Aug 13, 2010

WriteOnCon Query Winner #1!!

I wasn't going to post this query on my blog because I'm not critiquing it and I thought that it wouldn't be helpful for others if I wasn't critiquing it, right?

Then my husband said, "But wouldn't it be helpful to post a query that works and tell everyone WHY it works?"


SO, here's Matthew's query and why it worked for me!

Dear Ms. Stampfel-Volpe,

15 Year old Lee Ruccio is a reluctant juvenile delinquent. Great opening line. Makes me wonder what Lee is all about. He obviously gets into trouble, but it seems like he doesn't want to. The last thing he expected to find at reform school in the bitter wilderness of northern Idaho was magic. Reform school tells me he got busted for some of that trouble, and then Matthew adds another layer to this story...magic. And it feels natural. One thing that frustrates me in a query is when the paranormal/supernatural element in a query doesn't come into play until the last line. I'm left scratching my head. But Matthew is laying out the story perfectly, defining the character first, then the setting. But after the death of his mother, and estrangement from his useless, high-society, drunk-whenever-he’s-home father, Lee’s guardians ship him off to Rocky Mountain Academy and that’s exactly what he discovers. Just enough backstory for me to GET it.

Despite having to earn the right to attend classes after months of hard labor and being placed on restriction after getting caught alone in the woods with a female student,Oooooo! Rocky Mountain Academy redeems itself when Lee finally learns of the mysterious curriculum. The classes have names like “The Way of Unifying With Life Energy” and “The Eight Principles of Yong.” In them Lee and his new friends (and enemies) study everything from East Asian Calligraphy and Meditation to Aikido and Kenjutsu. Woah--now this academy sounds awesome and unique. Plus, I love anything involving martial arts, so sweet.

Permission to kick ass is pretty awesome when you’re fifteen and convinced it’s you against the world. Yes it is! At this point I'm pretty pumped...the first paragraph was great, so I'm down with a line like this. However, I can say, if this were an opening line, it wouldn't have packed as strong a punch (ha).

Through these disciplines Lee and his fellow students learn to manipulate their Chi for things like healing, telekinesis and imbuing their weapons with rockin’ powers. And it’s a good thing Lee mostly stayed awake during class because the Master of the School is sending a team of students on a mission to investigate an abandoned silver mine. While underground, they are attacked by Earth Elementals, creatures of mud and rock with brute strength and cunning logic equal to a raging hippopatamus, and their new-found friendship and magical talents are put to the test. Earth Elementals sound awesome, but now I'm more curious about why their teachers would send them into such a dangerous scenario....something is afoot!

Actually kicking ass is pretty critical when your life’s in danger and it truly is you (and your friends) against the world.

Before reform school, Lee never in a million years thought he’d be battling subterranean monsters using Eastern mysticism. Then again, he never thought he’d make an actual friend, earn the praise of a teacher, or fall in love either. My only revision suggestion for this query has to do with these last two lines/paragraphs. It feels like two conclusions, when you need only one. At this point you had me hooked, so it's a small thing, I don't think it would make any agent who was interested say "ya know what? never mind." So don't worry! My suggestion is to keep the second wraps up the whole concept better, and the first one feels more like a repeat of above. But of course you'd have to tweak it so the transition from the previous paragraph worked.

Either way, I am so impressed! This story sounds fun, unique, and ripe for the market now. I'm looking forward to reading those first 10 pages and sharing them with Sara. Thanks for participating, Matthew!



Livia said...

Thanks for posting this, Joanna! I was gonna request that you do that on the WriteOnCon website but then I felt all demanding. Congrats on the kickass query Mike!

Hmm, I like the idea of incorporating the word "kickass" into a query. Think it'll work for my medieval fantasy? :-)

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Oh, I'm so glad you posted this. It's really helpful to hear your reaction as to why something works, as well as why it doesn't.
And, again, a big shout of praise to Matthew!

Annie McMahon said...

Now THAT's refreshing, hearing about what works in a query. I learned a lot by reading this, and the story does seem very intriguing. I'd buy the book!

Christina Lee said...

And Matt, you were all worried about the hippo line on your blog!

Hooray for you!

Lori W. said...

What's extra cool about this is that Matthew's blog is all about helping writers who struggle with queries. Congrats. to Matthew, and thanks, Joanna, for the helpful WriteOnCon talks and query crits.

Matthew Rush said...

Oh Joanna if only you knew how far this query has come. I got a lot of help from a lot of people with this, especially Lisa and Laura Roecker, who are fabulous human beings (unless they're really androids from the planet awesomesauce sent here to take over the publishing industry), either way I love them.

I also love that you loved the positioning of the kick ass line, because it is sort of the strongest piece of voice and gives an idea of the irreverence that the MC begins narrating his tale with. But you are also absolutely right that this wouldn't work as an opening hook. It would sound cool, yes, but I imagine a reader's initial enthusiasm would then quickly fade to ... huh?

I actually see your point 100% about the conclusion and it's one of the main things I am struggling with during revisions. I won't discuss it here because it's quite complex and this comment has gone on long enough.

All I can say now is THANK YOU SO MUCH Joanna, WriteOnCon and every single person in the writing blog community who helped me remain inspired about writing.

~Jamie said...

AHHH! This story sounds freakin' fantastically awesome!

Congrats MATT!!!

MBW aka Olleymae said...

Matt, after all your hard work on your blog, you sooo deserve this! Congrats!!