Thursday, May 17, 2007

Query Critique #2

In most books, the lovable loser magically becomes a superstar everyone admires—in a span of mere pages. Voza has to work her hardest just to be average.

So I assume Voza is already the superstar? There is no transition here. You say “in most books,” which leads me to believe this is not most books, so I don’t get how Voza fits in.

Voza loves singing more than anything else, but everyone knows she has the worst pipsqueak voice of the entire fifth grade chorus. The choral auditions this year are especially tough: they’re going to perform for the President of the United States, so Ms. Hohum, the teacher, must be picky.

This paragraph sounds incomplete. If she’s already in the chorus why do they need to audition, and are the auditions performed in front of the president?

Voza’s enthusiasm is contagious so Ms. Hohum keeps her in the chorus as the made-up Rest Leader. Voza practices the silences and all of the notes in between with a zeal only found in someone who will never be great. Moments before the big performance, Voza is the only one backstage, due to an unfortunate ice cream mishap. Her choices in this tough situation are inspiring for readers at every skill level.

Since you are writing a picture book, known for being short, there’s certainly no reason why you need two paragraphs to explain this book.

My biggest concern is that after two paragraphs I have no idea what this book is about. Is it about Voza’s audition? Or her choices? If it’s about her choices I need one paragraph that gets to the heart of the story. What is the tough situation and how will it inspire readers?

I’ve enclosed a copy of the manuscript VOZA SINGS, a well-paced picture book for mid-elementary grades. I’ve been writing professionally for several years and am a SCBWI member. This is my first work of fiction.

Terrific ending!


Look for the next query critique on Monday.


written voize said...

I liked the ending too! It was direct and straight to the point.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much! Your critique has really helped!

Anonymous said...

Picture book featuring a fifth grader? Doesn't sound right to me. Fifth graders are 10-11...that's at the very least middle grade but could also be younger YA (young adult) as well.

Anonymous said...

I wonder shouldn't the genre of this work be nearer the opening? Suppose the agent/publisher can't accommadate any more books in that genre, or has a colleague who can better represent and hand it off. A real time-saver.

Plus, wouldn't the author wish to list her credentials, thereby suggesting a possible platform. 'I've been writing professionally for years with 'Mickey Mouse Fandom Magazine'. Then if the author has no other credentials put in workshops, crit. groups, etc.

Janelle Dakota's blog said...

I disagree about the credentials. If a story isn't good, there are no amount of credentials that will make it better. IMHO, the ending paragraph should be the beginning.

And then I'd do away with the lengthy description and replacde it with (a) who is Voza and (b) what challenge does she face.

On the genre question:
I have a 4th grade daughter. She doesn't read picture books much anymore, but kids generally like to read about kids who are a couple years ahead of themselves. I'd say a 2nd or 3rd grader would really enjoy this book. If you took this storyline and made it a YA novel or novella, you'd miss the target audience.

Learning a lot with these critiques Jessica.


Anonymous said...

You've done a lot of good for me. Perhaps I should post a before and after query?

Kevin M. Zabbo