Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Query Revision 50

Face-Lift 415 : Kinesthesia

[Author's Note: My query received a face-lift over three years ago {at EE's}, and both the query and novel have been completely rethought and rewritten since then.]

Dear Evil Editor,

In an alternate 1961, seventeen-year-old Meriwether Davis leaves her home to escape a lonely future as a fisherman’s wife – the chance to fight Nazis is just a bonus. She’s not about to marry her best friend Will when they can’t even manage to have sex, and there aren’t many other options for a girl in the tiny fishing town of North Bend, Oregon.

She finds a cause worth fighting for in Goose Bay, the last stronghold of the British Independents. Twenty years after the British surrender and evacuation to Canada, they’re still trying to carry on a war against the Nazis. As the town ladies like to say, they’re so desperate they’ll take anyone, even Meri. Meri’s no stranger to lost causes – she’s been trying to make nice with her grandmother since she learned to talk – and the British Independents actually want her there.

As Meri finds her place with the British Independents, she discovers the base is far from unified. Flight Lt Oliver Warden, who helps her prepare for basic training and offers more than simple comradeship, favors an all-out attack, while some of those raised in Canada don’t see the point of the war at all. Meri is torn between supporting the troops who’ve welcomed her with open arms and a rebellious soldier who seems to make a lot of sense—until she starts killing Meri’s friends.

KINESTHESIA is a 70,000-word YA alternate history novel. The first five pages follow this letter. I have three YA nonfiction books published: The Diabetes Game (Rewarding Health, 2005), Teen Dream Jobs (Beyond Words Publishing, 2003), and It’s Your Rite (Beyond Words Publishing, 2003).

Thank you for your time.

Comments

Overall, I'm getting the feel that this is a personal story. I don't get a sense of sweeping danger and imminent peril, yet it's set to a background of war, so the tone feels a little uneven. Nor does it feel modern. Up until the title "Flight Lt" pops up, it feels more like a frontier fight. More like culture in 1776 rather than 1961. So that there's aircraft comes as a bit of a surprise, I think, in a cold read. I'm having to shift my perception of the world I'm being told about near the end of the query.

In an alternate 1961, seventeen-year-old Meriwether Davis leaves her home to escape a lonely future as a fisherman’s wife – the chance to fight Nazis is just a bonus.

This is a good hook!

She’s not about to marry her best friend Will when they can’t even manage to have sex, and there aren’t many other options for a girl in the tiny fishing town of North Bend, Oregon.

This next sentence dilutes the strong hook. (Don't feel bad; I've noticed this seems to be a trend.) A couple of things:

  • We don't need Will named since he doesn't show up again and too many names just confuse a reader.
  • We really don't need Will at all since you've just told us she's leaving so as not to marry.
  • A reader will not understand what "can't even manage to have sex" means. Is it physically impossible for one or the other to have sex? Can they not find time alone to make out? Is the alternate world one in which couples are required to have sex before marriage? I don't think you want your reader dwelling so long on this bit as it's not really relevant in the grand scheme.
She finds a cause worth fighting for in Goose Bay,

I had to look up where Goose Bay is. That's likely just me being pathetic when it comes to geography.

the last stronghold of the British Independents. Twenty years after the British surrender and evacuation to Canada, they’re still trying to carry on a war against the Nazis.

Every time I read this sentence, I read "surrender" as a verb, so I stumble on "evacuation" since it's a noun. Apart from thinking this sentence would read easier changing "evacuation" to "evacuate," if you surrender, can you still carry on a war? Has this war been brought to the Canadian homeland? Is Canada being threatened?

As the town ladies like to say, they’re so desperate they’ll take anyone, even Meri.

I think you need to separate Meri out of this sentence by more than a comma. Otherwise, it sounds like the ladies were saying, "We'll take anyone, even Meri," before Meri came to town.

Meri’s no stranger to lost causes – she’s been trying to make nice with her grandmother since she learned to talk – and the British Independents actually want her there.

Maybe give us more of a hint about how difficult making nice with her grandmother was since the reader will be expecting a like comparison to the last stand of the 300 situation she's in now. That said, I think people interested in alt history will be more interested in understanding in this limited space how this world is different than in Meri's 16-year battle trying to make friends with her grandmother.

As Meri finds her place with the British Independents, she discovers the base is far from unified. Flight Lt Oliver Warden, who helps her prepare for basic training and offers more than simple comradeship,favors an all-out attack, while some of those raised in Canada don’t see the point of the war at all.

I think maybe we need a little more about the politics. What's Canada's overall position? They'll take refugees and allow a base on their soil, but are they neutral? isolationists? resigned to Nazi rule?

I'm also confused because this seems to be the ragtag remnants of an army -- a group of volunteers bucking the system. No one is forcing the troops to be there, are they? Why would there be soldiers there at all who don't support the cause?

Meri is torn between supporting the troops who’ve welcomed her with open arms

Earlier, the query says she's found a cause worth fighting for. Why would she be torn now?

and a rebellious soldier who seems to make a lot of sense—until she starts killing Meri’s friends.

I'm not feeling a unifying thread here at the end. Meri starts listening to a friend's talk of peace until the friend turns out to be a crazy lady? As written, the killing spree doesn't seem to have a connection to the war or to Meri's decision. Plus, I don't think there's enough here to convince us why Meri is torn and what the stakes are for her if she stays to fight or if she doesn't. I'm not feeling a sense of what the looming climax might be from this ending.

KINESTHESIA is a 70,000-word YA alternate history novel. The first five pages follow this letter. I have three YA nonfiction books published: The Diabetes Game (Rewarding Health, 2005), Teen Dream Jobs (Beyond Words Publishing, 2003), and It’s Your Rite (Beyond Words Publishing, 2003).

There was a lot of backlash on the title earlier. I'm thinking you're still working on a new title.
Thank you for your time.

5 comments:

batgirl said...

Agreeing with Phoenix about leaving out Will, the best friend who disappears from the narrative. Meri begins as an active protagonist - she leaves home, she joins a resistance army, ... then she sort of winds down, with the action taken over by her unnamed new friend, who rebels and starts killing people. Does the Flight Lt do much in the story, or would you be better off spending the space on the killer friend, and what she's rebelling against, and who she's killing and why?
Maybe avoid the passive of 'Meri is torn', and recast as active - Meri must choose.

Sylvia said...

Twenty years after the British surrender and evacuation to Canada

I stumbled on this too and settled on "Twenty years after the British evacuate to Canada" which makes it clear that it's a retreat. I didn't see that "surrender" added anything.

Meri’s no stranger to lost causes – she’s been trying to make nice with her grandmother since she learned to talk – and the British Independents actually want her there.

I liked the first two phrases in this but not the last. "They'll take anyone" already makes it clear they want her there and so this felt repetitious to me ... and took away from the impact of the two lost causes.

and a rebellious soldier who seems to make a lot of sense—until she starts killing Meri’s friends.

I presumed that the rebellious soldier was Oliver, since he was named, and so stumbled when it turned out to be a she. Meri doesn't seem torn to me because this is the first I've heard of the rebellious soldier, so clearly my sympathy is with the troops, who at least I know something about.

AA said...

Here's your query with the less vital stuff edited out. I added a few words for continuity.

I'm not saying you should write it this way, just that this might make a good base for a rewrite. There's room now for another paragraph so you can give that last paragraph more strength.
............................

In an alternate 1961, seventeen-year-old Meriwether Davis leaves her home to escape a lonely future as a fisherman’s wife – the chance to fight Nazis is just a bonus. She’s not ready to settle down and raise a family, and there aren’t many other options for a girl in the tiny fishing town of North Bend, Oregon.

She finds a cause worth fighting for in Goose Bay, the last stronghold of the British Independents. Twenty years after the British evacuation to Canada, they’re still trying to carry on a war against the Nazis.

Flight Lt Oliver Warden helps her prepare for basic training and offers more than simple comradeship. But the base is far from unified. Some favor an all-out attack, while some of those raised in Canada don’t see the point of the war at all. As Meri finds her place with the British Independents, she is torn between supporting the troops who’ve welcomed her with open arms and following a rebellious and charismatic soldier who seems to make a lot of sense. [Goes on from here.]

Hope it helps. Keep working on it and I'll watch for a repost.

Wilkins MacQueen said...

Your second sentence weakens the opening sentence I'd punch it up a bit and get take out "just"
In an alternate 1961, seventeen-year-old Meriwether Davis chooses to leave her Oregon home to fight the Nazis. If she stays in North Bend she is going to become a fisherman’s wife.

Meri signs up in Goose Bay, Canada the last stronghold of the British Independents. Twenty years after the British surrender and the evacuation to Canada, the Independents are fighting the Nazis.
As Meri joins the British Independents, she discovers the base is divided. Flight Lt Oliver Warden, prepares her for basic training and offers her more than boot polish. He wants an all-out attack. Some Canadians in the detachment want to negotiate peace. Meri has to choose between the rebellious soldier who wants to strike hard or side with those in her troop who want peace.

The last sentence confused me - is it a typo - she/he? Or is this a new character? Is it a "killing ensues" thing with a new character? Or is it the Lt?

I'd take out the soft drifty phrases and make it tougher. She's gonna get some Nazi action and otherwise right?

I'd keep Gram out

Hope that opens up another road to chase

Can't wait to see where you go

Wilkins MacQueen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.