Forty Winks - YA paranormal adventure

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Andrewauthor
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Forty Winks - YA paranormal adventure

Post by Andrewauthor » August 28th, 2010, 12:15 am

ANOTHER EDIT! You all have been wonderfully helpful. The newest version is at the bottom of the page. Closer every time!


EDIT: Take 2 is at the bottom of the page. Thanks again for advice. And yes, I realize that the timing for a dream adventure is questionable (inception/Awake, etc). But I started writing this before I'd heard of either and I'm confident my voice is different enough to merit its place on the shelf.



Thanks for any advice! I'll take special care to comment on the queries of anyone with advice for my own query... if I think I can help. (I'm terrible at commenting on certain types of fiction - I'm out of my depth with historical novels.) Anyway, Forty Winks is a young adult novel. There are a lot of characters, and a number of subplots, but I try to keep the query as clear as possible. Thanks again in advance!


Gabe Aisling’s family has a weird relationship with sleep. They are high functioning insomniacs, sleepwalkers that complete high level mathematics while asleep, and lucid dreamers capable of crafting their dreams. But when Avery, his ten-year-old sister, is put in a coma by her night terrors, Gabe is forced to use his own ability to enter others’ dreams to save her.

Bringing his twin brother, his best friend, and his high school crush, Gabe discovers that something has been attacking Avery in her dreams. It forces her to revisit her nightmares, slowly breaking her down. Now it seeks to do the same to Gabe and the others. Together they are forced to support each other through dreams of claustrophobia on a submarine, a monster in the forest, and even being naked at school when they’ve forgotten to study for a test.

Though an entity seeks to destroy them within their own dreams, these trials only cause family to bond together and to create a new relationship between Gabe and Maria, a schoolmate who fears the loss of family in both body and mind. And each nightmare brings them closer to discovering the nature of the darkness that emerged from Avery’s mind.
Last edited by Andrewauthor on September 7th, 2010, 12:07 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Forty Winks - YA paranormal adventure

Post by fetterslopez » August 28th, 2010, 12:31 am

Forty Winks has an interesting premise. I think you give to much information before getting to the heart of the story. The first line should be the hook, I'm not hooked at the onset. You can add the information about their odd relationship with dreams in the second sentence or the second paragraph. start with Gabe having to save his sister.
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Re: Forty Winks - YA paranormal adventure

Post by Krista G. » August 28th, 2010, 12:32 am

Andrewauthor wrote:Gabe Aisling’s family has a weird relationship with sleep. They are high-functioning insomniacs, sleepwalkers that complete high-level mathematics while asleep, and lucid dreamers capable of crafting their dreams. Slightly confused as to whether there are two brands of high-functioning insomniacs, sleepwalkers and lucid dreamers, or if there are three: high-functioning insomniacs, sleepwalkers, and lucid dreamers. The only reason I bring this up is because if there are only two, then you can get rid of the comma between "asleep" and "and." But when Avery, his ten-year-old sister, is put in a coma by her night terrors, Gabe is forced to must use his own ability to enter others’ dreams to save her. This sentence doesn't work for me for two reasons. First, I'd like a few more specifics on how her night terrors induce a coma. Is there some evil being preying on her mind (as the latter half of the query suggests)? Also, you've given us no sense that sleepwalking is bad, but then you tell us Gabe has to use his power, as if it's an undesirable thing to do. It's an interesting idea - that sleepwalking is unethical or something - but you probably ought to develop it more in the query.

Bringing his twin brother, his best friend, and his high school crush, Gabe discovers that something has been attacking Avery in her dreams. It forces her to revisit her nightmares, slowly breaking her down. Now it seeks to do the same to Gabe and the others. Together they are forced to must (or some other more active verb - you might have to just reword this sentence to make it stronger) support each other through dreams of claustrophobia on a submarine, a monster in the forest, and even being naked at school when they’ve forgotten to study for a test. Again, I'd like to know a bit more about our antagonist. What exactly is this "something"? And why is it out to get Gabe and his friends and family?

Though an entity seeks to destroy them within their own dreams, these trials only cause family to bond together and to create a new relationship between Gabe and Maria, a schoolmate who fears the loss of family in both body and mind. I assume Maria is the high school crush mentioned earlier, but you might want to make that connection directly. Also, the clause "a schoolmate who fears the loss of family in both body and mind" is too generic to mean much. And each nightmare brings them closer to discovering the nature of the darkness that emerged from Avery’s mind.
Thanks to the success of Lisa McMann's WAKE and Christopher Nolan's INCEPTION, you're going to have to work extra hard to make this sound unique. You might also work on infusing this with more voice so we get a better sense of Gabe and what his personality's like.

Best of luck.
Author of THE REGENERATED MAN (G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers, Winter 2015)
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Re: Forty Winks - YA paranormal adventure

Post by Write2Me » August 31st, 2010, 3:23 pm

The query is good, but ultimately as mentioned especially with inception, you need to make it unique. I almost feel like agents are looking at books as vehicles to a franchise (cartoons, movies, action figures, video games, etc). I like the concept, but show me why this isn't inception. It really stinks to have a huge movie steal your thunder, but that doesn't mean you can't get an agent interested. All the movie shows is there is a market for books dealing with dreams. Make us care about Gabe more. Emphasize elements that make it ya vs the love story of inception.

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Re: Forty Winks - YA paranormal adventure

Post by thewhipslip » August 31st, 2010, 8:39 pm

Gabe Aisling’s family has a weird relationship with sleep Okay for a hook, but still clunky. I think you're better off mentioning Gabe and not his family. Focus on your main character, as in: "Gabe Aisling's terrible at math - except when he's asleep." Or something like that.... They are high functioning insomniacs, sleepwalkers that complete high level mathematics while asleep, and lucid dreamers capable of crafting their dreams. But when Avery, his ten-year-old sister, is put in a coma by her night terrors Night terrors...not sure what that means. Give us the threat specifically. Bring your antagonist into that sentence., Gabe is forced to use his own ability to enter others’ dreams to save her Why would that save her? Be specific. What is the goal when he's going into other people's dreams?.

Bringing his twin brother, his best friend, and his high school crush Why does he need all these other people? Seems awfully crowded., Gabe discovers that something has been attacking Avery in her dreams. It forces her to revisit her nightmares, slowly breaking her down. Now it seeks to do the same to Gabe and the others Why?. Together they are forced to support each other through dreams of claustrophobia on a submarine, a monster in the forest, and even being naked at school when they’ve forgotten to study for a test Sorry, but it doesn't sound too bad. If you want to scare me, bring some of that terror into the query..

Though an entity seeks to destroy them within their own dreams, these trials only cause family to bond together and to create a new relationship between Gabe and Maria, a schoolmate who fears the loss of family in both body and mind. And each nightmare brings them closer to discovering the nature of the darkness that emerged from Avery’s mind. Ah, so the antagonist originates from the sister. That's a nice little twist. The last sentence is the only one in this paragraph that you need. The other two are too vague.[/quote]
Hope this helps! I think you've got a great start here, and the popularity of Inception is only going to help you, not hurt you.
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Re: Forty Winks - YA paranormal adventure

Post by Andrewauthor » September 5th, 2010, 11:21 pm

Thank you all for your advice! I tried rewording it a little, and making sure the focus is on my protagonist, Gabe.

Gabriel Aisling’s little sister suffers from night terrors, a disorder afflicting children that causes intense nightmares. But when they put her in a coma, Gabe is forced to use his own ability to enter dreams to save her. Together with his brother, his best friend, and his high school crush he discovers a monster has been tormenting her with nightmares. And now it seeks to do the same to him. Gabe, however, won’t let anything hurt his family.

Together they fight through dreams of monsters in a forest, claustrophobia on a sinking submarine, and even being naked at school when they’ve forgotten to study for a test. Each nightmare is a challenge they must overcome if they are ever to wake again.

Though the dark entity seeks to destroy them with nightmares, it only serves to bring family closer, help them overcome fears, and even strike a new romance. And every victory brings them closer to understanding the nature of the monster, and how to defeat it.
Last edited by Andrewauthor on September 6th, 2010, 1:24 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Forty Winks - YA paranormal adventure

Post by ABFTomioka » September 6th, 2010, 12:22 am

Hello! This is an interesting idea, and something I think will appeal to young adult readers. Here are some suggestions for your query:

Gabriel Aisling’s little sister suffers from Night Terrors, a condition afflicting children that causes intense nightmares. (I might try to put a more exciting hook in the beginning. Maybe brin Gabe in fighting nightmares right away, and put this explaination further along in your query.) But when they (when who? doctors, or the night terrors? It's a little uncertain here) put her in a coma, Gabe is forced to use his own ability to enter dreams to save her. (This might be your hook.... Gabriel Aisling can enter dreams! That's pretty unique, and the essence of the story, it sounds like.) Together with his brother, his best friend, and his high school crush he discovers a monster has been tormenting her with nightmares. And now it seeks to do the same to him. But Gabe won’t let anything hurt his family.

Together they fight through dreams of monsters in a forest, claustrophobia on a sinking submarine, and even being naked at school when they’ve forgotten to study for a test. Each nightmare is a challenge they must overcome if they are ever to wake again. (How does all this happen...and how do they defeat the nightmares? It's an interesting theory but I can't tell how it all comes together yet.)

Though the dark entity seeks to destroy them with nightmares, it only serves to bring family closer, overcome fears, and even strike a new romance. (I think you can cut that sentance, and bring the next one into the preceeding paragraph) And every victory brings them closer to understanding the nature of the monster, and how to defeat it.

I know query letters should be brief, but I think this one maybe has too little information. Maybe you can rewrite it to give us more sense of the plot, and Gabe's character...at this stage we don't have any idea what he's like, or what struggles he has in his fight against the nightmares. This is such a good idea, I really want to know more!

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Re: Forty Winks - YA paranormal adventure

Post by Hilary » September 6th, 2010, 1:16 am

Andrewauthor wrote:Thank you all for your advice! I tried rewording it a little, and making sure the focus is on my protagonist, Gabe.

Gabriel Aisling’s little sister suffers from Night Terrors, a condition afflicting children that causes intense nightmares. But when they put her in a coma, Gabe is forced to use his own ability to enter dreams to save her. Together with his brother, his best friend, and his high school crush he discovers a monster has been tormenting her with nightmares. And now it seeks to do the same to him. Gabe, however, won’t let anything hurt his family.

Together they fight through dreams of monsters in a forest, claustrophobia on a sinking submarine, and even being naked at school when they’ve forgotten to study for a test. Each nightmare is a challenge they must overcome if they are ever to wake again.

Though the dark entity seeks to destroy them with nightmares, it only serves to bring family closer, overcome fears, and even strike a new romance. And every victory brings them closer to understanding the nature of the monster, and how to defeat it.

This is a terrific story idea for a YA novel. I'd combine the first two paragraphs this way:

Gabriel Aisling's little sister suffers from night terrors. But when the intense nightmares put her in a coma, only Gabe's ability to enter dreams can save her from the monster who's been tormenting her. Alongside his brother and two friends, Gabe fights through dreams of creatures in a forest, the claustrophobia of a sinking submarine, and worst of all, being naked at school when they've forgotten to study for a test. Each nightmare is a challenge they must overcome if they are ever to wake again.

The word "nightmare" occurs several times in the query, so you might want to work around that. I really do love this idea and your voice. I think you could actually put some meat on the bones of this query and give us some details about Gabe. What kind of kid is he? Is he brave, charging on in? Or scared himself? He's determined to save his family. What else is cool about him?

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Re: Forty Winks - YA paranormal adventure

Post by wilderness » September 6th, 2010, 1:39 pm

Andrewauthor wrote:
Gabriel Aisling’s little sister suffers from night terrors, a disorder afflicting children that causes intense nightmares. I think the definition of night terrors sounds a little clinical and dry. Also, I don't think this sentence works as an opening hook. But when they put her in a coma, Gabe is forced to use his own ability to enter dreams to save her. Here's your hook -- Gabe can enter dreams? I would start with that info and then talk about his sister. Together with his brother, his best friend, and his high school crush he discovers a monster has been tormenting her with nightmares. We don't know his brother or high school crush. You have to briefly introduce them, not just throw them in. And now it seeks to do the same to him.Gabe, however, won’t let anything hurt his family. Obvious info.

Together they fight through dreams of monsters in a forest, claustrophobia on a sinking submarine, and even being naked at school when they’ve forgotten to study for a test. Each nightmare is a challenge they must overcome if they are ever to wake again. This is confusing compared to the last paragraph. I thought the monster was the problem. So how do the other nightmares play in?

Though the dark entity seeks to destroy them with nightmares, it only serves to bring family closer, help them overcome fears, and even strike a new romance. Lists like these are not good for queries. They are lacking specificity. Click to read Nathan's post on the subject. And every victory brings them closer to understanding the nature of the monster, and how to defeat it. End with a dilemma they must face. Leave us wanting more. This is too pat. Also, you are TELLING not SHOWING. You're telling us what they learn, that they become closer and overcome their fears. You need to show us through actual events in your book. This is summarizing.
It sounds like a cool premise, but you don't have me hooked yet. The lists of his helpers, the lists of what they do...they're just lists. They don't draw you in, they don't have logical transitions. They don't build conflict. That's what needs to happen in a query. Good luck!

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Re: Forty Winks - YA paranormal adventure

Post by Andrewauthor » September 7th, 2010, 12:06 am

TAKE 3! Woo! Closer every time. To comment on comments above:
With my premise, it's hard not to repeat the words "nightmare" and dream. Any suggestions for mixing it up are appreciated.

As far as it being a little anemic, I'm trying not to introduce too many of the other characters subplots, or even throw too many names out. Last but not least, contention about my first sentence not being hook-ish enough. I've written a couple versions that immediately mention Gabe's ability to enter sleep, but they never sound quite right to me. So that piece of information will have to stay in sentence three unless I find a way to make it work how I like it. Finally, there are other nightmares, but I'm trying to just give the idea of the type of nightmares and maybe even introduce the idea that there is humor in the story. Without further ado...


Gabriel Aisling will do anything to protect his little sister, even from her sleep. She suffers from night terrors, a childhood disorder causing intense nightmares. When the night terrors put her in a coma, Gabe must use his unique ability to enter dreams to save her.

Gabe, along with his twin brother, best friend, and high school crush enter her dreams to discover something or someone has been causing his sister to revisit her nightmares, slowly breaking her will. And now it seeks to do the same to Gabe and the others.

The entity invades their subconscious minds to use their fears against them. Together they must support each other against monsters in a forest, claustrophobia on a sinking submarine, and even being naked at school when they’ve forgotten to study for a test. Each nightmare is a challenge they must overcome if they are ever to wake again.


Thanks again

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Re: Forty Winks - YA paranormal adventure

Post by katbrauer » September 7th, 2010, 9:41 am

Andrewauthor wrote:Gabriel Aisling will do anything to protect his little sister, even from her sleep. She suffers from night terrors, a childhood disorder causing intense nightmares. When the night terrors put her in a coma, Gabe must use his unique ability to enter dreams to save her. I read your explanation of this, but my issue isn't that it comes last, rather that it doesn't come with any stakes. Does he use this ability often? With other people? Is it dangerous? Can he control it? Did he just discover it? Qualify the ability--beyond it being unique--and I think it'll be better. And also, change the verb from "must" and "use" to give it more urgency.

Gabe, along with his twin brother, best friend, and high school crush Wait, so he can bring other people into the dreams or they're also able to enter dreams? enter her dreams to and discover something--or someone--has been causing his sister to revisit stronger verb here--maybe "suffer through the same nightmares over and over" her nightmares, slowly breaking her will. And now it seeks to do the same to Gabe and the others.

The entity invades their subconscious minds to use their fears against them. Together they must support each other against monsters in a forest, claustrophobia on a sinking submarine, and even being naked at school when they’ve forgotten to study for a test. Each nightmare is a challenge they must overcome. If they can't, then they won't are ever towake up again.

Unfortunately, only the first nightmare really seems frightening to me. I think it's partially the way you describe it--what *about* the submarine causes claustrophobia? Because honestly, I'd be much more afraid about water rushing in, threatening to drown my subconscious. I'd also suggest that you put the last clause (about being naked) first, because it's the least impact-y.
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I think you're doing a good job of summarizing the plot, but I think your concern with it is mucking up your ability to describe it in a way that "hooks" your reader. Make it jump! Throw in a few sentences here of twinges or feelings. Is the book creepy? Dark? Funny? Use the words in the summary to emphasize the tone and your voice.

Okay then. Let me know if that makes any sense. :)
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Re: Forty Winks - YA paranormal adventure

Post by wilderness » September 7th, 2010, 1:17 pm

Andrewauthor wrote:
Gabriel Aisling will do anything to protect his little sister, even from her sleep. She suffers from night terrors, a childhood disorder causing intense nightmares. When the night terrors put her in a coma, Gabe must use his unique ability to enter dreams to save her. I think you can flesh this out a bit more. How did he get this ability? What has he used it for in the past?


Gabe, along with his twin brother, best friend, and high school crush enter her dreams to discover something or someone has been causing his sister to revisit her nightmares, slowly breaking her will. How do they discover the entity? I'm still not a fan of the list of characters. Whether you name them or not, it feels like character soup. How did he get them all to help him? Do they have the same abilities that he does? And now it seeks to do the same to Gabe and the others.

The entity invades their subconscious minds to use their fears against them. Together they must support each other against monsters in a forest, claustrophobia on a sinking submarine, and even being naked at school when they’ve forgotten to study for a test. I think these examples are interesting, but maybe you could break it into three sentences and go into a little more detail. Try to make us afraid for them. Each nightmare is a challenge they must overcome if they are ever to wake again. I think you can restate this to be a little more dramatic. Something like "The nightmares frighten them to their core, but if they can't overcome their fears the terror will never end. They might never wake again." Play with it, make it stronger.


Thanks again
I agree with Kat -- you've got the basic explanation in the query, but what you're lacking is flavor or voice. You need to carefully select your phrases to titillate us. Good luck with this!

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Re: Forty Winks - YA paranormal adventure

Post by Krista G. » September 7th, 2010, 1:27 pm

Andrewauthor wrote:Gabriel Aisling will do anything to protect his little sister, even from her sleep. I like this opening sentence. She suffers from night terrors, a childhood disorder causing intense nightmares. When the night terrors put her in a coma, Gabe must use his unique ability to enter dreams to save her.

Gabe, along with his twin brother, best friend, and high school crush, enter her dreams to discover something or someone has been causing his sister to revisit her nightmares, slowly breaking her will. And now it seeks to do the same to Gabe and the others.

The entity invades their subconscious minds to use their fears against them. Together they must support each other against monsters in a forest, claustrophobia on a sinking submarine, and even being naked at school when they’ve forgotten to study for a test. Each nightmare is a challenge they must overcome if they are ever to wake again.
Yep, this is clearer, but as several others have mentioned, you still need to add some texture. Giving us more insight into Gabe's personality will make this query more meaningful. One way to do this would be to let Gabe editorialize a little in the query. For instance, how does he feel about using his unique ability to enter dreams to save his sister? You mentioned that this was kind of frowned on, so you could add a phrase like "ethics be damned" after the clause "Gabe must use his unique ability to enter dreams to save her." Or if Gabe would shy away from using a word like "damned," you could say "ethics be hanged." Or you could say something completely different if this doesn't match the world you've built.

I also think you need to be more specific about the "something or someone." You also use the phrase "the entity" to describe your antagonist, but that isn't really telling me much. Is this a person? Is it Evil with a capital E? Again, letting Gabe give us his opinion of this entity will add more clarity and more voice.

Good luck, Andrew. Hope that helps.
Author of THE REGENERATED MAN (G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers, Winter 2015)
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