Sunday, August 31, 2008

#73-Revised 2x

Dear Query Shark,

Fourteen-year-old Samantha doesn’t want to think about the reasons she feels ‘different’. Instead, she immerses herself in the imaginary world of her books. She refuses to hide her fascination with mythical creatures and the fantasy world they inhabit and becomes an outcast at school as a result.

Banished from his position as ruler by his own people, the wizard Slyvanius devises a plot to undo this coup and recapture his former position of power. The wizard’s plan involves blackmail and the kidnapping of a busload of eighth-graders, including Samantha, to use as leverage.

Held hostage by Slyvanius, Samantha is plunged into a world of magic and danger, but since she loves the world of fantasy, she’s able to thrive and succeed for the first time in her life. She bravely makes a deal with the wizard, betting her life for the freedom of her schoolmates. Samantha’s battles with a vicious vampire, a giant wasp, and Slyvanius himself seem oddly familiar and calming to her as she single-handedly attempts to thwart the wizard’s plans.

When she levitates a classmate, befriends a cute fairy boy, and sticks a sword through a powerful dragon in her quest to save her class from imprisonment in a dark castle dungeon, Samantha finds she thrives in this high stakes arena. Along the way she discovers a well-kept family secret that explains why she feels so different.

Don’t Call Me Sam is a 48,000-word fantasy celebrating both the appeal of magic and the power of friends and family.

Thank you for your consideration,

Remember what I said about flat writing further down in the original query? You've still got that problem but you've sharpened the query up enough that I'd actually read a page or two.
You need a REALLY good first page or two here. Make sure you start the story with action. You start with some sort of prologue, or sleeping, dreaming, day dreaming, rumination or other static descriptive thing, and it's not going to keep me reading.

And this is a heck of an improvement from the first effort!

Dear Query Shark,

Thirteen-year-old Samantha takes pride in being a good kid. She won’t admit to herself that, deep down, she's lonely, depressed and angry. She doesn't want to think about the reasons she feels 'different'. Instead, Samantha hides in the imaginary worlds of her books and counts on her best friend, Rose, to help her stay grounded.

Does any thirteen year old actually use "stay grounded?" to describe how they want to be?

Banished by his own people and removed as their ruler, the wizard Slyvanius devises a plan to undo this coup and recapture his former position of power. But, his scheme requires the arrogant and ambitious wizard to kidnap Samantha, Rose, and a bus full of their schoolmates, thrusting the startled kids into a world of magic and danger. Samantha makes a deal with Slyvanius, betting her own life in order to save her friends.

Here's where you lose me. Why does his scheme require a bus full of middle schoolers? What wizard in his right mind wants to deal with a 13-year-old. Even their parents don't much want to do that.

Her battles with ogres, sprites and other mythical creatures seem oddly familiar and calming to Samantha as she almost single-handedly thwarts the plans of this powerful wizard, and proves to herself that she's really 'okay'.

Now this is interesting. Forget the therapy stuff for a minute (well, forget it forever would be better), here's where we first get the sense there's something more going on, there are actual stakes.

Samantha never imagined that she would actually When she levitates a classmate, battles a slimy ogre, sticks a sword through a powerful dragon, befriends a really cute boy fairy or and saves her entire class from imprisonment in a castle dungeon, but she finds she thrives in this high-stakes arena.. Along the way, she discovers that a well-kept family secret is both the source of her inner turmoil and the answer to her anger and sadness as well. that explains why she feels different.

You want to continue the tense from the preceding paragraph (her battles) in the following paragraph (When she). You also want to have the solution match the dilemma from the first paragraph.

Written by a high school student, Don’t Call Me Sam is a 48,000-word fantasy celebrating both the appeal of magic and the power of friends and family.

Don't talk about yourself in the third person. I don't care where you are educationally, but I do care if you're under 18. That means I have to behave myself around you and talk to your mom before I talk to you, so if you're sub-18, mention it. Otherwise, nada.

I would be pleased to send along the complete manuscript for your review.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Rejection with encouraging words.



Dear Query Shark,

Thirteen year-old Samantha didn’t mind being called a ‘straight edge’. She took pride in being a good kid. But, deep down, she felt angry and struggled to control her temper.

Samantha loved the imaginary world of mythology but is shocked when she realizes that she actually has supernatural abilities herself. These new powers both thrill and scare her. She never dreamed that she would actually:

- levitate a classmate
- battle a slimy ogre
- kill a powerful dragon with a sword thrust though the heart
- befriend a really cute boy fairy
- save her entire class from imprisonment in a castle dungeon

Samantha’s plans for eighth grade didn’t include what was about to happen on the afternoon bus ride home from school. A wicked and powerful wizard has new plans for her and her best friend, Rose.

Samantha’s natural resourcefulness and her burgeoning supernatural skills allow her to fend off the wizard’s repeated attempts to recruit her. After his initial failure to acquire the cooperation of the girls, the wizard attempts to use one of his minions, the clever fairy Percy, to lure Samantha and Rose into a vulnerable position. But, Percy experiences true friendship for the first time in his life and betrays the wizard to become the girls’ advocate and protector, even at the risk of losing his wings.

While avoiding the wizard’s wicked schemes, Samantha desperately searches for a ‘trainer’ in an attempt to harness her magical skills and her temper. She finds just the right mentor and discovers an amazing secret about her family in the process.

This 48,000-word middle-grade/young adult fantasy demonstrates the power of the natural over the supernatural, as it details Samantha’s struggles and triumphs. I would be pleased to send along the complete manuscript for your review.

Ok, let's start with the fact that middle grade and young adult are two pretty distinct categories. They're separated less by subject matter than vocabulary and word count but they are sold and marketed VERY differently. Consider the reason: most young adult readers make their own book purchases, middle grade readers do not. Yes, there are exceptions but generally.

Now, the other thing, and the more important one is that your language here is ... well ... not stimulating. I feel like I'm reading a report about something that happened far far away (sort of like as far back as perhaps my years in middle school are now.)

Girl discovers supernatural abilities, mayhem ensues is pretty pedestrian for a plot too. But then almost anything can sound pedestrian if you use bland language. Do you really want to see boy sees girl, boy loves girl, girl doesn't see boy, girl ignores boy, chaos ensues until a stroke of deus ex machina saves the day? Well, heck no me either. But I sure loved this.

It's not always true that you can make a cliche plot sound interesting by describing it well, but it's worth the risk.

Your query letter is decent form, but your writing does not make me want to read the book.
Language is your toolbox. Sharpen up.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

This is a form rejection.


Unknown said...

I actually thought that the first half of this is quite good, and it sounded like a book I'd like to read.

I do think the last two paragraphs at the end go on a bit long. Of those paragraphs, I think you suffer from explaining the plot too much: simplify to the basics. I'd cut the entire paragraph that starts off with "Samantha's natural resourcefulness" ...and that might make the whole thing flow better.

Also: Thank you Ms. Reid for adding in the bit about not calling a book MG/YA at the same time. This is something I've been struggling with A LOT recently as I'm not sure which category my own work fits best into.

Lehcarjt said...

I thought this was a joke based on the #64. Am I wrong? Are they written by the same person?

Shakier Anthem said...

I think this is the first time I've ever seen bullet points in a query.

Anna Mittower said...

I do think the last revision has a much better voice, thanks to your help and the author's willingness to listen.

However, don't you have the draft in the wrong place? I found the other two drafts under query letter #78, not #73 as it is here.

I just wanted to point this out so you could reunite the 3 drafts together and help readers to see the progression in the revisions.

Anonymous said...

It reminds me of The Lightning Thief but in a good way (The name Percy hints that you might enjoy the series). I don't know if you wrote query #64, but I, just like The Shark, struggle to understand the capturing of the bus. I think this has a lot of potential if nurtured correctly.

Unknown said...

Gosh, I'd read this. And it was written by an high school kid? I've edited work from old folks like me with less potential. Did it ever get published?