Friday, October 1, 2010

HANDS TOUCH

Today's guest blogger is Christina Lee, from Write-Brained. Please be sure to go visit her blog and become a follower.

You all know how this works by now, but just in case Christina's thoughts will be in blue and my stupid jokes at my own expense will be in red.

Now, take it away Christina!

Thanks for having me, Matt! I queried my first novel unsuccessfully in 2009 before totally ditching it. I realized I needed to move on in order to improve my craft (and my mental health). I started two more novels that I never finished until my idea for HANDS TOUCH grabbed hold of me. I actually wrote my query first and that helped keep me on a straight path (mostly). My final query, below, had been ElanaJ-afied and LiLa-afied before being sent out. My point in telling you that is, if you feel stuck, ask for help. It’s out there. We are all part of a wonderful, giving writing community. Without further adieu, here’s my query for HANDS TOUCH:

That is great advice. Elana and LiLa have actually helped me a BUNCH with my own query as well. Small world.

For most fifteen-year-old guys it’s no big deal to brush hands with a girl. But Callen Frazier wears gloves to school every day for a reason. And when he forgets to pull them on one morning there is hell to pay. Or a murder to solve. Depending on how you look at it.

(It took a lot of playing around to get the voice right. Callen is a mostly-serious kid who has a dry sense of humor and I wanted to reflect that.)

Awesome. What a great opening. It gives an idea of the sarcastic/snarky but also kind of dry voice that the narrator is going to have, while also giving us a great look into what kind of character this kid is, all in a few short, concise sentences. Great opening hook.

Because when he makes skin to skin contact he can literally see inside a person. And then the bad stuff happens. He can see which organ causes their death. And in his classmate’s case, it’s her windpipe. Because it’s going to be crushed. At the end of sophomore year.

I wanted to show what happens when Callen touches someone but not drone on about it. Also I needed to tie that to the conflict he faces, pretty quickly.

Interesting concept! Here we have the conflict and the choice (implied if not fully defined) laid out very cleanly, and we now have all the three big Cs laid out right off the bat (Character, Conflict, Choice, in that order), which is key. I also love the style here. The short, choppy sentences feel right and true for this kind of kid who probably cuts himself off from the world a great deal.

To make matters worse, he’s got a crush on a girl named Clair. Big Time. And he knows for certain that Clair’s boyfriend is involved in the murder. So Callen has some substantial decisions to make—the biggest one being whether his gloves will finally come off.

Ah, the love angle ;--) I could have said more and named Callen’s best friend, who is very involved in the plot, but I’ve already named three people and it would have been overkill. I wanted to make the stakes and consequences clear without going into too much detail. I wanted to pique the agent’s interest so they’d ask for more pages.

And here is the perfect ending to a perfect query. A possible romance angle and a murder? This has raised the stakes quite high, all in three short paragraphs, well done!

HANDS TOUCH is a 50,000 word young adult novel, with elements of paranormal and mystery.

I didn’t really know what to call my YA novel - a paranormal or a mystery. But on the phone with my agent, she said, “it’s not paranormal, it’s magic realism.” I had never even considered that -- and then had to go Google it!

Well now that is interesting. I know what magical realism is, but had never considered it a genre. I always thought paranormal was how you referred to a story with fantasy elements in a real word setting (which is an oversimplified explanation of magical realism), but this is good to know. Now I need to do some further research on paranormal and urban fantasy though!

So there you have it. Not perfect, but it did the trick!

I queried for about three months and sent out over 40 queries (5-10 a week) and got 18 requests for partials and fulls.

My agent (one I chose after a mind-numbing week of decision-making) asked for my full five minutes after receiving my query. She even tweeted about the “great query” she just received which made me grin. And then I got her offer about a week later.

I'm really not surprised. This is an excellent, text book query.

But just because I have an agent doesn’t mean it stops here. I’m still completing my third (a YA ghost story) because you never know what’s going to happen, at any stage. The key is to keep writing and continue moving forward. Sometimes, easier said than done!

Great advice, thanks so much for sharing this with us Christina! This query ought to be used in writing classes, it is a perfect example of how to get across exactly what you need to, without any extra unnecessary words or ideas.

Readers, any questions for Christina?

39 comments:

Bish Denham said...

Wow! Good stuff. Thanks for sharing
Christina.

Christine Fonseca said...

Fab! And yep - LiLa and Elana are the BEST!!!

Jen Daiker said...

I'm in love Christina! You had me hooked! I know who to come to when I need help with my query, Matthew you do such a great job and I look forward to one day (if you invite me) to partake in this query loving process!!!

I look forward to hearing the publishing date!! It's always cool to get the insight on queries and the writer process!

mshatch said...

This sounds like a really fun read. When does it come out?

Matthew Rush said...

I believe Christina is still on submission to editors, I'll ask her.

Christina Lee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stina Lindenblatt said...

Great query, Christina. You had me at the hook. I can't wait to read the book one day. :D

And Matthew, thanks for posting all these successful queries.

Christina Lee said...

Hey, thanks guys!

I am actually still in revisions! I got agented in August and have recently finished up my first round of agent revisions (and hoping there's not a second and third round--but you never know. And I'd gladly do them, if they make my book better)!

Thanks for asking!

Piedmont Writer said...

Great query, LOVE the voice! Congratulations Christina!

storyqueen said...

Wow...were I am agent, I would have asked to read the ms, too!

Nice.

Shelley

aspiring_x said...

christina! that sounds like an awesome story! and the query was of course excellent. but what i thought was the most excellent here was the number of projects she's got going! it's so important to just keep writing as she says!!! :)

Melissa Gill said...

Congratulations Christina. That's a great query. I'm sure this book will be a big success.

Question: When you started submitting your query was this the first and only one you used, or did you tweek it some as you went along based on feedback, or lack of response?

Thanks Matt, this was a great example. I've got to remember the three C's.

Falen (Sarah Ahiers) said...

that sounds great!
I, too, write a query before i write the first draft. It really helps to keep things focused

Creepy Query Girl said...

wow- what a great success story! I can totally see what drew the agent's attention- this is an awesome query! Congrats christina and great guest post as always matt!

Anonymous said...

I would like to exchange links with your site theqqqe.blogspot.com
Is this possible?

Matthew Rush said...

Anon - we can exchange links, bodily fluids, critiques, whatever you want ... if you actually exist you spambot!

Christina Lee said...

Melissa,
To answer your question, I did tweak it, definitely, along with my first chapter (which most agent's request)!

Matt, I'm cracking up about your spambot comment!

Matthew Rush said...

Thanks Christina, I love comments too much to delete them!

Roni Loren said...

Great query, Christina! Definitely made me want to read your story! :)

And good luck with revisions! I had to go through two rounds (one major, one...less major, lol), but now I'm on submission. *bites nails* Hopefully you'll join me soon and we can stress together. :)

Elana Johnson said...

Awesome query. Awesome book -- can't wait to hear about the mega-sale and hold it in my hands!

Theresa Milstein said...

Christina, what an awesome story (and query). It's only this year that I'm putting so much heart and soul into my query. You show it's worth it.

Nicole Zoltack said...

Great story, love the query! Wish mine shone like that.

Claudie A. said...

Wow, Christina, that's such a fabulous idea! Your query kicks ass too. All the best with getting published! :D

Melissa Gill said...

Thanks Christina! I can't wait to see this in print. Keep us posted.

randine said...

Awesome job!
I don't usually read this genre, but I would read this!

Jeffrey Beesler said...

Christina: Excellent query. I can see why you got 18 requests.

Matt: Awesome analysis, and congratulations on your 150th posting!

Jessica Carmen Bell said...

This sounds like an amazing book! And I don't even get into YA. But I'd read that. FOR SURE! Thanks for sharing guys! :o)

Courtney Barr - The Southern Princess said...

Matthew & Christina - AWESOME!!

love this!

Matthew I have missed being by here lately! I think I MIGHT be able to get a bit back to blognormalcy! lol (whatever that means...)

wonderful post!


Visit My Kingdom Anytime

Hannah Kincade said...

I love magical realism! It's one of the genres that I love to right often!! Great query, love the idea!

Meredith said...

I love the voice! And the gloves coming off--great line. Thanks for sharing!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

She's quick and to the point - I like it!

Old Kitty said...

I love the play on the phrase, hands off and gloves off!! Wow!! What a wonderful premise for a YA book! And great to read how persistence pays off! Good luck Christina!!
Take care
x

K. M. Walton said...

VERY tight query, Christina. No wonder you got such a good percentage of requests.

BTW this book is wonderful. Had the privilege of reading it in a beta exchange. Wonderful I tell you!!

Lourie said...

No questions for her, just that I adore her!

ali said...

What a neat sounding story!

Melissa said...

HOLY wow! This query kicks some serious butt! I can see why she requested the full in five minutes. This is great. I can't wait for your book to come out.

Jemi Fraser said...

Love the voice in this query! I'm not surprised at how many requests it got!

Shannon said...

Thanks for sharing, Christina! Excellent query!

Christina Lee said...

Thanks for all the lovely comments, everyone! ;--)