Query critique time–my number came up

What a way to kick off the New Year! My query for APRIL, MAYBE JUNE was one of the two chosen for Jodi Meadows’ blog critique today.

I didn’t get an “A”

I’ll go make some changes. The summary should be more like this:

April and June Bliss (ages 13 and 14-1/2) sneak away to rescue their runaway cousin Arlene from captivity (they believe) when she’s taken by a rogue group of wizards, but the tables turn when they arrive, only to find that Arlene was just using a ruse to lure them for their talents to be stolen–because that’s what her group of wizards does. They harvest people’s talents (math ability, ballet expertise, natural charm like a con artist has, and so forth) and resell them. The sisters’ goal then turns to escaping–and, if possible, preventing the group from doing this to others (by disbanding them).

If only they’d told their parents where they were going. . . .

I think her main problem with the summary was that she saw this as all setup and no actual “middle of the book” stuff. Maybe I need a beta reader to summarize the story and give me what he/she sees as the plot points he/she retained from reading it. That works better than my trying to tell people what something’s about. I’m good at extracting and explicating theme, which some people like and others hate. (One agent years ago continually asked me, in rejections, “But what is the book ABOUT? What Have We Learned? What was the point of the characters going through all of this? Was there a reason?” Hence the idea of including that.)

Useful feedback, for sure.

I’m not sure what she really means by “make those sentences work.” I don’t see J. K. Rowling writing in short sentences all the time. I can’t DO it that way, anyhow. If I have to change my style, we’ll have to forget the entire dance. My voice and style are already fully formed. If they’re out of step with what readers can comprehend, then we’re done.

It’s tough to decode just what people really want. For example, look at the first paragraph and how she says I could summarize it. Then look at the first line of the next paragraph (“June starts acting strangely and Arlene’s boyfriend makes a couple of attempts to steal the ring”) where I actually DO summarize, and she wants that expanded with details. If I expanded that very much, it would inflate the word count again. It can work both ways . . . the parts you summarize they say need to be expanded, and vice versa. And everyone who reads a query feels differently about which parts they want to see, I suspect. There’s a certain trick to all this.

I don’t remember how much that anthology paid, although I know some reviewers treated it as a pro publication. I can just stop giving any “credits” at all in most queries. Some agents DEMAND that you include credits. They put that into their guidelines on their websites, even.

Anyhow, it was an honor to be chosen as a bad example!

Today is being eaten up by my mother’s attempts to negotiate selling her car. The guy who sells firewood in our area asked if she’d consider selling it . . . I looked up comparable prices . . . he wanted to negotiate . . . then she looked for a notary who’d work today to transfer the title . . . then she talked to him again and he said he wanted to look at the car after he finished his rounds before he decided it was worth as much as she wants. I have to chaperone all of this and take her over to get the title fixed and make sure he has REAL cash to pay with, if it happens. Sigh. This stuff always involves me. I haven’t spent much time with hubby over his vacation. But then he’s still sick today and just run-down. Or he’s pretending in order to stay away from the car mess! We’ll see whether they both back out, or if the trailer loads up the 1985 Lincoln Town Car, Cartier edition.


Author: shalanna

Shalanna: rhymes with "Madonna" and "I wanna," and is not a soundalike with "Hosanna" or "Sha-Na-Na." Aging hippie with long hair, husband, elderly mother, and yappy Pomeranian. I've been writing since I could hold a crayon. I started with fiction, which Mama said was "lying." “Don’t tell stories,” she would admonish, in Southern vernacular. “That's all in your imagination!” When grownups said this, they were not approving. So, shamed, I stopped telling stories for a few years--rather, I stopped letting anyone read them. I'm married to a fellow computer nerd who doesn't really like hearing about writing, but who reads sf/fantasy and understands the creative drive. I'm actually a nonconformist/hippie still wearing bluejeans and drop earrings and the Alice-in-Wonderland hair with headbands and sandals. Favorite flavor is chocolate/orange, favorite color is either Dreamsicle orange (cantaloupe) or bubble-gum pink, favorite musical is either Bye Bye Birdie, Rocky Horror, or The Producers . . . wait, I also love The Music Man. Is this getting way too specific and irrelevant yet? Obvious why I don't sell a ton of flash fiction, isn't it? To define oneself, I always say, it is good to make a list. How about a booklist? Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird Frank and Ernestine Gilbreth, Cheaper by the Dozen C.S.Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (all the Narnia books) J.R.R.Tolkien,The Hobbit/LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy Gail Godwin, The Odd Woman F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby J. D. Salinger, Catcher in the Rye (before dismissing it, actually read it) George Orwell, 1984 Kurt Vonnegut, Cat's Cradle Donna Tartt, The Secret History Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn James Allen, As A Man Thinketh Mark Winegardner, Elvis Presley Boulevard James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times The Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum Winnie-the-Pooh/House at Pooh Corner, A. A. Milne Peter Pan, J. M. Barrie The KJV and NIV Bible (each translation has its glories)

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