Sunday, May 13, 2012

Query Revision # 100-and-something

A dear friend of the blog is getting ready to begin submitting her latest manuscript (yay!). And she needs a solid query to accompany it. I've offered thoughts on her draft below. Feel free to leave any helpful comments you may have as well!

Dear Dreamy Agent:

The supernova of a nearby star wiped the ozone from Earth’s atmosphere. Now the sun’s radiation batters the planet unfiltered, bringing slow death to those who survived the initial destruction.

Seventeen-year-old Little Bit is bursting at the seams. She’s sick of being detained inside the walls of her Indiana compound by a magical anklet locked on her by the young mage, Garrett. She may be safe under the shield created by Garrett, but a slender age difference and saving her life doesn’t give him the right to conceal her past or keep her captive. Even a girl who has never been anywhere can see a world composed of four people lacks a future.

Little Bit outwits the anklet to stumble through collapsing ghost towns inhabited by magically mutated beetles and over-sized possums. Creatures that have had their evolution ‘sped up’ are about as helpful as Garrett and a whole lot hungrier. Plus, they aren’t the only things willing to eat anything. Friendly humans are in short supply as Little Bit follows rumors of a colony in New Chicago. Troubling memory blackouts soon prove that her anklet had a larger purpose than simply holding her prisoner. Little Bit must get her answers and create a future while dodging the sun’s deadly rays.

LITTLE BIT is a YA dystopian novel with crossover fantasy elements complete at xx,xxx words. My pathetic list of credits here.

Thanks for your consideration.

My Thoughts 

The supernova of a nearby star wiped the ozone from Earth’s atmosphere. Now the sun’s radiation batters the planet unfiltered, bringing slow death to those who survived the initial destruction.

This is a nice opening. It's setting me up for a dark, SF dystopian tale. 

Seventeen-year-old Little Bit is bursting at the seams.

"Little Bit" and the trivial-sounding "bursting at the seams" language now have me thinking this isn't going to be a dark story after all.

She’s sick of being detained inside the walls of her Indiana compound by a magical anklet locked on her by the young mage, Garrett.

And there's a mage? In this case, maybe it's best to bring up the genre at the beginning of the query. I feel like I'm being flip-flopped a bit and am having to work a bit too hard to keep up as my expectations about the story keep changing. 

She may be safe under the shield created by Garrett, but a slender age difference and saving her life doesn’t give him the right to conceal her past or keep her captive.

Does she know he's concealing her past? Can the reader know too? And isn't it like death to leave? 

Even a girl who has never been anywhere can see a world composed of four people lacks a future.

The 'four people' mention now has me asking questions: who are the other two? are they captives too? do they matter to the query? 

Little Bit outwits the anklet to stumble through collapsing ghost towns inhabited by magically mutated beetles and over-sized possums.

I'm going to be honest and say the language used here is giving me a middle grade rather than YA vibe. I'm also a little unclear about these creatures. Are they the only creatures inhabiting the towns? Are they inhabiting them in the sense that they're sentient and using the towns the same way humans would? If they're being magically manipulated, is the manipulation part of some overall plan or just young, bored mages playing with their magic? 

Creatures that have had their evolution ‘sped up’ are about as helpful as Garrett and a whole lot hungrier. 

Well, if Garrett was keeping her alive under his shield, seems he was being helpful. 

Plus, they aren’t the only things willing to eat anything. Friendly humans are in short supply as Little Bit follows rumors of a colony in New Chicago.

So then she must be meeting up with unfriendly humans, right? I'm thinking you may want to show LB's obstacles a little more concretely -- with the added benefit you can use the opportunity to do a little more world-building along the way. 

Troubling memory blackouts soon prove that her anklet had a larger purpose than simply holding her prisoner.

Earlier, we're told Garrett is concealing her past from her, which made me think he was blocking her memories. Now it seems even more memories are being blocked because she takes the anklet off? Again, I've been set up for an expectation that doesn't jive with the follow-through. 

Little Bit must get her answers and create a future while dodging the sun’s deadly rays.

I'm trying hard here to understand her goals. Are the answers she needs buried in the memories that are disappearing, buried in her past, or do they lie with Garrett? What kind of future are we talking here? Something that will save what's left of humankind? Or just to meet up with other friendly humans to pass a pleasant few years before everyone dies of radiation poisoning? I'm not getting a strong enough sense of the world or the perils therein to fully appreciate the goals mentioned. 

LITTLE BIT is a YA dystopian novel with crossover fantasy elements complete at xx,xxx words. My pathetic list of credits here.

LITTLE BIT doesn't sing out YA Dystopian to me (then again, I suck at titles...)


If you have credits to list, they aren't pathetic! :o) 

Thanks for your consideration.

My Version

Dear Dreamy Agent:

The supernova of a nearby star has stripped the ozone from Earth’s atmosphere and the onslaught of radiation is slowly killing everyone who survived the initial destruction in LITTLE BIT, my YA dystopian novel with crossover fantasy appeal.

Held captive in an Indiana compound, seventeen-year-old Little Bit wants only two things. First, to escape the young mage, Garrett, who's using magic to shield her from the fatal radiation -- but at the cost of her own past. And second, to see and hear and touch other humans while there's still time.

When Little Bit outwits the spelled anklet thralling her to Garrett, she escapes into a world being corrupted more by magic than any devastation the sun is beaming down. She stumbles through ghost towns populated by magicked creatures -- hungry, mutated beetles and mega-sized opossums -- whose evolution is being sped up by Garrett and other mages of his ilk for purposes only they can fathom. 

Dodging nests of radiation-scarred survivalists who skulk in the shadows, Little Bit follows rumors to a human colony occupying New Chicago. What future she has lies with them -- she can feel it in her bones. But first, she'll have to confront Garrett about why he kept her imprisoned, uncover the secret of her past, and find a way for them all to survive the sun's deadly rays.

Thanks for your consideration. I look forward to sending you LITTLE BIT, complete at XX,XXX words.

5 comments:

Wilkins MacQueen said...

Terrific revision. The original seemed to need an overall story game plan, which Phoenix so neatly drew together.

The original had the elements so high praise. Sounds like an interesting story. Love the creativity/language/imagination. Possums!

Best of luck, let us know when you've got a done deal.

Terri Bruce said...

The revision is really great! Boy do I wish I had a friend like this, LOL! Good luck!

Lexi said...

I too thought yours was much better - but for some reason, "whose evolution is being sped up by Garrett and other mages of his ilk for purposes only they can fathom" had me roaring with laughter alone on my sofa.

Not quite sure why...I'll just report my reaction and leave it with you.

Jo-Ann said...

I have nothing to add to the query revision. Again, Phoenix shows us how it's done.

Author - I think you have an interesting concept here. However, I strongly second Phoenix's comment about the title.

Sadly, Little Bit makes me think of Bit on The Side. If that was the sort of heroine you were aiming for, fine! Somehow, I guess it's not. I'm sure the reason for her name is made clear in the story. But not in the query.

The mutated creatures sounded like you were going for laughs. Again, I'm sure they come across as creepy, vicious and powerful in the story, but the query really needs to raise the stakes (unhelpful and hungry is how you describe them - I'm sure you can amp it up) and have us cheering for Little Bit.

Michelle 4 Laughs said...

Thanks so much, Phoenix. This really gave me the needed push in the right direction.

Little Bit was my working title when I started this project for lack of anything better. As the name of the mc, it really doesn't say anything about the novel. Now I'm thinking of using DODGE THE SUN.