Monday, July 18, 2011

Deana Barnhart's Blogfest Continues

Remember how participating in blogfests can really help increase followers?  Well here I am participating in the next part of Deana Barnhart's Blogfest.  This week, we post our queries and ask for feedback, so here goes mine. Feel free to comment even if you aren't in the fest.




Dear Agent, 


Mina Bevins hasn't leaked any magic like the other girls, earning her the status of weirdo in the world of witches.  When her thirteenth birthday passes, and she still lacks any power, the Coven Seer looks into the past for an explanation: Mina’s not really a witch at all; she was switched at birth with another baby in the mortal world hospital.  

Somewhere there’s a young witch leaking magic all over the place, exposing the witch world.  Secrecy is essential to keep the coven from persecution and the only way to ensure it remains safe, the coven decides, is to track this girl down and remove her powers. 


Having just learned that she will never come into the power she so desired to possess, Mina thinks stripping someone of her magic on purpose is horrible. Together with the help of her friend Porter, a male witch, Mina uses the limited power available to them to find the other girl and warn her before the coven takes away her magic life too.

At 45,000 words, sWITCH is middle grade fantasy adventure that brings to life a matriarchal world of witches hidden among humans.

I am a marketing consultant and maintain a blog that gives advice to writers as they build their platform.  I am a member of SCBWI.

Thank you so much for your time and consideration. 

36 comments:

nascentnovelist said...

Great title and I love your concept.

I think this is well-written and compelling. You have some really good phrasing in there, like the fact that witches "leak" their powers all over the place. I can instantly see it.

Sorry that I have no constructive criticism. I just liked it. :)

How do I participate in this blogfest? Can I say I do and post my query? Or do I need to sign up somewhere or let people know beforehand?

Laura Barnes said...

Thanks, nascentnovelist! Liking it is good feedback too :)

You need to sign up here to do the blogfest. http://deanabarnhart.blogspot.com/ That way people will know to come to your site and review your query. Hope to see your query soon!

Jen Daiker said...

Great blog! Happy to be a new follwer!

Positive comments: I love the idea behind it all. The story is very cute and creative and I think it'll do very well with all those who love a good withcy story!

I do feel a bit of tweaking can take place to tighten up the story and make it around 250 words. I also had a few issues within the query that I want to bring up.

The first paragraph can really all be wrapped into one. Since everything should happen by her 13th birthday and doesn't. It could read something like:

Witches are to recieve their magical abilities by their thirteenth birthday, and most leak magic well before then. Mina Bevins did not.

(It gives a cleaner version of the first sentence.)

I think the key here is to tighten. With the second and third paragraph I'd read it aloud and also work to combine sentences to keep from being repetitive.

Overall I think you have a fabulous concept!

Laura Barnes said...

Great feedback, Jen! This is the VERY first draft of this query so I am so happy to get advice on how to tighten it.

And welcome to my blog!

Andrea Mack said...

This sounds like an interesting story. At first, I didn't know exactly what was meant by "leaking" magic.

I agree that the beginning of the query could be tightened -- all it really needs to tell us is that her magic should have appeared by the time she's 13, but it hasn't. What's more interesting are the problems that this causes, especially the idea that she's been switched at birth with a non-magical girl, since this is what makes your story unique, I think.

Laura Barnes said...

I've made edits based on the feedback so far (thank you, Andrea, for your additional comments!).

E. Arroyo said...

Great premise! I think it needs to be clear who your POV character is in the query and what are the stakes. Other than that, it reads pretty good. Good luck

amber said...

I think this is a great premise! It was a little wordy toward the top, but it got much better the more I read. I like the names you've chosen, and the idea that there is this person out there with magic. Do we ever get to see things from her perspective? I think it's better if we didn't! :)

Laura Barnes said...

Made changes based on feedback again, hopefully making stakes and POV clearer.

Amber - no, we don't see the other girl's pov. I wanted a witch story about a girl who wasn't a witch, if that makes sense. So the story is about Mina.

Stephsco said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stephsco said...

Hi - I'm a new follower reading through some of the queries for the contest although I'm not participating yet :/ (MS not finished). Your blog is great, I look fwd to reading more.

I love the title sWitch, and the idea of switched-at-birth witch/normal girl. Leaking magic I correlated with girl's puberty which is super clever. I agree with other commenters to tighten up, lik combine the 2nd & 3rd paragraphs since they seem to go together. MG novels always sound like so much fun to me. Your story sounds great.

Laura Barnes said...

Thanks, Stephs!I am now following your blog and Twitter account. Good to meet you!

kathy stemke said...

You have an extremely marketable concept. The title rocks!

I was told not to mention the book as a trilogy unless you have all three books written.

Hope this helps.

Laura Barnes said...

Ooh, good feedback, Kathy. I didn't know that about the trilogy thing. What about if you just have an outline for the next two?

mooderino said...

Hi

I'm not sure 'weirdo' is the right term. Is she odd in other ways too? At the moment it feels like not leaking magic is the only weird thing and it's only just happened. Not sure if you're saying she's always been odd or not.

The switched at birth idea is great. The witch who has no magic but is completely witchy otherwise (reminds me a bit of the Will Ferrel film Elf).

i think you could cut: exposing the power of witches that has been kept hidden from mortals for years - as you mention the secrecy thing straight after and it feels a bit repetitive.

Mentioning about "Learning her parents aren't really her parents" feels odd in the context, since it seems to imply that is part of the reason she wants to save the real witch. I think you could leave it out and focus on her disappointment at not getting magic powers and how that drives her to stop it happening to someone else.

You might consider having a line at the start emphasising just how into being a witch she is, to make her loss that much more devestating.

I think as a premise it's very solid, the most original paranormal type story I've come across during this blogfest (and I've come across quite a few).

regards
mood
Moody Writing
@mooderino

Vicky Bruere said...

Wow Laura I love the sound of this book. Yours is only the second query I've read and I agree with Jen that the first paragraph could be trimmed down as she suggested. Sorry I haven't got a lot to offer...it appears that this part of the blog-fest is more of a steep learning curve for me than I'd initially expected!

Laura Barnes said...

Ha ha! I think I'm going backwards, Moody! Some of what I cut based on previous suggestions left your questions. I will go back and tweak again. Thanks for the positive feedback.

Sharon Bayliss said...

Hi Laura,

This is really solid, especially for a first draft. I'm on around draft 50 for my query. :(

This sentence could possibly be stronger:
Having just learned her parents are not her real parents and that she will never come into the magic she so desired to possess, Mina knows the plan to remove another girl’s powers is unthinkable.

Something about "knows" feels off. Maybe "believes" or "is determined to make sure that doesn't happen to the other girl too."

Just a minor thing. Overall, it's great. Good luck!

Laura Barnes said...

I made edits again with all the great suggestions. I know it may be confusing because I keep tweaking after I get feedback, but it's helping me really get it right!

Thanks, all!

Angie Cothran said...

Along with everyone else I love the premise and the title :)

This is really great for a first draft. I got a solid feel for what the conflict was and also what the consequences were if the conflict wasn’t resolved. Well done.

The first paragraph felt like it could be tighter more like what Jen said—keep it really concise.

I hope you find an agent—I would read this to my kids. Fun story. Good luck :)

Nancy Thompson said...

Hey Laura,

Well, you're officially my last query critique and, honestly, I am beat.

My comments run along the same vein as all the others. You just need to cut some of the superfluous detail and pare it down just a tad. Overall, it's a pretty darn good query.

I love the title and the idea is very sweet and I'm sure it will catch someone's attention.

magpiewrites said...

Just want to chime in with my interest in the story. it's really intriguing and different. congrats!
One thing that an agent told me at a conference was not to mention the series/sequel/trilogy possibility (even if they are in outline form) on the query letter. That's a discussion for later with the agent (hopefully!)
good luck

Michelle Fayard said...

Laura, I've been waiting with much anticipation for your query, as you have an excellent blog and I'd like to know more about what you're writing. I've made a few suggestions in parentheses/all caps below:

Mina Bevins hasn't leaked any magic like the other girls, earning her the status of weirdo in the world of witches. (ONE SPACE AFTER PERIODS.) She's about to turn thirteen, though, when every witch comes into her in full. But Mina's birthday passes(COMMA) and she still lacks any power. The Coven Seer has the explanation: Mina’s not really a witch at all; she was switched at birth with another baby in the mortal world hospital. (THAT LAST SENTENCE IS A BIG HOOK FOR ME.)

(Besides the devastation this presents to Mina and her family, this news means that=COULD DELETE THIS PART) somewhere there’s a young witch leaking magic all over the place, exposing the witch world. Secrecy is essential to keep the coven from persecution(COMMA) and the only way to ensure it remains safe, the coven decides, is to track this girl down and remove her powers. (I'M FEELING FOR BOTH OF THESE GIRLS NOW.)

Having just learned that she will never come into the magic she so desired to possess, Mina is determined to not let (it happen to the other girl=ALTHOUGH TECHNICALLY SOMETHING ELSE IS IN STORE FOR THE REAL WITCH; YOU ACTUALLY DON'T NEED THIS SENTENCE). (Together=DELETE) with the help of her friend Porter, a male witch, Mina uses the limited powers available to them to find the real witch and warn her before the coven (takes away her magic life too=THIS MAKES IT SOUND AS IF ANOTHER WITCH IS BEING STRIPPED OF HER POWERS, BUT IT'S JUST THE ONE TEEN, RIGHT?).

Possible series or stand-alone novel, (sWITCH=CLEVER PLAY ON WORDS!) is a 45,000-word (Middle Grade=LOWERCASE) fantasy adventure that brings to life (a matriarchal world of witches hidden among humans=THIS COULD BE A SCARY THOUGHT.).

(In my real life,=BUT WRITING IS A REAL LIFE) I am a marketing consultant and am two classes away from my (Masters=LOWERCASE) in (Marketing=LOWERCASE) (hallelujah=DELETE; I'M NOT EVEN SURE AGENTS AND EDITORS NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE MASTER'S DEGREE AS YOUR BEING A MARKETING CONSULTANT IS COMPELLING ENOUGH IN MY OPINION!). (I maintain a blog that gives marketing advice to writers as they build their platform=NOT SURE THIS FEELS RIGHT; IS THERE SOMETHING ELSE YOU COULD ADD THAT SHOWS HOW YOU'RE THE BEST PERSON TO WRITE THIS PARTICULAR BOOK NOT JUST MARKET IT?) and am a member of SCBWI.

Thank you so much for your time and consideration.

(I'D NEVER BELIEVE THIS WAS YOUR FIRST DRAFT, IT'S EXCELLENT ON SO MANY LEVELS. YOU ARE A TRUE PROFESSIONAL.)

Michelle

P.S. I left a response to your comment at http://michellefayard.blogspot.com/2011/07/blogfest-week-three-query-contest.html.

Laura Barnes said...

Thank you, Michelle! Again, I have made edits based on the latest feedback.

Deana said...

Hey Laura!

By the end of this query I was hooked! I wonder if there is a way to get the first and second paragraphs together though. It would tighten it up and answer some questions that weren't answered until the 3rd paragraph. Does that even make sense?

If you are planning on submitting your query for the contest please email it to me by 12PM ET Tuesday.

Good Luck!
D

carrieannebrownian said...

I love the concept, and probably would've read it when I was a middle grade reader, since I liked witch books. I only saw the most recent version of your query, but I think it sums up the story very nicely and leaves the agent/reader wanting to know what happens next.

LisaAnn said...

Hi Laura! What an original concept, and congratulations on a great title and query letter. It looks like you have already received lots of good feedback, so I will keep my comments short and sweet. The use of the word "leaked" is adorable, and your main character sounds engaging and unique--just the way a MG protagonist should be.

One quick thought: I'm not sure I would mention your choir experience, as it doesn't directly relate to your teen witch expertise. It relates to your understanding of teens, but I think it's kind of a stretch to try to connect the two.

Otherwise, I think you are off to a great start! Best of luck to you!

Laura Barnes said...

Thank you, LisaAnn and CarrieAnne! What great feedback you've all given :)

Angie Cothran said...

Fun that you know Elana's husband and sister. No I've never meet her. I just know that her posts on writing query letters helped me more than any other info I've found about them. I thought I would share the knowledge. We authors should all help each other out. One of us wins--we all win :)

RAD - Dot Painter said...

Love the title! Witch stories are some of my favorites. I've read a ton by Terry Pratchett. I think you've had the feedback I'd make. My only other comment is not mentioning the choir part in your bio section. Unless the witches sing in the book, it probably won't matter to the agent.

So, cute! I know my daughter would love this book.

Charmaine Clancy said...

Great query, I like Jen's idea of wrapping up the first bit, her suggestion was very punchy. Good luck with your query :)
Wagging Tales - Blog for Writers

jamieayres said...

Love your title and anything else I would've mentioned has been covered. Sounds like a wonderful book, esp for those readers who'll be missing HP (like my 11-yr-old daughter, and myself, lol). Best of luck with it. I signed up to follow your blog:)

Pk Hrezo said...

Hi Laura! Sounds like you've got some excellent feedback here already, and I can't think of anymore to add. But I will say best of luck! Sounds like a really cute story and I love the title! :)

Jen Daiker said...

Hi Laura! Thank you for the sweet comments on my blog. I wanted to send you an email but it seems that piece of information has been disabled. I do in fact guest blog if you're interested so shoot me an email: jenniferdaiker(at)gmail(dot)com.

Christa said...

I have nothing to add to all the comments above except to say that I love this premise so very much.

alexia said...

This is an awesome query! So full of voice, and a really cool premise; I like witches myself :)

I really have nothing to critique here. Good luck!

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