Wednesday, June 29, 2011

An Agent's Inbox #3

Dear Ms. Agent:

I’m seeking representation for my YA contemporary fantasy DEEP BLUE SECRET, complete at 96,000 words. After reading your blog interview posted at Mother. Write. (Repeat.), I feel my writing would be a good match with your areas of interest.

Seventeen-year-old Sadie James enjoys her breezy California life until she’s rescued from drowning by a mysterious boy who seems oddly familiar. He runs off without explanation, but when she finds the same boy asleep in her hospital room after an accident, Sadie pushes for answers. His name is Rayne, a secret agent called a Keeper who’s been assigned to her since she was seven years old. He explains how Sadie’s injuries miraculously healed in just days--Healing Water, a long-kept secret of the Keepers, the reason they live more than two hundred years.

Sadie can’t stop daydreaming of Rayne. She might even be in love. But he insists their attraction is just an illusion, a powerful bond created when he overdosed her with Healing Water at the hospital. She fights off the feelings which seem utterly real, but when Sadie faints for the second time that week, it’s clear the problem is bigger than her Keeper let on.

Rayne reveals Sadie’s obsidian-like birthmark is a Watermark meant to regulate the steady release of Healing Water in her body, and she’s not the only one. Rayne bears the mark too. But Sadie’s circumstances are rare. Being triggered abruptly by the overdose after years without use is causing Sadie’s mark to malfunction. If she doesn’t have constant exposure to the Healing Water, her body and mind will deteriorate in a matter of days--if she’s lucky, hours if she’s not.

To make matters worse, a rogue agent from Rayne’s organization discovers sensitive information about Sadie he plans to use to blackmail his way to exoneration, and he kidnaps Sadie as added leverage. Now cut off from the Healing Water, Sadie must escape before her Watermark literally drains her body to death.

I'm including the opening page of my manuscript as requested. Just to clarify, my story includes several viewpoints as you will see in the sample page, although the great majority of the story is expressed from Sadie’s point of view. DEEP BLUE SECRET is available at your request.

Thank you for your consideration,


Chapter 1: Voss Waits to Strike

The night air was quiet, devoid of sound or life or the rustling signs of vitality. Through the silence, Voss sensed the animal’s trembling. He smelled the fear, the frozen limbs and helpless twitching. A sinister smile grew across his face and he turned to lurk sideways through the brush. His movements were stealthy and premeditated. Even with ragged leather shoes covered in dirt and falling apart, he placed each foot skillfully in front of the other without sound.

His fist tightened around the makeshift knife, bone handle steady in his grip. The years of training did not fail him. Quick paws over crinkled leaves broke the silence and Voss flew forward, blade hurling through the shadows. The tiny animal fell to the ground.

Voss fastened the rabbit to his belt and turned back to the spot where he’d dropped his supplies. The animal hunt gave him a slight sense of satisfaction, a rare feeling in this wretched wasteland beyond the Threshold. He took quick steps as he continued his hike over the barren terrain, winding through pathetic, half-dead trees.

The moon struggled to light the path, just a faint yellow glow, dingy through the dust ridden atmosphere. How could this be the same moon that showed so vividly on the other side of the Threshold? They shared the same brilliant sun as well, yet here in Cayno it barely skimmed across the horizon during daylight hours.

He cursed the pitiful moon and dragged his legs forward toward his camp. This was his existence. While others slumbered in their beds in far-off happy places, Voss fought to survive.


The Agent said...

After the first paragraph, I started skimming, which almost always results in a rejection. You have too much detail here. Plus, I don't get a sense of who the characters are--why do we care? And other than the threat of Sadie's death due to her birthmark, it's unclear what the main conflict is. The way you've set up the romance is very common, which may be a problem with your ms rather than the query.

Sample Page: Firstly, from your query, if you have to tell us about the several POVs, your ms isn't doing its job. Secondly, from your sample page, I stopped reading after the second paragraph. When I read something, I want to care about the main character--what is her story? Many beginning writers make the mistake of trying to make the reader sympathize or afraid of the bad guy. I've seen very few published books in which this succeeds (read The Body Finder series to see how it's done well).

Jessica said...

The query is way too long. From what I have read agents read quickly and they tend to skim on long queries. I also feel like you can combine the 2nd through 4th paragraphs - making them into two paragraphs. You have so many details it is hard to keep them straight. Tell about Sadie, pick one conflict, what she needs to do to fix it and if she doesn't how could it ruin her. Your query should be no longer than 350 words. Again this is my opinion, and by no means am I am expert, if that was the case I would be agented!

Sample page: I had to keep looking back at the query, then at the sample page - I thought I was reading the wrong story. Your query doesn't even mention Voss. I have no feedback because I am honestly confused.

Good Luck!

Emily said...

The first line of the query doesn't grab the reader. It's too generic with the cliche mysterious yet familiar. Maybe you could start with something like:

When Sadie James heals in record time after [falling off the roof] she learns she has her own personal super bodyguard. His name is Rayne, a secret agent called a Keeper who’s been assigned to her since she was seven years old.

Sadie's decided she's in love but Rayne insists its just a side effect of the Healing Water overdose he gave her. So what? It seems real to her but she fights the feeling anyway. She learns an even worse side effect when she faints for the second time that day.

(at this point show us Sadie's active role in the story. Right now it seems like a lot of things happen TO her but she doesn't take any action of her own. What does she do about this problem? Does she do anything when she gets kidnapped? What is the consequence of Sadie's actions that you can hint to for the end?")

Sorry once I got started I kept going with my version of the query. It could use a lot more of Sadie's voice. If she were telling a friend what happened how would she say it? (then switch the words to present tense and third person).

Sample page: This didn't grab me. It might be a good bit for a later chapter but the first page has to reel us in, especially the first line.