Ask Daphne! About My Query LXXVII

October 29th, 2010 • Kate

proenza-schoulerI loved the image of these Proenza Schouler shoes so much when someone shared them with me yesterday that I made them my new Twitter icon. And now I’m ALSO featuring them on today’s About My Query post. Gonna play with format again today, though. The query is in bold italics, with my comments after each line or paragraph. Read on, won’t you?

Dear Super Agent,

I read your bio and thought you might be interested in my YA dystopia adventure manuscript. This is a little vague. Not wrong, necessarily, but in my case, for instance, it’s nowhere near the most specific or interesting way of introducing your dystopian YA novel to me. Did you see me chatting about dystopians on Twitter the other day, or notice my client’s upcoming dystopian novel? A comment like that feels much more immediately grabby than just that you read my bio. Moving on…

New paragraph: A shadow society formed during the Civil War bent on creating a shadow government that will control the US Government, Camp Liberty’s goals are clear – erase the damage done by decades of crooked politicians and corrupt corporate forces. Can you use another word other than “shadow” twice in the hook line? Also, I’m a little unsure when your novel is set. You refer to the Civil War and the pass decades’ worth of damage — so are we talking about Antebellum dystopia, or or society where Camp Liberty has existed already for generations, if not hundreds of years? On a personal note, this line doesn’t mention any specific characters, and I’d rather be compelled by people than politics.

New Paragraph: The Camp’s latest unwilling recruit, fifteen-year-old Lillie Forester is kidnapped, drugged and interned into this mixture of a town and military compound. There’s a weird comma here, I think, and though I suspect you mean “interned” as in a prisoner would be, it’s hard to shake my initial read of the word like a summer intern. I’d have to check with my grammar expert, but I also think “interned into” is wrong — I believe “interned in” is the correct phrase. The phrase “this mixture of a town and military compund” as makes me doublecheck to see if you’d introduced the Camp as a literal place already — which you haven’t. So there’s another way you can clarify what Camp Liberty actually is (and when), if it’s evolved beyond a shadow society to a highly visible specific location.

Lillie’s ability to find the truth in everyone, even the truth they work so hard to hide is a perfect addition to the Special Ops team. So this is a paranormal?

Lillie is brassy and stubborn and her answer to her forced induction is to escape the Camp. I think I need more of a break between this and the previous sentence. Also, no one’s really asking a question, so “answer” doesn’t sit right with me as a word choice.

It is only when she is rescued by charming Wil, a persuasive boy with many physical gifts that Lillie decides to become a member of the Camp. To be honest, I’d rather know more about how Will persuades Lillie that the folks who kidnapped her and want to use her to further an agenda she didn’t agree with are worth joining than about his “many physical gifts.”

New Paragraph: Her first mission is to discover the traitor who has been plaguing the Camp. But it’s a bitter-sweet [that should be “bittersweet”] discovery that forces Lillie to decide either to stay with the Camp she now considers home, or leave with the traitor who has stolen her heart. So it’s Wil? I have to say, this has me thinking Lillie’s got a serious case of Stockholm Syndrome going on. She doesn’t seem to have much of a mind of her own. Wouldn’t a traitor to the people who kidnapped her be someone she’d be thrilled to run away with?

New Paragraph: THE CLANDESTINE is complete at 83,000 words. This story takes place in the present, but it’s my idea of what might have happened if the young people of the 60’s were able to stay organized with a common goal. I have a degree in English and History. Ok, so now we know when the book is set, but I think you’d be better served to seed this information earlier in your query. And I don’t know if you need to tell us the idea behind the story — give yourself more time to develop the story and the characters, and I might be interested enough to want to find out the idea that the novel sprang from. At this ppoint, it’s just wasted words.

Sincerely,
Shannon M.
Thanks for sharing, Shannon! Readers, what are your thoughts? Am I completely off base? And just to make it easier for you to comment, I’ve repeated the query below without my interjections. Please add your two cents in the comments!

Dear Super Agent,

I read your bio and thought you might be interested in my YA dystopia adventure manuscript.

A shadow society formed during the Civil War bent on creating a shadow government that will control the US Government, Camp Liberty’s goals are clear – erase the damage done by decades of crooked politicians and corrupt corporate forces.

The Camp’s latest unwilling recruit, fifteen-year-old Lillie Forester is kidnapped, drugged and interned into this mixture of a town and military compound. Lillie’s ability to find the truth in everyone, even the truth they work so hard to hide is a perfect addition to the Special Ops team. Lillie is brassy and stubborn and her answer to her forced induction is to escape the Camp. It is only when she is rescued by charming Wil, a persuasive boy with many physical gifts that Lillie decides to become a member of the Camp.

Her first mission is to discover the traitor who has been plaguing the Camp. But it’s a bitter-sweet discovery that forces Lillie to decide either to stay with the Camp she now considers home, or leave with the traitor who has stolen her heart.

THE CLANDESTINE is complete at 83,000 words. This story takes place in the present, but it’s my idea of what might have happened if the young people of the 60’s were able to stay organized with a common goal. I have a degree in English and History.

Sincerely,

Shannon M

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10 Responses to “Ask Daphne! About My Query LXXVII”

  1. allreb Says:

    Oooh, I think there are a lot of intriguing elements in here, but it might be stronger to rearrange things to show them off a bit more, like (as Kate pointed out) starting with Lillie instead of the backstory. IE: "Lillie Forester wakes up one morning inside a creepy military compound — she's been drugged and kidnapped, and all she wants is to get out. That is, until Wil, a good looking insider, convinces her that Camp Liberty is really out to right wrongs and [etc etc significant but short backstory here].

    "Once she's decided to stay, Lillie learns that someone inside the camp is a traitor. Her first mission is to figure out who. When she discovers it's Wil, she'll have to decide between staying at the Camp she now considers home, or leaving with the traitor who has stolen her heart."

    (I also agree it's a bit Stockholm-y, but I could see how it might be fine within the context of the novel as a whole. It's something to consider, though. Why is she kidnapped instead of learning about them and going voluntarily?)

    Good luck!

  2. Karen Says:

    This does sound interesting but I do want to know more about Lillie and Wil and about Camp Liberty. I did a bit of rearranging with your query. Hope you don't mind. I only played with the first paragraph because I don't know enough about the story to add/change details at the end. This is just my opinion so feel free to ignore 🙂

    Fifteen-year-old Lillie Forester is kidnapped, drugged, and forced to live at Camp Liberty. The shadow society is bent on erasing the damage done by decades of crooked politicians and corrupt corporate forces. They see Lillie's ability to find the truth in everyone, even the truth they work so hard to hide, as a perfect addition to the Special Ops team. But Lillie’s answer to forced servitude is escape.

    Again, I think you have an intriguing concept so I wish you good luck with it!

  3. Olivia Says:

    I'm with Daphne in that I think it's sort of vague as to what genre you're going for. There's dystopian elements, and the paranormal hint, and…

    What are "physical gifts" ? Is that just a classy way of saying he's hot? Or is he like Superman?

    Does the Camp give her her "first mission," or is she investigating on her own? I agree with the Stockholm comment as well.

  4. Shannon Says:

    Wow – this is awesome. I was scared to death (no Halloween pun intended :-)) to go through this, but it was definitely worth it.

    Thank you Kate, I really appreciate the comments. And thank you to everyone else who commented. I can't tell you how helpful they are. Now it's back to the pen and paper from some revisions.

    I never thought of the Stockholm Syndrome and it doesn't really fit the story, but I definitely see how my query makes the connection to it.

    These are the times when I wish I had a great reader buddy. I think a lot of this could have be cleared up if someone besides my hubby (who I love dearly) read my MS, query, etc. I think his glasses a little to rosy when it comes to my writing.

    Kate – I'm not a twitter (tweeter?), so I missed your comments about dystopians. I did a search on your site, but I couldn't find the information you were talking about in the first paragraph. Is there a link or is it something that you could post or repost? I would really like to take a look at it.

    Than you all again! This was Fantastic!

  5. Olivia Says:

    @Shannon I know EXACTLY how you feel about being scared to death. When mine was posted two weeks ago, I was terrified. But it turned out alright. I've sent out about 6 query packets (and gotten two rejections back so far) and am hopeful.

  6. Kate Says:

    Shannon – no worries about not following me on Twitter, or knowing exactly what I mean about one of my clients' books being dystopian (Julia Karr's XVI, fyi). It's not a requirement, just a suggestion of some ways you can help make that opening line a little more personal — check out some of your target agent's clients blogs as well as their own, and you might get additional insight. Hope that clears that up.

  7. Shannon Says:

    Ok, thanks Kate. I just read the tweets (is that the correct term?) that show up on your blog. Makes me feel a little old actually, but I just haven't gotten into Twitter.

    I did see XVI and I wondered if that was what you were talking about. I thought maybe there was a blog topic on dystopian material that I missed. I'll take another look at XVI.

    So, am I right in assuming that this is a no for you if/when I have a good revision ready? Or, am I allowed to submit it to your main query email?

    Thank you again. I can't tell you how helpful this has been.

    Cheers on the pregnancy! Beano is your friend (at least it was mine). 🙂

  8. Kate Says:

    You're always welcome to submit a revised query to the regular address!

  9. Adam Heine Says:

    I agree this is a cool concept. I do like me some dystopia. But Lillie seems to flip-flop pretty quickly in the query. She hates the Camp then loves the Camp then (might) hate the Camp again. Probably not an issue in the novel, but it's too quick in the query.

    One reason is the Camp is initially set up as unsympathetic. They kidnapped and drugged her, which implies Bad People. All that means is her decision to love is unbelievable without some support.

    Although if her decision to love the Camp happens pretty early in the novel, maybe get to that point quicker and focus instead of her difficult decision between the Camp and a traitor?

  10. Shannon Says:

    Thanks Adam and thanks for understanding my fear Olivia. 🙂

    The Camp as the enemy is more of a Dances with Wolves -Michael Blake type of enemy where the enemy is perceived to be bad and evil because their actions tend to look heartless and unfeeling. The MC has been conditioned to believe that the enemy is bad. Once Lillie figures out that the Camp's members and its goals are not "terrorist" in nature, she is able to connect emotionaly with the camp and eventually consider it her home.

    I've struggled with the political aspect of the query. It is definitely politically driven in the actions of the Camp, but that is not a main part of the MS.