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Next to Nothing (YA lit)


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#1 Rachel Elaine

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Posted 10 June 2011 - 09:06 PM

Hi, all! This is my first attempt at a query letter and I have a few potentially necessary alterations already in mind, but I figured I'd post what I have and see where it gets me.


There’s nothing like facing manipulation at the hands of a boy you were only dating to shut up a frenemy, but that’s exactly where Olivia Spencer accidentally ends up.

Spurred by an innocuous question that she over thinks, second semester high school senior Olivia allows herself to fall for the guarded and complicated Mike Clemens. Stumbling through her first relationship since freshman year, she suddenly finds herself overwhelmed and under supported, especially after her bff runs off with the party girl of the twelfth grade. Before she knows it, Olivia, the academic viola player with Ivy League ambitions, finds herself with a positive pregnancy test and nowhere left to go.

NEXT TO NOTHING, a realist/feminist Young Adult novel, is complete at 50,000 words. It is my third novel-length piece and is inspired largely by my own adolescence as well as my research in the field of YA lit and its influence on young women.



I have a few questions I'll throw out there about the content once I get an idea of how bad I suck and how generic I sound :tongue:

#2 Sharon Bayliss

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Posted 11 June 2011 - 01:03 AM

There’s nothing like facing manipulation at the hands of a boy you were only dating to shut up a frenemy, but that’s exactly where Olivia Spencer accidentally ends up. [In my opinion, the hook needs more detail. What kind of manipulation?]

Spurred by an innocuous question [what was the question?] that she over thinks, second semester high school senior Olivia allows herself to fall for the guarded and complicated Mike Clemens. Stumbling through her first relationship since freshman year, she suddenly finds herself overwhelmed and under supported, especially after her bff runs off with the party girl of the twelfth grade. Before she knows it, Olivia, the academic viola player with Ivy League ambitions, finds herself with a positive pregnancy test and nowhere left to go.

NEXT TO NOTHING, a realist/feminist Young Adult novel, is complete at 50,000 words. It is my third novel-length piece and is inspired largely by my own adolescence as well as my research in the field of YA lit and its influence on young women. [Probably don't need the personal details, unless they are a little stronger. I assume you don't have any research published on the influence of YA lit? Obviously, if you do, give us specifics, otherwise you can leave it out.]




Hi Rachel!

Welcome to AQ Connect. I hear your voice a little bit here, with terms like frenemy and bff, I know it's a teenager talking, but (without knowing much about the novel) I am guessing that it is more character driven than plot driven. Show us more of your character. Interesting details are great. Overall, just more detail. I can't really picture what the plot is about. The only detail that stands out in my mind is the positive pregnancy test. That sounds important. If it is important to the story, maybe you should play it up more.

Good luck!

Sharon

#3 JMB

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Posted 11 June 2011 - 04:47 AM

Sharon made some excellent comments. Be more specific about the plot points and characters. I can't tell if the bff is the same person as the frenemy. I assume the frenemy is a girl since that's the usual case but the bff sounds like a boy whose run off with a slutty girl.

The opening hook only confuses. I read it four times and still have no idea what you are saying.

And how is the pregnancy of a HS senior in this day and age going to interfere with Ivy League dreams? The MC must be too poor to afford the abortion, Christian, or have some other motivation for resisting the easy way out. If this is the crux of your story, start the query with that dilemma.

And don't say its a realist/feminist novel. That's what agents call telling. Show us by giving us the MC's voice and describing the conflict she faces in realistic/feministic terms. For example, "Reared on a steady diet of Helen Gurley Brown and blah blah blah by her bra-burning, flower-power mother, eighteen-year-old Olivia Spencer never thought she'd end up pregnant days before her senior prom. And she sure never thought she'd hesitate over the idea of getting an abortion. But ...."

Finally, 50,000 words is too short for a YA novel. Writers digest and agent Mary Kole (kidlit.com) have some excellent posts about novel length by genre.

Hope this helps.

#4 JNKhoury

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Posted 11 June 2011 - 04:10 PM

There’s nothing like facing manipulation at the hands of a boy you were only dating to shut up a frenemy, but that’s exactly where Olivia Spencer accidentally ends up. Huh? I second JMB on this one. Not sure what you're trying to say here.

Spurred by an innocuous question that she over thinks No idea what this means. Maybe give us the question? That might clear thing up. , second semester high school senior Olivia allows herself to fall for the guarded and complicated Mike Clemens. Stumbling through her first relationship since freshman year, she suddenly finds herself overwhelmed and under supported Why? Examples? I'm guessing its because she's preggers; if so, tell us that here and not later., especially after her bff Can we get a name here just to clarify gender of said bff? I don't know if the bff is a guy taking off to date the party-girl, a girl who replaces Olivia with the party-girl as a new bff, or (because of the phrase "runs off") a girl who surprises Olivia by revealing she's a lesbian when she starts dating the party girl. runs off with the party girl of the twelfth grade. Before she knows it, Olivia, the academic viola player with Ivy League ambitions, finds herself with a positive pregnancy test and nowhere left to go. Hey, I think I found your hook! Try scooting this sucker up to the top of the query.

NEXT TO NOTHING, a realist/feminist Young Adult novel, is complete at 50,000 words. It is my third novel-length piece and is inspired largely by my own adolescence as well as my research in the field of YA lit and its influence on young women. It doesn't matter if you've written 5 or 500 novels before this one; if none of them were published, they will earn you absolutely no points with any agent anywhere. On the other hand, if they were published, SAY SO! That's major points in your favor.



I have a few questions I'll throw out there about the content once I get an idea of how bad I suck You don'tand how generic I sound Nothing that can't b fixed :tongue:


50,000 words is a little short. You have a good start here, and on a positive note, you have plenty of room to develop more about Olivia and her plotline. You could expand this by a couple sentences, easily. Use that to your advantage. Also something that's kind of lacking--what about your book makes it stand out? The "straight-A good-girl ends up pregnant, now what?" theme is generic and cliche. Why should we care about Olivia in particular? Give us more about her as a character, since your work is obviously character-driven. Make us fall in love with her right away, so we couldn't bear to do anything except read more about her. Give us Olivia's voice.

Happy writing!

Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia. --e. l. doctorow

#5 Tam-L

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Posted 11 June 2011 - 07:15 PM

Have to disagree -- I think 50,000 words is fine.

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

REALISTIC YA: 35,000-75,000 words. Sweet spot: 45,000-70,000
Jumping Off Swings by Jo Knowles: 40,480
Great Call of China by Cynthea Liu: 52,532
Flash Burnout by LK Madigan: 67,186
Looking for Alaska by John Green: 69,023
Harmonic Feedback by Tara Kelly: 71,935

#6 Phonzi

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Posted 12 June 2011 - 05:15 PM

My two cents:

Show me (among other things) what your MC wants, who's standing in her way and what happens if she fails.

#7 MarcyKate

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Posted 12 June 2011 - 08:15 PM

My two cents:

Show me (among other things) what your MC wants, who's standing in her way and what happens if she fails.


I agree with Phonzi 100% - we need stakes. I also agree that 50K, while on the short side, is completely acceptable for length.

The hook is the tricky part. It's confusing right now, but as a couple others have noted, if you can get the pregnancy up there first that's your real hook. The rest of the query sounds a bit like backstory to me, whereas I'd expect to see the pregnancy hook, then in the body of the query the repercussions of this and exactly how it complicates her life in a unique way.

Great start! Best of luck!

#8 Laurel Garver

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Posted 14 June 2011 - 01:40 PM

I agree with what others have said--your real hook is the unexpected pregnancy and the complications and moral dilemmas it brings. As JMB said, you need to explain why it's a moral dilemma for this individual. You call the story "feminist" and for many, the term is laden with implications of NOW, bra-burning and pro-choice--implying a character who would chose an abortion to follow her dreams with no second thought.

Overall, cut back on the setup and give us more of a sense of how she reacts to being PG and what choices she faces to deal with it.

Good luck! Look forward to seeing your revision. I <3 realistic YA. :-)

#9 rewrighter

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Posted 15 June 2011 - 10:01 PM

Hi Rachel:
Definitely lead with the pregnancy!
Once you work in the circumstances around that - the peer pressure, manipulation and relationship woes - maybe hint at Olivia's reactions and what's at stake in her choices.
I've yet to read an honest, realistic look at what's involved in teen pregnancy. It's a sensitive topic that needs clarity and any real experiences you've had with it - not as a friend watching or as a researcher reading about someone else - will serve you well.


Best of luck! :smile:

#10 AMK

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Posted 15 June 2011 - 10:20 PM

Yeah to all above. MC's traits/goal(quick mind and faster fingers), inciting incident(pregnancy test positive?), conflict that arises(bf runs off with yucky girl). Start with that. I'm on the same road to learning to write a query so I know it is tough. Stick with it. Keep trying and trying and trying. Good luck!

#11 Robbin

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Posted 25 June 2011 - 02:34 PM

Rachel, it sounds like you have your heart in this story. Help the reader get to the know the characters as well as you do. See below:


Hi, all! This is my first attempt at a query letter and I have a few potentially necessary alterations already in mind, but I figured I'd post what I have and see where it gets me.


There’s nothing like facing manipulation at the hands of a boy you were only dating [What it is about the boy that is manipulative? What is he making her do?] to shut up a frenemy [who is the frenemy? the Boy? Someone else? Confused?] , but that’s exactly where Olivia Spencer accidentally ends up. [I'm not quite sure I understand this sentence]

Spurred by an innocuous question that she over thinks [what is the question?], second semester high school senior Olivia allows herself to fall for the guarded and complicated Mike Clemens. Stumbling through her first relationship since freshman year, she suddenly finds herself overwhelmed and under supported, especially after her bff runs off with the party girl [you have a lot going on here - her best/guy friend runs off - maybe he warns her not to fall for the complicated Mike Clemens) of the twelfth grade. Before she knows it, Olivia, the academic viola player with Ivy League ambitions, (I would put this at the beginning - not the pregnancy part) finds herself with a positive pregnancy test and nowhere left to go.

[Maybe this for hook?] High school senior Olivia Spencer's Ivy League ambitions are put on hold because of a positive pregnancy test.

NEXT TO NOTHING, a realist/feminist Young Adult novel, is complete at 50,000 words. It is my third novel-length piece and is inspired largely by my own adolescence as well as my research in the field of YA lit and its influence on young women.

Need more explanation on the relationships. Too many relationships in query tends to get confusing. Simplify. Keep up the good work :)



I have a few questions I'll throw out there about the content once I get an idea of how bad I suck and how generic I sound :tongue:


Robbin Luckett
YA Writer




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