Mar 18, 2013


For Delta it’s life as usual. You know, a lifetime of “training” and quarantine, then being cut loose to question violent criminals. Typical seventeen-year-old stuff. The “peace” is shattered by a brother she didn’t know she had, who tries to convince her - get this - that she’s worm food existing in the land of the dead.

I bet I know what you’re thinking - somebody’s certifiable - but he’s right. She’s dead. Well, half-dead, half alive. Her brain is deceased, but her body is healthy. It’s just also strapped to a table by scientists who use her for research.

Tough break. Madmen won’t let her wake up. The dead won’t let her go. Her brother won’t stop pushing her to flee. Delta can’t quite separate fantasy from reality. The usual seems like her best option. Only the threat of termination tests her vision of reality, and breaking out starts sounding really good…but how does a damaged girl - who knows nothing about the world - escape?

At its core PROJECT DELTA is about a girl who desperately wants to fit in, but realizes that the status quo isn’t a one-size-fits-all affair.

This manuscript is complete at 70,000 words.


gj said...

You may be too close to the story to see what's missing, but this just left me confused. You've got strong writing skills at the sentence level, but you're not being clear about the actual story.

Keep in mind that each sentence needs to present enough of an interesting picture that I (standing in for how an agent/editor might read it) want to keep reading. The first sentence I hit that's confusing or boring,I'll stop reading. So, take it line by line.

"For Delta it’s life as usual."

I'm sure that means something to you. You know what "it" is and what "life as usual" is. I don't. Life as usual could be walking on the moon, or living in a dungeon or living in a New York penthouse or living in an Arizona commune or paddling down the Nile with crocodiles. I also don't know who/what Delta is, so you haven't told me ANYTHING. No picture, no story, I'm done.

Let's say I'm a more benevolent reader, and will forgive you one wasted line and move on to find out what "life as usual" means. You explain: "You know, a lifetime of “training” and quarantine, then being cut loose to question violent criminals."

I know you're trying to infuse voice with the "you know," but it only highlights the problem: No, I don't know. You need to tell me. And I STILL don't know what you're talking about. You mention training and quarantine. Okay. What kind of training? Martial arts? Or Needlework? Ballet, perhaps? Gymnastics? Swimming? Haircutting? "Training" doesn't mean anything, and putting air quotes around it only makes it worse, because now I don't know why the narrator thinks it's not really training, or what this training-that's-not-training is. And quarantine? From what? You're not giving me an image. Is she in the hospital with the measles? On a desert island at the bottom of a bunker? No idea. I'm sure you know what it means, and that's where the disconnect is -- you know the story so well that you're forgetting that the reader doesn't know what you're talking about.

Start over. Simplify. Forget about voice for a moment, and just tell us who the main character thinks she is, and what her problem is. Then introduce the antagonist, and show how they're going to struggle, with some stakes that they both care about. You can make it voicey and pretty later. Clarity trumps writerly frills.

John said...


Thank you for the feedback, it's very helpful.


Anonymous said...

I'll second what gj said (no relation). I read this and ended up confused. She's dead, but she isn't. She questions violent criminals. Where are we??? I know it's hard to ground a new reader with only a few words, but I don't know anything about the world, so none of this grabs me. I'm just confused.

And the quotation marks didn't work for me, either.

Maybe some background as to how she ends up partially dead might help?

And not only is her questioning violent criminals unclear, I don't see how it ties in to the story and the protagonists current dilemma. It had better tie in somehow, or you shouldn't bring it into the query.

Last, I have no idea of any stakes for her. So she's partially dead, and that's a problem for her, but there needs to be a dilemma, preferably two choices, both unpleasant/dangerous (see the siren query letter above).


Irene said...