Thursday, April 17, 2014

Celebrating DESTRUCTION by @SharonBayliss: Query Critique Winners!

I enjoy reading and critiquing queries. I don't know why's a strange thing to like. I think I just love getting to the point. And, that's what a query is--nothing extra, just the meat of the story.

I even enjoy writing queries (at least a little). But, when I first started the querying process I hated it, and I was bad at it. So, yes it's possible to get better!

If you're interested, here is my how-to post on queries:

The Query Formula

Thank you so much to the brave volunteers who were open to having their queries critiqued publicly! *Gulp* I know it's scary and horrible. I've been there. I'll be honest, but don't worry, I have no interest in showing off how snarky I can be at your expense.

Everyone who had their query critiqued has won a free digital copy of Destruction! Congratulations! I hope you enjoy it. If you don't see your query here, check out on 4/19! I plan to put some of them over there as well!

Please help out these brave authors by also posting your own feedback in comments!!

Query #1

Cordelia Ashby is merely a pawn in her own life, wedged firmly between her fiance's manipulations and her parents’ high expectations. Honestly, she’s a pushover. But after finding her fiance in the throes of an affair just hours before their wedding, she’s ready to slink away. Is "slink away" really want you mean here? I feel like it should say something like "ready to finally make a stand." I assume she didn't go through with the wedding, so maybe, "she finally defies both her parents and her fiance and walks out on the wedding." I know she starts off as a passive character, but it sounds like this is the moment where she becomes active, so I suggest giving her something more powerful than a "slink." :)

Moving on isn’t easy for anyone, but for someone who Cordelia has been manipulated by people with selfish intentions for her entire life, it’s almost impossible so standing on her own feels impossible. In an effort to keep from burying her freedom in ice cream, and soap operas, and at cheap motels, I think it makes more sense that way, "cheap motels" didn't make sense as part of the list Cordelia makes a list of all the things she needs to do to get it together and move on. The list starts off simple but after she scores a victory by joining the staff at a downtown bakery, her new co-workers help her to take it to a higher level. The Break-Up Bucket List becomes her guiding light, with tasks such as learning karate to teach her strength, chick flick marathons to clear her soul, and dancing in the rain with a stranger to help her feel alive again. All of these tasks help her to make friends, gain a career, grow up, and even fall in love.

But then her ex decides he can’t afford to let her go. He takes advantage of some crooked business dealings by an embezzling accountant in hopes that shaking the world beneath her would be enough to drive her back home. His plan backfires when Cordelia gains the determination to not only save her home-away-from-home, but fight for all she loves. Cordelia's new found freedom and sense of self is tested, and she must fight to save her home-away-from-home and all she's grown to love. I changed this last part because they way it was phrased sort of gave away the ending, which is a no-no in a query. In this sort of novel, we assume the heroine will win in the end, but don't say it outright, leave it as a question.

CORDELIA ASHBY AND THE LIST, set in the Texas Panhandle, is around 66,000 words and crafted to appeal to those who enjoy chick literature, but could live without the designer handbags. Do people actually ever call it chick "literature"? :) It sounded funny to me that way. But, it's not my genre, so if you think that's right, ignore me.

I am an English major at West Texas A&M University and a book blogger. My fiction is currently unpublished.

Thank you for your time and it's a pleasure to make your acquaintance!
I think this query is excellent. You clearly laid out the important parts of the plot, and showed your voice with the cute details. Even in the space of a short query, you can see the character growth and you root for her. I made a few suggestions, but I think this is pretty much query ready. Good job!


Query #2

Most people have a funny story about how they met their spouse.  Jacoby Mortensen often imagined how he'd meet the love of his life, but he never expected to find found his future husband half-dead in the seedy part of Council Bluffs, Iowa.  I'm not in love with the first line, for one thing, Jacoby's story isn't exactly funny. :) I think that's the twist you meant, it left me a little "wha?". But more importantly, it's too general--bring Jacoby and his story into the query immediately.

Getting attached to a seventeen-year-old John Doe goes against every rule of first responders. For the sake of detail, I'd like to know what kind of first responder he is. Paramedic? Also, this makes me wonder how old Jacoby is. I know Jimmy is legal, but it might be helpful to know that Jacoby isn't that much older than him so we know this isn't too creepy. :) But the longer Jacoby sat at Jimmy's bed side, the more attached he grew, they were married only a few months later. And no matter how many times Jimmy ran away, back to the drugs and the streets, Jacoby was at home, waiting for him. He took his vows seriously and, if that meant combing the streets trying to bring his husband home, so be it. It seems like A LOT happened in those last few lines. At the beginning of the paragraph, he just met Jimmy, and now they're married. Even if it's just a line, it might be helpful to make this transition a little more overt, as per my suggestion above.

When Jimmy goes off his meds again this time around, Jacoby doesn't think he's strong enough to make the marriage work anymore. Jimmy not only goes off his meds, he goes off his rocker at work, too.  I don't think we need this. It's too similar to the last line and not critical for understanding. Once he's released from the psych ward, he promises to stay on his meds, but Jacoby doesn't believe him.

Jacoby loves Jimmy and is determined to keep their marriage together. But he's got to keep his husband clean and sober. Jimmy refuses to take care of himself and Jacoby is going slowly insane. Then, Jimmy makes a decision that could change their marriage forever. Often, I see authors making vague statements like the last sentence because they don't want to give too much away. I understand that fear, but this sentence is way too vague for me. It sounds like this decision was powerful and important to the story, but we can't know that if you don't tell us! Try telling us what actually happens here, then we can understand what's really at stake for the characters and we'll be more invested. And now Jacoby has to decide just how much Jimmy means to him—and to what lengths he'll go to keep the marriage together.

RESCUE ME is contemporary LGBT fiction romance complete at 85,000 words. Thank you for your time and consideration. From the query, this seems to classify as romance pretty clearly since the primary plot line is about their relationship.

Don't fret! I think this is pretty close. You just need a few minor changes to make the plot line as clear as possible. My most important suggestion is telling us what Jimmy's decision is. I'm sure it's interesting and important, but the agent doesn't know that unless you tell us what it is! Good luck!


Thank you all so much for sharing your queries! On the whole, I'm impressed with how good they were. I think as a group, authors are getting better at this.

Now, if you don't mind, please check out my new release... :)

Introducing a new dark wizard family drama, Destruction by Sharon Bayliss, Book One in The December People Series.

An independent family-owned bookstore. The ONLY place to buy signed copies!

A locally owned book store in Austin, Texas.

David Vandergraff wants to be a good man. He goes to church every Sunday, keeps his lawn trim and green, and loves his wife and kids more than anything. Unfortunately, being a dark wizard isn't a choice.

Eleven years ago, David's secret second family went missing. When his two lost children are finally found, he learns they suffered years of unthinkable abuse. Ready to make things right, David brings the kids home even though it could mean losing the wife he can’t imagine living without. 

Keeping his life together becomes harder when the new children claim to be dark wizards. David believes they use this fantasy to cope with their trauma. Until, David's wife admits a secret of her own—she is a dark wizard too, as is David, and all of their children.  

Now, David must parent two hurting children from a dark world he doesn’t understand and keep his family from falling apart. All while dealing with the realization that everyone he loves, including himself, may be evil.

Destruction (Book One of The December People Series)

The Author

Sharon Bayliss is the author of The December People Series and The Charge. When she’s not writing, she enjoys living happily-ever-after with her husband and two young sons. She can be found eating Tex-Mex on patios, wearing flip-flops, and playing in the mud (which she calls gardening). She only practices magic in emergencies.


  1. Thank you for the opportunity for a critique! I've had this thing critiqued and edited and such as the process goes and never seem to get anywhere. I will definitely take these ideas into revisions =)! Can't wait to dive into Destruction!

    1. Can you accept a Kindle copy or do you need another format?