Monday, March 11, 2013

It Takes a Village to Write a Query: Victim 2

Well here it is: our second victim—I mean, participant—of our It Takes a Village to Write a Query series! Over the course of one month, this querier went through three grueling rounds of revisions with a total of nine critiques from our members. Check out our comments, the evolution of her query and maybe congratulate her in the end! Also, feel free to give your feedback on the final version. 


 
 
ROUND ONE

 

Dear Ms. Agent,

In the near future where LiteEnergy is the currency for everything, sixteen-year-old Tesla Sonnenclare just wants to be a normal part of her adoptive family, which is a little hard when she can hear colors. Work on your hook. You've given us information, but the opening sentence is awkwardly worded and didn't grab my attention. However, I can tell that your novel has a unique concept so I know you'll be able to do it! Well, she can smell them too; she has synesthesia, What a fantastic interesting concept! This is a unique selling point! a condition that mixes up her senses, allowing sounds, letters and smells all to have colors. This really grabs me. Such a different trait. I would have liked this tied into the final paragraph—how does synesthesia hinder and help her succeed? I’m not sure what LiteEnergy is, so I’d replace that with an explanation of what the thing is and avoid using the terms. Unfamiliar terms can make SF/F worlds confusing at the query stage. I’d also remove her last name. For now, it doesn’t matter, and it’s another unusual word that might distract from the content.

During her mandatory internship for school, she's placed at General Intelligence as a Level 3 code breaker intern. Whose code are they breaking? This is important so that we understand why she is important. It's her top choice and she's the youngest girl in history to be placed past Level 2. There, she meets Nohl Liola, another super smart code breaker intern like herself, who knows what it's like to be the difference in a family.  Since Nohl isn’t mentioned again, I would leave her/him out. You may want to mention what her contrast is to her family. Are they all "normal"? Are they ashamed of her abilities? Are they proud? This will help us gauge what's at risk or how this plays into the story. Especially based on your last lines of your query that mention that family is a strong theme at play.

When challenged by her team nemesis, Hold up. What team? Is this her rival on Level 3 code breaker? Or is there another team that Level 3 is up against? Is there another team? Do they have a history already? What is it? Tesla uses her synesthesia to decode a message; one that points to an ominous event to occur the following Friday. Having no one else able to decode the messages, Tesla's supervisor doesn't believe her. Why not? Does she have a history of lying? Besides, G.I. is one of the most secure government agency facilities in the world. But when the blueprints to G.I. are stolen on the predicted Friday, the only suspect is Tesla. I’ve read this a couple of times trying to see what doesn’t fit. I think adding in where these encrypted messages are coming from will help streamline the query. You can mention that in the above paragraph. I’d like to hear a detail about how her synesthesia allows her to decode. It’s a great hook, so capitalize on that!

And she's charged with treason. Oh nice! I love this and it definitely sets the stakes high! I like this, almost a spin off the movie the RECRUIT. She’s doing her job and gets in trouble for it. Very interesting.

Tesla must clear her name before any of G.I.'s intelligence is stolen and she's convicted, even when the situation takes a turn for the worst worse not worst and she has to choose between her freedom or her family's. Be specific, but don't give it all away. What does she do to clear her name? Just adding a quick tidbit on why her family would be in danger would close this. That would be one tough choice!

At its core, THE DISLOYALTY OF COLORS asks the question of what it is to be family, and what a person must sacrifice for the ones they love. THE DISLOYALTY OF COLORS, a completed 60,000 words (remove s, to make it word) YA sci-fi, maybe include something that says, will appeal to fans of is INSGINIA meets THE HEIST SOCIETY. It is a standalone novel with potential for a series series potential.

Thank you for your consideration,

 

 

ROUND TWO

 

Dear Agent,

In the near future where LiteEnergy is the currency for everything, sixteen-year-old Tesla Sonnenclare can hear colors (I keep wondering what's the relation between LiteEnergy and Tesla being able to hear colors). She can smell them, too. She has synesthesia, a condition that mixes up her senses, allowing sounds, letters and smells all to have colors. This wouldn't be so bad if she wasn't also adopted, in a time when adoption is taboo (Why is adoption taboo?). How does this play into the plot and the character? If this is really important to the story, make sure you give it a little more time or just take it out.

During her mandatory internship for school, she's placed at General Intelligence as a Level 3 code breaker intern. It's her top choice and she's the youngest girl in history to be placed past Level 2. This is very confusing. Is there any way to rewrite this so it is not only simplier, but also with some explanation? There, she meets Nohl Liola, another super smart code breaker intern like herself, Is Nohl the nemesis, if not, why is she named in the query? who knows what it's like to be the difference outcast in a family. (Is she a genius? Is there a connection between her being synesthetic and the advanced placement she got? And what makes Nohl different?)

When challenged by her team nemesis Is mentioning the nemesis necessary? If he/she isn’t a huge part of the story line, take this mention out. to be the best code-breaker in the group, Tesla uses her synesthesia to decode a message on G.I.'s server: one that points to an ominous event occurring in two weeks. When no one else can replicate her decryption, Tesla's supervisor doesn't believe her. Besides, G.I. is one of the most secure government agency facilities in the world. When the blueprints to G.I. indeed are stolen, like she predicted, the only suspect is Tesla.

And she’s charged with treason. Ah, here is a great hook. Can you reword this entire paragraph to read about the treason she is accused of? This will simplify the paragraph and give more info. about your main character and plot.

Tesla must use her code-breaking skills and synesthesia to clear her name before any more of G.I.'s intelligence is stolen and she's convicted. When her family gets implicated in the heist, she’s forced has to choose between her own freedom or her family's. Good wrap up to the summary.

THE DISLOYALTY OF COLORS, a 60,000-word YA sci-fi, asks what it means to be family, and what a person must sacrifice for the ones they love. It is INSIGNIA meets THE HEIST SOCIETY, and a standalone novel with series potential. This is a great ending paragraph. The comparison between these two very popular books, will be a benefit to you.

General comments: I love the premise. I love that Tesla's gift is such a strong element in her life, and I can't think of any other synesthetic characters. I've watched a few documentaries on the subject, and it's always so intriguing. That said, I still think that you should explain how synesthesia is both her curse and her salvation. For example, I'm not entirely sure why being adopted and synesthetic clash. I also am not sure why she got such a high placement at her internship. I assumed it was because of her synesthetic skills; so, in this case, synesthesia brings her glory. . . and bites her back when they accuse her of stealing those blueprints. It also seems to be the key to her freedom and to save her family.

What I'd do, I guess, is to try to contrast in your query what positive and negative points synesthesia brings to Tesla's life, and how it affects her quest to free herself and her family in the end. It makes her gift more intriguing. I also suggest you tie all the extra information together: how does Tesla being adopted affect her synesthetic abilities? Does this new currency affect her and her family?

 

ROUND THREE

 

Dear Ms. Agent,
In the near future How near? Tomorrow? 30 years from now? I would be more specific on this to help establish your setting, sixteen-year-old Tesla Sonenclare can hears colors. This immediately makes me wonder what they sound like. How does this mess with her daily life? Can she function? Well, she can smell them too; she has synesthesia, a condition that mixes up her senses, allowing sounds, letters and smells all to have colors. If it's a condition shouldn't it be a proper noun? Synesthesia? I'd love to be shown in the first paragraph, how these things affect Tesla. I'm immediately interested by her condition but I think the first paragraph can be reworded so the conflict is introduced first. She's also adopted, which wouldn't be so bad, but with genetic engineering and in vitro being the norm, not knowing where a child came from is taboo. So, does that mean adoption is illegal? Is taboo against the law? How did her family get her? This is where knowing the year would be helpful because if it’s 10 years from now, I don’t see how it would be taboo.

During her mandatory internship for school, she's placed at General Intelligence as a Level 3 code breaker intern thanks to her synesthetic abilities to see color-coded patterns in numbers. It's her top choice and she's the youngest girl in history to be placed above Level 2. Tesla hopes this internship will finally end all references to her being adopted, and instead just be known as the Level 3 code breaker. Make the name-calling about being adopted more personal. How does it make her feel? How does it drive her to be better at what she does? I would almost start with this paragraph--up the emotion, but this paragraph gives me a better sense of the story.

Challenged by her team nemesis to be the best code-breaker in the group, Tesla uses her synesthesia to decode a message that points to a security breach at G.I. When no one else can replicate her decryption ,delete space before the coma Tesla's supervisor doesn't believe her. Besides, G.I. is one of the most secure government agencies in the world. But when the blueprints to G.I. are stolen, like she predicted, the only suspect is Tesla. This is good--ramp up what it means to be charged with treason. What are the stakes--how is she going to choose? How is she going to fix this? Does she have any help? How do her powers help her figure this out? Who's the person/group behind the security breach? Who is her nemesis?

And she's charged with treason.

Tesla must use her code-breaking skills and synesthesia to clear her name before any more of G.I.'s intelligence General Intelligence’s intelligence? Consider revision is stolen and she's convicted, even when her family gets implicated in the heist What heist? The blueprint heist? Or did more stuff get stolen? and she must choose between her own freedom or her family's. This portion is really wordy. I like that it illustrates the sacrifice but I’d like it more if you broke it up and added a bit more detail. Why are they implicated? How does she have to choose?

THE DISLOYALTY OF COLORS, a 60,000-word YA sci-fi, asks what it means to be family, and what a person must sacrifice for the ones they love. It is INSIGNIA meets THE HEIST SOCIETY, and a standalone novel with series potential End punctuation needed in last sentence.

General Comments: I like how you listed the comps. After reading the second paragraph the fact that she's adopted isn't the conflict. The conflict is that she's charged with treason. I think this needs to be in the first paragraph. The agent immediately wants to know: who does what and is faced with what problem: Sixteen-year-old Tesla Sonenclare, who has synesthesia, a condition that mixes up her senses, is placed at General Intelligence as a level 3 code breaker she hopes the internship will finally end all references to her being adopted - a taboo in the near future where genetic engineering is the norm. Then go on to give a few details leading to her having to choose between her own freedom and her family's. Very cool premise.

You can't answer all my rhetorical questions in your query--but pointing to a few of the answers...giving a more intimate peek into the story, give more of a sense of the emotions, and how important Tesla's family is to her...I think would make the query more powerful.

Overall, I am interested in your plot. Parts of it made me think of Ender’s Game. You need to consider some revisions and maybe clue us in a bit more about your plot.

THE FINAL QUERY:
 
Dear Ms. Agent,

In the near future, sixteen-year-old Tesla Sonenclare can hear colors. Well, she can smell them too; she has synesthesia, a condition that mixes up her senses, allowing sounds, letters and smells all to have colors. As if she weren't enough of an anomaly, she's also adopted. And with genetic engineering and in vitro being the norm, not knowing where a child came from is taboo.

During her mandatory internship for school, Tesla's placed at General Intelligence as a Level 3 code breaker thanks to her synesthetic abilities to see color-coded patterns. Working at G.I., an agency that houses many Top Secret government projects, is her first choice, and s
he's the youngest girl in history to be placed above Level 2.

Challenged by her team nemesis to be the best code breaker in the group, Tesla uses her synesthesia to decode a message that points to a security breach at G.I. When no one else can replicate her decryption, Tesla's supervisor doesn't believe her. Besides, G.I. is one of the most secure government agencies in the world. But when the blueprints to G.I. are stolen, like she predicted, the only suspect is Tesla.

And she's charged with treason.

Tesla must use her synesthesia and code-breaking skills to clear her name before any more of G.I.'s intelligence is stolen and she's convicted of a crime she didn't commit. But when her family gets implicated in the crime, she must choose between her own freedom or the freedom of the family who gave her everything.

THE DISLOYALTY OF COLORS, a 60,000-word YA sci-fi, asks what it means to be family, and what a person must sacrifice for the ones they love. It is INSIGNIA meets THE HEIST SOCIETY, and a standalone novel with series potential.
 
 
About the Querier, Steph Sessa:
Steph Sessa is a YA writer with an obsession with linguistics, languages and codes, so it helps that her day job is as a linguistic researcher. When not writing, you can find her on the Ultimate Frisbee field, playing bass guitar at any opportunity, or taking a stand against #MaxTheCat who thinks her computer is his bed. You can find her on twitter: @stephsessa or on her blog: http://stephsessa.blogspot.com.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
To participate in next month's It Takes a Village to Write a Query series, follow the submission guidelines here.
 
 

1 comment:

  1. I missed when this posted last week. Good luck Steph!

    ReplyDelete