Wednesday, July 27, 2011

An Agent's Inbox #16

Dear (Agent's Name Here),

Three years ago, Naomi Williams was wrongly convicted of murder. Now eighteen, she’s awaiting a transfer to an adult prison when she receives a mysterious visitor. The man reveals that he’s a government official responsible for her imprisonment, but that’s the least of his bad news. The abusive boyfriend Naomi killed in self defense was the son of an important Renegade leader. Now the Renegades--a U.S. based terrorist organization--want her dead.

Her best chance for survival lies with the secret agency to which her visitor belongs. Naomi is assured that working for the government will allow her to fight back against the Renegades and avoid further jail time. All she has to do is make it through training and she’ll be ready to take on the terrorists. When her first assignment ends with an unexpected rescue, Naomi isn’t sure what to think. Especially since the boy she saves seems to have quite a few enemies of his own.

James Knox, a member of a notorious street gang, is used to watching his own back, until he angers a rival who would’ve killed him without Naomi’s interference. Once his wounds heal he gets a chance to thank her, only to find that Naomi isn’t particularly comfortable trusting him.

In trying to cut her tenuous ties to James, Naomi accidentally gives him enough information to uncover the truth about her employment. Now she’s caught between accepting his help in her fight against the terrorists and pushing him away for his own safety. If the government finds out what James knows it could mean death for both of them.

THE RECRUITED is a work of YA fiction, complete at 84,000 words. It is the first in a potential trilogy, but capable of standing on its own. Thank you for your time and consideration.



Chapter One: The Offer

Naomi Williams ran, tearing over the grass towards the concrete wall sixty yards away. She had maybe half a minute left to reach it, thirty seconds to push her legs as hard as they could go until she was out of time. Off to her right, clumps of uniformed girls paid her little attention, glancing up only after she’d blown by them.

Ten seconds. Five. Naomi slapped a hand against the wall just as the loud, metallic buzz of an industrial bell called them back inside. Breathless and panting, she braced both hands against the rough surface and leaned forward, dark hair hanging in her face as she stretched out the backs of her calves. There was never enough time for everything that running entailed. If she chose to stretch properly beforehand that took five minutes off her running time. If she didn’t, the cramps hit sooner. It was a battle she couldn’t win.

Raising her head, she craned her neck to see past the top of the concrete. From where she stood, the barbed wire curling along the top of the wall blotted out part of the sky.

“Williams,” a woman’s voice barked from near the entrance to the yard. “Get over here.”

Naomi drew a hand across her forehead, trying to wipe away some of the sweat. It wasn’t like she could go inside and put on a clean outfit. In juvenile prison, there were no changes of clothes at midday.


amber said...

Ohhh the beginning of the query is fierce! Nice was to get us started. It starts to peter out, though around graphs 3-4 it slowed way down. I think you need to combine the most important parts of both and wrap it up fast and punchy in the third graph.

The story: Flawless. I would SO read this.

Tatum said...

Great job.

I love the writing. The query had a bit too much detail for me, though. I'd shorten it up so that the agent can get right to it.

Tracy said...

Besides being a bit long, I think what your query loses as you get into it is voice. It's just a bit this happens. then this happens. Now this happens, until this. Where's the spice and flavor? You've clearly got it in you (see first page.) Let me see it. Please?

An example of how you have extra words. Your "THE RECRUITED is a work of..." could be "THE RECRUITED is a 84,000 word YA novel." Simple. Short. Move on.

Your first page has lots of voice, but very little extra flavor. Thinks like, the dead-patchy grass. Or the white-washed wall. Just to give it that extra edge and scene enhancement.

MarcyKate said...

First page was great. But as the others mentioned, the query could use some work. The first 2 paragraphs had me hooked, but when we moved into James POV, you lost me. I'd recommend focusing just on Naomi, since she appears to be your prime character. the switch comes off as jarring to me. I'd also suggest you condense the last two paragraphs of the story summary into one or two pithy lines (with voice as Tracy suggests above!). I think that would help tighten it up nicely.

Kate Larkindale said...

The query is a little too long and detailed. I think you could leave off the bits about James since the book seems to be about Naomi. Also, watch out for using adverbs in a query.

The first page was great although I would have liked a little more setting detail to ground me in the prison. Also, is there any reason to open with her full name? Her last name can be introduced later. To begin with just knowing she's Naomi is fine.

Melanie Stanford said...

I agree with the others. Shorten the query, focus on Naomi. And I was thrown in the first paragraph when I realized she did actually kill someone. Wrongly convicted of murder and I'm thinking she was framed or something. Yes, I get the self-defense, but it threw me. The writing was great though- completely drew me in.

Krista V. said...

This was one of the entries that caught my attention when I was skimming through them all while formatting the posts. A lot of agents seem to want YA thrillers right now, sans the paranormal elements that have been common for the last five to ten years, and THE RECRUITED fills that bill. Way to be riding the crest of a potential new trend:)

As for the query itself, I agree with the others - James's situation and backstory probably don't merit an entire paragraph. Also, the line you ended on, "If the government finds out what James knows it could mean death for both of them," didn't make sense to me. I'm not sure it's self-evident why this would be the case; you might need to spell it out for us a little more.

I really liked the first page. You introduced us to the setting - which is intriguing - and the character in one fell swoop. I actually thought you did a pretty good job of including prison-oriented imagery (like the clumps of uniformed girls (although when I first read this paragraph, I thought she was at some kind of all-girls school), the industrial bell, the concrete wall topped by barbed wire). Honestly, I think most of it comes down to personal taste and writing style, and I liked yours.

Good, good luck with this.

The Agent said...

E.R. - I was hooked by the first few lines of this query, but stopped at "the abuse boyfriend... was the son of an important Renegade leader." Wouldn't she have already known that? I skimmed the rest of the query and the plot seems overly complicated. Then when I got to the writing sample, I immediately see Naomi running, which disappointed me. What drew me to this story in the first place is the image of a young girl who mostly grew up in prison, awaiting an even worse fate. I wish we started in Naomi's head so we can find out with her what will happen next.