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  1. #11
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
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    267

    Re: Query Letter Critique, Please - YA Novel

    I love the premise of your story. There's so much YA fantasy out there, a story about something real life is completely refreshing.

    I agreed about the two-protagonist comment others made in this thread. I can see this query working no matter which one you focus on (Girl, trying to escape the horror of her mother's death, accepts a baby-sitting job and finds herself face-to-face with a person who got the chance her mother never did OR Boy, angry at the world because not just his body but his dreams are decimated by cancer meets a girl who is going to teach him to live again.) But I would pick one. I would go to your manuscript and decide who is the most prominent character there.

    Also, I want you to be more specific. For example:
    Jason Enderle is furious at the world after cancer ravaged his once strong body and destroyed every dream he had, leaving only a bare head and the chemical stink of countless prescriptions seeping from his pores.
    Having never had cancer, I don't know how his dreams are ravaged. Does that mean he can't play football any more? Had the treatment left him in some way physically altered?

    Also, I would highlight the conflict more. Right now, a boy who wants to be left alone is being left alone. I'm betting your manuscript has more tension than that and I want you to tease with it in your query. For example, the letter ends with
    Sheís lived through every gritty detail, right down to the terrifying end. Her mom didnít get a chance to get better. Jason does. She has no desire to watch him waste it.
    What is Bethany going to do? This feels like where the real conflict comes in. I think it would be stronger to end with that as a teaser.

    Again just my opinion.



  2. #12
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
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    508

    Re: Query Letter Critique, Please - YA Novel

    Shannon,

    Don't know if you're still checking this old thread, but I'm working into a late-night binge of editing my own stuff and would rather warm up on yours.

    I disagree with those who recommend a one-character-POV Q. Yes, it is harder to drive two character's risks and obstacles into a single page, but it's also harder to do it in a novel. And you chose to climb that ladder, right? Seems to me that you've got a piano-hinge sort of story: you know, one character's arch opposes the other character's. Until -- the big until -- they understand the pin that holds their oppositional flailing at the same point. Look at how you accomplished this two-sided story in the manuscript. Did you simply switch POVs in various chapters? That's the simplest way writers go about it. Did you include a somewhat omniscient narrator, who could tell the reader what was going on? That's a bit more complex, requiring a third voice in the novel.

    I would suggest that you try a Q that employs whatever mechanism you used in writing the manuscript to accomplish a two-POV story.

    If you did the switcheroo, then do that here. But only do it once -- with perhaps a little combo-tie-up sort of line at the end (possibly the beginning, too). If you included a narrator's voice, able to bore inside both characters, experiment with using that voice to tie the two unhinged kids together in ways that give us POV-ish insights into both.

    This isn't so tough, but it calls for a fine hand that fully confident and adroit in putting the reader quickly and firmly in the POV you need.

    You didn't do that here. I'll just still comments about how I read the POV in the text.


    Seventeen year old By the way, were I an agent with stacks of Qs on my desk, I'd ditch you here for failing to have mastered rudimentary punctuation rules. Bethany Stice knows how to handle a hysterical infant, but she has no desire to baby a guy her own age, cancer or not.

    LEAD SENTENCE FIRMLY IN BETHANY'S POV. BUT THE TIE IN TO WHAT COMES NEXT IS NOT STRONG. I'M LIKE...UM...WHY WOULD THE AUTHOR RANDOMLY TELL ME A TEENAGE HAS NO DESIRE TO TREAT ANOTHER TEENAGER LIKE A BABY? YOU KNOW WHAT YOU'RE HINTING AT; I DON'T. I JUST THINK THE AUTHOR IS WEIRD. YOU COULD HAVE AS EASILY WRITTEN: SHE KNOWS....BUT SHE HAD NO DESIRE TO MAKE ONE OF HER OWN. YOU DIDN'T LEAD THE READER'S MIND EFFECTIVELY HERE.

    Jason Enderle is furious at the world after cancer ravaged his once strong body and destroyed every dream he had, leaving only a bare head and the chemical stink of countless prescriptions seeping from his pores. Feeling like a stranger in his own skin, Jason is too weak and frustrated to return to school for his senior year. Facing his friends, and their memories of the energetic guy he once was, is a nightmare he never wishes to face. Cancer killed the Jason they knew and loved, and heís not sure whoís been left behind. A grumpy, bitter, all around jerk, thatís who. And thatís on a good day.

    When Jasonís dad and stepmom are confident enough in his recovery to return to their respective jobs, Jason stays locked in his upstairs bedroom, trying to ignore the occasional cries of his baby brother. Heís got a sitter. Dad told him that much. His father also told him the girl was new in town and not to scare her away. No problem. He canít scare someone he never intends to meet.

    SO NOW WE'VE GOT TWO GRAPHS OF JASON'S POV. AND SET AGAINST THAT ONE LITTLE SENTENCE OF BETHANY. THERE'S NO BALANCE. IT'S LIKE ME TELLING YOU I'M GOING TO TELL YOU A STORY OF DESERT SURVIVAL AND THEN GOING ON FOR AN HOUR ABOUT A GUY SHOOTING CRAPS IN LAS VEGAS. WELL, NOT THAT BAD, BUT YOU GET THE IDEA. YOU ASKED ME TO ROOT FOR BETHANY'S DESIRE NOT TO CARE FOR ANOTHER TEENAGE WITH CANCER, ALTHOUGH YOU NEVER SAID THAT WAS EVEN IN HER LIFE, JUST A ROOTLESS NON-DESIRE. THEN YOU JERK MY HEAD AROUND. "NO, DON'T CARE ABOUT BETHANY! CARE ABOUT JASON!"

    Except that Bethany Stice has a tendency to explore new places. Finding an ill Jason clutching his stomach, Bethany is instantly alarmed. She insists on calling his parents, but Jason is tired of their every minute revolving around him. Frustrated by the self-loathing she witnesses in Jason, Bethany surprises Jason by simply leaving him alone.

    THIS GRAPH IS REALLY CONFUSED WITH POV. WE COME TO IT IN JASON'S MINDSET, BUT MID-SENTENCE -- MIDSENTENCE! -- YOU SWITCH IT. BECAUSE WE LEARN THAT JASON DID NOT KNOW THAT BETHANY HAD THIS EXPLORATORY TENDENCY UNTIL SHE FOUND HIM THROUGH HER EXPLORATORY NATURE. YOU SEE HOW YOU LEFT US IN JASON'S POV AND THEN FED INFO HE COULDN'T HAVE KNOWN, WHICH MAKES THE READER ALL THEN, "WELL, WHO ARE WE WITH." WITH THE SECOND SENTENCE, YOU DON'T EVEN GIVE US BETHANY AS A FIRST NOUN, WE HAVE TO GET THROUGH A VAGUE, POV-LESS CLAUSE TO DISCOVER SHE SHOULD HAVE BEEN WITH BETHANY. THIS IS EXACTLY THE SORT OF WRITING THAT MAKES THOSE ONE-POV-IN-A-QUERY FOLKS TALK THAT WAY. IT'S NOT BECAUSE ONE-POV IS BEST; IT'S BECAUSE SO MANY WRITERS ARE UNABLE TO READ THEIR OWN STUFF LIKE A WRITER, TO EXPERIENCE THE WRITING. YES? THEN THE NEXT SENTENCE IS SO UNSURE. WE HAVE BETHANY INSISTING, WHICH ISN'T FIRMLY IN EITHER POV AS INSISTENCE CAN BE BOTH THE ACTION OF A CHARACTER OR THE OUTWARDLY OBSERVED ACTION BY ANOTHER CHARACTER. THE SECOND HALF OF THIS SENTENCE IS FIRMLY IN JASON'S POV; BETHANY CAN'T KNOW H E'S TIRED OF ANYTHING. THEN THE NEXT SENTENCE, STILL NOT LEADING WITH THE POV CHARACTER', IS FIRMLY IN BETHANY'S POV. OH, NO! THE LAST HALF OF THAT SENTENCE IS IN JASON'S POV; BETHANY CAN'T KNOW HE'S SURPRISED.

    YOU SEE HOW THE WHOLE BUSINESS FEELS LIKE BEING SLAPPED AROUND BY A WIMPY HAND? IT'S OBVIOUS THAT YOU ARE NOT IN COMMAND OF NARRATIVE, OF POV, OF YOUR CHARACTERS. IT MAY BE TRUE THAT YOU ARE IN YOUR STORY AND THAT THIS Q IS AN ABERRATION, BUT YOUR Q SHOULD BE BETTER THAN YOUR BOOK.

    Jason had convinced himself he wanted to be treated like a normal person, and not the sick, cancer ridden patient he once was, but Bethanyís willingness to do exactly that infuriates him.

    HERE A STRAIGHT JASON POV.

    Only later will he learn that Bethany moved to town to live with her father after her mother's death. A long, drawn out illness is not new to Bethany. Sheís lived through every gritty detail, right down to the terrifying end. Her mom didnít get a chance to get better. Jason does. She has no desire to watch him waste it.

    HERE THE FIRST SENTENCE IS JASON; THE SECOND (AGAIN NOT PLACING US WITH THE POV CHARACTER AT THE BEGINNING OF THE SENTENCE) IS BETHANY. AS DOES THE NEXT FOUR.

    So, a duel protagonist query isn't a bad thing. But it's really bad when you do it badly. If we go back to the slapping metaphor. Think of each change between character POVs as a slap. Imagine each slap being a good one; you lay the reader down with that POV. When you want to change POVs, you have to pick up the reader, reorient him , prepare him for the next slap. What you've got is just dizzying.

    Maybe you'd be better off sticking with one protagonist. I don't know. I do know that if you've got two protagonist, you better have figured out how to do the POV switches in the longer shots. The same stuff applies to the short shots of a Q. You just have to be in command of it. You are not here. It makes me think that you are not in your manuscript. I'd go through a random selection of scenes and label each POV shift. See if you've got it right in the manuscript. Even if you do, the exercise will, hopefully, help you get it done in the Q.

    Sheesh, that was long. Guess I'm ready to attack my own crap now. Best of luck. I like the premise of your story.

  3. #13
    Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
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    33

    Re: Query Letter Critique, Please - YA Novel

    I haven't read the other comments.

    I think this needs some minor adjustments, but overall, the writing and story are compelling. I don't mind two points of view but I felt that you jumped to Jason's too abruptly. I feel you need to find a way of linking them in a more "seamless" way.

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