Ask Daphne! About My Query LXII

July 2nd, 2010 • Kate

beachdresssandals1Happy almost-4th-of-July, all! In the spirit of the holiday, I’ll be taking off on Monday (and hopefully getting some more reading done this weekend), but in the meantime, let’s head to the Jersey Shore for today’s About My Query, shall we?

Dear Daphne,

Abigail (Abby) Hardy thinks that she is the last 18-year-old virgin alive. And that’s just fine with her, until she meets two guys competing for her time and affection.

Along with her best friend, Makenna, Abby spends the summer at the Jersey Shore sans protective parents and brat-of-a-brother. The soon to be college freshman vows to keep her chastity until she meets the one, but it’s not easy. The Jersey Shore was her home away from home every summer, but this year is different. Abby isn’t sure how to handle the boys. Considering her previous experience consists of holding hands and an occasional kiss.

Nick was handsome in the obvious sort of way. He was the boy upstairs for the summer, who stole Abby’s heart first. Colin Murphy was a stop- your- heart gorgeous, knee shaking, smooth talker. From the first word, she knew he could change her world, and Abby was positive her inexperienced heart would not recover. He was here for only one summer, in from Dublin. Long distant relationships never lasted, or so she thought.

A fairytale believer of true love, Abby’s inexperience takes her on a journey of self-discovery in my 78,000 word young adult romance DOWN THE SHORE.

I am a new writer, and a proud member of YALITCHAT. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Kelly M.

Thanks for sending along your query, Kelly! Let’s get right to it, shall we? Right off the bat, I think you don’t need the formal structure of “Abigail (Abby) Hardy”. Just Abby is fine. Moving on, if you start your query with Abby’s thought that “she is the last 18-year-old virgin alive”, I’m going to assume that that’s important, and thus your second sentence has me already doubting your voice when you tell me she’s “fine” with it. If she were fine with it, then I don’t think you’d have a plot. The rest of the sentence, about the “two guys competing for her time and affection” just doesn’t feel strong enough to me for a hook. It’s not action-oriented enough. Not dramatic enough.

Next paragraph: I don’t think we need to know Makenna’s name since it doesn’t come up again. You also want to be aware of how often you use the same structure to describe things: “brat-of-a-brother,” “soon-to-be college freshman,” “stop-your-heart gorgeous, knee-shaking, smooth talker.” You didn’t use hyphens for all of these phrases, but if you are going to use these phrases, they should have the hyphens. This paragraph reads very staccato, I’m afraid. The sentences don’t flow very well together. If I were rewriting it, I’d move the third sentence up to second, and combine the last two sentences, among other tweaks. And again, if she’s made a vow to keep her chastity, again, that’s a different story than telling me she’s fine with being a virgin. It’s similar, but different, and that difference may be the selling point for some agents.

The next paragraph seems dropped in from a different story. For one thing, it’s in a completely different tense. In terms of characters, though you describe Nick and Colin, you actually tell the reader very little about them. What about Colin makes Abby think he would change her world? Just the fact that he has an Irish accent? How did Nick steal her heart? Why does Abby jump right into worrying about a long-distance relationship? Colin’s here now, isn’t he?

And then, much like the non-dramatic opening hook, the closing line doesn’t really sing to me. It’s fine, I guess (although I think it should be “fairytale believer in true love”, as opposed to “of”), but a journey of self-discovery isn’t all that compelling when I don’t know enough about Abby to care yet anyway.

If I were rewriting it, I’d spend more time building Abby’s character, and telling the reader what about this two very different guys appeals to her, and why. You also probably want to put more import behind the idea that she’s willing (or interested, at least) in giving up her virginity to one of them, if that’s the plot you’re building towards, especially as that seems to be a major character aspect.

Readers, how would you help Kelly bedazzle her query?

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8 Responses to “Ask Daphne! About My Query LXII”

  1. Tessa Quin Says:

    How about starting it with something like:

    It's not easy to hold onto your virginity when two guys are competing for your affections.

  2. Feliza Says:

    Hm. This sounds like something I would read!

    I don't think I'm getting much idea of the vibe of the manuscript from the query, though. I'm sensing something semi-light and chatty from phrases like "brat-of-a-brother" and "stop-your-heart gorgeous," so maybe infusing the query with more voice would make it more effective.

    I got that bit of advice A LOT on the first drafts of my query. The way I solved the issue was to pretend the main character was writing the query (but without actually writing it AS the main character, of course). Just my two cents. Hope this helps!

  3. Karen Says:

    The thing that stood out to me the most was that there didn't seem to be much difference in the way Nick and Colin looked from the description. Saying Nick is handsome in the obvious sort of way says to me that when you take one look at him, you see a handsome guy right away–which still doesn't tell me much. Colin is stop your heart gorgeous, and while that's tells me he's probably better looking than Nick, it still doesn't tell me much.

    I'd almost have preferred it if Nick was average, but with the kind of personality that would make any girl in her right mind fall for him. And that would give Colin more of a contrast with his smooth talking. I'm not saying that you need to change who these guys are, but something tells me you have more to them than we are allowed to see here, so whatever that is, find away to bring that into the query. As well as a more of Abby.

    Hope that helps! Good luck with it 🙂

  4. Red Boot Pearl Says:

    I agree with Karen, the guys seem the same…I feel like the characters are cardboard-ish, what details would make me think they are real–and that I want to know their story?

    Keep plugging along, it'll get there.

  5. Alysia Says:

    I'm not sure if this matters, but the fact that the Jersey Shore is mentioned twice makes me think the location is important for some reason. I'd like to know where she's from originally. I'd also like to know what makes the two guys different. Different personalities, besides both being handsome.

    Sounds like a nice YA romance though!

  6. Rissa Watkins Says:

    I agree with a few people who have said the characters don't seem to have any depth. Even Abby- so far we know nothing about her personality other than she wants to remain a virgin until she meets the one. Make us want to care about her and what happens.

    Same with the guys. You mention their looks and superficial details. Is that all she cares about? It makes her seem shallow. What about these 2 guys makes them worthy of her breaking her vow?

    Keep tweaking. Queries are hard, but don't give up!

  7. Lydia Sharp Says:

    I agree with most of the comments above. Excellent points.

    What I'd like to see here is a unique twist on the basic romance plot. There's nothing to make me think, "hey, this is different from every other YA romance I've read", and thus, worth reading. You've got the typical inexperienced MC, plus two guys who suddenly want her and… is that it? I write YA romance; I know how difficult it is to put a unique spin on the same old love story. But it can be done. Whatever "uniquely you" element you've put in your novel, highlight it in the query.

    Hope this helps. Good luck to you! 🙂

  8. Jess Says:

    As an aside, I'm from the Philly/NEPA area, and we're the only people I've ever heard use the phrase going "down the shore," which makes me think Abby would be a local girl. 🙂

    Everyone else's comments are spot on. There's nothing here to make me care about the characters, it's all telling, and ineffective telling. The details you've given us don't give us any idea about the real story.

    And I tend to roll my eyes at the inexperienced girl suddenly being fought over. She magically blossomed in her senior year? It happens, but… in fiction, I need more than that. Has her inexperience to this point been because of her vow, and she's suddenly having second thoughts about it? That would be more interesting to me and give us an internal conflict.