Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Query Revision 48: Redux 2


A few days after her move to her new town, sixteen-year-old Mira receives a warning from a strange old woman - someone's out to hurt her mother. Attempting to shrug it off as the rantings of a lunatic, Mira gets on with her biggest problem, adjusting to her new school. An unfortunate remark to the school's queen bee, who's also her mom's boss's daughter, creates a deadly enemy, and school becomes a cycle of subtle and not so subtle abuse for Mira.

Added to this, the woman's warning echoes in Mira's mind. Determined to find out what she meant, she confronts the woman, Aiyana, and learns that the threat comes from none other than her mother's boss, the most powerful man in town, with the unpleasant habit of eliminating anyone in his way - like Aiyana - and the next in line could be her mother.

In her race to trap the man and save her mom, she comes up against tall, handsome Brad, the queen bee's boyfriend. Sparks fly, and Mira's fate will depend upon whether she can avoid getting burned.

My YA novel, Double-Faced, is complete at 60,000 words.


First, I’m impressed that each of your revisions really rewrites the query in some way and makes it new. In this one, you’ve really turned the screws and narrowed the focus down.

Only … I think it goes a little too far down focus-wise – and voice-wise.

In this version, the plot is sublimated and vague. Why are Aiyana and Mom in the boss’s way, especially if Mom’s his employee? What are they in the way of? I also don’t get from this version that Aiyana necessarily gets killed – the way it’s written leaves her death a bit ambiguous.

In the “sparks fly” sentence, I see what you’re going for, but the sparks flying and Mira getting burned feels more like a mixed metaphor than one being the consequence of the other. Also, I’m not getting how her fate rests on her avoiding getting burned. By whom? Brad? The queen bee? The others at school?

As presented, the way the plot could be interpreted is that Mira gets on the wrong side of the boss’s daughter, who goes crying to Daddy, who acts like a Mafia boss and elects to snuff out anyone Mira knows. Which isn’t your story.

But we don’t know what the real story is from this query. Plus, I think you dialed down your voice too much here. So now we have a vague story line about Mira’s mom being in some kind of trouble told in a rather tepid voice. The things that could have been original about your story are gone.

So I think you have a choice. Either go back to the previous version with all the characters and plot twists spelled out and clean that version up. Or stay with this version, but get rid of Aiyana completely and use all the “warning” space to explain why the boss would be after Mom and hint at how Brad is tied into it all.

I like your name change of the MC from Mala to Mira. Although names can be an indicator of ethnicity and/or regionality. Which would be a nice change, IMO, from the stereotypical YA MCs we've been getting in the queries I've seen on this site and elsewhere...


suja said...

Thanks, Phoenix. I'll work with what you've said and work on cleaning it up. I'll resend it to you once I get it done, if that's okay.
Thanks so much

Michelle4Laughs said...

I wonder if it isn't easier to get a query that details the plot and MC clearly, and then go back and puff up the sentences to give them a better voice. That's what I've tried to do recently with my query.

What do you think Phoenix? Voice first or getting the details right or a combination?

Matt said...

Once you wrote "Added to this," you should have scrapped the whole thing. Clinical terms kill the tension/emotion.

It's not just a matter of crossing out "Added to this," either; it was the vague words and bland sentences of the first paragraph that led you to use that term (and subsequent clinical terms).

I didn't see the previous version that Phoenix mentioned (or it's so different that I don't recognize it) so it would be presumptuous of me to recommend going back to that one. However, I can tell you that this one needs to be scrapped.

kokjeong maseyo.

Phoenix said...

@Michelle: Voice or details is a good question. I don't have the answer. I will say that finding any voice in a query is pretty rare. Rarer still is finding really good voice. It's probably easier for some people to layer on voice after you've got a solid, short plot description. I don't recall concentrating specifically on voice with my personal queries, but I will consciously try to add voice in some of my rewrites.

I also realize for queries I have a natural "thriller" voice, and I have to work to tone that down when doing rewrites for a more humorous work or women's fiction or things a little slower paced.

I will say I'm attracted by any hint of voice and will forgive a lot of logic issues, etc if they're overshadowed by a good, strong voice. Mind you, though, it also has to be the RIGHT voice for the audience and the story.

But how we respond to voice can be subjective, which makes voice harder to critique than the details and how the story progresses in a query.

How's that for a long-winded, non-answer ;o)

Phoenix said...


What does "kokjeong maseyo" mean? I'm not going to have to censor you, am I? (JK, of course! My curiosity is just piqued. I ran it through an online translator and came up zilch.)

Matt said...

걱정 마세요 means 'don't worry'

I wrote it out in English script because last night I was using a computer that didn't enable Asian characters.

About voice: I don't think it's as easy as choosing between that and plot. Voice should come naturally after years of practice, and it is unique to each author. Simply adding phrases like 'yeah right' and Single. Word. Sentences. does not make a query have voice.