Monday, March 27, 2017

March Pass Or Pages Entry #1

It's feedback reveal time! We hope everyone reading can find something helpful as they work on writing their own query letters. Many, many thanks to the members of our agent panel for taking the time to critique these entries, and major props to the authors for putting themselves out there in the name of improvement. We salute you!

Entry #1: SUMMER


Hammond’s a programmer, an if/then warrior, with commitment issues. Then he meets an attractive woman at a Memorial Day Party who enjoys sketching, has no visible means of support, lacks any sense of propriety, loves waffles, and who might be a witch.[K1] So what's an affirmed bachelor to do?

He falls in love for the first time of course. Figures. [L1]

But Hammond can’t help himself. June helps him see things he wouldn’t have dreamed were possible, truths he didn’t know existed.[K2] Even facing his greatest fear – the mother of his girlfriend – can’t dampen his feelings for her. Only the accidental discovery of a hidden, magical world called Summer calls into question his sanity.[H1]

Now June is gone[H2] and her mother says she’s been forced to return to Summer to complete her part in an ancient pact. June is to be chosen as Dawn Goddess, and she must marry the Lord of Winter to renew Summer’s magic. Without that magic, Summer will die. And Hammond’s[K3] learns his own world is connected to Summer, and will die along with it. [L2]

Love is love, though, and Hammond wants her back. To do so, he must travel back into Summer and race to find her before the ceremony has been completed. But there’s always a catch. Mel and Fran want to come with him.[H3] And it’s not long before they’ve been separated and Hammond has been taken prisoner, leaving Fran and Mel to fend for themselves and find their way across a strange land. [L3][K4] Can the three friends succeed in Summer, where powerful forces face each other bent on forcing June to marry the Lord and save the realm… or kill her and steal the magic?[K5]

Can Hammond save June, his friends, and his heart without destroying two worlds?[H4] [L4]

SUMMER is a fantasy novel that is complete at 135,000 words. [L5] [K6]

Lisa's Notes:
[L1] I would caution on using this “voice” in the query. It doesn’t work for me.
[L2] You need to get here sooner. 
[L3] Overall, this is sounding more like a book summary than a pitch to hook me.  The query has gotten confusing, especially with these added characters, so I’m not sure what I’d be getting. I suggest tightening and restructuring so it reads more like a pitch, or an invitation to read, than a summary or synopsis of the book. Focus on the main theme or plot and what is driving the story and the main character(s).
[L4] I advise against using questions in your pitch.
[L5] The max word count for Adult fantasy is 120k. This one is a bit long, especially if this is a debut. I wouldn’t pass on that alone, but it is a red flag for me. Also, I’d suggest including two comparable titles, successful ones that have been released within the last 4-5 years.

Hannah's Notes: 
[H1] Whoa! The whole lead up to this point felt like a romance.  Let us know as early as possible that we’re looking at a fantasy – otherwise, the reader will be surprised, like I was, by the revelation.
[H2] What happened? This feels like a huge event to gloss over.
[H3] Who and why? 
[H4] Half of this query is about Hammond falling in love with June. We don’t get any sense of what the inciting incident actually is, who his friends are (even though they seem to be integral to his adventure), why they go with him, what Summer is, etc etc. Additionally, there’s a lot of worldbuilding not in this query that might help me what you’re setting up.

Kirsten's Notes:
[K1] Mixing “might be a witch” into the more mundane tidbits is meant to create interest, but I’d prefer specific examples of her lack of propriety showing us who she is instead of telling us.
[K2] Again, would prefer specific examples.
[K3] Typos like these are not dealbreakers, but avoid any errors that might lead me to believe that your writing is sloppy.
[K4] I’m suddenly wondering if Hammond is even the main character, or if we’ll actually be following Fran and Mel as much or more. If that’s the case, the whole query needs restructuring.
[K5] Also comes out of nowhere, making me wonder if even understand what the central conflict is. Why spend so much time introducing Hammond and June, only to rush through the other plot points?
[K6] Within the limits of a fantasy wordcount, but barely. Make sure you really need it to be that long.

First 250:

Of course we met at one of Ernesto’s legendary parties.[H1] Where else do two twenty-something people meet these days other than parties and dating sites? The produce aisle of the grocery store is filled with older divorcees with poor fashion sense and bad comb-overs, and the beach scene is really for teenagers who don’t have the responsibilities of adulthood yet and can sit and sun and serenade each other with awkward pickup lines like, “so, if there’s a party in my pants and you’re invited, would you come?” And then there’s Tinder. Don’t get me started on Tinder.

Ernesto’s parties were the talk of our group for months, and sometimes years. The Ides of March party in 2014 was the biggest incident of drunken debauchery I had ever had the pleasure of attending, with more naked bodies than a porn shoot. But it was his Medieval Mariachi event the previous summer that we discussed ad nauseam through the long, dreary fall that followed. Even his regular New Year’s Eve bash didn’t wash out the bright memory of everyone in colorful tunics and robes, the host in his plate armor, and the near drowning that took place when the jousting went badly and Sir Edward of Chamomile—Eddie Fenton, who was a manager at the local Any-Mart chain store—ended up at the bottom of the pool still strapped into his shopping cart, his chainmail weighing him down. Bill, Melissa and Rufus all dove to the bottom to drag him out. [L1]

Lisa's Notes:
[L1] I’m passing on this entry.  I didn’t feel grounded in any actual scene (not sure what’s the present action) and wasn’t able to connect with the narrator or other characters. 

Hannah's Notes:
[H1] He says “we” here but never mentions a “we” again in the next 250 pages. I’m not entirely sure why the story begins here. There is no action – even if it’s minor, placing your character somewhere, performing even the tiniest action while contemplating these parties would help me immensely.

Kirsten's Notes:
It’s hard to get really interested in these name-droppy descriptions of past parties. I wish we were seeing the party he’s out now instead, which would be more engaging. Hammond sounds bored, and that makes me think he’s boring, which makes me want to move on.

Lisa Abellera: PASS
Hannah Fergesen: PASS
Kirsten Carleton: PASS


CSwriter said...

For the query, what if you combine the first sentences and then skip straight to the 4th paragraph? That might eliminate some genre confusion, although if you start with genre/word count/comps you could avoid that confusion also. I liked the voice in the first 250 words, but you might consider shortening it to get to action or character sooner. Best of luck!

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