I have the results from Brent Taylor with TEEN EYES EDITORIAL. I’m amazed at all the writers who entered the contest on my blog and on the other hosts’ blogs. You all are very talented and I’m sure this was a tough decision for all the editors. Make sure to check out Teen Eyes services. They aren’t that expensive and it’s great to get a pair of young, professional eyes on your work.
Here’s what Brent said…
Query letters are so important in terms of pitching to agents and editors, but also to help a writer hone in on the meat of a story: evolution of character and plot.
That being said, some of my favorite queries from this contest weren’t necessarily perfect, but they revealed the right amount of information and left me with pressing questions—I’m dying to read some of these books.
Some queries that really hooked me were…
Name: Krystal Sutherland
Title: THE GASLIGHT ALIBIS
Genre: YA Psychological Thriller
18-year-old Katherine Cavert receives the same letter every week, hand delivered to her house by a man dressed in black. The words never change: ‘11.00pm. March 30th. Pyrmont Flats. Not guilty.’ The cops couldn’t care less about Katherine’s so-called “stalker”. No one else has seen him, he has identical handwriting to her, and – creepiest of all – her own saliva is used to seal the envelopes.
Then, when the letters are finally linked to a string of similar cases that ended in the murder of their recipients, Katherine’s little sister is abducted. By the time the police realize they’re dealing with a serial killer known as The Haunting Man, it could already be too late. The only ransom the kidnapper wants is Katherine. The only thing he wants from her is to be at Pyrmont Flats at 11.00pm on March 30th. Come alone, come unarmed, or her sister dies.
The Haunting Man wants Katherine to see something, and then he wants her to die. But what she’s about to learn is that not all murders end in death. Sometimes, very occasionally, the people who die wake up.
THE GASLIGHT ALIBIS is an 80,000-word psychological thriller aimed at a young adult audience. I am the current features writer at Blitz, a Sydney based entertainment magazine published weekly to a readership of over 30,000. I like zombies and pajama pants an inordinate amount.
Just like with the last query, I love that this one sets up really high stakes: someone is going to die. I also love that there’s a paranormal twist at the end, with “Sometimes, very occasionally, the people who die wake up.”
Title: THE DRUMMING SONG
Genre: YA speculative fiction
There’s a drumbeat calling to 17-year-old Drea Rune.
She hears it at sunset on her first night in small-town Oregon, and if that weren’t weird enough, the music makes her feel like she’s on some seriously hardcore drugs. Refusing to believe she’s losing it, she tracks the intoxicating beat through the town’s meadows and finds four teenagers who have been playing the drum for years.
They thought the beat only called to them.
Soon, the nights Drea used to spend perfecting recipes and working toward culinary school are complicated by her nightly cravings for the drumbeat. As much as she loves the high, she’s starting to hate the drumbeat’s power over her more. Trying to understand her addiction, she searches for information on the drum’s abilities and discovers a local myth: centuries earlier, a creature with unfathomable powers was slaughtered…and its hide might be on the drumhead.
But the other drummers quickly forbid Drea from digging deeper, and she starts to wonder if they’re more scared of the myth than they let on. After all, another drummer once spent a night in the creature’s forest. A night that left him nearly catatonic.
If Drea disobeys, they’ll ban her from drumming—and her body can’t handle that. She must decide if she can live with an addiction that’s taking over her life, or risk losing the drum and her only friends.
But both consequences might cost Drea her mind.
THE DRUMMING SONG is a YA speculative fiction complete at 84,000 words. Thank you for your consideration.
This query definitely hooked me, and speculative fiction isn’t one of the genres I’m ever really drawn into. The writing in this query is sharp which makes me believe that your prose will be strong. I can seriously hear the drumbeat in my head right now.
Name: Mark Fenger
Genre: Science Fiction
When Ethan sleeps he no longer dreams. He lives other people’s lives. He controls every action they take like they were his own. And he only wakes up when they die.
Whenever Ethan arrives in the body of a stranger it means the men in dark suits are on their way. At first all they want to do is kill his proxy bodies, but then they recognize his presence and they’re no longer satisfied with killing. They want to meet Ethan in person and they’ll do anything to find him.
Night after night, Ethan is forced into a deadly game of cat and mouse. The only way to win is to change the rules. Ethan has to find the men in suits and kill them, before they catch him and torture his true identity from him.
A few weeks ago he’d never seen one of the strange men. Now they’re everywhere, whispering in the ears of powerful politicians, orchestrating some kind of power play involving a data centre in Utah, and hunting down the people in Ethan’s night wanderings.
Amidst all the chaos, the woman Ethan loves finally sees him as more than a friend. The two of them become romantically entwined. They make love for the first time.
Then Ethan wakes up in her body.
The last line in this query does it for me—I HAVE to know what happens. I actually think this query breaks the rules a little bit and reveals too much, but I don’t mind it at all—that last line! It gives me the impression that your stories in general have organic twists and turns as well.
The authors of these three queries will be receiving a $25 gift voucher to use towards any of my editorial services.
My winner is…
Name: Melinda Gray
Title: PIECES OF ME
Dear Mr. Taylor:
After 16-year-old social-nobody Olivia is stunned by random kisses from two guys claiming to be her boyfriend, she discovers she’s somehow jumping between alternate versions of her life, each shaped by decisions she made—or didn’t—in her past. Along with an increasing slew of boys, she also finds her grandma still alive, a baby sister she never had before and a new position at the top of the junior class.
She has everything she ever wanted, sort of. If only she could control the jumps. And stop finding so many new sides to her best friend Drew. She barely recognizes this boy who spouts crazy sci-fi theories or plays in a rock band.
She knows she can’t switch between the alternate-Olivias forever. The more she tries to juggle, the more she drops. If she keeps switching realities, she’s going to mess up the alter-Olivias’ lives as badly as she must’ve messed up the original. The only way to make it stop is to choose where to land for good—back in her normal life, or in one of the new ones. But none of her options give her everything, and deciding where to stay will mean losing more than one person she loves.
My YA novel PIECES OF ME is complete at 65,000 words. I look forward to hearing from you.
There are so many things I like about this query. It’s concise, dives directly into the story (which, in my two years reading queries, I always appreciated), and there’s a big high-stakes feeling to it, which I would argue is absolutely essential in any query.
In the first paragraph, we’re introduced to what I hope is a major aspect of the story: the romantic relationships between Olivia and others, both between boys and members of her family. Just from the sentence “Along with an increasing slew of boys, she also finds her grandma still alive, a baby sister she never had before…” I get the sense that the story has some very interesting family dynamics, which I personally am a fan of when it comes to YA literature.
For a story with so much action/adventure, I can tell this one has some strong emotional punches. The last paragraph sets the stakes, and touches on some key YA issues: making tough decisions and over analyzing the outcomes of all of them.
This summer I made some really tough, shocking decisions that I spent weeks and weeks fretting over, and this query really hits home for me. I’m dying to find out which life Olivia chooses, and I haven’t even read the first page yet. I would absolutely forward this query if I’d come across it in my agency days.
The author of this query will be receiving a $100 gift voucher to use towards any of my editorial services.
Congratulations, Minnie and the runners-up! Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to get instructions on how to contact Brent.
Thank you, Brent, for co-hosting this contest with me. You are amazing! Everyone else, go visit Teen Eyes website and check out their services for wonderful and affordable critique options.
You can also visit Teen Eyes Editorial around the web:
Don’t forget to stop by the other bloggers sites to find out the winners for the other two editors. You can also visit Teen Eyes Editorial around the web:
Matthew MacNish hosted Editor Grace Smith. The winner received a 20,000-word in-depth critique.
Holly Bodger hosted Editor Julie Daly. The winner received a full manuscript critique