Monday, March 12, 2012

Giving It the Best Chance



If you're a regular reader, you witnessed my epic whining-about-whining-about-querying post from last week. (And if you're not a regular reader, just count your lucky stars you missed it.)


The conclusion of said post was this: I have to stop being so invested in whether ONE, or any of my stuff, for that matter, gets published. I have to forget how much I love it, so that every rejection doesn't break my heart.

My ruthless sweet and brilliant CPs were quick to call me out in the comments - I can't deny how much I love the goshdarn thing. Heck - even the playlist makes me cry sometimes.

Yep. Sure does.

So. While I do still need to stop being quite so invested in whether any of my stuff gets pubbed, I now realize that the only other option is NOT to let the query flurries run out, shrug my shoulders, and say, "eh."
I've got to give it the best chance I can.


That means writing a kick-butt query.
Then re-writing it.
Then re-re-writing it.
*eye twitch*


I had a pretty pared-down, simple query, which wasn't doing anything stellar for the MS. (a sprinkle of requests, under 10%)
Marieke got out her literary syringe and injected the whole darn thing with voice and filled it out a little (still under 250 words, don't worry.)
Then my saintly friend Helene stripped it back down to something more simplistic.


I've had feedback from CPs, agenteds, and Real Live Agents that the voicey query looks good.


(And, as we were so helpfully reminded last week, if the problem isn't my query, it's my MS - duh - and I'm just really not mentally prepared for that possibility just yet.)

So. Should I keep querying with it? My req. rate on it is....well, it's only been out 11 days, and I've only heard back from four or five of those. All form Rs, though. But I do LOVE this query.

Or should I pare it down a'la Helene? Which is also a solid query but way less voicey?


What do you think?*
(Thanks in advance. You all are angels. *kiss kiss*)
*Also! I'm in good company. Please run over to Gina's and Jenny's blogs, where they're asking for query advice today, too.


Sixteen-year-old Merrin Grey can’t fly to save her life, but she is a freaking amazing floater. Too bad, because in a world where almost everyone else is a Super, with at least two powers, or a Normal, with none, being a One is the worst kind of in-between.

When Merrin is shipped off to Normal High—excuse her, Nelson High—all she wants is to land an internship at the Biotech Hub.  If she can get close enough to their research on the manifestations of superpowers, she might finally figure out how to fix herself.

But then she meets Elias VanDyne, another One, and all her carefully crafted plans fly out the window. Literally. When the two of them touch, their Ones combine to make them fly, and when they’re not soaring over the Nebraska cornfields, they’re busy falling for each other.

Merrin’s over the moon. She’s unraveling the secrets of Ones—way beyond AP Chemistry—Elias is a seriously good kisser, and her mad skills in chem class even land her a spot on the Hub’s internship short list. But when Elias disappears, along with her bratty water-walking brothers, the Hub’s interest turns lethal. The thought of crashing has never been scarier, because if Merrin fights back, she has to abandon her dreams of ever flying solo—of ever being more than a One.

ONE is a work of YA Science Fiction complete at 76,000 words. Thank you for your consideration.

31 comments:

  1. Hi Leigh Ann,

    So I've never read this before but I saw your post on Twitter and thought I'd tell you my initial impressions after reading. Here you go:
    1) From what I can tell, this is your inciting incident:
    "When Merrin is shipped off to Normal High—excuse her, Nelson High—all she wants is to land an internship at the Biotech Hub."

    The problem is that I can see why being shipped off to a Normal high school would incite this. Was it not possible at the unNormal high school? If she has always been a One, what happens to make her finally want to figure out how to fix it? I feel like you have the essentials there but you're not saying it in a way that incites an engagement with your protag. You need something that's more like "Protag's life kinds sucks but she has accepted it until A happens and she realizes that maybe she doesn't have to."
    2)The "carefully crafted plans" sound like she has wanted to do this forever and that makes it sounds less like this is a new opportunity. Also, these plans are flying out the window before she even has the intership which makes me wonder what the plans are in the first place.
    3) I can't see any kind of antagonist until the end and when I see it (the Hub) I am confused. How did they go from being her goal to her antagonist? I think you need to establish, right at the beginning, that maybe people won't want her to discover "the secret" which is why it is going to be so hard and why the Hub might get nasty. Otherwise, it reads like this is no problem at all until WAM! It's bad.

    I hope these comments help. Your book sounds like an interesting premise.

    Holly

    ReplyDelete
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    1. *nods* this is super-helpful. I see exactly what you're saying. And I'm already tweaking as per these suggestions. THANK YOU!!!!

      Delete
  2. um, i hope i'm not ruining any surprises, but you made into pitch madness (and me too!)! yay!

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    1. MARA!!! Thank you! (Where are you???)

      Delete
    2. i'm on brenda drake's site, entry b-5! i'm assuming that's what you meant... in reality i'm sitting at my computer at home :D

      Delete
  3. These are all totally my opinion and I accept you may think I'm mad!

    Also, reading over it a couple of times, I think my comments probably reflect our different cultural backgrounds. So, have an English perspective!

    "Sixteen-year-old Merrin Grey can’t fly to save her life, but she is a freaking amazing floater."

    Now, this may be me being entirely too English, but using "can't fly to save her life" sounds cliched to the point of meaninglessness, even with the rest of the sentence. I read it and I'm just like "so? Does she need to fly? No, well, whatever then."

    Also, "freaking amazing" sounds too flippant.

    "When Merrin is shipped off to Normal High—excuse her, Nelson High—all she wants is to land an internship at the Biotech Hub."

    Again, this sentence doesn't quite work for me. The "excuse her" sounds like you the author directly speaking to the audience, like you're apologising for her. Now, if the book is written with this direct-to-reader authorial style, cool. Otherwise, maybe you could rework this.

    "But then she meets Elias VanDyne, another One, and all her carefully crafted plans fly out the window. Literally."

    Okay, okay, this is totally a personal thing because I don't like the word "literally". Unless she has created physical representations of her plans, they can't literally fly out the window.

    "mad skills"

    I understand this is probably in character, but it's too casual. It also reminds me of my internet forum days, but that's another story for another day :P

    "But when Elias disappears, along with her bratty water-walking brothers, the Hub’s interest turns lethal. The thought of crashing has never been scarier, because if Merrin fights back, she has to abandon her dreams of ever flying solo—of ever being more than a One."

    Brothers out of nowhere is a bit of a jolt. Obviously, without reading some of the story, I have no idea how important these brothers are. I'd consider introducing them (or some sense of Merrin's family) earlier on or just being vague - "Elias disappears, along with other Ones" or something like that.

    Other than that, I love this concept of a tiered super society! Good luck :D

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Ooooh, this is all VERY helpful!

      Most of the stuff you're picking on is what I was considering to be character voice, but it sounds like you t hink it's too much? Definitely something to consider.

      And thank you for pointing out that first cliche - also something I hadn't really thought about the same way.

      I probably will take the brothers out - you're the second person who's picked on that.

      Thank you thank you!

      Delete
    2. I think the character voice is a little heavy handed. It could work with subtle touches here and there.

      Cliches are tricky things. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't.

      You're very welcome! Seriously, I'm in awe of you posting it here. I'm waaaaay too paranoid!!!! Wishing you LOADS of luck! :D

      Delete
  4. I really like the voice here, and if it goes with your character's voice, then don't change it.

    This sentence throws me off a little: "Too bad, because in a world where almost everyone else is a Super, with at least two powers, or a Normal, with none, being a One is the worst kind of in-between."

    It seems to me having one power is better than having none, so I'm not sure why being a One is the worst. It makes me think maybe her character is a little whiney or something. Cause I'd love to have even one superpower!

    Also the last line... I don't really follow it: "The thought of crashing has never been scarier, because if Merrin fights back, she has to abandon her dreams of ever flying solo—of ever being more than a One."

    Why does she have to abandon her dreams of flying solo? After some thought, I think you mean because her internship won't happen if she goes against the Hub. But I had to think about it a bit so you might want to spell it out. Plus that problem seems sorta trivial compared to her brothers and her boyfriend disappearing. Maybe you can spell out the conflict a little better. How does she know it is the Hub who took them? How is she going to find them/rescue them? What is at stake?

    Hope that helps. I think your premise is great and this query is already really good. Keep querying!

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Elizabeth! Thank you!

      Okay, so clearly paragraph 1 is super-confusing. I think this is going to be the hardest thing, but at least I know what I need to fix!

      Same with the last line. Oy.

      Okay, honey. Thank you again for your help. You are an angel!

      Delete
    2. Yeah, I think if you clarify a few points it will be good to go!

      Delete
  5. I love this query! IMO, the voice is awesome and I wouldn't change anything about it.

    I completely got why being a One would be worse than being a Normal...as a One, the MC doesn't really fit in anywhere - she's in between. And the idea of another One making her whole is so romantic :) Love it!

    The last line for me meant that she can't fight the Hub without kissing her internship (and the possibility of using it to find a way to make her into a Super) good-bye. But (and this is nit-picky) - aren't there other ways to get into this research? Doesn't sound believable to me that being an intern is the ONLY way. So the stakes there are just a little off, imo.

    And one more nit-pick, this sentence: "She’s unraveling the secrets of Ones—way beyond AP Chemistry—Elias is a seriously good kisser, and her mad skills in chem class even land her a spot on the Hub’s internship short list."
    I didn't get what you meant with "way beyond AP Chemistry" - is that a secret of the Ones?

    Hope that helps and best of luck querying - I can't wait to read this when its published!!

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Thanks for the compliments! You are a doll.

      Now, YOU may have found the one place that is the problem with the MS itself. Because...those pretty much are the stakes. There aren't any other ways to figure stuff out, as far as she knows. Yikes.

      Thank you SO SO much!!!

      Delete
  6. I'm going to chime in with my two cents here and as the others said, please feel free to take or leave. (But I will say this: while I've had plenty of rejections, the one thing I have experienced is the evolution of a successgul query)

    If I could give you one surefire tip...write your query as if the only thing an agent or editor will read is the first sentence. Think about it, in this day and age of smartphones, sometimes the first sentence is all that appears on the screen and depending on the amount of queries jamming their inbox, it may be all they read before they decide to delete.

    Like the first paragraph of your novel, the first line of your query has to reach out and grab them. For me, the sentence that did that was the second one. (In a world where almost everyone else is a Super...) I get what you mean right off...while we may think it would be cool to have 1 power, in her world she is a misfit trapped between the supers and the normals, right? Very cool idea!

    Good luck! (and I'll look for you on twitter)

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    1. See? Your comment seems to concur with everyone else's, which is that the first line is CONFUSING. It's not just about her being a misfit - it's that she's a misfit AND the One power is useless. It's like, she can float, FINE. But that's not really a superpower, because she can't fly or walk in the air or anything.

      *sigh* back to the drawing board. Thank you.

      <3

      Delete
    2. Ooh, I didn't get that part. I thought maybe she could float around like a ghost. I think if you point out that her One power is totally useless it will make more sense.

      Delete
  7. This query kicks ass!!! But a lot of people had interesting suggestions, but as your Megan I would tell you to keep going at it, because I can hear you in the book! YAY its brilliant, and I'm seriously going to reread it soon!

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    1. <3 you. Seriously, if anyone actually rereads this book, I will weep. <3

      Delete
  8. Hi Leigh Ann, first-time commenter here! I agree with the other commenters who have pointed out the cliched and casual language. I'd add that "over the moon" is another cliche that has to go.

    Even if the character's voice sounds like this, you should eliminate all cliches. If I were an agent reading the query, I'd assume that your MS also includes lots of cliches (probably not the best impression).

    Good luck with the queries and revisions!

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    1. Hi Deborah! Thanks for commenting, and taking a look at the query!

      I guess I thought since the cliches were flying-related, they were more tongue-in-cheek and therefore acceptable. Guess I was wrong - thanks for pointing that out,. :D

      I'm no longer revising the MS, but I'll send out some new queries for sure! Thank you so so much!

      Delete
  9. Ahhh I haven't seen this version, and I like it! There are a lot of things I like about it, and I think it gets Mer's voice across really well. My only issue might be that, for as short as a query is, that there might be a little too much voice, and it might overwhelm the query a bit. In particular, I was kind of taken out of the rhythm of things at "excuse her"--which I think is great in Mer's 1st person POV, but sounds off in 3rd--and at the end, about the "thought of crashing." I guess that second one isn't voice so much as injecting language related to the book, but I had to read that sentence a couple times and thought it felt a tiny bit forced. I DO like the voice here, though, and I have always loved the "worst kind of in-between" line, and still do. :)

    I also guess I can agree with the confusion of a couple previous commenters. Those weren't things that bothered me, but it could be because I'd read the book and knew what was going on, so it's good to see opinions of those who haven't...

    But honestly, your query, just like ONE itself, is kickass. <3

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    1. Thanks, hon!

      I think that my first query had almost NO voice, and I saw so many voicey ones, so I thought I didn't have that much to lose. Obviously, I was wrong. :)

      Hearing about confusion is always good. Now I'm just worried I'm using too many words to clear it up.

      Thanks again! You are a doll. :)

      Delete
  10. First of all, I like your query. It's clear to me why being a "one" is a bad thing. But here are my thoughts:

    For the first sentence (and you may have already had this before so forgive me if I'm useless):
    In a world where almost everyone is a Super, with at least two super powers, or a Normal, with none, being a One like 16-year-old Merrin Grey is the worst kind of in-between.

    Then say something like, "After all, what good is floating if you can't fly?"

    In the second paragraph, what if you said "being shipped off to Nelson - aka 'Normal' - High"?

    Anyway just my two cents! I haven't read "One" but I already feel like I know your characters just from following your blog :) Hugs!

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    1. Hmmmm...yeah. I think that hook would be good right at the beginning, but I'd have to take out the "in a world where," since that's a cliche. I guess.

      The high school part isn't so important - it was mostly put in just for voice, and to show her attitude about being a One. But hte consensus here seems to be that the query was TOO voicey, so I can take that out.

      Thank you so so much for taking a look! You are a sweetheart. <3

      Delete
  11. I like the voice in here. Maybe all it'll take to clear things up is a little rearranging. Some of the sentences seem long and wordy.
    As I was reading I played a bit with the first paragraph to see if it could work from a different angle. I don't know if it's much better, but I thought I'd share in case you're interested.

    Merrin Grey was a toddler {or however old} when she floated for the first time. She thought it was cool until she reached sixteen and still couldn’t fly. When everyone is a Super, with at least two powers, or a Normal, with none, Merrin Grey is stuck in between – a One.

    I was trying to think how to include that the floating is useless. Instead I decided to leave out how it's the "worst".
    After reading everyone's comments about the "excuse her" line, maybe it would work to change that to "Normal High—er, Nelson High—" or something.
    I see what they mean about trying to force the voice. It could be subtler I suppose. As long as it sounds like her then the voice will naturally come through.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Ooooh, I really like that one! And it's pretty much exactly what happened, too! Will try it.

      I really think the whole "voice" thing is subjective by agent. Too bad that's not a category on query tracker. I've seen a bunch of successful queries that were FULL of voice - and a lot of advice against using too much. Since I didn't get a ton of requests with my first voiceless one, I thought it was worth a shot. Obviously, it hurt instead of helped. :D

      Thanks, you are AMAZING for taking a look.

      Delete
  12. Hi Leigh Ann,

    I love her voice, but I think you could tone it done a bit as it gets a bit distracting and takes away from the query. The first paragraph I found a bit confusing with the One, Normal, and Two.

    I don't understand the floater part, but that could be mean. Can she fly or is it something else.

    I don't understand the Hub and the importance of it until maybe the end. I might establish that earlier. Overall it just needs a bit of tweaking. Great job.

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    1. Thanks for your comment, Ladonna! I think I will end up taking the voice down a notch. :)

      She can't fly. That's the problem. :) Trying to make that clearer. :)

      Thank you SO MUCH for stopping to take a look! And the feedback. You are fabulous. <3

      Delete
  13. So, I have a lot of thoughts about this (But you knew that was coming though didn't you? :P). There's some great instances of new voice in here, but in other places it's a bit much and I think it actually clouds the meaning sometimes. I'd suggest tightening some things up for clarity.

    It's tricky to show what I mean without a Word Doc and track changes, so here's what I'd do (feel free to ignore or use as you please):

    Sixteen-year-old Merrin Grey can’t fly to save her life, but she’s the best floater around. Too bad, because in a world where everyone else has two powers or none, being a One is the worst kind of in-between.

    When Merrin is shipped off to Normal High, all she wants is to land an internship at the Biotech Hub so she can finally figure out how to fix herself and earn back her spot at Super High. But then she meets Elias VanDyne, another One, and all her carefully crafted plans fly out the window. Literally. When the two of them touch, their Ones combine to make them fly, and when they’re not soaring over the Nebraska cornfields, they’re busy falling for each other.

    When Merrin’s mad skills in chem class finally land her a spot on the Hub’s internship short list, her dreams come one step closer to reality. But then Elias disappears, along with her bratty water-walking brothers, and she discovers the Hub’s interest is lethal. If Merrin fights back, she has to abandon her dreams of flying solo—of ever being more than a One.

    ReplyDelete

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