Oct 27, 2009

Query - They Say

Dear Agent,

If asked, sixteen year old Mattie Loisel would have a hard time telling you what she wanted most in life: the lead in the school play, the designer clothes her family would never be able to afford or for her mother to have never been in the accident. She might not be able to tell you her number one, but she’s definitely made a list. Mattie itemizes and enumerates because she doesn't know how else to understand or control her life. So when her boyfriend scores an invitation to the biggest party of the year, Mattie lists everything she needs to make the day fabulous. Using her meager life savings to buy just the right dress and shoes, Mattie has the perfect day. Perfect that is, until she loses a borrowed Louis Vuitton purse.

Without any other options, Mattie makes a deal with the Irish Annies - three girls who control her high school with the power of a dictator and the mystique of the Fates. The Annies buy Mattie a replacement purse and give her two months to repay them the three thousand dollars or suffer the consequences.

But as the summer progresses, juggling four jobs isn't all that Mattie needs to worry about. When her boyfriend dumps her and already strained family relationships begin to deteriorate further, not even a list can solve Mattie's problems. To top it all off Mattie needs to worry about the new guy, the one who sees through her guises and challenges her to be more honest with herself than she's ever been before.

They Say is an 88,000 word YA retelling of Guy de Maupassant's classic The Necklace and it is my first novel. (Reason I am querying this particular agent.) I have included below the first # pages of my completed manuscript, and would be happy to send more if you are interested.



Gina said...

Holy guacamole, what a cool idea! I love The Necklace.

Love the query, too; just a few points:
Don´t say it´s your first novel.
I think we need to be told why The Annies give Mattie the money, and what ´the consequences´ are if she doesn´t repay it.
I´d put a comma after ´afford´ in paragraph 1.

I hate to have to point this out, but a while back I read a query somewhere (might have been at Miss Snark´s place, or the Query Shark, or...) which also featured a female MC making lists all the time, and I seem to remember that this novel was subsequently sold. I also physically saw one somewhere recently that featured this (might´ve been the same book?). Seeing as I´m so memorially challenged, maybe someone else can shed light on this?

But whatever transpires about the other book(s), it/they were definitely chick lit and not YA.
Also definitely no re-telling of The Necklace.
And they most certainly didn´t have any Annies who ruled with ´the mystique of the Fates´ (love that bit!!!).

Julie said...

I think you should start with something similiar to the second paragraph. The first one is a lot of telling but you can weave some of that into the rest.

Your hook suntences should have the main conflit: She lost a $3000 dollar purse and owes her life to the Irish Annies now she's working four jobs her boyfriend has dumped her and she cant' help thinking about . . .

I really love the ideas and towards the end you really start to feel the real emotion and it would be good to get that in sooner.

Stephanie said...

I was going to say what Julie does. I think you could edit down some of the query, combining sentences and ideas.

I didn't get that it was a retelling of "The Necklace" until you said so. I thought that was a clever & appealing twist.

When you started with the list idea, I expected it would be what the story was about and, if not that, then her mother's accident. I think it could begin something more like: "Determined to have one perfect day, Mattie uses her meager savings to buy the right dress and shoes for the party of the year. When she loses a borrowed purse, she turns to The Irish Annies -- three girls who control her high school with the power of a dictator and the mystique of the Fates-- for the money to replace the Louis Vitton bag. She has two months to repay them the three thousand dollars or suffer the consequences."

I feel like that's the core of the story and I think it gets lost in the list thing, the mother having the accident, the party of the year, etc. that comes before it in the query. It's just a matter of structure, not content. I would lead with it and focus on it.

It is a terrific idea for a story. I'm eager to hear how the querying goes :)

RCWriterGirl said...

I read this query and found it an interesting hodgepodge that I really didn't care to find out any more about.

The people who've said you need a hook are right. You need to explain what's at stake. You make only one reference that Mattie stands to lose something if she doesn't repay these Annies. And even then, you don't say what. In the world I live in, if you don't repay somebody money, you get bad credit. Not great, but not the end of the world either. We don't have debtors prisons, so the stakes don't seem terribly high based on the information you've provided.

If you want this query to pop, to really stand out, tell us up front what the problem is and what Mattie stands to lose if she doesn't get it.

Example: When 16-year-old Mattie successfully uses borrowed clothes and accessories to fit in at a high-school dance, she thinks she's finally reached perfection. But, things fall apart when she loses a $3,000 handbag she needs to return. In order to save face, she convinces the rich, popular girls known as the Irish Annie to loan her the money.

Mattie's got three months working four jobs to repay the loan. If she doesn't, the Annies have vowed to use rumor, innuendo, and their own populariy to make the rest of Mattie's high school experience a living nightmare....

Or whatever. But, you've got to give us some stakes.

Also, I'd get rid of the section of your query where you say this story is a "retelling." I don't think agents like retelling. Maybe, you could say it's in the same vein as the Necklace. Or a similar tale as the Necklace. It's just a pet peeve of mine, but I hate remakes of movies and re-tellings of stories. If the original is good, let's go with the original.