Critique This! #2

Dear LDS Publisher,

I just came across your site and I’m so glad to see someone who doesn’t use profanity in their critiques and comments. Thank you for creating this site. [You’re very welcome.]

I’ve been working on my novel, “Teen Romance” [not the real title] off and on for nearly 20 years. [Since this is not part of your actual query letter, I will not chastise you for including it here. However, this is not something you want to tell an agent/editor at this point in your conversation. Even if your novel is wonderful, it makes it seem like you will only be a ‘one-hit-wonder.’ I mean, at 20 years per novel, you’ve got time for what, 1 more? Two tops? Most publishers
are looking for a writer who can pump out a steady flow of pleasurable reading material.]

I’ve read everything I can get my hands on about how to write novels, and have tried to hone my craft to the point where I think my novel is ready to go to market. However, I’ve been struggling with my query letter. I’ve sent my queries out to numerous agents, all receiving pretty much the same response, “not for me.” So, below represents my latest revision of my query. I’m hoping this one will work.

Any comments?


When 17 year old Mark Wilkerson is thrown free of the fiery crash that kills his family on the XYZ Bridge, his guilt, thinking he caused the accident, nearly tears him apart. [Sentence too long and convoluted. Why does he think he caused the accident?]

Before the accident, Mark had been popular [how do we know?] and talented [how? Give us concrete examples of this.] in his old school. Now living with his grandmother in a new town where the bridge [is this the killer bridge?] dominates the town’s skyline, he suffers from nightmares and visions [what kind? Does he become a psychic? Is this a paranormal story? Do the nightmares and visions have any impact on the plot?]. He meets Genie Lombardi who promises to help him overcome his phobia of the bridge [what is his phobia? Can’t cross it? Can’t look at it? What makes her think she can help him and how does she plan to help him?], and soothe his tortured conscience [how?]. But her ex-boyfriend, Jeff Marino, wants her back and will do anything to get her away from Mark, including killing Mark – or her if he must. Knowing of Mark’s phobia, Jeff kidnaps Genie, and Mark has to overcome his fear of the bridge to try to save the girl he loves. [Sentence structure needs work. This implies a non-existing relationship-—because of Mark’s phobia, Genie is kidnapped.]

The “Teen Romance” is set in the small . . . town where I grew up. The XYZ bridge, known for dense fog, multi-car pile-ups, and even suicides, inspired many of the elements of this story. At 73,000 words, this book is a romantic/suspense novel written primarily for young adults.

I recently finished my young adult novel “Teen Romance” and am trying to find a good agent or publisher. [Of course you are. You don’t need to say that here.] You can check out my website at: [We don’t have time to go check out websites. Put your important info in your query and let it speak for itself. The only time I care about what’s on your website is when we’re ready to market the book.]


In the summer, my kids and I have a movie day once a week, so I get to see lots of trailers. At least once during the previews, I lean over and whisper to one or another of my kidlets, “This could be good or it could be [insert disparaging word here].” If there’s nothing in the commercial to convince me I want to plunk down my hard-earned cash to go see the movie, it does not bode well for the full experience.

Unfortunately, I feel the same way about your query letter. Your book could be good or it could be same-old, same-old. There’s not enough meat in your commercial to make me want to explore more deeply. There’s no hook.

Also, keep an eye on your sentence structure. If you’re unsure of what I’m talking about, find a critique group or a friend who’s a strong grammarian to go over it. If your manuscript is written in the same tone and style, it will need some work too.

This is a 90 pound weakling query. There’s not enough here for me to work with. Pump it up with action, involve the senses, get those descriptive juices flowing. Feed it some steroids and send it to me again.

One thought on “Critique This! #2”

  1. Wow, I didn’t realize you would do this so quickly. Thank you. You made some great comments and maybe now, I can see what I need to do with it. Like I said, I’ve been struggling with this for a long time.

    A couple of comments. You criticized my introductory comment that I wrote to you, saying I should never say this to an agent/editor, that I’ve been working on my book for 20 years. I agree. I would never do that. I just did it for your information as I’m not submitting my book to your company. FYI, I am working on my second novel while trying to market my first.

    Second, you commented “I recently finished my young adult novel “Teen Romance” and am trying to find a good agent or publisher.” That is just part of my email signature line. Not something I would include in a query letter.

    Thanks again for your help.

Comments are closed.