Wednesday, July 24, 2013

An Agent's Inbox #11

Dear Ms. Smith:

After 16-year-old social-nobody Olivia is stunned by not one, but two random kisses from guys claiming to be her boyfriend, she discovers she’s somehow jumping between alternate versions of her life, each shaped by decisions she made--or didn’t--in her past. Along with an increasing slew of boys, she also finds her grandma still alive, a baby sister she never had before and a new position at the top of the junior class.

She has everything she ever wanted, sort of. If only she could control the jumps. And stop finding so many new sides to her best friend Drew. She barely recognizes this boy who spouts crazy sci-fi theories or plays in a rock band.

She knows she can’t switch between the alternate-Olivias forever. The more she tries to juggle, the more she drops. If she keeps switching realities, she’s going to mess up the alter-Olivias' lives as badly as she must've messed up the original. The only way to make it stop is to choose where to land for good--back in her normal life, or in one of the new ones. But none of her options give her everything, and deciding where to stay will mean losing more than one person she loves.

PIECES OF ME, YA light sci-fi, is complete at 65,000 words. Thank you for your time and consideration.



Choosing what to have for breakfast won’t change my life, but I’ve never been good at making decisions. I drum my fingers on the kitchen counter, staring at the fridge covered in family photos. Waffles or cereal? My stomach growls. Waffles. With strawberries. You only live once. I open the freezer as Drew honks outside. D***. I don’t have time. Granola bar then.

I shut the freezer and my head swims for a moment, blurring the last photo of Grandma in her garden to a blob of purple and green. I blink and shake it off, then grab the box of NatureOne bars from the cluttered pantry.

The toaster oven dings. What in the…I go to check. Two toasted waffles sit on the metal rack.

Mom and Dad are both gone before seven on Tuesdays, and Elliot’s still upstairs. Did I put those in when I first came down? I must be losing my mind. Or I’m still half asleep. Whatever, they look delicious. Drew can wait. I text him that I’ll be a minute and grab a plate.

I slather the waffles with butter and slice up strawberries. I’m just lifting my fork when my ten-year-old brother walks into the room. His sun-bleached hair sticks up in the back and he’s wearing his standard outfit of baggy soccer shorts and a random player’s jersey.

“Mmm, waffles. Are there more?” Elliot asks.

I shift my eyes. “In the freezer.”

He glances at the microwave clock, then groans and reaches for the cereal.


Janelle said...

Wow, very cool premise! I love the whole idea of Olivia accessing all these other realities, loving them, even getting addicted in a way (since "the more she juggles, the more she drops"), and then realizing she needs to quit, which carries its own price. This is a very relatable concept and a solid conflict around which to have built a story. Awesome!

A few areas I thought could maybe use improvement:

* "Social-nobody" -- You might need a stronger, more unique phrase here. There are lots of underdog stories out there; I get the impression that many cross agent's desks, so you want your character and writing--especially in the first line--to stand out.

* The structure of the last sentence, first para is a little funky/non-parallel. Just a suggestion, I think you could tighten by combining some of the concepts in 1 & 2. (I love that sentence with the "sort of", but the "if only she could control the jumps" repeats that concept.) Something like

. . . she discovers she’s somehow jumping between alternate versions of her life, each shaped by decisions she made--or didn’t--in her past. Suddenly, she has everything she ever wanted: an increasing slew of boys, a grandma who's still alive, a baby sister she never had, and a new position at the top of the junior class.

If only she could control the jumps.

And if only she stop finding so many new sides to her best friend Drew. She barely recognizes this boy who spouts crazy sci-fi theories or plays in a rock band.

Last little bump for me in query: What leads Olivia to believe she must've messed up her original life? Since this is part of what forces her to choose to settle in one life, it seems kind of crucial to the story and query.

First 250: I love how you've illustrated the concept of the alternate realities colliding right off the bat. It was cute & sets the tone for the story. And I actually like how it takes the traditional waking up/breakfast scene that agents see all too often & kind of turns it on its head.

BUT, at the same time, I wonder if it falls too closely in line with that type of opening, and if some scene more revealing of *your unique MC* (but something still relatable) could be employed here. What are her specific traits, likes, habits that could show us her character, grab the reader's attention, and illustrate the reality-slipping concept all at the same time?

Overall, very cool concept. I would love to see where it goes. Good luck with this!

Mandy P.S. said...

I absolutely love this concept. It reminds me of Sliders--in a good way!

For me the query hits all the right notes and makes me want to pick up the story. It leaves me asking questions that I'm sure the novel is going to answer like "Are the other Olivias jumping into her life while she's in their's?" and "What caused all this jumping in the first place?" I definitely would want to read on to find the answers!

I thought the writing in the 250 is solid, and I agree with Olivia--the answer is always waffles.

Megan Reyes said...

This is a great premise for teens—what high schooler wouldn’t like to imagine themselves in a new, “better” life? Olivia gets to LIVE different lives, which is surely appealing for your target audience.

I’d like to know when did the jumps begin? Is there any explanation as to why they are happening? If she can’t control the jumps then how does she have the power to choose which life to stay in? Why does she think she “must've messed up her original life”?

I like your first line, especially “but I’ve never been good at making decisions” since the reader knows Olivia is going to have to make a LOT of decisions throughout the book.

Good concept. Good query. I’d like to see what happens next! I'd also like some waffles and strawberries... hmm... :)

Unknown said...

I walked away from these queries yesterday, but this one haunted me and I had to come back.

I want to read this book. I want it. Where is it? Please, I must have it!!!

I love the concept. I am not a fan of first person present voice, but you've hooked me enough to not care - that's a big deal!!

Your query definitely sets things up well. I understand what's about to happen when I'm reading the first 250 (like the back of book, I'm ready). I also wonder what she ends up choosing...and how that involves Drew. Is he the humor or is he the love interest she didn't realize she had?

Did I mention I WANT TO READ THIS BOOK?!?!

mrs.which said...

Definitely cool premise. I got hung up on the first sentence of your query though and had to read it several times to see what was going on. Could you possibly simplify it some? Also, in your 250, I wanted a bit more of an understanding that things had shifted other than just a little head-swimming. That's a huge thing to have happen (switching realities) but it felt like it was no big deal. My two cents at least :)

Alexa D. said...

I love this premise. Like Mandy said, makes me think of Sliders! The query left me with a few questions that you may or may not be able to answer in the query (or hint at). Namely: where are the other Olivias if she's sliding into their timelines? How does she jump between timelines? Mostly I want to know these things from a logical perspective, to know how the logic of your world holds up.

But regardless, your query made me want to read the book, and that's the key thing! Your 250 was intriguing, and I would definitely read on. I had one nitpicky word choice thought -- what about instead of "slew of," you said "myriad of." The latter makes me think more of a boy in each timeline, each with a different personality and look... slew is a less vivid word for me, personally.

And if you ever need another CP, let me know. I'd love to read it :)

Anonymous said...

Great first line! i actually didn't even think of it as a "breakfast" scene since it was so unique.

Love the questions that come to mind from your query. I also wonder if you might be able to drop the kissing two boys bit from the first sentence, since that's not as shocking as jumping between two versions of her life. I'm especially curious about how the sci-fi fits in. Is she in some kind of experiment? I would definitely read on to find out!

Hong said...

I had to re-read your first sentence of your query a few times to understand what was happening. Consider splitting it into two sentences for better clarification.

Otherwise, the rest of your query is fine!

In reading the first 250 words, the word "breakfast" threw me off just because there are so many openings that begin with the morning: waking up, dreaming, eating breakfast, laundry...

I'm interested though why she's having difficulties making decisions.

Personally, I'm not hooked yet because the whole scene is set at breakfast. It's quite mundane. I don't see anything unique yet about the character that makes me want to read more.

I might be more interested if there were some sci-fi elements involved.

Good luck!

Niki Moss said...

(Quick disclaimer—I have intentionally not read through any of the other comments before offering my own. I didn’t want anything to influence my perception. So if I repeat what others have said, I apologize. But at least you will know that particular thing stood out to more than one person, right? :))

I’ll begin with the First 250 Words this time:
Frankly, I DID NOT WANT TO STOP READING IT. Seriously. I would buy this book right now if it were available. I generally tend to gravitate toward realistic fiction, but when sci-fi or fantasy isn’t heavy handed—and when it is done well—it hooks me. This hooked me.

I really don’t know what else to say about it. The only thing that jumped out at me at all was one place where I would have worded things slightly different (very slightly). But that is purely a voice/preference thing, and not really for me to say. You’ve done a great job here. And I love how the humor comes full circle even in this one tiny snippet. Can’t wait to read the book!

On first read, I was left with the impression that I really loved this concept, but that perhaps the query could use a little more information. On second and third read though, I’m thinking the only information that isn’t there that maybe should be is a smidge of background on how Olivia has messed up her original life. Does she think she’s messed it up just because she’s a social-nobody, or is there more to it than that?

Your second paragraph could maybe use a little tweaking. All the information is there, and it is good, but the sentence flow just doesn’t feel quite right. Perhaps it is too choppy?

Otherwise, this is a fabulous query. It is tight, full of fabulous voice, and presents a juicy concept. As I said before, I want to read this now! Good luck with it!!

On a final, humorous note: I’d love to know what decision alternate-Olivia made that led to her parents having another child! (the baby sister)LOL!

Vercingetorix said...

I love the premise. The biggest issue here is that I'm not really sure on the first page that anything's wrong.

Of course, you don't need to pound us with conflict in the first 250 words.

I'd also like to know a little more about Olivia, though again, you can't do everything on teh first page.

Overall I like it

Jane said...

The premise intrigued me right away. I think the kissing two boys being the first thing we learn about Olivia may not be the most interesting or strongest thing to open with. But I am definitely interested in reading more!
The first 250 entertained me, though my first impression was that a breakfast scene was a bit common for such an unusual premise. But as I got into it I really liked that it showed humor and demonstrated a key character trait right from the start -- it's tough for her to make decisions. Along that line, the whole "waffle" theme of this scene appealed to me and left me wanting to read more.
Good luck with this!

Bridget Smith said...

I’ve been seeing a lot of these alternate-universe-self novels lately. The premise here is particularly intriguing: the idea of having to choose which part of your ideal life you can have is a tantalizing one. The query nicely lays out the different options without giving too much away. My concern is whether you’ll be able to convincingly portray each of these many worlds (and Olivias) as similar-but-different, so here’s where I’d look for the sample to really knock my socks off. Unfortunately, it falls a bit flat. It feels so realistic – I swear I reenact this exact scenario every morning, but with clothes instead of breakfast – that it’s a little too easy to overlook. You’ve deftly made the premise feel like something we all experience, but is there a more engaging way to do that?