Querypalooza Day 1



Dear Ms. Meadows and Ms. Zhang,

How can your life change and open up if you let more people in?

Seventeen-year-old Sadie Snow’s social circle consists almost entirely of emotionally distant Amber and virtual big brother Ethan. When Amber dumps her without a word, Sadie is left hurt and confused. She turns to Ethan, who has always been her rock, for support, confident that he’ll be there for her.

When Sadie’s long-time crush, pseudo-bad-boy Anderson, is kicked out of his house, Sadie’s social worker mom takes him into their home. Still reeling from the loss of her best friend, Sadie finds herself drifting towards Anderson, who, much to Sadie’s surprise, returns her affections.

As Sadie comes to grips with losing Amber, Sadie and Anderson grow closer every day, while Ethan drifts further away. Concerned about her friend, Sadie confronts Ethan and he admits a game-changing secret. Sadie must decide whether changing the terms of her romantic and platonic relationships are worth the risk of losing them.

Leaning Towards Optimism is contemporary YA. It would appeal to readers of Kasie West’s “The Distance Between Us” and Robin Constantine’s “The Promise of Amazing.” It’s complete at 69,000 words.

Thank you so much for your time and consideration.




KAT: I think the largest issue here is the vagueness of the query. We get introduced to a number of characters, but we don’t really get a sense of action or plot. What happens? What are the stakes? What is the path of action leading to possible resolution?

JODI: I agree. We’re missing a sense of urgency and emotional attachment to the characters, which I think is one of the most important things a query needs to do: it needs to make the reader feel connected to the character so the reader cares what happens.

KAT: Yes! Also, I think we’re missing the “why” to a lot of the actions that are listed. We don’t need a lot, but I’m left wondering: Why did Amber dump her best friend? Why is Ethan drifting away? Without knowing the “why,” again, I don’t know the stakes. I assume that the “game-changing secret” is going to be a large part of the plot and stakes, but I’m left wondering what exactly the “game” is.

JODI: Yep. I think understanding the stakes would go a long way toward helping the reader grow closer to the characters. A couple other things that stood out: the rhetorical question at the beginning (I immediately started coming up with my own answer—almost never the writer’s intention, I think)—and the “virtual big brother” which sounded very 1984 and creepy, though I don’t think it was supposed to be. So while this query has a good format—inciting event, game-changing, and characters doing things—I’d like to see it pushed a little further: more focus, attention to alternate meanings for various details, and—like you said—a clearer picture of what is at stake, exactly.

So, there are our thoughts! What do you guys think about this query?


9 Responses to Querypalooza Day 1

  1. Stephanie May 12 2014 at 9:56 am #

    I feel like the character descriptions overshadow the plot of the story. I know the MC falls in love with a bad boy who moves in with her and her social worker mom, and she has a falling out with her best friend and her fake big brother (?) but I have no idea what the book is really about. And this doesn’t give me enough info to make me rush to Goodreads to add it to my – to read shelf.

  2. Chris Bailey May 12 2014 at 10:01 am #

    Jodi and Kat, thanks so much for Querypalooza! And thanks, Author, for submitting to public analysis.

    I like the lesson/theme of the book implied by the rhetorical question. I’ve always heard warnings about rhetorical questions, but this is the first time anyone has pointed out why they’re so dangerous. Exactly! I stopped reading to think about an answer.

    This story sounds like a complex exploration of relationships that’s just right for YA readers. For what it’s worth, another specific moment that interrupted my reading was the introduction of Anderson. When Sadie turns to Ethan at the end of paragraph one, I expect the next paragraph to tell me more about Sadie + Ethan. Instead, a long-time-crush takes the stage. Reducing the complications is what makes queries so hard.

    Thank you all again, and good luck.

  3. Sarah (appifanie) May 12 2014 at 11:06 am #

    Thanks to Jodi and Kat for picking my query and helping me out, and thanks to the commenters for their feedback as well! I’m new at this and am super grateful for all feedback 🙂

    Bookmarking, rereading, plotting!

    Also, let’s not forget wherein I spaced out and put the wrong title (the title of my 2nd WIP) in the last paragraph. D’oh.

  4. Rowenna May 13 2014 at 11:09 am #

    Really good advice here! The only thing I would add is to be very precise with your word choice–queries are so short, so any misstep really stands out and any confusion really clouds the whole thing. For instance–“Virtual big brother” made me think *actual* virtual–like he was someone she only knew via internet communication. And Amber “dumping” her–I admit I thought this was a romantic dumping, since that’s usually how that word gets used. You clarify that as you move on in the query, but I feel like being very clear from the get-go is a better bet.

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