Big Mouth Blues -- Contemporary YA -- PLEASE HELP

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Dana-Lynn
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Big Mouth Blues -- Contemporary YA -- PLEASE HELP

Post by Dana-Lynn » October 2nd, 2010, 4:37 am

Hi! I only recently discovered this board, but have been a member of Absolute Write for nearly 3 years. It's so exciting to find another wonderful community where I can get to know other fellow writers.
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I'm have two completed YA novels (one of which is ready to query), and am just beginning the process of learning how to write a query letter & synopsis.

PLEASE feel free to tear my query apart if you think it needs it. I'm open to anything anyone has to say.
Thank you in advance to all who take the time to read and reply. I can use all the help I can get, and I'm grateful for any feedback you can give me. :)


Dear Agent:

Kacey Donovan has bigger problems than dodging the minefields that plague most fourteen-year-old girls. Worrying about fashionable clothes or a date for Homecoming seems trivial in her world of isolation and fear, where her alcoholic father treats her like a punching bag. Her mother's constant state of denial leaves Kacey to fend for herself, hated and blamed for every-crappy-thing-that's-wrong-with-Dad's-life.

Kacey hides her bruises and despair, determined to keep everyone from finding out. Her best friend Maxine's idyllic family distracts from her personal hell, especially with Maxine's cute older brother Wade around. Wade only thinks of Kacey like a sister, but that doesn't stop her from trying to make him realize they're meant for each other. She clings to her feelings for Wade as an escape--but the closer they get, the more Wade starts to suspect something is terribly wrong as the brutal words and emotional torture escalate. In a battle for her life, Kacey faces off with her worst fear: her drunken bulldozer of a father. He's out of control, intent on making her pay for ruining his life by murdering her with a capital M. Kacey is a survivor, however, and although she's beaten, she refuses to give up.

But the truth threatens to be too much for Kacey to bear when her mother reveals the reason behind her father's hatred.

Kacey's not his daughter.

Big Mouth Blues is a contemporary young adult novel completed at 64,000 words. I’ve included the first five pages below for your consideration. Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely,
Dana-Lynn
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*It's the writer's job to keep upping the ante on the complications, starting a bigger problem the minute the last one's resolved, keeping the reader turning those pages.*

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Holly
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Re: Big Mouth Blues -- Contemporary YA -- PLEASE HELP

Post by Holly » October 2nd, 2010, 6:38 am

Dana-Lynn wrote:
Dear Agent:

Kacey Donovan has bigger problems than dodging the minefields that plague most fourteen-year-old girls. Worrying I would rephrase this sentence so you don't start with an ING verb about fashionable clothes or a date for Homecoming seems trivial in her world of isolation and fear, where her alcoholic father treats her like a punching bag. Her mother's constant state of denial leaves Kacey to fend for herself, hated and blamed I would rewrite to make it clear who hates and blames Kacey -- both parents or just the dad? for every-crappy-thing-that's-wrong-with-Dad's-life.

Kacey hides her bruises and despair, determined to keep everyone from finding out. Her best friend Maxine's idyllic family distracts Kacey from her personal hell, especially with Maxine's cute older brother Wade around. Wade only thinks of Kacey like a sister backwards perspective here -- I would put this from Kacey's POV, but that doesn't stop her from trying to make him realize they're meant for each other. She clings to her feelings for Wade as an escape--but the closer they get, the more Wade starts to suspect something is terribly wrong I would end the sentence here or make into two sentences as the brutal words and emotional torture escalate. In a battle for her life, Kacey faces off with her worst fear: her drunken bulldozer of a father. He's out of control, intent on making her pay for ruining his life by murdering her with a capital M. Kacey is a survivor, however, and although she's beaten, she refuses to give up.

But the truth threatens to be too much for Kacey to bear when her mother reveals the reason behind her father's hatred.

Kacey's not his daughter. I would make this part of the paragraph above.

Big Mouth Blues book titles are in all caps is a contemporary young adult novel completed at 64,000 words. I’ve included the first five pages below for your consideration. Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you soon I would cut this last part -- the reality is, you might not hear from them, so don't say that.
Sincerely,
Dana-Lynn
Hi, Dana-Lynn. Congratulations for finishing two novels. Your novel above sounds really interesting.

Nathan Bransford has a great writing database (with information about queries, too). Go to the Blog, look at the left side, and find Writing Database.

I found this very helpful:

http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2010/05 ... d-two.html

Do you have a bio paragraph? You might also include agent personalization.

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Re: Big Mouth Blues -- Contemporary YA -- PLEASE HELP

Post by priya g. » October 2nd, 2010, 8:15 am

Dear Agent:

Kacey Donovan has bigger problems than dodging the minefields that plague most fourteen-year-old girls. Worrying about fashionable clothes or a date for Homecoming YOU ALREADY MENTIONED THAT SHE HAS MORE TO WORRY THAN AN AVERAGE 14 YEAR OLD, THE LIST IS A MERE REPETITION seems trivial in her world of isolation and fear, where her alcoholic father treats her like a punching bag LIKE THE USE OF WORDS!. Her mother's constant state of denial leaves Kacey to fend for herself, hated and blamed for every-crappy-thing-that's-wrong-with-Dad's-life I AM THINKING HERE OF YOUR STRUCTURE. WHY DONT YOU START WITH THE MOTHER'S ISSUES, MOVE TO THE FATHER AND THEN END THE PARAGRAPH WITH SOMETHING LIKE- THAT IS EXACTLY WHY SHE CANT THINK LIKE A NORMAL 14 YEAR OLD ETC.

Kacey hides her bruises and despair, determined to keep everyone from finding out WHY? WILL HER PARENTS BE ANGRY IF SOMEONE ELSE FINDS OUT? IS SHE SCARED OF TELLING OTHERS THE TRUTH?. Her best friend Maxine's idyllic family distracts from her personal hell, especially with Maxine's cute older brother Wade around. Wade only thinks of Kacey like a sister, but that doesn't stop her from trying to make him realize they're meant for each other. She clings to her feelings for Wade as an escape--but the closer they get, the more Wade starts to suspect something is terribly wrong as the brutal words and emotional torture escalate. In a battle for her life, Kacey faces off with her worst fear: her drunken bulldozer of a father. He's out of control, intent on making her pay for ruining his life by murdering her with a capital M. Kacey is a survivor, however, and although she's beaten, she refuses to give up.

But the truth threatens to be too much for Kacey to bear when her mother reveals the reason behind her father's hatred RE PHRASE- CHUNKY SENTENCE AND OVERFLOWING WITH EMOTION.

Kacey's not his daughter.
NOW I AM WONDERING HOW WADE HAS ANYTHING TO DO WITH THIS. HE SEES THAT SOMETHING IS WRONG BUT DOES HE HELP HER? DOES HE PROTECT HER FROM HER FATHER?

Big Mouth Blues is a contemporary young adult novel completed at 64,000 words. I’ve included the first five pages below for your consideration. Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely,
Dana-Lynn

this story is close to what i began a few years ago and the important element is raw emotion. the query letter brings Kacey out as strong and a fighter but doesnt exactly show the teenager side of her- how she feels wronged or doesnt understand the situation before finding out the truth.
good luck

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Re: Big Mouth Blues -- Contemporary YA -- PLEASE HELP

Post by Moni12 » October 2nd, 2010, 10:02 am

I really like the concept of your novel, especially that you emphasize Kacey's strength and that there's a reason for her father's hatred. However, I don't think you should say what that reason is. Before I read I was thinking "What could it be?", but when you said it was because Kacey wasn't his daughter the mystery was gone and I was no longer in suspense. Otherwise, I think you have a pretty good thing here.

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Re: Big Mouth Blues -- Contemporary YA -- PLEASE HELP

Post by Quill » October 2nd, 2010, 11:28 am

Dana-Lynn wrote:Hi! I only recently discovered this board, but have been a member of Absolute Write for nearly 3 years. It's so exciting to find another wonderful community where I can get to know other fellow writers.
Welcome, welcome, and at the risk of redundancy, welcome.


Kacey Donovan has bigger problems than dodging the minefields that plague most fourteen-year-old girls.
I like the concept here but one does not dodge minefields, though one may dodge through them. Although dodge usually refers to avoiding a moving object. How about "navigating" or some such. And, minefields do not plague. They may threaten (sort of), they may impede. Irrespective of minefields, one would not dodge what plagues one. So I think those three words might best be reconsidered.

Worrying about fashionable clothes or a date for Homecoming seems trivial
How about streamlining to "worrying about clothes fashions or a Homecoming date is trivial" or some such.
in her world of isolation and fear, where her alcoholic father treats her like a punching bag.
Okay. How about switching "isolation" and "fear" to strengthen rhythm and punch.
Her mother's constant state of denial leaves Kacey to fend for herself, hated and blamed for every-crappy-thing-that's-wrong-with-Dad's-life.
Good concept but I think you can write this with more zip. At least drop "constant" as it's not doing much work. I think there's a problem making denial the subject of the sentence and personifying it by saying the denial leaves Kacey to fend for herself, when technically it is the mom doing this. Then it's a bit awkward switching subjects to Kacey after the fact (after the comma), where we almost need to look back to see if it is the denial or Kacey that is blamed.

Also, I'd remove the dashes between those words at the end. I think it will be fine and less confusing without them.
Kacey hides her bruises and despair,
For flow I'd add "her" to "despair": "and her despair".
determined to keep everyone from finding out.
I'd drop "determined" to streamline.
Her best friend Maxine's idyllic family distracts from her personal hell,
I'd avoid making the family the sentence subject here (stick with Kacey if possible: make it from her point of view) and the wording making it sound like the family is actively distracting her.
especially with Maxine's cute older brother Wade around. Wade only thinks of Kacey like a sister, but that doesn't stop her from trying to make him realize they're meant for each other. She clings to her feelings for Wade as an escape--but the closer they get, the more Wade starts to suspect something is terribly wrong as the brutal words and emotional torture escalate.
Agree with a previous poster: what is the purpose of introducing this subplot. As written it does not tie in to the central conflict. It appears only as a tangential interlude. Suggest either say how they or Wade or Maxine actually influence the crux or outcome or omit this section.
In a battle for her life, Kacey faces off with her worst fear: her drunken bulldozer of a father.
Awkward. Abruptly (with no prelude) we seem to have escalated into a life-threatening situation. Then instead of action we get "facing off with her fear", which implies an inner struggle (it is not clear if you mean that which she fears the most; you write it as an emotion when I think you mean it as an object: her father). Then you give us, essentially old info (her father's a drunk) (when I think you mean to lead us into the fact that he's gotten worse) (but this is not apparent here).
He's out of control, intent on making her pay for ruining his life by murdering her with a capital M.
Here again, old info for the first two clauses, and then some very important new info, but it's stuck at the end. Any way to heighten the tension and dramatizing this development more by stating the buildup of violence, and then emphasizing the intent to murder more? For one thing, it's a little odd to jump to his perspective (He's out of control, he's intent) How does she know his intent? Is it apparent? Is she speculating? Has he told her?
Kacey is a survivor, however, and although she's beaten, she refuses to give up.
This seems inappropriate to the story. First it sounds like you, the author, are injecting some comments. Second, all three of these sentiments border on cliche. Finally, they do not advance the story, so can be safely omitted.

Query sentences benefit from strong verbs. "Is" "is" "refuses" and "give" do not pack the punch you need to sell this intriguing story.
But the truth threatens to be too much for Kacey to bear when her mother reveals the reason behind her father's hatred.

Kacey's not his daughter.
I think this is a great hook. It will need a careful buildup and perhaps some afterword of what this really means to Kacey and to your story. Is it the end? What does this info lead to? Confrontation? Does it give her the strength to stand up to the monster? Also, this external demon, does it have any internal counterpart within herself? Does confronting the outer help her break her own isolation pattern? Might be good to allude to where this bombshell of info takes her. Good luck!

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Re: Big Mouth Blues -- Contemporary YA -- PLEASE HELP

Post by androidblues » October 2nd, 2010, 8:12 pm

Sounds like a Patricia McCormick, which if done right is good but the surprise is more V.C Andrews. I agree with most of the changes that Quill suggested but unless the hook is just a hook, and not just the climax revelation (like Snape being the half-blood prince) you should leave it out because I already wanted to know why he wanted to kill her. Now that I know I don't care for reading it, unless you have a bigger surprise. In Forget You there is this book hole in the protags memory about what happened to her one night when she was in a car accident. While I know I won't like the book, the suspense of what happened really kills me, or it will until I check it out from the library. But this is really intriguing and I'd probably give it a chance if the writing is good. Of course and abusive father is way overdone, but if done right I can feel really sympathy for the protag instead of the drama being contrived. Oh yeah, and make sure that the reader feels like Wade is a central part of the story, like Ron or Hermione, something that needs to be there instead of just something that is there for a romantic element.
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Re: Big Mouth Blues -- Contemporary YA -- PLEASE HELP

Post by glj » October 2nd, 2010, 8:28 pm

This is clearly worded and flows well. Some suggestions below.

That said, your biggest challenge may be in making this stand out. As is, it may suffer the fate of being just another MS about a teenage girl with problems and a crush.

Kacey Donovan has bigger problems than dodging the minefields that plague most fourteen-year-old girls. Worrying about fashionable clothes or a date for Homecoming seems trivial in her world of isolation and fear, where her alcoholic father treats her like a punching bag. Her mother's constant state of denial leaves Kacey to fend for herself, hated and blamed for every-crappy-thing-that's-wrong-with-Dad's-life. Okay, this is ALL telling. Show us some egregious examples of Mom and Dad's behavior. Statements that her life is hell don't generate any empathy for the protagonist. All you are saying here is that she is miserable. This has no flavor and creates no deep interest. MAKE us sympathetic with Kacey!

Kacey hides her bruises and despair, determined to keep everyone from finding out. Her best friend Maxine's idyllic family distracts from her personal hell, especially with Maxine's cute older brother Wade around. Uh-oh, best friend's cute brother over-used plot twist. Wade only thinks of Kacey like a sister, but that doesn't stop her from trying to make him realize they're meant for each other. This wording is awkward She clings to her feelings for Wade as an escape--but the closer they get, the more Wade starts to suspect something is terribly wrong as the brutal words and emotional torture escalate. Well, at least he's not a clueless moron. Will he help her, or will he run away? That may be the interesting question for the query In a battle for her life, You tell us below that Daddy becomes violent, DON'T be repetitive in a query Kacey faces off with her worst fear: her drunken bulldozer of a father. This wording turned me off. Plus, we already know he's a drunken, abusive lout. He's out of control, intent on making her pay for ruining his life by murdering her with a capital M. Again, the wording made me cringe. "Murder with a capital M" struck me as a cheesy '60s movie lingo. Not only that, but it doesn't fit the tone of the query. Kacey is a survivor, however, Don't TELL us this, show us that she's tough. Give examples of how she copes. and although she's beaten, she refuses to give up.

But the truth threatens to be too much for Kacey to bear when her mother reveals the reason behind her father's hatred.

Kacey's not his daughter. I agree this should be part of previous paragraph (maybe set it off with an em-dash?) Part of me wants this to come sooner in order to have your query be different from other YA stories, but it does function well as a punch line. Oops, sorry, didn't mean to do that. Really! :) What I meant was the abusiveness of Dad seems just mean and pointless, and then, with this reveal, I went "Aah! That's why he hates her, she's a reminder of something (affair? Mom's previous marriage?)." Suddenly Dad's abusiveness makes sense. The problem is, up to this point I didn't see anything that made me feel compelled to read the story. Yes, I know, that is really hard, but this does not do the trick.

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Re: Big Mouth Blues -- Contemporary YA -- PLEASE HELP

Post by androidblues » October 2nd, 2010, 8:57 pm

glj hit the nail on the hammer. Or is it the hammer on the nail? Regardless of that I agree that you run the risk of going into dangerous territory to far. I'm unsure as to if you want me to try and sympathize with the father or hate him based on the last line. Abusive father's are kinda iffy with me, but if your story require it alright. But trying to kill her is going a bit overboard. Perhaps he can start out as being verbally abusive, so I know why the CPS hasn't come after her yet, and lead into him being physically abusive? That would really make me feel the one two punch. Don't just make him an abusive jerk. Try reading 'The Curious Case of the Dog At Midnight'. Before the halfway point I was feeling sympathy for the father and the son, even if the father was abusive and occasionally hit his son when he was drunk. But you can't have it both ways. Either you have the alcoholic abusive jerk, or the sympathetic booze hound. Abuse turns most people off, btw, especially the average teenage girl reader. But then again with the popularity of Twilight I may be wrong.
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Re: Big Mouth Blues -- Contemporary YA -- PLEASE HELP

Post by Dana-Lynn » October 4th, 2010, 8:57 am

This board is so awesome! Thank you all for your taking the time to give me your input. I am soooo new to writing queries . . . and this side of the writing process is so different from actually writing the novel. LOL! I still have A LOT to learn. All of these ideas and suggestions are amazing.

Holly: thanks for the lbl, for the congrats, and for the link. I didn't know about the Writing Database on Nathan's blog. I'll go check it out.

Priya G.: some very excellent points there. I agree with you, and I really appreciate you pointing all of that out to me. Thank you!

Moni12: thanks for letting me know that. I understand what you mean about not putting the reason in there & maintaining the suspense. I'll work on that with that in mind.

Quill: THANK YOU for the welcome! And thanks for breaking my query down like that. Those are all very good suggestions. You have given me a ton of great food for thought and opened my eyes to things I hadn't considered. Thanks!

Androidblues: Thanks for the tips. I've got all of that covered in the manuscript.... ;) And yes, Wade is definitely a central part of the story.

glj: Thank you for everything you said. I agree that my biggest challenge is trying to make my query stand out. My manuscript has had enormously positive feedback from beta readers. Now my struggle is incorporating the things in my novel that make this particular story unique and whittling that down to two paragraphs. lol!

This is what one of my favorite betas recently told me:

Your main story arc is Kacey suffering at the hands of her alcoholic father while her mother stands by, Kacey almost succumbing to the bottle herself but rising above it all to come out the other side. Only to then have the rug pulled out from under her feet when she learns the real reason for her father's hatred.

Anyway, I really appreciate everything you mentioned, and I'll keep all of that in mind and work on this some more.


I can't thank you enough, everyone! I'm just so new to query writing, and your input has helped me tremendously!

I'll take all of this feedback into consideration and go back to the drawing board and see what I can come up with. Then I'll repost the new version here.

Thank you, THANK YOU!
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Re: Big Mouth Blues -- Contemporary YA -- PLEASE HELP

Post by androidblues » October 4th, 2010, 3:16 pm

You're very welcome, and good luck.
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Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

I never want to hear the screams of the teenage girls in other people's dreams.

In the real word as in dreams, nothing is quite what it seems.

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Re: Big Mouth Blues -- Contemporary YA -- PLEASE HELP

Post by priya g. » October 5th, 2010, 4:36 pm

welcome and good luck! cant wait to read the next draft!

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