To help distract us from the world around us and pay forward the help we've received over the years, several published and pre-published authors are giving away query critiques. The feedback will be posted on our blogs throughout the next two week, with a Twitter chat Friday, Dec. 2. Join us at 4 and 8 pm EST on #FFChat.
Title: THE DREAM KEEPER
Genre: YA dark fantasy
Seventeen-year-old Nora Gallagher has spent the last five years dreaming the same dream: a starlit sky, a luminescent beach, and a hooded man who calls himself the Sandman. Logically, Nora knows he can’t be real, but when people close to her start dying gruesome deaths in their sleep, the Sandman is the only one with answers.
Hidden deep within Nora’s dreams is the secret to the Weaver’s freedom, and the Lord of Nightmares will do anything to escape his prison. Even if that means traumatizing Nora until the Sandman’s protections shatter under the weight of darkness. But, when the Weaver takes Nora’s sister, she throws that logic out the window.
Entering the Nightmare Realm is
nothing if not terrifying but, when she
gets separated from the Sandman, Nora will have to must navigate the deadly realm on her
Everyone she loves will be lost to the shadows if she fails to stop the Weaver,
but success comes with unexpected dark consequence of its own.
SPLINTERED meets NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET in a YA Dark Fantasy, THE DREAM KEEPER, complete at 70,000 words.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
 Avoid using “dream” twice in one sentence. You can also streamline a little by flipping it around “For five years, seventeen-year-old Nora experiences the same dream:…” (And we don’t need her last name. I know it’s a preference, but to me, unless the last name is a hint at diversity, it doesn’t add anything.)
 Does Nora have some way of communicating with the Sandman? “is the only one with answers” raises a lot of questions for me, like, how would she even know that? Doesn’t the Weaver also have answers? Tell me about Nora and what she does. If she’s communicating with the Sandman, let me know that.
 I’m confused. Are the Sandman, Weaver, and Lord of Nightmares all referring to the same person? Add a sentence before this explaining who the Weaver is. Why is the secret to his freedom hidden within Nora’s dreams?
 Elaborate. Why is Weaver locked up? Do we want him to escape? Maybe the Weaver is this poor old guy who was falsely accused…Maybe they don’t like him because he rescues stray kittens. Don’t make me guess what happens. I’m a bad guesser.
 I know you’re trying to by mysterious here, but this sentence is so vague that it’s basically meaningless to me. Avoid clichéd phrases like “until the Sandman’s protections shatter” and “under the weight of darkness.” I want to know who these people are, what they’re trying to do, and what happens if he succeeds. Why is he taking Nora’s sister?
 Why does the Weaver take Nora’s sister? Does he need a tennis partner for doubles? Add details to make your story stand out. Every agent you’re sending this to gets dozens of YA fantasy queries a day (if not more). You want to make them remember yours. The other thing is, this whole paragraph has kind of a generic movie trailer tone to it. Make sure your query reflects your writing voice. Use words Nora would use to describe her situation.
 You could add some good voice by cutting this into two sentences. Sentence 1: how scared is she? Sentence 2: She gets separated from the Sandman and reacts by….?
 This is too vague. I love that there are bad things happening whether Nora wins or loses, but tell me what’s at stake. What happens if Nora fails to stop the Weaver? And I have the same comments about voice here as above. Is this how Nora would describe her situation? Give me a hint of her voice so I know what to expect in the pages.
 Good comps
 I worry that this is a little low for YA fantasy with a 17yo main character. You may want to explore places where the story could be fleshed out a bit or places that could use more description/emotion/character development. I worry more because the details of the query are so vague, it makes me wonder if the book itself is vague or a bit too bare bones.
 The first thing I noticed about this query is that it’s pretty short. The plot summary is only 164 words, which isn’t really enough to get across the intricacies of the plot. I need to know what makes this book different from other YA fantasies, because there are thousands of them. Why should I read this book instead of a different one? To do that, I need to know what happens. The plot summary should always be at least 200 words, preferably closer to 250. Tell me enough to make me desperate to read this book.
You've got what could be a really interesting concept, but after reading the query, I'm not sure I could tell anyone what's going to happen in this book. Give me more. Go deeper into the plot. Help me connect with Nora and feel the stress of her situation. Don't give away the ending, but don't hold back what happens in the earlier parts of the book. That's what will take a query from no to maybe or maybe to yes.