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?