Wednesday, November 16, 2011

An Agent's Inbox #12

Dear Ms. Taylor Martindale,

Anna’s life reads like a check list.

Straight A’s (Check)
Editor of the school paper (Check)
Volunteering time at the local soup kitchen (Check)
Ivy League (So close she can taste it)
Falling in love with a homeless boy (Not on the list)

Anna’s dad never took into account the impact his words would have or he would never have told her she was good enough for Ivy League. After he was gunned down in the line of duty Anna made a vow to follow through with her dad’s wish. There was nothing and no one, not even her party loving best friend that could convince her to choose her own path. Everything is going according to plan until Dean shows up and forces her to see that while there are many things you can plan, life is not one of them.

Dean never expected to fall in love. He had a plan too. Survive. After being subjected to his foster father’s violent attacks Dean made the hard choice to leave. Now he lives on the streets doing everything he can to get by, refusing to let people help him. But when he meets Anna, he realizes not everyone is out to hurt him.

As they both struggle with their lives and try to figure out how to move forward they need to decide if there is a place for each other in their new lives.

Uncharted Territory is an 80,000 word contemporary YA novel that proves you can’t always map out your future. Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,
T.P.


UNCHARTED TERRITORY

It is my favorite time of year. Not because autumn arrived overnight splashing color around the forest. Or the fact that pumpkin spice replaced any lingering memory of sun block. All of that pales in comparison to the bigger picture.

The holidays are around the corner which means the community service opportunities are endless. Since the third grade my only goal in life has been acceptance to an Ivy League school. Community service is one of the major steps in securing my acceptance.

Did you know the acceptance rate at Harvard is eight percent? Eight percent! Not that I necessarily want to go to Harvard but it’s on the list. So as you can see I have no room for error.

While my friends, technically friend, are at the mall I’m going through boxes at the Salvation Army. When the weather warms I volunteer my time to build houses with Habitat for Humanity.

My planner is my lifeline. It is where I keep track of all my volunteer work as well as my schoolwork. It keeps me organized and helps me allocate my time efficiently. Every morning I go over my list for the day. Today’s list is short, but important.

1. See Ms. Kittles to sign up for tutoring
2. Physics test
3. Soup kitchen registration

I’ve been volunteering at the soup kitchen since I was twelve. Barney is expecting me, I’m sure. He runs the soup kitchen and always keeps a spot open for my name.

9 comments:

Holly L'Oiseau said...

I noticed in the first part of the query you have Anna, and the second paragraph you have Dean. Is the novel written in both POV's? If not, I would leave it to Anna's perspective. If it is, then I would mention that.

I love when things don't go according to plan! That's the beauty of YA lit, and I think you denfinately have that in your premise!

One thing about the first 250 words I noticed, is a lot of telling. I'd like to see the MC engaged in doing something, and maybe get more of a sense of her surroundings. You're on the right track, though! Good job!

Melinda said...

Great premise. I don't think I've seen any YA novels featuring a romance with a homeless person. Though it does remind me quite a bit of one of the subplots from the TV show Parenthood from last season. (Teen "good" girl fell in love with a fellow volunteer at the soup kitchen who used to live on the streets.)

I like the checklist at the beginning, but the rest of the query didn't have as much voice as I would like. The first sentence is a little awkward, and overall, I think the writing could be tighter. Adding commas throughout might help it read better also. For instance:
After he was gunned down in the line of duty (comma) Anna made a vow to follow through with her dad’s wish. There was nothing and no one, not even her party (hyphen) loving best friend (comma) that could convince her to choose her own path.

I really like the line 'you can't always map your future.'

The first page didn't really grab me. I'd suggest dropping the first two paragraphs at least. But if you can start with your character more in the middle of a scene, rather than telling us about her life, that would be even better.

Tamara said...

I LOVE THIS CONCEPT!

Can I suggest something really daring for your query?

Take out the whole middle paragraph. We have a bit of head-hopping with her dad, which isn't necessary, and there's too much info on her before you suddenly switch to Dean. Assuming Dean's your second pov character, I'd set up the query like this (some tweaking's been done):

Anna’s life reads like a check list.

Straight A’s (Check)
Editor of the school paper (Check)
Volunteering time at the local soup kitchen (Check)
Ivy League (So close she can taste it)
Falling in love with a homeless boy (Not on the list)

Dean never expected to fall in love. His plan was to survive. After being subjected to his foster father’s violent attacks he made the hard choice to leave. Now he lives on the streets doing everything he can to get by, refusing to let people help. But when he meets Anna, he realizes not everyone is out to hurt him.


And go on with the rest of the query. Just note that in the last line you use the word "lives" twice.

GOOD LUCK! I WANT TO READ THIS SO MUCH!

Ru said...

I second Tamara's suggestion - I think that's a great idea for your query.

Elizabeth Briggs said...

I think this premise is awesome, but we don't need all that info about her dad. It's just backstory, when we want to be hearing about her falling for a homeless boy and how that happens. So maybe shift the focus of the query a bit.

The 250 words start with a very generic sentence that could be applied to any novel. And then we get into weather, which I've heard is one of agents' biggest pet peeves.

Actually, the entire first page is a bit "talky." We learn a lot about her, but nothing actually happens. Could you start the book in the scene, and have her think these things as it goes along? The character is really interesting, and I want to read more about her (and see this romance happen), but I think there is just too much info here laid out in the first 250 words.

Theresa said...

Such great feedback. Thank you all so much. I've already rewrote my first 250 words. It never seemed right and now it does.

Holly: It is told in an alternating POV I had a few agents tell me that I didn't need to mention it in the query. But after reading your comment I think I should.

Melinda: I have a habit of writing like I talk which is one long run on sentence. Everyone tells me use a comma when you take a breath then they look at me and say oh that's right you don't. I've been working on it. And I've never seen Parenthood but I would love to watch that episode.

Tamara: I love your suggestion about my query. I think you are right. Too much info about Anna, the checklist pretty much sums it up.

Elizabeth: Your comment is what really hit a chord. You are so right about my 250 words starting off very generic. Thanks for the honesty.

Thank you all again :)

Cortney said...

Great premise, and I agree with Tamara's suggestion. With the second paragraph starting out with her dad, it made me think he was the protagonist for a minute. :)

And in your excerpt you spend a lot of time talking about holidays in the very start. I would cut the sentence, "All of that pales in comparison," etc., go to the line about community service opportunities and then show her at the soup kitchen or something so we're jumping right into a scene. :)

Elizabeth Briggs said...

Glad my comment helped! I always start my books in the wrong place too.

Taylor Martindale said...

I really like this concept, but the query needs some smoothing out. The transition from checklist to talking about her dad is too fast, without transition, and the first sentence of that paragraph is confusing with the ‘would have/would never have’ phrasing. Also, the last sentence of the pitch, about the decision they face, is somewhat anticlimactic. You want to use that sentence to show tension and the stakes of your novel, and we need to know why this is so very important. The first page unfortunately gets lost in too much explanation/ narrative summary. It does have some nice flashes of good voice, though, so I would keep reading to see if it hits its stride within a few pages.
Thank you for participating in this Agent’s Inbox!
Taylor Martindale
Full Circle Literary