Query: "Griffin's Song" YA Adventure

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GingerWrite
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Query: "Griffin's Song" YA Adventure

Post by GingerWrite » September 9th, 2011, 12:57 am

Dear Agent,

When fourteen-year-old Sarah Whitman is captured by pirates while en route to her fiancé, she can’t help feeling relieved at escaping the arranged marriage. There’s one small problem though – the captain of the Griffin's Song, Tiras, plans to kill her on her sixteenth birthday to ensure no witness survives to tell the authorities about him.

Raised to be a delicate flower, Sarah must now prove her resiliency in a world to which she's unaccustomed. But with the help of unlikely friend and shipmate, Charles, she might make it. If just one of her plans would work, that is.

And all the while the Griffin’s Song must elude capture by Royal Navy captain, Jonathan Harper. If the pirates are arrested, Sarah will die with them as a consort. And if she fails to escape, she’ll die just the same. It will end, either way, by the day she turns sixteen.

I am seeking representation for my young adult adventure novel, GRIFFIN'S SONG which is complete at 108,000 words. It is meant to be the first in a series, and the sequel is in the process of being written. {insert writing credentials here}

Thank you for taking the time to consider my submission. I look forward to hearing from you.

I've had several versions of this query, but none of them have really clicked. Looking for some straight talk, even if it's completely negative.
"The more you read, the more you know. The more you know, the more you grow." - Dr. Suess
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Re: Query: "Griffin's Song" YA Adventure

Post by MattLarkin » September 9th, 2011, 10:06 am

108,000 words is long, especially for YA. I've heard 100,000 is the mark you don't want to pass as a first time novelist. Doing so means taking greater risk of being dismissed out of hand.
GingerWrite wrote:There’s one small problem though – the captain of the Griffin's Song, Tiras, plans to kill her on her sixteenth birthday to ensure no witness survives to tell the authorities about him.
This doesn't make sense to me. If he's worried about witnesses, why let her live for two years? If she hasn't ratted them out for that long, why would he suspect she would after the ship has become her home?
GingerWrite wrote:If the pirates are arrested, Sarah will die with them as a consort.
I think Sarah will be charged with consorting with pirates or something similar would sound better. This sentence sounds vaguely like she's taken several pirates as consorts, an entirely different situation ;)
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AllieS
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Re: Query: "Griffin's Song" YA Adventure

Post by AllieS » September 9th, 2011, 2:37 pm

When fourteen-year-old Sarah Whitman is captured by pirates while en route to her fiancé, This sounds a little awkward. "Wedding" would sound much better. she can’t help feeling relieved at escaping the arranged marriage. There’s one small problem though – the captain of the Griffin's Song, Tiras, plans to kill her on her sixteenth birthday to ensure no witness survives to tell the authorities about him.
This leaves way too many questions. Like Matt said, why her sixteenth? Why did they kidnap her in the first place? Why let her live that long?

Raised to be a delicate flower, I'd tweak the phrasing on this. Sounds a little clunky Sarah must now prove her resiliency in a world to which she's unaccustomed. But with the help of unlikely friend and shipmate, Charles, she might make it. If just one of her plans would work, that is. This doesn't tell me anything. Give us an idea of her plans. What's her goal in escape? Won't her fiance and family be looking for her?

And all the while the Griffin’s Song must elude capture by Royal Navy captain, Jonathan Harper. Strange phrasing.If the pirates are arrested, Sarah will die with them as a consort. And if she fails to escape, she’ll die just the same. It will end, either way, by the day she turns sixteen.

I think the problem is that you don't have enough detail here. Your query is too short. Beef it up a little, give us a better sense of what's going on. Hope this helps!

I am seeking representation for my young adult adventure novel, GRIFFIN'S SONG which is complete at 108,000 words. It is meant to be the first in a series, and the sequel is in the process of being written. {insert writing credentials here}

Thank you for taking the time to consider my submission. I look forward to hearing from you.

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Re: Query: "Griffin's Song" YA Adventure

Post by GingerWrite » September 11th, 2011, 1:56 am

Thanks to both of you! It helped a lot. Reading it with those comments made me realize how...sparse it was. I'm finding it hard to make a balance out of not surpassing 250 words and putting enough of the plot in. In this version, obviously, I leaned towards sparseness.
I'll post the new query once I've stuck some life into it.
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Re: Query: "Griffin's Song" YA Adventure

Post by GingerWrite » September 13th, 2011, 9:34 pm

So here's the redone version. The word count is in flux currently, so you can negate that.
I've been toying with using this as a first sentence instead: "Fourteen-year-old Sarah Whitman has never wanted the life or marriage her parents have planned for her."

Dear Agent,

When fourteen-year-old Sarah Whitman’s parents are slaughtered by pirates while en route to her fiancé, she becomes the captive of her family’s murderers. And thanks to a twisted sense of morals, Captain Tiras refuses to kill her while she is a child, but that means her time is up the second she turns sixteen. Despite her predicament, she can’t help feeling relieved at escaping the arranged marriage between her and Rupert, a man ten years her senior.

Raised to be a delicate maiden, Sarah must now prove her resiliency in a world to which she’s unaccustomed. But with the help of unlikely friend and shipmate, Charles, she might make it. If their plans aren’t discovered, and if Charles can turn his back on his captain.

Meanwhile, Royal Navy captain Jonathan Harper is tracking the pirates. If they are arrested, Sarah will die with them as an accomplice. And if she fails to escape, she’ll be killed by her captain. It will end, either way, by the day she turns sixteen.

I am seeking representation for my young adult adventure novel, GRIFFIN’S SONG, which is complete at 108,000 words. It is meant to be the first in a series, and the sequel is in the process of being written.

Thank you for taking the time to consider my submission. I look forward to hearing from you.
"The more you read, the more you know. The more you know, the more you grow." - Dr. Suess
Worlds can grow and crumble beneath a writer's pen. We just need to find the right one.
http://startingonthewritepage.blogspot.com/ :)

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Quill
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Re: Query: "Griffin's Song" YA Adventure

Post by Quill » September 14th, 2011, 12:40 am

GingerWrite wrote:
When fourteen-year-old Sarah Whitman’s parents are slaughtered by pirates while en route to her fiancé, she becomes the captive of her family’s murderers. And thanks to a twisted sense of morals, Captain Tiras refuses to kill her while she is a child, but that means her time is up the second she turns sixteen. Despite her predicament, she can’t help feeling relieved at escaping the arranged marriage between her and Rupert, a man ten years her senior.
You explain it well enough, but it does seem a bit weird that the Captain is planning to feed her and keep her around for two years so he can kill her on her sixteenth. Plus, how does he know when her birthday is? Also, isn't fourteen a little young to get married? What year does this novel take place? No clue, and it's important!
Raised to be a delicate maiden, Sarah must now prove her resiliency in a world to which she’s unaccustomed. But with the help of unlikely friend and shipmate, Charles, she might make it. If their plans aren’t discovered, and if Charles can turn his back on his captain.

Meanwhile, Royal Navy captain Jonathan Harper is tracking the pirates. If they are arrested, Sarah will die with them as an accomplice. And if she fails to escape, she’ll be killed by her captain. It will end, either way, by the day she turns sixteen.
1. "Delicate maiden" seems vague. Maiden is a term that could mean several things.

2. "must now prove her resiliency" is a bit awkward. It implies to me proving to someone. Herself? How about tying into her survival, making it more immediate somehow. What are the consequences of not proving it?

3. Captain should be capitalized. Also, not sure there's a good reason for including his name. How about simply, "The Royal Navy is tracking the pirates.."

4. Why would she necessarily die with them if arrested? Couldn't the Royal Navy conceivably believe her story?

5. Is "arrested"the right word? Are enemy combatants arrested after a battle?
I am seeking representation for my young adult adventure novel, GRIFFIN’S SONG,
Your genre seems to imply that this is contemporary, but I have a feeling it is historical. But there is no context from which to determine. When does this story take place????
which is complete at 108,000 words. It is meant to be the first in a series, and the sequel is in the process of being written.
It is also very unclear to me why this story requires 108k words to tell. For what I see, it would be fine with 60k. There are relatively few actions and conundrums presented to indicate what the bulk of the writing is about. Does this make sense?

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Re: Query: "Griffin's Song" YA Adventure

Post by GingerWrite » September 14th, 2011, 2:12 am

Yes, your points absolutely make sense. Just to refine a list of what you mentioned, you suggest I: specify the era and that the fictional setting, indicate conflict as to why the pirate captain wants to keep her, basically redo the second paragraph (which I completely agree with after reading your comments), include more plot/action points to explain the length, and describe how the captain knows when her birthday is.
This is a multi-perspective novel (although the main perspective is Sarah), so I think it would be better if I left in Jonathan's name since he has his own story. Although I would want to explain how his story adds to the plot.
Thanks for all the advice :)
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Worlds can grow and crumble beneath a writer's pen. We just need to find the right one.
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Re: Query: "Griffin's Song" YA Adventure

Post by MattLarkin » September 14th, 2011, 6:22 am

The first thing the name "Jonathan Harper" brings to mind is Jonathan Harker, in Dracula. Not sure if this was intentional.
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AllieS
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Re: Query: "Griffin's Song" YA Adventure

Post by AllieS » September 14th, 2011, 11:36 pm

When fourteen-year-old Sarah Whitman’s parents are slaughtered by pirates while en route to her fiancé, she becomes the captive of her family’s murderers. A little wordy. Try condensing it to something like, "When pirates kill (I chose kill since slaughters make me think of a bloodbath, though that might be what you're going for) fourteen-year-old Sarah Whitman's parents, she becomes a captive on the deadly pirate, the Griffin's song." Obviously this is just an example, but I think you could leave out the en route to her fiance part since we find out about him in the next line. Focus on one thing at a time. And thanks to a twisted sense of morals, Captain Tiras refuses to kill her while she is a child, but that means her time is up the second she turns sixteen. Despite her predicament, she can’t help feeling relieved at escaping the arranged marriage between her and Rupert a man ten years her senior. to a man ten years her senior

Raised to be a delicate maiden, This doesn't work for me. Could you give an example of the prim and proper society she's been raised in? Sarah must now prove her resiliency in a world to which she’s unaccustomed. Bland. You could say, "a world where sword fights are commonplace and broken rules are met with a plunge to the bottom of the sea." Obviously this is cliched, but you get my drift. But with the help of unlikely friend and shipmate, Charles, she might make it. Why? What can he do to help? If their plans aren’t discovered, and if Charles can turn his back on his captain.
Need details

Meanwhile, Royal Navy captain Jonathan Harper the captain of the royal navy is tracking the pirates. If they are arrested, caught Sarah will die with them as an accomplice. And If she fails to escape, she’ll be killed by her captain Passive. "Her captain will kill her" works better. It will end, either way, by the day she turns sixteen. This ending could be more gripping. Mention something about how that day is fast approaching or something, just to up the stakes a little.

I am seeking representation for my young adult adventure novel, GRIFFIN’S SONG, which is complete at 108,000 words. It is meant to be the first in a series, and the sequel is in the process of being written.

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Re: Query: "Griffin's Song" YA Adventure

Post by GingerWrite » September 20th, 2011, 2:08 pm

After some revisions here is a new summary. I tried to put more plot points in there and I took your revisions into account, Allie :) I hope this one is better!


When pirates slaughter fourteen-year-old Sarah Whitman’s parents, she becomes a captive on the deadliest pirate ship of the 18th century, the Griffin’s Song. Captain Tiras refuses to kill her while she is a child, but that means her time is up the second she turns sixteen. Despite her predicament, she can’t help feeling relieved at escaping her arranged marriage to a man ten years her senior.

Within hours of boarding, Sarah makes her first enemy who is bent on having her killed sooner rather than later. Her only buffer is Charles, a low-ranking shipmate who could quite literally hold the key to her escape. Then when a doctor tells Sarah she is ready to bear children, and considered a woman, she thinks she’s run out of time. Now she must keep this secret while Tiras punishes her for accidentally killing the doctor. But in these punishments Sarah begins not only adapt to this harsh lifestyle, but to thrive and learn about the ocean which has fascinated her since she was a child.

Meanwhile, a captain of the Royal Navy of Hansa is tracking the pirates. If they are caught, Sarah will die with them as an accomplice. If she fails to escape, her captain will kill her. This race against the clock will end, either way, by the day she turns sixteen.
"The more you read, the more you know. The more you know, the more you grow." - Dr. Suess
Worlds can grow and crumble beneath a writer's pen. We just need to find the right one.
http://startingonthewritepage.blogspot.com/ :)

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Re: Query: "Griffin's Song" YA Adventure

Post by michelleimason » September 20th, 2011, 4:15 pm

Hi, Ginger! I appreciated your comments on my query, so I'll give you some here.

When pirates slaughter fourteen-year-old Sarah Whitman’s parents, she becomes a captive on the deadliest pirate ship of the 18th century, the Griffin’s Song. Good opening. Establishes her situation and the setting. Captain Tiras refuses to kill her while she is a child, but that means her time is up the second she turns sixteen. Who says she's not a child anymore when she turns 16? Captain Tiras? Society? This one point bothers me a bit, but I think it could be fixed if you do something like: "Captain Tiras won't kill a child, but he'll consider her an adult when she turns 16." Despite her predicament, she can’t help feeling relieved at escaping her arranged marriage to a man ten years her senior. Wondering if you need this point. If she was already supposed to get married, it seems like that would label her a woman.

Within hours of boarding, Sarah makes her first enemy (How? What did she do?) who is bent on having her killed sooner rather than later. Her only buffer is Charles, a low-ranking shipmate who could quite literally hold the key to her escape. Then when a doctor tells Sarah she is ready to bear children, and considered a woman, she thinks she’s run out of time. I think the mention of accidentally killing the doctor would make more sense combined with the previous sentence. Now she must keep this secret while Tiras punishes her for accidentally killing the doctor. As a killer himself, why would he punish her? But in these punishments Sarah begins not only adapt to this harsh lifestyle, but to thrive and learn about the ocean which has fascinated her since she was a child. How do the punishments help her adapt? Are they some type of work on the ship?

Meanwhile, a captain of the Royal Navy of Hansa is tracking the pirates. If they are caught, Sarah will die with them as an accomplice. If she fails to escape, her captain will kill her. This race against the clock will end, either way, by the day she turns sixteen. This last statement makes me curious about how much time the novel covers since she's 14 at the beginning. Also, if she turns into a regular crew member and is contributing to the ship, why would the captain still kill her?

I like the concept of a young, refined girl trapped on a pirate ship, but I'm confused about a few of the mechanics - why a pirate would keep her alive until a specified date. That part takes me out of the story. I almost wonder if you shouldn't worry about the particular age in the query and focus more on him letting her live until she's considered an adult because then it seems like more of a ticking clock than 16 which is two years away. I think you have a good start here, but it still leaves me with some questions. Good luck!

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Re: Query: "Griffin's Song" YA Adventure

Post by Nicole R » September 21st, 2011, 10:42 am

Hi Ginger,

I've read through your previous versions and this is coming along nicely. I have a soft spot for pirates! The query still leaves me with a couple key questions - I've tracked my specific thoughts below.

Good luck!
GingerWrite wrote:When pirates slaughter fourteen-year-old Sarah Whitman’s parents, she becomes a captive on the deadliest pirate ship of the 18th century, the Griffin’s Song. Captain Tiras refuses to kill her while she is a child, but that means her time is up the second she turns sixteen. So, does the story span a two-year period? Otherwise, I think the "age 16" deadline seems too far off to instill much tension. Does age have to be the defining factor of what Tiras considers an adult? Your second paragraph hints no. Can you rephrase to emphasize adulthood or womanhood without mentioning a specific age?Despite her predicament, she can’t help feeling relieved at escaping her arranged marriage to a man ten years her senior. In this version, we didn't have the context that this was where she was headed when they ran into the pirates. Might need to slip a mention in earlier or, do we need to know about the fiance at all? It doesn't seem to factor into the rest of the query.

Within hours of boarding, Sarah makes her first enemy who is bent on having her killed sooner rather than later. You mean her first enemy besides Tiras, who alrady wants to kill her. ;) This phrasing felt odd, because it seems like she's on an entire ship of enemies. Her only buffer is Charles, a low-ranking shipmate who could quite literally hold the key to her escape. Then comma when a doctor tells Sarah she is ready to bear children, and considered a woman, she thinks she’s run out of time. Now she must keep this secret while Tiras punishes her for accidentally killing the doctor. But in these punishments Sarah begins not only adapt to this harsh lifestyle, but to thrive and learn about the ocean which has fascinated her since she was a child. Not sure you need the second half of this sentence. It feels stronger if you end it on thrive, imho.

Meanwhile, a captain of the Royal Navy of Hansa I'm assuming Hansa is the ruling nation for your world, but technically the query doesn't introduce that. is tracking the pirates. If they are caught, Sarah will die with them as an accomplice. If she fails to escape, her captain will kill her. This race against the clock will end, either way, by the day she turns sixteen. Is she 16 in the book? Or, maybe another question is, does she have to get captured at 14 - maybe she's only months away from her 16th b-day instead??

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Re: Query: "Griffin's Song" YA Adventure

Post by GingerWrite » September 22nd, 2011, 6:09 pm

Thanks to both of you for giving your advice :) I am considering changing her age to fourteen so that the novel covers (almost) one year instead of two, but I don't as of yet know how that will effect the flow so I haven't decided. You were both right, the fiance aspect is minor enough that it could be left out without detracting from the rest of the query.
Here's the newest one!

When pirates slaughter fourteen-year-old Sarah Whitman’s parents, she becomes a captive on the deadliest pirate ship in 18th century Hansa, the Griffin’s Song. Captain Tiras refuses to kill her while she is a child, but that means her time is up the second she becomes a woman on her sixteenth birthday.

Within hours of boarding, Sarah discovers that one crew member is bent on having her killed sooner rather than later. Her only buffer is Charles, a low-ranking shipmate who could literally hold the key to her escape. Then, when a doctor tells Sarah she is ready to bear children, she thinks she’s run out of time and the doctor accidentally dies at her hand*. Now she must keep this secret while Tiras punishes her for accidentally killing the doctor who was the only man willing to treat his men. But in these punishments Sarah begins to gain strength and believe that she could be tougher than her captors.

Meanwhile, a captain of the Royal Navy of Hansa is tracking the pirates. If they are caught, Sarah will die with them as an accomplice. If she fails to escape, her captain will kill her. This race against the clock will end, either way, by the day she turns sixteen.

*I just can't seem to make this sound right! In a word: HELP :P
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Worlds can grow and crumble beneath a writer's pen. We just need to find the right one.
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Re: Query: "Griffin's Song" YA Adventure

Post by Oromashu » September 29th, 2011, 6:33 am

GingerWrite wrote:Thanks to both of you for giving your advice :) I am considering changing her age to fourteen so that the novel covers (almost) one year instead of two, but I don't as of yet know how that will effect the flow so I haven't decided. You were both right, the fiance aspect is minor enough that it could be left out without detracting from the rest of the query.
Here's the newest one!

When pirates slaughter fourteen-year-old Sarah Whitman’s parents, she becomes a captive on the deadliest pirate ship in 18th century Hansa, the Griffin’s Song. Captain Tiras refuses to kill her while she is a child, but that means her time is up the second she becomes a woman on her sixteenth birthday.

Within hours of boarding, Sarah discovers that one crew member is bent on having her killed sooner rather than later. Her only buffer is Charles, a low-ranking shipmate who could literally hold the key to her escape. Then, when a doctor tells Sarah she is ready to bear children, she thinks she’s run out of time and the doctor accidentally dies at her hand*. Now she must keep this secret while Tiras punishes her for accidentally killing the doctor who was the only man willing to treat his men. But in these punishments Sarah begins to gain strength and believe that she could be tougher than her captors.

Meanwhile, a captain of the Royal Navy of Hansa is tracking the pirates. If they are caught, Sarah will die with them as an accomplice. If she fails to escape, her captain will kill her. This race against the clock will end, either way, by the day she turns sixteen.

*I just can't seem to make this sound right! In a word: HELP :P
I'm a bit new at this, considering it's my first post, but I hope you find some use in my advice.

This query is rather interesting. Though I don't feel enough immediacy in the first sentence to make me sympathize with Sarah. I understand her predicament, but there are two years in between her capture and her sixteenth birthday, which means I'll think it's not urgent enough to matter. I read some of your previous posts about how it's multi-perspective, I'm assuming that means it's told in the PoVs of various characters in the story between the time frame of Sarah being captured and her turning sixteen. I recall reading an excellent query that was similar in this respect (wish I could remember where it was). The author used it as a device to distinguish the protagonist, her captors, and the hero trying to find out who kidnapped her. I don't know if it'll work too well with your query, but beefing it up slightly, giving a greater sense of who's important and why they're important might be useful.

I feel you can probably tighten the opening hook sentence, raise the tension level up a notch. I'm not entirely sure of the genre, YA adventure I recall in your previous posts, but it seems it could be a historical romance, which justifies the 108k word length. Also I wonder, if your novel reads in the same manner as your query. If it's YA the tone is probably a bit lighter than your query, so adding that somehow into the letter makes it a bit more personalized, but considering Sarah's parents were "slaughtered" I'd say it's along the upper spectrum of YA. Her being fourteen actually contradicts this.

For the record, I love pirates as well (Actually the current work I'm writing deals with them but it's a fantasy bent), so I'm curious how this sea adventure of yours pans out. My advice wasn't really particular to the query letter but more toward the novel and letter, if you gain a greater sense of your novel, maybe doing so will tighten up the letter far better than I can explain (I'm pretty bad at writing query letters myself).

Again, not sure if my advice/feedback was helpful, but I still hope you find some use in it.

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Re: Query: "Griffin's Song" YA Adventure

Post by GingerWrite » September 30th, 2011, 1:09 am

Thank you, Oromashu! If you remember where you saw that query letter I would love to know :)It's always helpful to read something similar.
"The more you read, the more you know. The more you know, the more you grow." - Dr. Suess
Worlds can grow and crumble beneath a writer's pen. We just need to find the right one.
http://startingonthewritepage.blogspot.com/ :)

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