Holiday Query Blog Hop

In case you’re not here from Michelle4Laughs, she’s hosting a Holiday Query Blog Hope.

This is actually a query for a WIP, and my first foray into writing middle grade.So, please tear it to shreds and offer advice. 🙂

Quilla is biracial (African American and Mexican) and Deaf, but that’s not mentioned in the query because it isn’t the focus of the book, and I’m not sure of how or if it should be worked into the query. Any thoughts on that are greatly appreciated. Also, I’m not sure about the bio part. I don’t have anything published to mention, so don’t know if what I’ve included is relevant or if I should just take out all the personal info.

And Wonderland is a tentative title for the novel and the world. This isn’t a retelling, but does have fairy tale elements from many different tales, especially since Quilla is a bookworm.

Second Attempt:

Eleven-year-old Quilla is the only biracial Deaf student in her Southern school and has read more than anyone else in the sixth grade, but those are the two most least interesting facts about her. Quilla creates worlds by wishing on dandelions.

It’s been six months since Quilla’s sister, Amy, died in the first world Quilla created, Wonderland. Six months since Amy’s face was plastered across the news and the hunt began. Six months since Quilla was chased out of Wonderland by her sister’s murderer and promised to be killed if she ever returned. Assured by the fact that no one she created can leave Wonderland, Quilla wants nothing more than to get through sixth grade unnoticed at a new school.

But Aaron is her in Pre-Algebra class. Aaron, who has only ever lived in Wonderland, is on Earth, and has a message she can’t dare to believe: Amy is alive. Quilla can’t pretend her worlds no longer exist. Aaron has to be lying, but there’s only one way to find out. She must return to Wonderland, but Wonderland is nothing like she remembers.

Wonderland is burnt and destroyed and dying. It is no longer a matter of convincing Amy to stop playing queen and return home. It’s a quest to save Wonderland and all the other worlds she created as a child. No one but Quilla can save Wonderland and she has only three days to save the worlds and take Amy home. Except Amy doesn’t want to leave. Quilla must make the ultimate decision—to sacrifice Wonderland and drag her sister home or save Wonderland and return to Earth without her.

Wonderland is a middle grade novel complete at 60,000 words. It is a standalone novel though there is room to expand the universe. It will appeal to fans of Catherynne M. Valente, Anne Ursu, and Branon Mull. This is my debut novel. I have a Bachelor’s in English from East Tennessee State University and work part-time as a bookseller and a Youth Services Library Assistant. Thank you for your time and consideration.

First Attempt (I’m assuming I’m going to be doing edits, so I’m gonna go ahead and number these)

Dear Blog Hopper Critters:

Eleven-year-old Quilla wants nothing more than to make it through her first year of middle school unnoticed. But that’s impossible when everyone knows her as the Deaf girl whose sister disappeared six month ago. She doesn’t want to remember her sister, Amy, dying in a world Quilla created by wishing on a dandelion. She wants to pretend all the worlds she created don’t exist. She wants to forget Henry promised to kill her if she returned to Wonderland.

But Aaron is in her Pre-Algebra class. Aaron who lives in Wonderland, where Amy died, and should not be able to come to Earth. Aaron, who has a message Quilla can’t dare to believe: Amy’s alive. Quilla can no longer pretend her worlds don’t exist. Aaron has to be lying, but there’s only way to know for sure. She must return to Wonderland.

Wonderland is nothing like she remembers. It’s burnt and destroyed and dying. It is no longer a matter of dodging Henry and convincing Amy to stop playing queen and return home. It is a quest to save Wonderland and all the other worlds she created as a child in only three days. But can she save both Amy and Wonderland? Can she sacrifice Wonderland and its people to save her sister or will she say goodbye to Amy to save her world?

Wonderland is a middle grade novel complete at 60,000 words. It is a stand alone though there is room to expand the universe. It will appeal to fans of Catherynne M. Valente, Anne Ursu, and Branon Mull. This is my debut novel. Thank you for your time and consideration.

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23 thoughts on “Holiday Query Blog Hop

  1. I like how you setup the world and the stakes are clear. There are a lot of characters to track though. Maybe consider pairing it down to make it less confusing. Also, I think you should start out your query with a hook about how Quilla creates worlds by wishing on dandelions. It really shows the uniqueness of your story and the magical element.
    I love this concept!

    Like

    • I did wonder about moving up the part about her wishing on dandelions to make worlds. I just couldn’t quite figure out how to make it work. Thanks for pointing out that the characters are confusing. I was worried about having Character Soup. Thanks for commenting!

      Like

  2. Hi Bridgette!

    Kudos for taking a shot at writing MG!! I love to read Middle Grade but think it is tough to write. ☺

    So here are my non-expert comments on your query. Please feel free to take them for whatever they’re worth.

    On a general note, I would definitely try to add your MC’s diversity if you can. I feel like there are a lot of agents who have diverse characters on their wishlist, so mentioning your diverse character could get you out of the slush.

    For clarity, I think you might consider starting your query with Quilla’s world building abilities. Something like, “Each time eleven-year-old Quilla wishes on a dandelion, fantastic new worlds are created.” I’m sure you can write it much better, but I think it would be a good idea to establish Quilla’s worlds before moving on.

    I feel like you need to clarify what kind of character Henry is. Is this a real person who disappeared into an imaginary world? Or a made up character like Aaron?

    Finally, I’d try to eliminate the questions if you can. I think it would be better to just state that Quilla must choose between her sister and Wonderland.

    It sounds like you have such a fun concept! Best of luck finishing your WIP and with the query process. ☺

    Like

    • I did wonder about the questions too, but couldn’t figure out how to end it without them. All of your comments are appreciated and thanks for addressing my questions about Quilla’s character. I love reading middle grade too, and it is definitely tough to write. I may have missed the mark entirely on this first draft. We’ll see what my critique partners say. 🙂 Thanks for critiquing!

      Like

  3. I agree. Definitely mention the diversities (if they relate to the story) because agents are looking for diverse characters. I also think the excessive characters are confusing. I wouldn’t focus on Aaron so much (unless he’s important) but instead focus on the villain Henry. Why doesn’t he want Quilla back in Wonderland? What happens if she returns? Will she have to fight him? What are the stakes if she does or does not return?

    I also agree that removing the questions is a good idea. Giving the reader answers to those questions is a better way to make us feel like we are a part of the story.

    Good luck! This sounds like a very interesting story.

    Like

    • Thanks for commenting! Aaron is actually essential to the story, which is why he’s mentioned. Thanks for addressing Quilla’s character. All of your questions are excellent, and I will definitely take them into account for editing the query and to think about overall as I finish and edit. Thanks for the critique!

      Like

  4. I agree that removing the questions is a good idea. I think this is a great concept, and I’d be interested in reading it from this, but I’m confused about the three days thing. Did she create all these worlds in three days, or is that how much time she has to save Wonderland?

    Like

  5. Julie Weathers says:

    Well, I think it’s a great opening. You have a very unique story with a great premise. I wish there was something I could offer you to improve it, but I think it’s a very good query.

    I’m sure you’ll get a lot of attention with it.

    Julie

    Like

  6. Hey B! I’m super stoked to read this! I hope we can exchange soon. First things first, your pitch is a little too long–275 instead of the prized 250. But I think we can easily trim this down.

    Eleven-year-old Quilla is the only biracial Deaf student in her Southern school and has read more than anyone else in the sixth grade, but those are the two most least interesting facts about her. Quilla creates worlds by wishing on dandelions.
    -> I love what you want to do here, but I don’t think you need the bit about reading. It makes the sentence longer and a bit harder to follow. I’d suggest cutting it to something like: 11yo Quilla is the only biracial deaf student in her Southern town, but that’s not the most interesting thing about her. Quilla creates worlds by wishing on dandelions.

    It’s been six months since Quilla’s sister, Amy, died in the first world Quilla created, Wonderland. Six months since Amy’s face was plastered across the news and the hunt began.
    -> Can you add in something about the family moving away?? I assume that’s what happens since you mention a new school next.

    Six months since Quilla was chased out of Wonderland by her sister’s murderer and promised to be killed if she ever returned.
    -> I assumed Amy had died because people from our world couldn’t exist in Wonderland, so the mention of a murderer made me do a double take. I’d rec changing “died in Wonderland” to “murdered in Wonderland,” that way we know right away.
    This is also a long sentence and again I got lost towards the end. I think you can smooth it out and have it read something like, “Quilla will be the next victim.”

    Assured by the fact that no one she created can leave Wonderland, Quilla wants nothing more than to get through sixth grade unnoticed at a new school.
    -> Why unnoticed? Do people notice her? Is she the girl whose sister disappeared? Or is something internal that Quilla is grappling with like guilt and grief, so she’d just rather be alone?

    But Aaron is her in Pre-Algebra class. Aaron, who has only ever lived in Wonderland, is on Earth, and has a message she can’t dare to believe: Amy is alive. Quilla can’t pretend her worlds no longer exist.
    -> I like the conflict! I’m assuming the 2nd sentence ties back to Quilla wanting to be unnoticed. But I’m curious now if Quilla has stopped creating worlds since the death. I’d like to see her voice a bit more throughout the query.
    Aaron has to be lying, but there’s only one way to find out. She must return to Wonderland, but Wonderland is nothing like she remembers.

    Wonderland is burnt and destroyed and dying. It is no longer a matter of convincing Amy to stop playing queen and return home.
    -> Woah, woah, what? Amy’s playing queen? She faked her death and is ruling Wonderland?

    It’s a quest to save Wonderland and all the other worlds she created as a child. No one but Quilla can save Wonderland and she has only three days to save the worlds and take Amy home. Except Amy doesn’t want to leave. Quilla must make the ultimate decision—to sacrifice Wonderland and drag her sister home or save Wonderland and return to Earth without her.
    -> This end part needs some smoothing out.

    The conflict is Amy being alive and Quilla going back to Wonderland to find her sister is queen. I’d recommend moving this up and yes, this is something I’m only noticing because it was pointed out to me in my own query haha. So I know I asked a lot of questions and didn’t point out where to cut stuff. I think you can tighten up the sentences and cut out the extra words.

    Okay, end Serious Critique Voice. Enter: omg flailing CP voice. B THIS SOUNDS SO AWESOME AND COOL AND LET ME SEE IT. And I’m always around via email even though it takes me 4-11 days to get back to you lol. But I always respond to OMG WRITING WOE emails right away. They are sacred. And I would have messaged you way more this afternoon but I was at work and then not even on desk for half of it like I thought I’d be. I want to see the pretty, though. Seriously.

    Like

    • Mic!!

      I’d almost forgotten how thorough of a critiquer you are. 🙂 I thought it was a little long too, but wanted to see what other people said. All of your questions are spot on and you don’t even know the craziness in this first draft that I don’t know how to include like the pirates, dinosaurs, giant, and the girl who can make lightning balls. I’ll email you when I have a third attempt at it. At least I’ve got a bit to work all these kinks out. 🙂

      There have actually been very few writer woe moments with this. Until about a week and a half away. lol. Now that it’s almost finished, I can’t finished it because I decide the Big Thing to end. Indecision makes me a slow writer. But it will be finished. This month. I’m determined. 🙂 I always know I’m close to the end when the next project starts speaking to me again, like Herculia is now.

      Thanks for the critique and the CP flail!

      Like

  7. First of all, you have a really, really interesting story idea here. Wishing on dandelions to create worlds? I’d totally pick up a book like this.

    The inclusion of Aaron is awesome. I like the idea of him being her guide to this world she thought she knew. Him only living in Wonderland and her only knowing what Wonderland was like when she first created it in comparison to what it’s become is a really cool contrast. I’d be interested in seeing how that dynamic played out. (Does he go with her when she goes back to Wonderland? I wasn’t certain from the query.)

    My main suggestion would be to tighten up your query by shortening some of those sentences.

    For example, in the first paragraph, the first sentence feels super long. The three things that made Quilla stand out to me were the fact that she was biracial, the fact that she was Deaf, and her awesome ability, so focus on those three things that will make Quilla stand out from other protagonists.

    [Wonderland is burnt and destroyed and dying.] <— I would just simplify this and say "Wonderland is dying." It makes the situation feel more dire.

    I also got confused by one thing. Initially, i thought that Amy had been murdered, and then there's the sudden reveal that she's playing queen, which threw me off. I would make that transition clearer to the reader and possibly bring it up sooner, since it seems like a huge part of the plot. It'd also be nice to see a mention of what happened with Amy's 'murderer'. Did he try to kill her and fail? Did he (or she) make Quilla think that Amy was murdered, and is still somewhere in the story, a threat to Amy and Quilla? The mention of the murderer seemed really important to the story, but then they're not mentioned again, so I was curious about that.

    I'd also like to get a feel for how Quilla feels about finding Amy and how she feels about what Wonderland's become. Is she relieved to see her sister? Is she horrified that Wonderland is dying? I think that would add some more emotional depth to the conflict and the stakes.

    I think with some tightening up, this could be even more amazing than it already is. I'll definitely be waiting to see what happens with this story because I love it already. I hope my feedback was helpful to you, and good luck on your querying adventures!

    Like

    • Your feedback is amazingly helpful. Thanks for being so thorough.

      I’m thrilled you love the premise!!

      As for Amy’s killer… he’s complicated. And actually her boyfriend. And she did fake her own death. Well, Amy and the BF (Henry) did. I mentioned him in the first query, but then it felt a little too much like character soup and cut him for the second. He is pretty important to the story though, so I will have to consider him when I work on a third draft of this. And adding emotional depth to this. That’s something I felt was missing also, but still haven’t figured out a concise way to work it in.

      Thanks for taking the time to critique!

      Like

  8. This is a critique of “Second Attempt”
    I thought your first two paragraphs were spot on!
    In this paragraph I recommend the following:
    Aaron is in her {made some changes in word order} Pre-Algebra class. Aaron, who has only ever lived in Wonderland, is on Earth, and has a message she can’t dare to believe: Amy is alive. Quilla can’t pretend her worlds no longer exist. Aaron has to be lying, but there’s only one way to find out. She must return to Wonderland, but Wonderland is nothing like she remembers.

    Wonderland is burnt, {deleted ‘and’} destroyed and dying. It is no longer a matter of convincing Amy to stop playing queen and return home. It’s a quest to save Wonderland and all the other worlds she created as a child. No one but Quilla can save Wonderland and she has only three days to save the worlds and take Amy home. Except Amy doesn’t want to leave. Quilla must make the ultimate decision—to sacrifice Wonderland and drag her sister home or save Wonderland and return to Earth without her.

    Wonderland is a middle grade novel complete at 60,000 words. It is a standalone novel though there is room to expand the universe. It {may} appeal to fans of Catherynne M. Valente, Anne Ursu, and Branon Mull. {This is my debut novel- delete this – don’t point out what you haven’t done} I have a Bachelor’s in English from East Tennessee State University and work part-time as a bookseller and a Youth Services Library Assistant. Thank you for your time and consideration.

    Bridgette,
    Thanks so much for sharing this. I thought that this was a very good query overall. Your premise was clear, and the story idea really grabbed me. Best of luck!

    My query is link #42 if you have time to look at it!

    Like

  9. I love this premise. There are some great parts to this query, but I think you’re putting too much emphasis on Aaron and not enough on her relationship with her sister and the stakes.

    I put ( ) around things I think you can cut and * * around things I’ve added. My notes are in all caps in [ ]. Of course it’s just my opinion. You know your story much better than I do.

    Eleven-year-old Quilla (is the only biracial Deaf student in her Southern school and has read more than anyone else in the sixth grade, but those are the two most least interesting facts about her. Quilla) creates worlds by wishing on dandelions.

    It’s been six months since Quilla’s sister, Amy, died in *Wonderland,* the first world Quilla created. (, Wonderland. Six months since Amy’s face was plastered across the news and the hunt began.) Six months since Quilla was chased out of Wonderland by her sister’s murderer and promised (to be killed) *a quick death* if she ever returned. [Assured by the fact that no one she created can leave Wonderland,-I THINK THIS WOULD BE A GOOD PLACE TO INTER A LITTLE BIT OF QUILLA’S VOICE] *No one she creates can leave Wonderland* [I THINK THIS IS THE PLACE TO ADD MORE ABOUT HER BEING BI-RACIAL AND DEAF] *Deaf and the only bi-racial kid at her new school,* Quilla wants nothing more than to get through sixth grade unnoticed (at her new school).

    But Aaron *who’s supposed to be stuck in Wonderland* (is her) *shows up* in *her* Pre-Algebra class*,* (. Aaron, who has only ever lived in Wonderland, is on Earth,) and *he* has a message she can’t dare to believe: Amy is alive.

    Quilla can’t pretend her worlds no longer exist. (Aaron has to be lying, but there’s only one way to find out.) She (must return) *returns* to Wonderland, but (Wonderland is) *it’s* nothing like she remembers.

    [THIS PARAGRAPH NEEDS TO BE CONDENSED, I THINK. FIRST YOU HAVE TO ESTABLISH THAT AMY IS PLAYING QUEEN, BEFORE YOU HAVE QUILLA TRYING TO CONVINVE HER TO LEAVE. ALSO, IF THE STAKES ARE LOSING WONDERLAND OR LOSING HER SISTER, YOU HAVE TO SHOW THAT QUILLA LOVES LOVES LOVES WONDERLAND, OR THE RESOLUTION IS TOO SIMPLE. WILL SOMETHING BAD HAPPEN TO QUILLA IF WONDERLAND IS DESTROYED? I THINK THE STAKES FEEL TOO SMALL HERE.] Wonderland is burnt and destroyed and dying. It is no longer a matter of convincing Amy to stop playing queen and return home. It’s a quest to save Wonderland and all the other worlds she created as a child. No one but Quilla can save Wonderland and she has only three days to save the worlds and take Amy home. Except Amy doesn’t want to leave. Quilla must make the ultimate decision—to sacrifice Wonderland and drag her sister home or save Wonderland and return to Earth without her.

    Wonderland is a middle grade novel complete at 60,000 words. It is a standalone novel though there is room to expand the universe. It will appeal to fans of Catherynne M. Valente, Anne Ursu, and Branon Mull. This is my debut novel. I have a Bachelor’s in English from East Tennessee State University and work part-time as a bookseller and a Youth Services Library Assistant. Thank you for your time and consideration.

    This sounds like something I’d like to read. Good luck!

    Like

    • Thanks for taking the time to leave such a detailed critique! Your comments are greatly helpful, especially your suggestions on cutting and re-arranging the sentences. You’ve given me a lot to think about. Thanks again!

      Like

  10. Eleven-year-old Quilla is the only biracial Deaf student in her Southern school and has read more than anyone else in the sixth grade, but those are the two most least interesting facts about her. Quilla creates worlds by wishing on dandelions. {Personally, for me anyways – this is just an opinion – but I wouldn’t start with this as it doesn’t hook enough for the first sentence of a query. I would actually exchange the first and second sentences (though you’d probably have to edit it a bit so that it didn’t sound random either)}

    It’s been six months since Quilla’s sister, Amy, died in the first world Quilla created, Wonderland. {Maybe even start with this! THIS got me really interested!}

    Six months since Amy’s face was plastered across the news and the hunt began. Six months since Quilla was chased out of Wonderland by her sister’s murderer and promised to be killed if she ever returned. Assured by the fact that no one she created can leave Wonderland, Quilla wants nothing more than to get through sixth grade unnoticed at a new school. {Oh! I’m in love with this story now!}

    But Aaron is her in Pre-Algebra class. {confusing sentence}

    Aaron, who has only ever lived in Wonderland, is on Earth, and has a message she can’t dare to believe: Amy is alive. Quilla can’t pretend her worlds no longer exist. Aaron has to be lying, but there’s only one way to find out. She must return to Wonderland, but Wonderland is nothing like she remembers. {the sentences in this paragraph sound very choppy}

    Wonderland is burnt and destroyed and dying. It is no longer a matter of convincing Amy to stop playing queen and return home. {Amy is suddenly queen? It feels like a random jump from being murdered and Quilla being chased out by the murderers…Maybe elaborate a little more?}

    It’s a quest to save Wonderland and all the other worlds she created as a child. No one but Quilla can save Wonderland and she has only three days to save the worlds and take Amy home. {why three days? I understand you can’t put all the details in, but maybe a little more information as to why there’s a count down?}

    Except Amy doesn’t want to leave. Quilla must make the ultimate decision—to sacrifice Wonderland and drag her sister home or save Wonderland and return to Earth without her. {I’m trying to figure out if Amy is younger or older than Quilla. I like the stakes!}

    All in all, great story!
    Hope this helps!
    Good luck! 🙂

    p.s. I look forward to buying this novel when it’s published! 🙂

    Like

  11. Thanks for all the great comments! I never even thought about starting the query where you suggested, but I kinda like the idea of it. It’s definitely a hook. You’re the first to wonder if Amy is older or younger, and I just realized I didn’t put that in. Amy is 14 to Quilla’s 11. And, yep, Amy is queen, so to speak, and her murderer is the king, and her boyfriend. Because it’s a crazy novel. 🙂 Thanks again!

    Like

  12. Hi Bridgette,

    Love the premise! Alternate worlds. Yum!

    Eleven-year-old Quilla is the only biracial Deaf student in her Southern school and has read more than anyone else in the sixth grade, but those are the two most least interesting facts about her. {Quilla creates worlds by wishing on dandelions}. Open the paragraph with that for a stronger hook.

    It’s been six months since Quilla’s sister, Amy, died in the first world Quilla created, Wonderland. Six months since Amy’s face was plastered across the news and the hunt began. Six months since Quilla was chased out of Wonderland by her sister’s murderer and promised to be killed if she ever returned. {Assured by the fact that no one she created can leave Wonderland} – how does she know that?-, Quilla wants nothing more than to get through sixth grade unnoticed at a new school.

    But Aaron is her {what?} in Pre-Algebra class. Aaron, who has only ever lived in Wonderland, is on Earth, and has a message she can’t dare to believe: Amy is alive. Quilla can’t pretend her worlds no longer exist. {Aaron has to be lying, but}- I would delete that part- there’s only one way to find out. She must return to Wonderland, but Wonderland is nothing like she remembers.

    Wonderland is burnt and destroyed and dying. It is no longer a matter of convincing Amy to stop playing queen and return home. It’s a quest to save Wonderland and all the other worlds she created as a child. No one but Quilla can save Wonderland and she has only {three days}-why three days?- to save the worlds and take Amy home. Except Amy doesn’t want to leave. Quilla must make the ultimate decision—to sacrifice Wonderland and drag her sister home or save Wonderland and return to Earth without her. {This is reading a little too much like a synopsis for me. Can you tighten things up?}

    Wonderland is a middle grade novel complete at 60,000 words. It is a standalone novel though there is room to expand the universe. It will appeal to fans of Catherynne M. Valente, Anne Ursu, and Branon Mull. {This is my debut novel.}- Don’t include this-. I have a Bachelor’s in English from East Tennessee State University and work part-time as a bookseller and a Youth Services Library Assistant. Thank you for your time and consideration.

    This is a nice query! I think it you can tighten it up and make it a bit more punchy, it will be a winner 🙂

    Best of luck,
    Laurence

    Like

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