Critique My Query Contest

It feels so great to go from 6 followers to over 100 in the month since I joined Rachael Harrie’s Platform Building Campaign, I’m querulous. No, wait. I am not complaining or peevish about all my fabulous followers. I rejoice100% over you. It’s querying that makes me querulous. Don’t we all complain and grumble about having to query, about writing queries, about editing queries, about deciding where to send them, about waiting for the replies, and about the rejections? Doesn’t the whole query process stink?

Queries make a huge argument in favor of self-publishing. But I don’t want to spend all my time self-marketing. So I promised myself that when I reached 100 blog followers, I would start querying again. Before the campaign, I sent 6 and received 4 rejections within hours. One I got the next day, and the last I never heard back from. I wondered if it was because they all laughed their heads off at my measly following more than my book concept or lack of previous publication. I had such trepidation I decided to post my query on my blog for public criticism.
  
So step right up, folks! Come one, come all. Critique my query to your heart’s content to win a manuscript or query and synopsis critique from me (explanation after the query). I want to get mine polished for the main event. Are you ready? Curtains open: 

Dear Agent (yes, I know the real name goes here),

My first novel is a complete 50000 word SF middle grade adventure. In ERTH WON, Boy Scouts fight to save Erth One’s Heartland from total heartbreak—death for a sentient planet. 

Boy Scout Morgan Earhart is desperate to stop the jocks from bullying him when he finds a distress message from the first earth trying to recruit him as an Erth Scout. Erth One claims Morgan’s talent for rhyme gives him the ability to control powerful crystals which can heal its poisoned Heart Well by rearranging matter. Yet Morgan loses all control before he can choose between his recreation, a race against the bullies, and a world’s re-creation. His alter-ego takes over and the bullies attack. 

Morgan’s near death leads him through the Nulland Void to Erth One. There his jealous alter-ego, MT, uses adverse to turn him into a two-faced monster. Both must fight vengeful just desserts and rescue friends from addictive towbackhoes to reach the poisoned well.But once MT splits their whole body apart, Morgan may have to abandon his new girlfriend to fight the weave-ill in Green Witch Village. Worse, he realizes only taking back everything he hates about himself can prevent his dying a double death, both body and spirit, along with the planet.

I am an active member of Emerald Coast Writers (ECW) and SCBWI. My short story, The Good Hare Day, took first place in ECW’s last contest. My scientific BS, Boy Scout leader, military and teaching experience help me with world building and marketing. Although I polished ERTH WON as a standalone, both seventh grade classes I used as my last critique group submitted anonymous written reviews stating a 94% desire for more books in the potential series.

Since ERTH TOO is half finished and I have one complete picture book text and a YA paranormal in progress, I am looking for a career manager. I accept advice with sincere gratitude. Thank you for reading this multiple submission. I hope you didn’t consider it punishment.

Sher A. Hart 

Address

Phone


Added note: Leave your comment below for an entry in my 100 follower critique contest to include:
1. your email address in case you win
2. helpful criticism/comment. Each idea earns you an extra entry.  They do not have to be in separate comments, just separate subjects/idea of things I can do to improve the query. Limit 10 entries for the random drawing. Impress me enough and you could be the most helpful critique winner.


What you can win: 
1. 10 pages (times roman, double space, 12 font) manuscript critique or
2. One page query critique and 2 page single space synopsis critique.

The contest ends on 10/15, midnight, US central time. Don’t forget to leave your email address along with your comments.

Share A Heart

Indie author-friendly freelance editor, children's book blogger for picture books through YA, kid lit, SF/fantasy lover with special fondness for middle grade, pun-loving SCBWI member, meter-maid for poetry and rhyming picture books.

6 Comments:

  1. “Boy Scout Morgan Earhart is desperate to stop the jocks from bullying him when he finds a distress message from the first earth trying to recruit him as an Erth Scout.”

    This is a strong opening sentence. It gives us a glimpse of who Morgan is, what his motivation is (stopping the jocks from bullying him) and introduces the premise of the story. It’s definitely a grabber. I’m wondering what happened to the ‘first earth’ and what being an Erth Scout entails. So I’m drawn to read on.

    “Erth One claims Morgan’s talent for rhyme gives him the ability to control powerful crystals which can heal its poisoned Heart Well by rearranging matter.”

    Here I have a little bit of confusion. Is the first earth, Erth One? Because I’m inclined to separate the two because of the spelling. If they are the same, then I would suggest keeping the spelling consistent. If they are different, then I would suggest giving a little information about how and why they are different.

    “Yet Morgan loses all control before he can choose between his recreation, a race against the bullies, and a world’s re-creation. His alter-ego takes over and the bullies attack.”

    What’s his recreation? I don’t think that is mentioned, unless it’s him being a boy scout. I have a point of reference from above about his having bullies to contend with, so that’s fine and about the world’s re-creation and I can see you’re going for a pun between recreation and re-creation but without prior reference to the recreation it doesn’t work for me. As for the second sentence, again I don’t have a reference for his alter-ego. What alter-ego? And how is it relevant to the story? Perhaps ‘The bullies attack and his alter ego takes over’ followed by a short sentence explaining why that is important. If it’s not important for us to know what that entails, I’d leave out the reference altogether.

    “Morgan’s near death leads him through the Nulland Void to Erth One. There his jealous alter-ego, MT, uses adverse to turn him into a two-faced monster.”

    Okay so here I see that the alter-ego is important, so I really do think you need more of an explanation in the previous paragraph. I like the idea of verse and adverse. Kind of a mirror effect.

    “Both must fight vengeful just desserts and rescue friends from addictive towbackhoes to reach the poisoned well. But once MT splits their whole body apart, Morgan may have to abandon his new girlfriend to fight the weave-ill in Green Witch Village. Worse, he realizes only taking back everything he hates about himself can prevent his dying a double death, both body and spirit, along with the planet.”

    I think you’re putting too much into this one paragraph. I can see you’d like to show off your puns, but I think you can leave some of it out (and therefore leave them for the readers to find and enjoy later). For instance, the part about leaving his new girlfriend … we don’t know he has one so you could leave that out altogether. The first and last sentences are really the important parts of the story, the other looks like sub-plot so I’d definitely scratch it.

    The rest of the query looks fine to me. Good job and good luck with it. Hope my comments help. Take what’s useful and throw the rest over your shoulder with a pinch of salt. It’s only opinion after all! 🙂

  2. Best query advice is to lead with your hook. Put your first graph at the end after your blurb. And this sentence: Boy Scout Morgan Earhart is desperate to stop the jocks from bullying him when he finds a distress message from the first earth trying to recruit him as an Erth Scout.
    Is too long. There’s too much going on. It’s unclear what being bullied has to do with getting a distress message.

    The following graphs read like a synopsis. IMO, tighten to just your hook, tell us the stakes and finish. If you haven’t posted on Agent Query Connect or Query Tracket yet for more crits, go for it. Also, Jen over at The Query Goblin is a great critter.

    I don’t need a critique right now but thanks! Good luck!

  3. “My first novel is a complete 50000 word SF middle grade adventure.”

    This is called housekeeping and it is best done at the end of the query.

    In ERTH WON, Boy Scouts fight to save Erth One’s Heartland from total heartbreak—death for a sentient planet.

    Omit this line.

    Your real story begins with “Boy Scout Morgan Earhart is desperate to stop the jocks from bullying him when he finds a distress message from the first earth trying to recruit him as an Erth Scout.”

    This should be your opening line as it’s good and introduces us to the character.

    “Erth One claims Morgan’s talent for rhyme gives him the ability to control powerful crystals which can heal its poisoned Heart Well by rearranging matter. Yet Morgan loses all control before he can choose between his recreation, a race against the bullies, and a world’s re-creation. His alter-ego takes over and the bullies attack.”

    This is all back story and does not belong in a query.

    You need to rewrite the next paragraph. Perhaps something like:

    “Morgan begins a journey where he is forced to team up with a jealous alter ego to rescue his friends and to reach a mystical well languishing from a poison that only he can cure.” And then omit everything else. It has too much backstory and is too much of an information dump.

    Morgan’s near death leads him through the Nulland Void to Erth One. There his jealous alter-ego, MT, uses adverse to turn him into a two-faced monster. Both must fight vengeful just desserts and rescue friends from addictive towbackhoes to reach the poisoned well. But once MT splits their whole body apart, Morgan may have to abandon his new girlfriend to fight the weave-ill in Green Witch Village. Worse, he realizes only taking back everything he hates about himself can prevent his dying a double death, both body and spirit, along with the planet.

    I am an active member of Emerald Coast Writers (ECW) and SCBWI. My short story, The Good Hare Day, took first place in ECW’s last contest. My scientific BS, Boy Scout leader, military and teaching experience help me with world building and marketing. Although I polished ERTH WON as a standalone, both seventh grade classes I used as my last critique group submitted anonymous written reviews stating a 94% desire for more books in the potential series.

    Since ERTH TOO is half finished and I have one complete picture book text and a YA paranormal in progress, I am looking for a career manager. I accept advice with sincere gratitude. Thank you for reading this multiple submission. I hope you didn’t consider it punishment.

    Omit the very last line.

    Sher A. Hart
    Address
    Phone
    E-mail: sherahart at gmail dot com
    Website: http://www.sherahart.com

    I hope that helps. Feel free to email me if you have questions. It’s difficult to edit this using only the comment box.

  4. In the first paragraph I would delete this “My first novel is a complete 50000 word SF middle grade adventure. In ERTH WON,” and just leave the statement sentence.

    I would move “My first novel is a complete 50000 word SF middle grade adventure.” to the bottom paragraph and just say “My SF MG novel ERTH WON is complete at 50000.”

    The summary paragraphs are good (

    Also I would leave out the part about the 7th graders. Most agents don’t find that helpful.

    Can’t figure out how to follow blog. Will work on that.

  5. I would definitely leave out the last paragraph and move info about ERTH ONE down there. When I skimmed this, it looked like you were querying a half-finished project –egads! And definitely do not put yourself down, you need to project confidence! Leave out the punishment, and that you accept advice, it makes you sound like a novice (I know you’re just trying to be modest, but this doesn’t help your cause.) Otherwise, I agree with other critiquers.

  6. Normally I put housekeeping after the hook, but some agents prefer to see it up front. It’s your call and I don’t think it’ll hurt you either way, so long as the information is somewhere in the query letter.

    I wouldn’t phrase is as my first novel – agents don’t need to know if it’s your first or your fifty-first novel. ERTH WON is a 50000-word SF MG adventure standalone story with series potential. That’s what I would recommend you use as your housekeeping, regardless of whether it’s up front or after the pitch part.

    I would delete the In ERTH WON line.

    For your hook, focus on the inciting incident. What is the most important thing that happens to Morgan? Is it the bullying? The distress message? Does he really have the ability to control crystals? The crystal part is really interesting but then they aren’t mentioned again. If the crystals aren’t that important, maybe you should delete them out of the query.

    He loses all control while doing what? Why would he recreate himself? Can you give more details about how his alter-ego takes over? And what causes him to be near death? The girlfriend seems like a non sequitur, I don’t think you need to mention her. I also don’t think the Both must fight line is needed.

    Focus on the inciting incident, the conflict, Morgan’s goals and motivations. That should be the crux of your pitch. I hope some of this is helpful!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • Notice

    All content is copyrighted and may not be used in any form without proper credit and links. For purposes other than charity or education, printed materials require prior written consent. Disclaimer: Most books were provided free in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.