Query for Book of the Watchers-YA Horror *A new angle*

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Query for Book of the Watchers-YA Horror *A new angle*

Post by bookwatcher » July 22nd, 2010, 1:05 am

Please see end of the post for current query. Thanks!

I've been away for awhile because I've re-edited my story. I'm now ready to dive head first (ouch) into the query pool again. Thanks in advance for all of you who rip it apart. I want it good and my thin skin has put on a few more layers. So bring it on! :)

Dear Agent,

Seventeen-year-old Sara Charles lives in a small town with her parents and her younger sister. Her life is less than ordinary. She's clumsy, shy to the point of passing out and has carefully avoided people her entire life. She's in the middle of her junior year of high school when she discovers the reason for her void life--she's cursed.

David is also seventeen and living in the same small town. He's tall and rib-poking skinny and avoids others, too. He has a secret, though. One he's kept since he was a child. David has the power to calm others' minds with the touch of his hand.

Sara and David know each other from school, but what brought them together was a dream. A dream where they came face to face with a Native American who tells Sara he's come for her soul.

Because of David's gift, they are pulled together into the Dream Realm where Sara's will to live is tested and broken. When she wakes up with real injuries they work together to hide their secret life from her parents.

Her nightmare continues as she discovers her sister is called into the dreams as a Watcher. She's called to keep a record of everything that happens to Sara in a book called the Book of Watchers.

This ancient book carries a record of all the cursed souls from the time the curse was placed. In it, they learn their fates have already been determined: They both will die. One must sacrifice life, the other will lose their soul, forever trapped in the Dream Realm.

BOOK OF THE WATCHERS is a 79,000 word YA/Teen Fantasy.
Last edited by bookwatcher on September 23rd, 2010, 10:07 pm, edited 9 times in total.

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Re: Query for Book of the Watchers-YA Fantasy

Post by Krista G. » July 22nd, 2010, 2:33 am

bookwatcher wrote:Dear Agent,

Seventeen year-old (You missed the hyphen between "seventeen" and "year") Sara Charles lives in a small town with her parents and her younger sister. Her life is less than ordinary. She's clumsy, shy to the point of passing out (My favorite line of the query:) ) and has carefully avoided people her entire life. She's in the middle of her junior year of high school when she discovers the reason for her void life--she's cursed. It's tough to end on a cliffhanger like this and then not explain it in the next paragraph.

David is also seventeen living in the same small town. I think this sentence might work a little better with an "and" between "seventeen" and "living." He's tall and rib poking skinny and avoids others, too. I'd hyphenate "rib poking." He has a secret, though. One he's kept since he was a child. David has the power to calm others' minds with the touch of his hand.

Sara and David meet in real life, but what brought them together was a dream. A dream where they came face to face with a Native American who tells Sara he's come for her soul, and David can't save her. The sentence fragment in the previous paragraph was all right, but having another follow this closely on its heels was distracting. Also, how do they meet in real life if they only know each other through a dream? And how does that work? And why would David expect to be able to save her?

Because of David's gift, they are pulled together into the Dream Realm where Sara's will to live is tested and broken. When she wakes up with real injuries they work together to hide their secret life from her parents.

Her nightmare continues as she discovers her sister is called into the dreams as a Watcher; called to keep a record of everything that happens to Sara in a book called the Book of Watchers. I'm not digging the semicolon. And I still don't really understand how this Dream Realm works. How is her sister "called into the dreams"?

This ancient book carries a record of all the cursed souls from the time the curse was placed. In it, they learn their fates have already been determined: They both will die. One must sacrifice life, the other will lose their soul, forever trapped in the Dream Realm. Well, that stinks. I assume there's some way to change their fate, or else why would we read a whole book about them...?

BOOK OF THE WATCHERS is a 79,000 word YA/Teen Fantasy that takes place in modern day Southwest New Mexico. I wouldn't mention the setting here. If it's important to you, you might replace "a small town" in the first paragraph with the city and state.
Giving us a better sense of the Dream Realm will go a long way, I think. Good luck!
Author of THE REGENERATED MAN (G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers, Winter 2015)
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Re: Query for Book of the Watchers-YA Fantasy

Post by atdeluca » July 22nd, 2010, 8:33 am

Sara and David meet in real life, but what brought them together was a dream.
This is where I stopped reading. Since the dream is mentioned in the second half of the sentence, when I first read the words "meet in real life," I thought it seemed, oh I dunno... online-y. The "real life" part should only be mentioned if the dream has already been touched upon. Perhaps

"The two cross paths after a dream (premonition maybe?) draws them to each other." I mean, you'd probably want something a little better (it's early and my brain isn't in writing mode yet), but you get the idea.

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Re: Query for Book of the Watchers-YA Fantasy

Post by bookwatcher » July 22nd, 2010, 12:41 pm

Thanks for the feedback so far. I've changed some of the grammatical errors so that hopefully it won't get in the way of what's written.

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Re: Query for Book of the Watchers-YA Fantasy

Post by wilderness » July 22nd, 2010, 5:08 pm

bookwatcher wrote: Dear Agent,

Seventeen-year-old Sara Charles lives in a small town with her parents and her younger sister. It doesn't matter that she lives in a small town with her parents and younger sister. Her life is less than ordinary. This is Telling. Start with the next sentence: "Seventeen-year-old Sara Charles is clumsy..." She's clumsy, shy to the point of passing out and has carefully avoided people her entire life. She's in the middle of her junior year of high school when she discovers the reason for her void life--she's cursed.

David is also seventeen and living in the same small town. He's tall and rib-poking skinny and avoids others, too. He has a secret, though. One he's kept since he was a child. David has the power to calm others' minds with the touch of his hand. Leave out the boring stuff! The fact that he is tall is not interesting. This can be reduced to "David, Sara's classmate, also avoids others because he can calm others' minds with the touch of his hand." Also, why does this cause him to avoid others? You'd think everyone would be his best friend as a result.


Sara and David know each other from school, but what brought them together was a dream. A dream where they came face to face with a Native American who tells Sara he's come for her soul. This has a weird flow. How about simply "Sara and David are brought together in a dream where they come face to face..."

Because of David's gift, they are pulled together into the Dream Realm where Sara's will to live is tested and broken. When she wakes up with real injuries they work together to hide their secret life from her parents. Huh? First there is repetitive information-- we already know they are pulled together in a dream. What does David's gift have to do with anything? "Sara's will to live is tested and broken" -- way too vague; I don't get anything out of that. What happened to cause her injuries? I think you can leave out the part about hiding their secret lives from their parents.

Her nightmare continues as she discovers her sister is called into the dreams as a Watcher. She's called to keep a record of everything that happens to Sara in a book called the Book of Watchers. What is a Watcher? What is the Book of Watcher? Who called Sara's sister? Repetitive sentences: you mention her sister is called twice -- you could combine into one sentence.

This ancient book carries a record of all the cursed souls from the time the curse was placed. In it, they learn their fates have already been determined: They both will die. One must sacrifice life, the other will lose their soul, forever trapped in the Dream Realm. So what are they going to do about it?

BOOK OF THE WATCHERS is a 79,000 word YA/Teen Fantasy.
Okay, consider it ripped. I think this could be an interesting/scary story about a dream world. Watch the repetition, leave out boring details, and explain your Dream Realm more clearly. This could be good with rearranged focus on the dream world.

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Re: Query for Book of the Watchers-YA Fantasy

Post by wilderness » July 22nd, 2010, 5:33 pm

Btw, what I mean by "boring details" is anything that is not particularly unique or significant to the plot. There is plenty of time to describe what your character looks like in the novel, but if it doesn't affect the plot then it doesn't belong in the query. The types of details that should be included are the ones that make your story unique and interesting, and perhaps to show a sense of your voice.

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Re: Query for Book of the Watchers-YA Fantasy

Post by bookwatcher » July 22nd, 2010, 5:45 pm

Yes, I consider that ripped! ha! Thanks. :)

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Re: Query for Book of the Watchers-YA Fantasy

Post by Quill » July 22nd, 2010, 6:40 pm

I see the opening post has been changed five times, which seems confusing. I would like to see new queries posted in line in the thread so I can follow their progression upward toward perfection!

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Re: Query for Book of the Watchers-YA Fantasy

Post by thewhipslip » July 22nd, 2010, 6:57 pm

bookwatcher wrote:
Dear Agent,

Seventeen-year-old Sara Charles lives in a small town with her parents and her younger sister I agree with the others that this is not how you want to start your query. That first line is supposed to be the 'hook". I think you know what it needs to do.. Her life is less than ordinary. She's clumsy, shy to the point of passing out and has carefully avoided people her entire life. She's in the middle of her junior year of high school when she discovers the reason for her void life void life? is that some new kind of slang?--she's cursed.

David is also seventeen and living in the same small town. He's tall and rib-poking skinny what are the ribs poking? through his skin?and avoids others, too. He has a secret, though. One he's kept since he was a child. David has the power to calm others' minds with the touch of his hand.

What happened to Sara's story? You lead us on with cursed part and then talk about David. To be honest: I care about Sara. Not David. Who's the main character of this?

Sara and David know each other from school, but what brought them together was a dream. A dream where they came face to face with a Native American who tells Sara he's come for her soul. Huh? Dream-sharing?

Because of David's gift, they are pulled together into the Dream Realm where Sara's will to live is tested and broken. Why because of David's gift? How does calming others' minds with his hand make him a dream aficionado?When she wakes up with real injuries they work together to hide their secret life from her parents. What secret life? You've lost me.

Her nightmare continues as she discovers her sister is called into the dreams as a Watcher. She's called to keep a record of everything that happens to Sara in a book called the Book of Watchers. What do the Watchers do? You know the Buffy reference right? You may have to change this...

This ancient book carries a record of all the cursed souls from the time the curse was placed. In it, they learn their fates have already been determined: They both will die. One must sacrifice life, the other will lose their soul, forever trapped in the Dream Realm. What's the curse exactly? That she's goign to die? What's the difference between losing life and losing a soul?

BOOK OF THE WATCHERS is a 79,000 word YA/Teen Fantasy.
Okay, here's your query told in a massively simplistic way (from what I can gather here):

- Sara's shy. She doesn't talk to her fellow students much - so why is she having dreams with them?
- Talk about the shared dream with David and the Indian who wants her soul.
- They run from him and are stuck in a dream realm (maybe?)
- When they wake up, Sara's been injured badly, and her sister's got a new job. That of Watcher. Now that Sara's been pulled into the dream world, she can't escape it, and her sister's been delegated to watch as Sara's soul is slowly ripped away from her by the Indian guy (maybe? this is stuff I'm guessing about the plot- I also don't know what the purpose of the Watchers are. Why would they need this book written? And what exactly is the CURSE?

What you really have to do: tie the curse, David, the American Indian, this Dream World, and her sister being Watcher together. All of these things could be separate books. How do they fit into one?

Hope this helps!


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Re: Query for Book of the Watchers-YA Fantasy

Post by bookwatcher » July 22nd, 2010, 7:39 pm

Thanks for all the ripping! lol I'm going to go work on what I have some more and re-post it (instead of changing what's already there. You'll have to forgive me, I'm not a very computer savvy person). :)

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Re: Query for Book of the Watchers-YA Fantasy

Post by bookwatcher » July 23rd, 2010, 1:52 am

I hope I posted this right. Okay, I took all of your advice (hopefully in the right direction) and redid my synopsis. I tried to only give facts that pertain to the plot. Am I any closer? (please, oh please) Does any one else feel migraines come on the instant they hear the word query, or is that just me?
Shred away!

Dear Agent,

"Seventeen-year-old Sara Charles is clumsy, shy to the point of passing out and has carefully avoided people her entire life. In the middle of her junior year of high school she discovers there's a reason for her void life--she's cursed.

Several hundred years ago, a Native American sorcerer severed the link between the four elements and the chosen vessels meant to carry all of them, the Quintessence. Sara is one of these vessels. Without her ability to hold any element with in her, she is empty.

Now the Dream Realm, with all it's cursed souls, calls to Sara through her dreams, promising her a life of slavery.

"David, Sara's classmate, holds the single element of earth. The spirit of the earth flows through him, giving him the special ability to calm others with the touch of his hand. For the first time in his life, he's found a purpose for his ability, to help Sara.

When the Dream Realm calls to Sara, David's power links him to her, bringing him in as well. His touch can keep the enslaved souls from harming her while she's there.

There is one more person linked to Sara through this curse. She is the Watcher, called to record all that happens in the Dream Realm in an ancient Native American book, The Book of the Watchers.

This book holds the record of all the cursed souls from the time the curse was placed. In it, Sara learns her fate has already been determined: She will die. Unless they can unlock the key to undoing the curse.

BOOK OF THE WATCHERS is a 79,000 word YA/Teen Fantasy.
Last edited by bookwatcher on July 27th, 2010, 11:26 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Query for Book of the Watchers-YA Fantasy

Post by bookwatcher » July 23rd, 2010, 11:43 pm

Question for anyone who reads my query-does it sound like it should be listed under horror rather than fantasy? I just read a YA book listed under horror "The Forest of Hands and Teeth" and it got me thinking maybe I'm in the wrong genre.

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Re: Query for Book of the Watchers-YA Fantasy *updated*

Post by John Dillon » July 24th, 2010, 5:22 pm

bookwatcher wrote:
"Seventeen-year-old Sara Charles has always been clumsy and shy to the point of passing out[.] In the middle of her junior year of high school she discovers why--she's cursed.

Nice hook.

Several hundred years ago, a Native American sorcerer severed the link between the four elements and the chosen vessels meant to carry all of them, the Quintessence. Sara is one of these vessels.

These sentences confuse me. The Quintessence is multiple vessels? Is Sara really several hundred years old? No matter the answer, how has Sara ended up with this curse/gift/ability?

Without her ability to hold any element within her, she is empty. I think this is a great idea, if I understand it correctly (i.e., Sara is shy because she is an empty vessel), but you need to be a little more direct with this idea, if that is the idea, otherwise, I'm lost. Also, the use of without and within in this sentence is a little wonky in and of itself. Do you mean that Sara feels empty when she, as a vessel, is empty of an element?

Now the Dream Realm, with all its cursed souls, calls to Sara through her dreams and promises her a life of slavery. Some promise!!! maybe "threatening her with". Either way, I think you need to explain this Dream Realm further. I have to admit, however, that I'm not a fantasy reader, so if this is a term that your readers will already be familiar with, never mind.

"David, Sara's classmate, is also a vessel. He holds the single element of earth. Two out of four of these special people happen to be in the same class?The spirit of the earth flows through him, giving him the special ability to calm others with the touch of his hand. For the first time in his life, he's found a purpose for his ability, to help Sara. It would seem that someone with the special ability to calm others wouldn't have trouble finding a way to use his ability. This idea has promise, but so far, it seems a little half baked.

When the Dream Realm calls to Sara, You already told us the Dream Realm calls Sara David's power links him to her, bringing him in as well. His touch can keep the enslaved souls from harming her while she's there.

There is one more person linked to Sara through this curse. She is the Watcher, called to record all that happens in the Dream Realm in an ancient Native American book, The Book of the Watchers.

This book holds the record of all the cursed souls from the time the curse was placed. In it, Sara learns her fate has already been determined: She will die. Unless they can unlock the key to undoing the curse.

BOOK OF THE WATCHERS is a 79,000 word YA/Teen Fantasy.
It seems to me that you've got a really interesting idea here and a good hook at the outset, but I get the impression that you're so familiar with the material that you've forgotten your reader is not as up to speed as you. In other words, your query jumps around without explaining how a lot of this stuff works. I'm sure if you rework it, you can share this original idea in a really effective manner.

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Re: Query for Book of the Watchers-YA Fantasy *newest version*

Post by bookwatcher » July 27th, 2010, 11:22 am

Query revision #3

Okay, after going over and over (and over) this, I'm posting try #3. How does it sound?

Dear Agent,

Seventeen-year-old Sara Charles is clumsy, shy to the point of passing out and has avoided people her entire life. In the middle of her junior year she discovers the reason for her empty life--she's cursed.

Sara has a White Soul. She was born to carry all the elements, known as the Quintessence, but 700 years ago, a vengeful Native American Chief performed a ritual, severing these rare vessels from the elements, leaving anyone born as the Quintessence soul, void.

David, Sara's classmate, is a Brown Soul holding the single element of earth. His ability to calm, helps Sara when the second half of the curse is discovered--the Dream Realm. His grounding spirit keeps her safe while she's there.

The Dream Realm is a place where Sara feels normal, but over the last 700 years, the master of the realm has claimed every White Soul for herself. Now it's Sara's turn. With all it's cursed souls, the Dream Realm calls to her, threatening an eternity of slavery.

The life of every White Soul is recorded in the Book of the Watchers. A Watcher is called to record the enslavement of each White Soul but is forbidden to interfere. Sara's Watcher uncovers the unbearable truth of how Sara and David will die.

Tortured and broken, Sara awaits the arrival of her new master, but before she can join the Dream Realm she must forfeit her innocence by sacrificing David. Her love for David is stronger than it should be, though, and it just might be enough to finally free her from the Dream Realm.

BOOK OF THE WATCHERS is a 79,000 word YA/Fantasy.

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Re: Query for Book of the Watchers-YA Fantasy *new revision*

Post by Scribble » July 27th, 2010, 11:50 am

Seventeen-year-old Sara Charles is clumsy, shy to the point of passing out and has avoided people her entire life. In the middle of her junior year she discovers the reason for her empty life--she's cursed. nice opening

Sara has a White Soul. She was born to carry all the elements, known as the Quintessence, but 700 years ago, a vengeful Native American Chief performed a ritual, severing these rare vessels from the elements, leaving anyone born as the Quintessence soul, void.

David, Sara's classmate, is a Brown Soul holding the single element of earth. His ability to calm, helps Sara when the second half of the curse is discovered--the Dream Realm. His grounding spirit keeps her safe while she's there.

The Dream Realm is a place where Sara feels normal, (normal how? A more descriptive word or detail here would be better)but over the last 700 years, the master of the realm has claimed every White Soul for herself. Now it's Sara's turn. With all it's cursed souls, the Dream Realm calls to her, threatening an eternity of slavery. (doesn't sound like a nice place -and she feels normal here.)

The life of every White Soul is recorded in the Book of the Watchers. A Watcher is called to record the enslavement of each White Soul but is forbidden to interfere. Sara's Watcher uncovers the unbearable truth of how Sara and David will die. (I'm not sure if this para is needed. Sure it's a cool thing, but in the query it doesn't seem to impact the plot or relate to the para above or below)

Tortured and broken,(Woah! sudden leap there. What made her tortured and broken?)Sara awaits the arrival of her new master, but before she can join the Dream Realm she must forfeit her innocence by sacrificing David. Her love for David is stronger than it should be, though, and it just might be enough to finally free her from the Dream Realm.
The contradiction with the Dream Realm nags at me. It being the only place she feels normal but also the place that threatens an eternity of slavery, especially if she has to kill her best friend to stay there. Plus, there’s the fact that if she kills him she won’t be safe there anymore (as mentioned in 3rd para David's intro), so it begs the question, why would she kill him? Can she refuse? Your final line that her love for him might just be enough to free her, hints that perhaps the Dream Realm is either addictive, or seductive. If this is the case, I’d definitely play up on that.

Apologies if I’ve got a completely different stick (never mind the wrong end), but this is what I inferred from the query, and the questions it raised for me.

Love the idea, though. It didn’t sound like horror right up until you mentioned the word ‘sacrificing.’ Before that I thought of it as a supernatural adventure. Then again, it probably depends on the tone and voice whether it would be a horror.

Oh, and I absolutely understand the irritation and frustration at writing these things. The word 'query' now has its very own special place of hate in my heart.

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