Aug 11, 2010

WriteOnCon Query Critique Day 3 - Last Day!

So...if you haven't been informed yet, today is the last day of the query critique. After today, there are TWO grand prizes being announced for winning queries. Anyone who would like to revise last minute, now's your chance!! And for those of you who STILL don't know what the grand prizes are, read about them here.

Below, I have my final query critique, and before I get into it I would like to thank all of the writers who entered! I hope that my comments are helpful--and you've done a great thing by volunteering your work to help others!


Dear Ms. Stampfel-Volpe,

As one of eight rambunctious children, 10-year-old Gideon Corrigan is pretty sure that his mom wouldn’t notice if one of her kids went missing. But would she notice an extra one? Okay, I'm somewhat intrigued, andI like quirky stories, so I would read on.

When a mysterious ninth child Wait, what? Just a mysterious "ninth child," that's all we get? I think we need a tiny bit more detail here. Is the child a boy or girl? Why do they show up in the minivan of all places? And how? Do they magically appear, or is he/she waiting in the van for them one morning? It's too vague, and the concept is already strange, so you're starting to lose me. shows up in the family minivan claiming to be a Corrigan, Gideon and his squabbling siblings are speechless–for about three seconds. After that, they can’t shut up about the fact that there are too many kids. This is what they talk about? Not about the fact that this new Corrigan kid is NOT a Corrigan kid but yet claiming to be? Not that it matters, since their Mom only ever replies, “Don’t be silly, there’s just the right number.” And why doesn't she react either? You start this query from Gideon's POV, so let's stick with it--how does HE feel about this new impostor claiming to be a sibling? How does he feel about his mother's airy reaction to the new kid?

Thanks to an escalating series of bizarre events, what events? You want to make this story stand out, so give us a better idea of what it's about. the Corrigan kids know there’s something sinister about the new arrival. But that wasn't the case in the last paragraph? And as the Ninth Child why is this capped now? insinuates himself oh, the new kid is a boy...we should know this sooner. into the family, Gideon realizes that they’re all going to have to work together if they want to get rid of him, and the sooner the better. Why? What tips them off that he's evil? What is so sinister about him? There is a lot of telling here, but no showing at all. Because it’s clear to Gideon that there’s only (barely enough) room for eight kids in this family–but which eight? Huh? Isn't it obvious that the creepy, sinister one shouldn't be there? Why would they choose anyone else?

THE NINTH CHILD is a middle grade novel, complete at 25,000 words. I am a member of SCBWI. This is fine, though 25k is a little on the low side (but not unacceptable).

Overall, I really like quirky stories. Neil Gaiman, Phillip Ardagh, Roald Dahl, Andy Stanton, Dan Handler/Lemony Snicket...all of these authors have stories that if you boiled them down, sound strange or ridiculous, but what really draws you in is the voice. From the concept of this query, I get the sense that this is the type of story you're trying to write (and if I'm wrong, then something is really missing here...). Read the flap copy of their books and figure out a way to better infuse the voice of your story (and more details!) into this query.

Thank you for your consideration.



Julie Musil said...

Thanks so much for this critique. It really helps to see what works and what doesn't.

To the author, thanks for sharing your letter so that we all learn!

Natalie Aguirre said...

Thanks for all of your critiques. I learned so much for all your comments.

And thanks to the authors for letting us learn from your letters. I hope you find the critiques helpful.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

This has been awesome. Thank you so much for writing these detailed critiques and thank you to everyone who shared their work.