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The Sum of Who We Are

Young Adult Science Fiction Fiction

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#1 eric balson

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Posted 11 September 2016 - 09:18 AM

LATEST DRAFT OF THIS QUERY IS ON PAGE THREE, POST #76
 
Haunted by a mysterious self-destructive impulse—which he refers to as “the Dark Side”—that often propels him to the verge of taking his own life, eighteen year old musical savant, Luke Walker, has lived in alienation much of his life; pushing away anyone who gets too close to him and going as far shunning a traditional school experience in favor of being homeschooled by his mom.
With a prodigious ability of her own, Riley skipped high-school and joined college at only fifteen, but the trauma of her sexual assault has seen her graduation put on hold.
When tragedy strikes in form of a train crash, Luke is left without a guide, a tutor, and most importantly—a parent. After her near-death experience in the crash, Riley resolves to reassert control of her life and atone for her misdemeanors. She enrolls at a local high-school as a teacher-student as part of her parole, the same high-school that Luke has been impelled to attend by his mom’s paramour, Gary, who’s also possibly his father. Strangers in an unfamiliar setting brought together by fate, the two form a heartfelt bond—one that will lead them to confront the demons of their pasts, which unbeknownst to them, are intertwined with one another.
Complete at 62,000 words, THE SUM OF WHO WE ARE is a story about loss, remorse, and an examination on the nature of personal identity.


#2 CeeMWolf

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Posted 11 September 2016 - 02:49 PM

Hey there Eric,

 

Haunted by a mysterious self-destructive impulse—which he  Who? refers to as “the Dark Side”—that often propels him Again, who?  to the verge of taking his own life, eighteen year old musical savant, Luke Walker,  Ah, there's the name  has lived in alienation much of his life; pushing away anyone who gets too close to him and going as far shunning a traditional school experience in favor of being homeschooled by his mom.  You have a 71 word sentence here. Rule of thumb is "if you can't say it in a breath, it's too long" but for a better reference 25 words or less is a must. You have emdashes and even a semi-colon, find the natural breaks and split this up. You should do your best to put your protagonists name at the very beginning of the sentence too.
 
With a prodigious ability of her own, Riley skipped high-school and joined college at only fifteen, but the trauma of her sexual assault has seen her graduation put on hold. If you say "her sexual assault" instead of "a sexual assault" (or if it was more than one incident then find a way to phrase it) it makes the reader think they've missed something. And how has it put graduation on hold?
When tragedy strikes in form of a train crash, Luke is left without a guide, a tutor, and most importantly—a parent. The switch back to Luke is jarring, and this sentence feels a little emotionless.  After her near-death experience in the crash, is it the same crash? easily fixed with a "her own near-death..." or "in the same crash"  Riley resolves to reassert control of her life and atone for her misdemeanors. what misdemeanors? Is this why graduation got put on hold?  She enrolls at a local high-school as a teacher-student as part of her parole, the same high-school that Luke has been impelled to attend by his mom’s paramour, Gary, who’s also possibly his father. The mention of Gary is completely out of place. I doubt very much we need to know who Gary is, or that he's the one who tells Luke to go to that particular school or even that he might be Luke's father. It's just muddling your narrative here. Keep to the main conflict.   Strangers in an unfamiliar setting brought together by fate, the two form a heartfelt bond—one that will lead them to confront the demons of their pasts, which unbeknownst to them, are intertwined with one another.  This is just missing something, I can't put my finger on it though.
Complete at 62,000 words, THE SUM OF WHO WE ARE is a story about loss, remorse, and an examination on the nature of personal identity.

Try and leave out the "is a story about..." as it should be apparent in your query itself.

So try and remember the Character(s), Conflict, Choice set up. Keep out subplots, and stick to just Riley and Luke: who they are, what they want, and what's getting in the way. You have a lot of the right stuff in here, but it needs a lot of clean up. Hope some of this is helpful!


Any input on my query is appreciated!

http://agentquerycon...ate-in-post-34/


#3 Blueberry Tide

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Posted 12 September 2016 - 05:08 PM

 

Haunted by a mysterious self-destructive impulse—which he refers to as “the Dark Side”—that often propels him to the verge of taking his own life, eighteen year old musical savant, Luke Walker, has lived in alienation much of his life; pushing away anyone who gets too close to him and going as far shunning a traditional school experience in favor of being home-schooled by his mom. Start with who, then add what and why. 
 
Important note - unless this is a Star Wars themed book, I wouldn't name your character Luke Walker. Having something called "The Dark Side" and a character with that name is a turn off - and unless you're commissioned to write a Star Wars novel, it's copyright infringement - which you do not want to be charged with.  
 
With a prodigious ability of her own, Riley skipped high-school and joined college at only fifteen, but the trauma of her sexual assault has seen her graduation put on hold. This feels very much a hook of another story entirely, one about Riley. When tragedy strikes in form of a train crash, Luke is left without a guide, a tutor, and most importantly—a parent. After her near-death experience in the crash, Riley resolves to reassert control of her life and atone for her misdemeanors. She enrolls at a local high-school as a teacher-student as part of her parole, the same high-school that Luke has been impelled to attend by his mom’s paramour, Gary, who’s also possibly his father. Strangers in an unfamiliar setting brought together by fate, the two form a heartfelt bond—one that will lead them to confront the demons of their pasts, which unbeknownst to them, are intertwined with one another. This entire paragraph has sentences set up as hooks - the "when this happens, this then happens" formula - which is a great way to start if you're unsure of where to go. 
 
Complete at 62,000 words, THE SUM OF WHO WE ARE is a story about loss, remorse, and an examination on the nature of personal identity. Genre? I would lead with the TITLE, then WORD COUNT, and GENRE. If you're unsure about your genre, it's okay. 

 

To me it sounds like these two kids with troubles find solace in each other. But that's an overall theme I get from the letter. You've got a lot of points strung together without a clear "plot" at the end. 



#4 adr90

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Posted 13 September 2016 - 09:12 AM

Haunted by a mysterious self-destructive impulse—which he refers to as “the Dark Side”—that often propels him to the verge of taking his own life, eighteen-year-old musical savant, Luke Walker, has lived in alienation much of his life; pushing away anyone who gets too close to him and going as far shunning a traditional school experience in favor of being homeschooled by his mom. Super long sentence. Consider cutting into three.
 
With a prodigious ability of her own, Riley skipped high school and joined college at only fifteen, but the trauma of her sexual assault puts her graduation put on hold.
 
When tragedy strikes in form of a train crash, Luke is left without a guide, a tutor, and most importantly—a parent Ehh, can't you just tell us that a train crash kills his mom?. After her near-death experience in the crash, Riley resolves to reassert control of her life and atone for her misdemeanors. She enrolls at a local high school as a teacher-student as part of her parole, the same high-school that Luke has been impelled to attend by his mom’s paramour, Gary, who’s also possibly his father You can probably cut Gary. Also, another long sentence. Strangers in an unfamiliar setting brought together by fate, the two form a heartfelt bond—one that will lead them to confront the demons of their pasts, which unbeknownst to them, are intertwined with one another. Okay, so that's nice, but where's the main conflict? It sounds like a man vs self sort of deal, which can be a bit tricky to explain in a query. But I need to know their goals, the obstacles stopping them from meeting their goals, and the stakes, or what will happen if they don't reach their goals. Something like "Luke and Riley must X before Y happens."
 
Complete at 62,000 words, THE SUM OF WHO WE ARE is a story about loss, remorse, and an examination on the nature of personal identity. I'm iffy about this last part, where you tell us what the story is about. It could work, but my first thought is, "I should be able to guess that from the plot paragraphs." Also, what's the genre?
 
I think if you give a little more plot (especially the conflict at the end) and make sentences shorter, you'll take a pretty big stride forward


#5 JonVonKnight

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Posted 13 September 2016 - 09:32 AM

 

Haunted by a mysterious self-destructive impulse—which he refers to as “the Dark Side”—that often propels him to the verge of taking his own life, eighteen year old musical savant, Luke Walker, has lived in alienation much of his life; pushing away anyone who gets too close to him and going as far shunning a traditional school experience in favor of being homeschooled by his mom.
With a prodigious ability of her own, Riley skipped high-school and joined college at only fifteen, but the trauma of her sexual assault has seen her graduation put on hold.
When tragedy strikes in form of a train crash, Luke is left without a guide, a tutor, and most importantly—a parent. After her near-death experience in the crash, Riley resolves to reassert control of her life and atone for her misdemeanors. She enrolls at a local high-school as a teacher-student as part of her parole, the same high-school that Luke has been impelled to attend by his mom’s paramour, Gary, who’s also possibly his father. Strangers in an unfamiliar setting brought together by fate, the two form a heartfelt bond—one that will lead them to confront the demons of their pasts, which unbeknownst to them, are intertwined with one another. (I feel like this is a good place to start the query. "Luke and Riley are strangers whose demons know each other well." or something like that. Then fill it in with the details you have above and - as everyone else has stated - what are their goals and what happens if they don't meet them?)
Complete at 62,000 words, THE SUM OF WHO WE ARE is a story about loss, remorse, and an examination on the nature of personal identity.

 

Definitely include the genre and add it to the title of your post too. That will help people trying to help you. Sounds like a great story. Good luck with your revision! I'll look for the update. I would love if you have a look at my letter for Courage Passion Wisdom an Grace. 



#6 findjules2

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Posted 15 September 2016 - 12:31 PM

I'm very new to this so take it with a grain of salt:
 
Haunted by a mysterious self-destructive impulse—which he refers to as “the Dark Side”—that often propels him to the verge of taking his own life, eighteen year old musical savant, Luke Walker, has lived in alienation much of his life; pushing away anyone who gets too close to him and going as far shunning a traditional school experience in favor of being homeschooled by his mom.
 
Luke Walker is an eighteen year old musical savant that is haunted by a mysterious self-destructive impulse. He refers to this as "the Dark Side" and he often feels propelled to take his own life. Luke lives in alienation and is home-schooled by his mother.
 
With a prodigious ability of her own, Riley skipped high-school and joined college at only fifteen, but the trauma of her sexual assault has seen her graduation put on hold. I don't understand this part, it appears that his mother is nineteen if she entered college at fifteen? Maybe graduation was put on hold twenty years ago?
When tragedy strikes in form of a train crash, Luke is left without a guide, a tutor, and most importantly—a parent. Luke is left without a parent but she survived? After her near-death experience in the crash, Riley resolves to reassert control of her life and atone for her misdemeanors. I don't know why she has to atone. She enrolls at a local high-school as a teacher-student as part of her parole, the same high-school that Luke has been impelled to attend by his mom’s paramour, Gary, who’s also possibly his father. Strangers in an unfamiliar setting brought together by fate, the two form a heartfelt bond—one that will lead them to confront the demons of their pasts, which unbeknownst to them, are intertwined with one another.
Complete at 62,000 words, THE SUM OF WHO WE ARE is a story about loss, remorse, and an examination on the nature of personal identity.
I hope this helps.


#7 eric balson

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Posted 30 September 2016 - 05:19 AM

This is the latest draft. Thank you for all the input so far.

 

For eighteen-year-old musical savant Luke Walker, almost bearing the same name as the hero of his favorite movie is a pretty big frustration. But what really ticks him off is the Dark Side—a self-destructive impulse that has propelled him to numerous suicide attempts. Luke cycles through therapists in a desperate quest to trace the origin of this seemingly untamable force.

With a perfect girlfriend and equally perfect grades, Riley Stapleton has it all figured out. All that comes crumbling when she gets sexually assaulted, the ensuing case going cold. In her alcohol-fueled search for answers, she spirals out of control destroying everything she’s spent years building, and eventually getting arrested. As part of her parole, she enlists as a tutor at a local high school. Because of her musical background, she is assigned to Luke who’s failed to write any music since his mother died. For Riley, it’s an opportunity to make amends by helping him re-discover his magic.

 

Each haunted by demons, they must rely on the bond they form if they’re to endure the journey to discovering the truth about their pasts that unbeknownst to them are intertwined.



#8 Illumen

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Posted 02 October 2016 - 04:19 PM

This is the latest draft. Thank you for all the input so far.

 

For eighteen-year-old musical savant Luke Walker, almost bearing the same name as the hero of his favorite movie is a pretty big frustration this was a weird sentence to me, I was expecting something related to music when reading the second part and the punch line, as it seems, took a little too long. you could shorten the sentence to something like "...,musical savant Luke Walker's biggest frustration is almost bearing the name of his favorite movie hero." But what really ticks him off is the Dark Side—a self-destructive impulse that has propelled him to numerous suicide attempts. Luke cycles through therapists in a desperate quest to trace the origin of this seemingly untamable force.

With a perfect girlfriend and equally perfect grades, Riley Stapleton has it all figured out. All that comes crumbling i feel like there needs to be a "down" here. maybe just say "Until she..." or "That is, until she..." when she gets sexually assaulted, the ensuing case going cold i'm actually not sure what this means, I'm guessing they stopped looking into the case? I think this should be connected to the previous part of the sentence, since this also causes her world to collapse, as in"...she gets sexually assaulted and the ensuing case goes cold". In her alcohol-fueled search for answers, she spirals out of control comma i think destroying everything she’s spent years building, i dont think you need this comma and eventually getting arrested. As part of her parole, she enlists as a tutor at a local high school. this is starting to sound like a laundry-list of events. I'm not seeing how everything is connected Because of her musical background the way you mention this makes it seem as though the reader is supposed to know she is assigned to Luke who’s failed to write any music since his mother died there was no indication of this earlier. For Riley, it’s an opportunity to make amends by helping him re-discover his magic.

 

Each haunted by demons, they must rely on the bond they form if they’re to endure the journey to discovering the truth about their pasts that unbeknownst to them are intertwined. this sentence is pretty vague, and I think the things they do together are where the conflict really arises. So far I've gotten some background on the problems they're facing, but I think that needs to be condensed to leave more room for what they do together, what they have to gain from discovering the truth, and what could stop them from doing so, or what they have to fear from learning the truth. The story sounds very interesting.



#9 eric balson

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Posted 11 October 2016 - 06:46 AM

LATEST DRAFT:

 

Dear Agent,

For eighteen-year-old musical savant Luke Walker, composer’s block is a pretty big frustration. But what really ticks him off is the Dark Side—a self-destructive impulse that has propelled him to numerous suicide attempts. Luke cycles through therapists in a desperate quest to trace the origin of this seemingly untamable force.

With a perfect girlfriend and equally perfect grades, Riley Stapleton has it all figured out. That is, until she gets sexually assaulted, and her case goes cold. In her alcohol-fueled search for answers, she spirals out of control, destroying everything she’s spent years building and eventually getting arrested. As part of her parole, she enlists as a tutor at a local high school where she is assigned to Luke.

Each plagued by demons, they work towards uncovering the truth about their pasts that unbeknownst to them are intertwined. What they end up discovering might drive them apart forever.

THE SUM OF WHO WE ARE is a 65,000-word literary young adult novel told in Luke and Riley’s alternating perspectives.

Sincerely,

Eric Balson



#10 Ms-Q

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Posted 11 October 2016 - 04:26 PM

LATEST DRAFT:

 

Dear Agent,

For eighteen-year-old musical savant Luke Walker, composer’s block is a pretty big frustration. Just on a line by line basis, "pretty big" is a hedge. I feel like you could use a stronger word here in place of these three words. But what really ticks him off is the Dark Side—a self-destructive impulse that has propelled him to numerous suicide attempts. "Ticks him off" feels flippant here. He's suicidal. The tone feels off. Luke cycles through Something's a little off with this word choice. Not sure. therapists in a desperate quest to trace the origin of this seemingly untamable force. Why does he know he's not just mentally ill?

With a perfect girlfriend and equally perfect grades, Riley Stapleton has it all figured out. That is, until she gets sexually assaulted, and her case goes cold. In her alcohol-fueled search for answers, she spirals out of control, destroying everything she’s spent years building and eventually getting arrested. As part of her parole, she enlists as a tutor at a local high school where she is assigned to Luke. This is much more strongly worded.

Each plagued by demons, they work towards uncovering the truth about their pasts that unbeknownst to them are intertwined. What they end up discovering might drive them apart forever. They just met. Why do I care if they're driven apart? You haven't established that they give a damn about one another. What's their relationship? Why do they care?

THE SUM OF WHO WE ARE is a 65,000-word literary young adult novel told in Luke and Riley’s alternating perspectives. This is a good thing to give the agent the heads up on, but focus on one character in the query so you have enough room to flesh things out.

Sincerely,

Eric Balson

 

 

My suggestion, pick one character. I personally think Riley's is the stronger portion of the query. Her section seems to express the themes of the story more strongly than his and has more of a clear character arc going on. Maybe focus on her. It doesn't really matter if Luke's point of view starts the story.



#11 brandonyoung

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Posted 11 October 2016 - 05:54 PM

Dear Agent,

 

Make sure you separate your paragraphs!

 

For eighteen-year-old musical savant Luke Walker, composer’s block is a pretty big frustration. But what really ticks him off is the Dark Side—a self-destructive impulse that has propelled him to numerous suicide attempts. Luke cycles through therapists in a desperate quest to trace the origin of this seemingly untamable force. I'd suggest cutting the "composer's block" sentence. It just doesn't seem important--especially when you contrast it against the Dark Side. Speaking of which, can't you think of another name for that? To me, it just feels so generic and overused. UNLESS that's the name Luke has given it, in which case say that and it might reveal more about his personality.

 

With a perfect girlfriend and equally perfect grades, Riley Stapleton has it all figured out. That is, until she gets sexually assaulted, and her case goes cold. In her alcohol-fueled search for answers, she spirals out of control, destroying everything she’s spent years building and eventually getting arrested. As part of her parole, she enlists as a tutor at a local high school where she is assigned to Luke.

 

 

These two paragraphs feel too much like set-up; that's essentially what you're giving us. What's the plot? Where's the conflict? What's at stake? Rather than starting the query by introducing the characters, maybe start it from when they're assigned to each other.

 

Each plagued by demons, they work towards uncovering the truth about their pasts that unbeknownst to them are intertwined. What they end up discovering might drive them apart forever. This doesn't really hook me because I don't care enough about the stakes.

 

THE SUM OF WHO WE ARE is a 65,000-word literary young adult novel told in Luke and Riley’s alternating perspectives. How old is Riley? Would her age cause this book to turn into half-YA and half-Adult?

 

Sincerely,

Eric Balson


If you have time, I'd love your feedback on my query...

 

http://agentquerycon...-space-fantasy/

 

...or my synopsis:

 

COMING SOON


#12 Kentowski

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Posted 11 October 2016 - 07:05 PM

LATEST DRAFT:

 

Dear Agent,

For eighteen-year-old musical savant Luke Walker, composer’s block is a pretty big frustration (Maybe just say composer's block is frustrating). But what really ticks him off (I'd like to see more anger than 'ticked off' over suicide attempts) is the Dark Side—a self-destructive impulse that has propelled him to numerous suicide attempts. Luke cycles through therapists in a desperate quest to trace the origin of this seemingly untamable force.

With a perfect girlfriend and equally perfect grades, Riley Stapleton has it all figured out. That is, until she gets sexually assaulted, and her case goes cold. In her alcohol-fueled search for answers, she spirals out of control, destroying everything she’s spent years building and eventually getting arrested. As part of her parole, she enlists as a tutor at a local high school where she is assigned to Luke.

Each plagued by demons, they work towards uncovering the truth about their pasts that unbeknownst to them are intertwined. What they end up discovering might drive them apart forever. (I'd like to see a few more details here about how their pasts are intertwined or what could drive them apart; maybe not give it away, but a few clues as to what we're in for)

THE SUM OF WHO WE ARE is a 65,000-word literary young adult novel told in Luke and Riley’s alternating perspectives.

Sincerely,

Eric Balson

I had a lot of similar thoughts as Ms Q on this. Overall, I've got a handle of what kind of story I'm looking at, but would like to see more of what the conflict is all about to draw me in deeper.


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Author of Fate Trilogy


#13 Darkclouds

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Posted 15 October 2016 - 07:40 PM

Very tough with alternating POV queries, because you don't have enough space to tell about both. Think about it. Two backstories, two MCs, some interaction (maybe from each side) and then the tie in and plot. Takes up more room.

 

Nonetheless, it can sometimes be done, and it sounds like it's needed here.

 

 

Dear Agent,

For eighteen-year-old musical savant Luke Walker, composer’s block is a pretty big frustration. But what really ticks him off is the Dark Side—a self-destructive impulse that has propelled him to numerous suicide attempts. Luke cycles through therapists in a desperate quest to trace the origin of this seemingly untamable force.

 

I am really not sure The Luke Walker and the dark side thing works. Maybe in the novel, but it doesn't make me treat the query seriously. The captain of the navy's most advanced destroying is really James Kirk, but I wouldn't use that in my query . . . .

 

With a perfect girlfriend and equally perfect grades, Riley Stapleton has it all figured out. That is, until she gets sexually assaulted, and her case goes cold. In her alcohol-fueled search for answers, she spirals out of control, destroying everything she’s spent years building and eventually getting arrested. As part of her parole, she enlists as a tutor at a local high school where she is assigned to Luke.

 

Okay, good job, you've got both POVs down. Now they meet and something happens . . .

 

Each plagued by demons, they work towards uncovering the truth about their pasts that unbeknownst to them are intertwined. What they end up discovering might drive them apart forever.

THE SUM OF WHO WE ARE is a 65,000-word literary young adult novel told in Luke and Riley’s alternating perspectives.

 

 

For me, it kind of fell apart here. They can't be torn apart until they are together. They work at discovering a mysterious past, but you haven't set up any mystery (only trauma.)

 

Very general to the point it doesn't really mean anything to me. Be specific. This is okay for a blurb, but the agent likes more detail. Dean Koontz style mysterious pasts? Or something more mundane, like one person did the same thing to both? But there is no hint anyone did anything to Luke (except give him an unfortunate name. . . ) I don't have a hint what could link a musical savant and a rape victim, which is more frustrating than mysterious.

 



#14 eric balson

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Posted 17 October 2016 - 11:51 AM

LATEST DRAFT:

 

Eighteen-year-old musical savant Luke Walker’s caught in the chokehold of the self-destructive impulse he calls the Dark Side. He’s sabotaged his future, and the only relationship he hasn’t managed to ruin is with his mom.  But when she dies in a train crash, Luke enters a race against time to vanquish the Dark Side before he acts on the suicidal thoughts it’s begun to populate his mind with.
 
Top of her college senior class at only nineteen, and with a perfect girlfriend, Riley Stapleton has it all figured out. That’s until she gets sexually assaulted, and her case goes cold. In her alcohol-fueled quest for answers, she wrecks everything she’s spent years building eventually getting arrested. As part of her parole, Riley enlists as a tutor at a local high school. There, she’s assigned to Luke. 
 
As the two work towards uncovering the truth about their pasts, they form a heartfelt bond. But Riley’s trauma and Luke’s demons stand to drive them apart, and if they don’t succeed, what they discover surely will. For unbeknownst to them, their pasts are intertwined by a suicide.
 
THE SUM OF WHO WE ARE is a 65,000-word literary young adult novel told in Luke and Riley’s alternating perspectives.
 
Sincerely,
 
Eric Balson


#15 larrydaane

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Posted 19 October 2016 - 10:56 AM

 

LATEST DRAFT:

 

Eighteen-year-old musical savant Luke Walker’s caught in the chokehold of the his self-destructive impulses he calls the Dark Side. He’s sabotaged his future, and tThe only relationship he hasn’t managed to ruin is with his mom.  But when she dies in a train crash, Luke enters a race against time to vanquish the Dark Side before he acts on the suicidal thoughts it’s begun to populate his mind with. that start to become too strong to resist.
 
Top of her college senior class at only nineteen, and with a perfect girlfriend, Riley Stapleton has it all figured out. Top of her college class; the perfect girlfriend. That’s until Then she gets sexually assaulted, and her case goes cold. In her alcohol-fueled quest for answers, she wrecks everything she’s spent years building eventually getting arrested.reaches a new low when she is arrested. As part of her parole, Riley must enlists as a tutor at a local high school. There, sShe’s assigned to Luke. 
 
As the two work towards uncovering the truth about their pasts, they form a heartfelt bond. But Riley’s trauma and Luke’s demons stand to drive them apart, and if they don’t succeed, what they discover surely will. F for unbeknownst to them, their pasts are intertwined by a suicide.
 
THE SUM OF WHO WE ARE is a 65,000-word literary young adult novel told in Luke and Riley’s alternating perspectives.
 
Sincerely,
 
Eric Balson
 
Not sure you need to mention the "Dark Side" in the query...their thoughts and situation seems more important than what it is called.

 



#16 daniL

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Posted 19 October 2016 - 01:54 PM

The meat of this query tells me you should introduce Riley first. As a story, she's more compelling, but it's also a far smoother transition from Riley to Luke than the other way around. He naturally gets described when you talk about her tutoring. Try it in that order and see if that works better



#17 eric balson

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Posted 28 October 2016 - 04:44 AM

NEWEST DRAFT:

 

Dear Agent,

 

Nineteen-year-old Riley Stapleton has it all figured out; top of her class, and dating the perfect girl. Then, she gets sexually assaulted, and her case goes cold. In her alcohol-fueled quest for answers, she hits rock bottom when she’s arrested. As part of her parole, she enlists as a tutor at a local high school. There, she’s assigned to Luke Walker, an eighteen-year-old musical savant caught in the chokehold of his self-destructive impulses. Luke is in a race against time to trace the origin of these impulses before he acts on the suicidal thoughts that are becoming too strong to resist.

 

As the two work towards uncovering the truth about their pasts, they form a heartfelt bond. But Riley’s trauma and Luke’s demons stand to drive them apart, and if they don’t succeed, what they discover surely will. For unbeknownst to them, their pasts are intertwined by a suicide.

 

THE SUM OF WHO WE ARE is a 65,000-word literary young adult novel told in Luke and Riley’s alternating perspectives.

 

Sincerely,

 

Eric Balson



#18 jpjackson

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Posted 28 October 2016 - 10:32 AM

NEWEST DRAFT:

 

Dear Agent,

 

​You need a hook here, once sentence that makes me think - oooh! I need to read this. Just One Sentence.  Hard to do, I assure you.

 

Nineteen-year-old Riley Stapleton has it all figured out; top of her class, and dating the perfect girl.(LGBT character! Awesome. Diversity is really in demand right now) This next bit needs flushing out. Then, she gets sexually assaulted, and her case goes cold. In her alcohol-fueled quest for answers, she hits rock bottom when she’s arrested. At (locale/situation) Riley is sexually assaulted, but when the cops (loose evidence/can't make a case), the charges are dropped and the case goes cold. In her alcohol-fueled quest for answers, she hits rock bottom.  (Situation happens) Riley is arrested.

 

As part of her parole, Riley enlists as a tutor at a local high school. There, she’s assigned to Luke Walker, an eighteen-year-old musical savant caught in the  a chokehold of his own self-destructive impulses. Luke struggles with his own suicidal impulses while coming to grips with the reason behind wanting to take his own life. (or something like that...hard to rewrite when you don't know context)  Luke is in a race against time to trace the origin of these impulses before he acts on the suicidal thoughts that are becoming too strong to resist.

 

As the two work towards uncovering the truth about their pasts, they form a heartfelt bond. But Riley’s trauma and Luke’s demons stand to drive them apart, and if they don’t succeed, (this is EXCELLENT until this part -->) find a better way to say this without being so cryptic what they discover surely will. For unbeknownst to them, their pasts are intertwined by a suicide. If the last part of the above sentence is clever enough, and has enough punch, you can leave the 'intertwined by a suicide' part out completely.

 

THE SUM OF WHO WE ARE is a 65,000-word literary young adult novel told in Luke and Riley’s alternating perspectives.

 

Sincerely,

 

Eric Balson

 

I've read the whole post - and your query has come a long way! You're so close! Almost there!  Keep going.
But having said that - I'm new to this too, and what the hell do I know?  Hope this helps!  Good luck!

 

Come critique my query should the mood strike you: Dark, Urban Fantasy, LGBT.
Daimonion



#19 Cesar Montufar

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Posted 28 October 2016 - 11:14 AM

NEWEST DRAFT:

 

Dear Agent,

 

Nineteen-year-old Riley Stapleton has it all figured out; top of her class, and dating the perfect girl. Then, she gets sexually assaulted, and her case goes cold (cold cases imply the passage of time; I would rephrase this to avoid confusion). In her alcohol-fueled quest for answers, she hits rock bottom when she’s arrested. (Paragraph. Short sentences and short paragraphs work better for queries.) As part of her parole, she enlists as a tutor at a local high school. There, she’s assigned to Luke Walker, an eighteen-year-old musical savant caught in the chokehold of his self-destructive impulses. Luke is in a race against time to trace the origin of these impulses (finding out where they come from doesn't necessarily stop impulses; there's a chance here for you to hint at something important and different about your novel if they would stop in his case.) before he acts on the suicidal thoughts that are becoming too strong to resist. (why are they becoming stronger?)

 

As the two work towards uncovering the truth about their pasts, they form a heartfelt bond. But Riley’s trauma and Luke’s demons stand (word choice doesn't work for me. How about "threaten") to drive them apart, and if they (you have to clean up this sentence--I figured out the "they" was trauma and demons, but my first thought was Riley and Luke. You shouldn't have a single sentence that forces the prospective agent to read it twice. Four words later, you use "they" to signify a different pair. Fix this.) don’t succeed, what they discover surely will. For unbeknownst to them, their pasts are intertwined by a suicide.

 

THE SUM OF WHO WE ARE is a 65,000-word literary young adult novel told in Luke and Riley’s alternating perspectives.

 

Sincerely,

 

Eric Balson

 

You have stakes (though a little vague) for Luke, but Riley doesn't have any in this query. She seems to be getting her life back on track, and her trauma is now something she's learning to live with. To be 50% of the novel, she can't just be along for Luke's ride. I'm guessing/hoping that she has stakes; you just need to get them in here. Fortunately, your query has plenty of room left for Riley's issues. 

 

Good luck!



#20 A.M.Rose

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Posted 31 October 2016 - 11:03 AM

Eric, Thank you for your notes on my query, hope to return the favor. My comments below in green. 

NEWEST DRAFT:

 

Dear Agent,

 

Nineteen-year-old Riley Stapleton has it all figured out; top of her class, and dating the perfect girl. Then, she gets sexually assaulted, and her case goes cold. (Wow, this starts with a bang and also raises a bunch of questions. Does she know who assaults her? How does it happen? What do you mean the case goes cold? Is this actually told in the story? Or is this part of her backstory? If it is part of her backstory, maybe saying "haunted by a sexual assault in her past" would work better. As it stands right now I think this raises a lot of questions and some agents are hesitant to take on projects if they think there is on page sexual assault. Something to think about.)  In her alcohol-fueled quest for answers, she hits rock bottom when she’s arrested. (Again this seems to raise a lot of questions. What is she seeking answers of? Her assault? The person who assaulted her? Is the assault what turns her to alcohol or was she a drinker before? What is she arrested for?)  As part of her parole, she enlists as a tutor at a local high school. There, she’s assigned to Luke Walker, an eighteen-year-old musical savant caught in the chokehold of his self-destructive impulses. (It sounds like Riley is in a similar place, so I would wonder why she would be paired with someone like this. Wouldn't they worry he would drag her farther down?) Luke is in a race against time to trace the origin of these impulses before he acts on the suicidal thoughts that are becoming too strong to resist.

 

So you have an interesting start here, but I think that maybe we are getting too much backstory from Riley's side that bring up too many questions. Maybe consider something more simple. 

 

Riley Stapleton's most recent escapade has landed her in trouble. Deep trouble. The only way to crawl out is with long hours of community service, tutoring at a local high school. - Not the best, but I think you get the idea. 

 

As the two work towards uncovering the truth about their pasts, (What does Riley not know about her past? Is this about the assault? or something else?) they form a heartfelt bond. But Riley’s trauma and Luke’s demons stand to drive them apart, and if they don’t succeed, what they discover surely will. (Something is off about this, if they don't succeed, what they discover will succeed? What does that mean?) For unbeknownst to them, their pasts are intertwined by a suicide

 

THE SUM OF WHO WE ARE is a 65,000-word literary young adult novel told in Luke and Riley’s alternating perspectives.

 

Sincerely,

 

Eric Balson

 

This sounds like it could be a powerful story, but I think something is getting lost in the translation here in this query. Consider starting by asking yourself these questions:

 

Who are your MC's - Riley and Luke
Riley is a troubled teen with a past of being good, and having a great life.

Luke is a music savant haunted by demons - thoughts of suicide.

 

What do they want?

Luke wants to figure out what his demons are. (I think)

Riley, I'm not sure what she wants.
 

What stands in their way? I'm not 100% sure
 

What happens if they don't get what they want? Again I'm not clear on this either 

 

From this little list of questions you can expand a little more to show the heart of your story, and add a little voice. Consider writing out the answers as your characters would and then transferring those answers into third person for the query. This can help inject voice into the query. 

 

This sounds like an awesome, dark contemporary story with lots of emotions, and one I would probably love. 

 

Best of luck to you. 
 


A.M.Rose

 

 

 

 

 

 

 






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