Aug 16, 2009

Query- Near Edgware (Revision 1)

Click here to read the original query.

Dear Agent,

I would like to introduce you to my novel, Near Edgware.

16 year-old Jess Trainer returns to a school that has changed in everyway except geographically. The Head doesn’t tolerate deviation from his code, and the rules. Jess is glad to be back, she just wants to spend time with her friends. Despite her determination to avoid trouble she can’t fight the lure of Caleb Ridgeway. She can see him, tell the difference, to her he is more than one of the matching set of boys who came with the new Headteacher.

This attraction draws Jess inside the world of those born Were. Only after she is attacked by feral Were does Jess discover that Caleb’s secret, exciting to speculate about, is bitingly real. Given the choice between keeping his secret or losing Caleb for good Jess decides their love is worth the risk. When the feral Were attempt to destroy the younger members of the pack – specifically Caleb – they have help on the inside who nearly make that happen.

The task of saving them all falls on Jess which is ironic given the other secret that permeates the book. Her parents keep from her why she senses when people are more than they seem, why she is fast and strong, why her visual memory was bred in her; they want to end a way of life built on hatred and annihilation. They leave it to fate to see what happens when the last born Hunter meets the Alpha-to-be. An unscrupulous Were could see Jess’ ignorance as the perfect opportunity for revenge. It’s a good job Caleb fights for more than the right to love.

Near Edgware is complete at 75,000 words. It has been written as a stand alone novel. But it could be so much more. Once characters have been established they have been known to develop a loyal following. I have planned the outlines for five, or infact six, further linked stories elements of each have been woven into the book. The first three chapters of Book 2 are already written and could be ready for perusal with the more polished manuscript described above.

I am a teacher and use Social and Emotional Aspect of Learning (SEAL) as the cornerstone of my work. I also have a counselling qualification. I bring these skills to my writing.

Thank you for your time. I hope to hear from you soon.

Yours sincerely

5 comments:

Elaine 'still writing' Smith said...

What's the genre? Oh! Oh! Let me guess... I know the answer to that one - oops!
I'm going with YA Paranormal romance
Elementary mistake - sorry.

gj said...

You're trying too hard to be writerly, and the vagueness gets in the way of a reader understanding what's going on. YOU know what you're referring to, b/c you've read the book, but the agent hasn't. You need to show her how exciting and different your book is, not tell her vague things that your book has in common with every other YA fantasy on the shelves.

Take just the first two sentences, one at a time:

16 year-old Jess Trainer returns to a school that has changed in everyway except geographically.

Okay, except for the age of the protagonist and the magical school setting (which is a standard of YA fantasy, so it doesn't make yours stand out), that doesn't tell me anything. What, excactly, does it mean? The school now has 47 rooms instead of 3? It's wood instead of brick? It's got new people? It's invisible? It used to be invisible and now it's visible? I have no idea. You know how it's changed, so tell us. Concretely. And show me how the change matters to Jess, b/c it's not about the change, it's about how it affects Jess.

Next sentence:
The Head doesn’t tolerate deviation from his code, and the rules.

Okay, but what are the rules, and what does he do if they're broken? Is it a dress code? A moral code? A marching-in-line code? A make-up code? What code? And if it's broken, does he hang the offender up by his heels and throw tomatoes at him? Does Jess like his code? Does she want to break it? Why should I care about the code? Just telling me that he's got a code paints no picture and tells no story.

I'm assuming those facts matter to the protagonist's journey, but if they don't, skip or condense them. If they matter, then be specific and paint a picture, so the agent doesn't have to fill in the blanks herself, only to end up with a completely different story in her head than the one you've written.

Start with the basics: Jess is a schoolgirl we should care about because ____, and she has a goal she cares about, and she's pursuing the goal, but someone is opposing her, and the struggle deepens. Keep it concrete, so you're showing, not telling. Don't try to be pretty; trust the story to interest us by showing us its exciting features.

And axe everything about sequels except for a basic, "stand-alone, with series potential" phrase.

FictionGroupie said...

I think this revision gives a clearer picture of your story. There are some grammar things that I commented on. (see below.)

Also, you may want to work on your hook. From what I gather, it's were hunter girl falls in love with were boy. That's the conflict--that should be your hook and probably your first line.

Here are the rest of my thoughts. Hope this helps!

16 year-old Jess Trainer returns to a school that has changed in everyway except geographically. The Head doesn’t tolerate deviation from his code, and the rules. Jess is glad to be back, she just wants to spend time with her friends. Despite her determination to avoid trouble she can’t fight the lure of Caleb Ridgeway. She can see him, tell the difference, to her he is more than one of the matching set of boys who came with the new Headteacher.
“16” need to be “sixteen” since it is the start of a sentence. “Everyway” should be “every way”. Remove the comma after “code”. “Jess is glad to be back, she just wants to spend time with her friends” needs to be broken up into two sentences since there are two complete thoughts OR place a semi-colon instead of a comma OR place “and” after the comma. Add a comma after “trouble”.

Given the choice between keeping his secret or losing Caleb for good Jess decides their love is worth the risk.
there may need to be a comma behind “good”

The task of saving them all falls on Jess which is ironic given the other secret that permeates the book.
This sentence pulls out of the narrative a little bit, separates me from the story. For me, it helps when I imagine the query (except for the author paragraph) as the back cover of the book—this helps keep the voice consistent. So the second part of the sentence would not work on the back of the book. Perhaps just “The task of saving them all falls on Jess” and cut out the rest.

Her parents keep from her why she senses when people are more than they seem, why she is fast and strong, why her visual memory was bred in her; they want to end a way of life built on hatred and annihilation.
This may be better as two sentences since the first part is already long. Also, if you take out the passive voice “was bred in her”, the list may flow a little better. Maybe—why her visual memory is sharp—so that it matches the style of the other two items in the list.

It’s a good job Caleb fights for more than the right to love.
“It’s a good job” This may just be a turn of phrase that doesn’t translate as well in America. ? I’m not sure. We would say “It’s a good thing”

Near Edgware is complete at 75,000 words.
may want to insert the genre here

It has been written as a stand alone novel. But it could be so much more. Once characters have been established they have been known to develop a loyal following. I have planned the outlines for five, or infact six, further linked stories elements of each have been woven into the book. The first three chapters of Book 2 are already written and could be ready for perusal with the more polished manuscript described above.
This is probably too much information. “This is a stand alone novel with potential for a sequel/series (whatever you’re planning). The second novel is currently in outline form.”


Good luck!

Laura Martone said...

Hi, Elaine. I just had a chance to read both versions of your query.

I agree with FictionGroupie - this is definitely an improvement, but it could still be tightened. Right now, it's a little long (400 words) - a better aim is somewhere between 250 and 350, although, believe me, I know how hard it can be to reduce a novel into a short query (just consider how hard it was for me to do that with my big-ass novel, which is almost three times the size of yours). Also, as GJ said, the query is too vague at the moment. A query is no place to be literary - the plot must be laid out in concrete terms, or the agent could lose interest.

I know agents differ on how they prefer queries to start, but I personally feel that beginning with a hook is a good way to lure them in. In order to streamline this query, I would cut the first sentence, tighten the next three paragraphs, and cut much of the fourth paragraph (most agents don't need to know about the subsequent novels - not at this stage anyway).

Here's my stab at a new, tighter version (obviously, take it with a grain of salt, especially if I misunderstood the story):

Dear Agent,

Sixteen-year-old Jess Trainer returns to a school that has changed in every way except geographically. The Head doesn’t tolerate deviation from his rules, and despite her determination to avoid trouble, she can’t fight the lure of Caleb Ridgeway. She can tell that he’s different from all the other boys who came with the new Head.

This attraction draws Jess inside the world of those born Were. Only after she is attacked by feral Were does Jess discover that Caleb’s thrilling secret is bitingly real. Given the choice between keeping his secret or losing Caleb for good, Jess decides their love is worth the risk. When the feral Were attempt to destroy Caleb and the other younger members of the pack, Jesse must save them all.

The only problem is that her parents have kept her from understanding why she is fast and strong, has an innate visual memory, and senses the true nature of others. Hoping to end a way of life built on hatred and annihilation, they let Fate decide what will happen when the last-born Hunter meets the Alpha-to-be. Since an unscrupulous Were might see Jess’ ignorance as the perfect opportunity for revenge, it’s a good thing that Caleb fights for more than the right to love.

NEAR EDGWARE is a YA paranormal romance, complete at 75,000 words. Although it has been written as a stand-alone novel, the story has the potential to be part of a series, which I've already outlined.

I am a teacher, with a counseling qualification, and use Social and Emotional Aspect of Learning (SEAL) as the cornerstone of my work. I bring these skills to my writing.

Thank you for your time. I hope to hear from you soon.

Yours sincerely

-----

Now, even with that stab at a tightened query, there are still a few issues:

1. I agree with GJ that the hook needs to be more unique - and more detailed (e.g., what are the rules that shouldn't be broken?). Maybe FictionGroupie is on to something with the suggested conflict.

2. The paragraph about Jess' parents sticks out too much - in my humble opinion, a query should stick with the same tone, voice, and POV. So, somehow, this paragraph needs to be reworked to fit Jess' POV. Stick with your MC at all times.

3. Who exactly are the last-born Hunter and the Alpha-to-be? I'm just not clear what these monikers refer to. Is Jess the Hunter? Is Caleb the Alpha-to-be? Try to be clearer - you don't want an agent to be confused either.

Okay, phew. I hope these suggestions help you. Your story is really interesting - and I wish you lots of luck with it.

P.S. I promise to have some feedback on the actual novel by the summer's end. I'm currently reading eight manuscripts, so I'm moving a little slow. Hope you understand.

Michelle said...

Everyone here gives such great advice! I just have one tiny thing to add- look into each agent in regards to mentioning if it's a series. Some want to know, but many say if this is your debut, don't mention it.

Also, whether you mention it or not, I'd take out the line about series developing loyal followers. Agents already know that.

And a tiny, quick detail: a lot of agents have mentioned that they love hearing "Thank you for your time" but not so much "I look forward to hearing from you." Particularly since many have a no response = not interested policy.