Wednesday, November 16, 2011

An Agent's Inbox #6

Dear Ms. Martindale,

What would you do if every time you touched someone, you saw how they died?

17-year-old Wyndy Julyette, seemingly a normal girl, awakens to find herself orphaned, mute, and cursed to see how other people die--before it happens.

From there, things increase from bad to worse as she seals herself off from all human contact, from even communicating. Moving in with her cruel uncle Lord Tucker, Wyndy and her twin sister Rian have to leave everything behind, including Wyndy’s best friend, Michael. However, the twins also gain a follower, a flattering yet disturbing man in charge of the “peacekeeping” Scarlet Guard.

As Wyndy adjusts to this new life, a boy shows up from the mystical North, a place the Scarlet Guard has sworn doesn’t exist. Wyndy discovers that all these strange ties are related, in more ways than she could ever imagine, to her own situation. Her Untouchable gift, her curse, is embedded in the very formation of the island as she knows it.

In a world where magic is feared and color distinctions reign, Wyndy must fight with all her being against what is easy and what is right. The final confrontation leaves Wyndy with an impossible choice between good and evil, between selfishness and altruism, between love and loss…

Complete at 140,980 words, Hero: First of the Wyndy Julyette Chronicles is YA fantasy, which may appeal to readers of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and Matched by Ally Condie. Per your submission requirements, I have enclosed the first 250 words.

My name is D.G. and I’m a broke college student. For seven years writing has been my passion, a stress reliever and a perfect way to unwind. I have been gripped with the love for recording how characters react to scenarios I drop them into. All my novels are very character driven. Hero is the first manuscript that I have polished and made publish-ready, yet I am currently revising my second novel as well.

Thank you again, Ms. Martindale, for reviewing my project and I hope to hear from you at your earliest convenience.



A red cup. Blue water in it.

Too blue. 

A flash of red fabric. A black eye.

Fire. Hot and sticky. Burning my skin. Clouding my eyes with smoke. Stealing the breath away from me.

Propelling through our three-room house; stumbling through the door and into my parent’s bedroom. Seeing them lying in their bed, motionless, caught up in the flames. Their faces start to change, turn to ash before me…

Day 1

“The window, the--are you crazy, Wyndy! Don’t open the door!” Rian shrieked. Her voice was distorted over the hiss and crackle of flames just outside our bedroom.

I didn’t care. I had to see for myself.

The covers tangled my feet and I fell out of bed on my hands and knees. The air was dense with smoke and I blinked hard, clearing sleep and the itching pain from my eyes. Rian fumbled through the dark to find me, her cough and hoarse cry of “Wyndy” enough to make me stop.

Growling and ignoring the pain on my palms and knees, I lurched upright and grabbed Rian’s hand, the gloves I’d been too tired to strip off earlier still hugging my fingers. Rian latched onto me instantly, her fingernails like claws, as I towed her towards the window.

“Stay behind me,” I wheezed sharply. The only answer Rian gave me was a choking sob. No time to think now; just get her out of this burning house and then see for myself if it was true.


storymultiverse said...

This is a very neat idea you have here. I'm interested to see more about this world and the tantalizing details you allude to like the Scarlet Guard and the mystical North.

I read the whole thing, although I have a few suggestions. First, you start off with a rhetorical question. In my experience, I've had some agents tell me they don't like that very much. It would be fairly easy to reword as a statement that still acted as a hook, such as "Every time Wyndy touches someone, she sees how they die."

Second, one thing to consider is that at 140k, this is a fairly big manuscript, especially for YA. That's about the average length of a Robert Jordan novel. You might get some agents who are unwilling to take on that big of a project especially for that demographic.

The first 250 seemed to be pretty good as well! It's clear from the very beginning that you're anchoring colors as an important theme, which I like to see. However, and this may be a function of the limited space we have, the transition from the first few paragraphs to "Day 1" was a bit confusing for me. If this is now Day 1, what was before?

Overall, great work!

--B.C. (#18)

Stephanie Thornton said...

This is a great premise--I love the idea of a character who can see the way people die.

I just have a few suggestions on the query. I'd be wary of phrasing the first line as a rhetorical question--almost every agent says they're a big no-no.

There were also a number of characters named in the third paragraph of the query. Is there a way you could pare that down--maybe delete the uncle and twin sister's names since they're not mentioned again?

I think you might also be able to pare down the bio paragraph as most agents only want to know the information that's directly pertinent to the novel being queried.

Good luck!

Ru said...

I agree with the above commenters - you're obviously a good writer and this is an interesting concept, though 140K words is a bit intimidating.

My first suggestion would be to make the stakes clearer in your query. A sense of mystery is good, but I don't know what "color distinctions reign" means and how that helps me picture the world you've created. Additionally, you could say that a lot of books are a "choice between good and evil, between selfishness and altruism, between love and loss." It doesn't help me understand *your* story or characters. What exactly is Wyndy choosing between? Saving her friends or getting rid of her curse? A comfortable life and true love? Getting her voice back? Avenging her parents? Going back to her old life or accepting her new one? I'd be a lot more interested in Wyndy if I knew what she *really* wanted most and what was stopping her from getting it.

My second suggestion is more nitpicky - I wouldn't consider HUNGER GAMES or MATCHED to be YA fantasy. They're more sci fi/dystopian. If you think your book would be marketed as YA fantasy, I'd compare it more to Anne McCaffrey type of stuff.

I hope this is helpful. :)

Gloria Darlene said...

Ahh, these are all immensely helpful! I didn't even think about the first line sounding awkward.
As for the length, hehe, I got a bit carried away. There are many subplots and developments of this created world and I tried to do them all justice. I will definitely work on shearing it down to the essentials.
Same with the amount of information I put into the query. I'm afraid of revealing too much, then not enough. I will just have to play with it, I reckon.
Thank you all for taking the time to read and post your comments! I live by "Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise" (Proverbs 19:20).

Kathleen Basi said...

Saying "ditto" to earlier commenters: 140 K is long even for adult fiction, though I know fantasy is more forgiving that way. I don't know how much more forgiving, though. And YA I seem to recall being well below 100.

Kayeleen Hamblin said...

I have to say that I was kind of turned off by the intro paragraph. It almost seemed like you were trying to sound cool. An agent will probably assume that you love writing, etc. because you are querying.

I liked the premise. The color aspect reminds me a little of one of my favorite books, Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde. I thought the pages were good, with some great images.

carrieannebrownian said...

Hey, 140K is a drop in the bucket for me! My completed non-YA books are 348K, 406K, and 397K, and they were all planned as long sagas with large story arcs, many characters, and a number of subplots. Length doesn't always mean overwritten if it fits with the story structure. If your novel is such a saga and not just a book with a simple plot, 140K might be the perfect length.

Taylor Martindale said...

I found myself a little lost with this query. I don’t have a good sense of the plot because we don’t know what the central conflict is. What are the challenges that Wyndy faces regarding right and wrong, and how do they relate to her curse? I’d recommend clarifying what the final confrontation really entails to give the reader a better connection to the stakes of your novel. A side note and personal pet peeve, I wouldn’t start your query with a question, because you allow your reader to answer any way they want, and that can change the tone of your query. Some other concerns I have here are the length of the novel and the comparisons made here. For word count, 140k is too high – it needs to be closer to 90k. Also, this book is a fantasy, but the comparable titles are both dystopian books. Unfortunately, the first page was also confusing, the action being unclear, and so it didn’t overcome my concerns about the query letter. I’d likely not continue reading, I’m sorry to say.
Thank you for participating in this Agent’s Inbox!
Taylor Martindale
Full Circle Literary