Friday, December 17, 2010

Query Revision 48

Face-Lift 849: Double-Faced
(retitled from Flute Music)

Sixteen-year-old Mala has her hands full. Arguing with her mother - like breathing, there's no way around it - and dealing with her new school and some real nasty mean girls.

Her problems seem puny when she meets Aiyana, a Native American environmentalist, and learns of her fight against the Calvert mines. Pretty impressive, considering the mines employ practically everyone in town, including Mala's mother, and Mr. Calvert is the next to God to all of them.

Then Aiyana dies. Mala suspects Mr. Calvert. But suspicions are not enough when everyone swears by your suspect's squeaky clean reputation, especially the police chief, who's also his best buddy.

In a real freaky turn of events, Mala's mom begins dating Mr. Calvert. Revolted, she digs for some dirt on him and unearths a missing wife. A rich missing wife, whose money got Mr. Calvert his mines. Her snooping lands her in some serious trouble and she barely escapes getting caught.

Then a new boy, Brad, transfers to her school, and a massive swooning epidemic sweeps through the hallways. Mala falls victim to it, not that it matters, as the top mean girl establishes herself as his girlfriend. But for some weird reason - couldn't be her dark, ugly looks - he seeks Mala out. This sets up for some rather unpleasant situations at school.

As her mom slips further into Mr. Calvert's web of deception, Mala accepts Brad's help, though she suspects he's hiding something from her. But to get justice for Aiyana and save her mother, she's willing to face the double-faced devil himself.

My young adult novel, complete at 54,000 words, is available for review. Thank you for your time.

Comments

First, I want to commend the author for taking the feedback from Evil Editor's site and doing a true re-visioning of this query. That's a monumental step and I don't want that effort to go unnoticed.

Turning the focus onto Mala is definitely the way to go. Now comes the refining of that focus.

Sixteen-year-old Mala has her hands full. Arguing with her mother - like breathing, there's no way around it - and dealing with her new school and some real nasty mean girls.

The second sentence is actually a frag, and while I am a huge advocate of stylistic frags, this one unfortunately doesn't fall into the stylistic category.

Her problems seem puny when she meets Aiyana, a Native American environmentalist, and learns of her fight against the Calvert mines.

I think we need a little more of a hint here about what the mines are and why Aiyana is targeting them. Is Aiyana against all mining activity or something specific about Calvert's mines?

Pretty impressive, considering the mines employ practically everyone in town, including Mala's mother, and Mr. Calvert is the next to God to all of them.

Then Aiyana dies. Mala suspects Mr. Calvert.

Here we need something more about the death before Mala suspects Calvert. From this query, we know little about Aiyana -- we don't know how old she is, for instance. Maybe she's in her 70s and had a heart attack. What prompts Mala's suspicions?

But suspicions are not enough when everyone swears by your suspect's squeaky clean reputation, especially the police chief, who's also his best buddy.

This is a run-on-ish sentence. To be honest, the grammar issues throughout would likely be enough on their own to elicit rejections.

In a real freaky turn of events, Mala's mom begins dating Mr. Calvert.

This is a very subjective comment based on the voice I'm experiencing in this query: It feels like you're trying a little too hard for a teen voice ("in a real freaky turn" is just the latest example) and are missing out on the layer of sophistication teens by the age of 16 are introducing into their speech. You're seeming to go with the simple and easy rather than reaching for a more fully realized voice.

Revolted, she digs for some dirt on him and unearths a missing wife.

Sorry, but I immediately got a mental image here of her actually digging up a body.

A rich missing wife, whose money got Mr. Calvert his mines. Her Mala's snooping lands her in some serious trouble and she barely escapes getting caught.

That last sentence is vague. Serious trouble with whom? The police? Calvert? And what does she escape from? Getting caught snooping? But no, she has to have been caught doing something to land in trouble, so I'm confused.

It's obvious you're trying to imply Calvert killed his previous wife, but if she had money then I'm sure her going missing wasn't going to be hidden. Especially because she had to come from somewhere else if it was her money that built the industry and the town to begin with. So I'm even more unclear what Mala has gotten caught doing?

Then a new boy, Brad, transfers to her school, and a massive swooning epidemic sweeps through the hallways. Mala falls victim to it, not that it matters, as the top mean girl establishes herself as his girlfriend. But for some weird reason - couldn't be her dark, ugly looks - he seeks Mala out. This sets up for some rather unpleasant situations at school.

The query seems to be taking a step back here. The focus is now off the investigation and we're back in school and there are some unexplained situations happening there. Brad obviously is critical to how the mystery plays out, but the reader really doesn't get a clear idea of how that might happen from this introduction.

The "Mala falls victim" sentence is a run-on.

As her mom slips further into Mr. Calvert's web of deception,

I'm not clear how Mom is slipping further in the web. She might be getting closer relationship-wise to Calvert and he isn't being honest with her, but is he using Mom in some way we don't know about to further his evil ways?

Mala accepts Brad's help,

To do what?

though she suspects he's hiding something from her. But to get justice for Aiyana and save her mother, she's willing to face the double-faced devil himself.

I'm not sure "But" here carries the correct connecting thought.

My young adult novel, complete at 54,000 words, is available for review.

Some agents seem to get a bit peeved about using "review" for what they do. "Consider(ation)" is their preferred term. Still, the query is more a sales-type business letter and merely stating your ms is available is a bit tepid, IMO.

Also, oops. I only know you chose a new title for the book because you told me in your email. The query itself doesn't mention a title.

Thank you for your time.

My Revision

This still feels a little long to me and it may go too far in toning down some of the unauthentic voice I was feeling, but maybe it's a good template to start the next revision from?

Sixteen-year-old Mala thinks she has her hands full, what with the constant arguing with her mother and her new school and a group of mean girls out for blood -- hers. But when she meets Aiyana, a Native American environmentalist barely older than she is, her problems seem puny in comparison. Single-handedly, Aiyana is fighting what's so far been a losing battle against the town's only industry -- the Calvert Mining Company -- trying to get the mines shut down for failing to use proper safeguards to prevent pollution. A pretty impressive effort considering the mines employ practically everyone in town, including Mala's mother. And in the town's view Mr. Calvert is right up there on the podium with God.

When Aiyana dies under fishy circumstances, Mala doesn't buy the official explanation and suspects Calvert is behind the death. But suspicions aren't enough when everyone -- even the police chief, who's also Calvert's best buddy -- swears by the suspect's squeaky clean reputation. Then in a freaky turn of events, Mala's mom begins dating Calvert. Angry and revolted, Mala digs for dirt on him and comes up with a rich missing wife whose money got Calvert his mines. Still, Mala can't find the thing she needs most: proof that Calvert's hands are bloody.

Then a new boy, Brad, transfers to her school. While a massive swooning epidemic sweeps through the hallways, for some weird reason the new stud-muffin seeks Mala out. She can't help but feel he's hiding something, but that doesn't stop her from jumping on his a-little-too-quick offer to help her go after Calvert. Because to get justice for Aiyana and save her mother, she's going to need all the help she can get to face the double-faced devil himself.

DOUBLE-FACED is a 54,000-word YA novel. I look forward to sending you the completed manuscript.

8 comments:

Matt said...

+1 for grammar issues and vagueness.

As for that manufactured "real freaky" voice, why is it all teens in novels talk like that? When I was in high school there were people that talked like that, yes, but not everyone. Where are all the articulated children in YA literature?

Of course, all I know about YA is what I see from sites like this. I hope I'm wrong when it comes to published material (When I was young, I went straight to adult after MG).

vkw said...

This is a much better query than you had before and I can see the effort you made.

Double-face is a better title.

Phoenix's revisions are better. The only thing I don't like is Brad's description. I would leave it at "Brad, a new boy at school and her new boyfriend, agrees to help."


I just think you should keep focus on the main plot and the main character.

vkw

s said...

Thanks. Lots of helpful comments. I'm guilty of most everything you mentioned. So I'll work on the revision, hopefully over the next few days.
Thanks to taking the time.

AA said...

This is way better than the original. The title is better, too. (Funny I just bought a Jethro Tull LP earlier today before I saw this.)
Phoenix has good points. You probably don't have to work on every point mentioned this round but I'd do most of them before re-submitting.

Matt: I skipped YA as well. I went straight to adult from elementary-school-age fiction, since that was when I got to go to the "big kids'" library. I tend to think the "OMG, it's like, the worst birthday EVAR," talk is excessively annoying, and it's also pandering. I wonder if it doesn't annoy teenagers as well.

I've been tempted for a while now to write a novel entirely in LOLspeak, but I'm afraid people would take it seriously.

Matt said...

You should just write a little one and submit it to EE's openings -- it'd be funny to see some of the comments.

AA said...

I can has no bell prize 4 littercherz?

no-bull-steve said...

Author, good job on the new title. Much better!

You really need to do a much better job describing what's going on in this story otherwise agents/publishers are going to assume that the writing in our story is this vague. Has your work been through a critique group?

Wilkins MacQueen said...

Do you write YA queries as a YA? I don't think so but I may be wrong

(My keyboard is trash sorry missing etters and so on)

Don't think you're there yet Not direct enough to my taste

I want a reason to care - it may be in the ms but I need it in the query