Friday, September 3, 2010

AUTOCHROMATIC

Today's guest blogger is the amazing, spunky, punky, hilarious Emilia Plater, author of AUTOCHROMATIC and proprietor of the Punk Writer Kid blog. Make sure you visit and become a follower before reading on, you will not regret it.

Emilia is only 17 years old, and still in school. She should be an inspiration to us all but she is especially close to my own heart because my daughter, Kylie, would like to be a writer when she grows up. Kylie is 14 and has just entered high school but when she looks at someone like Emilia and sees that with enough hard work and dedication anything is possible, it really gives her good reason to believe in herself.

Emilia's query will follow in black text, along with her analysis and thoughts on why it worked in a sort of lovely aqua. I'll add some off-hand remarks and pointless jokes in goldenrod, just for fun.

Take it away Emilia!

Matthew, I'd like to first thank you again for recruiting me for the QQQe. It's such an honor! I can't claim to be an expert on queries - it took me a looong time to write this one - but hopefully I can help somebody out. Plus, it's cool to look back when the trauma is over!

You're most welcome Emilia! That's the idea.

Dear Suzie,

You may remember me as that crazy blonde girl in pigtails who sang Boom De Ya Da (I Love Publishing) back in April. You requested then that I send you a query for my YA novel, AUTOCHROMATIC, when the time came. Having heard nothing but awesome things about your work as agent from my fellow YA Highwayer Kristin Miller, I was happy to oblige. Now, the time has come - and it is ready to sing. (...Or something.)

And you have now all been introduced to the silliness that is Emilia. It wasn't necessary, but I couldn't resist the urge to start off with a little silly personality - especially because I had some connections to work with beyond "I thought you'd be interested in this." Agents are human, and if a particular agent strikes you as good-humored, why not be yourself? Of course, professionalism comes first, but it's always nice to give agents an idea of who they'd be working with. (In my case, it's more of a warning.)

Have you seen this video? Is freaking hilarious.

Ask seventeen-year-old Riley Tanner how she's dealing with the death of her boyfriend, Adrian, and she'll respond with an eye-roll and a "fantastically." Truth is, the car crash wrecked her world, and Riley has pretty much accepted her fate as a screwed-up therapy case. But when she starts getting texts from Adrian's phone number, each containing a different address, her plan to spend the summer not thinking about him falls apart.

In the same realm as the above paragraph, my main concern with the summary was communicating Riley's voice. Riley is such a powerful force in the novel, but in earlier drafts, she just came across as depressed. (Which she is, but in a fun way.) Looking back, I could have tried to highlight the hook more - texts from dead boyfriend omg! - but this worked well enough, and since Riley is so important, I wanted to introduce her inner conflict from the very start. In my grandest dreams, Riley's voice is as much of a hook as the boyfriend texts.

Cool premise, strong voice and very current, contemporary scenario. I would say this is all big win.

Desperate to track down the sender - mostly so she can punch that creep in the face - Riley sets off on a follow-the-texts road trip with her best friend. From New York City to the Wild West, she meets people from Adrian's past who she didn't know existed. Their stories of betrayal, alcoholism, and messed-up family dramas paint a not-so-pretty picture of the guy she thought she loved. Great.

A few people suggested I delete the "punch" bit. In the end, it felt so right, I decided to be stubborn and keep it - and that ended up being the bit Suzie liked most! This paragraph was all about keeping things clear: motivation for the trip, check, what the trip exactly is, check, where the trip goes, check - and then, the big conflict. Again, I wanted to get the emotions across without using too much Lifetime Language (i.e., "a betrayal of her heart").

This reminds me a lot of a bit in my own query. I have to agree with Suzie, that line rocks!

Fun fact: I spent nearly an hour obsessing over whether to delete that Great. In the end, I went with what felt truer to the story - and I found italicizing the word gave it a lot more snap. Ah, only a writer.

I love it. I don't know for sure about the italics because I catch a lot of crap for using that kind of formatting in my own query but it obviously worked, which is the most important thing anyway, right?

With her beliefs caught in a crapstorm, Riley recognizes the real source of her frustration: Adrian's mistakes. But there's nothing in the Angsty Teen manual about conflict resolution with dead people, and things only get worse when her best friend heads home after a fight. Stranded on the wrong side of the country, Riley has to choose: give up healing for good, or ask for help from the one person who refuses to show their face…

Mistakes? Misdeeds? Lies? I went through a million synonyms for the first sentence, but nothing quite fit. Eventually, I chose the one that flowed best, even if it wasn't 100% perfect. The Angsty Teen thing is probably my favorite bit - so Riley. Here we have the ever-building problems, and finally the concluding conflict, AKA what you leave the agent freaking out over. Important stuff! I wanted to finish off with the mystery of the sender, since that's probably what a skimming agent would be most interested in.

I can see your point about the mistakes bit. Obviously it gets worked out and makes sense in the book but it is the kind of thing we can agonize over in a query. I also love the idea of an Angsty Teen manual. That is a great bit of snark, voice, hilarity and characterization all wrapped up in a nice, tight little package.

AUTOCHROMATIC is a contemporary YA novel complete at 47,000 words. I've included sample pages below; the whole manuscript is available upon request. Thank you so much for considering my work!

I didn't really have much to say for a bio (I put the link to my group blog in my contact info), so I skipped that part. Most of my queries included sample pages - I stuck 'em in unless the agent asked otherwise - but whatever it was, I ended up having a pretty good request rate. I received three offers total and went with Suzie thanks to her great revision ideas and overall awesomeness. Yay!

Awesome. Good for you Emilia!

Sincerely,
Emilia Plater-Zyberk
struckheartera@gmail.com
www.emilia-plater.com
www.yahighway.com
[Phone number]
[Address]

Emilia also just so happens to be currently holding a contest. It's for the Punkiversary. Some of the prizes are query critiques so I thought it was highly appropriate to mention today. You can find out more by visiting the post here.

Otherwise what do you guys think? Can you imagine being an agented author at 17? Can you think of a more amazing dream come true? Any questions for Emilia? Comments? Feel free to share your thoughts below, and thanks for visiting!

43 comments:

Stina Lindenblatt said...

Wow, I hope the book is sold, cuz I want to read it!

Love your Friday query posts, Matt. :D

Emily White said...

This is such a great query! I loved the voice!

salarsenッ said...

'K, Emilia...love your voice. I'm so modeling my query after yours. Thanks for sharing it. You're a breath of fresh air.

Natalie Aguirre said...

Great query. Thanks for sharing it. And good luck with your book.

Liza said...

Hi there. Stopped over from KarenG's BBQ Blogfest and am glad I did. The query analysis is fantastic. Emilia, congratulations...fantastic writing. Lots of lessons to be learned from you. Thank you Matthew.

Laura Pauling said...

After looking at so many queries, the ones that catch my interest are the ones with specific word choices that reflect the character. And that's important in the story too. So I can see how a query reflects a person's writing. Great query!

Vicki Rocho said...

Fabulous! I have a suspicion who the texts are from (or who I would have made the guilty party if I had written this) but now I gotta read it to find out if I'm right!

Great job!!!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

She's got spirit and personality, which really comes through in the letter.

Earlier this week I found an agent's blog and he stated a book's synopsis should only be five sentences long. Since most of the ones posted here are much longer, I don't know if it was just his personal preference or what.

Joanne Brothwell said...

Gosh, I love this query! I get a sense of voice immediately. I love the "crazy blonde girl in pigtails" and the decision to keep "punch". Fantastic!

Creepy Query Girl said...

It was great to read more about Emilia's book! I'm a fan of her blog. She's got so much spunk and her posts are always funny and thought provoking! Thanks for having her here Matt!

Bish Denham said...

Wow! Truly awesome! I LOVE her voice.

DEZMOND said...

this was very flamboyant :)

Christina Lee said...

Wowee--Emilia sounds kick-A**, so does her book (and so does daughter Kylie) ;--)

Em-Musing said...

Yup, ditto on the "voice" comments. I appreciate when you post other's queries. Helps with mine. Thanks.

Talli Roland said...

Holy moly (yes, I did just say hoy moly). I'm blown away by this! Fantastic - what talent! Love the query, love the hook. LOVE IT!

aspiring_x said...

Emilia is way too cool!!! This is a great example of incorporating voice without going overboard. Excellent example!!! Thanks Matt and Emilia for the lesson!!!

Heather said...

I agree with the previous commenter - great example of showing voice without it overwhelming the query. And I'm glad she left the "punch that creep in the face" line in because it's my favorite part, too.

Angie Ledbetter said...

Nice place you've got here. I'm visiting from KarenG's bbq, and am now following. Will be back. Write on! GumboWriter

Alissa said...

Whenever I come across one of these super young, super talented authors I am always amazed and a bit jealous!

Falen (Sarah) said...

Excellent Query!
I particularly liked "crapstorm"

Zoe C. Courtman said...

Dang that's an awesome hook! Congrats, Emilia! "Desperate to track down the sender - mostly so she can punch that creep in the face" -- that was my favorite bit, too. All kinds of personality in that :D

Lisa said...

Hi there! Just stopping in from KarenG's BBQ blog party. Thanks for visiting my blog. I'm following you now as well. Enjoy your weekend!

ardeeeichelmann said...

Great query, loved the whole post, thanks Emilia and I hope that your book sells. Awesome!

Ishta Mercurio said...

Wow - fantastic query! I think your decision to focus on getting the voice of the main character across and depend on that to be your hook was a great one.

Super, super job, and congratulations on getting 3 offers! Woo-hoo!

David J. West said...

Awesome way to get after it-you have to chase and work toward those dreams, good job Emilia.

ali said...

Emilia, you sound AWESOME!!! Love your attitude and humor. Yay!

Great post Matthew, thanks!

Emilia Plater said...

Thank you SO, so much for your amazing comments, everyone! They've seriously made my day. It makes me so happy when Riley gets a chance to charm readers - it really is all her. Yay for queries! :)

Elana Johnson said...

That's an awesome query! And you know why the punch bit is so great? It shows all the voice, and it tells LOADS about who the character is. I can't wait to read this book!! Are you out on sub with it??

LTM said...

Yay, Emilia! This is great and CONGRATS!!! All the best of luck to you~

thanks, Matt and Q3e ;p

Jenna Wallace said...

Glad I made my way over from KarenG's. I love reading about queries that worked and why. And Emilia has such a great voice!

Angie said...

I have a seventeen year old son! I am feeling old right now. Awesome query, though. Sounds like a great book.

Katherine C said...

This book sounds awesome!

Taffy said...

Great post!

Hi Matthew Rush! I hopped over from the BBQ to say hi and to get more prawns!

Lynda Young said...

What a great break down of a query! Nice one

Lyn
W.I.P. It: A Writer's Journey

Anita said...

Yeah for her! It's true how much those little words count; crapstorm, Great (in italics), etc. Thanks for sharing.

RaShelle said...

What a fun query letter. I liked the *punch in the face*. And that song - oh my. Funny!!

Jemi Fraser said...

Babulous query - and I think it's because of the fabulous voice. I smiled through the whole thing and I bet the agents did too :) Congrats!

Lisa Potts said...

Matt, love your blog. It's funny how many people you run into in the comments sections of other blogs, but have never visited theirs. Well, now I have and I'll be following.

Kaitlyn said...

Hi! Just stopping by from the BBQ and wanted to say hello. I'm your newest follower =D

-Kaitlyn
http://nocturnalreadings.blogspot.com

Angela M. said...

The concept and the voice are fantastic. I can't wait to read this one. Emilia did an amazing job of hooking the reader. And it's crazy-awesome she's achieved so much at such a young age. Definitely an inspiration. Thanks for sharing this query.

Jen said...

I would love to read this!!!! Emilia is amazing!!!! She rocks and I can't wait to read her novel!

Hannah Kincade said...

Sorry I'm late but I thought the query was amazing. The voice was strong and I loved the "Great". This would be the perfect time for my proposed Sarcastafont.

Melissa Kline said...

Wow! This post is sooo inspiring! Emilia is AWESOME and I can't wait to read her book(s)! :)

Matt, great blog! I'm a follower. ;)

~Melissa
Reflections on Writing