YA Historical Fiction Novel--Trooper

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jenad
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YA Historical Fiction Novel--Trooper

Post by jenad » August 5th, 2012, 10:11 pm

So I just found this site and think it's wonderful that fellow writers can help critique other writers' queries! If anyone can help me out on my query, I'd really appreciate it! I did block out some names for the privacy of those mentioned.

“It’s that person’s mission. When someone dies, I believe that means whatever they were put on earth to do is fulfilled—whether it’s to touch people’s lives, inspire a soul, or to make a mark, when they’ve done so, it's just God calling them back. It’s the survivors’ job to figure out what that mission was. You might never figure out someone’s mission, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t have one.” I stare at the words I have just typed. This coming-of-age novel is a young adult historical fiction story clocked in at about one hundred thousand words.

Johnny Simms is just a boy of sixteen growing up in Queens. He’s got a decent family life and plenty of friends. Johnny’s even got himself a girl. But how quickly things can change. Once the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor, Johnny has to grow up a lot quicker than most people—his whole generation does. Soon he finds out his oldest brother, Henry, is enlisting in the Marines. Then comes the decision of his own enlistment into the Paratroopers right after his eighteenth birthday. He ultimately decides to depart for war, thinking maybe he could return home the hero that the rest of the boys dream of becoming.

Told as a flashback, the story follows Johnny’s hardships while fighting all around Europe, from Normandy during D-Day to the Ardennes in the bitter Battle of the Bulge. He is even involved in the liberation of a concentration camp. Johnny watches as men lose their lives, wondering what he did to earn his own. He doesn’t notice the harsh changes in himself and this thirst for revenge until he returns home. A lot changed in Queens during the two and a half years he was gone. Johnny must adjust to the life back at home that went on without him or risk losing everything and everyone. Johnny must also come to terms with the scarring effects of war that he can never rid himself of.

When my grandfather passed away last year, I yearned to learn about his early years in the war and the men in his generation. I hadn’t been alive during the forties… obviously, so I didn’t know what the young men were feeling during that pivotal time in their lives. I sought out a few World War II veterans to listen to their accounts. I spoke to ---, a man that served on the USS Terror in the Navy as it was bombed and later fought in the Korean War as well. I spoke to “Iwo Jima” ---, a Marine who told tragic tales of his involvement in Iwo Jima. From these tales, I absorbed a substantial amount of information.

I don't have a long bio like many other writers. I haven't won any awards, nor is my name something that will pop up when you search it on Google. In that case, most people would call me a nobody in the literary world. But to me, that's not true. I am a somebody. I am this book. And this book is me. This is essentially a story inspired by the one my grandfather never got to tell. I want to be the one that gets his story the recognition it deserves.

My query is a multiple submission. I truly appreciate you taking the time to read my letter.
Last edited by jenad on August 10th, 2012, 12:30 am, edited 2 times in total.

curtisedmonds
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Re: YA Historical Fiction Novel--Trooper

Post by curtisedmonds » August 8th, 2012, 9:38 pm

What I question after reading this is whether the character of Johnny is interesting or if he is just caught up in the war. He seems very generic, based on the query. If you get the chance, read "Unbroken," by Laura Hillenbrand - the main character is in the same kind of situation, but he's a very real character, and Hillenbrand makes him very real. What is it about Johnny's character that sees him through the war?

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Re: YA Historical Fiction Novel--Trooper

Post by jenad » August 8th, 2012, 9:53 pm

That book is actually on my 'to-read' list! And thank you for that--I'll definitely be taking your advice into consideration.

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Re: YA Historical Fiction Novel--Trooper

Post by jenad » August 10th, 2012, 12:31 am

*REVISED*

It’s that person’s mission. When someone dies, I believe that means whatever they were put on earth to do is fulfilled—whether it’s to touch people’s lives, inspire a soul, or to make a mark, when they’ve done so, it's just God calling them back. You might never figure out someone’s mission, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t have one.

Johnny Simms is a boy of sixteen growing up in Queens. He’s got a decent family life and plenty of friends. Johnny’s even got himself a girl. Yet once the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor, Johnny has to grow up a lot quicker than most people—his whole generation does. He ultimately decides to depart for war, thinking maybe he could return home the hero that the rest of the boys dream of becoming.

Told as a flashback, the story follows Johnny’s hardships while fighting around Europe, from Normandy during D-Day to the Ardennes in the bitter Battle of the Bulge. Johnny watches as men lose their lives, wondering what he did to earn his own. He doesn’t notice the harsh changes in himself and thirst for revenge until he returns home. Johnny must adjust to a life that went on without him or risk losing everyone. Johnny must also come to terms with the scarring effects of war that he can never rid himself of, all while trying to figure out what his “mission” is.

When my grandfather passed away last year, I yearned to learn about his early years in the war and the men in his generation. I hadn’t been alive during the forties…obviously, so I sought out World War II veterans to listen to their accounts. I spoke to --- ---, a man who served on the USS Terror in the Navy as it was bombed. I spoke to --- ---, a Marine who had tragic memories from his involvement in Iwo Jima. From these tales, I absorbed a substantial amount of information.

TROOPER is a young adult historical fiction story clocked in at 100,000 words. This is essentially a story inspired by the one my grandfather never got to tell. I want to be the one that gets his story the recognition it deserves.

I truly appreciate you taking the time to read my submission.

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Shipple
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Re: YA Historical Fiction Novel--Trooper

Post by Shipple » August 10th, 2012, 10:21 pm

Alright, so obviously the following are just my opinions about your query (feel free to ignore)
jenad wrote:*REVISED*

It’s that person’s mission. This is a bit too vague and mysterious for me. I personally find it a bit confusing. When someone dies, I believe that means whatever they were put on earth to do is fulfilled—whether it’s to touch people’s lives, inspire a soul, or to make a mark, when they’ve done so, it's just God calling them back. You might never figure out someone’s mission, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t have one. now the second part gets to the point-much better. I assuming this is Johnny speaking?

Johnny Simms is a boy of sixteen growing up in Queens I suggest adding the year here. I got confused when you talked about Johnny's "girl" but then you got to Pearl Harbor, and I was like, "Oh, I guess this is not contemporary". He’s got a decent family life and plenty of friends. Johnny’s even got himself a girl. Yet once the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor, Johnny has to grow up a lot quicker than most people—his whole generation does. He ultimately decides to depart for war, thinking maybe he could return home the hero that the rest of the boys dream of becomingI'd just like to point out that plenty of the "rest of the boys" not only dream. They also enlist. It sounds like you think Johnny is unique in this..

Told as a flashback, the story follows Johnny’s hardships while fighting around in Europe, from Normandy during D-Day to the Ardennes in the bitter Battle of the Bulge. Johnny watches as men lose their lives, wondering what he did to earn his own. He doesn’t notice the harsh changes in himself and thirst for revenge until he returns home. Johnny must adjust to a life that went on without him or risk losing everyone. Johnny must also come to terms with the scarring effects of war that he can never rid himself of, all while trying to figure out what his “mission” is.

When my grandfather passed away last year, I yearned to learn about his early years in the war and the men in his generation. I hadn’t been alive during the forties…obviously, so I sought out World War II veterans to listen to their accounts. I spoke to --- ---, a man who served on the USS Terror in the Navy as it was bombed. I spoke to --- ---, a Marine who had tragic memories from his involvement in Iwo Jima. From these tales, I absorbed a substantial amount of information I learned what WWII had meant to the men in it.

TROOPER is a young adult historical fiction story clocked in at 100,000 words. This is essentially a story inspired by the one my grandfather never got to tell. I want to be the one that gets his story the recognition it deserves.

I truly appreciate you taking the time to read my submission.
I noticed this is much shorter than your first query letter, which is exactly the direction you need to go, so congrats on that (I know it's hard to cut).

I think this is a good start, but I think you should consider trimming and refining everything. You also make some unusual word choices, such as "yearned" and "clocked" that make me think "Huh, odd choice" rather than paying as much attention as I should to what you're saying.

Good luck!
"Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much." - J.K. Rowling (an awesome opening line)
Me: http://sarahhipple.blogspot.com/ and http://shipple.tumblr.com/

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Re: YA Historical Fiction Novel--Trooper

Post by jenad » August 11th, 2012, 12:03 am

Thank you so much, Shipple! I agreed with everything you said and made the changes so once again...

*REVISED*

Dear …:

It’s that person’s mission,” he told me. “When someone dies, I believe that means whatever they were put on earth to do is fulfilled—whether it’s to touch people’s lives, inspire a soul, or make a mark—when they’ve done so, it's just God calling them back. You might never figure out someone’s mission, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t have one.

Johnny Simms is a boy of sixteen growing up in Queens during 1941. He’s got a decent family life and plenty of friends. Johnny’s even got himself a girl. Yet once the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor, Johnny has to grow up much quicker than most people—his whole generation does. Two years later he departs for war, thinking he can return home the hero he dreams of becoming.

Told as a flashback, Johnny is faced with hardships while fighting in Europe, from Normandy during D-Day to the Ardennes in the bitter Battle of the Bulge. He doesn’t notice the harsh changes in himself and thirst for revenge until he returns home. Johnny expects to return to a welcoming environment of those he loves, yet comes home to the lives of strangers consumed with heartbreak, addiction, and denial. He’s ambushed by a broken family, heroic friends, and a girlfriend with a wandering eye. Johnny must come to terms with the scarring effects of war he can never rid himself of, all while trying to figure out his “mission.”

When my grandfather passed away last year, I wished to learn about his fascinating generation. I hadn’t been alive during the forties—obviously—so I sought out World War II veterans and listened to their accounts. I spoke to --- ---, a man who served on the USS Terror in the Navy as it was bombed. I spoke to --- ---, a Marine who had tragic memories from his involvement in Iwo Jima. I learned what the war meant to those involved.

TROOPER is a young adult historical fiction story that is 100,000 words. This is a story inspired by the one my grandfather never got to tell. I want to be the one that gets his story the recognition it deserves.

I truly appreciate you taking the time to read my submission.

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Shipple
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Re: YA Historical Fiction Novel--Trooper

Post by Shipple » August 11th, 2012, 11:52 am

Definitely improved! I even like the beginning quote much better with the "he told me." I'm still quite uncertain who the "he" and "me" are, but perhaps it's a good thing for the reader to have that sense of curiosity about what you wrote. (Oh, now I get it after writing the next paragraph.)

"Told as a flashback" doesn't make sense where it is b/c you're still in chronological order from having the last paragraph, set in 1941. You should either tell in the first paragraph that this book is a flashback, or tell the agent in the last paragraph where you describe the book more. For example, "TROOPER is a young adult historical fiction story that is complete at 100,000 words. This book is Johnny telling his grandson the story of how he grew up. I was inspired to write this book by the story my grandfather never got to tell me." (I'd end here b/c the part about recognition is simply less moving than the image of a story a grandfather would have wanted to tell his grandson).

Also, personal preference, but I'd say, "Thank you for your time and consideration," which sounds ever so slightly more professional than, "I truly appreciate you taking the time to read my submission," to me.

Best of luck in the submission process!
"Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much." - J.K. Rowling (an awesome opening line)
Me: http://sarahhipple.blogspot.com/ and http://shipple.tumblr.com/

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LurkingVirologist
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Re: YA Historical Fiction Novel--Trooper

Post by LurkingVirologist » August 11th, 2012, 8:25 pm

"Dear …:

OK, red is stuff I'd consider cutting, and blue is linked to [a comment].

“It’s that person’s mission,” he told me. “When someone dies, I believe that [it] means whatever they were put on earth to do is fulfilled—whether it’s to touch people’s lives, inspire a soul, or make a mark—when they’ve done so, it's just God calling [calls] them back [home]. You might never figure out someone’s mission, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t have one.”*

Johnny Simms is a boy of sixteen growing up in Queens during 1941. He’s got a decent family life and plenty of friends. Johnny’s even got himself a girl. Yet once the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor, Johnny has to grow up much quicker than most people—his whole generation does [maybe try... Johnny's whole generation has to grow up fast ...or something like that, it just sounds weird to specify he has to "grow up much quicker than most people" and immediately follow it with his entire generation]. Two years later he departs for war, thinking he can return home the hero he dreams of becoming [dreaming of returning a hero].

Told as a flashback, Johnny is faced with hardships while [hardship is an understatement] fighting in Europe [fights his way across Europe], from Normandy during D-Day to the Ardennes in the bitter Battle of the Bulge. He doesn’t notice the harsh changes in himself and thirst for revenge until he returns home. Johnny expects to return to a welcoming environment of those he loves, yet comes home [this phrasing is a little awkward, you use some variant of "returns home" three times] to the lives of strangers consumed with heartbreak, addiction, and denial. He’s ambushed by a broken family, heroic friends, and a girlfriend with a wandering eye. Johnny must come to terms with the scarring effects of war he can never rid himself of [scars = forever], all while trying to figure out his “mission.”

When my grandfather passed away last year, I wished to learn about his fascinating generation. I hadn’t been alive during the forties—obviously—so I sought out World War II veterans and listened to their accounts. I spoke to --- ---, a man who served on the USS Terror in the Navy as it was bombed. I spoke to --- ---, a Marine who had tragic memories from his involvement in Iwo Jima. I learned what the war meant to those involved.

TROOPER is a young adult historical fiction story that is 100,000 words. This is a story inspired by the one my grandfather never got to tell. I want to be the one that gets his story the recognition it deserves."

* It wasn't clear if this was an actual quote from your grandfather (which should then obviously be kept intact), or a fictional quote from your protagonist. If it is a real quote, please forgive my attempted trimming of it.

This is definitely much improved. I think you are pretty close to a solid win here. Shipple's preceding comment and re-wording of the last paragraph was dead on.
"Books break the shackles of time, proof that humans can work magic." -Carl Sagan

jenad
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Re: YA Historical Fiction Novel--Trooper

Post by jenad » August 12th, 2012, 12:02 am

You're all seriously the best. I am so happy with what my query has turned into, and it's thanks to all of you. I didn't change the opening quote too much, but I very much appreciated all your advice LurkingVirologist. And thank you again, Shipple!!!

This might be the final draft!



Dear …:

It’s that person’s mission,” he told me. “When someone dies, I believe it means whatever they were put on earth to do is fulfilled—whether it’s to touch people’s lives, inspire a soul, or make a mark—when they’ve done so, it's God calling them back. You might never figure out someone’s mission, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t have one.

Johnny Simms is a boy of sixteen growing up in Queens during 1941. He’s got a decent family life and plenty of friends. Johnny’s even got himself a girl. Yet once the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor, Johnny’s whole generation must grow up overnight. Two years later he departs for war with dreams of returning home a hero.

Johnny is faced with hardships while fighting in Europe, from Normandy during D-Day to the Ardennes in the bitter Battle of the Bulge. He doesn’t notice the harsh changes in himself and thirst for revenge until he returns to Queens. Johnny expects a welcoming environment of those he loves, yet returns home to the lives of strangers consumed with heartbreak, addiction, and denial. He’s ambushed by a broken family, heroic friends, and a girlfriend with a wandering eye. Johnny must come to terms with the scarring effects of war, all while trying to figure out his “mission.”

When my grandfather passed away last year, I wished to learn about his fascinating generation. I hadn’t been alive during the forties—obviously—so I sought out World War II veterans and listened to their accounts. I spoke to --- ---, a man who served on the USS Terror in the Navy as it was bombed. I spoke to --- ---, a Marine who had tragic memories from his involvement in Iwo Jima. I learned what the war meant to those involved.

TROOPER is a young adult historical fiction story that is 100,000 words. The book is Johnny telling the reader his story one last time before he passes away. It is inspired by my grandfather’s life. I am determined to get his story the recognition it deserves.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

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