The Whip-Slip query

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thewhipslip
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The Whip-Slip query

Post by thewhipslip » July 15th, 2010, 2:46 pm

REVISED QUERY ON PAGE 6


Taking a break before doing nit-pick edits on my final draft, so I'm prepping for query season. This is my 150th millionth versionth of this. I'm looking for brutal honesty. The people I know have read the book already and are too familiar with it to really gauge if it makes sense or not. This is basic format. I will change the details at the end to tailor to specific agents based on what they're looking for, who they represent, etc. This is also meant for e-queries only - easier readability. Hard copies will be more compact. Have at it:


Dear [Agent],

Crack the Whip or let it Slip, the motto for a centuries-old war fought by soldiers endowed with the power of Life: the Slips, and those with the power of Death: the Whips. With one touch, the Slips can heal all illnesses and ailments. With another, the Whips can flood your system with the symptoms of any disease on Web M.D.

The people that say opposites attract have never seen the Whips and Slips locked in a room together.

17-year-old Thea Vans is that room. She’s a Hybrid – and not the environmentally-friendly kind. Hybrids are the rare children born of a Whip and Slip, but locking two enemy powers in one body? Not exactly conducive to staying alive…

So how come Thea’s bucket never kicked?

She doesn’t even know it was supposed to, and the only war she’s aware of is the one inside of her. Having the power of Life and Death isn’t so great when the formless being living in your head is the one who controls them. Cue Left-Hander, who has the temperament of a two-year-old and uses the Whip side to express herself. When Thea’s not running from high school classmates for inexplicably causing nosebleeds, coughing fits, and the occasional episode of projectile-vomiting, she tolerates the lectures of her guardian, Uncle Trenton, who’s firmly against telling Thea who – or what – she is. Or what she’s meant to do.

Trenton warns her to hide what she’s capable of, even from her best friend, Tully. There will be consequences if she doesn’t. And she really does try, honest –

Until a group of Whips track her down and turn the local high school hangout into a scene from George Romero’s latest zombie flick.

What? You think she’s just going to sit there?

Playing the hero with Left-Hander’s reluctant aid, Thea fends them off but gets kidnapped by one of the attackers in the process. He’s the one who tells her the truth: she’s a weapon of mass destruction – one that’s killed on sight.

Gulp.

When the Slips find them, overwhelm her kidnapper, and mistake Thea for a long-lost member of their Slip tribe, what choice does she have but to lie? Now that they’ve found her, she can’t go back to high school – so she’ll have to keep her Hybridity a secret.

Easy.

Right, Left-Hander?

Left-Hander? You there?

THE WHIP-SLIP is a 90,000-word young adult fantasy novel that will fit well alongside the works of your clients xxx & xxx. Beyond the Whip-Slip series, I have three additional series outlined, all in the young adult genre.

Sincerely,
Last edited by thewhipslip on September 28th, 2010, 1:47 pm, edited 5 times in total.
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wilderness
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Re: The Whip-Slip query

Post by wilderness » July 15th, 2010, 3:51 pm

It's cute, but I feel some of the cuteness is coming at the expense of clarity and plot. So Left-Hander is a voice in her head? Why does being a hybrid give her a voice in her head? I would think she just has twice the powers -- what's the problem? Where are the other hybrids?
When the Slips find them, overwhelm her kidnapper, and mistake Thea for a long-lost member of their Slip tribe, what choice does she have but to lie? Now that they’ve found her, she can’t go back to high school – so she’ll have to keep her Hybridity a secret.
I don't quite follow this. Why can't she go back to high school? I'm a bit confused about the society altogether. Does everyone know about Whips and Slips? Tell us a little more about their world.

As for the formatting, I personally am not a fan of all the paragraph breaks. I think 3 compact paragraphs read easier, whether in email or on paper.

Nice voice and interesting ideas. Just needs a bit more focus.

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Re: The Whip-Slip query

Post by thewhipslip » July 15th, 2010, 4:00 pm

Thanks, wilderness! That's exactly the kind of crit I'm looking for. I think you're right - I need to focus the ending of this a bit more. That's where it really drops off. I'm going to see if more comments come in and get a revision together. Thanks again!
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Re: The Whip-Slip query

Post by sbs_mjc1 » July 15th, 2010, 4:15 pm

You have an interesting premise, but I think you can really pare this query down (also, cut back on the jokes and idioms-- it is distracting, and can seem unprofessional). What you need is to lay out the premise, the main character, and the core conflict. The reader doesn't need an intense plot breakdown, just the main decisions and trials facing the lead character.
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Re: The Whip-Slip query

Post by EvelynEhrlich » July 15th, 2010, 4:59 pm

Good voice and premise, but I have to admit that you lost me on the query. I think it needs to be tightened up, and, as the other commenters noted, you can cut back on the jokes. They feel like an outside narrator interrupting the story with his own commentary and a completely different voice.

Some notes below, hope they help and don't come across as too harsh.
thewhipslip wrote:Dear [Agent],

Crack the Whip or let it Slip, the motto for a centuries-old war fought by soldiers endowed with the power of Life: the Slips, and those with the power of Death: the Whips. This first sentence is a bit hard to read. The first thing that threw me off was the capitalization choices in the motto. It makes sense after you read the rest of the sentence (and realize that Whips and Slips are races), but it's a bit confusing to start with. The other thing that threw me off was the use of two colons within the same sentence. With one touch, the Slips can heal all illnesses and ailments. With another, the Whips can flood your system with the symptoms of any disease on Web M.D. A little jarring to go from imagery of a centuries-old war to "Web MD." I think I see where you're trying to go with this, that the historical conflict is backstory for modern-day Thea, but the sudden mention of Web M.D. seemed reverse-anachronistic to me.

The people that say opposites attract have never seen the Whips and Slips locked in a room together. I don't think you need this line.

17-year-old Thea Vans is that room.Understand what you're saying, but it's a little weird to describe someone as a "room". Is there another way to put it? Maybe a "living, breathing conflict" or a "walking war"? (Sorry, my brain's not working for me today on suggestions.) She’s a Hybrid, – and not the environmentally-friendly kind. Hybrids arethe rare children born of a Whip and Slip,. but lLocking two enemy powers in one body is ? Nnot exactly conducive to staying alive…

So how come Thea’s bucket never kicked? This is the narrator interrupting the flow of the story. I'd take it out.

She should have died long ago because most Hybrids don't live beyond [age]. [Or something like that to substitute for your previous sentence.] She doesn’t even know itshe was supposed to, and the only war she’s aware of is the one inside of her. Having the powers (plural, since you refer to the powers as "them" later in the sentence) of Life and Death isn’t so great when the formless being living in your head is the one who controls them. Cue Left-Hander "Cue Left-hander" sounds like the narrator interrupting the story again, and it's not entirely clear that Left-Hander = the formless being living in Thea's head , who has the temperament of a two-year-old and uses the Whip side to express herself. When Thea’s not running from high school classmates for inexplicably causing nosebleeds, coughing fits, and the occasional episode of projectile-vomiting, she tolerates the lectures of her guardian, Uncle Trenton, who’s firmly against telling Thea who – or what – she is. Or what she’s meant to do. Ah, here's the introduction of conflict. I think everything leading up to these last lines could be condensed. You want to give the agent the relevant background, but you also want to get the agent to the conflict (at least the first one) quickly.

Trenton warns her to hide what she’s capable of, even from her best friend, Tully. There will be consequences if she doesn’t. And she really does try, honest –

Until a group of Whips track her down and turn the local high school hangout into a scene from George Romero’s latest zombie flick.
What? You think she’s just going to sit there?

Playing the hero with Left-Hander’s reluctant aid, Thea fends them off but gets kidnapped by one of the attackers in the process. He’s the one who tells her the truth: she’s a weapon of mass destruction – one that’s killed on sight. Interesting, but it begs the question: Why don't they kill her on sight?
Gulp.

When the Slips find them, overwhelm her kidnapper, and mistake Thea for a long-lost member of their Slip owntribe, what choice does she have but to lie? Now that they’ve found her, she can’t go back to high school why not? – so she’ll have to keep her Hybridity a secret. Easier said than done. (Or something concise that boils down the main conflict/teaser).
Easy.

Right, Left-Hander?

Left-Hander? You there?


THE WHIP-SLIP is a 90,000-word young adult fantasy novel that will fit well alongside the works of your clients xxx & xxx. Beyond the Whip-Slip series, I have three additional series outlined, all in the young adult genre.Focus on only one manuscript at a time. If the agent is interested in this book, you can mention your other work at that time.

Sincerely,

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Re: The Whip-Slip query

Post by Quill » July 15th, 2010, 5:11 pm

At 449 words this is too long, and you haven't even added your last paragraph specifics. Shoot for 250-350 words.
thewhipslip wrote:
Dear [Agent],

Crack the Whip or let it Slip, the motto for a centuries-old war fought by soldiers endowed with the power of Life: the Slips, and those with the power of Death: the Whips. With one touch, the Slips can heal all illnesses and ailments. With another, the Whips can flood your system with the symptoms of any disease on Web M.D.

This is too technical for the first paragraph. The motto means nothing to me, and is a confusing beginning. At the least revamp the first sentence which begins with an incomplete sentence, then plows onward through two colons.
The people that say opposites attract have never seen the Whips and Slips locked in a room together.
I think this can be safely omitted. Let's get to the protagonist and the story.
17-year-old Thea Vans is that room.
She's a room? This intro doesn't work for me.
She’s a Hybrid – and not the environmentally-friendly kind.
Okay, I was seeing this as a fantasy epic. Now I'm thinking comedy?
Hybrids are the rare children born of a Whip and Slip, but locking two enemy powers in one body?
You're asking me? Awkward, or too cute.

Not exactly conducive to staying alive…

So how come Thea’s bucket never kicked?
The voice is maybe too slick for its own good. Voice is trumping story, which I don't think you want.
She doesn’t even know it was supposed to,
What, her bucket to kick? Convoluted and based on a cliche.
and the only war she’s aware of is the one inside of her.
Okay, this sounds important.
Having the power of Life and Death isn’t so great when the formless being living in your head is the one who controls them. Cue Left-Hander, who has the temperament of a two-year-old and uses the Whip side to express herself.
Let's not "cue" Left-Hander, let's explain how she's come to have a formless being in her head. I thought she was a hybrid, which sounds bad enough. What's this "being" about?
When Thea’s not running from high school classmates for inexplicably causing nosebleeds, coughing fits, and the occasional episode of projectile-vomiting, she tolerates the lectures of her guardian, Uncle Trenton, who’s firmly against telling Thea who – or what – she is. Or what she’s meant to do.
Sounds like we're meandering now. Gone from deadly war (of which we know little), to hybrid protagonist, to giving stage directions to a "being", to Exorcist scenes, to an Uncle giving lectures. I think we're lacking a central thread, the main conflict, the plot.
Trenton warns her to hide what she’s capable of, even from her best friend, Tully. There will be consequences if she doesn’t. And she really does try, honest –

Until a group of Whips track her down and turn the local high school hangout into a scene from George Romero’s latest zombie flick.
This all comes down to a high school story? Why don't you set this up at the beginning so we know where we're headed. Which genre.
What? You think she’s just going to sit there?

Playing the hero with Left-Hander’s reluctant aid, Thea fends them off but gets kidnapped by one of the attackers in the process. He’s the one who tells her the truth: she’s a weapon of mass destruction – one that’s killed on sight.

Gulp.

When the Slips find them, overwhelm her kidnapper, and mistake Thea for a long-lost member of their Slip tribe, what choice does she have but to lie? Now that they’ve found her, she can’t go back to high school – so she’ll have to keep her Hybridity a secret.

Easy.

Right, Left-Hander?

Left-Hander? You there?
Seems all of this could be cut. Reads like a little play, which I don't think works in a query.

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Re: The Whip-Slip query

Post by AnimaDictio » July 15th, 2010, 5:21 pm

I hope my observations aren't too nit-picky. I really like the concept, but the writing seems awkward (or not logical) in places. It leaves me with annoying questions. But this is going to be a fun story if the book is as lively as this query.
Dear Agent,

Crack the Whip or let it Slip, the motto for a centuries-old war fought by soldiers endowed with the power of Life: the Slips, and those with the power of Death: the Whips.The Whips and Slips share a motto? Seems odd for enemies. With one touch, the Slips can heal all illnesses and ailments. With another, the Whips can flood your system with the symptoms of any disease on Web M.D.

The people that say opposites attract have never seen the Whips and Slips locked in a room together. Funny!

17-year-old Thea Vans is that room. She’s a Hybrid – and not the environmentally-friendly kind. (*groan*) Hybrids are the rare children born of a Whip and Slip, but locking two enemy powers in one body? Not exactly conducive to staying alive

So how come Thea’s bucket never kicked? How about "So how come Thea's bucket aint kicked?" or "So how come Thea hasn't kicked the bucket?" Your choice feels awkward.

She doesn’t even know it was supposed to, So, if she knew she was supposed to be dead, then she'd die? How is her knowing related to her dying? I'm a little lost.and the only war she’s aware of is the one inside of her. Having the power of Life and Death isn’t so great when a the formless being living in your head is the one who controls them. Cue Left-Hander, who has the temperament of a two-year-old and uses the Whip side to express herself. So Left-Hander is the formless being? When Thea’s not running from high school classmates for inexplicably causing nosebleeds, coughing fits, and the occasional episode of projectile-vomiting, she tolerates the lectures of her guardian, Uncle Trenton, who’s firmly against telling Thea who – or what – she is. Or what she’s meant to do.

Trenton warns her to hide what she’s capable of Wait, I thought her capabilities were a closely guarded secret. Now he's warning her about her capabilities?, even from her best friend, Tully. There will be consequences if she doesn’t. And she really does try, honest –

Until a group of Whips track her down and turn the local high school hangout into a scene from George Romero’s latest zombie flick.

What? You think she’s just going to sit there?

Playing the hero with Left-Hander’s reluctant aid, Thea fends them off but gets kidnapped by one of the attackers in the process. He’s the one who tells her the truth: she’s a weapon of mass destruction – one that’s killed on sight. Maybe you should say who would kill her on sight and/or use a helping verb, like "one that would be killed on sight." Just a thought.

Gulp.

When the Slips find them, overwhelm her kidnapper, and mistake Thea for a long-lost member of their Slip tribe, what choice does she have but to lie? Now that they’ve found her, she can’t go back to high school – so she’ll have to keep her Hybridity This word ... I don't know. a secret.

Easy.

Right, Left-Hander?

Left-Hander? You there?

THE WHIP-SLIP is a 90,000-word young adult fantasy novel that will fit well alongside the works of your clients xxx & xxx. Beyond the Whip-Slip series, I have three additional series outlined, all in the young adult genre.

Sincerely,

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Re: The Whip-Slip query

Post by AnimaDictio » July 15th, 2010, 5:25 pm

What? You think she’s just going to sit there?

Playing the hero with Left-Hander’s reluctant aid, Thea fends them off but gets kidnapped by one of the attackers in the process. He’s the one who tells her the truth: she’s a weapon of mass destruction – one that’s killed on sight.

Gulp.

When the Slips find them, overwhelm her kidnapper, and mistake Thea for a long-lost member of their Slip tribe, what choice does she have but to lie? Now that they’ve found her, she can’t go back to high school – so she’ll have to keep her Hybridity a secret.

Easy.

Right, Left-Hander?

Left-Hander? You there?
Seems all of this could be cut. Reads like a little play, which I don't think works in a query.
Quill, I disagree. I think the ending is the best part of the query. If she properly sets up Left-Hander, that ending could be the clincher. I'm talking specifically about the lines. "Easy. Right, Left-Hander? Left-Hander? You there?" It gives me the sense that though she resents this being inside her, she also relies upon him or it.

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Re: The Whip-Slip query

Post by Quill » July 15th, 2010, 5:47 pm

You're saying dramatization in a query works for you?

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Re: The Whip-Slip query

Post by thewhipslip » July 15th, 2010, 5:51 pm

Hi everyone. Wow, thanks so much!

Okay, I've got a lot of elements to work with. I'm brainstorming a bit on how to simplify. I was too concerned about letting my "voice" come through, but it's apparent that the jokes are too heavy-handed. I'll have a revision up shortly.

Thank you very much for the comments - they are much appreciated!
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Re: The Whip-Slip query

Post by AnimaDictio » July 15th, 2010, 6:27 pm

I'm not promising I'll like all dramatization in queries, but this entertained me.

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Re: The Whip-Slip query

Post by wilderness » July 15th, 2010, 8:04 pm

Quill wrote:You're saying dramatization in a query works for you?
I think it's important not to red-line all the voice out of a query. I agree with you that in its current form, the query is too long and we still don't have the plot specifics. But there is a balance. Yes, by all means, include your inciting incident and conflict, but there is no substitute for voice. Whether or not the voice works for you, it leaves a lasting impression, right?

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Re: The Whip-Slip query

Post by Quill » July 15th, 2010, 8:51 pm

By dramatization I mean it sounds like dialog in places. I think narrative description works better in a query pitch.

About voice all I'm saying is that story should never be upstaged by voice in a query. Do you disagree?

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Re: The Whip-Slip query

Post by wilderness » July 15th, 2010, 9:14 pm

Quill wrote:By dramatization I mean it sounds like dialog in places. I think narrative description works better in a query pitch.
I think it's cute, funny, and hopefully reflects the voice of the novel.
Quill wrote:About voice all I'm saying is that story should never be upstaged by voice in a query. Do you disagree?
Not at all, there should be a balance. We do want to learn the plot as well.

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Re: The Whip-Slip query

Post by jkmcdonnell » July 16th, 2010, 12:05 am

There's real potential here, but it feels like you're overselling it. The biggest problem is it's too long (which I know you've heard already, sorry!), but it's also confusing in places.
thewhipslip wrote: Dear [Agent],

Crack the Whip or let it Slip, the motto for a centuries-old war fought by soldiers endowed with the power of Life: the Slips; and those with the power of Death: the Whips [This sentence feels like a fragment (unresolved), and like it's an odd place to begin the query]. With one touch, the Slips can heal all illnesses and ailments. With another, the Whips can flood your system with the symptoms of any disease on Web M.D. [the modern reference doesn't really fit with idea of 'soldiers' and 'centuries-old war'. I'd also combine the two first sentences (maybe the third sentence too) - something like "For centuries, the war between Whips and Slips has been a battle of Life and Death - literally" etc.].

The people that say opposites attract have never seen the Whips and Slips locked in a room together.

17-year-old Thea Vans is that room [could be a stronger analogy]. She’s a Hybrid – and not the environmentally-friendly kind [Cutesy, but I love it]. Hybrids are the rare children born of a Whip and Slip, but locking two enemy powers in one body? Not exactly conducive to staying alive… [Why? Are these powers at war within her body? Or is she hunted/wanted for having both these abilities in her body?]

So how come Thea’s bucket never kicked?

She doesn’t even know it was supposed to, and the only war she’s aware of is the one inside of her [Confusing. Does she know she has both powers? Does she know who her parents were/are? Why is the reader made aware of this if the MC is not?]. Having the power of Life and Death isn’t so great when the formless being living in your head is the one who controls them [This weirds me out]. Cue Left-Hander, who has the temperament of a two-year-old and uses the Whip side to express herself. When Thea’s not running from high school classmates for inexplicably causing nosebleeds, coughing fits, and the occasional episode of projectile-vomiting [... caused by Left-Hander? Does she have no control over it whatsoever?], she tolerates the lectures of her guardian, Uncle Trenton, who’s firmly against telling Thea who – or what – she is. Or what she’s meant to do [Way too vague. I get the MC is being kept in the dark, but this needs to be a little more foreboding - is there some sort of prophecy involved? Was she created for a reason - as a weapon or something? Perhaps just offer the reader some idea of what Thea, as a Hybrid, is capable of].

Trenton warns her to hide what she’s capable of, even from her best friend, Tully. There will be consequences if she doesn’t. And she really does try, honest – [join sentences] until a group of Whips track her down and turn the local high school hangout into a scene from George Romero’s latest zombie flick [not sure of all the quips. Is this the same voice your story employs? These sentences need to cut down; is Tully necessary to mention?].

What? You think she’s just going to sit there? [I'd avoid the second-person references. This is also a chance to reveal more of Thea: maybe "But Thea's not the type of girl to ... (because of her)... " etc.]

Playing the hero with Left-Hander’s reluctant aid, Thea fends them off but gets kidnapped by one of the attackers in the process. He’s the one who tells her the truth: she’s a weapon of mass destruction – one that’s killed on sight ['weapon of mass destruction' is slightly awesome. Is there anything here about Thea struggling to control the powers that can potentially kill a lot of people at once? 'One that's killed on sight' is awkward; I'd rephrase.].

Gulp.

When the Slips find them, overwhelm her kidnapper, and mistake Thea for a long-lost member of their Slip tribe, what choice does she have but to lie? Now that they’ve found her, she can’t go back to high school – so she’ll have to keep her Hybridity a secret.

Easy.

Right, Left-Hander?

Left-Hander? You there? [This could be tighter. I'd scrap these last few lines, and mention the issues with Left-Hander/her lack of control in the above paragraph.]

THE WHIP-SLIP is a 90,000-word young adult fantasy novel that will fit well alongside the works of your clients xxx & xxx. Beyond the Whip-Slip series, I have three additional series outlined, all in the young adult genre.

Sincerely,

Some thoughts:
- Whips and Slips don't really work for me: too similar, too confusing. I know it works with the first quippy line/motto, but other than that it seems to have no association to the powers of Life and Death, making that first line feel forced: 'Cracking' Death? 'Slipping' Life?
- If it's so rare for a Hybrid to be born, how did Thea's parents get together & get it on? (Blunt, sorry.) But seriously, do her parents have relevance to the story at all?
- Biggest problem for me: there's no real internal struggle for the MC here, other than her muddled-up powers. How does she feel about it all? Is she lost? Scared? Confused? How does she get along with her family/friends and (apparently) without her parents?
- You need to identify areas you can cut it down, probably by at least 150-200 words. The first paragraph can lose a lot of detail as all that backstory seems to clog the beginning of the query and weigh it down. Just get in the names, the powers, and their opposites sides in the war.


Nice start, though, and I hope this helped. Good luck!

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