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  1. #1
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    Query: The after burn

    Hi, I am brand-new here, and am wrapping up work on a manuscript titled The After Burn. I am wondering if any experienced writers would be so kind as to critique this query I am working on:

    Dear [Agent Name],

    When Jacob learns to burn, fire consumes his family ties, fire sweeps the stages of all his crimes, fire eats flesh off his best friend's hand, the blaze atoning a betrayal and forging a throne under the hot city lights. Jacob reigns as smoldering king of Opi Eight, his safe place, his club-scene circus where he drowns the flames in drinks and dramas. It's all a fine time until the soured love, the gasoline schemes of estranged friends and family leak into his life.

    The After Burn is told from the perspective of Jacob Ravensway, a young man able to make fire with rhymes and his mind: a talent that appears every other generation on his mother's side. As a child, Jacob's mother dishes out wild abuse to discourage his hot skills. His father's passivity turns to impotent rage while the family slowly disintegrates, and Jacob wishes he was closer to his sister Nina...she has problems of her own.

    At sixteen, when he sets fire to his bedroom, Jacob is sent away from home to reside at Bristol Place, a house he inherits from his dead grandmother. He finds a new family in three street-wise homeless youth he befriends. They all make a home of Jacob's old old, drafty place and initiate Jacob into a life of petty theft, the foundation of a criminal enterprise that soon ends in blood and bullets.

    His life in ashes, Jacob begins again as the proprietor of a bar where he juggles bottles, babes, and the bomb of his incendiary history. The criminal cohorts of his busted youth resurface, and, in the immolation that ensues, there arises a chance for love refined in flame.

    At 70,000 words, The After Burn is an urban-fantasy/suspense novel about a young man forging a new life on the red-hot anvil of his past. The book is written to appeal to young adult and adult audiences 17 and older.

    A full version of the manuscript is available at your request. Thank you for your time and consideration.

    Very Best Regards,



  2. #2
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    Diem,

    You've got some cool phrasing and images in here. But, for me at least, you've sacraficed too much clarity. That whole first graph is a head scratcher. The next graphs are a tich more clear but there's a next-then quality that I don't think is serving you. I'd play with some other approaches.

  3. #3
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    Hi CK,

    Hi CK, Thank you for your insight. I agree about the first paragraph being too vague, so I am trying to be more explicit.

    I have heard different opinions on how long the query should be. I think the one I originally posted sounded to much like a synopsis in the middle. I've read that in its most basic form, a query it should be a hook, and a blurb about the book length, genre, targeted readership.

    Dear Agent,

    When Jacob learns to burn, fire consumes his family ties and he ventures out into a life under the hot city lights, joining three other outcast youth to form a prosperous criminal enterprise. One night of betrayal, blood, and bullets changes everything and Jacob's friendships and livelihood are all devoured in fire. His world in ashes and determined to forge ahead from his red-hot past, Jacob resurrects as the smoldering king of a nightclub he names Opi Eight. The bar is his safe place, his club-scene circus where he drowns the flames in drinks and dramas, trying to forget his criminal youth. Jacob juggles bottles, babes, and the bomb of his incendiary history until the gasoline schemes of estranged friends leak into his life and set everything on fire.

    At 70,000 words, The After Burn is an urban-fantasy/suspense novel, written to appeal to young adult and adult audiences 17 and older.

    A full version of the manuscript is available at your request. Thank you for your time and consideration.

    Very Best Regards,

  4. #4
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    I agree with C K, this is filled with undecipherable imagery ("gasoline schemes"? Really?) Add to that, your protagonist Jacob is hardly a sympathetic character. True, not all protagonists have to be Mr. Clean, but it helps if there's a redeeming quality that the reader can hook onto while hoping for a character-changing plot turn. Otherwise, they won't invest the time. Neither will an agent.

  5. #5
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    Just my opinion, feel free to ignore:Dear [Agent Name],

    When Jacob learns to burn, fire consumes his family ties, fire sweeps the stages of all his crimes, fire eats flesh off his best friend's hand, the blaze atoning a betrayal and forging a throne under the hot city lights. Jacob reigns as smoldering king of Opi Eight, his safe place, his club-scene circus where he drowns the flames in drinks and dramas. It's all a fine time until the soured love, the gasoline schemes of estranged friends and family leak into his life.
    You have a natural style when evoking a scene however this is too ‘listy’ (I’m channeling Leslee here!) and because of that it actually becomes too much to take in. I also agree that I have no idea what you intended by ‘gasoline schemes’. In the next paragraph we are told he starts fire through an ability of mind so why the gasoline?

    The After Burn is told from the perspective of Jacob Ravensway, a young man able to make fire with rhymes and his mind: a talent that (which not that) appears every other generation on his mother's side. As a child, Jacob's mother dishes (dishes? Is this not in the past?) out wild abuse to discourage his hot skills. His father's passivity turns to impotent rage while the family slowly disintegrates, and Jacob wishes he was closer to his sister Nina...she has problems of her own.
    The line about Nina is just floating there. You seem to throw it on as an after thought and it doesn’t work. At best it doesn’t belong, at worst it confuses and removes the reader from the first part.

    At sixteen, when he sets fire to his bedroom, Jacob is sent away from home to reside at Bristol Place, a house he inherits from his dead grandmother. He finds a new family in three street-wise homeless youth he befriends. They all make a home of Jacob's old old (OLD OLD? Does this mean something?), drafty place and initiate Jacob into a life of petty theft, the foundation of a criminal enterprise that soon ends in blood and bullets.

    His life in ashes, Jacob begins again as the proprietor of a bar where he juggles bottles, babes, and the bomb of his incendiary history. The criminal cohorts of his busted youth resurface, and, in the immolation that ensues, there arises a chance for love refined in flame.

    At 70,000 words, The After Burn is an urban-fantasy/suspense novel about a young man forging a new life on the red-hot anvil of his past. The book is written to appeal to young adult and adult audiences 17 and older.

    A full version of the (a full version is not necessary) manuscript is available at your request. Thank you for your time and consideration.

    Very Best Regards,

    OK, this is a bit too long and too many ideas & lists. Cut back to the story and try to NOT write a mini synopsis. If this is your first try, great… it’s a start and has something worthy about it.
    if the wine is sour – throw it out

    SatyricalRaven

  6. #6
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    Would anyone be so kind as to critique this revised query?

    Dear Agent,

    When Jacob learns to burn, fire consumes his family ties and he ventures out into a life under the hot city lights, joining three other outcast youth to form a prosperous criminal enterprise. One night of betrayal, blood, and bullets changes everything and Jacob's friendships and livelihood are all devoured in fire. His world in ashes and determined to forge ahead from his red-hot past, Jacob resurrects as the smoldering king of a nightclub he names Opi Eight. The bar is his safe place, his club-scene circus where he drowns the flames in drinks and dramas, trying to forget his criminal youth. Jacob juggles bottles, babes, and the bomb of his incendiary history until estranged friends and family leak into his life and set everything on fire.

    At 70,000 words, The After Burn is an urban-fantasy/suspense novel, written to appeal to young adult and adult audiences 17 and older.

    A full version of the manuscript is available at your request. Thank you for your time and consideration.

    Very Best Regards,

  7. #7
    Senior Member C Bets's Avatar
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    Just my opinion, but the amount of metaphors is off-putting for me. One or two to make a point is okay. I think I know what you want to do, but I really believe it backfires using so many.

    Also, streamlining is a good idea, but leaving out reference to his supernatural ability is not, if you ask me. I think it's an important ingredient and needs to be incorporated somewhere.

    Sounds like an interesting story!

    Cindy

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