Eleven year old Lauren Tatterman is stuck living with her much older brother in a college dorm for the summer. It was a rushed, last minute plan when her aunt sped off to England without her. And now all Lauren wants is peace – to cherish the memories of her recently deceased mother. Finding a secret passageway into the university library offers promises of just that: some much needed alone time.
The problem here is voice. The words you use to describe what Lauren wants don't sound like an 11-year-old. "Peace" is what moms with a passel of loinfruit at their feet want. "Leave me alone" is what a kid might say.
"Cherish the memoirs of her recently deceased mom"--same problem.
You're not writing this letter in the voice of your protagonist but the words you use to describe what she's thinking or what she wants to do have to sound like words a kids would use.
But the solitude of the library at night proves to be just the opposite with campus rumors of a resident homeless man, an even bigger cover-up of a library heist and worst of all: secrets about her own family. Risking discovery by the campus police, or worse yet, “big brother bossy-pants” himself, Lauren sets out to unravel the mystery behind her own birth. But it isn’t until she stumbles upon hush-hush online chats and texts between her aunt and older brother that she realizes what little family she has left might be gone forever.
You've got too much going on here. What's the first point in the story where Lauren has to change something or take action or make a choice? That's the place to focus on.
With the help of a roll of duct tape, a Tupperware of spaghetti and a mother cow from the campus research labs Lauren finally realizes what she was looking for all along – and it was what she already had.
You've given away all the tension here. If I know how it ends, why will I want to read it to find out what happens next?
I do love the idea that duct tape solves a problem. I love duct tape. Did you know it comes in colors?
DARCY TOWERS is a contemporary middle grade completed at 43,300 words. I am an academic librarian working on a university campus and after reading an agent's tweet once which stated one must write what they know, I was inspired to write this. After viewing your agency's website and what you're looking for and following you on Twitter, I'm hoping Lauren and her kindhearted spirit might fin her way into your heart.
I was all ready to correct fin to find then realized of course, it was intentional. That's the kind of subtle writing I love.
Also, don't write what you know. Write what you want to find out about. Write what you care passionately about. Write what you love or want to love, or hate, or think everyone should hate along with you
Write what you know would leave us all in the same stagnant pond forever. You have to write beyond that. You have to leap into the Ocean of the Unknown and swim with the Sharks, chum.
And of course, no matter why you wrote this, you leave that out. I don't care. Opinions vary on this (Jenny Bent likes to see why people were motivated to write their books for example) but I don't give a fig.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
You've got the word count under control now, which is good. Now let's get some voice, and some honing on the plot.
Eleven year old Lauren Tatterman just wants to pass through her summer to get to the other side. After the death of her mom and the unexpected departure of her aunt to England, she’s stuck living with her much older brother in a dorm room on a college campus. The discovery of a secret passageway into the library and a secret room on the third floor is just what she needed for some alone time until her aunt returns.
This first paragraph is 79 words-almost 1/3 of the total but all it does is set the scene.
Eleven year old Lauren Tatterman is stuck living with her much older brother in a dorm room on a college campus this summer.
But when fancy, old pictures and small booklets begin appearing mysteriously and Lauren realizes they aren’t just a “Heavenly gift” sent from her mom, she begins to investigate. What she discovers is that a large, university library is full of secrets: including a resident homeless man and a massive robbery operation. Things begin to get really serious though when Lauren uncovers photos in the library about her own past that match up with the recent flurry of secretive texts, emails and chats flying back and forth between her brother and her aunt. There is something they don't want her to know!
101 words. And all of them can be condensed to: her brother and her aunt are hiding something from her. Something she's afraid will destroy the small family she has left. Lauren must investigate to find out what no one's telling her before it's too late.
Suddenly her summer of laying low is gone as she sets out to foil the criminals and hunt down the truth about her past. Lauren realizes priceless items might be taken from the library for good and worse yet, what small family she has left might be destroyed.
DARCY TOWERS is a completed contemporary Middle Grade at 37,000 words. After reviewing your agency’s website and what you’re looking for and following you on Twitter I am hoping Lauren Tatterman and her kindhearted spirit might find her way into your heart.
Dear Query Shark,
We don't need the set up of "most kids" or even "smarty pants" kids. Start with the only one who matters: Lauren.
But when fire alarms, a tiny, injured rabbit and the campus library
And there's a sentence to choke a horse.
But is that really what she wanted? Only a mother cow with a plate glass window in her side who lives in the vet teaching pastures knows for sure.
That's one helluva disturbing image for ME and I'm not in 5th grade. You can have something like that in a book, but you'll need time to prepare the reader for it. I suggest it's NOT a good image for a query where you don't have any prep time at all.
DARCY TOWERS is a completed contemporary Middle Grade at 37,000 words. I am a member of SCWBI and have spent 15 years living "at college" as well, having seen it all, including the cow with the plate glass window in her side. After reviewing your agency's website and what you're looking for and following you on Twitter I am hoping Lauren Tatterman and her kindhearted spirt minght find its way into your heart.
As you know I'm reluctant to close with anything but thank you for your time and consideration but if you must be nice, this is the way to do it.
Focus on getting your sentences under control and showing us more about Lauren's state of mind.
This is a form rejection. Revise. Resend.