Jan 18, 2010

QUERY - NEAR EDGWARE (second revision)

Click here to read the original query.
Click here to read the first revision.

Dear Agent

I have recently completed my 72,200-word YA paranormal romance entitled Near Edgware, and I hope you might consider representing me. My writing lulls with school and woodland settings and bites like a Kelley Armstrong.

Sixteen-year-old, Jess Trainer, has a lot in common with Caleb Ridgeway: the athletic skills, unusual senses and the feeling of being something different - a little apart from their peers. If her parents had told Jess their family secrets she might have understood why she is attracted to the boy who cannot let anyone see the other side of him.

Jess does not understand why Caleb fights to keep her at a distance when their classes, common interests and the almost addictive attraction makes being away from him unbearable. After spending time together Caleb's scent lingers on Jess' clothes, this brings out the worst kind of wolves still living in England. The sight of Caleb, and his protectors at work, is the solution to the puzzle she has been piecing together. Jess finds the reality hard to accept, but she realises she loves someone who is neither human nor wolf - he is Were.

Jess risks her life, and her humanity, to reach a traumatised Caleb after the pack is attacked. Only she can guide him back with her love.

This book can stand alone but it has series potential.

I am a teacher with the usual English qualifications and a less usual counselling one.

Thank you for your time,


Roni Loren said...

Elaine, I would lose the whole first paragraph and just start with the second paragraph. You can mention at the end the word count, title, and genre. You don't need to ask about representation, since it's assumed.

In the 2nd para. I would said, make the list a bit more streamlined--the athletic skills, the unusual senses, and the feeling of otherness/separation/etc from peers.

In the 3rd one, I like the first line, but I think you need to rework the rest. I don't get a good sense of the story here and am a bit confused. You also need to distinguish what makes your story different from all the other werewolf in love stories. Weres are like vamps these days, the story has to stand out from the flooded market.

The 4th para., I would say just get a bit more specific.

I read your other versions and you definitely have a good story here, I think you just need to paint a clearer picture and maybe inject a bit more voice so we get a better sense of your narrator. :) Hope that helps! Good luck!

Kelsey (Dominique) Ridge said...

I spent a lot of the time reading this feeling that crucial information was being kept from me. While it's necessary not to give away everything and to save a few secrets, keeping too much back just frustrates and confuses the reader.

RC Writer Girl said...

I did not read your first query, so I'm coming into this one with a fresh eye.

Based on this alone, I'm not sure what the story is. You give us a lot of description about the characters, but very little about the story and what's at stake.

To be specific, the following is the only sentence you have oultining what the story is about: "Jess risks her life, and her humanity, to reach a traumatised Caleb after the pack is attacked. Only she can guide him back with her love."

You don't explain how her humanity is at stake, what is at risk if she fails to guide him back, what she gains if she does guide him back, or what obstacles are in her way to guiding him back.

I'd focus less on the description of the characters that you use, because they're too generic. All teens, well strike that, most teens wonder if they're different, alone, have feelings that they don't fit in at times. That's also pretty typical in books like this. A lot of what you say about that is overkill. And some of it's even misleading. I thought Jess was a werewolf herself, given that she felt she had so much in common with him. But sounds like she's human and could lose her humanity (based on your last sentence) somehow by being with this guy.

Yes, romances are about characters, but I think you need to paint a shorter description of the main characters in isolation, and use the story details to do the rest of the picture painting. If that's not clear, what I mean is, be specific. Don't say, "Jess risks her life to reach a traumatised Caleb." Say, "Jess fights off a bear to rescue Caleb, who has barely survived an werewolf hunter attack. Jess musters every ounce of her strength to drag Caleb 20 miles, on a makeshift stretcher, to the weredoctor, who she learns too late, eats humans as payment for his service. Jess is determined to save Caleb, even if she has to become the weredoctor's next meal..." (Yes, that was ridiculous, but you get the drift. Specifics, not generals, like "risks her life and humanity").

Lastly, "I am a teacher with the usual English qualifications" is no good. It doesn't tell me anything worth knowing about you. I don't know what English requirements schools of education proscribe. I don't even know how you became a teacher. What if you're one of those late-life recruits who took some alternative certification path, you're teaching chemistry, and haven't seen the inside of a grammar book in 30 years? Also, this thing about the usual English requirements presumes a bit too much, especially since every state has different teaching requirements/licensing procedures, so there are no "usual" requirements.

With your personal info, I would again suggest being specific. I am a XX Grade XXX teacher (ideally: I am a 10th grade English teacher). If you don't teach English, don't worry about it. The key is that you know kids and what kids like to read because you teach them. You also counsel them, which gives you great insight into their minds, and has to make your characters brim with real-life emotion, yet you choose to drop in the counselor bit almost as an aside. STop that crap. Be plain, and tell it like it is. Say you counsel teens, giving you a good look inside their heads. That's a real plus.

Also, in your first paragraph. I have no idea what this means: "My writing lulls with school and woodland settings" I'm not saying the agent won't get it. I am just giving you a redflag that it's not clear to at least one person. And you don't want the agent to be going "huh" in the first paragraph.

Lastly, I know very little about Young Adult as a genre, but "YA paranormal romance" struck me as an odd category. Just check that it exists, and this is an OK way to describe it. I could be raising a redflag erroneously because I don't know this genre well, but definitely check on it.

Good luck.

Aimlesswriter said...

I'd have to echo a lot of what the previous critiquers said. I was lost. All I get from this is Jess likes Caleb and he's a werewolf.
I don't need all the teen angst. Instead I need the story. What is the major conflict here? Pack attack? Something else? What motivates Jess forward? To save Caleb from...?
I'd guess their goal is the happy ever after.
My final question is Jess a were? It's not clear.
Keep going... you have a good story here but it's not coming through too clear yet.

Unknown said...

Roni :) Dominique and RC Writer Girl and Aimless Writer THANK YOU for your thoughts. This version is my professional and restrained version. I have a tendency to be so far the other way.

From Jess' point of view she does know nothing about ANYTHING. Everyone else, from her parents to the entire Were pack do - this has been woven through the book. Jess is just so damned happy to be home, and so much in love, she lets some things slide over her head.

Unknown said...

The new version is long but I can't seem to trim it and be specific. Looking forward to the update I posted hitting the site. :)