Query Hack: Critique #1 – YA Speculative Fiction

Heya, writers!

Thanks so much to everyone for your responses to my poll on Twitter, asking if you would be interested in query critiques. With an almost unanimous YES from everyone, I’ve now launched our new iWriterly query critique platform, Query Hack. As part of iWriterly‘s mission to give back to the writing community, I will periodically post blogs and videos, critiquing individual queries and providing recommendations for areas of improvement.

If you would like your query to be considered for our critiques, you can submit here

For more information about Query Hack, click here.

Thus far, I’ve received quite a few queries (WOOHOO!). Although I won’t be able to critique all of them, writers are welcome to submit ONE query per manuscript to be considered for a feature on Query Hack (either a blog post or video on iWriterly).

Without further ado, let’s jump to the first query.


Query #1: YA Speculative Fiction

Dear Query Hack,

“Siblings” and Designer Kids Cal and Sephrim are no strangers to living life on the run. As escapees from the Washington DC Designer Kids Lab, the two are forced to join with a band of criminals known as the Cades to stay hidden, and even more importantly, to stay alive.

  • My first thought was I didn’t understand why there were quotation marks around siblings. Are they not actual siblings? If so, that needs to be made clearer. I’d also like more clarification on why they’re on the run from the lab in the first place. Why does the lab want them? What is “designer kids”? (And why is it capitalized?) What makes these kids different/special? In addition, what are these characters’ desires? 
  • Side note: Who is the protagonist or “main” protagonist?

Being on the run from the Slinger soldiers takes a back seat when Hellen Jacobs, a sadistic terrorist, kidnaps Cal with the intention of starting an international incident, using her as the weapon.

  • Again, I’m not sure who these kids are or why they’re important, so I’m confused why kidnapping Cal would be an international incident. Does Cal have powers? Also, I’d love to get more clarification on Hellen’s motives. Why does she want to start an international incident? Moreover, what do you mean by international incident? To kill a lot of people? Is it a political statement?

With his “sister” in the unstable hands of a kidnapper, Sephrim is left with no other option than to turn to Felix Cade, one of the city’s crime lords, to aid in Cal’s rescue.

  • Again, why is there quotation marks around sister?
  • Be careful using too many names is a query. I think instead of saying “Felix Cade,” you could simply say “… to turn to one of the city’s crime lords to aid in Cal’s rescue.”

Together, Cal and Sephrim must navigate an underground railroad for designer kids, an implanted kill switch in Cal’s noggin’, and a doctor hell bent dragging them back for more testing.

  • What do you mean “together”? I thought Cal and Sephrim were separated (Cal was kidnapped). The kill switch here seems important—therefore, I’m wondering if this should be included earlier in the query. In addition, I imagine the testing is part of the reason why the kids are on the run—which is another element that will need to be clarified earlier on in the query. 
  • I’m still uncertain who the protagonist is and would love to have that clarified. Moreover, I’d love to see more voice from the protagonist’s perspective woven into the plot summary itself. Don’t be afraid to show some spunk/personality!

CODE WORD FOR CRAZY is a Young Adult Speculative Fiction novel complete at 69,000 words.

  • Minor note, but you don’t need to capitalize young adult or speculative fiction.
  • In the form, you wrote that your manuscript is science fiction. Do you want to categorize it officially as speculative fiction or science fiction?
  • For the word count, 69,000 is on the lower side. You may want to try to bring that up by 5,000-10,000 words. 

I have a Bachelor’s of Arts in Creative Writing from Texas A&M University and have been published in a non-profit magazine.

Thank you for your time and consideration.