Wednesday, April 10, 2013

An Agent's Inbox #30

Dear Ms. Sarver,

Zorya is seventeen, a high school senior in the Northern California Enclave. Popular at school, living a happy and comfortable life with her wealthy family, she has the best of everything: good grades, the newest smartphone, and the latest clothes.

Sitting in her history class, Zorya isn’t looking at the teacher. She’s looking across the room at David, the strange new boy in her school. She’s fascinated by his appearance, by the way he talks, and even how he eats. He’s the only one in the whole school who’s not like her. The only one who can go out in the daytime.

Zorya is one of the Oameni, now called “Nightwalkers” in polite society. They live on blood, and have great strength, resilience, and very long lives. They are not “undead” or supernatural creatures, but a living, breathing race that had been surviving in concealment for centuries, with only rumors and legends leaking into the Daywalker world.

As far as Zorya is concerned, history is just something you learn in school, but it’s something her parents lived. The Oameni were forced out of hiding fifty years ago. After a brief but bitter war with the Daywalkers, they made peace and began integrating themselves into the Daywalker world, building places like the Enclaves to live and prosper as they preferred.

Now Zorya’s easy life might be about to change. The peace between Daywalkers and Nightwalkers has lasted half a century, but not many know how fragile it is, and what it takes to defend it. Foremost among these defenders are the Aparators--the Protectors--highly-trained members of both races who work in secret and live with one foot in each world. They need bright young people who aren’t weighed down by the memories of war, the poison of prejudice, and the baggage of the old ways.

The Aparators, including members of Zorya’s own family, have plans for Zorya and David’s future that might be quite a bit different from what they imagined. Zorya is also about to discover that life outside the Enclave is quite a bit different than she imagined, and sometimes a lot more dangerous.

Zorya is contemporary YA speculative fiction, complete at 98,300 words. I have appended the first 250 words below, and would be happy to send further material at your request. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,
T.B.


ZORYA

My name’s Zorya. Mother says I’m named after Zorya Vechernyaya, goddess of the Evening Star. That’s sort of cool.

There were fifteen of us in my classroom that fall--the entire high school senior class population of the Northern California Enclave. And then there was David. Named after David, I guess.

He wasn’t one of us. He was one of them.

I propped an arm on my desk and casually leaned my head on my hand, turning my face a bit to the right. That way, I could look at him without...looking like I was looking at him. Up at the front of the room Madame Stefonia was writing something on the whiteboard, so she probably wouldn’t notice right away that I wasn’t paying attention.

The moonlamps were turned up high so David could see well enough to read and write. Their eyes are really bad--I don’t think they can even see colors at night. On the other hand, I could see him just fine. Unlike me, he was watching the teacher and busily taking notes.

He was blonde, which in a room full of black hair made him stick out like a snowball on an asphalt road. He was almost a year older than me, almost a foot taller, and even skinnier. His eyes were dark brown, which was as weird around here as the blonde hair. His voice had a twinge of accent, Texas I think, and my G**, the tan. It was only the third week of school and he hadn’t been here long enough to start losing it.

10 comments:

Veronica Bartles said...

I'm not the biggest fan of paranormal romance (so take this comment with a grain of salt), although when one catches my attention, I totally get sucked in and can't put it down. This one sounded a bit too similar to what's already out there, and I found my mind wandering about halfway through. Perhaps something shorter and punchier would help.

What is unique and different about your story? What does your main character want more than anything else in the whole, wide world? What stands in her way? I don't think you need all of the history/background in the pitch. Instead, you could focus on the high stakes of the story to draw us in and make us need to read on.

I hope this helps! :)

Maria said...

Sounds interesting and original. I am always a sucker for a good romantic twist!

You could play up the fact that her life isn't as "perfect" as it seems after the first paragraph of the query,though.

For example:
Zorya is seventeen, a high school senior in the Northern California Enclave. Popular at school, living a happy and comfortable life with her wealthy family, she has the best of everything: good grades, the newest smartphone, and the latest clothes.

But her life isn't . . . .

While the query is informative, it might be too informative. Perhaps delete some of the details and highlight the basic important facts so that you give enough information but leave them wanting more--thus prompting them to request more. For example, combine the David paragraph with the later bit about him being part of the other side.

In terms of the first page, I really like the stand-alone sentences about David being other. I also liked "snowball on an asphalt road." Great image!

Anonymous said...

My first reaction to the query is that it's too long. It does provide a lot of detail, but we don't really get any plot until the last paragraph. Try and shorten it down -- I'd aim for around 350 words for the query.

Your first page gives a good taste of the voice, I think. My suggestion here would be to cut the first three sentences. They don't add anything to the story, and they don't draw me in. The next lines, however, do.

H.S.
Entry #20

Laura Edwards said...

I really liked the first 250 words. Interesting and a fluid writing style. The one problem I find is the query. Way too long and wordy. I think my queries tend to go on too much and yours probably outdid mine. Usually an agent ask the query be brief. Yours reads more like a synopsis. I totally understand the difficulty of cutting a query down. Hope this helps.

Sarah Diviney said...

I agree with the other commenters that the query is bloated and reads more like a synopsis. But what bothers me most is, like Veronica said, it is very reminiscent of a certain vampire series we're all getting very tired of.

That puts you at a huge disadvantage right off the bat. I would rewrite the second paragraph to squash the Twilight similarities. Maybe even start the query at the third paragraph.

I'm afraid that no matter how great you write, you'll never get an agent to read past that second paragraph.

The first 250 is much more interesting. The writing is nice and flows well ;-)

Good luck!
#13

Connie Mayo said...

Without question, the query is too long, and covers much more than it should. There is also a jarring contrast between the first two paragraphs (girl meets boy) and the remaining paragraphs, which are mostly of a more academic tone, informing us of the world you've created for your novel. I stopped reading carefully in the fourth paragraph.

The first 250 seem OK although I am not a YA reader so the whole "isn't he dreamy" thing was not resonating, but I have a 13 year old daughter so I know it resonates with that set!

Ann Noser said...

QUERY

I'D SKIP THE FIRST PARAGRAPH. IT GRABS THE READER BETTER STARTING WITH THE SECOND.

AND THE SENTENCE BELOW CONFUSED ME. I HAD TO REREAD IT. SINCE EVERYONE COMMENTED THAT YOU SHOULD SHORTEN YOUR QUERY, I'D LOSE THIS BUT KEEP THE REST OF THE PARAGRAPH.
As far as Zorya is concerned, history is just something you learn in school, but it’s something her parents lived.


FIRST 250

I'D SKIP THIS FIRST PARAGRAPH. HAVE HER TELL THE GUY WHO SHE'S NAMED AFTER WHEN THEY TALK INSTEAD.

My name’s Zorya. Mother says I’m named after Zorya Vechernyaya, goddess of the Evening Star. That’s sort of cool.

I'D SKIP THIS NEXT SENTENCE AS WELL

Named after David, I guess.

BUT KEEP ALL THE REST---GOOD STUFF

OVERALL, I LIKE THE IDEA (CALL ME CRAZY, BUT I STILL LIKE VAMPIRE BOOKS). I THINK SOMETIMES IT'S REALLY HARD TO KNOW EXACTLY WHERE TO "START" WITH A QUERY OR A BOOK. SOMETIMES IT'S LATER THAN YOU THINK, SOMETIMES EARLIER.

GOOD LUCK!

Anonymous said...

Between the comments here, and a just-completed three-day session in Janet Reid's "Query Shark" archives, my new pitch is now completely different. Tighter, less setting, more story, more Zorya. Perfect? Probably not, but better.

That might not help me much in this contest now, but I think it will be an enormous help in the future. Thanks!!

- T.B.

Melissa Sarver said...

The first two sentences can be tightened into one and could use more "punch." This feels like it could be one of many, many YA novels and you want your project to feel unique.

Paragraph three is where things start getting interesting - your query should lead with this information about the world and characters. Get to the conflict much sooner. The query is far too long - should be a short intro paragraphs, then 1-2 brief paragraphs about the novel and the characters and conflict, then your bio.
The pages give us the narrator's voice right away, which is great. Try to incorporate this voice into your query. I would strike the first line - your second line accomplishes what you're after on its own. I like the lines "He's named after, well David." and her comment on his tan, etc. She sounds like an authentic teenage girl.

Try to include comp titles in your query so the agent knows if it's paranormal, sci-fi, fantasy, mainly for girls, etc.

Anonymous said...

This one had no hook so I didn't read past the first few sentences. Sorry. : (