First Impact: BLOOM by Ranee Clark

HEY! We're done with August, but I have nothing to critique for September! If you want your query letter, first page, or back cover copy critiqued here, send it to Details here.

Time for another First Impact critique. Remember, if you share your thoughts in the comments, you are eligible to win a 10-page critique from Tricia Lawrence of Erin Murphy Literary Agency. Your critique doesn't have to be long, just useful!

A big thank you to Ranee for submitting the query for her YA fantasy, BLOOM.

Remember all this is just my opinion. If it doesn't feel right to you, ignore it. Any in-line comments are to the right, overall thoughts at the end.

This part doesn't come across like
you'd think it would. Cut it.
In BLOOM, a Young Adult fantasy novel complete at 86,000 words, the comfortably sweet yet still sassy voice of Finna Claremont will captivate readers.

Not sure why the italics. Otherwise,
this is a decent start.
Born into one of the Big Three families of the Enchanter realm, 17-year-old Finna Claremont’s lineage—yeah, lineage—should mean she’ll make a great guardian…. Right.?
This is a big paragraph. Can it be
broken up?

I'm in for this whole thing until the
last two sentences. It gets vague, and
I don't see a compelling choice like
I want to.
Finna’s screwed up everything from transporting to blocking her thoughts since she was little, so when a fairy declares Finna has special responsibilities to protect her world, it shocks everyone, including Finna. To prove she can hack it as a guardian, Finna sets out to stop an evil politician threatening the rights of all Enchanters. She’ll have to trust the last person she ever expected to befriend (not to mention fall in love with) to pull it off. And trusting Liam Monroe isn’t as easy as it sounds. Because he’s a Monroe. They’ve hated the Claremonts for a hundred years, and the feeling is mutual. There’s a lot more than family honor riding on the line if Finna fails to measure up. She’ll have to count on her fledgling powers or else watch the world she knows disappear.

Brief and to the point. Good.
I am the president of my American Night Writers Association chapter where I volunteer my cold-hearted manuscript reviewing services. If you would like to consider BLOOM, I’d be happy to forward the complete manuscript to you.

Thank you for your time and consideration,

Ranee` S. Clark
ANWA PM Writers President

Adam's Thoughts
This is a solid start. The story sounds cool, the character and conflict are clear, and you've got a strong, fun voice.

Which brings me to point #1: Don't tell us what the voice is. Show us. Don't say it will captivate readers. Captivate us.

I think you did a great job of showing the voice in the rest of the query, but it's funny how saying what the voice is has the opposite effect intended. Like if a guy asks you out and says, "I promise I'm not a creepy stalker who'll research your personal history on Facebook."

He might be telling the truth, but it feels weird.

Point #2: a compelling choice. I know I harp on this, but that's because it works. "Do or die" is not really a choice. We all know she's going to try, else there wouldn't be a story. What makes her situation impossible? What makes us think we have no idea what we would do in her shoes?

But all in all, this feels like a great start to me. What do the rest of you guys think? What would you change?


Steve MC said...

I'd put the title and word count at the end, cut the ANWA part, and break up the middle paragraph.

Other than that, the story sounds good - especially with the tension between the houses and how she's not all superpower, but fumbling towards her heroism.

Matthew MacNish said...

First, I have to halfway disagree with Adam - only in the sense that I think the choice is there. But I agree it needs to be clarified, and heightened.

For me, it seems clear her choice is - trust (and perhaps fall in love with) Liam, which means betraying her lineage, or - don't trust him, which might save her family face, but would clearly let this evil politician accomplish his goals more easily.

Now, as far as high concept choices go, this isn't the best one I've ever seen, but it's not bad either. There are definitely at least some pros to both sides of the coin. However, it still needs to be clarified and summarized, right near the end of the meat of the query.

Other minor things: I would cut the first paragraph, as Adam pointed out, it comes off kind of preachy. I would not italicize the second paragraph, and would try to give Finna more characterization as you introduce her. And finally, I would cut the ANWA bit from your bio, or I would clarify that it's a group for female LDS writers only, because as is, it kind of sounds like a group for writers with insomnia.

Heather Hawke said...

Ranee - in my opinion, Adam's thoughts are on target. You've got some real voice you don't want to hide under a bushel.

Otherwise, I think there needs to be more about the mc's dilemma. Rights being threatened just doesn't sound dramatic enough and didn't even stick in my head. You do a great job with the romance end of it, but I don't really get why her world is under threat. If you fix that, I suspect it will be easier to make those two last lines, her choice, compelling.

I sorta disagree with the other commenters about ANWA - it indicates you are a committed writer and your personality has a window to peek through. However, agents might not know what it is, so as Matthew said, clarify what it is exactly.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

think you have a good hook and a great story. A reluctant heroine who has to make choices she'd rather not. Everything is there, it just needs streamlining and tweaking.

I agree with those who said move the title and word count to the end. I think the second and third paragraphs are strong and provide good insight into your MC. I'm not sure about the repeated -yeah, lineage-, though, not sure what it adds.

I have a pet peeve against using "not to mention." I know it's an expression but it's an expression that means the opposite of what it says. You do mention it and it's important to the story. Also, I think the phrases "a lot more . . . riding" and "fails to measure up" are too cliche (unless she's tiny then it might be clever) and contribute to the vagueness of those lines that Adam noted.

With a bit of editing and rearranging, I think your query will be great. Good luck.

Victoria Dixon said...

How very Romeo & Juliet meets fantasy. I like. I agree with what Adam said and have only one suggestion, but I'll divide it into two parts. Cause you wanted me to do that, right? LOL
You say: There’s a lot more than family honor riding on the line if Finna fails to measure up. My response to this is:
LIKE WHAT? What I'd like to know is, how does she fail? Because she probably does. That's most likely your book's "Large dark tea time of the soul" or whatever you want to call it. So this is where Adam's impossible choice should come into play. She fails, all is lost and what happens now that she HAS failed. Or whatever. You get me point, I hope. :D Good luck. This sounds great.

The Dieselpunkette said...

I agree it gets vague at the end, and that the sassy voice should come out in the description of the story, not in the first paragraph. That's what I always hear - the synopsis in the query is the agents first glance at your style, and it's better to show it rather than tell it.

I think you can leave the second paragraph - it's a decent pitch sentence. Just ditch the italics, I think you'll end up looking pretentious since they're not necessary.

I kind of want a clearer picture of what the setting and world is, from this too. All I've got is "fantasy", and I can't tell if it's historical fantasy, or secondary world, or urban fantasy, or something else.

Ranee` said...

Hello! I thought I left a comment a while ago on thank you for all the thoughts, but ... apparently I didn't! Thanks again. I appreciate everyone stopping by to look at it.