Query Critique #7: Romancing the Spy
This week is Query Week on Let the Words Flow! We’re offering in-depth critiques from ourselves and several agents, so you’ll definitely want to stop by!
Today is we have Laura Pauling‘s query, so please leave your feedback in the comment section. If you leave nasty comments, I will destroy you. Now go out and spread the word so Laura can get loads of helpful feedback!
Within five months, seventeen-year-old Jillian went from making homemade popsicles and skinny-dipping in her Nana’s creek to eating cold mush in a French prison – on charges of theft, espionage and attempted murder. Of course, none of the accusations are true, but try explaining that to a furious French interrogator, who lacks any sense of adventure.
She traces her problems back to her first date with Malcolm, when she had no choice but to leave him tied-up and half-naked under the Eiffel Tower. Don’t worry, he totally deserved it. She has twelve hours to recount the events leading up to the shooting of the beloved pastry chef and convince the detective that her role in it was purely coincidence. Or, she’ll be left to rot in prison.
ROMANCING THE SPY is a completed 75,000 word contemporary young adult story of intrigue and romance. Older readers of Ally Carter’s spy series might enjoy this story that has more twists than a French cruller.
Leave your comments below, and be sure to keep your eyes peeled for more queries! Everyday for the next two weeks, I’ll be posting another query, and it’s up to YOU all to help each other. Thanks, friends and fellow writers!!
January 31, 2011 @ 2:05 pm
Thanks Susan for this wonderful opportunity. And thanks for the terrific crit of my query. I’m still working on adding a bit more without it being a whole paragraph. Not easy! 🙂
January 31, 2011 @ 2:08 pm
Thank you for sharing your Query with us.
I love how quickly you dive into the story, the tid bits of detail that entice us to read your story and finally I love the last bit, “has more twists than a French cruller”.
Personally, I would love to read your story and think that it sounds very exciting and original.
Best of luck to you.
January 31, 2011 @ 10:08 pm
Thanks, Erin! Good to know you liked this query as much as I did!
January 31, 2011 @ 2:49 pm
I want to read this story. I think that’s a good thing.
I have two issues with this query. First, there are a few unnecessary commas. (Or at least I think so. I technically teach English, but I’m not precisely a grammatical expert.) –> “French interrogator, who lacks” NO COMMA. “Or, she’ll be left to rot in prison” NO COMMA.
Second, the second-to-last line isn’t giving me a feeling of enough action. There’s such great voice and happenstance and then…this book is going to be about talking? What? Keep me in the action, not embroiled in an interrogation, no matter how heart-pumping it may be.
But really, that’s pretty nitpicky. It’s really strong regardless.
January 31, 2011 @ 10:10 pm
Awesome — thanks for that feedback, Kat!
January 31, 2011 @ 3:59 pm
This story sounds awesome! I also noticed the unnecessary commas Kat pointed out, and I’d also change “the beloved pastry chef” to “a beloved pastry chef” because you don’t mention him before. Also, I’m a little unsure how a pastry chef plays into espionage. It came a little out of left field for me. Maybe bring in more about the chef and what his role is in all of this? But in all, great job!!
Although, let me add one more thing. I’m sure you’ve done your homework, but from what I remember, France is pretty stringent when it comes to the rights of juvenile offenders. Totally different from the US, and there’s a whole separate system for offenders under 18. When I read the query, it came off sounding VERY American justice system, if that makes sense. I don’t now if anyone else would pick up on that, but it’s something you might want to think about.
January 31, 2011 @ 10:11 pm
Ooooh, interesting point, Meredith! As a lawyer, I guess you would know more about this than most of us! Thanks for mentioning it!
January 31, 2011 @ 4:42 pm
First of all, I would certainly want to know more if I were an agent. The very title had me hooked.
I try not to comment on too many query critiques (after all, what do I know?), but there was one thing that caught my attention: Shouldn’t “purely coincidence” be “pure coincidence” or “purely coincidental”? Perhaps I’m wrong… ?
Anyway, I love the very last line and would, as I said, rescue this query from the slush pile immediately. 😀
January 31, 2011 @ 10:13 pm
Aww, such upbeat feedback! Thanks, Madeleine!
January 31, 2011 @ 5:15 pm
Thank you everyone for commenting on my query. I’m trying to include a bit more of the inciting incident without it getting confused. Still working on it. All your comments are a huge help!
January 31, 2011 @ 5:46 pm
Strong voice and a lot of humor in this query– it makes me think the MS is chock-full of good stuff. The only thing I’d add is we don’t get much sense of the conflict. I think it’s a tricky line to walk– telling the whole story (bad) while also giving us enough insight to want to read further (good). Actually, I want to read further on this one, so maybe what you have is enough…
January 31, 2011 @ 10:14 pm
I agree — she *could* use more, but as is, it’s a darn good query! She doesn’t *need* more!
January 31, 2011 @ 11:25 pm
I would have also liked to know more – just one of those sweet (pun intended) little ticklers of yours about the chef. LOVED the last line about the cruller. Oh, there are so many puns you could use with that, but I digress. LOL. I also wondered about the French legal system. I know nothing about it, but if I were your agent, I know I’d want to make sure your ts were crossed there. Darn good query. If you can “airbrush” in a line about the pastry chef, I think you’ll have a winner. Hmmm. If I were a baker, I’d have used a baking term there. ;D
February 1, 2011 @ 3:02 am
Hahaha, I’m not a baker either, Victoria! Thanks for the feedback!
February 1, 2011 @ 12:34 am
Thank you so much, everyone. I really appreciate the encouraging comments and the suggestions to make it better! Will be working on it! 🙂
February 1, 2011 @ 1:40 am
First of all, your story sounds really interesting. I have enormous love for Paris and baked goods 🙂
I think I would try to explain the actual murder–or attempted murder–in a bit more detail. Not tons, but you switch from talking about Malcolm to “the beloved pastry chef” and I didn’t really know whom you were referring to.
I would change the sentence “She has twelve hours to recount the events leading up to the shooting of the beloved pastry chef and convince the detective that her role in it was purely coincidence” just a little, and maybe mention Malcolm again so we know he isn’t the pastry chef (unless he is–slightly lost here, sorry).
Other than that, I really love the idea and I would definitely read it!
February 1, 2011 @ 3:02 am
Great suggestions. Thanks so much, Erika! 🙂
February 1, 2011 @ 2:15 am
Thanks Erika. I’ll work on that, definitely!
February 1, 2011 @ 2:35 am
Square brackets (in case you didn’t know, dear Laura!) 😀
Within five months,[five months is a looong period of time, you know] seventeen-year-old Jillian went from making homemade popsicles and skinny-dipping in her Nana’s creek to eating cold mush in a French prison – on charges of theft, espionage and attempted murder. Of course, none of the accusations are true, but try explaining that to a furious French interrogator, who lacks any sense of adventure.[kill the comma and instead go: ‘…interrogator lacking any sense of adventure’. Also, why is he furious? Wouldn’t he not care? What’s his personal stake in this?]
She traces her problems back to her first date with Malcolm, when she had no choice but to leave him tied-up and half-naked under the Eiffel Tower.[kill ‘when’ and put a period after Malcolm] Don’t worry, he totally deserved it.[Kill ‘Don’t worry’, too, and try putting brackets (parantheses?) around “He totally deserved it.”, I think it’d work better] She has twelve hours to recount the events leading up to the shooting of the beloved pastry chef and convince the detective that her role in it was purely coincidence.[cut the period (plus the period after ‘or’, as Kat pointed out)] and put an em dash] Or, she’ll be left to rot in prison.[The problem here is that it sounds like all the action is happening within 12 hours. But the time frame you gave at the beginning for the backstory is five months… something off-kilter-wonky here. 12 hours is a very exteeeended period for 75,000 words]
ROMANCING THE SPY is a completed 75,000 word contemporary young adult story[novel?] of intrigue and romance.[I didn’t get any romance vibes…] Older readers of Ally Carter’s spy series might enjoy this story that has more twists than a French cruller.[I don’t know if adding that ‘French cruller’ part is good, since it sounds more like you’re tootin’ your own horn]
OVERALL: You’ve got the shortest query I’ve ever seen, honestly, so I think you’ve got more breathing room for little details – why’s the pastry chef important? Where does the romance come in? But don’t worry, deciding what to fit in isn’t any harder than deciding what to cut. 🙂
February 1, 2011 @ 3:05 am
February 1, 2011 @ 3:51 am
Thanks Yahong! Great suggestions!
February 1, 2011 @ 4:33 am
Hi Laura! This sounds like a really fun story! I’d read it. 🙂
I was lost a little in the second paragraph. I couldn’t figure out whether Malcolm IS the pastry chef, or whether they are two different people, and if they are different, I think you need a little more transition between the date with Malcolm and the murder. I also wondered, like Yahong did, about the five months at the beginning of the query and how it fits together with the twelve hours at the end.
I thought the voice, which is a hard thing to do in a query, was really good here. Good luck!
February 1, 2011 @ 11:59 am
Thanks Maggie! I’ll be working on exactly those things in a different version. Thanks everyone! And thanks Susan for this awesome opportunity to receive feedback!