Monday, April 22, 2013

It Takes a Village to Write a Query: Victim 3


Well here it is: our third 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 (Agent Name),

“Lotto fever” isn’t just a catchphrase, at least not for eighteen-year-old Mallory Van Pelt. For her, the lottery is the ticket to a better life. (Catchy first line.) This isn't a bad opener, but I don't think it's strong enough. A lot of people want to win a lottery for a better life. You need to do it in a way that tells us why Mallory is different; why her longing is more important without using cliches.

Mallory’s father hasn’t had a job in ages, her brother drags a shadow of misery around the house, and the sister she idolizes has taken off without even a good-bye. The only bright spot left in her life is her boyfriend—that is until she catches his lips attached to another girl’s at the end-of-summer party. I like how you worded this. Nice work. After she barely survives a disastrous first day of school, an unintended journey lands <this is a bit confusing-be more specific? Mallory at in a mini mart famous for selling winning lottery tickets. Desperate for a touch of hope, she joins the crowd of dreamers and decides to try tries her luck at a Super Lotto Plus jackpot. This is a great segway sentence. Nice work!

Mallory develops lottery fever as recurring trips to the mini mart gift her with dreams of picture-perfect fantasy lives, how does it fill her with hope? Does she make friends there? Is this where she meets the love interest? ones in which new adventures for those she loves replace the suffering that surrounds them all. However, As she waits for a jackpot win, her real life grows more problematic. Mallory spins a web of lies— (I’d use commas instead of dashes here) Tell us why or what she's doing. Hiding her addiction to gambling? Avoiding her life problems and not living in real life? hiding her pain and her plan plan of winning the lotto? clarify—as she desperately tries to remain a beacon of light for her family and maintain a sense of normalcy with her friends. But as the struggles worsen at homeworsens and a shocking revelation ends Mallory’s closest friendships, that web begins to strangles her Tell us how. That way we will know what Mallory has to overcome, and all Mallory has left is her lottery hope. This paragraph has a lot of vague language. Can you give specific events that show her lies and things growing worse? This sounds more like a paragraph for a book jacket. Can you show the specific actions Mallory and her family take to make things worse, and the choice Mallory has to make? I feel like I'm missing why she is placing so much hope in the lottery. Obviously it will help her father's money woes, but will it bring her sister back? Will it help change her brother's depression? Will it re-kindle her friendships? Solve her boyfriend's wandering lips? Why is she so certain this is the cure-all? She must know the odds of winning so what makes her feel like this is the only answer to her problems? See what I mean? I also feel like you've spent a lot of time telling us how bad things are for Mallory, instead of telling us why we should care, what's at stake for her, and what she would do with the lottery.

However, beneath the rubble of her crumbling senior year is a budding relationship with Adrian Lopez—(again, commas) the tough yet totally hot transfer student with struggles of his ownwho helps Mallory see the true luck in the lottery. <expand this more to focus on how he helps her and a few specifics about his struggles/personality. If he plays a larger role in this novel, you may want to mention more about him. This one sentence mentioning him makes him seem like an after-thought.

HOPE IN BLOOM is a 75,000 word contemporary YA novel complete at 75,000 words. I am an High School English teacher,—spending my days immersed in the joys, struggles, and dreams of young adults—and a believer in my own lottery dreams as well as a member of SCBWI and CBW-LA. Nice work mentioning SCBWI and CBW-LA. I know agents like to see things like this.

Thank you for taking the time to review my work. Per your submission guidelines, XX is included below. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Leslie Hauser

This is a solid query! You've got some great verbs and lovely language. Can you use Mallory's voice a bit more to give the agent a sense of the manuscript's tone? This sounds really interesting. I haven't seen a lottery MS before, and it's intriguing! Red highlighting is words to cut.

 

ROUND TWO

Dear (Agent Name),

“Lotto fever” isn’t just a catchphrase for eighteen-year-old (New Adult?) Mallory Van Pelt. For her, it’s the ticket to saving her family and the life that she doesn’t want to lose. I like this! Nice way to phrase and informative. I’m interested! (what life? Is she a rich girl who is afraid of the change in her status at school if she becomes poor? Or, is she a poor girl who doesn't want her friends to change if she becomes rich? I think knowing this would make your query stronger)

It’s been forever since Mallory’s father had a job, her brother drags his shadow of misery all around the house, and the sister she idolizes has taken off without even saying good-bye. The only bright spot left in her life is her boyfriend—until she catches his lips attached to another girl’s at the end-of-summer party. After a disastrous first day of school(what happened?), Mallory ends up at a mini mart famous for selling winning lottery tickets, and she’s so desperate for a touch of hope, she joins the crowd of dreamers to try her own luck at a Super Lotto Plus jackpot.

Mallory develops lottery fever instantly as recurring trips to the mini mart fuel her gift her with dreams of the picture-perfect lives she wants so much for those she loves (Does she win something? What keeps her coming back aside from hope?) (this sounds really interesting. Does she daydream about her new life?). In these fantasies, Mallory’s parents are worry-free in their newly-remodeled home, obligation has freed her brother to return to Indiana where he belongs, and the best private investigator money can buy has found her sister. But while she waits for her jackpot dreams to come true, her real life worsens. Family woes (What woes? You spend a good portion talking about what can be solved, but not enough emphasis on what’s at stake)  continue and the façade of normalcy she’s been trying to maintain at school begins to crack. (I'm still not sure what's going on. I'm guessing she doesn't tell her friends that she's going through financial problems at home) The web of lies (what lies?) Mallory has spun to hide her plan (Plan to win the lottery? What plan?) and her pain from her family and friends starts to strangle her, and all that’s left of her perfect senior year is a desperate hope for a set of winning numbers. (I think this part needs some rephrasing. I wouldn't include that her senior year is perfect, considering how much trouble her family goes through. I also don't know what this 'plan' you mentioned is. Is her plan winning the lottery? Also, what's the impact of this dream on her friends? I also don't know what she is lying about, so I can't tell what's at stake here).
However, beneath the rubble of her crumbling year is a budding relationship with Adrian Lopez, the tough yet totally hot transfer student with his own struggles (what struggles?). Though they definitely don’t run with the same crowd, Adrian he becomes the one person Mallory can confide in (why?). And as she strays farther from her friends, she grows closer to Adrian and he shows her the true luck in the lottery. I feel like this paragraph is sort of an afterthought. You spend a fair amount talking about how the lottery will solve all of her problems, but only vaguely touch on what’s going on outside of the fantasy. (I really like the touch of romance in your query. In my opinion, though, this last paragraph makes the query feel like a synopsis. I keep getting the impression that she doesn't win the lottery, but her relationship with Adrian makes her feel like she's won. Maybe, you should rephrase it in a way that doesn't tell exactly what happens in the end, so agents will be more interested in reading the story and finding out what happens to Mallory and her family).
 HOPE IN BLOOM (I suppose I’d have to read the whole thing to understand the title, but I was looking for something that ties into her lotto dreams) is a 75,000 word contemporary YA novel. I am an English teacher as well as a member of SCBWI and CBW-LA. Great! I’m clear on genre and you have solid credentials.
Thank you for taking the time to review my work. I look forward to hearing from you.

General comments: I like your query and your premise a lot. It's very well written, and your voice flows well. I didn't have trouble picturing Mallory. She feels very family-oriented, ambitious, and I'd say she's also a dreamer. I'd love to read it and see how she goes through her 'lottery fever'. Does she daydream about her new life? Can she clearly see her life changing? Also, does daydreaming during her trips to the mini mart puts her in embarrassing situations? I'm not sure, but I sense a bit of comedy here.  

I suggest you make it clear what Mallory fears losing if she wins the lottery. If I were an agent considering your query, I'd want to know what's at stake if Mallory wins / loses the lottery. Even though you mentioned her family is struggling financially, when you said that she's been lying to her friends at school, I got the impression that she might actually be a rich girl trying to hide that her family is now poor. You know what I mean? I don't know what she's lying about. In my opinion, it is important to make that clear. 

I'd also change the last paragraph, particularly by omitting "And as she strays farther from her friends, she grows closer to Adrian and he shows her the true luck in the lottery." It's just my opinion, but I keep feeling like I've just found out how the book ends (she doesn't win the lottery; instead, she wins a new boyfriend), so now I don't feel like going on this quest with Mallory to find out if she wins the lottery. I want her dream of winning the lottery to become my dream, too, as a reader.

My biggest concern is that it was too long. We don't need the details of why her family is having trouble. We just need to know that she's developed a gambling problem.

  

ROUND THREE

 

Dear (Agent Name),

Lotto fever” isn’t just a catchphrase for eighteen-year-old Mallory Van Pelt. For her, it’s the ticket to saving her family and the life that she doesn’t want to lose After reading the full query, it sounds like her family may be wealthy and she could lose all that. Clarify that it’s the lavish life she’s accustomed too. Good opening. It gives us a few details, while creating intrigue at the same time. I love this first paragraph. Really sets up how dismal Mallory's life is. Maybe more specific about why the Brother is miserable? But it's good! :)

It’s been forever since Mallory’s father had a job, her brother drags his shadow of misery all around the house, and the sister she idolizes has taken off without even saying good-bye. The only bright spot left in her life is her boyfriend—until she catches his lips attached to another girl’s at the end-of-summer party. After a disastrous first day of school, Mallory ends up at a mini mart famous for selling winning lottery tickets, and she’s so desperate for a touch of hope, she joins the crowd of dreamers to try her own luck at a Super Lotto Plus jackpot. What's so disastrous about the first day of school? Why would that lead her to the mini mart? It's a big jump from the end of summer party to school to the mini mart, and I'm not sure why the string of bad luck would bring her there. 

 Mallory develops lottery fever instantly as recurring trips to the mini mart gift her with daydreams of the picture-perfect lives she wants so much for those she loves. In these fantasies, Mallory’s parents are worry-free in their newly-remodeled home, obligation has freed her brother to return to Indiana where he belongs—be more exact, why is the brother depressed and what obligation? Is he in debt to someone because of their lack of money, was he forced to come home? and the best private investigator money can buy has found her sister. Her brother is gone? Earlier it was just mentioned that he's dragging his shadow of misery around the house. But while she waits for her jackpot dreams to come true, her real life worsens. It becomes increasingly difficult for Mallory to keep up with her wealthy friends This is the first time her wealthy friends have been mentioned. So she is from the upper crust side, and her family is struggling to remain there? Perhaps mentioning this earlier would explain her money concerns better. and to be the beacon of light that’s holding her family together. And time is not on her side either; if she doesn’t find her luck soon, her parents could lose the house, Mallory could lose her college dreams, and the distance with her friends could become permanent. Since a recent sentence began with "but", I wouldn't start this sentence with "and." I'd almost end here...or shorten this paragraph. How important is Adrian to the query? the last paragraph makes this a bit long.

However, beneath the rubble of her crumbling year is a budding relationship with Adrian Lopez, the tough yet totally hot transfer student with his own family struggles. Does the word "however" add anything here? It seems like a crutch. If you didn't change the sentence previous to this one, this would be three out of four sentences in a row beginning similarly. Though they definitely don’t run with the same crowd, Adrian becomes the one person Mallory can confide in and their growing friendship is just the thing she needs as she waits for luck to strike. This sentence also begins similarly to the above few. Could it be reworded to not have a more varying sentence structure? Perhaps something as simple as: "Despite running in different crowds..."I like this dynamic, possibly add in a word or two on how different the boy is. Is he poor? While I like the last sentence, you may want to end on a more active phrase. Here it seems Mallory is just going to wait around. Maybe hint at how the boy changes her views, and she realizes she’ll need more than just a winning ticket to save her family.

 HOPE IN BLOOM (LOVE THE TITLE!) is a 75,000 word contemporary YA novel. I am an English teacher as well as a member of SCBWI and CBW-LA. Great, short bio.

 Overall, I like the concept. The query can pop by adding in a few more specific details,. Is the house in foreclosure? Is there a date she needs the money by? What’s the brother doing home? Did the sister leave because of financial difficulties or another reason? You don’t need to info dump, just a few re-worded sentences.

 

 THE FINAL QUERY: 

Dear (Agent Name),

“Lotto fever” isn’t just a catchphrase for eighteen-year-old Mallory Van Pelt. For her, it’s the ticket to saving her family and the comfortable life that she doesn’t want to lose.

It’s been forever since Mallory’s father had a job, her older brother drags his shadow of misery all around the house, and the sister she idolizes has taken off without even saying good-bye. The only bright spot left in her life is her boyfriend—until she catches his lips attached to another girl’s at the end-of-summer party. After a humiliating first day of school, Mallory ends up at a mini mart famous for selling winning lottery tickets, and she’s so desperate for a touch of hope, she joins the crowd of dreamers to try her own luck at a Super Lotto Plus jackpot.

Mallory develops lottery fever instantly as recurring trips to the mini mart gift her with daydreams of the picture-perfect lives she wants so much for those she loves. In these fantasies, Mallory’s parents are worry-free in their newly-remodeled home, her brother is free from financial handcuffs and able to return to Indiana where he belongs, and the best private investigator money can buy has found her sister. But while she waits for her jackpot dreams to come true, her real life worsens. It becomes increasingly difficult for Mallory to keep up with her wealthy friends and to be the beacon of light that’s holding her family together. Time is not on her side either; if she doesn’t find her luck soon, her parents could lose the house, Mallory could lose her college dreams, and the distance with her friends could become permanent.

However, beneath the rubble of her crumbling year is a budding relationship with Adrian Lopez, the tough yet totally hot transfer student with his own family struggles. Despite running in different crowds, Adrian becomes the one person Mallory can confide in and their growing friendship is just the thing she needs to help her find her luck.

HOPE IN BLOOM is a 75,000 word contemporary YA novel. I am an English teacher as well as a member of SCBWI and CBW-LA.

Thank you again for taking the time to review my work. I look forward to hearing from you.

 
 
About the Querier, Leslie Hauser:
 
When I was 9, my family moved away from Ohio, and that was the worst day of my life. In my sadness the next fall, I wrote my 3rd grade masterpiece "Wild Strawberries"--a story in which a young girl finds her way home on the backs of some talking strawberries. It was published in the school gazette. Ever since that day, I've been inspired to write the stories that live inside my mind and my heart. These days, I'm mainly hoping that "Wild Strawberries" wasn't my publishing peak. (I also teach English, but that's not nearly as important.)
 

2 comments:

  1. OMG, I love the final query. I want to read this book right now!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Great suggestions for this query!

    ReplyDelete