Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Wed & Writing: 8th Try (PLEASE HELP)!!!

First of all, thanks to everyone for all the comments last week. Since most of them were about the projections and I don't think that's the focus of the book, I've completely rewritten the query. Eight times to be exact, including three versions I never intended to use because they were from different characters' povs. So now, I'm asking again, please critique my query.
Dear Agent:
Three people have become connected in a web of secrets, but only two should have ever known each other. Brandi O’Malley is the girl next door. Laurent Stephens grew up in the house beside her and has made a hobby of tormenting her. Damian Cooper is a mystery man with an alleged dark side.
When the handsome charmer, Damian, dances into Brandi’s life, Laurent’s actions go from cruel to protective. Laurent knows what he’s protecting her from. A secret he will never tell for fear of turning their love-hate relationship to pure hate.
Brandi knows phantom flames want to whisk Laurent away forever. She can’t mention this because she would have to admit her family bears an ancient curse causing her to sometimes live in a moment that hasn’t happened yet. A moment that unfolds to be watched like a play.
To fight the flames she must uncover the secrets. Failing is not an option because a phantom fire wants to steal the love of her life.
Phantom Fires is a young adult urban fantasy complete at 104,000 words. I look forward to hearing back from you and appreciate your time.


  1. The first sentence doesn't particularly grab me because it doesn't say anything specific. I would cut it.

    The introduction of the characters is also not specific enough. You want: Name, age, what they're up to at the beginning of the novel.

    Then, the inciting incident. Tell us the secret.

    And tell us what the Phantom Fire is...

    Remember, in queries you should be specific. Give us the details.


  2. Beth,

    Your writing has really improved on this draft. It's clean and very clear. Now here's what I suggest to make it a grabber query. Start with the action and not the backstory. What's your protagonist's first major choice? What will happen if she chooses wrong? Then go into the characters and how they relate.

    Good luck, Lee

  3. Hey Beth. I agree with Elena and Lee. I would add that I've heard a novel of this length is going to cause some head shaking in the agent world. I've been told that 100,000 words is too long for a first timer. Most agents want to see 60,000 to 80,000 or so,but it just depends. Good luck! I hate writing queries. I think I've revised four thousand times already. Gah!

  4. I agree with everyone's comments above. Looking at it with a copy editing eye, you don't want to use past tense in your query and avoid "to be" verbs.

    This sentence --> "Laurent knows what he’s protecting her from. A secret he will never tell for fear of turning their love-hate relationship to pure hate." works better like this ---> "Laurent is protecting her from a secret he'll never reveal for fear of turning...)

    I don't under stand the "phantom flames" - make that clearer

    This ---> "A moment that unfolds to be watched like a play." would do better like this ---> A moment that unfolds like a play.

    Don't try to over write. Make it simple and clear. I hope this helps - I'm reworking mine too and it's definitely hard when your so close to the story. Good luck!! :D

  5. I agree with all the above comments. I think Brenda had some very good suggestions. A heads up about the publishing world. I write high fantasy that has always wanted between 130,000 and 180,000 words until this year. Now it is 80,000.
    N. R. Williams, fantasy author

  6. I agree with the others. It needs to grab me more - think tagline - and explain the phantom flames. I assume it's a fire Brandi sees in the future, but you know what they say happens when you assume.

  7. I hesitate to comment here because I'm guessing you have a newer version. I'll keep an eye out for your latest one... I do agree that the first sentence here is not powerful enough, but the query length is great and I like how you start off with the actual story.