Wednesday, July 27, 2011

An Agent's Inbox #20

Dr. Agent Inbox:

In a post-apocalyptic world, Azure Lane starts her first day as an instructor at the mandated school. But the dark secret that permeates through Room 0 doesn’t take long to rear its ugly head. And it’s only the beginning. Of the worst school year ever.

THE NEW BREED, a 50,000 word count YA horror novel, twists into the dark realm of YA when Azure realizes that if the students don’t perform up to standard, they are disposed of. Literally.

But there is no way in h*** that she is just going to stand by and watch the peril unfold. She came to fight. Yet, her misguided attempts at heroism become a tangled web of right and wrong. Because, let’s be honest, sometimes it gets a bit muddled in there, especially when immediate death is an option.

I thank you for considering my creation. The complete manuscript anxiously awaits your call.

Best Regards,


Across from the schoolhouse, Lyla and Ingrid step out of the Red Line onto Landing E. Her baby is in a bright teal dress with curling white ribbons that loop in the back. Her dark brown hair is pulled back in braids that mimic the ribbons and form a perfect bow.

To the right, the door to Landing F slides open and Sloane and Kieran file out. She dressed him in an argyle sweater vest with a cream pinstripe underneath. I smile at Sloane. Kieran grins back a toothy smile, with big rosy cheeks. I’m sure Sloane added a little rouge to get that glow, but I won’t give up her secret.

“Kieran looks great.”

“Thanks. I was going for professional, yet playful.”

“Well, frankly, you nailed it. But did you see Lyla’s baby? In the teal with the ribbons?”

Sloane looks straight over to where Lyla and Ingrid are awkwardly working out the inevitable.

“Oh, wow. She looks awesome.”

“I know, perfect.” I let my eyes linger a quick second. Maybe I could do Roe’s hair like that.

“Well, let me see you Little Miss Thing. Now where could she be? Roe? Roe? Where is my dazzling Roe?”

Roe can barely see her from underneath her exaggerated striped hat, but it was just too cute to pass up. Her little hand curls around my finger. She beams up at Sloane.


amber said...

I <3 your query. Original, intriguing ... there isn't a ton of info, which leaves me feeling a little vague on the setting and the voice, but overall, I really like it.

In the story, I'm intrigued as to why they are waiting at various landings. Are those homes? Whay are they all dress up? Very cool. Nice job!

Emily said...

Query: All I got from this is the premise - post-apocalyptic world where students die if they don't perform well. The rest is vague. You don't need too much info, but a bit would entice us to want to know more.

I would lead with the discovery that students are being killed (inciting incident) then give us what she's going to do about it. At the end give us the stakes (consequence to her actions) which you did try to do here.
Also, if it doesn't take away from the query, it would be interesting to get a hint of the world.

Query critiques I've seen usually say to put the word count etc. at the beginning or end of the query. If you put it in the middle you're reminding the reader that this is a query and distracting them just as they're getting into the story.

Sample: Maybe with more of the chapter I would understand the sample. Right now it just seems like a bunch of moms cooing over their babies. It's not interesting enough for a beginning (and I love babies). It would be better to start with something that grabs the reader right from the first line and first paragraph.

The premise sounds interesting.

Kelley said...

I agree with Emily, I don't get enough from your query.

You seem to have a knack for creating good characters, but I would recommend leading off with something more intriguing to pull us in.

Jo said...

Very terse, yet enough to intrigue. It is very odd to me that you stick word count and title smack in the middle though. It took me out of the story of the query. Those details should almost always go at the end, or even the beginning- but never the middle.

Alex said...

I really like the query. The title word count in the middle doesn't bother me but it seems to for others so I'd go with popular opinion.

After reading the query that is focused on one character I am thrown by the opening that introduces so many names and characters at once. I think there are some rules about how many characters and names you should introduce in so many words.

I really like the query though I just want to see the MC introduced and get a feel for her right from the start though.

erica and christy said...

I think there's a few sentences you can subtract from the query, which will in turn give you room to add a few more sentences of clarification. For example, you don't need to call it a YA horror and then say it twists into the dark side of YA - that would be a given. Also, I'm not sure that "She came to fight" goes well with "her misguided attempts at heroism", but maybe that's just me??

Also, I'm having trouble reading this as a YA book, since it seems like she's a teacher. Are the other characters teens? If so, maybe you could include them in the query to show that. Especially since the first page is a scene with moms and their babies. (and I agree - too many names for the first paragraph - I had to read it twice before I realized Ingrid was Lyla's baby).

Thanks for sharing and good luck!

Emily said...

Oh, I don't know why I didn't notice that either. How old is Azure? Is she some kind of teenage prodigy instructing at a school? or a camp counselor?

If the main character is not a teenager then this isn't YA. With my own book I didn't realize it wasn't YA for a while (even though my characters are in at least their 20s)

Luckily Adult Horror is still on the Agent's list

Anonymous said...

Hey guys! Thanks, and let me clear a few things up.

I appreciate the feedback b/c obviously it isn't clear that Azure and Sloane are young girls.

In the novel, Jeager has previously removed the adult population from the children. The men were killed. The women were forced into a Birth Center as breeders. The children are then given the babies to raise.

Azure and Sloane are first year instructors at 13 yrs. They have been raising Kieran (5) and Roe (2) together for the past 5 years. Sloane was 8 when her mother gave them Kieran, and Azure 11 when she got Roe.

Yeah, maybe I should have told you all that part :)

Thanks for the heads up!

Emily said...

Ooh, that makes things even more interesting. I think some of this info would give us a picture of the world building (and characters) and it doesn't hurt to know these are very young children being put to death. Hmm, what if you started with something similar to:
In a society without adults(or segregated/separate from adults?), thirteen-year-old Azure Lane starts her first day as instructor for level one.

Then later in the query something could be worded to show how young they are like: "if her tiny students don't perform" or "still practically babies her students . . ."

The voice doesn't sounds like a 13 year old, but I guess she would be mature having raised a child etc.

Emily said...

Oh, and I would label the book as
YA Dystopian Horror (I don't know the story, but since you called it a horror I left it in)

Ann Bedichek Braden said...

I think this is a fabulous premise based on the query, but I agree with the others that adding some specific details will make it sparkle.

As for the first page, I've also been guilty of starting with too many characters. It can be hard to recognize it as a problem when you know the characters so well, but if you're meeting them all for the first time, your mind starts to give out.

In some cases, I think you can get away with lots of characters if it's clear to the reader who the main character is and who the perephery characters are (and therefore who they should be focusing on.) So my advice would be to start the scene with the MC at the center and then describe what's going on around once that's firmly established (which could be accomplished in just one sentence if you wanted). As it stands now, I was surprised to read "I" because it started off sounding like it was written in the third person.

Good luck with this!

Ru said...

I think this sounds really interesting, especially with the clarification about the characters - I was also picturing a grown woman.

The only thing I would add is that Query Shark recommends ending every query with, "Thank you for your consideration." I know it sounds bland, but in a way a query is like a job interview - the agent is deciding whether he or she wants a professional relationship with you. Of course feel free to disagree, but I think calling your manuscript a "creation" and then saying it anxiously awaits a call may unnecessarily detract.

Melanie Stanford said...

Yeah, I think you need to add extra info into the query, especially with your opening line. The sense I got was that Azure was older since she's an instructor. And then in the page she seems to be talking about her own child. So yeah, clarify in the query- build up the world more so we know the adults are gone and the kids have to be extra-responsible.

The Agent said...

T.N. - I was confused by the writing sample since you begin the opening paragraphs with two people, and then switch to a singular pronoun. From your query, it looks like this book is from the teacher's POV and focuses on her, so right away it's mislabeled as a YA. Beginning it with babies takes it even further out of that age group. Re-pitching this as an adult novel, I think the query lacks some details. What makes this post-apocalyptic? Why is not just a contemporary horror? I think it can be a good idea and can see it being pitched as Never Let Me Go meets The Lottery, but I think you need to go a little bit deeper first.

OK - just read your clarification on character's ages and the context of this novel. Yes, all of that needs to go in the query. But, if it was in there, I'd pass on it. I think this would be much better as a literary horror novel for adults.