Aug 8, 2009

Query--Shadow Falls

There are people who know sixteen-year-old Willow Sinclair’s big secret. Unfortunately, Willow isn’t one of them.

Will senses something strange is going on the first week she starts her new school in the mountains of North Carolina. For a girl who has spent the first two years of high school successfully blending into the scenery, she suddenly is getting a whole lot of attention.

First, the faculty is giving her the hard sell on joining the Leadership Council (the LC), an exclusive club of students with ties to the academy’s biggest donor, a charismatic televangelist. The members are supermodel perfect, smart as hell, and spiritually dedicated. Willow can think of nothing she would like to join less.

Then, two gorgeous boys are competing for her interest and warning her about the danger the other one poses. Will is confused. When did a fairy godmother sneak into her room and sprinkle her with desirable dust? Boys like these would have existed in another orbit from her at her old school in Texas.

Finally, as if beautiful boys and pushy teachers aren’t enough to drive a girl to the edge, Will starts seeing colors around people and develops the olfactory glands of a bloodhound.

Will needs answers. But which guy can she trust to give them to her? Rivers, the sweet Alabama boy with the killer dimples, who also happens to be a member of the LC? Or Pierce, the over-confident preacher’s son with a reputation for preying on new girls and an ax to grind with his father?

Both boys know her secret. Each has their own agenda. If Will aligns with one, she risks her freedom, the lives of innocent people, and her shot at experiencing real love. If she chooses the other, she faces a destiny that someone in her past has worked hard to protect her from.

And she thought her biggest problem with starting a new school would be fitting in.

Ms. Agent, I am pleased to submit for your consideration my paranormal young adult novel, SHADOW FALLS, complete at 85,000 words. This is my first novel.

Thank you for your time and consideration. If you would like to learn more about me or my writing, please visit me at I look forward to hearing from you.


Rick Daley said...

I think you have a great hook at the beginning.

My biggest problem after reading this is that there are two important people who don't know Willow's secret. Willow...and me!

Does she join the LC? Are the two boys from the LC (either of them)?

I would leave the descriptor "gorgeous" out in paragraph 4.

I know there is a lot of back&forth on rhetorical questions, I think the desirable dust one is effective because it gives me a glimpse into her character and because of that it adds to your description of the story. The three latter ones don't, though. They just raise questions about the plot.

Leave out "this is my first novel." Only include credentials that build you up, leave anything remotely negative unsaid (no prior publication fits as remotely negative).

Sounds like an interesting story. good luck!

Roni Loren said...

Rick, thanks for the feedback!

I did debate about telling the secret or not. I had read somewhere to make the query sound like the back of the book and then reveal all the big plot points in the synopsis. I've gone back and forth over this the most. Maybe I should try it the other way.

The rhetorical questions are a good point. I can easily turn those into straight sentences.

Susan R. Mills said...

Okay, first off, I'd like to remind you that I'm no expert. :) But here goes:

I like your hook. It made me want to continue reading the query. I agree it is a toss up whether to reveal the secret or not, but I've read on agent blogs that you don't give everything away in the query. That's what the synopsis is for. The query is intended to make the agent want to read more.

I think, overall, the query is well written, but personally, I think it's too long. Someone out there who knows more than I do, please correct me if I'm wrong, but I think most agents prefer a short query.

Like, Rick, I love the desirable dust sentence. It gives great insight into Willow.

My final word of non-expert advice is: do not mention that it is your first novel. I've heard that's a big no-no.

Other than that, excellent job! I'd want to read the ms. It sounds like a very interesting story, and I can't wait until it's published so I can read it. I wish you much luck!

Anonymous said...

Cut this in half, and you'll be in great shape:

There are people who know sixteen-year-old Willow Sinclair’s big secret. Unfortunately, Willow isn’t one of them.

After spending her first two years of high school blending into the scenery, Willow become the center of attention at new school in the mountains of North Carolina. The teachers want her to join an exclusive student club with ties to a charismatic televangelist, and two gorgeous boys are competing for her affection--and each warns her about the other.

Then Willow starts seeing colors around people, and develops the olfactory glands of a bloodhound. When she learns she's the daughter of the Sidhe Queen (or whatever the secret is), she needs to X and Y.

And she thought her biggest problem with starting a new school would be fitting in.

SHADOW FALLS is 85,000 words. I look forward to hearing from you.

RC Writer Girl said...

I agree with Rick. This started off great. I was rerally into it, until the paragraph that starts "Both boys know her secret." I don't. And everything after that makes no sense because I don't. You've either got to spill the secret or just end it at the previous paragraph.

what's especially annoying about the paragraph is you've got all these dire consequences, possibly the heart of your novel, tied up in them, and I have no way of understanding it. It also shifts the narrative voice a bit too. For the first part of the query, we were reading this in a close third person, wiith Willow being the viewpoint. But, since Willow can't know how these choices are going to affect her, it really doesn't go with the rest of the query.

You may just want to say, Willow finds out she is XXXX and has to decide XXXXX. That lets us in on the secret and then gives us the ultimate delimma of the narrative. But, it doesn't necessarily ruin the ending.

Anyway, sounds like a really interesting read. I think the query can be a real agent grabber, if you can pull the end together.

Another quick mention: the paragrpah that starts, Will needs answers. Instead of "But which guy can she trust to give them to her?" Maybe say, "But which guy can she trust to help her find them?" It may be semantics, but there's not a real indication before this in the query that these guys actually KNOW the secret. So, for me, I'd go with Willow thinking they could help her find answers she wants.

Lastly, I agree with the Anonymous guy that said it could be shorter, but cutting it in half seems drastic (like recommending amputation for a sore leg). See if you see anything you can live without or make tighter. But, if not, I don't think the length is detrimental, as it's got a great hook.

Good luck

Roni Loren said...

Thanks to everyone for all the great feedback. I really appreciate all of you taking the time to give such detailed notes. This was so helpful!

RCwriter, I never noticed the narrative shift, but I can definitely see that now.

I will work on revising it to be tighter/shorter and figure out a way to bring in the secret without blowing the whole plot open. When I have a revised version, I will repost. Thanks again.