YA contemporary CALL ME CRAZY

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clamjaphry
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YA contemporary CALL ME CRAZY

Post by clamjaphry » March 22nd, 2011, 5:16 pm

Hi everyone,

I've tried out a zillion different ways of writing this query, and would like to present two slightly different options for your perusal. I've literally been editing this query in my sleep, so any fresh insights will be appreciated times a thousand :)

**Note: I'm making a couple edits right now before anyone else responds—the queries below have been edited in response to the first two commenters**

Query Letter #1

Dear Agent,

All Kiri wants to do this summer is swing a record deal, seduce her bandmate, and convince her snooty piano teacher she’s worth every second of her very expensive time.

But when a mysterious phone call leads her to discover that her beloved Aunt Sukey was murdered in a condemned downtown hotel, Kiri loses her grip faster than the brakes on her busted-ass bicycle.

It turns out Sukey had a secret.

A secret Kiri’s family would rather not talk about.

And the closer Kiri comes to finding out what it is, the more convinced everyone else becomes that she’s gone batshit crazy.

CALL ME CRAZY is a YA contemporary novel complete at 85,000 words. Your client [redacted] recommended I query you because [reason].


Query Letter #2:

Dear Agent,

When Kiri finds out her beloved Aunt Sukey was murdered in a condemned pay-by-the-month hotel, she loses her grip faster than the brakes on her busted-ass bicycle.

With her parents away on an anniversary cruise, Kiri had planned to spend this summer preparing for an important piano festival, storming Battle of the Bands, and convincing her nerdy but tantalizing bandmate they should do more than just jam.

But now, Kiri finds herself scrambling to uncover the circumstances of Sukey’s death before they knock the hotel down to make way for a futuristic yoga studio.

It turns out Sukey had a secret.

A secret Kiri’s family doesn’t want to talk about.

And the closer Kiri comes to finding out what it is, the more convinced everyone else becomes that she’s gone batshit crazy.

CALL ME CRAZY is a YA contemporary novel complete at 85,000 words. It is my first novel.

[bio]
Last edited by clamjaphry on March 22nd, 2011, 7:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.

fishfood
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Re: YA contemporary CALL ME CRAZY

Post by fishfood » March 22nd, 2011, 6:06 pm

The first one grabbed me a bit more even though they're both pretty similar. The voice is fun too. I'll go ahead and critique the first one.
clamjaphry wrote:Hi everyone,

I've tried out a zillion different ways of writing this query, and would like to present two slightly different options for your perusal. I've literally been editing this query in my sleep, so any fresh insights will be appreciated times a thousand :)


Query Letter #1

Dear Agent,

All (how old is she?) Kiri wants to do this summer is swing a record deal, seduce her bandmate, and convince herself that the Problem that’s been plaguing her ever since her beloved Aunt Sukey died of “unforeseen complications” isn’t a problem at all. A little too long of an introductory sentence. And I grappled with whether I like the use of "Problem." Some agents might get enticed (I kind of was), others might just get turned off if they don't havea better idea of what the book is about. Maybe break up this sentence or combine some elements from the second version.

But when a mysterious phone call leads her to discover that Sukey was in fact stab-murdered to death in a condemned downtown hotel, Kiri loses her grip faster than the brakes on her busted-ass bicycle.

The closer Kiri comes to finding what killed Sukey, the Kiri realizes this Problem just might kill her too. Except now everyone thinks she's gone batshit crazy.

It turns out Sukey had a Problem of her own.

A Problem Kiri’s family would rather not talk about.

And the closer Kiri comes to finding out what it is, the more convinced everyone else becomes that she’s gone batshit crazy.

CALL ME CRAZY is a YA contemporary novel complete at 85,000 words. Your client [redacted] recommended I query you because [reason].

[bio]

Try: All Kiri wants to do this summer is swing a record deal and convince her bandmate they should do more than just jam. But then her beloved Aunt Sukey dies of "unforseen complications." Kiri knows that's bullshit. Because Aunt Sukey had a Problem. A Problem no one wants to talk about. The same Problem that plagues Kiri.

But when a mysterious phone call reveals Sukey was in fact stab-murdered in a condemned downtown hotel, Kiri loses her grip faster than the brakes on her busted-ass bicycle.

The closer Kiri comes to finding out what killed Sukey, the more she realizes this Problem just might kill her too. Except now everyone thinks she's gone batshit crazy.


Query Letter #2:

Dear Agent,

When Kiri finds out her beloved Aunt Sukey was murdered in a condemned pay-by-the-month hotel, she loses her grip faster than the brakes on her busted-ass bicycle.

With her parents away on an anniversary cruise, Kiri had planned to spend this summer preparing for an important piano festival, storming Battle of the Bands, and convincing her nerdy but tantalizing bandmate they should do more than just jam.

But now, Kiri finds herself scrambling to uncover the circumstances of Sukey’s death before they knock the hotel down to make way for a futuristic yoga studio.

It turns out Sukey had a Problem.

A Problem Kiri’s family doesn’t want to talk about.

And the closer Kiri comes to finding out what it is, the more convinced everyone else becomes that she’s gone batshit crazy.

CALL ME CRAZY is a YA contemporary novel complete at 85,000 words. It is my first novel.

[bio]
Maybe try writing a query that reveals the Problem, and have different people weigh their opinions on what's more enticing. Again, I'm not sure, I think it'd be 50/50 on what agents would suggest. It's always good to start with a basic by-the-book query letter and then experiment with going out of the box.

AllieS
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Re: YA contemporary CALL ME CRAZY

Post by AllieS » March 22nd, 2011, 6:36 pm

Ok, so I think you've got a good voice here, but I'll list my quibbles:

1. The "Problem." Others might feel differently, but the capitalization isn't working for me. Also, it's repeated several times, yet by the end of the query I still know hardly anything about the Problem or the plot. You could try putting more details in there, or at least hinting at things related to the Problem.

2. Stab-murdered, as you say in the first query, sounds strange. Is it important that she was stabbed? It doesn't seem like it since you don't include it in the second query. Murdered gets the point across pretty well on its own.

You've got a good length, but you may need to add a little to get a clearer plot across. Hope this helps!

clamjaphry
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Re: YA contemporary CALL ME CRAZY

Post by clamjaphry » March 22nd, 2011, 7:20 pm

Thanks guys! I've decided to nix Problem and replace it with lowercase secret. Stab-murdered is also nixed (even though it's def. in the character's voice)

My question now is, does either query present an enticing enough slice of the plot? Is there any information I should either add or subtract?

Thanks again!

fishfood
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Re: YA contemporary CALL ME CRAZY

Post by fishfood » March 22nd, 2011, 10:31 pm

I think lowercase secret still poses the same problem (no pun intended...). You have to decide if revealing what the secret/problem is in the query is a better option. I honestly don't know...

I personally like stab-murdered. I think it fits the voice. :)

Not sure you necessarily to to add any more information, but I wouldn't subtract any.

enewmeyer
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Re: YA contemporary CALL ME CRAZY

Post by enewmeyer » March 22nd, 2011, 10:52 pm

I think what's missing for me is what is at stake for your main character. Why does she have to uncover her aunt's secret and what will happen to her if she doesn't? I don't think you need to reveal the secret but perhaps explain or clarify a few points. Based on this query, I'm more confused than enticed to read.

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Quill
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Re: YA contemporary CALL ME CRAZY

Post by Quill » March 23rd, 2011, 12:08 pm

clamjaphry wrote:Hi everyone,

I've tried out a zillion different ways of writing this query, and would like to present two slightly different options for your perusal. I've literally been editing this query in my sleep, so any fresh insights will be appreciated times a thousand :)

**Note: I'm making a couple edits right now before anyone else responds—the queries below have been edited in response to the first two commenters**
Welcome to Bransforums!

It will be easier for most of us readers if you simply post revised versions in line in the thread, rather than changing the opening post. Thanks.

Query Letter #1

Dear Agent,

All Kiri wants to do this summer is swing a record deal, seduce her bandmate, and convince her snooty piano teacher she’s worth every second of her very expensive time.

But when a mysterious phone call leads her to discover that her beloved Aunt Sukey was murdered in a condemned downtown hotel, Kiri loses her grip faster than the brakes on her busted-ass bicycle.

Good, but there's a dissonance between "very expensive time" and "busted-ass bicycle": one tells us she has money while the other says she's poor.

There's also dissonance between "all Kiri wants" and the three items she wants. "All she wants" sounds like a simple thing anybody could wish for and expect to get, and then you list some pretty big desires.

Also, there's dissonance between "All Kiri wants" and "but when...Kiri loses her grip". She wants but instead loses her grip; it doesn't correspond. She wants this but gets that would be more correspondent.
It turns out Sukey had a secret.

A secret Kiri’s family would rather not talk about.
This is fine, but is not helped by being formatted as two paragraphs. I'd join them in one.
And
I'd omit.
the closer Kiri comes to finding out what it is, the more convinced everyone else becomes that she’s gone batshit crazy.
Okay, this is not an effective crux to your query. We do not need to know that other people think she's nuts. We need to know what she does, what she finds, and what her dilemma is, what is her big obstacle, challenge, and choice to make.



Query Letter #2:

Dear Agent,

When Kiri finds out her beloved Aunt Sukey was murdered in a condemned pay-by-the-month hotel, she loses her grip faster than the brakes on her busted-ass bicycle.
This is a pretty good opener.
With her parents away on an anniversary cruise, Kiri had planned to spend this summer preparing for an important piano festival, storming Battle of the Bands, and convincing her nerdy but tantalizing bandmate they should do more than just jam.
This is nicely summarized. There's a bit of awkwardness between "With her parents away" and "Kiri had planned", a non-correspondence between verb tenses: With her parents away (her parents are away, while her parents are away) Kiri PLANS....(would be more correct, rather than "had planned"). With them away she plans, or She plans to do these things while they are away.
But now,
Omit comma
Kiri finds herself scrambling to uncover the circumstances
Awkward. Uncover evidence maybe. Deduct the facts.
of Sukey’s death before they knock the hotel down to make way for a futuristic yoga studio.
Omit "futuristic" as irrelevant and distracting, unless the futuristic nature of the studio plays into your plot in a significant way, in which case maybe elucidate.
It turns out Sukey had a secret.

A secret Kiri’s family doesn’t want to talk about.
Again, combine into one paragraph. No drama gained by spreading this out, and it's a space taker.
And the closer Kiri comes to finding out what it is, the more convinced everyone else becomes that she’s gone batshit crazy.
Again, what others think of her is not a proper crux. We need to know a little of where this story is going, a hint at the secret, and some more about Kiri -- her dilemma, the choice she must make, the struggle she faces.



[bio]

clamjaphry
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Re: YA contemporary CALL ME CRAZY—REVISED QUERY

Post by clamjaphry » March 23rd, 2011, 6:20 pm

OK, guys, I did some thinking about the crux/stakes, and I hope this one is better:

Dear Agent,

When Kiri’s beloved Aunt Sukey died, her parents blamed it on a long illness. But when seventeen-year old Kiri discovers that the “illness” was getting stabbed to death, she realizes that Sukey’s not the only part of her world where the truth’s been painted over.

With her parents away on an anniversary cruise, Kiri planned to spend her summer preparing for a piano festival, storming Battle of the Bands, and convincing her nerdy but tantalizing bandmate that they should do more than just jam. Her prospects for finding everlasting love-sauce look even better when she meets Skunk, a young indie rock star recovering from a psychotic break.

But the more Kiri finds out about the truth of Sukey’s life, the more determined she becomes to expose her parents' lie—even if it sparks the family meltdown she’s been struggling to prevent for years.

CALL ME CRAZY is a YA contemporary novel complete at 85,000 words. [bio]

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Quill
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Re: YA contemporary CALL ME CRAZY—REVISED QUERY

Post by Quill » March 24th, 2011, 11:46 am

clamjaphry wrote:
When Kiri’s beloved Aunt Sukey died, her parents blamed it on a long illness. But when seventeen-year old Kiri discovers that the “illness” was getting stabbed to death, she realizes that Sukey’s not the only part of her world where the truth’s been painted over.
Oh? In what other part of Kiri's world has the truth "been painted over"? I don't find any further reference.
With her parents away on an anniversary cruise, Kiri planned to spend her summer preparing
1. Wouldn't it be "with her parents away...Kiri PLANS"?

2. How about just "cruise". We don't need to know that it is an anniversary cruise.

3. Is this a two-month-long cruise? As written it comes across as a summer-long cruise (with (while) parents away on a cruise, Kiri plans to spend her (entire) summer..."
for a piano festival, storming Battle of the Bands, and convincing her nerdy but tantalizing bandmate that they should do more than just jam. Her prospects for finding everlasting love-sauce
What is "everlasting love-sauce"?
look even better when she meets Skunk, a young indie rock star recovering from a psychotic break.
Sounds like she has rather poor taste in men. Or is very hard-up. (nerdy, psychotic) Is this a significant aspect of her personality? If so, maybe highlight the reasons. Is she nerdy, psychotic herself? We might like to know a bit more about her, and what makes her tick.

Also, what is a "psychotic break"? A break from being psychotic? A psychotic episode (a break-DOWN)?
But the more Kiri finds out about the truth of Sukey’s life,
Whoa, didn't know she was investigating this. Is she? How does she do this?
the more determined she becomes to expose her parents' lie—even if it sparks the family meltdown she’s been struggling to prevent for years.
Whoa, this is news to us. Might be good to allude earlier to the meltdown potential and the struggle to prevent, so this can have proper impact here. As is, some readers may feel blindsided and mystified to be left with this. Might be good to lace in some stuff about her relationship with her family, and the family atmosphere (secrecy, tension?) earlier in the query. What you do state about it seems quick and perfunctory. Maybe make it a bit darker to give it some impact. You do have the space to add a few things to this query. As is you have stated in broad strokes the basic plot, but we could do with some select details, to color it, to give it a mood, more of a voice, more of a flavor of what makes your story unique.

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wilderness
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Re: YA contemporary CALL ME CRAZY—REVISED QUERY

Post by wilderness » March 25th, 2011, 10:07 pm

clamjaphry wrote: Dear Agent,

When Kiri’s beloved Aunt Sukey died, her parents blamed it on a long illness. But when seventeen-year old Kiri discovers that the “illness” was getting stabbed to death, she realizes that Sukey’s not the only part of her world where the truth’s been painted over. Hmm, two "when" sentence beginnings in a row, maybe mix it up a bit? Also, I'd like to know a tiny bit more about her aunt and why she was stabbed. You don't have to explain it all but right now we don't even have a hint.

With her parents away on an anniversary cruise, Kiri planned to spend her summer preparing for a piano festival, storming Battle of the Bands, and convincing her nerdy but tantalizing bandmate that they should do more than just jam.I like the description here, we learn something about Kiri. Her prospects for finding everlasting love-sauce look even better when she meets Skunk, a young indie rock star recovering from a psychotic break.The love-sauce bit is cute, but the sentence is a bit strange: a psychotic break doesn't spell love to me.

But the more Kiri finds out about the truth of Sukey’s life, the more determined she becomes to expose her parents' lie—even if it sparks the family meltdown she’s been struggling to prevent for years. Again, I'd like to know more about her family and why she's been preventing a meltdown for years. It's hard to feel concerned about it when we know so little.

CALL ME CRAZY is a YA contemporary novel complete at 85,000 words. [bio]
Could be a good premise, but I'd like to see the mystery fleshed out a bit more...just a few clues to entice us!

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Re: YA contemporary CALL ME CRAZY

Post by AllieS » March 26th, 2011, 3:18 am

When Kiri’s beloved Aunt Sukey died, her parents blamed it on a long illness. But when seventeen-year old Kiri discovers that the “illness” was getting stabbed to death, she realizes that Sukey’s not the only part of her world where the truth’s been painted over.

Reading from the previous sentence to the next paragraph, it seemed as though you were about to give us an idea of what other truths have been painted over. I was expecting to get a glimpse of some of the dark secrets or whatnot, but there's a bit of a jump to the next paragraph, and I'm left wondering why that sentence about the "truths" was included at all. Just to tease me?

With her parents away on an anniversary cruise, Kiri planned to spend her summer preparing for a piano festival, storming Battle of the Bands, and convincing her nerdy but tantalizing bandmate that they should do more than just jam. Her prospects for finding everlasting love-sauce look even better when she meets Skunk, a young indie rock star recovering from a psychotic break.

But the more Kiri finds out about the truth of Sukey’s life, the more determined she becomes to expose her parents' lie—even if it sparks the family meltdown she’s been struggling to prevent for years.

This is all interesting, but you don't give me enough to be really interested. I mean, come on! You give all these hints of mysterious things, like the truths that have been painted over, the psychotic break, and how Kiri wants to seduce her bandmate. But that's all you give. Mystery is good and all, but give us a little more detail.

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