Jul 19, 2009

Julie's query revised - attempt #2

Click here to read the original query.
Click here to read the sample pages.

Dear Agent,
I am currently seeking representation for my Young Adult novel, UNTITLED, complete at 90,000 words.

Seventeen year old Holly Flynn is about to matriculate into the ‘real world’ as she likes to call this high school after life. The only thing she’s in a hurry to do is hear that final bell and race out the doors of her New Jersey high school for the last time.

Through family connections Holly’s scored a summer job in Manhattan as camp counselor to a dozen rich kids whose bedrooms are probably bigger than her entire house. In no time, she’s immersed in the world of fancy cars and private drivers having no clue how much her life was about to change!

Holly’s completely devoted to her boyfriend and best friend of two years, David but when she meets Jackson, a fellow counselor she can’t stop thinking about him, or dreaming about him. Despite her incredible efforts to ignore his every move, she finds herself buried deep in solving the mysteries surrounding him; mysteries even he doesn’t understand.

Like his deceased mother and twin sister, Jackson has an unwanted and uncontrolled ability to inflict pain on those he’s close to, causing them to relive their worst memories and sentencing him to a lifetime of lonely solitude. But Holly’s opened up her heart to him more than she ever thought possible and is determined to find a way for them to be together – even if it causes her pain.

Holly and Jackson, along with the help of a surprising new friend begin a quest to unravel the mysteries of Jackson’s ability but find themselves faced with the opportunity to change Holly’s past leaving her with the impossible decision - be with her one true love or give her mother the life she should have had, removing the horrors of her past.

The ability to change the past is like playing God in a battle between right and wrong.


Botanist said...

Dear Julie,

I haven't looked at the earlier version or other comments, so I'm coming at this afresh but I might well repeat things that others have said. I'm also struggling with the query process myself so nothing I say has any weight of authority. Handle with caution and please disregard anything that doesn't resonate with you or with what more experienced people have said :-)

First off, I think you have an interesting premise and a very clear conflict for Holly. A good basis for an interesting story.

However, I think there is a lot of stuff in the query letter that is peripheral to the main conflict. You only have a few short paragraphs to convince an agent to spend time on your work, so every word counts (as I'm learning myself).

From what I've read, it seems the most important elements to focus on are: Hook, plot catalyst, conflict, and choices.

So what is your story really about? It seems to me that it is all about the ability to change the past, and the cost & choices that go with it. So my suggestion would be to concentrate on that and be ruthless about anything else.

For example, paras. 2 to 4 are mostly backstory & setup. To me they don't add much to the query. You have the plot catalyst buried in here (Holly meets Jackson and starts getting involved with him) but you can probably get that into one sentence and easily cut the rest.

I love the idea of Jackson's unwanted ability, but I'm not sure how central his mother and sister are to mention in the query. I wasn't sure about "finding a way for them to be together". Who is the "them" here? Holly & Jackson (but doesn't she want to be with David?) or Jackson and his family? That would make sense but needs to be clearer.

Similarly, I'm not sure which is the more important challenge for Holly. At first it seems to be to help Jackson, but then she has a choice herself. This switch might be confusing and possibly too much to include in a query letter. I did say "ruthless" didn't I?

Having said that, the second-to-last para seems to me to be an excellent point to end on, and your final sentence sounds like a good hook to open with.

My 2 cents worth. Hope you can find something useful in all the above mess :-)

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Julie, I read this and then the orginal query and felt like I was reading about two different books. I think the problem is defining the central goal and problem your character faces. You need to say (to yourself) my story is about Holly who wants/needs this and is thwarted by that and finally does this to achieve her goal. From that simple structure you may be able to build the query. I'm no expert but I hope this helps. The first two paragraphs in this current query could be any generic teen-age story, not the one you seem to be writing.


I'm with Tricia. I've read both of your queries, and they sound like 2entirely different novels. I, personally, prefer version 1 (although version 1 looks more women's fiction than YA to me). If you decide to go with Version 2, I would trim down the first couple of paragraphs, because they don't hook me. I don't see Holly's conflict, what makes her special, etc.

Good luck!