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Fogbound: Keys to the Past (YA Urban Fantasy)


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#21 bigblackcat97

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Posted 21 March 2017 - 10:45 PM

I didn't even see the word count. And yes, I agree with what others are saying about it being high for MG. And no, I wouldn't say that you're willing to age up your characters, as I do think it makes it sound scattered.

 

Instead, seriously consider tightening that WC. 92k is a bit high for a debut, even if you aged up, and even considering the genre (fantasy gets a little break for worldbuilding). It's not *way* high, but it is a touch.

 

Here are a couple of posts from my blog to help with self-editing:

 

http://writerwriterp...ws-is-like.html

http://writerwriterp...-execution.html

 

And, more importantly, here is a post from Jennifer Laughran, an amazing kid lit agent who put up this post about word counts for genre and audience age:

 

http://literaticat.b...nt-dracula.html


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#22 bigblackcat97

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Posted 21 March 2017 - 10:49 PM

To help a little further, here are some self-editing stats I kept on myself when working on a project that I thought was really close to finished. It's still an unpublished ms. I put away the ms for awhile and returned to find nearly 20k I could easily cut. I also kept track of repeat offenders to help trim down the WC.

 

Word Count Cut – 19,284

 

“that” – 639

 

“suddenly” – 51

 

“totally” -  8

 

“very” – 79

 

“completely” – 29

 

“really” – 91

 

“actually” – 21

 

“just” – 200

 

“then” – 77

 

“looked” – 17

 

“looking” – 28

 

“look” - 75

 

“sigh” – 9

 

“thing” – 111

 

“there” - 92


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#23 CarterT

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Posted 22 March 2017 - 09:43 AM

 

Dear [Agent Name]:

 

Fogbound is a 92k word middle grade urban fantasy.

 

Thirteen year old - glad you put the actual age in. Hal is on an adventure across the city -- from communes of magical rockstar hippies to hidden tunnels housing an ancient guild of homeless people -- to - this 'to' bugs me, because of how you used the previous one. Maybe consider changing it to something like 'just so he can' open a mysterious, locked bag and find the truth of the accident that put his dad into a coma. - This hook sounds very 'young' to me, which I don't think is bad since you're targeting a younger audience. I am not an expert on what kid-lit agents are looking for though. I think this would work great on the back cover for attracting the young reader, but will it snag an agent?

 

After being kicked out of their old place, Hal and his mom are crashing in a friend’s tiny apartment. Bills are getting tighter while his dad’s condition is getting worse. His dad’s been in a coma for five years after a mysterious accident - I wonder, does the 5 year thing need to be included? can you just say 'His dad is in a coma after a mysterious accident.' I am sure the 5 year thing is important, but it's something that can come out in the book. For the query, it just leads to the questions of 'why did he wait 5 years?'. Stranger still, Hal’s memory of the few months around the time of around the accident is a total blank.

 

But when a raving homeless man mentions the Fool’s Guild - I keep reading this as Fool's Gold, it unlocks a long forgotten memory: shortly before his accident, the Guild had hired his dad to map hundreds of miles of secret, forbidden tunnels under the city. Now, determined to get to the truth of what happened five years earlier, Hal sets off to find the Guild with only his dad’s old headlamp and research notebook. - I think the 'Now' is needed to separate the timeline change between his dad being hired and his actions.

 

But instead of the Guild, he finds the treasure they’ve guarded for over a century: a dusty, rainbow colored carpet bag - What's a carpet bag? , sealed with five unusual locks. That, and the memory of his muddy, bloodstained dad shoving the bag into his arms and telling him to never forget this. - What triggers this? Why was it locked away? Did something/somebody sinister seal that memory? This could be a place to introduce that aspect of the story, and add a sense of confusion to Hal. I mean, is he confused? I'd be confused! I don't get that feeling yet in the query. If it's not important, ignore this comment!

 

Unfortunately for Hal, he isn’t the only one that wants the locked bag. Pursued now on all sides by a TV-antennae-worshipping cult - I absolutely love this imagery, and frankly, it's my favorite part of the query., a gang of former rockstar hippies, and the scattered/broken/other adjective remnants of the Fool’s Guild, Hal has no idea what in the (?)world he has stumbled into.

 

But there is one person though who seems to know what is going on: a young, runaway named Aurelie on a quest to find her grandmother, the last guardian of the locked bag. Hal doesn’t like her liberal attitude toward the truth, nor that she is perpetually threatening him with mace, and she doesn’t like his boy scout earnestness. - Is this paragraph needed at all? It seems like an odd place to toss Aurelie into this. Do we need to know what she thinks about Hal? Or, is your comment about his 'boy scout earnestness' just a way to tell the reader that he's a goody-two-shoes? Because she's introduced so late in the query, she doesn't feel important to me. Her grandmother even less so. You could just summarize and talk about Hal finding a clue to the last guardian of the bag, and go from there. That, or introduce Aurelie earlier somehow. Also, the 'nor' doesn't seem to fit with the 'voice' you've used in the rest of your query. How many 13-year-olds use the word 'nor'?

 

If they’re going to survive, let alone open the bag and find Aurelie’s grandmother, they’re going to need to find a way to work with each other as they unravel the mystery of the locked bag.  

 

Thanks for your consideration

 

I put a lot of red in there, but it's deceptive. I actually really like your query (and the world you're pitching). It sounds like a magic carpet ride to me, and a lot of fun at that. A lot of the query uses the 'voice' of a kid, which I think is great. There are a few parts where you lose that tone, and those are the parts that feel out of place. Once you get those organized, I think you'll have a great pitch.

 

The only thing that I think needs serious consideration is the inclusion of Aurelie in here. It sounds like she's important to the book (but I only know that because I read your summary). I have a rule with myself and my own writing: if I have explain what I wrote, I didn't write it well enough in the first place. Sorry if that sounds harsh, not trying to criticize. You've got some great work here. If Aurilie is that important, you'll need to find a way to fit her in earlier.



#24 danipie

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Posted 23 March 2017 - 01:29 PM


 

 

 

Draft #3

 

Dear [Agent Name]:


Fogbound is a 92k word middle grade urban fantasy.


Thirteen year old Hal is on an adventure across the city -- from communes of magical rockstar hippies to hidden tunnels housing an ancient guild of homeless people -- to open a mysterious, locked bag and find the truth of the accident that put his dad into a coma. I think this is much stronger and more concise than before. But I do feel a disconnect between the bag and the accident.


After being kicked out of their old place, Hal and his mom are crashing in a friend’s tiny apartment. Bills are getting tighter while his dad’s condition is getting worse. His dad’s been in a coma for five years after a mysterious accident. Stranger still, Hal’s memory of the few months around the time of the accident are a total blank.


But when a raving homeless man mentions the Fool’s Guild, it unlocks a long forgotten memory: shortly before his accident, the Guild had hired his dad to map hundreds of miles of secret, forbidden tunnels under the city. Determined to get to the truth of what happened five years earlier, Hal sets off to find the Guild with only his dad’s old headlamp and research notebook.


But instead of the Guild, he finds the treasure they’ve guarded for over a century: a dusty, rainbow colored carpet bag, sealed with five unusual locks. That, and the memory of his muddy, bloodstained dad shoving the bag into his arms and telling him to never forget this. I don't think it's a bad thing to leave the bag out of the query until you can explain it like this. I understand the purpose better now and it feels more in place. Other people might disagree but... I think it feels right not mentioning the bag until later in the query like this


Unfortunately for Hal, he isn’t the only one that wants the locked bag. Pursued now on all sides by a TV-antennae-worshipping cult, a gang of former rockstar hippies, and the remnants of the Fool’s Guild, Hal has no idea what world he has stumbled into.


But there is one person though who seems to know what is going on: a young, runaway named Aurelie on a quest to find her grandmother, the last guardian of the locked bag.I understand her place in the book much better than the previous queries. Hal doesn’t like her liberal attitude toward the truth, nor that she is perpetually threatening him with mace, and she doesn’t like his boy scout earnestness.

 

If they’re going to survive, let alone open the bag and find Aurelie’s grandmother, they’re going to need to find a way to work with each other as they unravel the mystery of the locked bag.  


Thanks for your consideration



#25 npstanford

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Posted 23 March 2017 - 02:25 PM

Hi all,

 

Immense THANKS to all of you. I feel like this last round of comments really made it click for me. Please let me know what you think and as always, let me know if you want me to take a peek at yours.

 

Question: this article http://www.agentquer.../writer_hq.aspx suggests you include a brief, writing-focused bio (and several agents I have scoped out request one). Given I have zero experience or credentials, should I just say: "I am a first time author" or say nothing at all?

 

Draft #4

 

Dear [Agent Name]:

Fogbound is a 90k word young adult urban fantasy set in San Francisco. It’s a standalone book, but leaves lots of mysteries unresolved for potential sequels.


Hal didn’t just find a tattered bag sealed with five unusual locks; he found a memory -- his muddy, bloodstained dad shoving the bag into his arms and telling him never forget this.


The problem is that Hal has forgotten -- not just about the bag, but about the mysterious accident five years ago that left his dad in a coma. Now, as his dad’s medical bills pile up and his condition continues to deteriorate, he and his mom are growing increasingly desperate. This locked bag, and the secret it represents, might be the only chance to wake his dad.


Unfortunately, Hal’s not the only one that wants the bag. Pursued by a TV-antennae worshiping cult, an underground guild of the city’s homeless guarding a dark secret, and a commune of former rockstar magical hippies, Hal has no idea what he has stumbled into.


But there is one person who seems to know what is going on: a runaway named Aurelie on a quest to find her grandmother, the last guardian of the locked bag. Hal doesn’t like her liberal attitude toward the truth or that she is perpetually threatening him with mace. She doesn’t like his boy scout earnestness.


But if they’re going to save his dad and find her grandmother, they’re going to need to learn not just to work together but to trust each other. Because not only will their journey to find the keys take them to underground labyrinths and a wandering bookstore, but into the deepest and most secret memories inside each other’s heads.

Thank you for your consideration,



#26 bigblackcat97

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Posted 23 March 2017 - 03:54 PM

Honestly, if you have no writing creds, don't worry about it. If you have some background that will help show that you know your stuff (like, were you an antiquities major?) that won't hurt. But if you don't include a bio then they will assume you don't have any writing credits, and that's fine. Lots of querying novelists are first timers. 


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#27 CM_Fick

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Posted 23 March 2017 - 09:45 PM

 

Draft #4

 

Dear [Agent Name]:

Fogbound is a 90k word young adult urban fantasy set in San Francisco. It’s a standalone book, but leaves lots of mysteries unresolved for potential sequels. (I wouldn't advertise the leaves lots of mysteries - sounds like you have left holes in the story. Just say standalone with series potential)


Hal didn’t just find a tattered bag sealed with five unusual locks; he found a memory -- his muddy, bloodstained dad shoving the bag into his arms and telling him never forget this. (I much prefer this set up than the previous one. Creates the mystery right off the top.)


The problem is that Hal has forgotten -- not just about the bag, but about the mysterious accident five years ago that left his dad in a coma. Now, as his dad’s medical bills pile up and his condition continues to deteriorate, he and his mom are growing increasingly desperate. This locked bag, and the secret it represents, might be the only chance to wake his dad.


Unfortunately, Hal’s not the only one that wants the bag. Pursued by a TV-antennae worshiping cult, an underground guild of the city’s homeless guarding a dark secret, and a commune of former rockstar magical hippies, Hal has no idea what he has stumbled into.


But there is one person who seems to know what is going on: a runaway named Aurelie on a quest to find her grandmother, the last guardian of the locked bag. Hal doesn’t like her liberal attitude toward the truth or that she is perpetually threatening him with mace. She doesn’t like his boy scout earnestness.


But if they’re going to save his dad and find her grandmother, they’re going to need to learn not just to work together but to trust each other. Because not only will their journey to find the keys take them to underground labyrinths and a wandering bookstore, but into the deepest and most secret memories inside each other’s heads.

Thank you for your consideration,

 

I have nothing to critique on this version. Good job! the pace reads great and continually moves the story forward. 

 

For the agent/ bio question: If they ask for a short bio included, I suggest adding something about yourself -- and if you feel it's necessary, that this is your debut novel 

 

You can wait for a few more opinions, but this is well written. Best of luck! 



#28 CarterT

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Posted 24 March 2017 - 08:42 AM

I wish I could offer something, but it seems like you nailed it this time. You made some great choices about what to leave in and what to take out, and it works. Works really well.

 

Great job!



#29 Erevos

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Posted 24 March 2017 - 09:29 AM

Draft #4

 

Dear [Agent Name]:

Fogbound is a 90k word young adult urban fantasy set in San Francisco. It’s a standalone book, but leaves lots of mysteries unresolved for potential sequels. Move to the end as others mentioned? Also as Fick said, "It’s a standalone book, with series potential."


Hal didn’t just find a tattered bag sealed with five unusual locks; he found a memory -- his muddy, bloodstained dad shoving the bag into his arms and telling him never forget this. Great hook! Else you can start with "when". When thirteen-year old Han finds...... he didn't expect to unlock a forgotten memory - his muddy....


The problem is that Hal has forgotten -- not just about the bag, but about the mysterious accident five years ago that left his dad in a coma. Now, as his dad’s medical bills pile up and his condition continues to deteriorate, he and his mom are growing increasingly desperate. This locked bag, and the secret it represents, might be the only chance to wake his dad. The other draft explained how he found the bag. This one does not. Honestly, I can't say if that is good or not.


Unfortunately, Hal’s not the only one that wants the bag. Pursued by a TV-antennae worshiping cult, an underground guild of the city’s homeless guarding a dark secret, and a commune of former rockstar magical hippies, Hal has no idea what he has stumbled into.


But there is one person who seems to know what is going on: a runaway named Aurelie on a quest to find her grandmother, the last guardian of the locked bag. Hal doesn’t like her liberal attitude toward the truth or that she is perpetually threatening him with mace. She doesn’t like his boy scout earnestness.


But if they’re going to save his dad and find her grandmother, they’re going to need to learn not just to work together but to trust each other. Because not only will their journey to find the keys take them to underground labyrinths and a wandering bookstore, but into the deepest and most secret memories inside each other’s heads.

Thank you for your consideration,

 

Amazing query!! Like the others said, you are good to go!!



#30 Phaust

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Posted 24 March 2017 - 11:53 AM

Take this with a grain of salt. YA is not my thing, but you gave me some great insight so the least I can do is try and return the favor. Also, #4 is the first of your queries I've read. 

 

 

Draft #4

 

Dear [Agent Name]:

Fogbound is a 90k word young adult urban fantasy set in San Francisco. It’s a standalone book, but leaves lots of mysteries unresolved for potential sequels.

 

Hal didn’t just find a tattered bag sealed with five unusual locks; he found a memory -- his muddy, bloodstained dad shoving the bag into his arms and telling him never forget this. Found doesn't feel like the right verb. If something is thrust upon you, you did not find it. To find the right verb might mean reconfiguring the sentence or not. 

 

The problem is that Hal has forgotten -- not just about the bag, but about the mysterious accident five years ago that left his dad in a coma. Now, as his dad’s medical bills pile up and his condition continues to deteriorate, he and his mom are growing increasingly desperate. This locked bag, and the secret it represents, might be the only chance to wake his dad. Damn I hate writing query letters. I might move the first sentence of this para to the end of it.

 

For your consideration...

Now, as his dad’s medical bills pile up and his condition continues to deteriorate, he and his mom are growing increasingly desperate. This locked bag, and the secret it represents, might be the only chance to wake his dad. The problem is that Hal has forgotten -- not just about the bag, but about the mysterious accident five years ago that left his dad in a coma. 

Though that last clause would need to be adjusted. This has the benefit of tightening the link between para 2 (end with the bag) & 3 (start with the bag). 

 

 

Unfortunately, Hal’s not the only one that wants the bag. Pursued by a TV-antennae worshiping cult, an underground guild of the city’s homeless guarding a dark secret, and a commune of former rockstar magical hippies, Hal has no idea what he has stumbled into. 

 

I'd kind of like to know how they met as a way of introducing her. But there is one person who seems to know what is going on: a runaway named Aurelie on a quest to find her grandmother, the last guardian of the locked bag. Hal doesn’t like her liberal attitude toward the truth or that she is perpetually threatening him with mace. She doesn’t like his boy scout earnestness. Good set up of relationship. 

 

But if they’re going to save his dad and find her grandmother, they’re going to need to learn not just to work together but to trust each other. Because not only will their journey to find the keys take them to underground labyrinths and a wandering bookstore (love this), but into the deepest and most secret memories inside each other’s heads. (Memory seems so important here... almost like a magic system. Might want a little more attention. Memory seems to be one of the major things a stake and also a tool). 

Thank you for your consideration,

 

Would like to see a little more "voice" in the letter. Something indicative of your style. This is admittedly very difficult to do in such a constricted format of a query letter. 

 






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