A Lullaby- YA paranormal romance query

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priya g.
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A Lullaby- YA paranormal romance query

Post by priya g. » October 5th, 2010, 5:07 pm

my first query letter and i am scared. actually, its a bit sad- writing a manuscript close to 200k and then being asked to summarize it in a page. oh well.
*** version 4 is on page 2, way down***
Dear Agent,

Protectors. Some in golden robes, others in their mermaid bodies. All amongst us, putting on a mask of humanity. They have seen the first rising of the sun, they have bathe in the first wave. But has a flame ever lasted on a layer of ice? Is love now a virtue or a vice?

To save mortals from the fatal effects of fire and water, protectors were created, yet concealed behind the masks of humanity. Named Duchkins and Helarons respectively, they are two sides of the same coin, amicable towards each other but not wholly. They maintain their distance, a colossal gap between them that neither time nor effort can bridge. They are eternal beings, but the only end to them can come from the poison of Miseskus. In midst of their efforts to save mankind and keep themselves hidden behind the veil of normalcy, a Duchkin, Agora Beckwith, falls in love with a Helaron, Dave Douglas. Defying the laws of nature, they lose nearly everything for each other- with a burning desire to give their love the chance it deserves.

A LULLABY is Young adult paranormal romance, complete at 200,000 words.
Thank you for your time and consideration.

would love to hear your comments!
Last edited by priya g. on October 8th, 2010, 11:16 am, edited 3 times in total.

Krista G.
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Re: A Lullaby- YA paranormal romance query

Post by Krista G. » October 5th, 2010, 6:13 pm

priya g. wrote:Dear Agent,

Protectors. Some in golden robes, others in their mermaid bodies. All amongst us, putting on a mask of humanity. They have seen the first rising of the sun, they have bathe bathed in the first wave. But has a flame ever lasted on a layer of ice? Is love now a virtue or a vice? I'm not sure I understand what these lines are supposed to be. Why are they italicized? Is this a poem you envision being on the first page of your book? In any case, I'm not sure this is the strongest way to start a query. The sentence fragments interrupt the flow, and since I don't have a context in which to place any of these words, my brain just kind of blurs past them.

To save mortals from the fatal effects of fire and water, protectors were created, yet concealed behind the masks of humanity. Named Duchkins and Helarons respectively, they are two sides of the same coin, amicable towards each other but not wholly. We need to know more about this, about how they're amicable but not. They maintain their distance, a colossal gap between them that neither time nor effort can bridge. Why do they maintain their distance? Is it because they would destroy each other, one being fire and the other water? They are eternal beings, but the only end to them can come from the poison of Miseskus. We need to know more about this poison and how it relates to the main story. In the midst of their efforts to save mankind and keep themselves hidden behind the veil of normalcy (I know what you mean by "behind the veil of normalcy," but I think you could be more straightforward, just "from the humans" or something), a Duchkin, Agora Beckwith, falls in love with a Helaron, Dave Douglas. Defying the laws of nature, they lose nearly everything for each other- with a burning desire to give their love the chance it deserves. This last sentence is the first time we get any hint of the actual story. This is where the meat of your query really lies. We need to know more about Agora and Dave. Then you can weave the world building elements in through your description of their story.

A LULLABY is Young adult paranormal romance, complete at 200,000 words. Hmm. That word count will likely be a deal breaker for a lot of agents. Is there any way you could split A LULLABY in half and then focus on querying the first book?

Thank you for your time and consideration.
I like your twist on the classic tale of ROMEO AND JULIET, but we need to know more about these star-crossed (element-crossed?) lovers. In the end, it's the characters that keep us reading books, so showcase them from the get-go. How do Agora and Dave meet? (I like how one of their names is so exotic and the other so mundane, by the way:) ) What are their personalities like?

Once you've nailed that down, you can introduce the conflict and the stakes. Who doesn't want them together, and why? What will happen if they stay together? Will the world explode? Will they be exiled? Will they die?

Finally, I really, REALLY think you need to consider the idea of breaking this book into two. Honestly, it won't matter how good the query or the manuscript is - an agent or his/her assistant will see that 200,000 and just hit the form-rejection button without even batting an eye.

Good luck, Priya. I'm getting ready to jump back into the query pool myself, and I know how exhilirating/terrifying it is.
Author of THE REGENERATED MAN (G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers, Winter 2015)
Represented by Kate Schafer Testerman of kt literary
www.motherwrite.blogspot.com

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wilderness
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Re: A Lullaby- YA paranormal romance query

Post by wilderness » October 5th, 2010, 6:42 pm

Hi Priya,

Looks like you have quite an intricate world there. However, most of the query should focus on the plot not the world. Start with your two MCs, Agora and Dave, and tell us their journey. How did they meet? What problems do they face? You can weave in the details of your world as you explain their obstacles, but keep the spotlight on the characters and the forward motion of the plot.

Also, I have to agree with Krista that 200K words is just too long to even be considered. It's too long for an adult novel, much less YA. It's actually not clear to me that this *is* YA -- are Agora and Dave teenagers? I think you're going to have to do some serious chopping -- or you can split it into multiple books as Krista suggested.

Good luck!

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Re: A Lullaby- YA paranormal romance query

Post by priya g. » October 6th, 2010, 8:19 am

Thanks for your comments! Seeing the query from your eyes brought a lot out that i was missing.
Krista:
The italicized part is supposed to be the hook, though I don't think I achieved the purpose. That said- I am considering deleting it. secondly, you are right: I need to give more information on their characteristics: why the two types of Protectors don't get along. But wouldn't it be a repetition to mention that water and fire are opposites? I need to put that in a way that it doesn't sound monotonous.
As for the last sentence- bringing Dave and Agora- here’s the thing: I don't know which approach I should take- introducing the protectors and then zooming into the MC’s lives or vice-versa. Thing is, the story is dependent on who they are- not necessarily how they are.
As for the word length- I am working on it. I will chop a lot of it down, but this story has a lot of emotion- in the sense that much of it is based on thoughts. As a teenager, I have tried to bring in a lot of the thoughts that people my age go through, so that the reader associates with them. I would like to know your view on that.
Thanks!

Wilderness:
Thanks for your comments. I am working on the length, but same question- should I start with Agora and Dave and then go on to who they are or vice-versa? I am working on another query letter, which I will put up in few hours. It will start of with Agora, then down to who she is. I have written the story from both the MC’s views but Agora has a larger share of chapters- so... well, I guess her view makes it easier to explain.
Thanks!
I have a few quick questions:
1. What is the average length, in words, of a query letter?
2. What is the age range for young adult?

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Re: A Lullaby- YA paranormal romance query

Post by priya g. » October 6th, 2010, 9:01 am

version 2:

Dear Agent,

Agora Beckwith can't congratulate herself for being a superhuman- there are just too many like her out there. She can only hide in the shadows and hope that her destiny will lead her to save lives and play the game safe. There aren't many perks of being a Fire Protector, a Duchkin- sparks running off her fingertips, an inexplicable hunger for fire, and the destiny of finding a soul mate- yet she still manages to believe that she stands above the humans.
But when she falls in love with Dave Douglas, a water protector- a Helaron, all her thoughts fly out of the window- how the fairy-tale resembling relationship can change into a nightmare with the blink of an eye and more importantly, her identity.
But nature doesn't forget.
Neither does it forgive.
When nature does step in- it brings an end that neither Agora can dream of nor nightmares can match with. What will she wake up to- an empty heart or somewhere in the pits of hell?
A Lullaby is a YA paranormal romance novel, complete at 200,000 words.
thank you for your time and consideration


*** I still don't know where to fit in the descriptions of Duchkins and Helarons. The flow seems to get disrupted wherever I manage to squeeze it in.***
oh and i am working on chopping the MS down. so i kept the original description line of 200k words

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Re: A Lullaby- YA paranormal romance query

Post by androidblues » October 6th, 2010, 11:26 am

A query letter is recommend queryshark to be no longer than 250 words. I've seen exceptions of course, but only if all of the information is relevant to the story. It should be no longer than 450 words, or a 12pt Times New Roman formatted page. As for the range of YA? I'd say 10-18. It depends but I was reading middlegrade at ten, but my sister reads YA at ten. It has really changed in the past six years. Plus you must keep in mind that although no-one would ever say it there are two different types of YA. Stargirl by Jerry Spinneli falls in the younger age group of YA(10-14) while the Perks of Being a Wallflower falls into the older group(14-18). The difference between MG, YA, and Adult is weird because I don't really want graphic sex descriptions in a YA book yet a lot of authors put it in there. Perhaps like Marvel Comics there should be some sort of age indicator on the book.

K, K-10, K-13, T, M, which is like a mix between video game ratings system and the Shonen Jump ratings system

I love fire and water relationships btw. Do you watch Avatar the Last Airbender? Just make sure you include a bit about their personalities. 200,000 words is kinda long. Maybe you could split it up so they're like a sequel, because a lot of agents won't take anything over 100,000 words for YA. Cool title too.
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Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

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

priya g.
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Re: A Lullaby- YA paranormal romance query

Post by priya g. » October 6th, 2010, 12:25 pm

thanks for the info, android!
other than that- i can chop down the story, but cutting it into to two? i don't find that easy to do. i mean its like cutting the alphabet into half- it simply won't suffice. i am wondering if i can pitch the word count in a different way- though i am coming up blank.
let me give editing and revising it another shot, till then.
as for Avatar and the likes- i have tried to incorporate the facets of water and fire from wherever i can, though most of the characteristics of these protectors is well, my imagination. i haven't consulted many texts in reference to them. its fiction, after all, so i guess i can play around with it.

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Re: A Lullaby- YA paranormal romance query

Post by wilderness » October 6th, 2010, 1:02 pm

priya g. wrote: Dear Agent,

Agora Beckwith can't congratulate herself for being a superhuman- there are just too many like her out there. Good, you're starting with your MC's POV. FYI, your dashes should be m-dashes. She can only hide in the shadows and hope that her destiny will lead her to save lives and play the game safe. Not sure what playing the game safe really means here. What game? There aren't many perks of being a Fire Protector, a Duchkin- sparks running off her fingertips, an inexplicable hunger for fire, and the destiny of finding a soul mate- yet she still manages to believe that she stands above the humans. This is an overstuffed sentence. Break it up. Use one sentence to explain being a Fire Protector/Duchkin, another about how she believes she stands above the humans.

But when she falls in love with Dave Douglas, a water protector- a Helaron, all her thoughts fly out of the window- how the fairy-tale resembling relationship can change into a nightmare with the blink of an eye and more importantly, her identity. Again, too much in one sentence. Break it up. Also, changing into a nightmare is vague. How does a relationship change into a nightmare? Be specific.

But nature doesn't forget.
Neither does it forgive.

When nature does step in- it brings an end that neither Agora can dream of nor nightmares can match with. What will she wake up to- an empty heart or somewhere in the pits of hell?
These last few lines don't really tell me anything. Don't try to be overly mysterious; it is better to deal in specifics. What is "nature" doing to Agora and Dave? How does it stand in the way of their love?

A Lullaby is a YA paranormal romance novel, complete at 200,000 words.
thank you for your time and consideration

*** I still don't know where to fit in the descriptions of Duchkins and Helarons. The flow seems to get disrupted wherever I manage to squeeze it in.***
Don't squeeze it in. Let your sentences breathe, break them up and use shorter, simpler ones.
oh and i am working on chopping the MS down. so i kept the original description line of 200k words Good.
This is more on the right track. You're telling the story from Agora's POV, so that's good. But the end breaks down-- tell us explicitly what the problems are.
Here's a couple of links I suggest you check out:

http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2010/08 ... etter.html - Nathan's How To Write A Query
http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2010/03 ... eries.html - The Secret of Killer Queries: Specificity
http://queryshark.blogspot.com/ - Query Shark. Read lots of examples: good ones and bad ones.

YA protagonists are usually ages 14-18. Just as importantly, the content of YA stories are about things that teens can relate to: parents, school, first crushes/loves, and most importantly learning to become an adult. There can be sex, drugs, cursing, whatever. Real teens face those things, too. But those are included as a path toward finding their place in this world. Your query sounds like adult paranormal romance to me -- which is not a bad thing. Paranormal romance is still a hot genre right now.

Query lengths: Max 350 words, I think around 250 is more common.

priya g.
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Re: A Lullaby- YA paranormal romance query

Post by priya g. » October 6th, 2010, 2:00 pm

thanks for the comments, wildnerness!

i am working on improving that draft: you are right, the sentences are choking with info. problem is, i cant explain what happens to Agora and Dave without diving down into details about Duchkins and Helarons- a problem that i saw in other sci-fi and paranormal MS queries. 250 words simply dont seem enough!
as for the term 'nature', i am implying, well, Nature. like, you know, Mother Nature. okay, so i keep repeating the word but i dont have any other that suits it well enough.
another thing- should i leave the protectors to simply Water and Fire Protectors? or should i mention that they are called Helarons and Duchkins? there is an information overflow at times- so i guess their names aren't really necessary. what's your take?
i think the next draft will be up in few hours, i am leaving everything to hound this thing!
thanks.

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Re: A Lullaby- YA paranormal romance query

Post by androidblues » October 6th, 2010, 2:11 pm

I think the best way to write a query is like this. In this first paragraph state the event that states everything off, as well as the characters personality. Such as in Star Wars it was Luke's house being burned down. Then in the second paragraph mention the character's quest and the antagonist. Then in the third paragraph wrap everything up and mention what is at stake, this would be the end of the first act. If you can give me a summary of your novel in a PM I can help you write the query letter.
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Re: A Lullaby- YA paranormal romance query

Post by wilderness » October 6th, 2010, 2:12 pm

I think going with Fire Protector and Water Protector and leaving out the names Helarons and Duchkins would probably be better.

As for "Nature" -- How exactly is nature (or Mother Nature) posing a problem to their relationship? What obstacles do they face? Good luck!

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Re: A Lullaby- YA paranormal romance query

Post by priya g. » October 6th, 2010, 4:59 pm

android:
a bit of a problem here. there is no antagonist, just the situation itself turns tables round. how do i put that? i like the idea of the sequence- i am giving it a shot.

wilderness:
i am at a dead end here. i am re-writing the query but i NEED to use the word Nature or Mother Nature. should i completely eliminate it or should i explain it further?

thanks in advance!

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Re: A Lullaby- YA paranormal romance query

Post by wilderness » October 6th, 2010, 5:34 pm

I don't think there's any problem with the word nature or Mother Nature. I'm just saying you haven't explained what the obstacles really are. You said that you don't have an antagonist, that it is the situation. But then you have to explain what the situation is.
But nature doesn't forget.
Neither does it forgive. Forget and forgive what?

When nature does step in- it brings an end that neither Agora can dream of nor nightmares can match with. What will she wake up to- an empty heart or somewhere in the pits of hell? What does nature do to step in? What is the ending that it brings? I really don't understand the plot.
Hope that helps.

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Re: A Lullaby- YA paranormal romance query

Post by priya g. » October 7th, 2010, 2:07 pm

version 3

Agora Beckwith can't congratulate herself for being a superhuman- there are just too many out there like her. She can only hide in the shadows and hope that her destiny will lead her to save lives and serve the ultimate purpose of her creation. Being a fire protector doesn't come with many perks: fingertips that give off fire sparks are hardly worth showing off; an inexplicable hunger for flames that can never be satiated is labelled freaky, reincarnation is overrated and an obsession with making checklists doesn't always come handy in this world.
She follows the checklist titled ‘Life’ to the dot, but crumples the same when Dave Douglas enters her life. Falling in love with water protector was never an option, for has a flame ever lasted on a layer of ice? Every rational thought is clunked into the dustbin- from the knowledge of who she is to how dangerous this relationship can be, if the rulers of their kinds find out.
When these eternal beings face the punishment of an untimely end, they have to make a choice. Will it be separation and forgiveness or an impending road to doom?

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Re: A Lullaby- YA paranormal romance query

Post by wilderness » October 7th, 2010, 2:42 pm

This is going in the right direction -- now we know that rulers of their kind don't want them to have a relationship. Expand on that.

I can see that you want your query to have a flowery, fairy-tale voice. It's good to show your writing style and voice within the query, but I worry that it is coming at the expense of clarity here. For example:
When these eternal beings face the punishment of an untimely end
Consider something a little more straightforward: When the king of the immortals threatens the lovers with death, Agora and Dave must make a choice.

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