Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Ta- Ta- Ta- Tuesday. Ta- Teaser Tuesday.

As promised, here are the first 200'ish words of my latest WIP. By all means, please leave feedback. Any feedback. Even if you hate it. I promise, I won't cry (for too long). Because Lila and Weronika seemed interested, I'm also including my query (*grimaces--I hate queries). I'm throwing my 2-line pitch in as well, even though I'm pretty convinced that it's, well ... lacking. Lacking what, I'm not sure. But lacking.

Without further ado ...

QUERY

Dear Mr. or Ms. AGENT:

Most witches have never been immortal, but Drew Cleary is different. Or at least he was, until he got a little too cocky at a high school party and ended the night with a bullet in his chest. Problem is, this wound isn’t healing like it should. When his injury causes him to violate his probation—again—Drew is sentenced to a new town, his tenth-or-so new foster home, and his senior year at BCMI, a school for at-risk teens. BCMI is Drew’s last stop before a jail cell, not to mention a hideout from the people who seem to want him dead. He tries to lay low, but one hasty move exposes him for who he really is—to the girl that he wants to hate but can’t, and to the people he’s been hiding from for months. On his pursuit to take down the people who have set out to hurt him, Drew discovers that everything—and everyone—is not what it seems, a fact which may cost him his power, his heart, and the very mortality he once felt insignificant.

Completed at approximately ___________ words, [insert title] is my third manuscript. I graduated from law school in 2007 and now work as an attorney for the state of Florida. I read and study the young adult fiction market on an ongoing basis, and I have attended several writing workshops. I am currently working on another young adult manuscript.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I hope to hear from you soon.

Sincerely,

ME

FIRST 200'ISH WORDS

Chapter 1

A bullet burns a tree to my left, and bark splinters against my cheek. I hear their feet crunching against brittle leaves, twigs snapping under their weight. They’re closer now.

Another shot grazes my right ear. I reach up a hand, panic numbing my fingertips. My skin comes back clean. No hint of red. No smell of pocket change.

I run a little faster.

Shot number three buries itself in the grass, lost to the clutches of the forest.

The bullets won’t kill me, or at least they shouldn’t. I’d rather not take that chance.

I jump a corroded fence and splash into Cherry Creek. The warm water sloshes against my ankles, coaxing me downstream. The trees are closing in on me now.

I step on something slippery and lose my balance. Air slips through my fingertips as I fall. I land on something sharp, and my ankle twists. Turns. Snaps. Bone is in a place it shouldn’t be, wriggling its way to the surface. I pull myself forward, trudging through mud on my hands and knees, my broken ankle slowing me down. Rocks and tree limbs cut into my skin, sending my blood into the shallow water.


MY PITCH THINGIE:

Drew Cleary is a 17-year-old wiccan who gets sent to a school for at-risk kids as punishment for his latest probation violation. While he’s there, he makes a hasty decision that exposes himself for who he really is—to the girl he wants to hate but can’t, and to the people he’s been hiding from for months. Drew has to find out who to trust, and quick, before he loses everything.

And th- th- th- th- th- th- that's all f- f- f- folks!

Seriously. Tear it up. All of it. No, really. I mean it. :)

p.s. Thank you in advance for ANY comments. I love you all!

10 comments:

MeganRebekah said...

Ohhhh.... great opening. I would definitely read on to see what happens! If you ever need a beta, I'd be happy to step in. The story sounds really intriguing (and I'm a huge sucker for anything related to foster care).

Where are you at in FL? I'm in Ocala, but used to live in Tampa for years. And my best friend is an attorney in Lakeland (she graduated '08 from FSU).

Weronika said...

Whatever it is that I shall say, take to heart only what fits your vision -- these are the comments of moi. :)

QUERY

I definitely like your story premise. The title is fabulous. You have the necessary ingredients in this query. I do feel it has a bit more potential, though.

From what I understand, query hooks are designed to introduce the CENTRAL conflict of the book, and this in 95% of the cases will include a CHOICE that the MC has to make. I don't see any of that really coming through. First off, your first paragraph is way too long (not really a hook). One to two sentences maximum! Second, less is more--which means I suggest you tighten your verbs and what you want to convey. Here are my first thoughts: "When Drew Cleary [chooses to do what] at a party, he ends up with a bullet in his chest and, suddenly, this not-so-immortal witch ends up at BCMI, a school for teens at risk--the last stop before jail. There, he is [forced to do what]."

In the next paragraph (which is, in many ways your first right now), you add in the details -- A fact or two about the witchery, who he meets at BCMI, who his enemies are, and what kind of CHOICES (the conflicts) he has to make.

Is this your third manuscript published? If not, say it is your first work. (I read that Janet Reid's agent blog.)

Though your law school experience is interesting, I'm not sure how important of a part it plays. I would be more specific with naming the workshops, but otherwise I would leave it at that. Mention you keep a blog. Otherwise, if you have time, try to do some freelancing to add to your writing platform.

FIRST 200'ISH WORDS

LOVED THIS! Very nicely done.

The one thing that I wanted to see more of was the pain when the ankle breaks. Describe it, draw it out -- it's kind of a critical moment, I feel, at least based on this part.

Some small issues with punctuation, but that's for another time.

MY PITCH THINGIE

Again, small issues with punctuation/grammar.

The pitch for me didn't show me anything. Why do I CARE about this Wiccan kid? What CHOICES does he have to make, what emotional turmoil is there? The whole thing about the girl is too vague in both the query and the pitch. Who is she and why is she so important?

Clarify, be more concise, and you'll have a winner! :)

Hope I helped.

Lisa and Laura said...

Agree with Weronika's thoughts on the query, but want to add that you've done a really great job with the voice in the query. Reading your query gives me a really good idea of the style of your writing and your voice and that, my friend, is half the challenge.

That said, I think the conflict does need to be more clear and concise. Is he a real witch in the traditional sense (I'm assuming yes, based on the whole immortality thing) or is he just a regular old wiccan? If he's immortal why does the bullet kill him? Is it a secret that he's a witch or does everyone know? I guess I want to understand if your book is set in our world or in a Harry Potter type scene, you know?

Also, you'll want to break up the chunks of text in your query. That first section looks so long that my eyes wanted to skim it. Try to chunk it into smaller blocks of text. I think it will be more readable that way.

Your opening rocks. Love the sensory language! Agree with Weronika about adding more detail around the pain of the ankle injury. I winced just reading it.

And Weronika is right about your pitch too. We need to understand what makes this guy different, why we care, what's the conflict. And you've also lost your voice. I think once you've reworked your query there should be one or two lines in there that comprise your hook. Those should work for the verbal pitch too.

Awesome work here!! When do we get to see more!?

Little Ms J said...

I feel way to new to provide any type of critique, but I'll tell you my gut thoughts.

Your voice is clear. You can tell a lot about the style and voice. Nicely done.

You seem to write your query like me - I kind of tell everything upfront because it is all so interesting, but you have to hook them and let them go. I am desperately working on my hook.

I've also heard that you don't mention previous manuscripts if they've not been published.

Side bar (ha!) - I grew up in Tampa. Where are you in FL? Winter Park?

jessjordan said...

MeganRebekah: Thank you so much for your comment. I'm so glad you found the story interesting enough to keep reading. I'll gladly take you up on the beta offer as soon as I do one little thing: uh, you know, finish it. :) I'm a sucker for foster kids, too, especially with my job ... Let me know if you ever need a fresh set of eyes on any of your work as well. (p.s. I'm in the Panhandle right now--Panama City, if you've ever heard of it. I went to law school in Orlando, and the hubby and I just moved back up this way about a year ago b/c all the family is here. I miss central Florida, though!)

Weronika: Can I just say how AWEsome you are? And here I was thinking everyone would walk on eggshells! Seriously, your comments were right on and probably some of the most helpful feedback I've received in a really long time. I knew the query and pitch were super weak, but every time I looked at them, I just thought, "Damn it. I don't know what to do! If I include x, it will give away y much too quickly, but if I don't mention y, how am I supposed to talk about the all-necessary z? Ughhh, scratch out my eyeballs, already!" Or something like that. :)

LiLa: Seriously, you guys become even more elevated on my superstar ladder every day. I have always sucked at queries, and as many blogs as I read about the how-to's, it never gets easier. THANK YOU (and again, Weronika) for showing me what works, what was missing, what would make you say, "Eh, pass."

LMJ: I have THE hardest time with queries, it's not even funny. Where to put stuff, what to include, when to include it, what to leave out ... I might as well be trying to build a rocket with a pair of tweezers and a butter knife. Seriously, though, queries make me nauseous. Thanks for the tidbit about the unpublished MS's (you, too, Weronika). I didn't want to come across as, "This is the first thing I've written, ever," but I don't want to misrepresent my writing history, either. -- As to whereabouts: I'm in Panama City (NW Florida), but I lived an hour east of Orlando (Melbourne) for about 4 years before hiking back up this way. (I went to law school in Orlando, very close to Winter Park.) I spent many a days in Tampa, shrieking on the Sheikra (spelling?) at Busch Gardens. Oh, how I miss thee, my favorite rollercoaster ...

Note to all: I have spent an embarrassing amount of time revising my pitch and query tonight and will hopefully post the updated version shortly. I cannot thank you enough for your feedback.

Jamie D. said...

You've already been revising the query & pitch, so I'll wait to see the updated versions of those. I think you've got a great premise though, and while I'm not a fan of 1st person or present tense, your writing is beautifully descriptive, which I enjoyed.

Two things kind of made me stumble in your excerpt. The first couple of paragraphs, I felt like "my" was overused. It also seemed like "their" didn't really need to be...uh...there. :-)

And normally I'm good with non-literal description, love it actually. But "The trees were closing in on me" gave me pause, as in my mind I saw the trees chasing Drew, rather than or along with the bad guys.

Neither of those are things you probably want to consider until the draft is done, but thought I'd mention them anyways.

I'll be interested in seeing more of this - Drew sounds like a fascinating, very conflicted guy.

jessjordan said...

Jamie: Thank you tons for the feedback. It's funny, I think I was trying to use less "I" sentences and ended up with a ton of "my" stuff. Oops! I'll save that for revisions, but thanks for pointing it out--now I'll be more aware as I work on my first draft of some of my more recurrent issues. (Look--I used "my" twice in that sentence. Ridiculous!)

And can I just say that when I read "in my mind I saw the trees chasing Drew," I starting laughing out loud? But yeah ... Drew may have magical powers, but the trees weren't intended to. :)

Anita said...

I think the query's decent. My few changes below:

Most wizards aren’t immortal, but Drew Cleary is different. Or at least he was, until he got a little too cocky at a high school party and ended the night with a bullet in his chest. Problem is, this wound isn’t healing like it should. When his injury causes him to violate his probation again, Drew is sentenced to a new town, his tenth-or-so new foster home, and his senior year at BCMI, a school for at-risk teens. BCMI is Drew’s last stop before a jail cell, not to mention a hideout from those who seem to want him dead. He tries to lay low at school, but a hasty move exposes him for who he really is—to the girl he wants to hate but can’t, and to the people he’s been hiding from for months. On his pursuit to take down the people who are set out to hurt him, Drew discovers everything and everyone is not as he imagined, a fact which may cost him his power, his heart, and the very mortality he once took for granted.

The complete, BLANK-word manuscript “Hunting for Witches” is available at your request. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Anita said...

I haven't read the 200 words, yet, but am hoping to get to them later. Either way, GOOD LUCK!

jessjordan said...

Anita: Thank you tons and tons for your suggestions! I did a revamp of the query and posted it in a new blog entry. If you get a chance, I'd love to hear your feedback. And love, like, or hate the 200'ish word excerpt, any comments would be great. It's a first draft of an incomplete project, but I have pretty thick skin, so let me have it! :o)