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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Query Critique: SHROUDED GODDESS

Hi All!

Sorry for the delay in posting! Yesterday was a rough one. But, without further ado, I give you a query for analysis. (And please do feel free to add your (NICE!!!) critique in the comments.) I added my overall thoughts in red beneath the original version, and then specific comments as a critique. Finally, I reworked the query using the information I could glean from the query to show how focusing works.

Original Version:



Dear [Agent's name]

I am seeking representation for my manuscript SHROUDED GODDESS, a 71,000 word YA fantasy set in a world that mirrors South America during the Portuguese colonization of the sixteenth century.

Seventeen-year-old Sophia de Paula sings like a rainforest bird, but her most marriageable quality is her Peetanguara descent. The so-called Easterner nobility wed red wives to recruit native laborers for the sugarcane fields, and Sophia’s fair, noble cousin needs her in order to claim the family barony. But she would rather drown like her brother than marry someone who keeps trying to take her by force.

When her native grandmother entreats her to awaken Ig, the Water Goddess, and save the rainforest tribes from the conquering Easterners, Sophia leaps at the chance to flee her controlling Easterner relatives. No one has seen Ig for fifty years, since the blond invaders arrived from across the sea. But, disappointingly, the Goddess Sophia awakens turns out to be more interested in Easterner fashion than the devastation of the rainforest and the tribes.

Apart from bestowing water-controlling powers on Sophia, Ig’s advice is to seek another deity, a powerful Goddess no one knew existed, and ask her to bring peace to the land once and forever. Ig’s quest will send Sophia deep into the rainforest the Easterners keep burning, and if she doesn’t succeed, marriage to her cousin will be the least of her worries. If she fails, Sophia’s tribe will perish at the hands of the conquerors who married into her family.

With Avatar waterbending in the rainforest, SHROUDED GODDESS will appeal to fans of Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha series.

I was born in Brazil and now live in Florida where I work with science fiction in test tubes at [where I work].

As per your website guidelines, the first chapter and synopsis are pasted below. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,
[Redacted]


My Critique: 


Overall:

I like that it’s a fantasy outside of the usual European fare and I know a lot of agents are looking for non-European fantasy. BUT I do think your query needs focusing. You need to remember that the person reading this probably has zero clues about what’s going on here, so you need to make sure everything is understood, or that the query unfolds in a way that’s easier to understand.


The complicated things and terms that get explained in the book can probably be left out of the query.
Also, I feel like your query’s reading too much like a synopsis. (A short one, I know, but a synopsis all the same.) What you want here is a short summary of what makes your story an awesome read. If the agent wants more detail, he/she will ask for it.

Instead, you need to focus your query around the following:

Intro: Who’s Sophia in the beginning of the story? Also, I’d suggest including a bit about her relationship to the Easterners.
Inciting incident: What changes things for Sophia and kicks off the story?
Goal: What is the main goal as a result?
Conflict: What’s preventing her from just achieving the goal?
Stakes: What happens if she fails?

Choice: What choices does she have? (If any.) 

Specific: 

Dear [Agent's name]

I am seeking representation for my manuscript SHROUDED GODDESS, a 71,000 word YA fantasy set in a world that mirrors South America during the Portuguese colonization of the sixteenth century. [
I think that, when it comes to catching an agent’s attention, it’s better to het right into the query’s hook. This should be the last or second to last paragraph.]

Seventeen-year-old Sophia de Paula sings like a rainforest bird [
Not important], but her most marriageable quality is her Peetanguara descent. [ Means nothing to someone who hasn’t read the book/doesn’t know the mythology.] The so-called Easterner nobility wed red wives to recruit native laborers for the sugarcane fields, [ Is this the explanation of her descent and of her relations with the easterners?] and Sophia’s fair, noble cousin needs her in order to claim the family barony. [Not sure how he could need her so this only confuses things.] But she would rather drown like her brother than marry someone who keeps trying to take her by force. [Interesting, but not relevant to the query.]

When her native grandmother entreats her to awaken Ig, the Water Goddess, and save the rainforest tribes from the conquering Easterners, Sophia leaps at the chance to flee her controlling Easterner relatives. No one has seen Ig for fifty years, since the blond invaders arrived from across the sea. But, disappointingly, the Goddess Sophia awakens turns out to be more interested in Easterner fashion than the devastation of the rainforest and the tribes. [Interesting, but later on, it’s clear that this isn’t technically the inciting incident, which means it’s taking up space in your query without actually adding to it.] 

Apart from bestowing water-controlling powers on Sophia, Ig’s advice is to seek another deity, a powerful Goddess no one knew existed, and ask her to bring peace to the land once and forever. [The inciting incident is in here somewhere.] Ig’s quest will send Sophia deep into the rainforest the Easterners keep burning, and if she doesn’t succeed, [Conflict, but with the above paragraph gone, you could probably make more of it.] marriage to her cousin will be the least of her worries. If she fails, Sophia’s tribe will perish at the hands of the conquerors who married into her family. [Stakes.]

With Avatar waterbending in the rainforest, [I’d cut this.] SHROUDED GODDESS will appeal to fans of Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha series.

I was born in Brazil and now live in Florida where I work with science fiction in test tubes at [where I work].

As per your website guidelines, the first chapter and synopsis are pasted below. Thank you for your time and consideration.


Sincerely,
[Redacted]

Rough Draft Query From Gleaned Info:


Dear [Insert Agent Name Here], 

Sophia de Paula might be related to the Easterners invading her rainforests, but as far as she’s concerned, they’re not welcome there. 

She wakes up Ig the Water Goddess to stop them. Instead, Ig sends Sophia into the rainforest in search of another deity she never even knew existed. Finding this goddess might mean ensuring peace for Sophia’s country, but the quest will send Sophia deep into the rainforest while the Easterners are burning it down around her. 

But on the quest she must go, because if Sophia doesn’t bring the goddess back, her tribe will have no defense against the Easterners' weapons.  

It would just have been nice if she was sure the goddess is real. 

SHROUDED GODDESS is a YA Fantasy set in a world based on South America during Portuguese colonization. It is complete at 71,000 words and will appeal to fans of Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha series.

I was born in Brazil and now live in Florida where I work with science fiction in test tubes at [where I work].

The first chapter and synopsis are included below as per submission guidelines. 

Thank you for your time. 

Regards, 

[Redacted]



Anyone have advice to add? Please feel free to critique my query as well and to suggest improvements. 

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1 comment:

Huntress said...

Good tips.

The word 'descent' threw me. I thought it meant going down. The dictionary proved me wrong.

Learn something new everyday.