Wednesday, August 15, 2012

An Agent's Inbox #1

Dear Agent,

Betrayal is a concept Taylor Anderson knows all too well. Thanks to a lie orchestrated by her best friend, Sunny, her friends won’t look at her, her classmates won’t talk to her, and the boy she might love won’t return her calls.

Betrayal is the reason Taylor wants to disappear, and after an accident her quiet wish becomes a reality.

But instead of disappearing to a peaceful place filled with puffy clouds and harp-playing angles, Taylor opens her eyes to find an endless gray staircase climbing up, up, up into a clear blue sky. Turns out Led Zeppelin totally nailed it.

Until the ghosts appear.

Not the ghosts of other people trapped on the stairs--Taylor would welcome a visit from anyone who might be able to explain why she can’t turn around, where the mysterious voice comes from, or how snow can fall when there’s not a cloud in the sky.

Instead, the ghosts of the people she wants to forget swirl before her and plunge her back to the horrible week before the accident. Turns out that disappearing from your life doesn’t mean you get to leave it behind.

But the staircase is more than the haunted punishment it first appears to be. Within it lies a second chance to uncover the true value of everything Taylor thought she wanted to leave behind, but first she must learn the truth about Sunny’s betrayal, and find the strength to forgive the unforgiveable.

Unless the staircase and the ghosts of her past break her before she can reach the top.

WHERE THE STAIRCASE ENDS is a 61,000 word YA novel that includes both contemporary and fantastical elements. The humor, emotion and character transformation will appeal to fans of Lauren Oliver’s BEFORE I FALL and Gayle Forman’s IF I STAY.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

All the best,


I never noticed how pointy my elbows were. They were thorny things, jutting out from my sides like useless wings. I flattened them against my body, not wanting to give anyone yet another reason to avoid me.

It didn’t help.

A line of three girls made an unnecessary showing of skirting past me, exchanging smirks with the subtlety of elephants. Once out of viewing range I heard the hiss, hiss, hiss of heated whispers passing between them.

That was her, right? She’s the girl?

I fought the urge to spin around and shoot venom right back at them, but I didn’t want to waste my words on three girls I wouldn’t have cared about yesterday. Besides, Sunny was the snake I wanted to bite.

No one was at Sunny’s locker when I passed by. Without the swarm of bodies and hum of morning activity it looked like any other locker in any other hallway. The only sign that it meant something more was the key-scratched heart and initials I had carved into the tan paint earlier that year.

I <3 J.C.

Had Sunny gotten to him, too?

The hallways seemed longer than they had before, twisting labyrinth-like between the classroom wings. Posters hung above archways, their edges curling into the hand painted block letters like they were ashamed of the drips and wrinkles in the imperfect writing. I straightened my shoulders. I would not be like the posters. I would not be ashamed of something I had not done.


Teresa said...

Hi! Your premise is unique (Something about it reminds me of a cross between the Robin Williams movie 'What Dreams May Come' and 'It's A Wonderful Life.'). I also saw your pitch on this month's Operation Awesome and it definitely stuck out from the pack. That being said, while the writing in your query is strong, I think it's a bit too long. You've introduced many elements (betrayal, an accident, the staircase leading into an afterlife, a ghost) and I found myself losing focus. You might want to consider focusing your query on one specific plot point and distilling your story into 2 paragraphs.

Your writing sample is clear and evocative. Bravo! I only have one issue with the last paragraph. I had trouble visualizing your description of the poster and felt it was overstylized and distracting from the narrative. Simplify?

G.B. Skye said...

Found a typo! "But instead of disappearing to a peaceful place filled with puffy clouds and harp-playing angles"--should be "angels."

I really like this. The premise is very cool, and I got a good feel of the stakes and where the story is going from the query. I would definitely read! :D

Kristy Shen said...

Saw this on writeoncon :)

The premise is totally awesome and the writing is amazing too. Both your query and 250 words are great! I would totally read on.

Deserae McGlothen said...

Wowza! I really loved this entry. There were a few things I wondered about, but first let me talk on the things I adored.

-The title. Man, am I a sucker for great titles and literary allusions. Whether it's a sidewalk or a staircase, something about the structure of Where Something Ends is brilliant to me.
-The premise. I really love the idea that you've created something based on the classic "stairway to heaven." And this honestly sounds like a really good read. The voice captured in the first 250 alone--- the language--- I loved it.

The query is very good in my humble opinion. It captured my attention and unlike with others, each layer added to my intrigue proving to me that there is depth here, after all. The only thing I wondered was if there was a way to condense it. Perhaps it's just the paragraph spacing that makes it feel a bit long... But I honestly do believe that all of the elements for a great query (and story!) are here. Excellent work, Author! Fingers crossed I get to nab this off the shelves one day. :)

Best wishes,
P.S. I wonder if you need the comparison part at the end. Funnily enough, I thought of both Lauren Oliver and Gayle Forman before your saying it so is it necessary? I dunno, just a thought.

Ashley Turcotte said...

I think you have great voice, both in the query and the first 250. Regarding the query, I think it's a little long. But, like someone else said, that might just be the spacing. You have several paragraphs with only one sentence, and I don't think there are any with more than two sentences. Maybe if you just put it into fewer paragraphs, it wouldn't seem quite as long?

Also, regarding the query, it's unclear to me why she is being punished (or why she thinks she's being punished). From this sample, it doesn't seem like she's done anything wrong at all. So why the haunted punishment with ghosts of her past trying to break her? If it would be possible to at least hint to the reason, I think that would be great. As it is, I'm left a little confused.

Your first 250 are great. I'd definitely keep reading. :)

Robin said...

Oh, I like this one. I do think the query is a bit long, but I didn't mind one bit:) And the 1st 250 had me wanting to read more.

Good luck!

Aimee L. Salter said...

The cool thing is, I read your pages on WOC and liked them, but didn't know what the premise was. Now I've read your query too and those pages seem even better with that background.

Good luck!!!

Nazarea Andrews said...

I'm not crazy about your query--I feel like it's a tad bit too long. Can you shorten it at all? Maybe cut the paragraph 'Not the ghosts of other people...' since we don't need to know who ISN'T there.

I do like your first 250. I'd like to know what's going on, who JC is, and what Sunny did. I'd keep reading to find out.

The Agent said...

I read the whole query here, and did also look at the first page, although I probably wouldn't have started the page if I were reading this in my inbox.

I think the query itself is strong--I liked the writing. My concern was more with the premise. Partly that's personal preference. I'm really not a fan of afterlife stories, so that immediately makes this story a hard sell for me.

I'm also concerned from the query that the story feels static. It's hard for me to imagine there being much action if the entire plot takes place on the staircase. And while it seems like the flashbacks will tell most of the story, it's hard for me to see forward movement in this plot. Ideally I'd like to see more about what challenges Taylor faces in the afterlife world, as well as in the flashbacks, to see how the two strands of the story wind together.

In terms of the writing in the first page, I think there's a strong voice here. I'm not a huge fan of this kind of in-medias-res beginning, though, because I find it hard to hold onto a character voice when there's so much else going on around her--I find it a little disorienting. But again, that's very subjective, and this project is clearly off to a good start!

Kristina said...

I love the Led Zeppelin line! It's really funny and a good hook. I actually might open with that. I'm also a little iffy about whether it was an accident or a suicide attempt? I'm intrigued by the staircase but I think I'd like to know what your MC thinks the betrayal is before we find out she had it wrong. Btw, really like the thorny elbows. Nice work!