Monday, December 27, 2010

Query 2

Now that the chaos of the holidays has quieted a bit, I've gotten back to work on my query. The internet is an endless supply of information on query advice and tips. It's a lot of information to process, but generally the advice can boiled down to the following concept: Make it catchy and simple. (And clean, of course.)

Then, I ended up at this site: Creating a Legendary Logline

What I like is that it got me questioning what my book is about in the simplest of terms. Something about the language just clicked. Because I've written a complex book filled with twists, where much of the point is to keep the reader in the dark, summing things up is tricky. But, in the end, the book isn't about secrets or conspiracies. (Well, not mostly.) It's about a girl who is struggling with her feelings of jealousy towards her older sister, who isn't at all ready for the journey she is forced to take. So, in rewriting my query, I tried to focus more on that element and spend less time outlining the plot.

Please read and let me know what you think:

Dear Agent:
I am seeking representation for my young adult fantasy novel, Switch. It is complete at 56,000 words. The story takes place in an alternate world where technology is only beginning to complete with deep-rooted superstitions.
(Personalized agent information goes here.)
Leah Elena Verdlark is a real-life fairytale princess. She is beautiful, generous, and engaged to a mythologically handsome prince. Every Parnearian citizen wants to be her, but none more than her little sister, Maria Rose. At least, that is what Maria Rose believes.
It turns out that there is one creature in the country even more desirous of Leah Elena’s good fortune. Ugly, deformed and cheated by destiny, Lia is willing to turn Parnear upside down if that is what it takes for her to step into the oldest princess’s life. The only person standing in her way is the reluctant Maria Rose, confused at finding herself the champion of an entire country and devastated at the collection of losses beginning to pile up at her feet. The more things go awry, the more Maria Rose begins to wonder if it is even possible for Parnear to be saved. If so, is she really the one to do it?
(Bio goes here)
Thank you for your consideration and time,
Sarah

Thanks for reading. I hope everyone had a fabulous and rejuvenating holiday. May the new year bring you everything that you don't even dare to dream of.

Try to Remember - Fantasticks, Original Soundtrack

11 comments:

  1. Hi! I'm no query genius and I'm definitely not an agent, but I thought I'd give you some of my thoughts on your query :) Then you can see how other people are reading it.

    I'm really confused about your characters. I thought Leah Elena was your main character, and then the little sister pops up. Then in the next paragraph, Lia's introduced, and I have no idea who ANY of them REALLY are. "Beautiful, generous, and engaged to a mythologically prince" (although I think you're going for 'mythically' here) doesn't tell me much about her as a person. Neither does "ugly, deformed, and cheated by destiny."

    I think your query would be stronger if you showed me these traits instead. For instance, what does Leah DO that makes everyone want to be her? Is there a specific event that Maria can recall that made her think she wanted to be just like her sister?

    Last, I think your query could do with more focus on your MC--who I think is Maria Rose. Tell me about Leah Elena and Lia through her eyes and her perceptions of what's happening around her.

    That's all I can come up with :) Your story sounds interesting! Good luck and I hope I've helped.

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  2. I appreciate the feedback! Here's what I'm currently tinkering with, based on your comments:


    "Princess Maria Rose has spent her whole life living in the shadow cast by her beautiful older sister. Leah Elena has everything anyone could want, including grace, generosity, and a mythically handsome fiancĂ©. She is loved by everyone in Parnear and most would give anything to trade places with her for even a day. Much as she hates to admit it, Maria Rose feels the same way. Why must she be the strange, quiet, and plain princess? Why is it so hard for her to live up to her country’s expectations, when it comes so effortlessly to Leah Elena?

    It turns out that there is one creature in Parnear even more desirous of Leah Elena’s good fortune. Ugly, deformed and cheated by destiny, Lia is a dragon-girl with a mysterious past who is willing to turn Parnear upside down if that is what it takes for her to step into the oldest princess’s life. The only person standing in her way is the reluctant Maria Rose, confused at finding herself the champion of an entire country and devastated at the collection of losses beginning to pile up at her feet. The more things go awry, the more Maria Rose begins to wonder if it is even possibly for Parnear to be saved. If so, is she really the one to do it?"

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  3. It's funny, I am in the exact opposite side of the room from Jessica on this one. I thought it was a VERY well put together description. I like how it starts off describing this typical Disney-esq heroin and then it's like, "But this story isn't about her. It's about her younger, not as cool, sister." It's the "Spider-man" effect. Everyone wants to be the Hero, but sometimes you're just the dork in high school.

    As your plot is complicated (so you say) I think your description does a really good job of describing the basic idea of the story and also makes me want to read more. I don't feel like I have been handed the story on a plate. I want to know more about this Lia. (comes across as very mysterious in your description)

    Overall I feel like you open up with the Disney stereotype and I feel like I know everything I pretty much need to know about the older sister, and then there is the Younger sister, a bit mysterious and hints at the depth her character has, and then it weaves the younger sister and the "evil villain" character together.

    I'm no literary agent either, but if that was on the back of the book I would be snagged into reading at least the first page to see if your writing style was something that didn't drive me crazy. From there I would probably buy the book.

    So I know this isn't very helpful, getting input that is pretty much the exact opposite of the other person's input, but I like it.

    ~Ben

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  4. Hey Ben! Thanks for the feedback. I tend to feel the same way as you do. I love mystery and the power of suggestion. Actually, that is one of the things I struggled with a lot in writing the book - figuring out exactly how much to tell. I like to tell less and leave a lot of elements for the reader to figure out, (probably comes from my job as a choreographer, where so much is left to the audience's interpretation.) There were a few points where Mike had to tell me, "Okay, you're being way too vague. Make it clearer."

    Lia is a bit of a mysterious character in the story, her intentions and history are not completely revealed until further along - so knowing how to introduce her in a brief summary is difficult. Do you like the revised description of her or the original better? (Just curious)

    I like how you got the idea that it's a riff on the classical Disney fairytale, because that is what I was trying to do. The story starts somewhat traditionally, then goes off into all sorts of crazy directions. (I know a lot of authors play with this trope, but I'm fully convinced that none have done it in quite this way.)

    So, I guess the question is: How much to tell? Glad to get your input and very glad to hear that the description sparked your interest.

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  5. I like the reworking of the character introductions. However I like your original "coverage" of Lia. I think perhaps you give too much away. In a Disney-esq environment it's generally the bad-guy that is the difference between movies. As is the case here your villain is crucial and you don't want to give away too much in a description. It'll put preconceived ideas about her into my head before I read it. (My 2 cents anyway)

    Let the stereotype shine through and then bring up the character with depth and hint at the trouble to come (like in the first one). Setup the pins to be knocked down but don't tell me if it's by a bowling ball or a dodge ball.

    In some ways your sister jealousy reminds me of Lewis's "Till we have Faces".

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  6. Ben- I haven't read that one. In wikiing it I found there were a few interesting parallels. I'm definitely going to have to pick it up and take a look (especially since I enjoy Lewis's other books quite a bit.) Thanks for the recommendation.

    I think I might also prefer the original introduction to Lia. She brings a lot of the darkness, so keeping her there makes sense. I do, however, like the section on the princesses better in the revised version. Having them more clearly defined makes sense.

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  7. "Till we have Faces" is a whole different feel than Narnia. It's a LOT more adult and is a LOT smoother as well. It's easily my favorite work of his in the Fiction genre.

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  8. Much as I love Narnia, Lewis's adult fiction seems to have a lot more punch and spark to it. Actually, I'm a little surprised and glad that I haven't read "Till We Have Faces" yet. Gives me something to look forward to.

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  9. I'm starting to realize that the first sentence in the second paragraph is a little confusing....

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  10. I'd be reluctant to let a stereotype shine through when I'm sure you'd want an agent to go "WOW, this story is so unique!" But maybe that's where I'm a bit different :)

    I like what you did with the revision. I really get a feel for Maria Rose and her voice, which is SUPER important for agents. I feel like you could really strengthen your query by telling Maria Rose's story--not just the plot of your book. I think your previous query did a pretty good job of tunneling your plot around your MC.

    Have you read any of the queries on QueryShark before? I'd also suggest going to YA Lit Chat's Query-Kick-Around or Nathan Bransford's forum :) Both are really good places to get multiple perspectives on your query, and it's really helped me (I think!).

    Again, good luck! This query business is seriously hard work, but if you can write a book, I'm sure you can write this query, too :)

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  11. I don't know that it is necessarily the stereotype that is shining, but the possibilities that come from distorting it. At least, that is what I am trying to get across.

    I agree that the revised first paragraph is a lot stronger; it is the second one that still needs a bit of tweaking.

    Yeah, I've been drifting through all the query sites for a while.

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