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  1. #1
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    Wink Query: DEVIANT (YA urban fantasy)

    This is a heavily revised query. I've gotten advice from professionals at Writer's Digest and other forums around the web. I'm querying soon and I really feel that this query is strong. Please critique heavily. I am open to constructive brutality.


    Dear Ms. Rennert,

    We read in your bio that you’re seeking YA fiction. Since you represent Maggie Stiefvater we’d like to introduce our completed 85,000-word YA urban fantasy, DEVIANT, which will appeal to male and female readers of the WOLVES OF MERCY FALLS series as it is set in a fantastical modern world and focuses on multiple viewpoints

    The governments of Earth know of their existence; they hunt Laments, the monsters that stalk through the air we breathe; there is an active manhunt for them, but Deviants are kept a secret. That is, until eighteen year-old Cal Espers becomes one.

    The night of Mardi Gras, Laments ravage the decadent streets of Mobile, Alabama. Terrified and confused, Cal pushes the limits of exertion to find his friend, Nia Haynes, who is lost in the chaos. When help arrives from an unexpected source, the two escape the bloodbath and they learn the truth about what they have become and the world they live in. But the governments aren’t too thrilled about the public unveiling of their precious secret.

    Now with the Laments and the governments out for their heads, Cal and Nia are faced with a choice that threatens to destroy who they are: do whatever it takes to complete their designs and be rid of this curse, or become just a few more of those bloodthirsty monsters.

    DEVIANT is first in a possible series. We are currently working on its sequel, PRIESTESS which follows Cal and Nia as their designs lead them to a world hidden within their own.

    Per the Andrea Brown Agency guidelines, we have included the first ten pages of the manuscript. This is a multiple submission. Thank you very much for your time and consideration.

    Sincerely,
    Markese Trunnell and LanaMica Goines, writing as Marc Ezra and Lana Goines
    (Contact info)



  2. #2
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    I see editing the post isn't possible. Here is an updated version of the query. Remember, I am open to constructive brutality. (:


    Dear Ms. Rennert,

    We read in your bio that you’re seeking YA fiction. Since you represent Maggie Stiefvater we’d like to introduce our completed 85,000-word YA urban fantasy, DEVIANT, which will appeal to male and female readers of the WOLVES OF MERCY FALLS series as it is set in a fantastical modern world and focuses on multiple viewpoints

    The governments of Earth are all that know of their existence and, though they hunt the terrifying Laments that stalk through the air we breathe, there is an active manhunt for them. For years Deviants have been kept secret. Until now.

    Pushing the limits of physical exertion, eighteen-year-old Cal Espers shoots through the decadent streets of Mobile, Alabama during Mardi Gras to find his childhood friend, Nia Haynes, who is lost in the chaos of Lament destruction. When help arrives from an unexpected source, he and Nia escape the massacre only to learn about the target on their backs for becoming Deviants and publically unveiling the governments’ precious secret.

    In order to return to their ordinary lives Cal and Nia must face their destiny, but the choices they make might rip them from each other forever. In the end, they’ll either complete their Deviant designs, or become just a few more of those bloodthirsty monsters.

    DEVIANT is first in a possible series. We are currently working on its sequel, PRIESTESS, which follows Cal and Nia as their designs lead them to a world hidden within their own.

    Per the Andrea Brown Agency guidelines, we have included the first ten pages of the manuscript. This is a multiple submission. Thank you very much for your time and consideration.

    Sincerely,
    Markese Trunnell and LanaMica Goines, writing as Marc Ezra and Lana Goines
    (Contact info)

  3. #3
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    Mark,

    This is a tough query to critique because there are so many problems with it.

    1. You waste a lot of the available space on the page telling the agent things they already know. They know you're submitting a manuscript. The name dropping of the client can be useful, but I'd save it for the end, after you've introduced the hook of the book.

    2. An 18 year old protagonist is really pushing the limits of YA. You're closer to NA (new adult) with a protagonist that old. Could you make the hero/ine 16 instead? I ask because that gives the protagonist time to age within the series without outgrowing the reader. It also gives the reader a sympathetic link with the characters due to similar emotional development.

    3. There's only two paragraphs about the world at all, but they don't tell us a thing about what the book is about. What are Laments? What sort of fantastic creature do they resemble that the agent will recognize? What are Deviants? Are they shapeshifters? (I'm only guessing, based on your mention of The Wolves of Mercy Falls.) You've told what's happening at a 5,000 foot view, as though the reader is looking down at the scene. An agent wants to become emotionally attached to the characters, so you have to drop down into the battle. It appears that Cal and Nia have the choice to become Deviants or not, which is unusual in YA fantasy, where often fantastic abilites are inherited/genetic or thrust upon the characters. If it's a difficult choice to become Deviat, what does it mean to them? What will they have to give up? What does "complete their Deviant designs" mean? Are they actual designs, like spell casting? Or are you using "designs" instead of plans or intentions? Is there a time limit to complete the transformation? If so, what are the stakes if they fail?

    3. I can't see any way for Cal and Nia to return to their "normal lives". Their lives will be uttery altered by the plot you detail. If there is a way, there's a flaw in the plot that will kill any chance for a sequel. If there's not a chance for a normal life again, there's a flaw in the query.

    My best advice is to drop the first paragraph to the last paragraph, open with the protagonist (choose only ONE to speak through for the purpose of the query) and let the agent feel the fear, pain, worry and hope that the hero/ine feels as the crisis that is the plot is discovered or revealed.

    Good luck.

  4. #4
    Senior Member John Oberon's Avatar
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    What she said.

    No clue what your story's about. No idea what Deviants/Laments are or what the hubbub's about. Sounds like Laments are pretty mean - don't know why or what they're after. Know nothing about Deviant "designs". That's a whole lotta words to say nothing.

  5. #5
    Member Lawrence Tabak's Avatar
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    Cathy -- nice job with the critique. You know this world of fantasy far better than I and I hope Marc and his co-author appreciate the time and wisdom. While this may seem like piling on, the query is where you show your writing chops. The quality of the prose and the ear for language expressed here is enough to nix the project, regardless of the merits of the story. I have no way of knowing the writing experience of the authors or the quality of the writing in the manuscript. But this is what an agent will see, and this is what they will judge. I don't see gatekeepers getting past the first few sentences.

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