Saturday, April 10, 2010

Killer Angels

I was hoping you could look over my query. Feel free to post it on your site if you wish.
I offer the warning in my sidebar because an honest look at what an editor is thinking while reading a query is often NOT what people want. Indeed, some authors' queries are like Roy Schneider dangling red meat over the side of a boat.

Information, however, is power-- and more power to all authors!
Dear Editor,

For seventeen-year-old Nicola Summers, finding her boyfriend Tristan chained to the driveway after being mugged by a street gang was not part of the plan.
No kidding, really? That wasn't part of the plan?

Something "wasn't part of the plan" is a terrible cliche in queries. Still, we might forgive it if it's used acceptably--this isn't. This is akin to saying "Being enslaved by alien Elvis clones was not part of the plan." I think I can safely say that no one has EVER planned for this.
Beaten and knowing the rain is underway, he rejects Nicola’s help.
What? The rain is underway? What does that mean?
Determined, Nicola tries to liberate him, but when the rain arrives and hits his kin, she witnesses the impossible: out of thin air, Tristan sprouts wings.
Oh, you meant "on the way" not "underway". (And I assume you meant "skin" not "kin".) But that sentence would still have been confusing even with the right phrase in it.

"Out of thin air" is another cliche. (Was it really out of thin air? Or... was it out of his shoulders?)
Consumed by an animalistic instinct to protect his identity, Tristan attacks the person he holds most dear and nearly ends her life.
That is not what "animalistic" means.
But after the encounter with her winged-monster-of-a-boyfriend, Nicola’s not sure who to trust with the information—who would ever believe her?
The people who see the bruises? Wounds? Angel dust?

Which makes me wonder, how does he nearly end her life? He didn't try to drown her in a puddle, did he? There must be marks?
She can’t decide whether to pack her bags and move with her mother or finding him.
I know this kind of verb tense inconsistency is an easy mistake to make when you've rewritten something a lot, but it makes it look like you don't understand grammar.
When she seeks answers with the help of her best friend, Tara, Nicola finds herself near a truth that is more terrifying and heartbreaking than anything she imagined.
Just "near" the truth?
First, Tara reveals she is Tristan’s sister.
That doesn't sound terrifying or heartbreaking.
Second, Nicola discovers she is only alive because Tristan unconsciously chose her as his soul mate.
Neither does that. Kinda creepy and stalker-ish, though, since how in heck can she not have a say about who her soulmate is?
And third, he’s dying.
Ah, that's the heartbreaking part, I guess?
Tristan elected staying in his human form
Another verb/grammar problem. For editors, one is a typo; two is Highly Worrying; and three is Oh Hell No.
to prevent his kin of angels from seeing his memories and killing Nicola for what she knows. But how is Nicola supposed to save him when he is dying to save her? TITLE REDACTED, a YA fantasy novel is complete at 90,000 words.
Since when do angels kill people for knowing about them?

We in publishing are getting pretty tired of paranormal romance, including the recent sub-trend in angels, but we do generally tire of trends much faster than the reading public, who are less aware of them.

So you may be able to sell this, even though it's not clear whether you're doing anything markedly different from Hush Hush and Fallen (etc). But this query needs to be clearer and much better proofread, and I'm guessing your novel may need those things, too.

Good luck!


Christine said...

Wow, that was interesting. Most interesting to me is that agents are tiring of angels/paranormal beastie stories.

I'm glad. I think it's time for a new twist on an old theme.

Claire Dawn said...

When I read that the rain was underway, and then found out that it hit his kin, I thought the rain was a mafia/yakuza organisation and it offed his family. Is something wrong with me?

The aspiring authors should be glad that I'm not an editor. I appall even myself!

Anonymous said...

Reading sites like QueryShark, I can't help but notice that there are an awful lot of variations of this plot out there.

Count me as one reader eagerly awaiting a YA novel with a female protagonist who can get all worked up about something *other* than her boyfriend.

Lisa Desrochers said...

I resemble that remark. =) There are tons of YA angel books coming out in the next year. I should know, mine's one of them. But you have to be very careful. Mine was written before either Hush, Hush or Fallen were out, and is really more of a demon book with angels in it. There probably is still room for YA angels, but the concept has to be original.

It seems to me that the biggest issue with this query, aside from the grammar, is that it doesn't make sense. There's obviously something important about "the rain" and "kin" but it's totally lost on the reader. Working with a critique group would be a really great way to clean up the book and the query.

Anonymous said...

All I have to say is... that was hilarious to read. I'm glad I stopped by.
I plan to be getting horribly drunk before I send a query out.

ae said...

It is Scheider. (I know... that scene really cut thro/ugh me). :)

Michael Grant said...

Since when do angels kill people for knowing about them?

Do you know any angels? Have you ever met anyone who did?


Editorial Anonymous said...

Christine, I said we're tired of them, not that we're going to stop publishing them. The way publishing works is to keep publishing a topic until it's clear EVERYONE ELSE is tired of it, too.

Michael, point taken-- lots of people BELIEVE in angels, but I suppose that is a different thing from KNOWING about them, especially if they are in reality vicious (beatifically glowing) murderers.

TK Roxborogh said...

'Most interesting to me is that agents are tiring of angels/paranormal beastie stories.'

One reviewer of my book said this:it certainly has elements reminiscent of Meyer's Twilight series - tortured adolescents, homour versus love, supernatural influence - but thankfully it also has strong female characters and a likeable, principled hero. Who knows whether thanes and kings will become the new vampires, but it's certainly an appealing thought.'

Vikings seem to be a hit as well. The Maori warrior/tapu/spririts and gods - lots there worth mining. See Karen Healey's 'Guardian of the Dead' or David Hair's 'The Bone Tiki' and 'The Taniwha's Tear' - much better than vampires or werewolves.

Elly said...

Wait. Did you say this could be SOLD?!

Well. It's time for me to jump on the angel/werewolf/vampire train and churn out some grammatically questionable, cliche-ridden drivel.

And I thought it was so hard to be publishable.

Anonymous said...

Tristan elected staying in his human form to prevent his kin of angels from seeing his memories and killing Nicola for what she knows.

Since when do angels kill people for knowing about them?

Talk about a confusing query. When I first read it, I thought that since Nicola didn't know about Tristan and Tara until after Tristan decided to protect her, the angels wanted to kill Nicola over something else that she knows - something she's may not even be aware that she knows? But in reading it again, I'm not so sure.

nauthor said...

From a purely technical standpoint I would like to know how you chain somebody to a driveway.

(Just in case any angels ever get all up in my face and stuff.)

Anonymous said...

I don't understand how angels can have relatives. Aren't they like - supernatural beings, created by god before the existence of earth, not born of parents?

I mean... siblings? Do they also have birthday parties and play baseball? That seems a bit farfetched.

The Swivet said...

Yeah, about 70% of the queries I get everyday read that way: incomprehensible. Oy!

Leslie said...

Yeah, what nauthor said. Sounds like a trip to the hardware store had to happen first. And what kind of driveway? If it was blacktop, I guess you could sink some eye-bolts (, and then attach the chain to the bolt. But if it's a concrete driveway, you'd probably have to cut a hole in it first, then set your eye-bolts or rings in fresh concrete. Placement would be another issue: either put those eye-bolts on the edge of the driveway, or flag them so you don't drive over them (that's got to be hard even on truck tires).

OK! So we've got the chained-to-drive . . .er, chained-to-the-edge-of-the-driveway thing worked out!


Anonymous said...

Question: Do we even care about the driveway? Isn't the interesting part that rain makes this guy grow wings?

"Seventeen-year-old Nicola's boyfriend has a secret: when water touches him, he sprouts wings."


Most of the comments have been about clarity, and I agree that's important, but I would also recommend focusing the query on what is most interesting.


So ... Boyfriend sprouted wings and tried to kill Girlfriend, and in fact would have, had he not unconsciously chose her as his soulmate ...

And now Girlfriend wants to be with him forever and ever, even though she was brutally attacked by Boyfriend, because ... why? She's so terribly in love with him? She's his soulmate? He's so bad ass?

I'm super confused.

And is her bestie a killer angel, too? (Maybe you mentioned it and I glanced over it in the query.)

This girl sure knows how to choose her company!

Eric S said...

This can be sold? Really? Or are you just being kind? 'Cause it seems to me that after you strip away the physical difficulties of chaining someone to a driveway, and cliches such as 'not part of the plan,' you are left with poor writing (underway instead of on the way!) and a plot that makes no sense.

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