Query Workshop R-1: TIME STOLEN

Good morning, peoples! Welcome to day one of the Query Workshop! Feel free to leave your own thoughts about these bad boys in the comments. Remember to be constructive; we’re here to learn and build up, not tear down. And don’t forget to check out the queries on the blogs of Brenda, Marieke and Sarah!

Let’s get this party started:

Full Query:

Dear Agent,

Seventeen-year-old Lily is effectively orphaned when her history professor mom disappears. Unwilling to move on, Lily searches through her mother’s journals and research notes. She follows a trail of breadcrumbs and discovers a wormhole that leads to the Confederate south.

Once she arrives, it should be simple—find her mom and get home. She doesn’t want to make friends or watch an epic battle, and she sure as hell doesn’t want to screw up history.

Then Lily meets Kit, the young draft evader who becomes her unwilling tour guide. At first, Lily isn’t sure whether she’d rather punch him or kiss him. But as he navigates them closer to her mom, Lily realizes she’s falling for a guy on the wrong side of the wormhole.

The rest of Lily’s plan unravels when they track down her mom. She’s being held prisoner alongside a Confederate captain, and Lily can’t save one without the other. But the captain’s death is written into history, and Lily’s mom doesn’t want to be saved.

TIME STOLEN is an 83,000-word science fiction novel. It will appeal to readers who smile at Maureen Johnson’s wit, root for Maria V. Snyder’s heroines, and fall in love with Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series.

Once More with Comments:

Dear Agent,

Seventeen-year-old Lily is effectively orphaned when her history professor mom disappears. Unwilling to move on, Lily searches through her mother’s journals and research notes. She follows a trail of breadcrumbs and discovers a wormhole that leads to the Confederate south. (A couple of things about the language in here make me pause. “Trail of breadcrumbs” is very fairytale, and I’m not sure you need that part at all since you already established that Lily goes through her mom’s research. And then the word “wormhole” throws me off because that’s so very outer space-y in my brain that it clashes with the Confederate setting. Maybe portal? Time rift?)

Once she arrives, it should be simple—find her mom and get home. She doesn’t want to make friends or watch an epic battle, and she sure as hell doesn’t want to screw up history. (I like this paragraph. Clean, straight-forward, gives me a clear idea of Lily’s purpose.)

Then Lily meets Kit, the young draft evader who becomes her unwilling tour guide. At first, Lily isn’t sure whether she’d rather punch him or kiss him, but as he navigates them closer to her mom, Lily realizes she’s falling for a guy on the wrong side of the wormhole. (Yeah…personally not feeling the use of wormhole. May just be me.)

The rest of Lily’s plan unravels when they track down her mom. She’s being held prisoner alongside a Confederate captain, and Lily can’t save one without the other. (Why not? Unless they’re fused together or something, I don’t see why they couldn’t find a way to take who they want and leave the other guy there.) But the captain’s death is written into history, and Lily’s mom doesn’t want to be saved. (This last phrase to me is intriguing. It made me perk my ears up and go, “Ooo!”)

TIME STOLEN is an 83,000-word science fiction novel. (I’m not sure this is the right genre, actually. You definitely need YA in there, but does the time travel make it sci fi? Or is it more about the historical component? I know some people flat-out classify these books as YA time travel.) It will appeal to readers who smile at Maureen Johnson’s wit, root for Maria V. Snyder’s heroines, and fall in love with Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. (I think you have too many broad comparisons here across too many genres. Kind of comes across like you don’t know who your audience is. I’d recommend sticking to one or two authors – or books – in your genre area.)

Forgot my overall comments…

Overall: I think this one is close. I think it just needs a little more clarification in some areas and a bit more punch. I’d like to have a bit more sense of Lily’s voice and who she is besides a girl looking for her mom.

 

Okay, people, take it to the comments! Do you agree with me? Disagree? Want to punch me in the face? Now’s your chance!

Remember: Every critique you do gets you an entry into a first chapter critique from Brenda!

17 thoughts on “Query Workshop R-1: TIME STOLEN

  1. I agree with the whole “wormhole” thing. Wormholes are a sci-fi/space concept. What you are talking about is a time rift (says the sci-fi nerd!).

    Actually, I agree with all of Becks comments (not sucking up here!). :-p

    I love the second paragraph. So freaking awesome. 😀

    If this is a sci-fi story, as you suggest, then the time rift/wormhole would have been artificially created. I don’t get that feeling at all from your query.

    I also love the concept that she has to save them both, but the Captain is supposed to die.

  2. I think this book sounds amazing. I’m a Gabaldon lover, so if Kit is an American version of Jamie, sign me up for a copy. 🙂

    I agree with the critique. It’s a great query, very clear and concise, there are just some word choices that could make it even better. Good luck!

  3. I think the query gets stronger as it progresses. The first paragraph almost feels like it could be one sentence… 17 yr old Lily is abandoned by her history mother professor after Mom discovers a wormhole to the Confederate South. Determined to bring her mother home….etc etc.

    I also feel like I want to know what Kit’s role is besides being the love interest. How does he impact the stakes?

  4. Like others have said, there are lines in this query that make me sit up and take notice. The wormhole comment threw me because like others, I immediately thought space travel, not time travel. The second paragraph is spot on, and I feel like it gives us a taste of the MC’s voice. I’d like to see more of this. The final plot paragraph could benefit from some clarification, but overall, I think the pitch is really strong. Good luck!

  5. First of all, cool idea!
    I agree with the worm hole idea. I think it would sound better if it were a time rift or portal. Also, the genre struck me as historical fiction, but of course, YA time travel hits the spot.
    The only part of the pitch that didn’t settle with me was part of the opening sentence: “…when her history professor mom disappears.” I think it would sound better if you wrote something like “when her mom, a history professor, disappears.” It just read weird to me. Anyways, I hope this helps. Good Luck!!

  6. Ditto on the term “wormhole.” The first paragraph is very confusing, especially the “effectively orphaned.” Is there a way to be ineffectively orphaned? Other than that, I really enjoy the voice throughout the rest of the query, and you end with a line that grabs me and makes me want to know more!

  7. I think this mostly works. My only note is that the “Trail of breadcrumbs” are so obviously metaphorical, it makes me think the wormhole she follws them to is also a metaphor. I went into the next paragraph confused until I figured out the wormhole was literal.

  8. I love the premise of this! The second paragraph gives the first hint at the voice, is there a chance you can bring a little more of that in? I think the query hits all the main points and I am interested to read! My only suggestion would be in the third paragraph you say Lily three times (I am so guilty of this). Maybe you can condense it down so you don’t repeat her name so many times? Great job!!

  9. Wow, I love the premise. And I think your query is really good! I think the others have given good comments. I personally do not have anything to add. I just wanted to let you know how much I like it overall. Best one I’ve read so far! Good luck!

  10. I like the line ” She follows a trail of breadcrumbs and discovers a wormhole that leads to the Confederate south.” I also like the ” and she sure as hell doesn’t want to screw up history” line. And I completely enjoyed the paragraph about Lily meeting Kit. It all around amused me. The last line about not wanting to be saved is also an interesting one, and it makes me wonder why.

    I might suggest saying “find her mom” instead of “track down,” since it feels like right now her plans unravel as they search.

    While I originally thought the first paragraph sounded a bit wordy, I actually really like the query as a whole. It made me laugh and wonder, what happens next.
    I will note, I was fine with the use of “wormhole” vs. portal.

    Good luck! 🙂

  11. For the most part, this query seems very well organized and to the point. I LOVE this paragraph: “Once she arrives, it should be simple—find her mom and get home. She doesn’t want to make friends or watch an epic battle, and she sure as hell doesn’t want to screw up history.”

    I think you could lose “effectively.” I would also lose “breadcrumbs” and “wormhole.” I didn’t know what you meant by wormhole until I got to the next paragraph. It was distracting.

    If she doesn’t want to be saved, I would assume she enjoys being there, which means she isn’t really being held prisoner. This was a bit confusing/contradictory: “She’s being held prisoner alongside a Confederate captain, and Lily can’t save one without the other. But the captain’s death is written into history, and Lily’s mom doesn’t want to be saved.”

    Good job!

  12. I like the premise! But definitely agree with Becks about the breadcrumbs and wormhole terms. I think if you can add one sentence that clarifies how the prisoner and Lily’s mom are connected and can’t be freed separately, then you’ll have a really solid query.

  13. Well, the concept here definitely intrigues me. I agree with most of what is said: it’s concise and pretty good overall but needs just a bit of tweaking. “Wormhole” didn’t really bother me either, as I think of it as a way to travel through time and space (not outer space but from one location to another). A “portal” could take you anywhere, I suppose, and “time-rift” I’m just not sure about. The “trail of breadcrumbs” did sort of throw me, but it also implies (to me, anyway) her mother purposely left a trail for someone to follow, so I’m not sure if there’s a better way to say that. Maybe just drop it and find a way to say the research leads to a wormhole to the Confederate south? In any case, minor adjustments. You’ve definitely hooked me. Good job!

  14. I like the premise a lot, but I was also confused about the wormhole thing. I think the first paragraph can be a LOT more ‘punchy’ and actiony; sort of like your second paragraph. Clean up the confusing adjectives such as “wormhole” and… maybe “trail of breadcrumbs”? I wasn’t sure what the genre was by the first paragraph and I was a bit confused.

    I think the main thing is to make it a lot more clear 🙂 Good luck though, and I love the character dilemma!

  15. Thank you all SO SO much! Your critiques & comments have been tremendously helpful, and I will absolutely be making your changes to my query.

    In the book, when Lily finds the portal/vortex/Thing, she calls a science-y friend. She asks the friend about time travel, and it’s her friend that supplies the term “wormhole.” Other people call it other things, though. So I’m not super attached to the term, lol.

    The other issue with the last paragraph is more complicated. Here’s the long explanation:

    The portal is deep in a cave near Lily’s house. Her parents (and grandparents before them) were using it to secretly make trips back in time. Lily thinks her dad died years ago in a car accident, but that’s just a lie her mom told her to cover the fact that her dad chose to go back and live in the 1800s.

    So long story short, it’s Lily’s dad who’s holding them captive. It’s not that her mom wants to stay, it’s that she’s worried about what he’ll do if she goes. And I have no idea how to distill all of that into one sentence. I’m wary of introducing another character to the query, so I’m not sure what to do.

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