Wednesday, October 19, 2011

An Agent's Inbox #13

Dear Ms. Kate Schafer Testerman,

The first day of school sucks. Jonathan Stevens expected becoming a social outcast, getting lost in the halls, and embarrassing himself over and over in front of cute girls. But falling face-first into a giant hole caused by an earthquake? Not so much.

Waking in the underbelly of the earth, Jonathan discovers he’s been kidnapped by a pain-in-the-butt sorceress who insists he is an immortal and he's on the top of a very long hit list. But Jonathan isn't like any other immortal. He was created to save the sorceress' realm from the Master, an overlord with the power to locate immortals strong enough to challenge him before they are old enough to know how.

The sorceress says he possesses the one power that will destroy the Master, but neither her nor Jonathan know what it is or how to trigger it. When the sorceress is captured, Jonathan learns from her allies that the Master has discovered the means to control mortals as well--and he intends to test that power on Jonathan's parents. To destroy the most dangerous man in two realms, Jonathan will have to risk his life by triggering an unknown power too early. And if he fails, his family--as well as every other mortal and immortal in existence--will suffer for it.

The Privileged is a middle grade fantasy complete at 82,000 words. Thank you for your consideration.



School can only be defined one way to Jonathan Stevens: foreign. Walking up to the unfamiliar doors was not just nerve racking, it was completely horrifying. Each step felt like a boulder crashing down into his stomach. By the time he got to the top of the staircase, he felt as if he could collapse from the weight.

He tried to suck in a deep breath to build his confidence, but could not find any air. How ridiculous it was to be afraid of something so common and he knew he needed to get over it. After all, he would be facing this building for the next three years.

Finding the air again, Jonathan took a cautious step forward and was instantly pulled into the traffic of high school. He was jostled around until he found a small opening where he could melt into the flow. There were too many people to consider giving him a second glance and he couldn’t find anyone to focus on either, so instead he brought his gaze to the hallway itself.

There had to be a sign, some indication of where the front office was, but he found nothing like that. Colorful posters adorned the walls with smiling faces and big words campaigning for student government. Pictures of winning debate teams and national champion dancers hung from the ceiling on long banners. Fliers littered the floors advertising the upcoming play, the school prom, and last minute order forms for graduation gowns. As if starting public school for the first time wasn’t intimidating enough, he had to be thrown into it in May.


Hope Roberson said...

Great premise!
Your query explains and has good voice.
The third senctence in paragraph two (But Jonathan...) and the first sentence in the next paragaph (The soreceress...) hit on the same idea, avoid repeating if you can. You may not need the second sentence in that paragraph (When the sorceress...), you could probably start with 'To destroy...' since you mention his family shortly after.
Great descriptions in your writing, I can see the halls of high school!
Good luck and I hope The Privileged gets published!

Ninja Girl said...

Hey there,
I enjoyed it. The premise like Hope said was great. I loved the first line of the query, being a lover of em dashes, I might've said, "The first day of school sucks--especially for Jonathan Stevens." But then again, maybe that takes some of the punch out of it. I'd play with it and see. Anyway, the idea of this big bad evil searching out his only immortal challengers before they could take him on was what really drew me. I'd definitely read something like that. The first line of the 250, though, brought me out of it a little. I just couldn't imagine any teen using the word "foreign" as his one word to describe high school. Maybe "strange" or "chaos"? Not sure, but the word "foreign" made me pause. The rest was nice, especially the last sentence, which upped the tension. Knowing that not only is it his first day but that Jonathan is coming in later than everyone else sets him apart. Would make he even more of an outsider. Good job.
Ninja Girl

Anonymous said...

Thank you Hope and Ninja Girl! Your comments are very much appreciated :)

Krista Van Dolzer said...

On the whole, I thought the query was good. You definitely explained the plot in a way that made sense. I did want to know a little more about Jonathan's power and how the sorceress knows about it without knowing what it is. I also wondered why he had to fall into the underbelly of the earth to accomplish all of this. What's significant about that plot point?

(One little grammar thing. In the first sentence of the third paragraph, it should be "...but neither SHE nor Jonathan KNOWS what it is or how to trigger it." I'm pretty sure that's how it should be, since I'm pretty sure neither is a singular noun, but you might want to double-check... :) )

As for the first page, I totally related to Jonathan's fear of an unknown school. Some of it felt overwritten (like "Each step felt like a boulder crashing down into his stomach"), but on the whole, I connected with him as a character. I thought you could do a little more to develop his voice, though. The descriptions are almost too generic. What unique words and ideas would Jonathan use to describe his situation? I mean, if he were a shy kid, he'd probably see it one way, but if he were the too-cool-for-you sort, he'd probably see it another.

Good luck!

Jeff Chen said...

Nice job! I liked your premise, and your query's first two paragraphs captured my attention.

I felt your query and your writing sample could be tightened up quite a bit. The first query paragraph was spot on for me - a succinct set-up and a fun hook. The second was pretty good in that it fleshed out the plot, but I did drift off a bit while trying to figure out how the sorceress and the Master related to one another.

Then, you lost me at the third paragraph. I like the first sentence and the idea of the unknown power, but the rest of the paragraph feels to me like it's got so many ideas strung together that I stopped paying attention. I would have been much happier if you had cut out that second sentence to keep focus on "kid on mission to tap unknown power to save world".

Perhaps it's fine starting your book with Jonathan looking up at his new school, but as it was, there wasn't anything that hooked my attention. Your first sentence didn't feel quite right to me, and I never felt pulled into the rest of it. How about something to put the reader right into Jonathan's shoes? "Walking up to his new school's doors sent boulders crashing down into Jonathan's stomach"... You get the idea. As is, your first line seems too passive to me.

And by the fourth paragraph, I felt like there was too much description to hold my interest. It's important to set the scene, but I felt there was a little much of that. I would prefer to get more about Jonathan and his reactions instead.

On that note, I liked your last sentence much more than the rest of the piece. It gives us a lot of information about Jonathan in a single sentence. Perhaps that could go up front?

Finally, 82K words might turn off some agents. HP book 1 was an exception at 77K words, so I'd think getting your novel into the <70K range could only help. Based on your first 250 words, I think editing your work to be more concise would help.

Best of luck!

Anonymous said...

Krista: Thank you so much for your insights. I felt that sentence was a little awkward too, and it's probably due to that grammar issue. :)

Jeff: I understand what you're saying about there being too many ideas I'm stringing together in that final paragraph of my query. I'll definitely consider cutting out the second line. And as for the detail, I get that too. I wanted to paint the picture which is important, but too much may be off-putting. So I'll take another look at it.

Thank you both for your amazing and very helpful comments!

Kelley Lynn said...

Hopefully this doesn't sound too creepy :) But I popped over to your blog and read the little blurb about The Privileged. It says that Jonathan is fifteen. This is usually too old for Middle Grade. YA starts around the twelveish area (at least that's what I've been told). Either way fifteen is right in the YA range.

Just something to keep in mind.

Love the premise though!

Anonymous said...

Kelley: Lol, that's not creepy at all :) And I'll do some research on the genre, thanks for the tip!

Kate Schafer Testerman said...

I hate that I sound like I'm repeating myself, but I guess that's a true example of what happens in my inbox everyday.

This sounds like yet another Chosen One destined to save multiple worlds with a heretofore unknown superpower. Am I wrong?

The "pain-in-the-but sorceress" is a bit of a neat twist, but you didn't tell me anything more about her beyond that. I was also thrown when you defined it as a middle grade novel -- nothing in the voice, tone, or query above that seemed like MG. I just assumed the first day of school Jonathan was dealing with was high school.

Just looking at the first paragraph of the sample seems like the tense is off, and I'm afraid I didn't get any further.