Friday, December 31, 2010

#192-FTW

Dear QueryShark:


One week ago, Claire's cousin Dinah slit her wrists.

Five days ago, Claire found Dinah's diary and discovered why.

Three days ago, Claire stopped crying and came up with a plan.

Two days ago, she ditched her piercings and bleached the black dye from her hair.

Yesterday, knee socks and uniform plaid became a predator's camouflage.

Today, she'll find the boy who broke Dinah.

By tomorrow, he'll wish he was dead.

Premeditated is a 60,000 word contemporary YA novel. Chapters or a synopsis are available on request.



oh hell yes.  Send pages, send the entire manuscript NOW.

Here's why this breaks all the rules and still works:  

It's got menace in the very rhythm of the writing. It's short and not-sweet.  We know who the main characters are because she SHOWED us, not TOLD us.

And by god, there's nothing better than revenge for the New Year.

Yes, this breaks all the rules I've been yapping about, except the one that really counts: it entices me to read on.

Now, how the hell do you know if you've got something that breaks the rules but works?  First, you write something that doesn't break ANY of the rules.  You write a query that shows, doesn't tell. That's concise, and conveys what the book is about.

In other words, you write to the form of a query letter before you write something that ISN'T to form.

And you pay attention to rhythm.  More than anything else stylistically, it's that rhythm of good writing that's toughest to teach and learn.  When I'm editing manuscripts, I say the sentences out loud a lot. Hearing them helps me see where there are extra words, or too many beats, or misplaced beats.  It's very very slow editing when you are down to moving syllables in sentences, but it's what makes the difference between gorgeous writing and so-so sentences.




76 comments:

Lehcarjt said...

I'd hit 'add to cart' if this had a button.

Author, I seriously hope the book is as good as the query and that it hits the shelves ASAP.

Very well done.

spacedlaw said...

Saying it out loud sounds like a very good tip indeed.
This query feels like a movie teaser.

Julie Weathers said...

o m stars, yes. I love this.

Theresa Milstein said...

Wow. If the book is as good as the query, this writer will snag an agent and book deal in no time. Best of luck and happy new year!

Jenn said...

Wow. This is outstanding. {So much so that I, the typically silent blog lurker, was compelled to commment on it!}

Laurel said...

That reads like flash fiction. And the pace picks up along the way, going from events two days apart to one day apart to one day in the future. The shortest sentences have the biggest punch, too.

Cool!

Holly Ruggiero said...

That is wonderful. I want to read it right now too!

RW said...

"When I'm editing manuscripts, I say the sentences out loud a lot. Hearing them helps me see where there are extra words, or too many beats, or misplaced beats. It's very very slow editing when you are down to moving syllables in sentences, but it's what makes the difference between gorgeous writing and so-so sentences."

^^THIS!^^

Cathy in AK said...

"Lisbeth Salander, the Early Years." Oh, yeah!

I'd jump on this one too if there were a "buy" button.

Best of luck to you, author!

McWilliam said...

Very nice!

KT said...

Wow. That's amazing. So simple and rule-breaking, but so awesome.

Jenny said...

I loved this! The countdown layout was freaky-scary. Remind me not to ever get in Claire's way.

siebendach said...

That's the reward you get for slaving away to master the basic and the traditional. You gain a depth of understanding that enables you write your OWN goddamn rules!

Liesl said...

And that's a blurb that would make me instantly buy the book. That does not happen very often for me. Way to go! I sure hope the book lives up to this query. If not I'll be mad!

JS said...

I can't wait to read this when it's published.

My answer to any potential "but this isn't a traditional query letter" blah blah: from my point of view, this is a fantastic YA voice. If you can do your query letter in an equally spot-on voice for your genre/subgenre, try it and I bet La Shark will like it.

And the thing is that this querier manages to do both things well: display their grasp of a compelling YA voice AND get all the business done (word count, etc.) deftly.

Bravo to this querier!

Stephanie said...

WOW! My only hope is that the actual book holds up to such a great teaser.

In my writer's group there has often been debate on what is the best way to critique...read an excerpt out loud, then the group comments, or read silently and then group discussion. I am always one who votes for read out loud. I catch SO many mistakes in my own work that way. Others argue that stories are meant for the reader to read to themselves silently and that's how we should read the work before discussing. I do not agree. Thanks for backing me up!!

Donna Weaver said...

Nicely done and as others have said I hope the manuscript is as well done as the query.

No pressure, author. =D

John Jack said...

Huh, bubba, Claire going all old testament and stuff on a wrongdoer. Edgy, what we all feel like doing when horribly slighted. Many dramatic questions artfully raised, noteably what's Claire's final outcome. What changes do the obstacles along the way to her goal evoke in her. How is she transformed into what new normal.

arhooley said...

Congrats, author!

I'd suggest you capitalize PREMEDITATED.

~Jamie said...

FAN-FREAKIN'-TASTIC.

Seriously... poster of this-- can I read. :) PLEASE!

Steph said...

"I'd hit 'add to cart' if this had a button." <--- THIS!!!! Oh wow, I can't wait to see this hit shelves! Sounds AMAZING!!

GalaktioNova said...

Yes, if the query is this good, one can imagine how good the book is. She can write, surely, BUT -- she can control the reader's mind and soul by her writing.

Lesson learned :-)

Mary-Lou said...

Um, do you have an account on fictionpress??? I want to read this!!!!!

Seleste said...

OMG, this is a brilliant query. It almost reads like the author wrote the script for a book trailer and used that for the query. It is perfect for the set up of the story. I hope the book is as brilliant as the query. I'd definitely buy it.

Joel said...

#192 ...

Way to go. What a great way to celebrate the New Year.

Welshcake said...

I wantto read this and I want to read it NOW.

Trisha said...

I saw this over on Absolute Write! We loved it there too :D

Josin L. McQuein said...

Okay, I've officially gone from nerves over the query being to strange to work to nerves over the book not living up to expectation!

*has freak out moment*

=:-0

Thank you for the comments. I'm glad you like the query. (And premise! Yay!)

Xjaeva said...

Wow. That query gave me chills.
Definitely WIN!

Tom M Franklin said...

yes, it's a grabber of a query.

my problem, though, is i don't have enough of a sense of the characters, the complications that arise from the conflict nor enough about the MC to take her beyond a 2D cardboard cut-out. (MC=revenge. is that really enough to carry a book?)

i'd likely ask for a partial. i respect the different take on the query, but i don't have much of a sense as to the writer's ability to write. (movie trailer voice-overs don't work over the duration of a full-length movie)


-- Tom

April Martinez said...

Great query. Reminds me of the movie Hard Candy.

hampshireflyer said...

Exactly! I love the pace on this query - and hope it makes it to publication, I want to read what happens next...

Charity Bradford said...

*smiles* I knew he had a winner with this one. I'll definitely read it when it comes out.

Gisele said...

And this is how it's done!

A knockout query. Fantastic sense of pace. Sign me up, please!

Shelli said...

I never comment, but this is just so good. Yes, someone get this book to print. I'll buy it.

Fanfreakingtastic Flower said...

TOTALLY. RAD.

Geekamicus said...

I'm not really a reader of YA, but I WANT this book. I hope the book is as good as the teaser, sounds like a winner.

Vivian said...

I don't normally read YA but I'd read this. I wish I could write a query half as good.

Joseph said...

I think it's a really good query although I'm not as moved by the premise as everyone else is. I'd maybe go see the movie though :P

Becca C. said...

I freaking love how punchy this is. It gets everything across in such a small space, and as a lover of efficiency, I adore it. I think this will DEFINITELY get a ton of requests!

Alex Newman said...

Query. Envy.

Taking.

OVER!!!!!!!!

;)

wizardonskis22 said...

I definitely like the unorthodox approach, and the rhythm is perfect (I read it about ten times in a row before doing anything else). Honestly, it could say almost anything for me and I'd want to read it, because the writing and the feeling of it is so perfect, which leads me to assume that the writing in the book is equally impressive. Either way, 192 got some great reactions, so congrats!

Jo-Ann said...

Well done, Josin.

You took a risk and it paid off - what a wonderful contrast to the over-written and convoluted queries that would land on QS's desk daily. No wonder she raved about it.

You got the equivalent of a standing ovation!

Lizzy said...

Bullseye!

Me said...

I seem to be in the majority here - great query. I'm not sure it does break the rules though, at least not all of them.

We know who the MC is, we know why she's doing (or going to do) what she's doing. We don't need to know what the boy did because we know what the result of his actions were. We know what the consequences of his actions and Claire's desire may bring.

Revenge is always a good theme to have as we can all relate to it. The only issue here, is whether the diary was accurate and whether the boy actually did what he has been accused of ...

Good luck, Josin - the pressure starts here!

Ted said...

Nice work, Josin! From your contributions to Nathan's blog, I know you've put in lots of hours to be able to write what looks like an effortless query. I'm pretty sure the novel will measure up as well.

Aslimmerkitten said...

I would read this; and it's not my preferred genre to read, so well done!

I hope your novel stands up to it, if it does I will be keeping an eye out.

no-bull-steve said...

not at all my genre but I'd certainly click "sample now" if it were on Kindle.

Rock on, author! Just when we think we've seen it all before, something like this comes along. Kudos to you and good luck with it!

Matthew Rush said...

Wow. This is one of the best queries I've ever seen. Well done.

Donea Lee said...

Wow. Concise and jarring - voice, mood, it's all there. I'd want to read it!

L.C. Gant said...

Wow. What a phenomenal query! It told me exactly what I needed to know to get hooked, and with not one word wasted.

I would buy this book in a heartbeat, along with any other book this author is working on. Can't wait to see the finished product. Job well done!

Taffy said...

WOW! That query is Awesome!

TraciB said...

Brava, Josin! As others here have said, I don't generally read YA, but this - this I would pick up in a heartbeat. And it's all because of that sparkling jewel of a query you submitted. Well worth the visit to the Shark tank.

Summer said...

Oh wow. That's just awesome. I would read the hell outta that.

Alex Newman said...

Somebody publish this ASAP. I desperately want to read it. Pretty please.

That is, if the book is as fan-freakin-tastic as the query, of course...

Suze said...

I read this query on here about a week to 10 days ago, and I've been thinking about it ever since, and wanting to go back and re-read it. This morning I did come back to read it, and it still rocks. I'm just hoping Premeditated gets to the shelf soon. Great job. Really.

Laura said...

Love it. This is so the kind of thing I love to read. Would buy now if I could. I don't know who Josin is, but something tells me I will soon.

I seriously got chills with the last line!

Also, it's the editing, the lack of wordy-words that lets me know this book would rock.

Leira Carola said...

I'm waiting for this book to hit the Kindle shelves. Can't wait to read it!

jesse said...

This is hot.
I'll keep an eye out for it. Good luck.

Vickie said...

I would so read this novel. Good luck!

JD said...

best query ive ever read. part of the reason is that it is so memorable. besides that.... I don't know. it's really good. ^^

Beth said...

I got chills reading that. It's...well, it's just amazing.

Each sentence tightens the tension knob. By the time you get to the end of it, you're falling off the edge of your seat.

I'm not sure what rules it's supposed to be breaking. It seems to me it exemplifies them: it's concrete, it builds logically, it heightens the stakes, it leaves you wanting more.

I'm very impressed.

robbin said...

I'm intrigued! Your query accomplishes the number one goal - I would read this story! Well done.

Tosha Is Not A Unicorn said...

Wow, I would read this in a heartbeat, and I don't even like YA books.

Tracy O said...

Outstanding!

Talitha M. said...

Wow...this format works very well for this query - its interesting, concise & I want to read the book. very nice Job!

Julie R. Mann said...

I. Want. This. Book. If the book is as oustanding as the query, I will buy it the day it comes out, hands down and no questions asked.

Sharon said...

Sounds terrific.

But he'll wish he were dead, not he'll wish he was dead.

The sentiment is great, the grammar not so much.

Good luck.

Rachel Schieffelbein said...

So do we get to know how this turned out? Is this book out there some where or coming out? I want to read it!

Lise1977 said...

@ Sharon:

> But he'll wish he were dead, not he'll wish he was dead.

The truth is on both sides. In published books at Google Books:

"he'll wish he was dead"
68 results
http://tinyurl.com/7apjnj5

"he'll wish he were dead"
31 results
http://tinyurl.com/8xyuxdo

thus both are used by published (and educated) writers, and yours is just a tad less frequent.

In prescriptive grammar, “wish” requires the subjunctive mood (which “were” is) after it.

However, according say to Swan, Practical English Grammar (see "tense simplification"), in subordinates the subjunctive can be replaced by the simple past (in this case “was”).

And “[that] he was dead” is a relative subordinate.

Others formulate this as a replacement of the subjunctive “were” with the backshift to the past “was.”

Thus your version is the most formal, but not the only correct.

Hope Welsh said...

Just in case anyone wondered--this book, and another by the author--sold. To a real publisher.

QueryShark obviously knows a good query when she sees it--and a book with potential.

One of this authors titles actually went to auction.

Premeditated comes out next year with Delacorte.

I, for one, am going to take anything the Shark says regarding a query I send her as absolute gospel.

GN F said...

@ Hope Welsh.

You just answered my question. Thank you.

Jonathan Stephens said...

Here's the cover reveal...

http://josinlmcquein.blogspot.com/2012/08/premeditated-cover-reveal-for-real.html

Congrats!!!

AriBerri said...

For anyone still interested: http://www.amazon.com/Premeditated-ebook/dp/B00CCPIHX8/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1374700989&sr=8-1&keywords=premeditated I looked it up while making my way through the archives :) happy this query got picked up!

daki-girlwithwords said...

I just added Premeditated to my Amazon wish list. I only wish she used the query letter as the back of the book blurb (she didn't, maybe some details changed). Anyway, this query was awesome.

Sara J. Henry said...

But this sounds so similar to the set-up for Jay Asher's THIRTEEN REASONS WHY ...