Wednesday, September 24, 2014

An Agent's Inbox #13

Dear Ms. Jeglinski:

When seventeen-year-old Nadari Clarke is blinded, her Damage is the second reason her society wants her dead. The first reason she kept secret, with the help of her father, for ten years. She is a violinist.

With her father's influence, she escapes death and is instead sent to a place that holds hundreds of people, all Damaged. She soon learns they are all phenomenal artists as well. Musicians, artists and designers, whose televised executions were mandatory viewing, practice their art freely. In fact, the government commissions their art as propaganda to keep the rest of the citizens in line.

Nadari must relearn even simple things, like how to walk and how to eat, but not how to play the violin. She's the virtuoso she's always been, and those in charge want her music. So do a group of revolutionaries, who are busy making propaganda of their own. They want to prove to citizens that the Damaged aren't all dead, and neither is art. Solomon, a deaf painter and Nadari's only friend, tells her the revolutionaries are trouble and she should avoid them.

Then news reaches them that Nadari's father has gone missing, and the revolutionaries are more enraged than she is. Every step toward finding out why takes her deeper into a conspiracy that seems more likely with every revelation. But accepting it means accepting her father as a man she never really knew. And if he really is wanted by the government, going back home to find him makes reason number three she should be dead.

DAMAGED is a YA light dystopian complete at 78,000 words. It should appeal to those who enjoy the themes and writing of Gathering Blue and the grit and sense of place of Makiia Lucier’s A Death-Struck Year. I have a Bachelor’s degree in English and work as a technical editor. Per your guidelines, the first 250 words are pasted below.

Thank you for your time and consideration.



I am a criminal. It’s been ten years and I’ve never been caught, but every televised shooting reminds me the inevitable is just a bullet away. There was another one at midnight. They’re always at midnight and always at full volume. Muting the television doesn’t help. It’s impossible to sleep through them. Hours after the blast, I’m still shaken.

Thirteen, my favorite Blue, slips into my bedroom to clean. She does her job and I don’t do mine, staying perched on the edge of my bed, half-watching as she picks up my laundry. She runs a hand along her shaved head. “You okay?”

She practically raised me. I don’t acknowledge her.

When she leaves, my father, Aba, appears at the door. “Nadari? Are you ready yet?” He intrudes when I don’t answer. “Not even dressed?”

I glance at my closet. The Blues organize my clothes onto wooden hangers, shirts ironed, jeans folded evenly. To the far right are dresses I never wear. They block the tiny entrance to a room only my father and I know about. Inside is my violin. I think about the woman whose execution still rings in my ears. Hers was a flute. Close enough.

Aba follows my stare. “The police don’t go digging around Lair Hill,” he says. “They don’t think we commit those kinds of crimes.”

He’s kept me safe from suspicion for ten years. I should trust him.

I don’t.


CHadge said...

LOVE this premise. I like that it sounds gritty, but with the juxtaposition of your MC's artistic side, I think it has great potential!

Good luck!

Jaime said...

This is a stunning premise.

I think the query can be pared down a bit, but there also needs to be a little clarification, re: are the society and the government the same group.

And perhaps it's clarified in the following page, but based on what you've laid out in the query, I'm having a hard time with the line about Nadari not trusting her father, who has clearly gone out of his way to protect her secret.

rochelledeans said...

Thanks to both of you!

CHadge, it's definitely gritty, and I'm glad you think the artistic side balances it out.

Jaime, maybe "believe him" is a better word. It's just the comment about the police not digging around their neighborhood that she doesn't trust.

And "society" in the first line and "government" elsewhere are the same thing. Any other commenters, I would love weigh-in on how many of you that confused. I don't want to overuse the word "government," but confusing people is worse.

Jaime said...

Gotcha! I think that the sentence "He's kept me safe from suspicion..." in addition to the word "trust" is what threw me.

Spike Taterman (M.P.) said...

This query is all over the place, logic-wise. I get no sense of precisely what the crisis is. Why would the government do this? What do they want? So much is unclear. You need to start with clarity. I suggest focusing on the ONE THING most important to Nadari, and what is preventing her from reaching it. You’ve made the same mistake as myself in my own query, which is to include too much information.
PARAGRAPH ONE: makes no sense to me. Not only is there no hook, I don’t understand what’s going on at all here. The first thing you need is clarity. Why is Damage capitalized? And is the second reason the fact that she’s a violinist?
PARAGRAPH TWO: I’m even more lost. There are some clumsy sentences in here…make it flow.
PARAGRAPH THREE: "Nadari must relearn even simple things, like how to walk and how to eat, but not how to play the violin." But we didn’t know she couldn’t do these things. Where in the above text is this conveyed?
BIO: tight and professional.
The good news—and it’s really good news—is the writing sample is stunningly good. I would definitely turn the page. Short, punchy sentences, a great first line—I suspect you have a great deal of talent. The problem is, that talent doesn’t shine through in your query.
Queries are tough. I’m still struggling with mine, as you can see if you look at entry #12.
Keep at it. Remember, don’t try and “stuff it” with too much information. All your job here is to entice. That’s it.
Best of luck,
Spike (aka M.P. “The Key to Okenwode”)

rochelledeans said...

Spike, I was the first one to comment on your query. :) I did notice that.

It's weird how a query gets workshopped to a place with some people and they love it, and others don't think it makes sense at all. I'll wait for agent feedback before revising, but I'll keep your comments in mind. The only one I want to note: Nadari is blind, and she has to re-learn how to walk and eat while blind.

I'm SO glad you like my writing, though! You've been a tough critic on all of the posts here, so the compliment on my writing means even more to me. Thanks!

Kara said...

I really like the voice in your 250, and it seems like you are starting your MS off in the right place. I also love that you used Gathering Blue as a comp title. Good luck!

Melissa Jeglinski said...

Query: I'm completely confused about this plot. Too much information that doesn't feel linear to me. Too long as well. Get to the point in paragraph two, let me know what to expect in paragraph three. And then a little about yourself and end. Short and sweet and to the point.
Also, why the need to initial cap damaged?

Page: I like your voice. This starts out very strong. I'm still a little confused with your world building and I'm sure that will be filled in further along in the manuscript.

Over all: I'd want to read on to know what's going on. Your MC is aloof but be careful she's also relatable or a reader won't connect. Work on trimming your query and getting to the true conflict faster.

Spike Taterman (M.P.) said...

You said: "I'm SO glad you like my writing, though! You've been a tough critic on all of the posts here, so the compliment on my writing means even more to me."
That is exactly why I tell it like I see it (while doing my best not to be disparaging or harmful to fragile psyches). This way, when I like something a lot, you can rest assured I truly mean it. And it seems Melissa liked your writing also!
To the others, I would only say I'm not a big meanie of a guy. I'm a sweetheart, really. Just ask my wife :)