Dear Query Shark:
Lily Carter has hid her singing voice away for years for fear of rejection.
Lily Carter has hidden, not hid.
These kinds of mistakes can fell your query before you know it.
If grammar and syntax aren't your forte, it's ok. It's not a sign of bad writing, or low character.
Just recognize that it's a stumbling block and make friends with Miss Picklepuss, the copy editor from hell. She'll help you remove these gremlins. It might cost some money, but this is something you do want to invest in.
best friend (now ex-best friend )
you don't need both of these.
Your reader will intuit that they were once best friends if she's now the ex-best friend.
Watch for this kind of over-writing.
made it clear she should never sing in public
if she can
Suggest taking this last part out just to give the sentence more drama.
So Lily sings only when she's sure no one else can hear her. Imagine her embarrassment when the new kid in town catches her in the act.
Imagine her embarrassment takes us out of the narrative.
You're telling, not showing.
But embarrassed is such a tepid word for the plot point that's driving the narrative.
Here's a good place to get out the Thesaurus and dig around for more vivid words.
(and there are others, take your pick)
Already at odds with Jack Sutton after an encounter
him at school, Lily expects nothing but scorn from him.
Again, pare out what you don't need.
This is the meat and tater tots of revising. Early drafts are almost always too long. Pare out everything you don't need.
But instead of making fun of her, he compliments her, throwing all her preconceived notions about what a terrible singer she is into question.
It's NOT a preconceived notion, is it? It's what someone told her (someone with some sort of malevolent agenda it sounds like.)
Internal conflicts in a query are huge red flag. It tells me you don't have a handle on the plot, and the full manuscript may not hold together very well. Again, here's where Miss Picklepuss can be of great value.
Suddenly, the aggravating yet undeniably charming Jack
keeps is popping up all over the place. At school, at church, and then
there’s the real icing on the cake. It turns out that Jack is the brother of
her new best friend.
Do we need to know any of this?
This next sentence connects to the previous one more directly.
With a musical background himself and a dogged belief that Lily has talent, Jack makes it his mission to get Lily back on the horse. Or the stage, so to speak.
Jack has a musical background himself, and seems to think Lily has talent.
He makes it his mission to get Lily back on stage.
There's a LOT to be said for starting your sentences with the subject, not burying it in a clause.
As Lily spends more time with Jack and his spirited sister Cat, a self-consciousness Lily didn't even realize she had developed begins to mend.
She didn't realize she was self-conscious about her singing?
Are you serious here? That just doesn't make sense unless Lily is blindingly un-self aware.
She's literally stopped singing outside of the shower.
She even gets up the courage to enter the high school talent show thanks to a little prodding from Jack and his agreement to help her prepare for the show. When Jack starts giving her singing lessons, Lily slowly begins believing in herself again.
But Lily has a few obstacles to overcome. Like that pesky stage fright thing. Or the ex-best friend who unexpectedly resurfaces and tries to sabotage Lily’s chances. Or the growing feelings she’s developing for her best friend’s brother. Lily must rely on her friends, her family, and her new-found confidence in order to get ready for talent show day.
You've got a lot of stuff going on here, but not very much plot.
What's the problem here?
Lily has been told she shouldn't sing in public.
What problem does that create?
Then Jack comes along and tells her she does have a singing voice.
What problem does that solve?
TAKE A DEEP BREATH is a young adult novel complete at 60,000 words
You don't need to say it's complete.
And this just doesn't feel YA to me. There's no sense of Lily or Jack learning to navigate in the real world. There's no real romantic element.
that portrays the sarcastic, yet vulnerable Lily along with her lovable family and kindhearted friends.
Not in these pages she isn't.
A story of personal growth with a touch of romance, this novel is similar to Maybe This Time by Kasie West or Eyes on Me by Rachel Harris.
I am a small town Minnesota gal, where a person can go from wearing a sweatshirt and wool socks one day to a tank top and sandals the next. This is my first novel.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
you've got a lot of concept but not enough story.
You need more plot on the page. The problem Lily faces, and the choices to solve, and what's at stake.
It will help if we see those things for Jack too.
You've only got 60K here so you've a got a LOT of room to add more depth.
This query is a completely revised one from the one I started with as that one got me a couple of partial requests, but nothing serious. Now, since I've started using this query, I haven't even gotten a nibble.
In the first 53 words you have two problems that could lead to an immediate pass.
While agents aren't actively looking for reasons to pass if you give them two in short order, that's what's going to happen.
My first query was succinct but a bit commercial in my opinion. So I tried to offer a quirkier approach with this one.
A bit commercial isn't a bad thing. Agents are looking for things they can sell (ie commercial).
I did beef up my bio after reading your archives.
141 words is about 100 too many. See notes below. An extensive bio doesn't make up for problems in the query so lets focus on that.
You also stated in the archives that queries should have at least 2 comps. Is it okay to comp an author instead like I did?
No, see notes below
Dear Query Shark:
People are creatures of habit. They take the same route to school every day, they buy the same brand of soap they always do, and they listen to the same radio station, day in and day out. And they also sit at the same school desk every morning in first period English class.
When I read this, I have no idea if you're querying for fiction or non-fiction.
That's a big problem when agents are getting dozens of queries a week.
Big problem = pass.
It's more effective to start with the character's name and what problem she faces
At least, that’s what Lily Carter used to do.
People are creatures of habit.
Lily Carter is a creature of habit.
They take the same route to school every day, they buy the
same brand of soap they always do, and they listen to the same radio station,
day in and day out.
She takes the same route to school every day, buys the same brand of soap, listens to the same radio station, day in and day you.
And they also sit at
the same school desk every morning in first period English class. And sit at the same desk every morning in first period
But when you revise like this the real problem becomes very clear.
You're describing someone who doesn't sound very
interesting. In fact, she sounds dull as dishwater.
That's DEATH in a query, particularly in YA.
Death = pass.
Now, if there's a reason Lily is so methodical in her daily life, that would give her some depth.
Is this how she feels safe?
Did she read Gustave Flaubert and take his advice to heart: "Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work."
Let's give Lily some context here.
Until Jack Sutton just waltzed in and stole it right out from under her. The gentlemanly thing to do would have been to give it back. Instead, he refused to acknowledge her rightful claim of dibs and in the process managed to ruffle her feathers, push her buttons, flip her lid, and get her goat. If you know what I mean.
Because he sat in her chair?
Does this seem like a very intense reaction to something
that's essentially not important? It's not like he said her mum wears army boots.
So, Jack is the last person on earth that Lily wants witnessing her humiliating attempt at singing.
There's no connection here between Jack stealing her seat in English class and witnessing her humiliating attempt at singing.
How is it that Jack is in her life at all?
Lily has been very careful to keep her voice under wraps after receiving rejection at the hands of a close friend.
What was Lily trying to do that a close friend rejected her?
Specifics are much more compelling than generalities.
You don't want to be awash in too much detail, but you need more than you have here.
Surprisingly though, Jack challenges her belief of mediocrity.
What he actually does is challenge her belief that her singing is mediocre.
You need razor sharp, precise sentences in a query.
He actually begins to make her question a lot of things. Like the idea that the talent show is out of her league. Maybe, it's not. Maybe, she could even win it.
Although there is the small matter of that pesky stage fright thing…
So far, there's nothing interesting about Lily, and she sounds rather like a basket case. This is a HUGE problem in YA that is character driven.
As Lily gets closer to Jack and his spirited sister Cat, a self-consciousness Lily didn't even realize she had developed begins to mend. Thanks to a little prodding from her new friends, Lily signs up for the talent show.
What does Jack see in Lily that he's investing time and emotional support in her?
But someone from Lily's past is determined to see her fail.
This is absolutely out of left field. With no context it's like a big ink blot on the page.
Let's give the antagonist some more page time.
Lily must rely on her friends, her family, and her new-found confidence in order to overcome the obstacles in her way.
What obstacles? I thought there was an antagonist trying to thwart her.
Take a Deep Breath is a young adult novel complete at 60,000 words that portrays the sarcastic, yet vulnerable Lily along with her lovable family and kindhearted friends. A story of personal growth with a touch of romance, this novel will appeal to fans of Kasie West.
You need to use titles, not authors. Those titles need to be recent, no earlier than 2019.
Your bio is 141 words. Given a query should be 250-300 you've spent a larger percentage of your word count on your bio and not your book.
I am a small town Minnesota gal, where a person can go from wearing a sweatshirt and wool socks one day to a t-shirt and sandals the next. With a penchant for staying in every night with my two cats and a DVD collection to rival a Blockbuster store (are there any of those in existence anymore?) one might be tempted to call me an introvert. If it weren't for my extroverted husband, I just might be. Kudos to him for getting me out of my comfort zone and making friends with the outside world. Who knew I would enjoy things like pickleball and Korean BBQ? (not at the same time, for heaven's sake). This is my first novel and
I'm looking to team
up with an agent who can help an eager, wide-eyed newcomer navigate the ropes
of the literary world.
This kind of statement is counter-productive.
Agents see this as code for needy and naive. Even if you are these things, they're not
something you'd put in your bio.
Remember a query is also about the agent assessing if you're someone
they want to work with. Someone who clearly will need a lot of hand holding is less
likely to get a nod. Just leave this kind of statement out.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
This does not have enough edge to be YA.
It sounds middle grade to me.
There's no sense of Lily coming to terms with the larger world, or figuring out her place in it.
It's all character development and very light on plot.
There's not enough story on the page.