Wednesday, December 21, 2011

An Agent's Inbox #19

Dear Agent:

I am pleased to submit for your consideration the young adult novel, THE SPARK. At 81,500 words this fantasy combines astrological and astronomical elements, but rooted in the modern world. When seventeen year old Ellie Hawkins wishes that the printed words in her favorite novel become real, sparks fly between her and otherworldly, Elan Channing, but danger accompanies their romance and they must fight dark forces to preserve their love and ultimately save the world.

After Ellie moves to a new school in a small New England town, she finds escape from her loneliness in books, dreaming of a life filled with the adventure and romance found within the pages. On her birthday she unwraps the newest release by her favorite author which promises to provide her with hours of fun filled fantasy. As Ellie blows out the candles on her cupcakes, she wishes the fantasy she holds in her hands would become real. In the moment the last flame darkens she sets something in motion that turns her world upside down, inviting the cosmic forces of the Celestial Pantheon and the love of exchange student Elan. As Ellie’s life starts to display shocking parallels to the novel she discovers Elan is not an ordinary teenager, but a member of Celestial House Polaris. Along with romance, Elan ushers with him danger. Entwined in their story is Lucien, mysterious, sinister and a member of rival Celestial House Cruxis. He is determined to go to any length to diminish and destroy the Spark, the light within, that unites Ellie and Elan.

As fact and fiction intersect; Ellie’s life takes unexpected turns that not even she, the most imaginative of dreamers, can foresee. Ellie embarks upon a journey to find out who she really is and the role she plays in the celestial fantasy that had appeared only to be ink on paper. Pursued by Lucien, she faces dangers that could bring the world to an explosive end.

Pasted below are the first two-hundred and fifty words. I look forward to hearing from you, reading the comments and thank you for your time and consideration.

Yours Sincerely,


The phone rang unwillingly pulling me from a juicy dream. I answered groggily.

“Good morning,” Lily, my endearingly chipper best friend, trilled.

“Morning,” I replied with less enthusiasm. Not good, but blah, another blah day in a blah town.

She got right to the point, “So last night while you were tucked in with three hundred and fifty pages of inky fantasy, I was at a party on the riverbank.” That explained the noise I heard in the distance late last night.

“Kyle was there, oh Ellie,” her tempo slowed as if in reverie, “he’s so cute and I think he might…” Her words faded as I wondered with alarm when did Lily become interested in parties and guys? Had she contracted something during her vacation to Niagara Falls? She and I bonded specifically because we had no interest in all that lameness.

Her voice bounced back to me. “We were hanging out around the fire and a car was speeding down the dirt road. It came to a sudden stop and this wicked hot guy, who I’d never seen before, got out,” she paused for effect, “he asked if any of us knew Eleanor Hawkins.” I squirmed as she said my full name.

“I walked right up to him and said, ‘Who wants to know?’ He glared at me, spit on the ground and then he got back in his car and sped off sending sand flying everywhere, a very dramatic exit. So who is this mystery man Ellie?”


A.E. Martin said...

I think your first 250 is stronger than you're query, which I think is too long and does more telling than showing. The advice I've heard is to try and capture your MC's voice in the query, as though they are writing it not you the author, so from your query I couldn't connect with your MC so it didn't spark much of an interest in me. You should try to keep your query down to giving info like who the MC is, what the conflict is, and what the consequences will be if the consequences aren't resolved. I see a lot of info esp in the 2nd paragraph that you don't need in a query so you should try to pare it down a bit.

Otherwise I found your 250 to be intriguing and I'm wondering who this mystery man is.

Julia K said...

I loved your excerpt! I agree with the post above and the query is a little wordy. By the third paragraph I was feeling slightly lost. It seemed like a lot of unknown concepts to introduce in a query because there can be so little background. But the first 250 have me hooked :)

Rin said...

I think what bogs down your query is the second paragraph, which has way too much info that isn't necessary and doesn't go well with the other facts. Why does her fantasy book becoming real equate to love with exchange student Elan? What is a Celestial Pantheon / House Polaris? Your first and second paragraphs repeat themselves ("favorite novel becoming real", and "wishes the fantasy she holds... would become real") and you can just pick one paragraph to provide that info.

I like your excerpt, but the one thing bugging me is: what was that juicy dream? I know it's not relevant but maybe describing it instead of just calling it 'juicy' can immediately attract reader's attention right off, too! :)

Susan Fields said...

I agree with the others that the query is too wordy. Rather than telling the agent everything about the book, just give them enough to spark their interest and make them want to read more. I think the second and third paragraphs could be massively cut to just give the basics.

It sounds like a fascinating story, and I'm definitely intrigued by the mystery man!

staceylee said...

Agree with above comments about wordiness of query but your opening paragraphs are much better. Btw, "astrological" threw me. I'm not sure what that's supposed to mean wrt your book.

I might add that your last paragraph - "sending sand flying everywhere" sentence could be reworked to sound more authentic and less story-tellerish. :)

Sounds intriguing!

AllieS said...

I agree that you introduce too many concepts into your query, and it needs to be shortened. Too many details and names (Celestial Pantheon, Celestial House Polaris, Elan, Cruxis, etc.) Also, waking up is a common beginning to stories, but I like Ellie's friend and the phrase, "you were tucked in with three hundred and fifty pages of inky fantasy." Such good personality is shown there! I'd probably keep reading.

The Agent said...

You are attempting to explain too much of your world in the query, which has the unfortunate effect of making it more confusing. At this point, I am much more interested in learning why a wish made on a cupcake candle comes true and what exactly the "Spark" is, than in the intricacies of the opposing forces of the Celestial Pantheon. Since I yet don't know what the Pantheon is, your going into detail about it and the houses of Polaris and Cruxis create more confusion than clarity.

In addition, try to avoid cliched expressions in your query (e.g., "turns her world upside down," "dangers that could bring the world to an explosive end," etc.), and write description more specific to your characters. This will help make your story stand out from other tales of epic love and worlds colliding.

As for your opening paragraphs, unless there is a good reason for your main character awaking from a dream in the first sentence, I'd recommend cutting it. Too many stories use this as an opener, so your manuscript will be stronger without it, if it's not crucial to the plot.

Patrick O'Leary said...

So much of what I would have said has already been said above, so I'll keep this brief.

My "And this is where I stopped Reading" point was the end of the first paragraph on the query. I don't think I would have gotten to the name-soup of the second paragraph. There are a few reasons.

First, the whole astrology & astronomy thing. I think you're going to need to work hard to convince me you can make those two things work well together. I'm a scientist, I know a bit about astronomy, so telling me your incorporating that in the first sentance of description makes me go, okay, prove it.

As for the astrology, I stopped to ask myself, which one? Eastern or Western? Two very different systems, with two very different application to a story. I'd like to know which one you're using.

But most of all, I don't see where this needs to be up front, it's just too distracting. Maybe put this at the end of the query, if you really feel you need it. At the begining, just get right into the story without telling me what it's about.

Te second major point is honestly the names Ellie and Elan. Do your leads really need names that are that similar?

And honestly, I had to read it a couple times to catch the line "Elan ushers with him danger" (which is a bit too vague anyway) to even figure out that Elan was supposed to be male. So maybe give the names some thought. It may seem minor, but I think names can be very important.

All in all, just my two cents. Best of luck.

Anonymous said...

Thank you everyone for your honest and thorough comments & suggestions. Your feedback is a tremendous help.
Happy New Year!