Mar 20, 2009

Query - Just Maybe (revised)

Click here to read the original query.

Dear Mr./Ms. Agent,

Lisa is caught between two worlds.

Outside her front door she’s just an average teenager doing her best to get through high school. Inside her house, it’s more old world Asia than modern America.

Lisa is exactly what any first generation Asian American family would expect from their only child. She’s good in school, respectful to her elders and most of all, obedient. Her priorities were handed to her when she was born and ever since her mother’s death, everything she’s done has been for her family. When everyone’s happy, she’s happy. Or so she thought.

No one understood her life, except her best friend Samantha. Despite their cultural differences, Sam was always there to listen. After Sam is involved in a devastating accident, it became Lisa’s turn to listen.

She heard more than she expected.

As Sam’s recovery progresses, Lisa finds her friend is not the only one she’s supporting. Sam’s brother Tony, home for a semester off from college, is in need of someone to talk to. That someone turns out to be Lisa. What begins as a friendship verges on more and when Tony shows Lisa a glimpse of what life could be, she begins to question everything she’s ever known. For the first time, she feels like she’s living her life for herself.

When Tony goes back to school and an unexpected family move arises, Lisa’s forced to let go of the little bit of a life she’s found. She reverts back to being the daughter her father always expected. When Tony surprises her with a visit and reminds her of what life should be Lisa wonders, can she be happy and still live up to all her family’s expectations?

Just Maybe is a young adult novel and stands complete at approximately 89,000 words. I’d be happy to provide a partial or complete manuscript for further review. Thank you for your consideration.

8 comments:

thumbtack4k said...

This book sounds really interesting...There are two things that could be tweaked. My name is Lisa and I'm a white country girl from Texas. I have never met an Asian girl named Lisa. If her family is so traditional then wouldn't she have a more traditional name?
Also, when you say it's Lisa's turn to listen... I don't know, that just seems like it would be out of character for her if she's so obedient... Perhaps there's a better way to introduce her to the boy?

lucy in the sky said...

The rewrite is good but still seems long. I would like to know what she heard when you say, "She heard more than she expected." Maybe you could build on that while explaining the developing friendship with Sam's brother and the upheaval with the family move and Tony first leaving and then returning.

splatter said...

quick note to start off - the name is fine, don't worry there. Possibly this is the name she uses in her American school, maybe her parents just wanted her to have a more American name... doesn't matter, no worries on that front.

I agree with Lucy that this feels long - though as long as it fits on one page, you're still technically OK, as far as I know.

It also still feels a bit vague. You've updated it to include more details, but I want some specifics to sink my teeth into...

As for length, you've got too much detail going into the setup of the novel, the background. You don't need that much, just a couple sentences before you move into the plot. Get to Sam a little faster. On that note, I might just cut the first two paragraphs and start with "Lisa is exactly what..."

I might also cut this line: "Her priorities were handed to her when she was born and ever since her mother’s death, everything she’s done has been for her family. "

You also say that she heard more than she expected when you talk about listening to Sam... but that doesn't seem to go anywhere. Instead, you skip straight to Tony, and we don't see what she's learning about Sam. In fact, Sam isn't really mentioned again. Why is she important in this query? If you aren't going to discuss that in the query, cut the lead up to it.

Basically, I think my major problem here is the classic "telling not showing" issue. By the end of the query, I'm filled with questions. Why is Tony home, why does he need someone to talk to, what does he show Lisa that makes her question everything? (that last is probably the most frustrating. If I don't know that, it feels a bit... cliche)

Anonymous said...

Imho, this is where you should start:

"Lisa is exactly what any first generation Asian American family would expect from their only child. She's good in school, respectful to her elders and most of all, obedient. Her priorities were handed to her when she was born and ever since her mother’s death, everything she’s done has been for her family. When everyone’s happy, she’s happy. Or so she thought."

This is more showing than telling,and reads better that your sort of cliched opening sentence:

"Lisa is caught between two worlds."

The reason I think you should also delete this one:

"Outside her front door she’s just an average teenager doing her best to get through high school. Inside her house, it’s more old world Asia than modern America."

Is that it is also telling, instead of showing. Plus you go into the second sentence in your third paragraph, showing how, once she's inside the house, things get rigid and orderly again.

When you get to Tony, the story loses something. For a girl so used to order to suddenly ditch it because of heart to hearts with her best friend's brother, well, perhaps you need to state what it is that Tony and Lisa do that's exciting and contrary to her orderly life. Is it his bad boy charms? and I have to hope, **if he's an older brother in college, I assume Lisa's a senior in high school, because I'd wonder why a college student needs to confide in a high school kid, especially if say, she's a freshman or sophmore and a minor.

**it's just my parental spidey sense activated here LOL

Also, I agree with the other poster about what's with the Tony showing her how life should be?
That's very vague and could have many connotations. I guess more specifics are needed, or clarification on the conflict between her orderly life and how Tony and Sam turn her world upside down. But your query is coming along nicely.

Marilynn Byerly said...

Lisa is only different when Tony is around. It sounds like she's not changing internally, just doing the same old adapting to what someone else wants.

If she's developing a spine, you need to show it in your description.

Rick Daley said...

"Lisa is only different when Tony is around. It sounds like she's not changing internally, just doing the same old adapting to what someone else wants."

That worked for Bella in Twilight ;-)

Author of Just Maybe said...

All - Thank you so much for your comments. This has really helped me re-evaluate my query. Some specific notes...

thumbtack4k: My family's from Asia and almost every kid in my family has an American name and a traditional name.

lucy in the sky: I thought it felt long also. I'm working on a rewrite to tighten it up.

splatter: Your vague comment really helped me, as did your specific comments. I agree there's more telling than I want and am revising to show more.

Anonymous: Your spidey comment made me *smile* because I have a couple daughters as well as a 17 yr old sister so I think about this stuff too. Lisa is 17. Tony is 19. And I didn't initially catch the "other" connotations from the statement about Tony showing her how life could be. Going to rework that.

Marilyn Byerly: working to clarify. Lisa is not only different when Tony is around.

Rick: I'm not sure if I should take the Bella/Twilight comparison as a compliment or not ;-P

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Based on this feedback and that of my first review of the full manuscript, I am working on additional revisions in the manuscript before I come back to the query letter.

Thanks to everyone!

Rick Daley said...

Take the Bella comparison as jest, nothing more, nothing less. Lisa is way more interesting.

Bella seems to harbor an inexplicable, self-imposed dislike for people and fun. Lisa has a more interesting motive in her backstory, and in what options are available to her.

I'm reading Twilight now, and the problem I have is that I just don't like Bella. I think Lisa's character has more going for her.