YA Horror/Fantasy Query

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turtledinosaur
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YA Horror/Fantasy Query

Post by turtledinosaur » November 20th, 2010, 7:22 pm

Dear Agent,

Krapper, Kansas hums with the news that a local high school girl has returned from the dead. But Leigh Baxton would rather pack her ears full of punk music than listen to the rumor mill. The town calls it a happy miracle, but Leigh knows better. She saw the girl right after she dug herself out of her own grave. The girl’s face was anything but happy.

Now Leigh is terrified her mom will come back from the dead, too. She has a hazy memory of her history teacher saying something about ancient people burying things with their dead so they wouldn’t come back, so that’s what she does. Pictures, piano music, the ring the lying jock gave Leigh – it all gets buried in her mother’s grave. She keeps burying things, even after Creepy But Hot Graveyard Dude warns her not to. He says “they’ll” know if she gives gifts to death. But Leigh could give a flipping bird who “they” are.

The night of the raise-the-dead party, Leigh goes to the graveyard to drive her fist into anyone who comes near her mom’s grave. Then “they” show up - two dead sorceresses (sorceressi to stop s abuse) looking for someone to join their creepy, stinky club and become their Three. The high school girl’s grave is reserved for this special someone, and whoever is chosen to fill it will help the sorceressi free some serious magical baddies.

When Leigh protects the ones she loves from the sorceressi, she gives the ultimate gift to death. She becomes The Grave Winner.

The Grave Winner is a young adult novel complete at 55,000 words. I would be happy to send you sample chapters or the completed manuscript upon your request. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

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androidblues
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Re: YA Horror/Fantasy Query

Post by androidblues » November 21st, 2010, 10:16 am

Is this fantasy? If so, I'd mention it near the word count. This is reading more a like a synopsis, or really a list of things that happen to Leigh. And I'm sort of confused as to why people are coming back from the dead. Are they zombies? Why isn't the government doing anything? Why aren't people freaking out? You say this happens in Kansas, but this doesn't seem like Kansas anymore. (Wizard of Oz quote unintentional) What ones are Leigh protecting? Her father or siblings?

Why doesn't she want her mom coming back anyway? Maybe you should focus on that have that Leigh's conflict in the query, because from what I'm reading I don't see a conflict. I don't see why Leigh would care about the sorceresses, after all she packs her ears full of punk music. I'm not really seeing this a horror with your word choice either. Stinky and baddies rings Scary Movie to me, not The Prince of Darkness. You should tighten your voice. The title, however, I like. I think with some polishing Leigh could really give off a badass vibe. She's already giving off tinges of one. One more thing, why do the sorceresses want to bring people back from the dead? If it's just because they're evil or they want to take over the world you need a better reason. That might work for Middle Grade, but YA is raising the bar. Basically I need conflict and reasons.
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Re: YA Horror/Fantasy Query

Post by turtledinosaur » November 21st, 2010, 3:05 pm

Excellent points! I'll keep working on it.

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Re: YA Horror/Fantasy Query

Post by turtledinosaur » November 21st, 2010, 4:17 pm

This is draft two. I tightened it and hopefully explained a bit more, although it still doesn't feel quite right. Thank you in advance for any suggestions!

Dear Agent,

Leigh Baxton is terrified her mom will come back from the dead just like the cheerleader did. She has a hazy memory of her history teacher saying something about ancient people burying things with their dead so they wouldn’t come back, so that’s what she does. Pictures, piano music, the ring the lying jock gave her – it all gets buried in her mother’s grave. She keeps burying things, even after Creepy But Hot Graveyard Dude warns her not to. He says “they’ll” find her if she gives gifts to death. But Leigh could give a flipping bird who “they” are.

The night of the raise-the-dead party, Leigh goes to the graveyard to drive her fist into anyone who comes near her mom’s grave. Then “they” show up - two dead sorceresses (sorceressi to stop s abuse) looking for someone to join their creepy club and become Three. The cheerleader’s gift wasn’t great enough for the sorceressi, which is why she was kicked out of the special grave.

When the sorceressi begin to eye her sister for their Three, Leigh gives the ultimate gift to death.

The Grave Winner is a young adult novel complete at 55,000 words. I would be happy to send you sample chapters or the completed manuscript upon your request. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Mark17
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Re: YA Horror/Fantasy Query

Post by Mark17 » November 21st, 2010, 6:08 pm

First off if the goal of a query is to make someone read on, congratulations. I want to read this. I agree with the poster above though that this is definitely not horror, though you didn't mention that in your query. Paranormal maybe. I think I like the first version better honestly, because you get the idea that the cheerleader doesn't seem happy. I'm no expert at queries, I still can't figure out how to rewrite my own. But it sounds fun and creepy and I'd want to read it. If your first few pages are good, I can't see this not working.

One thing, if the Grave Winner is a plot point that happens early in the book and kind of sets a bigger plot in motion, maybe explain what it is. As it stands now giving death the ultimate gift is really vague, and saying she becomes the grave winner (is you did in the firstversion) is vague because no one knows what that is.

I'm sure you'll get better help than this, I just wanted to tell you I liked it. Good luck.

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Re: YA Horror/Fantasy Query

Post by turtledinosaur » November 22nd, 2010, 6:16 pm

Thanks, Mark17! I must be doing something right if the query made you want to read the book, though the wording still feels off to me. I'll keep working on it...

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HillaryJ
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Re: YA Horror/Fantasy Query

Post by HillaryJ » November 22nd, 2010, 11:55 pm

turtledinosaur wrote:
Dear Agent,

Leigh Baxton is terrified her mom will come back from the dead just like the cheerleader did. *Without having read the first query, I wouldn't have a clue what "the cheerleader did" meant, and wouldn't figure it out by reading the remainder of the query* She has a hazy memory of her history teacher saying something about ancient people burying things with their dead so they wouldn’t come back, so that’s what she does. Pictures, piano music, the ring the lying jock gave her – it all gets buried in her mother’s grave. She keeps burying things, even after Creepy But Hot Graveyard Dude warns her not to. He says “they’ll” find her if she gives gifts to death. But Leigh could give a flipping bird who “they” are.

The night of the raise-the-dead party, Leigh goes to the graveyard to drive her fist into anyone who comes near her mom’s grave. Then “they” show up - two dead sorceresses (sorceressi to stop s abuse) looking for someone to join their creepy club and become Three. *Using "creepy" twice in as short a span as a query is a bit much.* The cheerleader’s gift wasn’t great enough for the sorceressi, which is why she was kicked out of the special grave. *This sentence lost me. Is "she" the cheerleader or the sorceressi? also, if I hadn't read the first query, I'd still be wondering what was up with the cheerleader. And I think you need to explain either the sorceressi or the "special" grave.*

When the sorceressi begin to eye her sister for their Three, Leigh gives the ultimate gift to death. "Is "her sister" the cheerleader's sister, the sorceressi's sister or Leigh's?*

The Grave Winner is a young adult novel complete at 55,000 words. I would be happy to send you sample chapters or the completed manuscript upon your request. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,
This premise is really interesting, but the query is loose. I really liked the opening to your first draft, with the town's reaction to the cheerleader and Leigh's other response. Although I'd suggest "she didn't look happy", rather than "the girl's face was anything but happy". That's really the only "horror" aspect I'm seeing for this story.

I love the premise, and the tone and pacing are good. Now you just have to find the balance on explaining a bit more without slowing the pace down too much. But do give at least one of the important fantastical elements a good explanation. Otherwise, there are a few fantastical elements floating vaguely about, which makes this difficult to follow.

Good luck!
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turtledinosaur
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Re: YA Horror/Fantasy Query

Post by turtledinosaur » November 23rd, 2010, 8:09 pm

Thank you, HillaryJ! It seems like the second draft query was even more confusing than the first. Back to square one...

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Re: YA Horror/Fantasy Query

Post by turtledinosaur » November 23rd, 2010, 9:33 pm

Draft three. *ding,ding* : )

Dear Agent,

Krapper, Kansas hums with the news that a local high school girl has returned from the dead. But Leigh Baxton would rather pack her ears full of punk music than listen to the rumor mill. The town calls it a happy miracle, but Leigh knows better. She saw the girl right after she dug herself out of her own grave. The girl didn’t look happy.

Now, Leigh is terrified her mom will come back from the dead, too. The thought of her mom waking up in a coffin and digging herself out is too much. She has a hazy memory of her history teacher saying something about ancient people burying things with their dead so they wouldn’t come back, so that’s what Leigh does. Pictures, piano music, the ring the lying jock gave her – it all gets buried in her mother’s grave. She keeps burying things, even after Scary Graveyard Dude warns her not to. He says “they’ll” find her if she gives gifts to death. But Leigh could give a flipping bird who “they” are.

The night of the raise-the-dead party, Leigh goes to the graveyard to drive her fist into anyone who comes near her mom’s grave. Then “they” show up - two dead sorceresses (sorceressi to stop s abuse) looking for a special someone to fill the high school girl’s seriously magical, and now empty, grave and join their creepy, stinky club as Three. Leigh’s gifts to her mom puts her on their radar, along with everyone close to her. When the sorceressi begin to eye Leigh’s sister for their Three, Leigh gives the ultimate gift to death - herself.

The Grave Winner is a young adult novel complete at 55,000 words. I would be happy to send you sample chapters or the completed manuscript upon your request. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

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androidblues
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Re: YA Horror/Fantasy Query

Post by androidblues » November 24th, 2010, 7:14 pm

Much better, if anything explain why no-one is freaked out about the girl coming back to life. Why isn't this weird? Why isn't it on the news? And list next to your word count whether or not this is fantasy, horror, or a comedy. Tighten up the second paragraph as well. Why doesn't she want her mother to comeback? And are the sorceresses evil? If they are, why?
http://www.thebooklantern.com

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.

turtledinosaur
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Re: YA Horror/Fantasy Query

Post by turtledinosaur » November 24th, 2010, 10:52 pm

Thanks, androidblues! I think I'll call this a fantasy instead of fantasy/horror. You're right - that second paragraph needs some tightening. Thanks again!

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Re: YA Horror/Fantasy Query

Post by Watcher55 » November 28th, 2010, 1:46 am

The second paragraph is a bit sticky, but at first blush I surmised that the setting is in some alternate reality where rising from the dead, while noteworthy, isn't all that unusual and the people order their lives accordingly.

One technical point that set the hairs on the back of my neck on end: It's fun to play with plurals but I think you should consider "sorcerae" (feminine) and sorceri (masculine).

That being said, if I were an agent I'd be inclined to put it in the short stack.

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