Sunday, March 23, 2014

#255-revised 3x

Revision #3

Dear QueryShark,

CHOSEN TO LEAD. Kyla Duvall lost everything the day the a fire tore through her village, destroying her home, killing her mother, and separating her from her best friend. Whisked away into hiding and trained to be the leader her country would need, Kyla has waited for eight years to take her place as queen beside the boy she once knew.

I can hear you screaming in pain as I start changing "the" to "a" and actually ADDING a "has" when I normally hunt them down with the flame thrower.

Here's why you want to be THAT persnickety about every word:  unless there has only been one fire in the village, ever, you need to say "a fire" not "the fire," and particularly you need "a fire" because we, your readers don't know what "the fire" means if there really was only one.

And for that has: that has gives the sentence more tension.  She has waited...and the reader intuits that the waiting is about to end.  Thus we wonder: "what happens now??" which is EXACTLY what you want your reader thinking at this point.

EVERY SINGLE WORD COUNTS.





CHOSEN TO FIGHT. Born with the powers to bend the air around her and crumble crush her enemies in pain, Rebekah Stone trained as a soldier, hell bent on using her powers to avenge avenging her parents (her parents what? Solo vacation to Atlantis?). She knows a War is brewing, and the last thing she has time for is playing the new queen’s body guard. But as the coronation grows near, one thing becomes increasingly clear: there is a lot more to the story than either girl realizes.






Crumble: cookies crumble. Hankies crumple. Neither word is very fierce, and you want fierce here. Crush is my first try. You can pick whatever you want but the word better be The Rock not a Pop Rock.


Avenge: avenge what?  I'm guessing murder. You need to specify here.

She knows a: when you're in the character's point of view, one easy way to polish up your writing is taking out the "she knows" and "she saws" whenever you can. Your readers will intuit them.


Take out absolutely everything you don't need and your writing will flow much more smoothly.


But as the: and here you fall off your very nicely done double intro. We're in Rebekah's story right now. You can't have a sentence that is about both girls here.  It has to be a separate paragraph or you ruin the rhythm of your set up.



Power hangs in the balance, and two very different girls come face to face with the secrets that could destroy a kingdom, or save it. But as the coronation grows near, oOne thing becomes increasingly clear: there is a lot more to the story than either girl realizes.




oh look you have a lovely sentence that you didn't need in Rebekah's paragraph, and it fits perfectly here. Nice how that works out isn't it!
 

 And you end up with a MUCH better (ie less cliche) closing sentence.  You can't just write good sentences. You have to put them in the correct order.  That's what revision is for.

(1) ENTRUSTED will appeal to YA, adventure-hungry fans of novels such as Graceling and Eragon. (2)The opening novel in The Sanctified Series, Entrusted is complete at 91,991 words.

(3) We are eighteen years old and best friends who love to read. This is our first novel.
We wrote this novel imagining ourselves as the heroines we want to be, meeting the characters we would want to meet in a world we would love to see. Our whole lives we have enjoyed storytelling: movies, music, and books. We read because it takes you places you could never imagine and allows you to become the hero, to live through the characters and experience another world.



Reverse the order you've got here: 3/1/2




Thank you for your time and consideration.



 Not quite there yet, but better.
Revise.
Try not to die of frostbite as you endure the glacial pace of revision.

Resend.



---------------
Revision #2


Dear QueryShark,

CHOSEN TO LEAD. Kyla Duvall lost everything the day the fire tore through her village, destroying her home, killing her mother, and separating her from her best friend. Whisked away into hiding and trained to be the leader her country would need, Kyla waited for eight years to take her place as queen.

But as her day draws near, the pressure edges in, along with the fear. Struggling to understand the boy she once knew so well in order to rule by his side, Kyla’s destiny may come to light sooner than she imagined. 

This doesn't actually add anything to the query. The reason you know that is cause if you take it out, the query reads better. It also act like the punch line to the first paragraph, and you don't want that yet. You want One Two BAM. One being Kyla, Two being Becka, three being "both girls)



CHOSEN TO FIGHT. Rebekah Stone is determined to regain the control she lost over her life after she watched her parents die in front of her eyes. A descendant of the Sanctified Circle and born with the powers to bend the air and crumble her enemies in pain, Rebekah took refuge at the palace and trained as an entrusted solider.

She knows a war is brewing, and she is hell bent to use it to avenge her parents (who were killed in front of her eyes) . But she doesn’t know as much as she thought, and her power  to bend the air and crumble her enemies in pain...(fill in here with the down side of a really COOL superpower!)



here's your "punch line"--->Power hangs in the balance, and two very different girls come face to face with the secrets that could destroy a kingdom, or save it.

Entrusted ENTRUSTED will appeal to YA, adventure-hungry fans of novels such as Graceling and Eragon. The opening novel in The Sanctified Series, and complete at 86,260 words, Entrusted introduces a mythical world sparked with suspense and romance.

We are eighteen years old and best friends who love to read. This is our first novel.


We wrote this novel imagining ourselves as the heroines we want to be, meeting the characters we would want to meet in a world we would love to see. Our whole lives we have enjoyed storytelling: movies, music, and books. We read because it takes you places you could never imagine and allows you to become the hero, to live through the characters and experience another world.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Sincerely,

The trick to describing two main characters is to give NEW information in that second paragraph. (You might switch which order you mention the characters if it helps)

The way you have it now, you're telling us a repeat of the first story: girl has bad experience, escapes, now is ready for the impending plot.

If you can move forward in the timeline, it gives the query more urgency and tension.

this is really hard to explain in the abstract, but I hope the blue line revisions help you see what I mean.

Revising is often moving things around, taking things out, and trying things out to see what works best. There's no "right" way. There's only what's enticing.

Once more into the breach, dear chums.

----------------------------------------


Revision #1

Dear QueryShark,

CHOSEN TO LEAD. Kyla Duvall lost everything the day the fire tore through her village, destroying her home, killing her mother, and separating her from her best friend. Whisked away into hiding and trained to be the leader her country would need, Kyla waited for eight years to take her place as queen.

But as her day draws near, the pressure edges in, along with the fear. Struggling to understand the boy she once knew so well in order to rule by his side, Kyla’s destiny may come to light sooner than she imagined.

CHOSEN TO FIGHT. Rebekah Stone was entrusted with the abilities to control the air around her and force her enemies to crumble in pain. A descendant of the Sanctified Circle and gifted with powers believed to be extinct, Bekah was offered refuge at the palace after her parents were murdered.

ok, here's where I still lose interest. Notice how passive Rebekah sounds? Entrusted? Offered? Gifted? (Don't even get me started on how much I hate the word gifted under any circumstances)  Given that in the next paragraph Bekah is a fighter, why is she not stronger here?  Rebekah HAS the ability to control the air around her; she HAS powers believed to be extinct; she TOOK refuge.

I think it's VERY important that Bekah be strong and dynamic in the query, and in the book. Why do I want to read about anyone who is just a vessel for someone else?  Hellwiththatnoise, give me someone DAUNTLESS! (Ok, my love for Divergent is showing here but you get the point)

Trained as a soldier, Bekah knows a war is brewing, and she intends to use it to her advantage. She joined this army for one reason, and one reason alone: find who murdered her parents. But she doesn’t know as much as she thought, and the control she so desperately desires may not come so easily.

What control? This is the first time you've mentioned she's out of/needs control.


ENTRUSTED with responsibilities and skills that set them apart, as Power hangs in the balance, and two very different girls come face to face with the secrets that could destroy a nation, or save it.

I know you want to start this paragraph in the same style as the preceding two, I can almost feel you wiggling with resistance when I strike it out. BUT, you need the three beat rhythm here, Hit Hit BOOM. (not hit hit hit) It's the equivalent of the punch line.

Entrusted will appeal to YA, adventure-hungry fans of novels such as Graceling and Eragon. The opening novel in The Sanctified Series, and complete at 86,260 words, Entrusted introduces a supernatural world sparked with suspense and romance.



We are seventeen years old and best friends who love to read. This is our first novel.

We wrote this novel imagining ourselves as the heroines we want to be, meeting the characters we would want to meet in a world we would love to see.



Our whole lives we have enjoyed storytelling: movies, music, and books. We read because it takes you places you could never imagine and allows you to
become the hero, to live through the characters and experience another world.



The full manuscript is available upon request. Thank you immensely for your time and consideration!
 

P.s. Our full manuscript is now actually available, and therefore we kept those tidbits.
Of course it's available! You wouldn't DARE send a query unless it was ready. Polished and perfect!  That's why you don't need to say so. 

And I also struck out immensely.  I want to strongly strongly strongly urge you to rein in your natural exuberance and high spirits here. Let that shine through in your query.  Don't make me wonder if you are going to need to be peeled off the ceiling if I call you to talk about your book. Sound like the pros you're going to be, ok?

I like this a lot but I think there's some honing to be done.

Revise, resend.



------------------------------------------------
Original Query


Dear QueryShark,

CHOSEN TO LEAD. Kyla Duvall lost everything the day the fire tore through her village, destroying her home, killing her mother, and separating her from her best friend. Whisked away into hiding and trained to be the leader her country would need, Kyla waited for eight years to take her place as queen.

But as her day draws near, the pressure edges in, along with the fear. Struggling to understand the boy she once knew so well in order to rule by his side, Kyla’s destiny may come to light sooner than she imagined.

This is really good. It's specific. I can see Kyla in my mind's eye and I feel like I understand where she is.  YA is all about The Feels, so that is good.

CHOSEN TO FIGHT. Rebekah Stone lost her family because of the powers that flow through her veins. Blessing or curse, Bekah intends to use every ounce of her gifts to seek out revenge. Becoming a soldier will teach her how, and then lead her straight into the fight she knows is coming.



err…not so good. "Powers that flow through her veins" is such a cliché. What powers? Does she eat kittens? Does she swim in soup? Ok, those are ridiculous things, but you need to be SPECIFIC like you were about Kyla.


Bekah’s unique gifts make her a powerful ally, or deadly enemy, that even her King, and friend, will not control. Bekah loves her country, but one incentive trumps all other priorities: Find who killed her parents... and kill every last one.

Again, this is too swirly to be interesting. You need to focus on what happened, so I can feel where Bekah is.


ENTRUSTED with responsibilities and skills that set them apart, in a world where power hangs in the balance, two very different girls come face to face with the secrets that could destroy a nation, or save it.

In a world where…sharks eat writers.  In a world is a cliché. One too many movie voice overs have seeped into your brains.



A story that intertwines fantasy with reality in an all new world, Entrusted will appeal to YA, adventure-hungry fans of novels such as Graceling, The Chronicles of Narnia, and Percy Jackson. The opening novel in The Sanctified Series, and complete at --------- words, Entrusted introduces a supernatural world sparked with suspense and romance.


Leave off telling me what it is. SHOW me. 
Chronicles of Narnia is a classic and OLD. It's not a good comp title.
Also unless you're using Sanskrit numbering systems, you need actual numbers to tell me how many words. (I have a feeling you haven't finished the novel yet so you don't know though, right?)


We are seventeen years old and best friends who love to read. This is our first novel, but we are asking you to take a chance on us despite this because the fact that we are new to the world of writing is what makes us different; we
are the readers, still eighteen, and fresh out of high school, the life YA is geared towards. 

Do not apologize for writing or querying. Not now not EVER. All agents take chances with all writers, it's what this is all about. You have something of value to offer here and I absolutely insist that you act like it. Yes you're young, but you've SHOWN in this query that you can write, and trust me, I've seen people much older than you who can't.  (end rant)


We wrote this novel imagining ourselves as the heroines we want to be, meeting the characters we would want to meet in a world we would love to see. Our whole lives we have enjoyed the art of storytelling: movies, music, and books. We read because it takes you places you could never imagine and allows you to
become the hero, to live through the characters and experience another world. Being teenagers doesn’t hinder us, but instead gives us the advantage of knowing what our fellow readers crave.

Normally I would have sliced this out as quick as you can say Kittens for Breakfast but in this case I think it works. First, it's charming. Second YA is about connection and this shows that nicely. It's not going to ever work in adult trade books (think about what a romance writer would say here--YIKES!)
but it works here.
And again, do not apologize for your age.

The full manuscript is available upon request.
Thank you immensely for your time and consideration! We look forward to hearing from you. God bless.

I have a feeling the full manuscript isn't quite ready but that's ok for now.
Also, no God blessing in queries, ok?


Sincerely,



(both names)
(one address)


This is exactly right for querying with two authors.




Questions:
Our story is told through two different points of view, two very different girls. As the story jumps back and forth between the two, we were unsure of how to introduce both in the query without feeling like you're receiving very little information... I feel like we did it okay, but that there still might be some information missing, like there's not enough about what's going to happen because we had to set up both characters. Did we do it well enough? Is there enough info?

You did a good job with this. WHAT you say is the only problem and it's only with Bekah. 

Also, is the inclusion of our age and therefore lack of experience a bad idea? We've heard both and don't know what to do...

I think you now know my answer to that after the rant above.



This is a good first draft but it needs work.



Revise, resend.

20 comments:

ProfeJMarie (Janet Rundquist) said...

The Shark has all the advice for you re: your query in this post, but let me just add this: the fact that already, at this age, you are here on this blog, is the best news I've seen for your future. You're writing a novel and you know that there is much to learn for the next steps. Kudos for already being way ahead of the publishing curve than so many others out there at twice your age. You are serious about your craft and I appreciate that.

A.M. Guynes/Annikka Woods said...

There have been other books written by teenagers that have been published. Don't worry about your age. Worry about the story you're telling. The Shark has given you the advice you need to tighten this up. Do that and see what you can do with it.

Colin Smith said...

I wonder if Percy Jackson is a good comp title for YA since, strictly speaking, it's MG--at least the first book is.

And on the age thing... I think sometimes young YA writers are at a disadvantage in being too close to the age of their readers. They may feel they relate to their audience, but can they do more than that? There's a perspective that age and experience brings to YA that I'm sure older YA writers believe is just as valuable, if not moreso. Another good reason to not mention your age. :)

Terri Lynn Coop said...

Well done ladies. You have a bright future.

The only reason to mention your age in passing is that your parents would have to participate in the contract (unless you live in one of the few states that emancipate at 17.) Only fair to let an agent know that from the jump.

Otherwise, you two did a great job. I can't wait to see the revision.

Terri

GillyB said...

I feel like this query has really good bones, and the Shark gave the most excellent of advice.

I've got a question about those comp titles. As a YA book blogger, I'm (if I do say so myself) quite well-read in YA. Whenever I see a book billed in the blurb as appealing to fans of Graceling or Percy Jackson or Harry Potter, I roll my eyes, because they're almost cliches. Do agents feel the same way in queries?

To me, it almost shows the writer hasn't read ENOUGH YA, even though, going by the lovely, sincere bio, that is clearly not the case here. I'll grant the Graceling comparison, since that's also YA high fantasy, but this novel doesn't remind me of Percy Jackson in any way. (Also, Percy Jackson is technically MG with high YA crossover.)

Basically, I'm confused about comp titles, and wonder if agents would have the same thoughts about them as I would.

Write Brain said...

How do most agents feel about the story being written to turn the authors into the heroines? As a reader, I know it largely depends for me on how it's executed in the writing, but a transparent author insert is one of the quickest ways to turn me off of a story. Is this, then, a good thing to mention in a query?

Steve Stubbs said...

A word of encouragement. I don’t know diddly about YA, but I read on the net the other day that DIVERGENT, THE HUNGER GAMES, and TWILIGHT are all YA and million dollar bestsellers. They have also been turned into blockbuster movies. (Well, OK< they have not been turned into movies. They are still books, but movies based on them are raking in obscene quantities of money.) So the market is definitely there. You might ask yourself what makes the successful books successful. From what I have heard of it, DIVERGENT is about the fact that some kids don’t feel accepted by their peers. In the book their peers want to kill them, which makes the story more interesting. It also makes it realistic, so the author throws in some “sci fi” to distract the reader from that fact. The “scu fi” thing-y is always supposed to cover up the fact that the author is writing about real life. You can see how a successful book like this is deconstructed. I especially like the idea of a YA YA Sisterhood writing team. Good luck!

BP said...

"Also no God blessing in a query"...literally the funniest thing I have read on this site...which is saying a lot...or saying that I am several hours short of sleep! :D

Liz Mallory said...

I agree with ProfeJMarie that it is AMAZING to be querying at that young age. Shows you're serious and you're already learning what this is going to take. Wow. When I was that age, I thought my writing would publish itself...

Theresa Milstein said...

I'm impressed. Like Query Shark said, there are adults who don't write this well. Talented writer teens are not unheard of. Don't apologize for it! Instead, be proud of yourself and figure that if it doesn't work out now, you have many years to perfect both queries and manuscripts.

I'm curious about comparing books too. There seem to be too many pitfalls: too old, not well known enough, too well known.

Mister Furkles said...

I would want to know more about the bad guys and what the two women do.

But that's just me.

I don't read YA. And if they told me had to be a literary agent, I'd run screaming into the hills and promise never to read another word--which is really hard to do while running and screaming.

bass said...

I've gotta say, these comments have made me feel a lot less nervous about my age when querying - I'm a young adult (or maybe "new adult," since I'm in college?) writing young adult fantasy as well. Although a bit more nervous about whether my novel is YA or MG, since that's already something I can't decide.

Theresa Milstein said...

This is a definite improvement. I feel the query is almost there, and I hope the actual manuscript is too. Sometimes, I see writers resistant to making the changes in their queries here. You girls are demonstrating that you're willing to learn.

Bass, don't confuse books with your life. Kids who read MG aren't calling themselves middle graders. YA means young adult, but it's targeted to teens. You are actually a young adult who may write New Adult.

MIddle grade books have to do with the age of protagonist but also the subject matter. Is it coming of age? That would be YA? About identity? Most likely YA? About friendship? Maybe MG. About family? MG. Of course, either YA or MG can have all of the above, but your themes should lead you to answer your own question.

Steve Stubbs said...

Great query. Here are some suggestions and observations. Feel free to ignore all of them.

You wrote: “Kyla Duvall lost everything the day the fire tore through her village, destroying her home, killing her mother, and separating her from her best friend. Whisked away into hiding and trained to be the leader her country would need, Kyla waited for eight years to take her place as queen.”

If you wanted to, you could shorten these sentences. Long sentences worked for Faulkner, but short seems to be more contemporary. Try this:

The day fire tore through her village, Kyla lost everything. It destroyed her home. It killed her mother. It separated her from her best friend. She trained to be the leader of her country. Eight years after the fire Kyla Duvall took her place as queen.”

I don’t know if you like the effect that produces or not. But you can feel the difference in the effect the words elicit. Short sentences are also easier on the reader.

I would toss all cliches such as “sooner than she imagined,” “one reason, and one reason alone” “Power hangs in the balance,” etc. Some people love cliches, but to me they are weak. Try this:

“Bekah is trained as a soldier. She knows war is brewing. She joined this army to find who murdered her parents.”

Of course this makes us wonder what going to war has to do with finding out who murdered her parents. Finding a murderer is a detective’s job, not a soldier’s. Do you really mean she wants to avenge her parents’ death? That is something a soldier could do.

You wrote: “Entrusted will appeal to YA, adventure-hungry fans of novels”

If you look at the first part of this sentence where you say, “Entrusted will appeal to YA,” you will see that “YA” is a genre, not a person. It will appeal to readers, not to literary genres. Also ENTRUSTED should be in all caps. Let me suggest moving this further in the sentence so you get:

“ENTRUSTED will appeal to adventure-hungry fans of YA novels”

The word “novels” is needed because YA is not necessarily novel length.

You wrote: “Our full manuscript is now actually available,”

I am assuming your first language is French, since this is the way you would write in French. It is a small point, but in English “actually” is not needed and should go. For that matter, “now” is expendable as well. Ms. Reid is right. Since you said in an earlier sentence, “The full manuscript is available upon request” this sentence just re-states the same thing. One sentence or the other could be tossed.

Madison Blancaflor said...

Steve, it's hilarious that you think our first language (well my first language anyway…there are two of us) is french. I am actually taking French, or attempting anyway. I am more of an English/Spanish person. French is not my best subject for sure.

As for everyone else, thank you so much for your commentary and encouragement. It means a lot that we can take this dream and actually do something with it! We still can't believe that a short story for a sophomore english class (the original idea for this novel and hopefully one day series) brought us here.

Thank you again, and God bless! (It's not a query, but a comment on a comment of a query revision… so God blessing is totally okay, right??:D)

LynnRodz said...

(Sorry, Janet, but my last paragraph didn't go through the first time!)

I think your query is almost there, but I, also, think it would be stronger without the last sentences. "We are seventeen....This is our first novel. Period! Why you wrote your novel, what you enjoy, or why you read, adds nothing to it in my opinion. Teens aren't the only ones who read to take you to "places you could never imagine or experience another world," etc. Most readers read novels for the same reasons regardless of age.

Just, a side note: I had the same reaction to Steve's comment as Madison. The sentence would not be written that way in French either and the words "now" and "actually" aren't needed in English or in French.

Good luck, girls! Btw, nothing wrong with being blessed in a comment as far as I'm concerned, but I wouldn't do it in a business letter.

Steve Stubbs said...

Lynn wrote: "Just, a side note: I had the same reaction to Steve's comment as Madison. The sentence would not be written that way in French either and the words "now" and "actually" aren't needed in English or in French."

Just as a side note, the word actuellement in French (which English speakers confuse with the English word "actually" as in the query) means "now", so actuellement now means "now now." The writer could be trying to get someone to calm down and got the words wrong ("now now, it's not that bad") but in context I got the impression it was added for emphasis, as in now NOW. Not needed. Just tell us the MS is available and let us froth at the mouth waiting for it. No need for now or for the French equivalent actuellement, misspelled as actually.

I hope your book will soon be actuallement disponsibles. Voila!

LynnRodz said...

Steve, I can see your point, but one misplaced/misused word in any language would not make me automatically think someone isn't a native speaker. Otherwise, everyone would be suspected of not speaking any language! LOL! Then again, that's just me.

I wouldn't bring this up, but because you're stressing this point, I will. You wouldn't use the word actuellement in French either. All you would say is: Mon manuscrit est disponible. By using actuellement in the sentence, it limits the time period that the manuscript is available. The underlying meaning is, it's available now, but not for long. I'm sure that's not what a writer would want to say.

(À propos, est-ce qu'une leçon de français est vraiment nécessaire vue que nous sommes sur un site en anglais?) I don't think so.

MNye said...

Just discovered this! I'm going to reread and reread and then rewrite. Why didn't I read this before the mss. It's about craft.

Theresa Milstein said...

This is so much better and QS has pretty much got it done. The important parts of the story have been culled and I'm interested in reading the story to find out what happens.