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Query-YA paranormal thriller NEWEST ATTEMPT IN POST #16

Posted: June 1st, 2011, 5:35 pm
by bighockeyhair
LATEST ATTEMPT IN POST #16


I've been beating this novel up and down the street for a while now without much luck. It had an agent championing it quite enthusiastically for about 6 months or so, but then 2008 happened and she returned to focus on her area of specialty (non-fiction).

For the most part, those who have read it have loved it. I'm worried however that the query letter is not doing it justice. I've finally decided to give it one last shot before putting this puppy to sleep. Thanks in advance for any and all feedback!


Query

Dear Agent,

I am seeking representation for my 77,000 word YA paranormal thriller, CURSED.

When seventeen-year-old outcast Lysander Shore witnesses the local Reverend murder one of the city's residents, he’s in shock. Even more unnerving is the way Reverend Small kills, by possessing his victim's body and forcing them to commit suicide.

Lysander knows no one in tiny Millingham, Massachusetts will believe a kid who wears black nail polish and looks like he’s dressed for a funeral. But when he meets Samantha Crow, a captivating young woman whose mother’s suspicious death looks like the Reverend’s handy work, the two find themselves drawn irresistibly together by more than just circumstance.

As Lysander and Samantha struggle to uncover the Reverend’s true identity, they unwittingly stumble upon a dark secret that traces back to a witch's brutal torture and execution 350 years before.

The deeper they go, the more they realize there’s motive to the Reverend's madness. His victims aren't nearly as random as they seem. In fact, he has a list, and Lysander Shore is next.

CURSED is the story of redemption, true love and forbidden knowledge that will appeal to fans of Lisa Mcmann’s Cryer’s Cross and Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian. My published stories have appeared in Black Ink Horror and Alienskin. I’m currently working on my second novel.

I have pasted the first ten pages below, and would be delighted to send the full manuscript at your request. Thank you for taking the time to review my materials.

Re: Query-YA paranormal thriller

Posted: June 1st, 2011, 7:08 pm
by Quill
bighockeyhair wrote:
I am seeking representation for my 77,000 word YA paranormal thriller, CURSED.
a small point but I'd move the title up in the sentence, to highlight it:

"I am seeking representation for CURSED, my 77,000 word YA paranormal thriller."
When seventeen-year-old outcast Lysander Shore witnesses the local Reverend murder one of the city's residents, he’s in shock.
Good, but the term "local Reverend" may not be as sharp as it could be. Does each locality have just one Reverend? Also, just checking, is the term "reverend" always capitalized, or only when a name is attached, making it a title?
Even more unnerving is the way Reverend Small kills, by possessing his victim's body and forcing them to commit suicide.
This is a bit incongruous. To whom is this "unnerving"? To Lysander? How does he know this? If he finds out later, it would seem out of place here, presented just after the inititial witnessing and before meeting Samantha. Or am I missing something?

Actually, how DOES the kid witness the murder? Does he see the reverend enter the body? Some questions here that might need clarifying in your query.
Lysander knows no one in tiny Millingham, Massachusetts will believe a kid who wears black nail polish and looks like he’s dressed for a funeral.
Good description, but again, we need some preceding info filled in as to what he saw or knows (and how he knows it) before buying what it is no one else will believe.
But when he meets Samantha Crow, a captivating young woman whose mother’s suspicious death looks like the Reverend’s handy work, the two find themselves drawn irresistibly together by more than just circumstance.
"Handiwork" is, I think, what you are going for, rather than "handy work"

Also, a bit awkward: "But when he meets Samantha...the two find themselves drawn by more than circumstances." You've changed subject from "he" to "the two". Also, the time frame as written indicates the two finding themselves drawn WHEN (concurrently) he meets her.
As Lysander and Samantha struggle to uncover the Reverend’s true identity, they unwittingly stumble upon a dark secret that traces back to a witch's brutal torture and execution 350 years before.
Cool.

I'd omit "unwittingly" as redundant to "stumble"; stumbling implies unwitting.
The deeper they go, the more they realize there’s motive to the Reverend's madness. His victims aren't nearly as random as they seem. In fact, he has a list, and Lysander Shore is next.
This could be punched up, or possibly omitted.

The fact that Lysander is next may be usable in the query, but "motive to his madness" is cliche, and "nearly as random" doesn't quite make sense to me; either something is random or it isn't.

CURSED is the story of redemption, true love and forbidden knowledge
These qualities and features should be made clear in the body of the blurb rather than stated here. Speaking ABOUT the book here is rarely as effective as showing it above.
that will appeal to fans of Lisa Mcmann’s Cryer’s Cross and Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian. My published stories have appeared in Black Ink Horror and Alienskin. I’m currently working on my second novel.

I have pasted the first ten pages below, and would be delighted to send the full manuscript at your request. Thank you for taking the time to review my materials.
Good.

And good luck, it sounds like a real page-turner.

Re: Query-YA paranormal thriller

Posted: June 1st, 2011, 7:26 pm
by AllieS
When seventeen-year-old outcast Lysander Shore witnesses the local Reverend murder one of the city's residents, he’s in shock. Even more unnerving is the way Reverend Small kills, by possessing his victim's body and forcing them to commit suicide. I agree with what Quill said. How can Lysander know the reverend is possessing someone and forcing them to commit suicide? I'd like to know how he saw this happen.

Lysander knows no one in tiny Millingham, Massachusetts will believe a kid who wears black nail polish and looks like he’s dressed for a funeral. But when he meets Samantha Crow, a captivating young woman this wording doesn't say YA to me. Saying "captivating girl" would sound more natural, or you could even use another word for "captivating." whose mother’s suspicious death looks like the Reverend’s handy work, the two find themselves drawn irresistibly together by more than just circumstance. Don't think you need this.

As Lysander and Samantha struggle to uncover the Reverend’s true identity I didn't realize he had more than one., they unwittingly stumble upon a dark secret that traces back to a witch's brutal torture and execution 350 years before. good detail

The deeper they go, the more they realize there’s motive to the Reverend's madness yeah, cliche. His victims aren't nearly as random as they seem. In fact, he has a list, and Lysander Shore is next.

CURSED is the story of redemption, true love and forbidden knowledge Like Quill said, this is telling, you don't need it. that will appeal to fans of Lisa Mcmann’s Cryer’s Cross and Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian. My published stories have appeared in Black Ink Horror and Alienskin. I’m currently working on my second novel.

Sounds like a really good story

Re: Query-YA paranormal thriller

Posted: June 2nd, 2011, 2:46 pm
by bighockeyhair
Great Feedback! Thanks so much.

Re: Query-YA paranormal thriller

Posted: June 3rd, 2011, 12:26 pm
by lhowell
Great feedback!

Re: Query-YA paranormal thriller

Posted: June 3rd, 2011, 5:38 pm
by bighockeyhair
I've tried to incorporate as much of the feedback as I could (almost all I think), and here's what I came up with. Hope it's moving in the right direction.


I am seeking representation for CURSED, a 77,000 word paranormal thriller for young adults.

Seventeen-year-old outcast Lysander Shore is determined to put an end to the strange out-of-body experiences that have plagued him since moving to Millingham, Massachusetts. Hurtling headlong through stranger's living rooms or watching your lifeless body crumpled beneath you, tends to lose its charm rather quickly.

But the experience goes from bizarre to terrifying when Lysander witnesses the local Reverend murder one of the city's residents. The Reverend shares Lysander's unique ability and uses it to posses his victims and force them to commit suicide.

Lysander knows no one will believe a kid who wears black nail polish and looks like he’s dressed for a funeral. Never mind the out of body stuff. His only ally is Samantha Crow, a captivating girl who's convinced her mother’s suspicious death is the Reverend’s handiwork.

As the two struggle to uncover the Reverend’s true identity, they stumble upon a dark secret that traces back to a witch's brutal torture and execution 350 years before.

But stopping the Reverend will mean beating him at his own game. A game that will force Lysander to embrace the very affliction he's been trying to cure and face a truth too unspeakable to name.

CURSED will appeal to fans of Lisa McMann's Wake and Lauren Kate's Fallen. My published stories have appeared in Black Ink Horror and Alienskin. I’m currently working on my second novel.

Re: Query-YA paranormal thriller NEWEST ATTEMPT IN POST #6

Posted: June 3rd, 2011, 6:25 pm
by glj
This is better than the first version. Good work. Overall, the story sounds interesting. But you might be able to punch it up a little more.


I am seeking representation for CURSED, a 77,000 word YA paranormal thriller for young adults.

Seventeen-year-old outcast Lysander Shore is determined to put an end to the strange out-of-body experiences that have plagued him since moving to Millingham, Massachusetts. Hurtling headlong through stranger's (strangers') living ooms (rooms) use rooms that are considered to be more private, such as bedrooms or bathrooms or watching your lifelessbut his body isn't dead?? body crumpled beneath you, tends to lose its charm rather quickly.

Hmmm. The first sentence seems like it has too much going on. You could break it down so that the first sentence tells of his problem (out-of-body experiences), and a second sentence tells the reader that the out-of-body experiences started when he moved to the new town. I suspect it wouldn't be a concern to Lysander if he had been having such episodes all his life. But moving to a new town and suddenly having them would be most unsettling. Plus it would imply some deep and scary problem with his new hometown.

But the experience goes from bizarre to terrifying when Lysander witnesses the local I agree that "local" is odd wording. And unneeded. Reverend murder one of the city's residents. The Reverend shares Lysander's unique ability and uses it to posses his victims and force them to commit suicide. Wow, nice concept. A nearly undetectable crime!

Lysander knows no one will believe a kid who wears black nail polish and looks like he’s dressed for a funeral. Never mind the out of body stuff. I'm not sure what this is supposed to mean, that they especially won't listen to him talk of his out-of-body experiences? His only ally is Samantha Crow, a captivating girl who's convinced her mother’s suspicious death is the Reverend’s handiwork. This seems to need more linkage between Lysander and Samantha. Do they join up for any reason in particular? Could they meet while trying to figure out the reasons behind suicides by people who were not depressed or terminally ill? Seems like they need common cause in order to be allies. And some friction between them would be even better.

As the two struggle to uncover the Reverend’s true identity, they stumble upon a dark secret that traces back to a witch's brutal torture and execution 350 years before. Cool idea. But a hint as to how they even know to look for his true identity might be interesting here.

But stopping the Reverend will mean beating him at his own game. A bit cliche, I'm afraid. Tell us that as much as Lysander hates the out-of-body sessions, he realizes that it will be the only way to stop the reverend. A game that will force Lysander to embrace the very affliction he's been trying to cure As in the previous sentence, this would be more effective if you make us feel Lysander's dilemma. and face a truth too unspeakable to name. Much too vague to create any interest.

CURSED will appeal to fans of Lisa McMann's Wake and Lauren Kate's Fallen. My published stories have appeared in Black Ink Horror and Alienskin. I’m currently working on my second novel.

Good luck. This strikes me as having some unique twists. Your challenge is to make the query show just enough to be enticing.

Re: Query-YA paranormal thriller

Posted: June 4th, 2011, 4:04 pm
by TomLysander
This query is short enough (~241 words) that you could expand on this and still fit a single page comfortably. Here are my thoughts:
bighockeyhair wrote: I am seeking representation for CURSED, a 77,000 word paranormal thriller for young adults.

Seventeen-year-old outcast Lysander Shore is determined to put an end to the strange out-of-body experiences that have plagued him since moving to Millingham, Massachusetts. Hurtling headlong through stranger's living rooms or watching your lifeless body crumpled beneath you, tends to lose its charm rather quickly. You might lead with the second line here, then clarify with the first. Leading first with the feeling of an out-of-body experience is catchy -- but I'll leave it to you to decide if it feels too gimmicky. That said, it's a comma splice: it ought to flow a little better: something like "Leaving your lifeless body crumpled behind you and hurtling through strangers' bedrooms tends to lose its charm rather quickly. Seventeen-year-old outcast Lysander... etc."

But the experience goes from bizarre to terrifying when Lysander witnesses the local Reverend murder one of the city's residents. The Reverend shares Lysander's unique ability and uses it to possespossess his victims and force themhis victims, forcing them to commit suicide. Reverend isn't a title here, it's just an ordinary noun -- if you want to make it an ominous title, set it up by writing "the stranger who Lysander knows only as the Reverend" or something

Lysander knows no one will believe a kid who wears black nail polish and looks like he’s dressed for a funeral. Never mind the out of body stuff. His only ally is Samantha Crow, a captivating girlthere may be a better adjective than "captivating" who's convinced who believes that her mother’s suspicious death is the Reverend’s handiwork.

As the two struggle to uncover the Reverend’s true identity, they stumble upon a dark secret that traces back to a witch's brutal torture and execution 350 years before.

But stopping the Reverend will mean beating him at his own game. A game that will force Lysander to embrace the very affliction he's been trying to cure and face a truth too unspeakable to name.

CURSED will appeal to fans of Lisa McMann's Wake and Lauren Kate's Fallen. My published stories have appeared in Black Ink Horror and Alienskin. I’m currently working on my second novel.
This query is pretty strong as it is. You've got your stakes and an interesting premise. Right now, if there is a weakness, it might be that the characters feel spare to me, so you might expand the query with an eye towards making these characters pop. The Reverend himself could use more shading -- why doesn't LS know who he is? how are the two connected to this ability? (the "truth too unspeakable to name" may be worth hinting at) etc.

Likewise, there are elements of tension here that aren't explicit that might be: so-called spectral evidence (i.e. how do you prosecute a killer as a spectral eyewitness? maybe you simply have to kill him...?) and the difficulty of going outside the body -- is it exhausting? how is it possible to stop a spectral killer if you can't be everywhere at once? You can highlight these tensions here, rather than resting simply on the "there's a killer loose, we need to stop him before he kills again" plot. Don't sell yourself short! Kudos, Tom

Re: Query-YA paranormal thriller NEWEST ATTEMPT IN POST #6

Posted: June 4th, 2011, 7:23 pm
by bighockeyhair
NEWEST VERSION

Thanks again for all the fabulous feedback. I've decided to change tack here a bit and try a pared down version of the query. There are a lot of moving pieces in my novel and I'm fighting to urge to include it all. Again, any comments on whether this slimmer version is stronger or not are very welcomed.


I am seeking representation for CURSED, a 77,000-word YA paranormal thriller.

Wearing black nail polish and looking like your dressed for a funeral isn’t exactly a recipe for popularity. Especially when you’re a guy. But that’s the least of 17-year-old Lysander Shore’s problems. Ever since moving to Millingham, Lysander’s been plagued by strange out-of-body experiences. Hurtling headlong through strangers’ bedrooms; his physical body wracked by painful seizures.

But the experience goes from troubling to terrifying when Lysander witnesses next door neighbour, Reverend Nathaniel Small, murder one of the town’s residents. The Reverend shares Lysander's unique ability and uses it to possess his victims, forcing them to commit suicide. And he’s convinced the Reverend saw him.

Now Lysander can’t shake the eerie feeling he’s being watched and wonders it’s only a question of time before he’s next.

For Lysander, saving himself and stopping the Reverend for good will mean learning to control the very out-of-body experiences that are slowly killing him.

Re: Query-YA paranormal thriller NEWEST ATTEMPT IN POST #6

Posted: June 4th, 2011, 9:09 pm
by Quill
bighockeyhair wrote:NEWEST VERSION
I'm liking it.

I am seeking representation for CURSED, a 77,000-word YA paranormal thriller.

Wearing black nail polish and looking like your dressed for a funeral isn’t exactly a recipe for popularity. Especially when you’re a guy. But that’s the least of 17-year-old Lysander Shore’s problems.
Typo: You're dressed for a funeral, not "your dressed."

Wondering why "especially if you're a guy" is important or even true. Could you drop this?

I'd omit "But" from "But that the least..."
Ever since moving to Millingham, Lysander’s been plagued by strange out-of-body experiences. Hurtling headlong through strangers’ bedrooms; his physical body wracked by painful seizures.
Good. But absolutely no need for a semi-colon there. Trade it for a comma or period.

And if you drop the "guy" line, or even if not, consider saying "he's been plagued" since you just gave us his name.
But
Omit. The "But" doesn't help.
the experience goes from troubling to terrifying when Lysander witnesses next door neighbour, Reverend Nathaniel Small, murder one of the town’s residents. The Reverend shares Lysander's unique ability and uses it to possess his victims, forcing them to commit suicide. And he’s convinced the Reverend saw him.
Nice. Great last sentence. So great that what follows is totally anticlimactic.
Now Lysander can’t shake the eerie feeling he’s being watched and wonders it’s only a question of time before he’s next.

For Lysander, saving himself and stopping the Reverend for good will mean learning to control the very out-of-body experiences that are slowly killing him.
You could almost omit all of this, except that the query might be too short and not quite involved enough.

Any way to punch up these points? For one, how about combining this into one paragraph. I think it would read better.

Re: Query-YA paranormal thriller NEWEST ATTEMPT IN POST #9

Posted: June 4th, 2011, 9:29 pm
by AllieS
I actually like the old version better! Things just weren't clicking for me as I read the new one. Something about the rhythm and the details you included in the last one drew me in more. Of course, this is just one opinion, but I thought I'd share!

Re: Query-YA paranormal thriller NEWEST ATTEMPT IN POST #9

Posted: June 4th, 2011, 11:21 pm
by bighockeyhair
Quil, Allie, Tom...Just wanted to let you know how much you all rock! Like Lysander's OBEs, this query is slowly killing me, but you've all helped so much. Thanks!

Re: Query-YA paranormal thriller NEWEST ATTEMPT IN POST #6

Posted: June 5th, 2011, 12:55 am
by Meredith
bighockeyhair wrote:NEWEST VERSION

Thanks again for all the fabulous feedback. I've decided to change tack here a bit and try a pared down version of the query. There are a lot of moving pieces in my novel and I'm fighting to urge to include it all. Again, any comments on whether this slimmer version is stronger or not are very welcomed.


I am seeking representation for CURSED, a 77,000-word YA paranormal thriller.

The first part is obvious. They know you're seeking representation. I wouldn't waste words on it. The title, genre and length are not the most interesting things about your story, so I wouldn't start with them.

Wearing black nail polish and looking like your you're dressed for a funeral isn’t exactly a recipe for popularity. Especially when you’re a guy. Then why does he do it? If he's worried about popularity, it'd be easy enough to dress like everyone else, wouldn't it? And if he doesn't care about popularity, why mention it here? But that’s the least of 17-year-old Lysander Shore’s problems. Ever since moving to Millingham, Lysander’s been plagued by strange out-of-body experiences. Hurtling headlong through strangers’ bedrooms; just a comma, not a semi-colon. his physical body wracked by painful seizures.

But the experience goes from troubling to terrifying when Lysander witnesses next door neighbour, Reverend Nathaniel Small, murder one of the town’s residents. The Reverend shares Lysander's unique ability and uses it to possess his victims, forcing them to commit suicide. And he’s convinced the Reverend saw him. If he reverend was possessing the victim, how does Lysander know it was him?

Now Lysander can’t shake the eerie feeling he’s being watched and wonders if it’s only a question of time before he’s next.

For Lysander, saving himself and stopping the Reverend for good will mean learning to control the very out-of-body experiences that are slowly killing him.
Sounds like an interesting story. Could you include the part about the girl from the previous query? A touch of romance never hurts, especially in YA.

Re: Query-YA paranormal thriller NEWEST ATTEMPT IN POST #9

Posted: June 8th, 2011, 2:26 pm
by akila
I'm with Allie - I actually really liked the second version before you shortened it. I loved the details you included and its rhythm and flow.

Re: Query-YA paranormal thriller NEWEST ATTEMPT IN POST #9

Posted: June 8th, 2011, 11:24 pm
by bighockeyhair
Cool! Yeah, I think you're right. I've decided to go back to one very very similar to that. Thanks for taking a look!