Monday, July 18, 2011

Gearin' Up to Get an Agent - Week Three

I'm continuing to participate in Deana Barnhart's blog-o-rama. This week were asking others in to fest to help us with our queries. I feel nervous about posting mine online, like a fellow blogger Robin Weeks. So, I'm going to borrow her paranoia helper idea and apply it to mine. I have removed the query, just so that it isn't out there. 


Everyone was so helpful! Thank you so much!

18 comments:

Laura Barnes said...

Original concept!
I think it's a little lengthy. Your first sentence is awesome but I would add the world "already" to make your first sentence say: Sixteen-year-old, Renna Healy already has temper issues... After that, the first paragraph has a lot of unnecessary info. We want to get to that next paragraph. Then I think paragraph two uses the word "lion" too much. Figure out how to reduce a few. Tighten all of the rest, actually. We don't need to know how long it takes her to discover she's a lion, we want to see that she is one and that it affects her life.

Good luck, and good job for posting. Glad to be following you now.

marcie_ann said...

Rachel - see my comments below. :)

Dear Agent Extraordinaire,

Sixteen year old, Renna Healy has temper issues, but when she becomes part-lion, controlling it is impossible.

(I WOULD START A NEW PARAGRAPH HERE) On an ordinary Kenyan day—hot, buggy, and sweaty, Renna and her dad take a familiar path (YOU COULD END YOUR SENTENCE HERE TO TIGHTEN THINGS UP) into the savannahs to photograph wildlife. They only have a few weeks left in the rural African village they’ve called home for two years. Renna was happy with her dad’s decision to take a job in a place that seriously needed doctors. She was proud of him. And after their move, she fell in love with the people, wildlife, and Sean McCloud.
(I THINK THE ABOVE TO COULD BE TIGHTENED UP A LOT SO THAT IT'S SHORTER. REALLY THE ONLY THING THAT PROBABLY MATTERS IS THAT SHE FELL IN LOVE WITH SEAN).

Not far into their walk, a lion attacks them. Before Renna knows it, her dad is dead, and she’s carried away in the mouth of the lion. It isn’t an average lion, it is a crazed, diseased, killing machine.(I WOULD CHANGE THE PREVIOUS TO THIS: '...THE MOUTH OF A CRAZED, DISEASED, KILLING MACHINE.' WE ALREADY KNOW IT'S THE LION, SO NO NEED TO RESTATE THAT.) As it drags Renna into the bush, something in his bite spreads through her blood stream, and alters her DNA. Waking up in a hospital, it doesn’t take her long to realize she has changed (YOU COULD END THE SENTENCE RIGHT HERE TO SAVE WORDS) not on the outside of her body, but within. Sounds are amplified, her vision is magnified, and her sense of smell is overwhelming. But it isn’t until she breaks Sean’s hand with a simple squeeze, and sprints past a truck to escape from the hospital, that she realizes her strength and speed matches that of a lion. (I'D ALSO CHANGE THIS TO 'WHEN SHE BREAKS SEAN'S HAND WITH A SIMPLE SQUEEZE....SHE REALIZES...')


Renna moves to Wisconsin to live with her only relative, her uncle. The stress of the move and loss of her dad is topped off by catty high school girls, hormone-driven boys, and stupid people. As a result, Renna becomes destructive with her anger.(IF THESE REASONS ARE SUPER IMPORTANT, KEEP THEM IN. OTHERWISE YOU COULD SHORTEN THIS BY SAYING 'RENNA MOVES TO WISCONSIN WHERE THE STRESSES OF LIFE AND LOSS OF HER DAD PUSH HER TO FEEL OUT OF CONTROL.) She frequently feels out of control, reacting before thinking. She shudders at the thought that if she’s pushed too far she might kill someone by accident. When a love triangle shoves her over the edge, her greatest fear comes true, and changes how she deals with her temper forever.

THOSE SUGGESTIONS WILL HELP SAVE A LOT OF WORDS AND TIGHTEN UP YOUR LETTER. I HOPE THIS HELPS. GOOD LUCK! :)

Angelica R. Jackson said...

Hey Rachel, since I know you and your book I was a little more slash-y with your query. I think you need to hit the high/strong points of your story much sooner, so I came up with this:

Dear Agent Extraordinaire,

Sixteen year old Renna Healy has anger issues, but when she becomes part-lion, controlling her temper becomes impossible.

After moving to Kenya with her doctor father, Renna falls in in love with the country’s people, wildlife, and her neighbor Sean McCloud. But her idyllic life is shattered when she and her father are viciously attacked by a lion.

Her father does not survive the mauling, and Renna is left with more than her visible scars—she now has some of the attributes of the diseased lion that bit her. Sounds are amplified, her vision is magnified, and her sense of smell is overwhelming. But it isn’t until she breaks Sean’s hand with a simple squeeze, and sprints past a truck to escape from the hospital, that she realizes she’s more than just an ordinary girl—she’s somehow been changed to a lion within.

Renna moves to Wisconsin to live with her only relative, her uncle. The stress of the relocation and loss of her dad is topped off by catty high school girls, hormone-driven boys, and small-town life. Renna becomes destructive to herself and others, frequently reacting before thinking. She dreads the thought that if she’s pushed too far, she might kill someone by accident. When a love triangle shoves her over the edge, her greatest fear comes true, and changes how she deals with her temper forever.

The Lion Within is a 67,000 word, young adult contemporary fantasy.

Personal stuff…Published children’s book author and illustrator, etc.


I changed the "stupid people" phrase because it seemed too vague. I think you may want to emphasize the separation from Sean when she moves to Wisconsin, also. Good luck!

Melodie said...

Hi Rachel:

I agree with the last poster only I would slash this query even further. Lead with the lion attack - this is your hook. Make it as gory, as immediate as possible. Then tell us the meat of your story (possible pun there...ha!) So the first sentence might look like: Renna Healy's last thought before the lion's fangs tore into her shoulder was to wonder if her father was still alive. THIS IS WEAK BUT IT GIVES YOU AN IDEA.

Using Angelica's edit, the next graph: Her father does not survive the mauling, and Renna is left with more than her visible scars BE SPECIFIC HERE - WHAT DO THE SCARS LOOK LIKE? WORK THAT INTO YOUR QUERY: MORE THAN RIPPLING SCARS ACROSS HER SKIN. Sounds are amplified, her vision is magnified, and her sense of smell is overwhelming. But it isn’t until she breaks her boyfriend's hand with a simple squeeze, and sprints past a truck to escape from the hospital, that she realizes she’s somehow been changed to a lion within. THIS IS THE MEAT OF YOUR Q. I WOULD NOT CHANGE THIS PART.



When Renna moves to Wisconsin to live with her only relative, the stress of the relocation and loss of her dad is topped off by catty high school girls, hormone-driven boys, and small-town life. Renna becomes destructive to herself and others, frequently reacting before thinking. She dreads the thought that if she’s pushed too far, she might kill someone by accident. When a love triangle shoves her over the edge, her greatest fear comes true, and changes how she deals with her temper forever. THIS IS TOO VAGUE - IF SHE KILLS SOMEONE, THIS IS ALSO A HOOK AND CHANGES THE TONE OF YOUR STORY AND THE EXPECTATIONS OF YOUR READER. BE AS SPECIFIC AS POSSIBLE.

I think this still needs trimming but I haven't read your MS. My only other suggestion is work in some voice. Instead of saying Renna 'becomes destruction' give a specific example. 'Renna lashes out at others, bloodying them and her knuckles.'

Good luck!

kathy stemke said...

this is a very unique concept, BRAVO. I agree, your letter needs tightening. I like Angelica's version.

I think kids will love this concept! do I hear movie rights??

Vicky Bruere said...

Hi Rachel
I love the sound of this book! I haven't actually had any experience in writing queries, but the advice I received from an author was to keep it to 1 page max (which becomes a bit trickier when querying via email...but I guess typing it out in a Word document first might help). I agree with the other that it needs trimming a bit.

Nicole M. White- said...

Great concept. I think Angelica tightened the query up real well.

Angie Cothran said...

The first sentence of your query is a fantastic hook!

The rest is almost all backstory—you don’t need it. What is the plot? I get that she has a temper and has to control it, but what are the details of the plot. What does your MC want? What stands in her way? What will happen if the conflict isn’t resolved?

Focus in your query and leave out all the backstory. It sounds like a great story and so cool that you can take your love of big cats and weave them into a story.

Good luck :)

LisaAnn said...

Hi Rachel! This concept sounds awesome... Original, unexpected and definitely intriguing. I also love the idea of identifying with a protagonist who ultimately ends up killing someone. What an unexpected twist!

I agree with everyone that--with a little tightening--your query will really begin to shine. And I can't WAIT to hear where this story takes you.

(P.S.-Thanks so much for your comments on my blog, and yes, that is a Bactrian camel in my pics. His name is Knobby, and he's the first animal I ever trained from scratch. I have tons of photos of him in goofy poses if you'd ever like to use them for your paintings. Shoot me a message if you'd like me to email them to you!)

Deana said...

How Rachel!
What a unique story! I am intruiged for sure. I, like most of the others feel your query could use some tightening. Maybe not so much story telling. It almost had the feel of reading an actual story whereas I think agents are looking for straight and to the point.
One other thing I noticed was the tense. I am no pro by any means but I have heard a present tense query is what agents look for as well.

Also, if you are wanting to enter the actual query contest email me your final draft by 12PM ET Tuesday:) My email is deanabarnhart@gmail.com

Good luck!
D

Michelle Fayard said...

Hi, Rachel,

I've put my suggestions in parentheses/all caps:

(Sixteen year old=HYPHENATE THIS)(,=NO COMMA) Renna Healy has temper issues, but when she becomes part(- NO HYPHEN)lion, controlling it is impossible. (THE FIRST SENTENCE HOOKED ME, BUT THE REST OF THE GRAPH FELT TOO LONG.) On an ordinary Kenyan day—hot, buggy, and sweaty(,=EM DASH INSTEAD) Renna and her dad take a familiar path into the savannahs to photograph wildlife. They only have a few weeks left in the rural African village they’ve called home for two years. Renna was happy with her dad’s decision to take a job in a place that seriously needed doctors. She was proud of him. And after their move, she fell in love with the people, wildlife, and Sean McCloud.

Not far into their walk, a lion attacks them. Before Renna knows it, her dad is dead, and she’s carried away in the mouth of the (lion=WOULD BE NICE TO HAVE A DIFFERENT WORD TO PREVENT USING THE SAME ONE TWICE IN THE SAME SENTENCE.). It isn’t an average lion(,=SEMI COLON) it is a crazed, diseased, killing machine. As it drags Renna into the bush, something in his bite spreads through her blood stream, and alters her DNA. (IT WOULD BE GREAT IF YOU COULD INTEGRATE THIS SENTENCE WITH YOUR FIRST GRAPH; IT MIGHT EVEN DEVELOP INTO YOUR FIRST SENTENCE OF YOUR QUERY.) Waking up in a hospital, it doesn’t take her long to realize she has changed not on the outside of her body, but within. Sounds are amplified, her vision is magnified, and her sense of smell is overwhelming. But it isn’t until she breaks Sean’s hand with a simple squeeze(,=DELETE) and sprints past a truck to escape from the hospital(,=DELETE) that she realizes her strength and speed matches that of a lion. (I DON'T KNOW WHO SEAN IS, SO THIS SENTENCE ISN'T WORKING FOR ME AS IT SHOULD.)

Renna moves to Wisconsin to live with her only relative, her uncle. (The stress of the move and loss of her dad is topped off by catty high school girls, hormone-driven boys, and stupid people. As a result,=DELETE) (STRESS AT HOME AND AT SCHOOL CAUSE Renna (becomes destructive with her anger. She frequently feels out of control, reacting before thinking=DELETE)(TO REACT WITHOUT THINKING). She (shudders at the thought=DELETE) (USE JUST ONE VERB HERE) that if she’s pushed too far she might kill someone by accident. When a love triangle shoves her over the edge, her greatest fear comes true, and (changes how she deals with her temper forever=NEEDS SOME TIGHTENING).

The (Lion Within=ALL CAPS) is a 67,000(HYPHEN)word, young adult contemporary fantasy.

Personal stuff…Published children’s book author and illustrator, etc. (GREAT THINGS TO LIST!)

YOU'VE HIT UPON A COMMON FEAR--WHAT WE MIGHT DO IF PUSHED TOO FAR FOR WHATEVER REASON. EXCELLENT! WITH SOME TIGHTENING YOUR QUERY LETTER WILL BE SPOT ON.

Michellel

RAD - Dot Painter said...

Not sure if you will all get a chance to check back here. I just want to thank you for taking so much time to help me. This blog-fest shows me just how giving our writing community can be! I'll bounce around and return the favor!

jamieayres said...

Your hook is AWESOME! Can't wait to read the book:)

Angelica R. Jackson said...

Glad to help, Rachel! You'll probably need to put your "voice" back into the version I suggested--I was mostly trying to address how you had too much backstory and it felt more like a one-page synopsis than a pitch.

Don't forget that Query Hell on Absolute Write is a fantabulous resource--you may want to post your revised version up there before you submit.

Ru said...

This is probably unnecessarily nitpicky, but "contemporary fantasy" sounds more magical to me, but "something in the lion's DNA" sounds sci/fi. I would maybe take that out and just play up the mystical angle of her connection with the lion.

Nancy Thompson said...

I would keep the first line hook but ditch the rest of the first paragraph. Start with the lion attack. Then most of the next paragraph should focus on what happens when the love triangle shoves her over the edge.

My query just went through the ringer during this blogfest and though it was painful, everyone was right. Get right into the conflict and stay there. Focus on the choice the MC must make and quit there. Short and sweet.

I just got my 400 word query down to 200 words complete, total. And it is much better for it.

Good luck to ya!

alexia said...

Great first sentence! You could trim the whole thing a bit. Also, maybe clarify a bit what the plotline is - learning to control her temper? I would straight up say what happens in the love triangle thing, instead of "when the worst happens". Does she kill someone? I'd clarify and tighten along these lines.

Really cool premise!! I like it a lot.

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