Wednesday, December 21, 2011

An Agent's Inbox #3

Dear Agent Awesomeness:

Waking with the sudden appearance of a tattoo on her stomach, sixteen-year-old Ellie Cox knows her recurrent blackouts aren’t simply related to the stress of her typical high school life. And she knows they’re getting worse, more difficult to disguise as forgetfulness.

When Ellie goes missing--her loved ones assuming she ran away--no one expects to find her in the apartment of another boy. Not even Ellie. Or her boyfriend. Another three days have escaped her and, as if that wasn’t bad enough, the new boy, Griffin, keeps calling her “Gwen.”

Snippets of her memory begin to return, and after her adoptive parents reveal her biological last name, Ellie sneaks off to Idaho where, instead of unearthing truths about her birth parents, she is forced to confront a man who claims to be her uncle and another who says saved her from a fire when she was six. Both memories she does not hold. Upon returning home, she is sent to a psychotherapist where a haunting secret is uncovered: mistreatment as a child has fractured Ellie’s mind into three personalities. And awareness of the other two--a small child named Ruby who holds the memories of Ellie’s early years and Gwen, the reckless alter who cares for no one but herself--only sends Ellie spiraling further toward the brink of insanity.

PIECES OF ELLIE is a YA suspense novel following a girl’s harrowing journey to proper diagnosis of dissociative identity disorder (formerly known as multiple personality disorder). The completed work is 56,000 words. It is a stand-alone story, but has the potential for sequels in the point of views of Ellie’s alters.

A previous draft of this manuscript reached the semi-finals of this year’s Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Award contest. I have served as editor and editorial writer for the Butterfly Facts, hold a Master’s Degree in Education, and also run YA Stands, a community site focused on young adult reading and writing.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you soon!

Sincerely,
N.S.


PIECES OF ELLIE

You don’t remember?

In the last twenty-four hours, I’ve heard those words three times now. The first, yesterday, when I forgot to wait for Dani after school. Supposedly, she’d asked me for a ride home during English, but for some reason the memory of first period is sort of a blur. Or not really there at all. I must’ve been daydreaming. The second, this morning, when Mom forgot to put pancakes on my plate and when I pointed it out she said, “I didn’t forget. You told me you didn’t like them anymore.”

And now.

I stand on the dirt-covered floor of Beacon’s, the abandoned cement factory, watching Shane wrap a leather necklace around my wrist. He picked it up at the boutique next to his little sister’s Tae Kwon Do studio. His fingers are warm, brushing lightly against my skin as he secures the knot. The silver charm in the shape of a running shoe sparkles in the dull light.

“Fits perfectly over your scar,” he says, smoothing his finger over the inch-long layer of wound leather. And he’s right, it does fit perfectly. The vertical white line on my wrist is hidden. If only he had leather for all the others.

“You don’t like my scar?” I say, hiding my discomfort in a pouting face. He leans down, lips barely grazing mine.

“I like everything about you, Ells. Including your scar. But I know you’re self-conscious about it.”

I grin. “Suddenly you’re a mind reader?”

7 comments:

Sharon Bayliss said...

Hi N.S.,

This is a cool premise. Congratulations on being a semi-finalist in the Breakthrough Novel Award Contest! The premise interests me, but the query feels a little crowded with info. You may be able to remove a lot of this section, "Snippets of her memory begin to return, and after her adoptive parents reveal her biological last name, Ellie sneaks off to Idaho where, instead of unearthing truths about her birth parents, she is forced to confront a man who claims to be her uncle and another who says saved her from a fire when she was six. Both memories she does not hold. Upon returning home."

For me, it brought up more questions than it answered. Also, I was a little confused as to how she didn't realize she had a serious mental illness until she was 16. It seems like at least her adopted parents would have known.

Best of luck to you!!

-Sharon Bayliss

Kelley said...

Sounds like a cool premise! Reminds me a little of the movie Identity, but not horror! :)

I agree with Sharon I think the query can be more concise. Maybe:

Waking with a tattoo on her stomach, sixteen-year-old Ellie Cox knows her recurrent blackouts aren’t simply related to the stress of her typical high school life. They’re getting worse, more difficult to disguise as forgetfulness.

When Ellie goes missing no one expects to find her in the apartment of another boy. Including Ellie. Another three days have escaped her and, as if that wasn’t bad enough, the boy, Griffin, keeps calling her “Gwen.”

After her adoptive parents reveal her biological last name, Ellie sneaks off to Idaho where she finds a man who claims to be her uncle and another who says saved her from a fire when she was six. Upon returning home, a psychotherapist uncovers a haunting secret: mistreatment as a child fractured Ellie’s mind into three personalities. Awareness of the other two--a small child named Ruby who holds the memories of Ellie’s early years and Gwen, the reckless alter who cares for no one but herself--sends Ellie spiraling further toward the brink of insanity.

Sounds very cool to me. So does the thought of having sequels with the other personalities!

And i really like the first 250 words. I would definitely read this.

Good luck!

Marisa Hopkins said...

I think this sounds fantastic - love the premise very much and I would read on based on your sample. I agree with the above comments about tightening your query - I like version of your query in Kelley's comment. I think the second paragraph is a lot more interesting than the first, however. Would you be able to swap them?

Congratulations on your award!

Heather Riccio said...

I agree with Marisa that the version of your query in Kelley's comment is probably the best to describe Pieces of Ellie. As a beta reader, I had the privilege of exchanging novels with Nicole and immediately fell in love with the characters. Ruby doesn't really appear until the end, which definitely leaves room for at least a sequel. I loved Ellie and Gwen equally, but for different reasons. As the novel unfolded, I was able to see why Ellie had so many personalities, and was able to see that Ellie was the level-headed one, Gwen was the one who always stood up for herself (And often times did things that Ellie would have to pay for later), and then there was Ruby, the innocent child who was stuck in between. It's a quick read because you become hooked the minute you pick Pieces of Ellie up. You'll instantly get get sucked into Ellie/Gwen's life.

Good luck, Nicole!

Heather Riccio said...

I agree with Marisa that the version of your query in Kelley's comment is probably the best to describe Pieces of Ellie. As a beta reader, I had the privilege of exchanging novels with Nicole and immediately fell in love with the characters. Ruby doesn't really appear until the end, which definitely leaves room for at least a sequel. I loved Ellie and Gwen equally, but for different reasons. As the novel unfolded, I was able to see why Ellie had so many personalities, and was able to see that Ellie was the level-headed one, Gwen was the one who always stood up for herself (And often times did things that Ellie would have to pay for later), and then there was Ruby, the innocent child who was stuck in between. It's a quick read because you become hooked the minute you pick Pieces of Ellie up. You'll instantly get sucked into Ellie/Gwen's life.

Good luck, Nicole!

LPWrites said...

@Nicole This premise is so intriguing, and so DIFFERENT!And based on your beta reader's comment above, I would definitely read this!

@Sharon Being a nurse (as my paying job, haha), I've dealt with patients with multiple personalities and because DID often comes across as other disorders (depression, eating disorders, bipolar, etc) the fact that this character isn't finding out until she's in her teens is quite true to real life. Some aren't diagnosed properly until much later in life.

@Nicole again, I do agree with the others that your query could be tighter, but it does get the point across. God job and good luck with this.

The Agent said...

Your intriguing premise will be better served by a tighter query. For starters, I'd recommend starting your first sentence with your protagonist's name rather than with the clause. For example:

Sixteen-year-old Ellie Cox realizes her recurrent blackouts aren’t simply related to the stress of high school life when she awakens with the sudden appearance of a tattoo on her stomach.

In addition, you introduce in your query quite a few characters who then quickly disappear: Ellie's boyfriend, the boy in whose apartment she awakens, her ostensible uncle, the man who saved her from a fire, and her adoptive parents. We don't need to know every supporting character in the story yet; focus on the ones who help establish your query's premise, and leave the others out for the time being.

I liked your first few paragraphs, except you create the expectation of the third "You don't remember," and my trying to figure out what that was distracted me from the action. If you're going to open your story with these three moments, use that phrase to start the scene with her boyfriend as well. It will flow more organically.

All this nitpicking aside, I would be interested enough to continue reading on.