Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Query Revision 52

Face-Lift 855: The S-Word

Seventeen-year-old Lizzie is the Prude of Verity High, until a tryst with her best friend’s boyfriend transforms her into Queen of the Sluts. Suddenly the S-word shows up on everything: her notebooks, her locker, even her car. And BFF Angelina won’t even look her in the face, let alone give her a chance to explain.

Then Lizzie commits suicide and Angelina is wracked with the guilt of what now seems like petty abandonment. To complicate matters, Lizzie’s tormenters appear to have moved on without remorse. Fueled by her anger, Angelina launches an investigation into their private lives, hoping to expose their secrets as a form of karmic justice. But what she discovers is that Lizzie kept more secrets than anyone, including the secret of what really happened the night she was branded a slut. Now Angelina’s not just angry, she’s fuming mad, and she’s about to enact revenge on the boy who hurt Lizzie the most.

The S-Word is a YA novel complete at 60,000 words. Thank you for your time.

Comments

This is a query that I think can be taken from pretty darn good to really great with just a few more tweaks, mainly to the voice.

I really like your first paragraph. It's well-written and enticing in that car-wreck sort of way. The only problem with it is that it sets things up from Lizzie's POV and the sudden drop into Angelina's POV is a bit distracting. I think the keyword here is "sudden" rather the idea that the POV shifts. The suicide seems sudden too -- precisely because we are still in Lizzie's POV at the time, and while Angie wouldn't be privvy to any reasons Lizzie suicides, Lizzie certainly would be. Maybe just add a bit about the pressure inside Lizzie that forces her into what she sees as the only option or frustration that everyone seems to cut her off.

Then Lizzie commits suicide and Angelina is wracked with the guilt of what now seems like petty abandonment.

"petty abandonment" doesn't feel like a phrase in keeping with the voice of the query. Is that how Angelina would describe it to herself? At this point, too, in this version, the reader could well be thinking it's Angelina who's spreading the s-word.

To complicate matters, Lizzie’s tormenters appear to have moved on without remorse.

I'm not sure "complicate matters" is getting the idea across since I'm not sure what it's complicating. Angelina's anger? It's more an "icing on the cake" type of thing, isn't it?

Fueled by her anger, Angelina launches an investigation into their private lives, hoping to expose their secrets as a form of karmic justice. But what she discovers is that Lizzie kept more secrets than anyone, including the secret of what really happened the night she was branded a slut.

"their private lives" required a second read for me because I wasn't sure who "their" referred to. Grammatically, it refers to the tormenters. Check. But then the next sentence focuses on Lizzie so somehow she was one of those being investigated, so then I got a little confused as to whose private lives were being looked into.

Now Angelina’s not just angry, she’s fuming mad, and she’s about to enact revenge on the boy who hurt Lizzie the most.

"enact revenge" is another voice-breaker, I think. The rest of that sentence is great. I especially like that 1) you dropped the boyfriend in and 2) how you dropped him in.

My Revision

I think the format you laid out is fine. My version is just an example of how you can tweak the voice. You'll want to change it into YOUR voice, of course.

Seventeen-year-old Lizzie is the Prude of Verity High, until a tryst with her best friend’s boyfriend transforms her into Queen of the Sluts. Suddenly the S-word shows up on everything: her notebooks, her locker, even her car. And BFF Angelina won’t look her in the face, let alone give her a chance to explain. Marked, unfriended, her life wounded beyond repair, Lizzie commits suicide.

Angry with herself and everyone around her for abandoning Lizzie, Angelina strikes out at Lizzie's tormenters -- classmates who appear to have moved on without remorse. She digs into their private lives, determined to expose their secrets as a form of karmic justice. What she discovers instead is that Lizzie was keeping more secrets than anyone, including the secret of what really happened the night she was branded a slut.

Now Angelina’s not just angry, she’s fuming mad. As for the boy who hurt Lizzie the most? She's getting ready to serve him up a dish of cold, cold revenge.

THE S-WORD is a YA novel complete at 60,000 words. Thank you for your time.

16 comments:

mb said...

This is so, so much better than the original on EE. The plot is way clearer and more interesting. Go you!

vkw said...

this is much better and more interesting. I kind of want to know what happened between Lizzie and the boy, (and I don't like YA). I am just hoping it is not a date rape thing - because I think that's be overdone.

I like Angelina - not only doesn't she get involved in Lizzie's torment but she seeks retribution for her when she dies. That's a great main character despite the fact she had the only reason to defriend Lizzie to begin with.

Queries often have the problem of giving the reader a reason to care about the main character at all.

nice job.

Ellie said...

This query is much improved and well on its way, author!

I feel like the revision still puts us in Lizzie's POV first, setting it up like it's her story. Why not something like, "Seventeen-year-old Angelina's BFF Lizzie is the Prude of Verity High, until a tryst with Angelina's boyfriend transforms her into Queen of the Sluts. Suddenly the S-word shows up on everything: her notebooks, her locker, even her car. Angelina refuses to speak to her so-called friend, let alone defend her from the taunts. Then the unthinkable happens: Lizzie commits suicide." And then go from there. Framing it around Angelina from the start lets us know that it's her story.

Best of luck on the revisions!

Jo-Ann said...

The revised version is great - clear and focused. On quibble- I'm not sure that you could describe Angelina's reaction as "petty". After all, she's just been betrayed by both her friend and boyfriend (or so she thinks). It would be normal to wish them both to go to hell.

Just BTW - a query for a novel which tackles very similar issues was recently posted on the Query Shark website. Check it out!

chelsea said...

Holy wow, Phoenix. You are amazing at this!

Thanks to all those coming here to comment. I greatly appreciate your help.

Ellie, I would love to start the query with Angie and still manage to make Lizzie sympathetic. I just haven't quite nailed it yet. But your suggestion is a good one, and I'll definitely play around with it.

Jo-Ann, the query on Query Shark is awesome. I have to admit to feeling a twinge of envy when I read it. Still, I think mine is getting closer to the goal, and I'm really enjoying the process. Thanks for your comments!

vkw said...

Angelina has every reason to hate her ex-boyfriend and her ex-best friend - afterall, they betray her by hooking up.

something like that?

no-bull-steve said...

I agree with Ellie. As catchy as the opening line is, it completely sets the POV with Lizzie. Maybe amend it to "Angelina thought her best friend was queen of the prudes..." or something.

Angela's POV from the start also makes more sense because if Lizzie wasn't in a real tryst with the bf, it makes it okay that Angela thinks they were.

fairyhedgehog said...

I agree with Ellie and No-bull-steve that it would make the query flow better to start with Angelina.

It really is looking good and I guess you're just a tweak or two away from submitting!

BuffySquirrel said...

'Then Lizzie commits suicide and her tormentors move on with no remorse.'

Matt said...

Author Chelsea comes in with a revision remarkably better than the last and Phoenix tweaks it to make it stronger,giving explanations that make you think, "ah, I see." When people ask me how this blog works I'll point them to this post.

I might change the last line of Phoenix's revision though. I'm not sure that kids these days reference Star Trek.

Phoenix said...

Star Trek? Didn't Mr. Burns on The Simpsons say it? :o)

chelsea said...

More great suggestions! I will play around with your ideas for the query to start with Angie.

Matt, I love that this makes a good example of how the site works. As for Star Trek, I hear a lot of "The needs of the many" quotes these days, but otherwise not so much.

Thank you all for your continued help. You rock.

chelsea said...

What about "unleash her fury" rather than "enact vengeance"? Does that still seem like a voice breaker?

Thanks!

Phoenix said...

I think "unleash her fury" works!

Sylvia said...

I like the rewrite a lot - I noticed the POV shift but wasn't bothered by it, although Phoenix's use of the paragraph break is clever and smooths it out a bit.

The only line I really didn't like is: "To complicate matters, Lizzie’s tormenters appear to have moved on without remorse."

Angie *was* a tormentor (note: with two o's) and it made it seem more like Angie had a problem (not moving on) rather than the classmates. I rather would like to see the suicide-slut reference from the original here but Phoenix's rewrite of that line worked for me too. The key is the heightening anger fueled by guilt which I'm not sure that sentence gets across.

Orlando said...

Angelina investigates their private lives but finds something on Lizzie.

I don't understand why Angelina is investigating Lizzie.

Is there a connection between Lizzie and her tormentors other than gossip?

Also in the beginning you stated she became the queen of the sluts when she had a tryst with her BFF's boyfriend, BFF being Angelina. Angelina has a right to be angry, from the looks of things. Is her revenge on her old boyfriend who apparently had something with Lizzie?