Wednesday, July 27, 2011

An Agent's Inbox #6

Dear Agent:

Seventeen-year-old Jess Kaplan is a saboteur. Her biggest target--herself.

Relationships don’t stand a chance with Jess after the loss of her father, for which she feels partly responsible, and the gradual realization that the only man she ever loved is dead. Despite the academic and social-networking possibilities, school has merely become a show and Jess, the expert player, has fooled all but the forbidden RJ Montag who intuitively winks his way into her life from the quad below the Mt. Escala High School balcony. But, for as long as Jess can recall, Kaplans do not consort with Montags, which perhaps intrigues her further, but likewise offers the built-in excuse to allow her inner-saboteur to strike. Though RJ’s bright-blue eyes with the dark rims, his broad chest, and the silky way he says her name, gives her every reason to persist.

LIFE IS CLASSIC, a contemporary YA complete at 89,500, is a juxtaposition of the modern teen with classic literature and film. It is a product of those distressing high school years when I, like Jess, lost my father, became a relationship saboteur, and learned early on that heavy s*** and teenage drama can, indeed, coexist. Today I have a front row seat on said “s***” and “drama” from a new perspective--that of a teacher and confidante.

Thank you for the opportunity. Looking forward to hearing from you!

Best Regards,


He walked across the quad like he owned the place, capturing the desirous eyes of females in every direction, exuding confidence and indifference. As I stood up the stairs from him at the little balcony on the main level, I watched too. There’s no harm in looking. But that would be where it stopped. RJ Montag could never be more than that to me.

First, I would have to get in line. But more importantly, my mother would never have it. There was some long-running feud between the Kaplans and the Montags. Never spoken of. Never resolved. And the product, RJ and I ran in different circles; we’d just never really crossed paths. Until today.

The first bell had rung, indicating the end of lunch. I was lingering at the top of the balcony delighting in this quintessential So Cal November afternoon. Cool air. Warm sun. My favorite. I’d also slipped into a bit of a trance. RJ was down below, floating through the middle of the quad--the pit as we called it. My heart beat faster. I was marveling at his beauty. He didn’t fit in here. He seemed too good for us.

I was up on my toes all but leaning over the balcony. Good G**, if I could have seen myself. It was as though gravity was pulling me toward him as he walked right below me headed toward the Main Building. I had almost torn myself away when, at the last minute, he looked up.


Leigh Ann said...

Love the first sentence of your query.

You could easily break up your second paragraph into two, starting with "But for as long as J can recall..." That would give you more room to break up some complicated sentences as well. Because of the one solid paragraph and long sentences, this query makes my eyes boggle a bit. :) But I do think you have everything you need here, and not much more.

Also - Is it considered okay to swear in query letters? I'm sure it was carefully considered, I've just not heard of it.

First page: Love the first scene on the balcony. :) I do think the writing could be tightened up a bit and sentence and paragraph structures varied a bit to make it a little more dynamic and easier to read.

Hope this helps! Best of luck! :)

Princess L said...

I really like the opening scene and the whole Romeo-Juliet feel!

As far as the query, the sentence with the swear words reads funny- I'd just rewrite it or leave it out. Also, you may want to make the query sound more like a YA voice. It's very mature-adult sounding and the agent might assume the story is written that way, too. Hope this helps!

Melanie Stanford said...

I love the idea of a Romeo and Juliet remake- catches my interest right away. I think the last line in the first paragraph doesn't flow. And I think the paragraph in your query about how you, like your character, learned that drama and all that stuff can coexist- is really not necessary.
I thought the writing itself sounded very adult rather than YA- but people may disagree. Loved the first line of the writing but the second was a little awkward.

Emily said...

This whole query feels like set up. It could all happen in the first chapter. As it is the query didn't interest me. Maybe something happens in the story.

The above comments say the query doesn't read like a 17 year old and I agree. Write it as though Jess is telling her friend what happened (in third person).

also "if I could have seen myself" doesn't work because we're looking through her perspective. Perhaps something like "I wished I could see myself". Even then, it could probably just be cut.

layinda said...

"Relationships don’t stand a chance with Jess after the loss of her father, for which she feels partly responsible, and the gradual realization that the only man she ever loved is dead."

If I were an agent, this is where I would stop reading. The sentence is confusingly worded, and makes me wonder if your story will be, as well.

Aside from that, if she's only 17, it's not exactly a desperate situation that the only man "she ever loved" is dead. She'll meet someone else. Unless you mean her father, which, from the way the sentence is phrased, you might.

I read your first 250 words anyway, and wouldn't personally be interested because it is so apparent that your manuscript is a "modern" Romeo and Juliet, which has been overdone to the max already, IMHO.

Krista V. said...

Okay, yeah, I didn't get the Romeo and Juliet references until I skimmed through the comments, and then I realized that with names like Kaplan and Montag, how could this be anything else? :)

As for the query, that first line of the second paragraph threw me off, too. The wording's a little awkward, and while I think "the only man she ever loved" is her dad, I can't quite tell from the sentence structure itself.

A few other sentences gave me pause as well (like "But, for as long as Jess can recall..." and "Though RJ's bright-blue eyes..."). That last sentence in particular isn't a complete sentence, since you started it with "Though"; "gives" should be "give," since you have multiple subjects; and I don't think you need a comma between "bright" and blue." If I were an agent, I probably would have stopped reading around there.

I did check out the excerpt, and while I thought it was stronger than the query, that probably wouldn't have been enough to tip the scales - for me, at least. Here's hoping The Agent feels differently.

Best of luck with this, K.F. I actually thought the character names were clever, and that makes me hope that there will be other clever bits as well.

erica and christy said...

I also noticed it was mature-sounding, but I don't read modern-day retellings, so I wasn't sure if that was common to the genre. If we're all noticing it, though, maybe more research would be needed?? Good luck!

The Agent said...

K.F. - I thought it was strange that given the names and the balcony scene, there wasn't a reference to the fact this is a retelling of Romeo & Juliet. The reason I'd stop reading isn't for the premise itself, which I think can be a fine romantic YA drama. Rather, the Romeo & Juliet angle seems out of place. I wasn't sure what the real story was. Remember that Romeo & Juliet is not a romance; it's a tragedy. So, I'm not sure where that story fits into this story, given the situation you've set up.

Oh, and I think it's perfectly fine to swear in queries as long as it makes sense and isn't gratuitous.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps I need to clarify what I said later in the query. It's a juxtaposition of classic lit and film with the modern teen. It's not a retelling. The novel weaves in and out of R & J, The Princess Bride, Pride & Prejudice, and others. It uses some plot points, quotes, and characters throughout. I will seriously consider my delivery in the revision process. Thanks!