Wednesday, April 10, 2013

An Agent's Inbox #16

Dear Ms. Sarver,

Sixteen-year-old Olivia Scott handles her twin sister's latest suicide attempt like she handles everything: with dry eyes and head held high. Just this once, though, she lets herself email her best friends for support. And thanks to the wonders of the "reply-all" button, she unintentionally spills everything to two of the last people she'd ever choose.

Olivia's terrified. One little email, and the whole school could know every grisly detail about her family by tomorrow. About Kat's suicide attempts. About Olivia's sex life. About Kat being gay. About them living in fear of their violent, evangelical father.

It comes as a shock when, instead of spreading the word, the unintended recipients reach out to her. Olivia finds out she has more in common with a douchebag stoner and a popular alcoholic than she could've imagined. But soon they start entrusting her with their own secrets, burdening her with more lies, cover-ups, and misery than one person can handle.

Vicious rumors start breaking out: someone's sleeping with a teacher, someone's a violent sociopath, someone's a closeted pansexual. Olivia can tell the truth and ruin her new friends' lives, or keep quiet and destroy her sanity along with the lives of innocent bystanders. But if she does spill her friends' secrets, nothing's stopping them from paying her back in kind. As she knows, all it takes is one errant email. If her father finds out about her promiscuity and Kat's homosexuality, they'll both be in mortal danger by morning.

IN SIN is a dark 69,000-word YA contemporary told from the perspectives of seven high schoolers, one for each of the seven deadly sins. As per the contest guidelines, I've pasted my first 250 words below.

I blog and tweet under a pen name, R.R. I also run a Tumblr with over 5,000 followers at

Thank you for your time and consideration.




Kat Scott

When you take them one at a time, twenty-five pills feel like nothing at all.

Count them up slow. Let them slide their way down. Do it all nice and gentle.

After all, it’s just one more repetitive motion. Fits right in with the ones we practice every day (speaking, smiling, breathing). And soon you’ll find the room’s starting to fade, and you’ll be happier about it than you’ve been about anything in a long time.

Finally, some peace.

I locked myself in. Dad’s at work, and Olivia shouldn’t be back until four. No more failures. This time is for real.

My mind’s starting to drift and float when my body convulses, and then I’m trapped back inside myself and I want out but –

A cry yanks itself from my throat. I jerk off the bed. Pain, red-hot, grinding and unavoidable. Like someone’s stabbing me through the stomach with an iron stake. I smack the floor skull-first, but it’s nothing compared to the agony knotting itself up through my chest. More noises leak from my mouth.

I almost want to laugh. There’s a sort of relief in this kind of hurt and ah, let me die, just let it end--J**** C*****, is that really too much to ask?

Bile coils up in my throat. I swallow it back. I swallow everything. Just a few more minutes.

The world spins in and collapses.


Olivia Scott

Okay, seriously, can someone explain why they call it a “personal life” when it’s the one part of my life everyone knows?


Anonymous said...


Your query drew me in. The voice, the stakes and the conflict are all there. And it's dark. I love me some dark YA! :-)

I do have to say with your first 250 I was a little confused why we started off with Kat's point of view when the query deals with Olivia (her sister) more. I had to reread your snippet twice to 'get' it.

Good luck!

Entry #29

Ru said...

I really like this idea and I liked Kat's voice. I would definitely read more to see if you could pull off 7 distinct voices in one story (and if you can, that's really awesome).

RH #18 said...

Love that the query is only from Olivia's point of view and THEN you mention there are, in fact, seven points of view. And the fact that you chose seven to coincide with the seven deadly sins is just plain awesome. That's when I knew I wanted to read this.

Only thing that confused me in the query was the last sentence of your first paragraph. I had to reread it several time to understand that Olivia had emailed two random people. I think it's just a bit too wordy, and the fact that you use "everything" and "ever" in the same sentence is not helping.

Your 250 words are great! I wouldn't normally read a book like this, but your query and 250 words totally hooked me (and that's the whole point, right?)

Good luck! :)


E.L.S. #25 said...

Yeah, I'm hooked on this entry!

You've set this up nicely, letting us know Olivia deals with a lot - including a sister that repeatedly tries to take her own life.

I'm a little confused how she hits reply all to these two other people (not the actual fact of hitting reply all - haven't we all done that before? :)), but that she would have the emails for these two individuals that don't seem like friends of hers at all. It's not something that would stop me from turning the page - just something I thought about as I was reading.

But the kicker that really pulled me in? The idea that this winds around the 7 deadly sins! You've totally roped me in with this and I'd definitely read on to see how you pull off each of the characters - so great job here!

250 Submit:
It doesn't bother me that you start with Kat, but your query is based around Olivia. It's a short enough segment that does a great job opening up the story, that I'm fine with it.

You do a great job visually setting up the story and while I'm not totally invested in Kat just yet and why she's wanting to commit suicide, I'm still interested to see where it goes.

Net/net: You've got my interest and I'd definitely read on and request pages for this. I'd love to see how this all unfolds and how the 7 sins are tied into everything. Great concept here!

Best of luck in the contest!

jdspero said...

Oh, I get it now. It took a few tries before I realized 2 different chapters/POVs were in the first 250 words.

About the query:
I would omit this line: Olivia's terrified.

This line does not help raise the stakes: It comes as a shock when, instead of spreading the word, the unintended recipients reach out to her.

Why would keeping her new friends' secrets destroy her sanity? And - why would she be tempted to tell these secrets? Do they directly impact her life in some way?

So, are the stakes whether or not her father finds out she's sleeping around and her sister's gay?

I also would be interested to see how this works relating to the 7 deadly sins.

Unknown said...

Wonderful job! You've got a very interesting storyline gong on for sure. The only detail that bothered me was the fact that Olivia would have (as mentioned above) two people whom she doesn't seem to be too close to on her email list. Also, I felt like the sentence 'If her father finds out about her promiscuity...' felt a bit out of place. This is kind of already insinuated and I think your query would be stronger ending on the sentence before this one.

Your 250 was good. It didn't bother me that although Olivia was the main character in your query, you started with her sister Kat. I feel like this is your way of introducing us to her intended suicide attempts.

It definitely sounds like an interesting read, and one that is out of the ordinary. Writing from seven different view points certainly seems like quite the task. I'd love to read this!

Best of luck!

Judy DaPolito said...

Your query pulled me in right away, and it held me until I found out that there are seven points of view. I still wanted to read the book, but I wasn’t sure what the book was because I’d been so immersed in Olivia’s viewpoint. Is she the protagonist? Or are there seven protagonists?

In the first page, I’m again pulled in by Kat’s description, but pulled out abruptly by the switch to Olivia. Great writing, and I want to read more. But because I’m disoriented I also want to have a clearer sense of the narrator(s).

Melissa Sarver said...

This query intrigued me, though I'm confused as to all the different points of view. I thought they would be separate chapters but in your first 250 you've already presented two different POVs and "sin" so I'm concerned about this quick change and wonder about the trajectory of the story. I really loved the beginning of the sample. Her description of taking those pills was palpable.

The query is somewhat confusing: if she's emailing her best friends for support, how does the email end up with her enemies? I think you can skip the third paragraph of your query - though likely very important in the novel, these details don't seem important to your pitch and understanding what the central conflict is.