Monday, January 28, 2008

Queries Take Three!

So it is totally blizzarding at my house. I haven’t seen a storm like this in all the winters we’ve been in Utah! (Five now.) I’ve seen storms like this in Idaho, but that’s why I don’t live in Idaho.;) I went to get my mail a few minutes ago and my door was frozen shut!! I had to pull really hard to even get it open! It took me about three tries! Yuck. I don’t like snow.

Okay, this is our last query workshop. It was suggested in the comments that I do Pride and Prejudice and although I like and appreciate the suggestion, P&P is popular now because it is a classic. As-is, it would not sell in today’s market and the whole point of a query is to present the marketability of your story. So thank you for the suggestion! . . . But I’m going to do something else.;) I’m thinking Libba Bray’s A Great and Terrible Beauty.



*Disclaimer: This work belongs entirely to Libba Bray and even though I will be writing this query from a first person point of view, this is no indication that the work in question belongs to me at all.;)*

We’ll start with the basic, “what is this book about” paragraph.

When Gemma Doyle’s mother dies, Gemma is sent to a finishing school in London. At first she is an outcast, but eventually she a three other girls form a tight friendship. Gemma has been having strange visions and while she is out visiting a cave she finds the diary of a young woman who attended her school 25 years before who had similar visions. The girl was a member of “The Order” and as Gemma begins reading the diary, she and her friends set up their own club. Little do they know that their predecessors committed terrible acts of violence and betrayal. Gemma discovers that her “visions” allow her to step into another realm where she brings her friends and finds her mother. But the further Gemma gets into the diary, the more evil and danger she discovers till she finds out a terrible secret about her mother and is forced to leave one of her friends in the other realm.

The nice thing about this book is that it is so unique and interesting that it is hard to write a bad query about it. Even this fairly flat recitation of events is interesting. But just because your basic synopsis can be interesting doesn’t mean that you should settle for it. So now we are going to highlight the unique elements.

When Gemma Doyle’s mother commits suicide, Gemma’s laudanum-addicted father sends her to an old finishing school in London. Originally shunned as an outsider, Gemma soon forms a fast friendship with three other girls with whom she shares her greatest secret; that she has been having strange visions. Soon the girls discover an old journal and the power to pass into a strange spirit realm where—to Gemma’s surprise—they discover her mother, trapped between earth and the afterlife. Within this new realm the girls are granted the deepest wishes of their heart: love, beauty, self-knowledge, power. But both the new realm and the journal reveal a darker side as well. A dark goddess, a not-so-accidental fire, a forgotten murder.
Ooh, I like this one! But let’s add some voice and let’s not forget to let the agent know that we are dealing with a different time period.

In the late nineteenth century a young woman’s ability to pass into another realm not only reveals evils in the past, but forces four young ladies at Spence Academy to choose between reality and a place where the deepest wishes of their hearts are granted.

When Gemma Doyle’s mother commits suicide she is sent to Spence Academy to become a distinguished young lady. At first Gemma is an outcast, but a fortuitous bit of blackmail soon nets her four fast friends with whom she shares her greatest secret; that she has been having strange visions. The discovery of a 25 year old diary reveals stunning secrets to the friends. Another girl with visions, a tragic fire, a secret society. The girls set up their own secret society and discover that Gemma’s “visions” allow them to pass into another realm full of the spirits of the dead where each girl receives great magic—beauty, love, self-knowledge, and power. And even better, Gemma’s mother is there. But as the diary continues to reveal its dark secrets—secrets that are twisted up in Gemma’s mother’s past as well—the girls begin to see the consequences of their choices leak into the real world. And with it comes the wrath of an evil sorceress.


Hmmm. I think that works. Mind you, I haven’t spent nearly as long on this as my personal pitches, but I hope you are getting the idea of how I go about the process.

For the last part we’re going to add a commercial pitch and finish our query.

Dear Agent,


In the late nineteenth century a young woman’s ability to pass into another realm not only reveals evils in the past, but forces four young ladies at Spence Academy to choose between reality and a place where the deepest wishes of their hearts are granted.

When Gemma Doyle’s mother commits suicide she is sent to Spence Academy to become a distinguished young lady. At first Gemma is an outcast, but a fortuitous bit of blackmail soon nets her four fast friends with whom she shares her greatest secret; that she has been having strange visions. The discovery of a 25 year old diary reveals stunning secrets to the friends. Another girl with visions, a tragic fire, a secret society. The girls set up their own secret society and discover that Gemma’s “visions” allow them to pass into another realm full of the spirits of the dead where each girl receives great magic—beauty, love, self-knowledge, and power. And even better, Gemma’s mother is there. But as the diary continues to reveal its dark secrets—secrets that are twisted up in Gemma’s mother’s past as well—the girls begin to see the consequences of their choices leak into the real world. And with it comes the wrath of an evil sorceress.

The Victorian era frames this dark, paranormal Young Adult novel that questions family ties, the worth of life, and the consequences of dreams come true. The manuscript is complete at 100,000 words and available for your perusal. Thanks etc.

Wannabe Libba 

We’ll sum-up next time.:)

Ciao!

4 comments:

Meliss said...

April,
I know you don't like snow storms. I didn't realize Utah was getting them so bad. Idaho got a bad one yesterday and today. I guess not bad enough for my school to be canceled (Madison School Dist.), even though other schools around us were out. Hope things are going good for you! Good luck with everything!!

Maprilynne said...

Meliss! You have sparked my interest! I have spent many (many, many, many) hours in Madison High School. So 2 questions. The first very obvious . . . Do I know you? And secondly, do you, by chance, do speech and debate? (Because if so you almost for sure know my dad.:))

booklady said...

I live a few hours south of you, if I'm guessing correctly about the general area where you live, and we've been getting way more snow than usual, too--eleven snow falls this year alone, and more on the way. It's crazy.

Thanks for the query workshop. It was fun!

Elizabeth...mommy...etc said...

thought i'd let you know i'm having a giveaway at my blog...it's a great personalized valentine gift for yourself or someone special! come on by! *elizabeth