Query Workshop R-3: THE RECRUITED

Day two, lovelies! Such great comments and involvement yesterday – I love it! Please keep it going! And don’t forget to check out the queries on the blogs of Brenda, Marieke and Sarah!

And now, without further ado:

Full Query:

Dear Agent,

Convicted murderer Naomi Williams expects a transfer to an adult prison for her eighteenth birthday.  Instead she gets a job offer.  The US government wants her to join a secret offshoot of the CIA and help bring down a domestic terrorist cell called the Renegades.  Because she killed the son of a prominent Renegade leader, she’ll be the terrorists’ next victim unless she accepts their offer.

During her first assignment she meets James, a gang member she knows she should avoid.  And yet, Naomi keeps running into him everywhere.  When he protects her during another assignment, only to kill a Renegade she’s supposed to capture, Naomi realizes his intentions may not be as clear as she thought.

Then James uses dubious methods to uncover who she works for and who she hunts.  Naomi has to keep him close so he doesn’t blow her cover, but she’s still not sure she can trust him and fears the government would view him as a threat.  With the Renegades closing in, she’ll have to choose between his life, and her own.

THE RECRUITED is a 76,000 word YA thriller with series potential.  Thank you for your time and consideration.

Once More with Comments:

Dear Agent,

Convicted murderer Naomi Williams expects a transfer to an adult prison for her eighteenth birthday.  Instead she gets a job offer.  (I love this opener. It’s a great hook.) The US government wants her to join a secret offshoot of the CIA and help bring down a domestic terrorist cell called the Renegades.  Because she killed the son of a prominent Renegade leader, she’ll be the terrorists’ next victim unless she accepts their offer. (With this last sentence, you lose me a bit. I feel like I don’t need this extra bit of info about why she takes the job. Not going to adult jail seems like enough for me. I’m more interested here in knowing why the government thinks she’s so important to the case that they need to bring in a criminal. That’s your biggest believability hurdle in my opinion.)

During her first assignment she meets James, a gang member she knows she should avoid.  And yet, Naomi keeps running into him everywhere.  When he protects her during another assignment, only to kill a Renegade she’s supposed to capture, Naomi realizes his intentions may not be as clear as she thought. (I like what’s going on here, but I think it might be a bit overly detailed. I think you could probably convey the important part – i.e., she keeps meeting James, whose agenda is pretty murky – in one sentence.)

Then James uses dubious methods to uncover who she works for and who she hunts.  Naomi has to keep him close so he doesn’t blow her cover, (So is she undercover with the Renegades? Wouldn’t they recognize her since she killed one of their own?) but she’s still not sure she can trust him and fears the government would view him as a threat.  With the Renegades closing in, she’ll have to choose between his life, and her own. (In terms of stakes, I’m not sure the last sentence quite does it for me. All I know about Naomi, really, is that she’s killed someone, and given that, it seems like she’d probably choose her own life, so it’s not bringing home the nail-biting “OMG WHAT SEND ME PAGES!” I either need something else at stake for Naomi or a better sense of why saving James is of paramount importance to her.)

THE RECRUITED is a 76,000 word YA thriller with series potential.  Thank you for your time and consideration. (Very clean, simple close. Good.)

Overall: The comments probably sounded pretty tear-apart-ish, but I think this is a great, great concept. I’m pushing it, though, because there are a couple of key things that need to be added/clarified in order to drive it home and get eleventy thousand agents arm wrestling for full requests. It’s so close.

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!

12 thoughts on “Query Workshop R-3: THE RECRUITED

  1. This is a great premise. It does sound La Femme Nikita-ish, which isn’t a bad thing, but you need to distinguish. I agree with the Becca that give more info about the MC. She’s convicted of murdering the son of a prominent renegade. A detail or two would help…was he a five year old or an a-hole who hurts people for fun.

    The undercover part also through which goes back to more info on the character. Was she chosen because she’s some sort of badass or because she could someone go undercover?

    An adjective or two or James would also be helpful.

  2. I agree, it reminds me of Nikita and Becks is spot on with her comments. I was hooked on the first line, but I started wandering after a bit. Especially in the last paragraph, I caught myself skipping to the comments. It does have some good stuff in it. It just needs a little more focus on the MC and the stakes involved.

  3. I think this sounds cool.
    But I want to know why the government wants help from a 18 year old criminal, and why they just let her in on the case. Let alone she is a girl. Just because she killed one of the rebel’s kid doesn’t convince me. Does she have intelligence about the rebels? Was she a friend of the Head Rebel’s family? I think we need more info here.
    Not knowing why, makes me feel like the story is unrealistic, and for me unbelievable. Therfore, I was turned off.

    For me, I think that even fantasies need to be believable.

    Good Luck!

  4. I absolutely loved the first two lines. Don’t change a thing.

    As for the details in the query, I agree with what’s already been pointed out. Tease us a little more about what we should care about James… we get he’s probably shady, but then why doesn’t she just dismiss him? What is it about him and what’s a hint about his agenda? Otherwise, her choice at the end doesn’t make sense. As it stands now, she should choose herself. Good luck!!

  5. “Instead, she gets a job offer” catches my interest. I think ” Because she killed the son of a prominent Renegade leader, she’ll be the terrorists’ next victim unless she accepts their offer.” might need to be reworded (feels a bit clunky right now), and I’m wondering why she’s going to be the next victim, or why the CIA would trust her with it (or why she’s in prison for having killed a terrorist?).

    At first, the second paragraph made me think it’d be another run-of-the-mill love interest, but the twist brought me back to it. Perhaps the first half could be reworded a bit. I like the second part though.

    Not sure I’m following what you mean by “Then James uses dubious methods to uncover who she works for and who she hunts.” I get that she doesn’t want him so close to her, but does need to keep an eye on him. I feel the stakes are there… but I’m not sure the last line clarifies it (because right now I’m completely thinking she should choose her life over his… unless there’s another reason that we don’t know).

    Overall, I definitly think there’s potential here, and I think with a bit of tightening, you’ll have a strong query. 🙂

  6. This query is simple, to the point, and attention grabbing from the beginning! I was definitely hooked.

    My suggestion would be to draw the reader into the relationship with James a little bit more. I wasn’t quite sure why she was sacrificing everything for this guy- I mean, he’s in a gang, and he hasn’t done much except save her life from his own people. I’m not hooked on him. Make me hooked on him.

    Good job!

  7. I love this opening line, hooks me right away. I have to agree with Becks on the next part about the believability of the government wanting a young, inexperienced criminal for such a high risk mission. Sounds very XXX/Xander Cage, but that movie provided a somewhat believable reason for Xander’s choice. What’s the motive here?

    I like the juxtaposition of James, and the fact that he may be double-agenting the double-agent, but again, I’m left agreeing with Becks. She’s already killed someone, so I have no doubt when the choice comes, she’ll pick herself over James…unless she’s fallen in love with him. Something needs to up the ante here and make me crazy to know the outcome.

    Some other smaller points:
    -why should she avoid James?
    -what dubious methods? (Actually, this line throws me a bit. It’s just tossed out there when it could have so much more impact because it changes the relationship between James and Naomi. If he knows who she is, and she knows he knows, then her life is literally in his ability to keep his mouth shut.)

    Anyway, I hope this helps. Good job and good luck!

  8. I think Becca’s comments are spot on. Right now I don’t get why she’d even consider saving James’s life over her own. I need to have a reason to be invested in this choice. Otherwise I think this is a strong pitch.

  9. I think this has great potential. And the query is good. But I want a little more to really draw me in. I want some more specific details. I want to really feel invested in the story. It’s a great start, and it’s good. But if you can find a way to add some punch, it’ll be great.

  10. Hey, Becca! Is it okay if I email you the revised query letter for reconsideration? Or should I just put it in comments here. Let me know which you’d prefer, and if email, I’d probably need your email address.

    Thanks very much!

  11. Revised query here! Becca, thanks so much for letting me post it again in the comments. No rush on getting back to me. I’m just grateful to have another pair of eyes.

    Anyway, here it is:

    Convicted murderer Naomi Williams expects a transfer to an adult prison for her eighteenth birthday. Instead she gets a job offer. The US government wants her to join a secret offshoot of the CIA and help bring down a domestic terrorist cell called the Renegades. They’re only interested because Naomi intentionally killed the teenage son of a prominent Renegade leader. Too bad the terrorists know it too, and their desire for revenge mean she’s in no position to turn the CIA down.

    During her first assignment Naomi meets James, a gang member with an unclear agenda. When he uncovers who she works for and who she hunts, Naomi almost turns him in to her employers so he doesn’t reveal her secrets. After his interference on a later assignment saves her life, she isn’t sure what to think. He insists he won’t betray her, but Naomi knows the government would view him as a threat. With the Renegades poised to attack, she must decide who, if anyone, to trust. And this time, the wrong choice could get her killed.

    THE RECRUITED is a 76,000 word YA thriller with series potential. Thank you for your time and consideration.

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