Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Huzzah! The Query Letter Blogfest is Here!

Do you know what today is, kids? The nineteenth. And while that has tons of crazy importance in a certain fictional world that involves this poem, it's also important on this plane because today's our query letter blogfest. *hands out celebratory mochas*

If you've already signed up, hooray. If you haven't, there's still time.

The rules:
  • Post your query letter on your blog.
  • Read and critique* on at least 5 other query letters.
When critiquing a query, here are a few questions you should ask yourself. (Thanks to Pam & Quita for putting these up.)
  • Tell whether or not the letter hooks you--is there a pitch line apparent somewhere through out the letter?
  • Determine whether or not you GET what the novel is about.How is the sentence flow? Transitions? 
  • If you were an agent--would you request pages? Why or why not?

So simple, right? Let's get to it.


Dear [Agent Name],
  
All Cheyenne Butler ever wanted was a normal life: have friends, sleep in class, hell, maybe date. But accidentally killing her aunt always got in the way. That, and juvie.
After five years, Cheyenne finally has the opportunity and is ready to take the challenge head on. Sort of. Adjusting to life on the outside would be easier if she could get her workaholic uncle to agree that a lie of epic proportions is in order and if she didn’t need to convince her therapist she’s fit for life on the outside without actually contributing.
It shouldn’t be too difficult to adjust, since North Maltwood is so bland her cousin has renamed the town “Normal.”
Only if it was the truth. Cheyenne walks right into a social status pissing contest between her cousin’s vapid girlfriend and the rest of his friends. Not to mention that her housemaster’s determined to put Cheyenne right back in juvie. She makes new friends and begins to finally live the life she never knew she could have, until the news of her ailing father’s death and the circumstances of her past become school-wide gossip and jeopardizes everything. Through all this, Cheyenne discovers the most common definition of normal may be the most abnormal thing of all.
I am a contributing blogger to [REDACTED] blog and am also a member of SCBWI.
My contemporary young adult novel, FALLING TO NORMAL, is complete at 55,000 words. I look forward to hearing from you and thank you in advance for your time.
Regards,
Alicia Gregoire


Don't forget to check out the other contributors!

* When I say critique, I mean constructive feedback. This isn't an open invite to be all "THIS SUCKS."

__________
Last.fm hit of the day: My Devotion by Opera IX

14 comments:

  1. This is really good, Alicia! Just some fine-tuning notes below. Most of them are in [brackets].

    But accidentally killing her aunt always got in the way. That, and juvie. <-- this seems a little flippant considering the situation. And Chey def. doesn't treat it flippantly.

    After five years, Cheyenne finally has the opportunity[,] and is ready to take the challenge head on. Sort of. Adjusting to life on the outside would be easier if she could get her workaholic uncle to agree that a lie of epic proportions is in order [in order for what?] and if she didn’t need to convince her therapist she’s fit for life on the outside without actually contributing. [I think you can do without this second part of the sentence.]

    It shouldn’t be too difficult to adjust, since North Maltwood is so bland her cousin has renamed the town “Normal.” [If only that] was the truth.

    Cheyenne walks right into a social status pissing contest between her cousin’s vapid girlfriend and the rest of his friends. Not to mention that her (Do ppl normally know what a housemaster is? Because I wouldn't if I hadn't read the book) housemaster[ is] determined to put Cheyenne right back in juvie. She makes new friends[,] and begins to finally live the life she never knew she could have[.] [U]ntil the news of her ailing father’s death[,] and the circumstances of her past[,] become school-wide gossip [cut this bit-- and jeopardizes everything]. Through all this, Cheyenne discovers the most common definition of normal may be the most abnormal thing of all.

    ReplyDelete
  2. But accidentally killing her aunt always got in the way.

    On first reaction, this made it sound like she'd killed her aunt more than once. Obviously, I reread it and went 'oh duh' LOL but at first, I was like 'is this a paranormal...?'

    My only other critique is that the query seems to go up and down--that is, she comes out of juvie ready to live a normal life (up), but her uncle and therapist trip her up (down), but the town is so normal that fitting in should be cake (up), but then she walks into a social pissing contest (down), but that's okay b/c she makes friends and starts a new life (up), but then she finds out about her dad and gossip starts up (down).

    So... I think I'm a bit confused about what the conflict of this book is. I mean, it sounds really interesting and I love her voice, but I just... don't know that all of that is necessary to get to the heart of the book.

    ReplyDelete
  3. This sounds like an excellent novel! Is this the one you want me to BETA--cause I would LOVE too! I hope you can read my suggestions easy enough. It was hard to format cause I did it on Word first like an idiot...

    All Cheyenne Butler ever wanted was a normal life: have friends, sleep in class, hell, maybe date. But accidentally killing her aunt always (seemed to?) got get in the way. That, and juvie. ( I like the first sentence a lot, btw—I think it draws the reader into what the central conflict is. Chey can’t fit in b/c she is a juvenile delinquent who has had a hand in her aunt’s death. That would screw with anyone).
    After five years, Cheyenne finally has the opportunity (to live her normal life) and is ready to take the challenge head on (take on the challeng). Sort of. ( Love the voice here!)

    Adjusting to life on the outside would be easier if she could get her workaholic uncle to agree that a lie of epic proportions is in order and if she didn’t need to convince her therapist she’s fit for life on the outside without actually contributing. (HA! Sounds just like a teen :) ).

    It shouldn’t be too difficult to adjust, since North Maltwood is so bland her cousin has renamed the town “Normal.” (This whole sentence should be made your second sentence in the second paragraph, so after how she’s ready to take on the challenge of having that normal life).

    Only if it was the truth. (Another transition—like... and convincing her therapist is no match to the social status pissing contest she has with…) {Cheyenne walks right into a social status pissing contest between her cousin’s vapid girlfriend and the rest of his friends.} Not to mention that her housemaster’s determined to put Cheyenne right back in juvie. (As soon as Cheyenne makes new friends, she receives)instead of-- {She makes new friends and begins to finally live the life she never knew she could have, until the} news of her ailing father’s death and the circumstances of her past become school-wide gossip and jeopardizes everything. Through all this,
    Cheyenne discovers the most common definition of normal may be the most abnormal thing of all. ( LOVE the last sentence).

    I am a contributing blogger to [REDACTED] blog and am also a member of SCBWI.

    My contemporary young adult novel, FALLING TO NORMAL, is complete at 55,000 words. I look forward to hearing from you and thank you in advance for your time.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi Alicia! I am very picky about contemporary, but this sounds like an interesting premise. I think there are a few things that need clarifying, and I've put my comments mostly in brackets. Hope this helps and thank you so much for hosting!

    Dear [Agent Name],

    All Cheyenne Butler ever wanted was a normal life: have friends, sleep in class, hell, maybe date. But accidentally killing her aunt got in the way. That, and juvie.

    After five years, Cheyenne finally has the opportunity and is ready to take the challenge head on [unclear what the challenge is? Live a normal life?]. Sort of. Adjusting to life on the outside would be easier if she could get her workaholic uncle to agree that a lie of epic proportions is in order and if she didn’t need to convince her therapist she’s fit for life on the outside without actually contributing. [This sentence needs to be broken up a bit and possibly more detail added. What is the lie? And what does 'without actually contributing' mean? She doesn't want to work? Unsure.]

    It shouldn’t be too difficult to adjust, since North Maltwood is so bland her cousin has renamed the town “Normal.”

    Only if it was the truth. Cheyenne walks right into a social status pissing contest between her cousin’s vapid girlfriend and the rest of his friends. Not to mention that her housemaster’s [?? is she in a group home to transition back to normal life?] determined to put Cheyenne right back in juvie. She makes new friends and begins to finally live the life she never knew she could have, until the news of her ailing [ailing unnecessary since he dies] father’s death and the circumstances of her past become school-wide gossip jeopardizing everything. Cheyenne discovers the most common definition of normal may be the most abnormal thing of all. [Unsure what this means? That no one lives a normal life? I love the play of words, but I'd hate for the true meaning to get lost in translation!]

    I am a contributing blogger to [REDACTED] blog and am also a member of SCBWI.

    My [YA contemporary novel], FALLING TO NORMAL, is complete at 55,000 words. I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you in advance for your time.

    ReplyDelete
  5. First off-- so great to actually find out what your book is about.

    Dear [Agent Name],

    All Cheyenne Butler ever wanted was a normal life: have friends, sleep in class, hell, maybe date. But accidentally killing her aunt always got in the way. {this tripped me up, too. I got it, but it took me a while. Your Zombie rep made me think- whoa, she's got to always kill her aunt?} That, and juvie. {I like the voice- it really rounds out the query because she's no chirpy Pollyanna, and you get that right away.)

    After five years, Cheyenne finally has the opportunity [I didn't get immediately that you mean to have a normal life. It really could be me today. I'm feeling SLOW.] and is ready to take the challenge head on. Sort of. Adjusting to life on the outside would be easier if she could get her workaholic uncle to agree that a lie of epic proportions [I don't understand this part] is in order and if she didn’t need to convince her therapist she’s fit for life on the outside without actually contributing [contributing in the sense of "to society", do you mean?. I think this could be clearer. It might also help to break into two sentences, one for the uncle and one for the therapist]

    It shouldn’t be too difficult to adjust, since North Maltwood is so bland her cousin has renamed the town “Normal.” [could the town be named Normal? It seems a leap to go from North Maltwood to Normal. Maybe you account for this in the story]

    [If} only it was the truth. Cheyenne walks right into a social status pissing contest between her cousin’s vapid girlfriend and the rest of his friends. Not to mention that her housemaster’s determined to put Cheyenne right back in juvie. She makes new friends and begins to finally live the life she never knew she could have, until the news of her ailing father’s death and the circumstances of her past become school-wide gossip and jeopardizes everything. [Is there a way to take the above and distill it? It's such a tough balance to strike between too much and just enough info]
    [] Cheyenne discovers the most common definition of normal may be the most abnormal thing of all.

    I am a contributing blogger to [REDACTED] blog and am also a member of SCBWI.

    My contemporary young adult novel, FALLING TO NORMAL, is complete at 55,000 words. I look forward to hearing from you and thank you in advance for your time{i love the advance thank for time. Stay classy}

    ReplyDelete
  6. I think a couple of the sentences are a bit long. Such as 'Adjusting to life on the outside would be easier if she could get her workaholic uncle to agree that a lie of epic proportions is in order and if she didn’t need to convince her therapist she’s fit for life on the outside without actually contributing'. That's 46 words without any punctuation, which might need to be fixed.

    Oh, and I read somewhere, it might have been Query Shark, that you shouldn't state that your novel is complete in a query, as it's assumed if you're at the query stage then your book is finished. I don't know how true that is though.

    I loved the tone throughout, and the rest of it is submission ready in my opinion.

    ReplyDelete
  7. This story plot sounds really tight. I agree though that you should use 'accidentally killing her aunt got in the way' because I thought it was paranormal at first too.

    I wondered about the uncle sounding unreasonable for not lying for her - did she kill his wife? Because I would have expected some harder feelings.

    Perhaps skim down the part about the ailing father (just her father's death is enough, we don't need to know he was sick yet), I think the gossip is more in line with the story we're getting from this pitch.

    This characters sounds tough to me, is there any similar characters you could liken her to?

    ReplyDelete
  8. Interesting concept, Alicia! My notes are in brackets.

    All Cheyenne Butler ever wanted was a normal life: have friends, sleep in class, hell, maybe date (consider: friends, boring classes, maybe even a few dates). But accidentally killing her aunt always got in the way (take out always). That, and juvie.

    After five years, Cheyenne finally has the opportunity and is ready to take the challenge head on. Sort of. Adjusting to life on the outside would be easier if she could get her workaholic uncle to agree that a lie of epic proportions is in order (huh? what does this mean?) and if she didn’t need to convince her therapist she’s fit for life on the outside without actually contributing (contributing to what?).

    It shouldn’t be too difficult to adjust, since North Maltwood is so bland her cousin has renamed the town “Normal.” (not sure if this adds anything. consider cutting)

    Only if it was the truth. Cheyenne walks right into a social status pissing contest between her cousin’s vapid girlfriend (love this!) and the rest of his friends. Not to mention that her housemaster’s determined to put Cheyenne right back in juvie. She makes new friends and begins to finally live the life she never knew she could have, until the news of her ailing father’s death and the circumstances of her past become school-wide gossip and jeopardizes everything (here's where the actual story begins. Everything else is about the character). Through all this, Cheyenne discovers the most common definition of normal may be the most abnormal thing of all.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Marie at the Cheetah

    ReplyDelete
  9. Sounds like a great premise! My comments are below in brackets.

    All Cheyenne Butler ever wanted was a normal life: have friends, sleep in class, hell, maybe date. But accidentally killing her aunt always got in the way. That, and juvie. [I think introducing the aunt's death like that is a bit too flippant. It's a huge deal. It got her sent to juvie. So I'd reword.]

    After five years, Cheyenne finally has the opportunity and is ready to take the challenge head on. Sort of. Adjusting to life on the outside would be easier if she could get her workaholic uncle to agree that a lie of epic proportions is in order and if she didn’t need to convince her therapist she’s fit for life on the outside without actually contributing. [Whew. That sentence is a mouthful. I had to read it twice to get it. And I have to wonder if you even need all of this. Plus, it sounds like the inciting incident is when she starts school and everyone finds out about her past, so I'd lose all of this.]

    It shouldn’t be too difficult to adjust, since North Maltwood is so bland her cousin has renamed the town “Normal.”

    [If only] it was the truth. Cheyenne walks right into a social status pissing contest between her cousin’s vapid girlfriend and the rest of his friends. [I don't think I understand what this means. They don't like her because they think she's trash? They have more money than she does? Clarify.] Not to mention that her housemaster’s determined to put Cheyenne right back in juvie. [Why? ]She makes new friends and begins to finally live the life she never knew she could have, until the news of her ailing father’s death and the circumstances of her past become school-wide gossip and jeopardizes everything. [Ok, THIS is what the story is. Focus on this. If anything in the query doesn't relate to this conflict right here, it's extraneous and doesn't need to be there.] Through all this, Cheyenne discovers the most common definition of normal may be the most abnormal thing of all.

    I am a contributing blogger to [REDACTED] blog and am also a member of SCBWI.

    My contemporary young adult novel, FALLING TO NORMAL, is complete at 55,000 words. I look forward to hearing from you and thank you in advance for your time.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Wow, great premise and nice, tight writing. I think everyone before me has already hit up specifics, so I'll just say I think the only thing that keeps me from totally being sold on it is I don't trust the voice. As in, I think you might be trying a little too hard to show agents that you have the ever so important and so very elusive 'Voice.'

    Its not that I doubt that this is how Cheyenne's voice comes across in the novel, its that I doubt its the REAL her. As others have noted, given the subject matter, the voice is VERY flippant, which is obviously a coping mechanism for the trauma and general insanity in her life. But if I were an agent, I'd want to see the actual character in your query letter, and not just her coping mechanism. While you make sure to point out that Cheyenne only accidentally killed her aunt, there's no hint that she's at all sorry for whatever role she played in her aunt's death and she just comes across as....she doesn't come across as unlikable so much as very detached. Like oh hey, her aunt died, she went to juvie for it, she wants her uncle to lie because its totally not her fault and she shouldnt have to be stuck with these consequences the rest of her life....

    And all of this is totally how a teen would react and deal with all of this - but while that might play out well in a novel where you have 55K words to peel back her layers, in a query letter you have one shot at showing whats at the heart of your story and your character. I queried a YA novel about a teen's reaction to his boyfriend's death, coping in a similar repressed, flippant fashion to what you do here, and a lot of agents commented back that with YA that deals with heavy, sensitive topics like death, they want to feel confident that the author is up to the task of giving those topics the depth and weight they deserve....and not just going for the drama.

    LOL. So all this to say just see maybe if you can find a way to show more of Cheyenne's ultimate, genuine reactions to the stuff that's happened in her life?

    ReplyDelete
  11. Thanks for your fantastic comments on my query, Alicia. :) My comments are in brackets...

    All Cheyenne Butler ever wanted was a normal life: have friends, sleep in class, hell, maybe date. But accidentally killing her aunt always got in the way [something about the tense of this sentence isn't ringing right for me]. That, and juvie [definitely intrigued by this mention of juvie!].

    After five years, Cheyenne finally has the opportunity [opportunity to what? I'm assuming you mean lead a normal life?] and is ready to take the challenge head on [again, you might be more specific about what challenge]. Sort of. Adjusting to life on the outside would be easier if she could get her workaholic uncle to agree that a lie of epic proportions is in order [curious about his lie... what does she need him to lie about? also, is he her gaurdian?] and if she didn’t need to convince her therapist she’s fit for life on the outside without actually contributing [love this bit... I like her snarky voice].
    It shouldn’t be too difficult to adjust, since North Maltwood is so bland her cousin has renamed the town “Normal.”
    Only if it [maybe "If only that were the truth."] was the truth. Cheyenne walks right into a social status pissing contest between her cousin’s vapid girlfriend and the rest of his friends. Not to mention that her housemaster’s determined to put Cheyenne right back in juvie[why?]. She makes new friends and begins to finally live the life she never knew she could have, until the news of her ailing father’s death and the circumstances of her past become school-wide gossip and jeopardizes [maybe "jeopardizing everything."] everything. Through all this, Cheyenne discovers the most common definition of normal may be the most abnormal thing of all.

    I love contemporary "girl trying to figure life out" stories like this. I think you've got an amazing start to your query, though there are just a few things you might want to clarify so the main conflict is clearer. I hope I've helped!

    ReplyDelete
  12. As usual I am majorly Johnny Come Lately on this. I think this query blogfest biz is awesome and I hate that I missed it, but I'm still going to visit a few others and pitch in my two cents.

    PS - I think this would be a fabulous thing to do again this summer - you know - a couple weeks before writeoncon. Just sayin'

    As for your query, Alicia - dude, you nailed it in terms of voice. I love Cheyenne already, and I am completely intrigued from the juvie line. I agree with others about the "accidental killing of the aunt." Not clear and I'm wondering if you need the statement anyway - seriously - the juvie line has me hooked.

    You may want to make the plot/conflict in her "Normal" life more clear. I get that there are tensions with uncle therapist, and new friends, but maybe clarify why. Love the pissing contest but wasn't sure if I should take that literally. :)

    And break up some of the sentences. I tend to write gihugic sentences too. So does John Green. But he can do that. We can't. Yet. :)

    I hope this helps. I'm not very good at this. BUT you sold me on your voice, and I think that if you fix this up and keep most of the voice going, you'll get some requests. Good luck!

    ReplyDelete
  13. This is very solid, I would trim up the second paragraph and move right into the idea that she's thrown into a conflict between her cousin and her cousin's girlfriend. It sound very strong and you nailed you voice--- RIGHT ON!

    ReplyDelete
  14. Hi Alicia, I love the premise and I think the story sounds really interesting.

    Here are a few things I noticed when reading:

    But accidentally killing her aunt always got in the way.
    This reads like she has killed her aunt more than once.

    ... she didn’t need to convince her therapist she’s fit for life on the outside without actually contributing.
    I'm a bit confused by this line. Contributing to what?

    Only if it was the truth.
    This sentence feels a bit disconnected. I assume you mean if it was the truth that the town was normal? It's a tad confusing.

    She makes new friends and begins to finally live the life she never knew she could have, until the news of her ailing father’s death and the circumstances of her past become school-wide gossip and jeopardizes everything.
    This sentence is quite long. Could it be broken up?

    ReplyDelete

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