbed March 18, 2010) and resolved in Worth Dying For (October 19, 2010). It was his 14th book, not his debut.


I could always remove a subplot or two, but part of the reason why this novel works is it takes the tired "royal chosen one with elemental magic" trope and turns it around - without the layers, this book is generic as hell. 


 It would help if that were on the page here, but it's not.



Revise and resend.