Monday, December 6, 2010

First Query Critique Ever!

The following is a query posted by Brandi of Blkosiner's Book Blog. Brandi has three versions of her query. I think that #3 is the strongest, so that’s the one I’ve used. Thanks for letting me critique your query Brandi! Here's the original:

When love hurts more than it helps, Meredith must give up the man she fell in love with as well as the man who hurts her.

Spiraling from the loss of her beloved father, seventeen year old Meredith meets alluring charmer Kaden. At first, he breaks down her isolation and depression, allowing her to open up to him and others outside her family for the first time.

But Kaden soon changes - and their relationship changes with it. He begins to hurt her physically and emotionally, closing out family and friends she's just let in. Controlled and desperate, Meredith knows not to fight back. If she does, he’ll hit her again- and this time he might hurt the baby.

Until she finds out she is pregnant. Forced to think about the life of her unborn baby as well as her own, Meredith knows she has to let Kaden go if any of them are going to have a chance at a happy future. Meredith must make the most difficult decisions of her life to come out stronger, and to learn who she really is.

Here it is again. I’ve gone over it line by line. My comments are italicized.

When love hurts more than it helps, Meredith must give up the man she fell in love with as well as the man who hurts her. (This has the potential to be a very good hook. I think it has to be a bit more powerful to convey the emotion of being in an abusive relationship. You use love twice as well as hurts twice. What are these characters really feeling? Does she adore him? Does she worship him? What damage does he do to her? I love the phrasing of the first part…When love hurts more than it helps…it’s very good as a hook lead in.)

Spiraling (Needs more, such as spiraling into depression or spiraling out of control) from the loss of her beloved father, seventeen year old Meredith meets (the, an) alluring charmer (,) Kaden. At first, he breaks down her (barriers of, wall of) isolation and depression, allowing her to open up to him and others outside her family (probably don’t need outside her family) for the first time. (ever, or since her father’s death? It’s unclear.)

But Kaden soon changes - and their relationship changes (uses changes twice; maybe transforms) with it (him…this is referring to Kaden?). He begins to hurt (word choice…abuse, mistreat) her physically and emotionally, closing out family and friends she's just let in. (How? This might be made more vivid with an example) Controlled (not sure if this is the right word to use here…maybe bullied, terrorized, tormented, frightened, oppressed)  and desperate, Meredith knows not to fight back. If she does, he’ll hit her again- and this time he might hurt the baby. (This sentence is out of place here…we’ve not discovered she is pregnant until the next paragraph. Maybe make it clear that the baby is unborn…here it sounds like the baby is already around. Also, saying “the baby” makes it impersonal…how about her baby or their unborn child. Using “her” will makes Meredith connected to her child, while using “their” will highlight the dependency she feels for Kaden.)

(What does Meredith do until she finds out she is pregnant? Does she live in fear, live day to day, accept her fate, pray?)Until she finds out she is pregnant. Forced to think about the life of her unborn baby as well as her own, Meredith knows she has to let Kaden go if any of them are going to have a chance at a happy future. Meredith must make the most difficult decisions (decision – although there may be more than one in the book, you’ve only highlighted one in the query) of her life to come out (come out is not horribly descriptive) stronger, and to learn who she really is. This last sentence is awkward, and there is no reason to tell the agent what she chooses. I assume she leaves him, but you could very well have taken the depressing route and had her stay. The agent needs to know, even though your potential reader does not. Maybe put more emphasis on her internal struggle, the decision she must make.

What is the name of your book? It needs to be apparent to an agent, along with the genre and word count.

One final comment…I absolutely love the name Kaden for your bad boyfriend character. It’s sweet and harsh at the same time.

Thanks again Brandi. I hope my critique is helpful and best luck finding an agent!

Tomorrow – Which agents to query

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