Ask Daphne! About My Query XXX

November 13th, 2009 • Kate

olsen-haus-swim-faux-patent-shoeI wouldn’t wear these swimming, but wouldn’t they look just perfect at a pool somewhere in Beverly Hills? And they’re vegan! Anyway, today’s About My Query post comes to us from Kristina.

Before I get to it, however, I wanted to put out a call for submissions. I have next week’s About My Query ready to go, which means I need 6 more queries to get us into the new year. Please email your queries for this space (i.e., not for consideration for representation, but only for review and discussion) to daphne.unfeasible@gmail.com. Use the phrase “About My Query” in your subject line so it gets routed to the right place. If I get many more than six queries, I’ll return them to you — I’ve found if I hold onto them for too long, they’re no longer as helpful to the writer. In January, I’ll put out another call for queries, and probably every two months or so afterwards, so in case you don’t make a cut off, you can plan to submit again in about two months.

Ok, with that out of the way, let’s get to today’s query!

Dear Ms. Unfeasible:

For seventeen-year-old Calleigh, swimming is her ticket to a scholarship. Unfortunately the price may prove to be deadly. During her sophomore year tryouts, she shocks everyone by failing to show up and abandoning the sport altogether. Her friends think she has an eating disorder. Her mom’s new bible deals with teenage depression. Only Aaron seems to notice the way she freaks out whenever she’s touched, and is convinced she’s been raped. But Calleigh’s hiding a terrifying secret and refuses to acknowledge he’s right.

Undeterred, Aaron tries to get her to admit what happened. Maybe next time he kisses her, he won’t get a black eye. As long as another flashback doesn’t hit her first. And she’ll be safe, as long as she can keep the truth a secret. Not so easy to do when Aaron is determined to save her and persuade her to return to swimming. And not so easy to do when the stalker who raped Calleigh steps back into her life.

LOST IN A HEARTBEAT is an 82,000-word YA contemporary novel for females fourteen years and older. It is written in the same vein as a Sarah Dessen novel: a guy dealing with his own secrets and supporting characters who cause Calleigh to revaluate her response to the rape.

A member of the SCBWI, I attended the annual New York City conference in 2007 and 2008, as well as the 2009 annual conference in Los Angeles.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,
Kristina

As with some many of these queries, there’s the germ of something really intriguing, but it gets a little lost. Let’s start at the top. My impression is that the story mostly takes place after the rape, in which case, Calleigh is no longer looking at swimming as “her ticket to a scholarship.” When you’re giving backstory in a query, you’re not going to have enough time to spend on the story.

What about something like “Swimming was Calleigh’s life, and her ticket to a scholarship, but no longer. After failing to show up for tryouts and showing all signs of abandoning the sport altogether, Calleigh…”? After which you could tell the reader something about how Calleigh is reacting, not just how other people (her friends and mom) perceive her. There’s also a strange disconnect with Aaron thinking she was raped, and then the query going back to the non-specific “terrible secret.”

In fact, the amount of time you spend on Aaron makes me wonder just who the main character in this story is — Calleigh or Aaron. I’m leaning slightly towards Calleigh, because of your unnecessary “YA contemporary novel for females fourteen years and older” (you can just call it a “contemporary YA novel” — the rest is exclusive and repetitive). But this feels like Aaron’s story, especially when you refer to it as “a guy dealing with his own secrets”. Are there dual narrators? If so, let the reader know!

The second paragraph is a little all over the place too — the sentences don’t work together. There’s no connection or agreement between “Maybe next time he kisses her, he won’t get a black eye” and “As long as another flashback doesn’t hit her first.” The repetitive “not so easy to do” starting two sentences in a row also feels awkward and unpolished.

We talked earlier this week about using comparisons in your queries, and while I think a call out to Sarah Dessen is appropriate, the wording of it feels weird — “Written in the same vein” just doesn’t work for me.

Minor quibbles: “revaluate” should be “reevaluate” and I don’t think you need to list the years you attended the SCBWI National Conferences, just that you did.

Over to my wise and helpful readers — what do you think?

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9 Responses to “Ask Daphne! About My Query XXX”

  1. Ash Says:

    Ha! NB mentioned the "in the same vein" in his blog recently I think. Maybe that's where the author got it from.

    Anyway, I thought it didn't flow well either and that a lot could be throw out. With a novel like this, I would make an impact with the first sentence. An example,

    "Seventeen-year-old (name here)'s life comes to a stand still when she's raped. Suddenly, all her vibrant future plans fade to gray grieving over the loss of her (put strong word here). Then, (go into the overall conflict between her and Aaron. Like, what he does to try and help her or something. I don't know. this is all off the top of my head so feel free to ignore.

  2. J & K, Newbie Au Says:

    Here is how I read the query. In the first paragraph I thought, oh Calleigh was raped, then oh no, there's a terrifying secret so it must be something else.

    In the second paragraph I thought well, whatever has happened is, she has a nice boyfriend Aaron who is trying to help her.

    n the third paragraph, I saw the line about the guy dealing with his own secrets, and I thought who is this? A new character? The rapist? Are we going to see three perspective's: Calleigh's, Aaron's and and unnamed attacker? Maybe Calleigh went out with a second boy behind Aaron's back and it turned into date-rape. Now she can't tell Aaron the truth because she betrayed him in the first pace by going with the other boy.

    In a book, I like those ups and downs. In the query, I think I need know the setup clearly.

    Kudos to you for taking on such a a tough topic in what looks to be an interesting way.

  3. Kristina Says:

    Thanks Kate and everyone else who commented. The query has been completely changed so the only thing remaining from before is: Lost in a Heartbeat is a 80,000 word YA contemporary novel. I guess those 6 hours of pouring through various agents' blogs and blogs on writing queries left me more confused than anything. No one seems to agree on how to write one. I went with one suggestion and it failed. Miserably. Much like my spelling of reevaluate. Still kicking myself for that.

  4. Jamie Harrington Says:

    Kristina… will you put the new query up in the comments so we can look at that?

  5. Kristina Says:

    Thanks Jamie. This is what I have so far. Because of the changes, I am not longer using the Sarah Dessen comparison.

    Calleigh Clarkson is a rising star on the high school swim team. But that all changes during a party before her sophomore year tryouts. Unable to tell her parents and friends the truth about what happened, she’s forced to suffer through frequent nightmares and terrifying flashbacks. But those are easier to deal with than to admit the real reason why she never showed up for tryouts and quit swimming altogether.

    Brought up to believe self-help books are the answer to everything, Calleigh’s determined to deal with her issue on her own. Then she meets Aaron, a former competitive swimmer. He’s struggling with his own tragic secret, but Calleigh soon realizes in order to save him, she needs to do the one thing she’s not comfortable doing: letting someone else reach out to help her.

    With Aaron’s help, Calleigh rediscovers her passion for swimming. But when the obsessed fan who raped her steps back into her life, Calleigh has to decide which is more important: protecting her secret or continuing to heal.

  6. Kate Says:

    Kristina –

    This is MUCH stronger! Good luck with it!

    Cheers,

    Kate

  7. kt literary » Blog Archive » Twitter Advice Says:

    […] more spot for this year’s weekly posts, then I’m cutting them off until January. See Friday’s post for instructions on how to […]

  8. Kristina Says:

    Thanks Kate, Ash, and J & K. I wanted you to know that your comments really do make a difference. I hope other writers listen to you as much as I did. 😀

  9. kt literary » Blog Archive » From The Archives: About My Query XXX Says:

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