Sep 3, 2009

QUERY - TOO FAR GONE

Dear Agent,

Seventeen-year-old Milo hates seeing his mom in pain. It feels like a fist wrenching his guts. But he’s the one thrust into caring for her. His older brother and sister are too busy with their own adult lives, and his dad might as well be grieving already.

Then Lia transfers to his high school. Suddenly, he wonders if she’s the reason he’s yet to date any girls in his classes. Though his parents were high school sweethearts, for the first time Milo thinks, this girl might be someone he could love forever.

Before Milo can get up the nerve, his childhood friend, Damien, slinks in and asks Lia out. Though Milo suspects Damien has no plans to toss aside his player reputation for Lia, he flounders. Does he warn her at the risk of pushing her away and betraying his old friend? Or keep his mouth shut, as usual?

When Lia comes to him, shaking, one night shortly after his mom’s funeral, it’s clear he made the wrong choice. The attempted rape leaves him feeling hatred and guilt as he confronts the friend who was once like a brother to him, but it’s the self-loathing that leaves him spinning out of control.

TOO FAR GONE is a YA novel, complete at 65,000 words. I received my MFA in Creative Writing – Poetry from San Diego State University and have published a few poems. However, this is my first novel.

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

10 comments:

Suzan Harden said...
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Suzan Harden said...

Wow. That's all I can say. Wow.

You deliver a one-two punch to the gut with this query. Only a couple of things I'd do to tweak (and PLLLEEEASSSE take what I'm about to type with the proverbial grain of salt):

1) Say upfront in the first paragraph that mom is dying. My first reaction was Dad just deserted them until I got to the lst sentence saying Dad is grieving. It makes the older kids reactions make more sense, i.e. they're in denial.

2) I wouldn't mention Damien's name. This may be an age reaction from me (the original The Omen villain made me laugh).

This book sounds good, really REALLY good!

Best wishes on your submission!

Scott said...

Sounds like a solid story. I think the first paragraph to your query needs to be consolidated, however. It reads a bit choppy to me. Something like:

To seventeen-year-old Milo, seeing his mother in pain is like a hard shot to the stomach. Milo is left to care for his terminal mother with his adult siblings busy and father grieving.


Otherwise, I think you are on the right track here. Good luck!

RCWriterGirl said...

It sounds like an interesting story here, but what you've got is a very short synopsis, not a query.

In a query, the reader should learn upfront what the main dilemma is, and at the end, find out what's at stake for the main character in solving this dilemma.

This reads more like a series of this happened, then this happened, then this happened. That's not particularly compelling. And I have no idea what the overarching theme is for the novel. Is this a story about a kid growing up and finding his own, a riveting tale about the affect of dating violence on today's teens, or a tale about friendship and betrayal? So many things happen, it's not clear what I'm supposed to be focusing on.

I'd start over with what you want the query reader to come away with. What is Milo's dilemma? Whatever it is, say it, and say it plainly. (For example: Milo is afraid to enjoy high school life because he think is disloyal to his dying mother.--though I'm not sure this is it) Once you give the setup, there's a little more leeway to give some incidents that focus on that.

Also, you've got to give what's at stake at the end. Think of it as you would an intervention for a drug addict (I love that A&E show, by the way). What's at stake? (ex. Milo spirals out of control and risks losing his XXXXX, if he can't do XXXX first.) I don't really know what's at stake for Milo. He spins out of control. So waht? Tell me what he stands to lose by that. Give the reader a reason to say, I want to read that book. I want to find out what Milo does, what choices he makes.

Finally, this is a bit long for a query. I think if you focus in on the major issue, you'll be able to cut out some of the character mentions and/or situations you describe. We probably don't need to know about the dad grieving already, the adult brothers and sisters who don't care or the fact that his parents were high school sweethearts. You do need to say upfront, though that Damien is like a brother. I didn't get that level of closeness when you said "childhood friend." (Again, this is why it's so confusing--should I be focusing on the potential love, the dying mother or the rift between friends? This really needs a clarifying statement so as the reader, I know what to do with the information I'm given).

Sounds like it's a story full of interesting twists. Good luck synthesizing it down to query lenghth and form.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Sounds like this can be a riveting story, but I agree with much of what RCWriter said. I'm not sure what the central dilemma is and that is the most important thing you need in a query.

MattDel said...

RCWriterGirl for the win!

Everything she said is right on target -- condense the first paragraph, make it clear that mom is dying and Milo is doing his duty by taking care of her, and let us know Damien is like a brother to our MC sooner rather than later.

Also, the attempted rape should probably be higher. You could probably accomplish this by combining the second and third 'graphs (do we really need to know mom and dad were HS sweethearts in the query?) and then bringing the rape element in. If that's the direction you want to go in.

Natalie said...

I agree with what everyone else said except I think you should start with a hook - something to really grab the agent.

This seems like a pretty heavy book for YA, I like it. :)

Natalie

Julie said...

I actually said Wow out loud! It's powerful and grabs me.

Christine said...

Thanks for all the feedback. Looks like I have a little work to do... don't want anyone being confused about the main dilemma.

Anica Lewis said...

Very strong! I agree with a lot of what's been said, in particular about expanding the sentence about Milo spinning out of control. This would be a great place to clarify the main theme by establishing what's at stake.