Query Workshop R-9: SPECTRAL PARK

Aw, guys – it’s the last day! Wipe away the tears – we’ve still got two queries to workshop! And don’t forget to check out the queries on the blogs of Brenda, Marieke and Sarah!

On with the show!

Full Query:

Dear Illustrious Literary Agent,

Just because you don’t know your family’s past, doesn’t mean it won’t come back to haunt you. Fifteen year-old Madison Manes can swear to that fact after her grandfather dies, forcing her to move to New York City to live with her air-head aunt, and an evil warlock comes gunning for her. Tall Dark and Evil insists she give him a mystical talisman that belonged to her long-dead grandmother, even though Madison’s never heard of it before. Despite his black magic bullying, it pisses Madison off when he promises to “kill her quickly if she hands over the talisman, and slowly if she doesn’t.” Yeah, right. Dead is dead, no matter how you get there.

Madison’s got a black belt, but her kick-butt attitude can only take her so far. To stay alive, she needs the help of her new friends, Jazz and Pi. It’s a race against time to unravel the mystery of the talisman and prevent ultimate evil from possessing a power that could destroy the world. The clincher is, Madison must come to terms with her family’s darkest secrets and accept who she truly is before she can find the strength to fight über-evil and win.

Spectral Park is set in modern-day New York City and incorporates Central Park landmarks, such as Belvedere Castle and Cleopatra’s Needle, to ground the supernatural elements of the story in reality. Spectral Park is a completed manuscript of approximately 80,000 words, and is a standalone novel with the potential for a series.

I have been published in Cricket Magazine and am a long-time SCBWI member. Spectral Park is my second completed novel. I am active on Facebook and Twitter (@twitter_name_here), and maintain a weekly blog (http://blog_url_here).

I look forward to hearing from you.

Once More with Comments:

Dear Illustrious Literary Agent,

Just because you don’t know your family’s past doesn’t mean it won’t come back to haunt you. (Hmm – not a bad hook. I’m listening.) Fifteen-year-old Madison Manes can swear to that fact after her grandfather dies, forcing her to move to New York City to live with her air-head aunt, and an evil warlock comes gunning for her. (There’s too much going on in this one sentence. Break it down a bit and reorganize. Like, the phrase “can swear to that fact” – it’s just adding extra bulk.) Tall Dark and Evil insists she give him a mystical talisman that belonged to her long-dead grandmother, even though Madison’s never heard of it before. Despite his black magic bullying, it pisses Madison off when he promises to “kill her quickly if she hands over the talisman, and slowly if she doesn’t.” Yeah, right. Dead is dead, no matter how you get there. (Too many details. Cut out the part about the grandma – we don’t have to know this part yet. And the last sentence is clever but isn’t serving any real purpose since we’ve already established that the guy is evil. We can assume he doesn’t have happy plans for Madison.)

Madison’s got a black belt, but her kick-butt attitude can only take her so far. (I vote keep the kick-butt attitude, lose the black belt bit.) To stay alive, she needs the help of her new friends, Jazz and Pi. (I like the names, but I know nothing about them. I kind of want to, though.) It’s a race against time to unravel the mystery of the talisman and prevent ultimate evil from possessing a power that could destroy the world. The clincher is, Madison must come to terms with her family’s darkest secrets and accept who she truly is before she can find the strength to fight über-evil and win. (This last sentence is hit-and-miss. Take the darkest secrets mention and the uber-evil term, but I’d leave the rest. “Accept who she truly is” is a cliche phrase I see in queries, especially for YA heroines. It’s so common that, to me, it doesn’t really mean much anymore.)

Spectral Park is set in modern-day New York City and incorporates Central Park landmarks, such as Belvedere Castle and Cleopatra’s Needle, to ground the supernatural elements of the story in reality. (You don’t need most of this sentence – if you mention in the first paragraph that Madison is in NYC and then include your genre – YA urban fantasy – than the agents will expect you to ground the fantasy story in the real-world settings.) Spectral Park is a [put your genre here], complete at approximately 80,000 words, and is a standalone novel with the potential for a series.

I have been published in Cricket Magazine and am a long-time SCBWI member. Spectral Park is my second completed novel. (Unless the first novel has been repp’d or published, I wouldn’t mention this.) I am active on Facebook and Twitter (@twitter_name_here), and maintain a weekly blog (http://blog_url_here). (I wouldn’t put this in your letter. If anything, after you sign your name, put a link to your Twitter page and your website. I wouldn’t worry about Facebook unless you have a fan page set up already that has significant activity.)

I look forward to hearing from you.

Overall: There’s some good voice in here to build on, which is a huge first step. (Getting voice into queries = extremely difficult) I think you just need to slice n’ dice a bit to make sure we have the few, strategic details that are necessary to convey the story without bogging things down. Prune, reorganize, keep the sass, and I think you’ll be there.

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!

7 thoughts on “Query Workshop R-9: SPECTRAL PARK

  1. This sounds like a great story. There are several runon sentences within the query that make things confusing. Trim them down to the vital info and I think you’ll have it. And you introduce two characters without actually introducing them. You give no information about Jazz and Pi or why she needs them to survive. As is they are just names. And they are never mentioned again. You my not need to mention them at since the story that you give us works well enough without them, but if you want to keep them in, definitely give us specifics. Are they sprites? Ghosts? Giant lizards? And does she need them because they produce protective force fields? Allow her to see magic? Do they shed their skin which she then uses for durable running shoes?

  2. I definitely think you should give a little more info about the friends. You name drop, but then nothing. I assume they are important to the story so tell me something about them: skills, attitude etc. I also agree you can drop the last bit about the setting, it’s redundant. I do think that the voice is totally there and agree THAT is HARD to do in a query so awesome job!! You are close. The premise sounds cool! Good luck!

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