Wednesday, October 26, 2016

An Agent's Inbox #3

Dear Agent: 

I am seeking representation for The Tower, a Young Adult Contemporary told from three points of view, complete at 116,000 words. This story, mixing together love, magic, and grief, brings with it the lessons that tragedy does not discriminate, surviving does not equate to living, and things do not always happen for a reason.

Magic means different things to different people. For Rowyn Black, it is the moment someone looks at her and understands that she’s right when she’s reading their tarot cards, and for a brief moment, their skepticism crumbles. For Rosalyn Stone, it’s finding the right words and the right ingredients to manifest the right outcome. And for Reed Hansen, it is feeling Reiki energy pass under the palms of his hands to heal those it touches. The three of them have been connected since their lives began, and they have weathered both the lighter and darker phases of childhood together. Being raised as pagan witches in southern Illinois has come with a certain expectation of thinly veiled judgment from passers-by on the neatly kept sidewalks. Their friendship, however, comes with the expectation that they will have each other’s backs in those moments. 

When doing a reading, it’s never good for The Tower to show up. It is one of the strongest cards in Major Arcana, and while it doesn’t necessarily mean the end of the world, it doesn’t signify unicorns and daisies either. In the final days of summer, Rowyn is tired of that card staring up at her from the table. She’s also more than a little annoyed by Rosalyn’s incessant nagging that she admit her feelings for Reed. Feelings that do not exist she has no intention of confessing. 

Rowyn’s efforts prove futile, as most people’s do when trying to resist Rosalyn, and she and Reed take a leap of faith from friends to sort-of-something-else. It’s not at all awkward. While Rowyn waits for all of it to blow up in her face, Reed is simply hoping he doesn’t wake up from whatever dream world he’s landed in. Neither of them expects for the universe to make good on the promise of The Tower, given life in the form of a semi-truck crossing over the centerline. Despite their range of talents, they could not have predicted the one person they both love and rely on, maybe more than each other, would end up lying broken and bruised within the cold and sterile walls of the ICU. While the world crashes down around them, Reed and Rowyn must come to terms with the reality that no amount of faith in the universe, talent in witchcraft, or love for one another can change the path set before them. They have to be ready to fight their way to the other side of the chaos to find out who they are in the aftermath, in the new normal. 

For the past eleven years, I have been working with teenagers as an English teacher, and if there is anything I’ve learned from obsessively talking about books with young adult readers, it’s that they want honesty. I try to give that in everything that I write, and this book is no exception. 

As requested, I have included the first two hundred fifty word of below. Thank you for your time.



On our sixteenth birthdays, our kind is gifted with awesome powers.

Except no, not really because this isn’t Narnia, or Hogwarts, or whatever other mythical realm where witches supposedly live. This is Elizabethtown, Illinois, and much to the chagrin of the local chapter of Susie-Homemakers, we live here. 

Chapter One: Rowyn

I felt the skin-crawling sensation brought on by his energy before I heard him. Were it anyone else, I might have just chilled out in the diaper aisle, cursing my mother for sending me on errands until he found whatever fungus ointment he was looking for and moved on. But no. Not with Bobby Stecker. Yeah, his name was actually Bobby. Legally. Like this was a sock hop in 1954. Happily though, that meant his initials were BS, and I enjoyed that kind of a lot.

There really wasn’t any escaping, so I took a deep breath and prepared for whatever high-brow remarks he had for me today. He lumbered down the aisle, never seeming coordinated enough for his large frame. His hair was overgrown, and he smelled faintly of body odor once he got close enough for me to breathe in his stink. Ah, swoon. 

“Hiya, Witch-b****.” He grinned far too broadly about a term he’d coined in sixth grade. He would be a senior this year, meaning he’d be allowed to vote; it made me seriously fear for the future of the country.

“Yes, Bull S***, very good. Those do rhyme.” I cocked my head at him in as condescending a way as I could muster in order to hide how much he got under my skin.


A said...

Isn't 116k kinda long for YA contemp? But if it's urban fantasy or paranormal, then maybe a bit higher word count is okay. I think you can probably trim the sentence "this story, mixing together..." That way we can hurry and get to the exciting parts of your query! I think you've got a great start to a query, but it needs some trimming.

I like your opening lines! But I'm not sure why the curse words are asterisked? Maybe that's just the formatting of the blog, and if that's the case, ignore me. Otherwise, I like your 250. Sucks me into the school scene and made me curious for more.

Cody Delperdang said...

Agree...seems a touch long but I am very much drawn in. The 250 is good; love the banter between characters. I'm not a big reader of this type of stuff, but it does seem like a fun read.

The Agent said...

I stopped reading the query immediately. It appears way too long for a YA Contemporary PLUS it has 3 POVs! It is very difficult for debut authors to pull off two distinct narrators, let alone three.

W. Tomczyk said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
W. Tomczyk said...

Thanks A, Cody, and Agent for your feedback! The length has been my biggest inner conflict, but after this, I am committed to cutting an entire subplot and at least 25k. I really appreciate your thoughts on the 250!

This is the fifth YA novel I've written, and I feel good about the three points of view and how they read, but I respect and appreciate the opinion and the feedback. Thanks so much for your time!

Brianne Zwambag said...

Just glancing at this query, I thought it was quite long. Queries are meant to be short, succinct and leave the agent wanting more. But once I got reading, it made me kind of think of Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes. Word counts for YA should be between 55-90K as a general rule, so I wouldn't lead with the fact that it's 116K words and multiple POV. You're going to need an agent to fall in love with the concept and not be immediately turned off by the word count. The query itself reads a bit more like a synopsis, so I'd pull most of it out and expand it to have a 1-2 page synopsis ready in case it is requested!
For your query, I would suggest kicking off with the first line and following paragraph that you have listed in your 250 words! It's a hook and a lead in to the book (and then I'd remove it from the first 250 words as it seems a little random and I'd rather just get in to the story), and it's quite intriguing. And so full of voice! Then condense the stakes and conflict of the novel in to 1-2 more paragraphs below it. Then tell them the novel stats and your bio.
Good luck!

W. Tomczyk said...

Thanks so much Brianne! Your comments are really helpful, and I do like the idea of bumping the intro line from the 250 into the top of the query! I've also decided to re-edit this as a duology, so my Book One will now only be 63k. Thankfully there was a natural breaking point. Hoping this helps with the scary word-count turn-off for this query ;). Thanks again!