Mar 16, 2009

Query: YA Fiction: Fault Lines

Sam can’t imagine her ancient grandmother, Granny Franny, or her mother, Angela, as teenagers. To Sam's mind, her grandmother was born an old lady and her mother has always been a bordering-on-boring single mother. But the discovery of a photo of a teenaged Franny kissing a cute boy and a look through Angela's high school yearbook now have Sam resolved to learn more about her grandmother's and mother's younger years. Her voyages through the past coincide with her finding her first boyfriend.

Sam discovers more than just exciting first kisses and tender hand-holding. She learns secrets with the power to destroy her fragile family. After Granny dies, petty arguments, old jealousies and unraveling secrets threaten to explode into intractable family feuds.

Fault Lines tells three interwoven stories of love, loss and identity, each echoing the shiver-inducing electricity of young love, the plaintive ache of lost innocence, and the ongoing struggle to become an independent, self-assured adult. Fault Lines is around 60,000 words long.

I have twelve years of professional writing experience, the bulk of which has involved writing instructional manuals for the computer software industry.
My freelance work has appeared in magazines such as Boys’ Life, Chicago Parent, American Health & Fitness, Bride & Groom, and Delicious Living.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.

8 comments:

Judy said...

I am not an expert. As a matter of fact, I am trying to fine tune my on query. :)

I will try and give you the best advice I can. Some of this advice came from other people that I am going to pass along to you.

Do not use negative words, such as can't in your opening sentence. Make your character strong.

The first sentence should capture the essence of your story. Does your first sentence do that? Or does the first couple of sentences in your second paragraph do that?

There are a few comma mistakes. I double checked to make sure I was right, because I constantly question my own punctuation. Commas are used to seperate a list of things.

After Granny dies, petty arguments, old jealousies, and unraveling secrets...

I am not sure about this, but I think the number of years and the instuctional manuals for computers can be cut.

I would definately keep the magazines that published you.

I hope I offered something that can help you.

Your story sounds very interesting. Good luck.

hope101 said...

Your writing is clear, and I think you've captured the essence of a teenager's disdain for her "respected elders" that should infuse any books written for this age group. But the real conflict only comes in the second paragraph. I think you could almost omit the first paragraph entirely and replace it with something like:

Sam is giddy with first love on the day that she opens her a yearbook and discovers her boring mother is not exactly as she seems. That moment changes everything, and soon Sam is discovering secrets with the power to destroy her fragile family...


What is your freelance work? If it is fiction, that is probably more relevant to an agent than the professional nonfiction writing.

Good luck!

ElanaJ said...

I don't think your opening is doing you any favors. You need to hook and grab and propel me to read more. Do teenagers really sit around thinking about what their mothers and grandmothers were like? Um, I don't think they do. So you need to start with the inciting event--the photo.

"When Sam finds a weathered photo of a teenaged girl kissing a cute boy, her first thought is "Man, I wish that were me." Until she recognizes the girl as a much-younger version of her Granny Franny. Yikes. Not only that, but along with the photo, Sam discovers her mother's yearbook. And finds that she wasn't always the boring single mother Sam has grown up with."

Or something along those lines. It's too dry as it is, IMHO.

Okay, so you’ve got them reading, now you need to give a little setup, a conflict, and a consequence if the conflict is not overcome.

“So Sam sets out to find out exactly what kind of teens the “old people” in her life were like. Her voyages through the past coincide with her finding her first boyfriend, and Sam discovers more than just exciting first kisses and tender hand-holding. She learns secrets with the power to destroy her fragile family.” (I think the “secrets” here is a little too vague. What secrets? I think this is your conflict, but it’s not coming through as brightly as I would hope.)

“After Granny dies, petty arguments, old jealousies and unraveling secrets threaten to explode into intractable family feuds.” (Okay, I think this is your consequence in relation to the “secrets” up above. But I don’t think it’s quite enough. Or just needs to be worded differently. Who’s petty arguments? Who’s old jealousies? What? More secrets? And with Granny gone, what family is there to feud with? Yeah, I’m not getting it. I think you have room to be a bit more specific.)

Fault Lines tells three interwoven stories of love, loss and identity, each echoing the shiver-inducing electricity of young love, the plaintive ache of lost innocence, and the ongoing struggle to become an independent, self-assured adult. Fault Lines is [COMPLETE AT] 60,000 words long.

Hope something helps. I think you have a good story, but it's hidden right now

ElanaJ said...

And ugh. My "Who's" should be "Whose" Le sigh. Can't win 'em all.

lauren said...

Howdy. I write YA, too.

First thing I noticed here is that you've got a lot of adjectives. Some of them start really calling attention to themselves: "shiver-inducing," "intractable," etc. Don't let individual words overpower the story.

I felt like you were doing a nice job of capturing Sam's voice in the beginning of the first paragraph, but somewhere before the end of that paragraph, the "author voice" took over and we never heard from Sam again. Note the difference in tone from the beginning to the end of the letter. We've got humor giving way to "the ongoing struggle to become an independent, self-assured adult." Ack! Avoid direct telling regarding the themes and lessons in your novel. Try to keep some of that same voice we see in the beginning, so long as it's representative of the voice present in the novel.

Also, I wish we knew some more specifics about the plot. Painful family secrets are in a lot of novels. Briefly, how does Sam discover these secrets? Can you give us a hint as to what the secrets are? General descriptions of plot points cause my (and likely agents') eyes to just scan right by. An interesting specific detail, on the other hand, will jump right out.

You story sounds interesting! I would love to see a YA family saga on the shelves. Seems like getting your query right is just a matter of bringing out the most interesting parts of the story.

Niki Schoenfeldt said...

This sounds like an interesting concept, but your query needs some stiff tightening. Start off with the actions. First lines mean a lot. I love the example ElanaJ gave. It kicked up the tension right from the start and was short and to the point. You've got one shot at this, make it one that counts. Good luck.

Ann said...

Wow - thank you so much for all the great feedback.

What I've struggled with in this query is that there's a lot to cram into a couple of paragraphs.

Granny's secret is that she was married before and both her husband and infant son were killed in a car accident (she was the sole survivor). It's a secret because that's the only way she could go on after it.

Sam's figured out that she must be a product of some after-Prom activities, based on her birthday. But she's never known who her father is - she also finds her mother's journal which has the story of Angela's senior year.

The family that still exists to squabble consist of Angela's three sisters and one of their husbands is possibly implicated as Sam's father.

The basic plotline is that Granny's dying, Sam and Angela go to her house to be with her (along with the rest of the family). Sam is pressed into packing up the attic - which is where she finds the yearbooks and journal. She also spends some time in her grandmother's pottery studio, which is where she meets Rufus and finds artifacts of Granny's life that lead her to believe that Granny had another life.

Then the stories spool out from there - the mother's through the journal and the grandmother's on the course of a road-trip to the accident site.

I know - it maybe sounds a bit ridiculous when it's laid out bare like that. And I know I'm too close to the book, but the characters are good and it really is a character-driven story.

Thanks again for the help - you've given me so much to think about!

Anette J Kres said...

This looks pretty good. While it doesn’t really tell any story details, except that Granny Franny dies, it does give me an okay idea what it’s about. More specific details would be great, but its’ not bad as is. Suggest “Fault Lines is complete at 60,000 words.”