Querypalooza Day 5 & Sum-up!



Dear X:

Seventeen-year-old Adriana didn’t always resent her dad. There was a time when he was fun and attentive and around. But years of working for the CIA have changed him, and not for the better. Over the years, his arbitrary rules, half-truths, and prolonged absences have taken a toll on their relationship.

Then she finds out that his identity has been compromised and his life is at stake. Criminals he put behind bars years ago want him dead, and put a three million dollar bounty on his head to make sure it happens. His rules, absences—a lot of things—make more sense now, and his sacrifices seem more real than ever. But soon he announces he has to flee, and he’s not coming back anytime soon. On top of everything else, the CIA is trying to frame him for laundering money for the same criminals who want him dead now. Adriana can’t stand the idea of never seeing her dad again, so when she comes across files that tell her where he might have gone, she decides to take off across Europe to find him. If she doesn’t get to her dad before the criminals, or the CIA, do, she risks losing him forever, just when she was starting to understand him. But what if she’s wrong about him? What if he was a double agent?

HOW TO CATCH A SPY is a young adult thriller with a romantic subplot that will get readers hearts racing almost as much as the adventure scenes do. It is complete at 54,000 words.

I’m an editor and freelance writer. In 2007, I published an anthology of essays with Speck Press titled GENERATION WHAT? DISPATCHES FROM THE QUARTER-LIFE CRISIS. I have also contributed freelance articles for several publications, including The Boulder Weekly and The Westword. I’m attending Antioch University’s low-residency MFA program. Thank you in advance for considering my manuscript.




JODI: The first line of this query immediately drew me in. She didn’t always resent her dad, and the implied “but now she does” really made me sit up and wonder what changed. Just in the first paragraph, there are some perfect, telling details about what it would be like for someone’s dad to work for the CIA. Frustrating. Lonely. And then we bring on the inciting event, full of scary.

KAT: I love the concept behind this, and I think it’s well-presented to the reader. We get the stakes early on, and although we don’t get a lot of details about Adriana’s plan to find him, we can see how it’ll be an exciting chase with her father at one end and the pursuing criminals at the other. I’m not entirely sure the bit about the romantic subplot needs to be there. Or maybe we need to hear more about the actual love interest, since he’s not brought up at all in the query.

JODI: Yeah, I think so. The line about a romantic subplot came as sort of a surprise, since the love interest wasn’t mentioned at all in the description of the story. So either the line can be cut, or we need to see someone romantical appearing partway through — without distracting from the really cool part of this story, which is Adriana chasing her dad.

What do you think?

And that’s our QUERYPALOOZA week! Did you all like this? Was it educational? We hope it was, because we had a ton of fun looking at all the great queries you guys sent.


7 Responses to Querypalooza Day 5 & Sum-up!

  1. Sarah (appifanie) May 16 2014 at 9:11 am #

    Ooh it is good, I would definitely give it a read.

    Maybe you can leave out the phrase “romantic subplot” just b/c most YA has one, so it’s assumed it’ll be there?

  2. Laurence King May 16 2014 at 12:18 pm #

    It was awesome, and I gleaned quite a few useful tips. Thank you for putting this on 🙂

  3. Bess May 16 2014 at 1:13 pm #

    Whew! What a relief! I was so nervous as I was pulling up the website. 🙂 Thanks for your input!! I’m glad the query looks okay because I have worked on it quite a bit. Now if I can just get that first chapter in great shape!

  4. Rowenna May 16 2014 at 8:16 pm #

    I’m kinda with Sarah that I almost assume YA will have romance, haha. I do think you can tighten the middle of the query a little–the plot summary could be snappier–but I know if I had the choice, I’d want to read more of this!

  5. Anna-Maria Crum May 16 2014 at 8:55 pm #

    I’ve been reading all of the queries you’ve been posting lately and have found them and your comments very interesting. One thing I’ve been wondering about is that all of them seem more like short synopses rather than what I have always thought of as a query. They go into a lot more detail than I thought editors or agents wanted. I thought they wanted more of a screenplay type pitch, something to hook their interest. Are these more detailed queries the preferred style now?

    • Kat Zhang May 17 2014 at 12:36 pm #

      I’m not sure what a screenplay type pitch is, but I think this sort of detail is the norm for most queries. A “short synopsis,” for me, would be about a page long. Queries tend to be 2-3 short paragraphs, or 1-2 longer ones. Enough to define characters, stakes, and conflict. 🙂

  6. Alexa S. May 19 2014 at 1:17 pm #

    This query seems like it’s for a really fun YA novel! I do like that we have a bit more insight into the plot, and that it focuses particularly on the dad. If there was going to be romance, I’d personally just prefer it would be a subplot and nothing else 🙂

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