Wednesday, December 21, 2011

An Agent's Inbox #20

Dear Mystery Agent,

Before Mia Tanaka decides to attend Vega Preparatory Academy, the hardest decision in her life is choosing what college to go to; after she gets to Vega, she has to choose between her dream of becoming a time traveler and saving the world.

Vega Preparatory Academy is a place shrouded in mystery. Even the brochure Mia is offered by Vega representatives Rhys and Jesse, who happen to be beautiful, at her school’s college fair doesn’t provide any helpful information. Mia gives the school no real thought until Rhys impresses upon her how much Vega needs her, and in turn, how much she needs Vega.

Later that day, when Mia arrives at work, a strange woman grabs Mia and warns her that she must not attend Vega Preparatory Academy, and if she does, there will be grave consequences. Despite the warning, Mia feels drawn to Vega and decides it is where she wants to go.

During Mia’s first day at Vega, she is reintroduced to Rhys, who seems to be interested in her romantically. That would be great if it weren’t for Angelica, the mean girl who decides to make life miserable for Mia because she has it in her head that Rhys is her man, and Jesse, Rhys’s handsome and mysterious cousin who Mia can’t help but have a crush on.

Vega continues to intrigue Mia as bits and pieces of its secret comes out. When Mia finally learns that Vega Preparatory Academy is the training ground for time travelers, something clicks inside of her. This is what Mia is meant to do. The only problem is there is just one lone female time traveler spot open, so Mia will have to fight for the position. Mia has never had to fight for anything in her life and isn’t sure that she has enough in her to get past Angelica’s conniving ways, the strange woman from the diner who attempts to shut down Vega forever, and most of all, her own insecurities.

VEGA is a YA Fantasy novel complete at 100,000 words.

Growing up on the sunny shores of Kailua, Hawaii, I avidly read books like A Wrinkle in Time, Tennis Shoes among the Nephites, and Anne of Avonlea. These books opened my mind and prompted me to dream of traveling to long lost times and being a part of different worlds. As I grew up, I realized that dream was impossible. VEGA is, in a way, my rebellion. After gaining my Bachelor of Arts in History from Utah Valley University and learning even more about the times I yearned to be a part of, I decided that if I wanted a world in which I could time travel to exist, I needed to create it.

Thank you so much for your time and consideration.



Normally the last place I would want to be at 8 AM on a Saturday morning was at school, but here I was. The cafeteria was not as stuffy and stale as usual. The smell of yesterday’s tacos was still lingering, but at least it was a less nauseating smell. It took a back seat to the hope that could be felt in the air; it was almost tangible. There were fewer tables than normal, and they were all pushed along the periphery of the square-shaped cafeteria. The college reps sat against the wall so that the students could gather on the other side of the tables.

It was the annual college fair, and Principal Mayner had talked it up so much that I was actually kind of excited to be there. James Adams High School had not only received the highest test scores in the state this year, but we also had a state championship football team. That kind of prestige brought in lots of interest from the surrounding universities and colleges. My parents and in turn I had always assumed I would go to Boise State like both of my parents did, but now the idea of not following in their footsteps, seemed rather appealing.

I didn’t notice that my best friend Jenna had come up beside me and she startled me when she said, “I still can’t believe you dragged me here on a Saturday morning. What’s the point anyway?”


Bonnie R. Paulson said...

Hi J.K.

I like the premise behind the story. It sounds fun.

But I think the query is too long. You could probably pare down a lot of it since it seems like there is a little bit of redundancy going on throughout.

Actually, I loved the excerpt a TON. Great voice. It'd be awesome to see more of that in the query.

Good job!

Ru said...

I like your sample a lot more than your query, which I think needs to be tightened up.

1. I would take out "who happen to be beautiful," because it's not very informative (this is YA, I already know she's probably going to fall for at least one boy) and it's a little bland. She likes them because they're beautiful? (This may just be my beef, since "girl falls in love with guy because he's hot" is my number one YA cliche pet peeve, so feel free to disregard this suggestion.)

2. It's a little character-soupy. It's going to be a lot easier to get a solid feel for your book if you can condense some of that.

I would suggest something like:

starting at second paragraph:

"Vega Preparatory Academy is a place shrouded in mystery--even their brochures at the college fair aren't very informative. So even though the schools cute representatives, Rhys and Jesse, try to convince her that she needs Vega, Mia isn't interested in hearing any more. At least, not until a strange woman accosts her later that day and forbids her from attending.

When Mia finds out that Vega is a school for time-travelers, something clicks inside of her. This is what Mia is meant to do. The only problem is there is just one lone female time traveler spot open. Mia has never had to fight for anything in her life and isn’t sure that she has enough in her to get past other student’s scheming, romantic entanglements, the strange woman from the diner who attempts to shut down Vega forever, and most of all, her own insecurities."

Then for your bio paragraph, take out the books you like. If you mention other books, put the titles in ALL CAPS, and make sure they're books similar to VEGA. (e.g., "VEGA will appeal to fans of A WRINKLE IN TIME").

I hope this is helpful! I think you have an interesting concept and I liked your writing in the sample. Good luck!

P J O'Leary said...

I like the premise, I think time travel is a concept that there aren't a ton of right now, especially in YA. And I think the first paragraph is a good solid lead.

Which is why I found the rest disappointing. As mentioned above it's a bit long (332 words just on describing the work itself). And I think the writing in the query doesn't live up to the writing in the sample you provide. This isn't helping you.

For example "shrouded in mystery" is a cliche. Avoid cliches because they are often seen as a sign of lazy writing. Or if you use one, spin it in an original way.

Next, we get too much backstory. Get to what is the decision she faces, what are the stakes and why should we care? That's why I liked the lead, it jumped right into it. But then the rest was a bit of a muddle.

Maybe skip the story of how she got there. Just tell us she's new at Vega, an academy for time travelers, and faces the problems of a jealous classmate who sees Mia as trying to steal not only her boyfriend, but the chance at the last slot for a female time traveler. (I hope the reason for there being only one female slot is explained well in the book. Because on the surface of the query it sounds a bit contrived.) Also mention the mysterious woman and her vague threats about Mia attending Vega.

I was also looking for why she needed to give up on being a time traveler to save the world. Is Vega secretly evil, training people to screw-up history? Then maybe drop hints of Vega's dark secrets.

Overall, I would probably like to see more of the work, despite the query. But you could really help your odds by tightening it up more.

Hope this has helped. I really would like to read this when you get it published. Best of luck.

Dee said...

I was really pulled into the time travel piece and Mia's character, being someone who has never had to fight for anything is great foreshadowing.

I have to agree with the other comments: the query should be more brief. One thing I find helpful is see if some of the sentences can be combined/shortened. I know when you're writing each sentence feels like it has to be there because the reader just has to know what you have to see- the info is vital!! But brevity is a great skill. Play with it a little bit.

If you haven't already, print out what you've written and go through line by line, asking yourself what is essential, what could be more concise, what am I repeating...It can feel tedious, but for what you've submitted, I think that's really all you'd need to polish it.

I'd definitely

An Agent Intern said...

The query reads like a synopsis to me: "Later that day..." and "During Mia's first day..." Pare it down to paragraph 1 & 2, then elaborate a little bit.

The sample is a little dry. Two paragraphs spent on this cafeteria and what's going on instead of just showing me what's happening. I can hear the voice, though, and I think there's some definite potential. Just let it shine a bit more.

Rin said...

I think that the third paragraph in your query is where the whole story begins, so you should start there instead. :)

I'm a sucker for time travel stories, and your whole premise sounds really interesting! Your MC strikes me as a level-headed serious-minded girl, especially with all her talk about school stats and universities, and I like that I know the first paragraphs are already building up to some important event (something relevant's going to happen at the college fair, but what?).

Ambiguous_A said...

I agree with everyone that the query needs to be shorter. I actually don't think you need the first paragraph at all, as it just confused me a little. I also am not a fan of the "who happen to be beautiful" line. Does it matter? The "Later that day" part reads like a synopsis, though I like the idea of a woman warning Mia not to go to Vega. For some reason, I wish Angelica didn't come off as the stereotypical mean girl. I feel like I've read that story before. Still, I think the idea of a school for time travelers is cool!

Melodie Wright said...

I agree with the other commentors. My suggestion is to start with Mia's choice - there's only one time traveler-in-training spot open at Vega Preparatory School and Mia is determined to be chosen. Even though she'll have to fight her best friends to do so.

Of course, this is an inaccurate sample but it leads with a hook, and suggests stakes you can finish with. (How far will Mia go to land her dream job?)
Good luck!

The Agent said...

As the above comments note, this current version of your query runs too long and focuses on minutiae. The two paragraphs in middle ("Later that day..." and "During Mia's first day at Vega...") can likely be cut; the pertinent information is that she is drawn to the two student recruiters and there is a mysterious woman trying to shut down the school, and these can be introduced elsewhere.

I'd recommend focusing your query on the dilemma Mia faces, once she discovers the purpose of Vega: becoming a time traveler or saving the world. And why are these two choices exclusive of each other? I would be more inclined to read more of this story if I had a clearer understanding of the larger plot.

On a side note, at least in the U.S., a "preparatory academy" is usually another term for a secondary school, not a college or university.

Lastly, in your first 250 words, try to start with more action in order to draw the reader in, and less back story. Those introspective elements will work more effectively if they are interspersed with what is currently happening, rather than in large chunks.