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ENOUGH (contemporary/historical YA fiction - 7/21 revision #5)

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#1 fernet

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Posted 27 June 2017 - 04:47 PM

7/21/2017 UPDATE: revised version below. I have gone Completely Off The Rails. Check it out!

 

 

 

In the bullring a whole life hangs on a single moment—the great black head following the red cape to one side as the sword comes down from the other—but when the bull looks away from the cape and toward the man holding it, everything comes crashing down.

 

The echoes can last for generations.

 

Claudia Peterson—sixteen, sarcastic, and self-assured—doesn’t know much about her family history, but she still feels its weight on her shoulders. And it’s heavier every day now that her grandfather, a one-time famous bullfighter, is dying. His illness is dredging up a whole lifetime of pain for her mother, and Claudia doesn’t know what to do.

 

If Claudia were looking for someone to share her problems with—which she’s not—she would never choose Ben Tweed, the awkward boy whose mother works at the hospice where Claudia’s grandfather is a patient.

 

Ben’s life is decidedly less than spectacular. He’s a disappointment to his mother, an inconvenience to his father, and an embarrassment to himself. He always swore he’d kill himself before the end of high school, but after a classmate actually does it, he realizes suicide was only a fantasy.

 

As Ben and Claudia keep crossing paths, they gradually discover that sometimes a total stranger is the best person to tell the truth to—and to show you the truths, both good and bad, about yourself.

 

When their paths converge one last time at Claudia’s grandfather’s bedside, it lacks the drama of the bullring—no bloodied sand, no cheering crowd, no life balanced on the tip of a sword.

 

All that hangs on the moment is a choice:

For Claudia, to lower her defenses and reach out.

For Ben, to stand up for himself, and live without apology.

 

But those choices have their echoes, too.

 

ENOUGH is a 100,000-word contemporary/historical YA novel about fractured families, reluctant friendships, and just how fragile happiness can be. Ben and Claudia’s story is set in the 1990s in an American suburb, and switches between their points of view. Interleaved with it are episodes from the Spanish Civil War and Franco’s regime, told from the perspectives of Claudia’s grandfather and mother.

 

 

 

------------------------------------

 

Ben Tweed is a fifteen-year-old screwup with a dad he hardly sees, a mom who can’t stand him, and a dog that looks and smells like an old mop. His one comfort was his plan to kill himself before the end of high school, but when a girl from his class does just that, he has to face facts: suicide was nothing but a fantasy.

 

Claudia Peterson is a no-nonsense overachiever with a snappy comeback for nearly every situation. Not much fazes her, but her grandfather is dying, and it turns out the messiness of grief and her family’s complicated past are way outside her comfort zone.

 

When Ben and Claudia meet at the hospice where his mother works, it isn’t exactly friendship at first sight. But as their paths cross and cross again, they begin to tell each other the things they can’t seem to say to anyone else.

 

For Ben, Claudia is a window into another world: sure, she has problems of her own, but she also has an enviable surplus of self-assurance, and—what Ben envies most of all—a family that’s truly there for her.

 

For Claudia, hanging out with Ben is just an excuse not to visit her grandfather—at first, anyway. But when Ben ends up in trouble with the law after a prank gone wrong, Claudia realizes she does care about him. And caring means dropping her too-cool-for-school act and doing whatever she can to help.  

 

Ben has to stand up to his parents and learn to stop being sorry for who he is. Claudia has to stop pushing people away and find the courage to make her own place in the family story. It’s the sort of thing that no one else can do for them—but at least they won’t have to do it alone.

 

ENOUGH is a 100,000-word contemporary/historical YA novel about fractured families and reluctant friendships. The main story is set in the 1990s and follows Ben and Claudia, switching between their points of view. Interleaved with it are episodes from the Spanish Civil War and Franco’s regime, told from the perspectives of Claudia’s grandfather and mother.

 

 

-----------

This time I just decided to embrace the dual POV thing and alternate and give more context in the final paragraph. I kept getting responses that said I should switch to one or the other, but the story is really evenly divided between them, and none of my attempts felt right.

 

I haven't really solved the What Are The Big Stakes question (see my comments in post #21, haha) -- trying to figure out if there's a way to build a query that more honestly echoes the feel of the book. Like, instead of "I want to read it to see what happens!" something that makes you go "because I'm interested in the characters, I want to read it to see how it all unfolds!"

 

On the other hand, I did add a bit about Ben getting into trouble with the law, which is more... plotty, but actually doesn't happen until maybe 4/5 of the way through the book. So that may be misleading.

 

 

 

Here's my current query draft. I'd appreciate any feedback.

 

My main concerns are:

- it's kinda long

- tricky to introduce two protagonists quickly and not have it all feel like background

- the mention of historical stuff at the end feels a bit shoehorned in, but leaving it out entirely would be pretty misleading

 

* * *

 

Ben Tweed just had a life-changing revelation: he isn’t really going to kill himself. The trouble is, it doesn’t actually change a thing—he’s still a fifteen-year-old screwup with exactly one friend, a dad he doesn’t see much, a mom who can’t stand him, and a dog that looks and smells like an old mop. The only difference is now there’s no way out.

 

When his loyalty to his best friend Robert gets him into trouble—the serious kind, with the right to remain silent—Ben has to face the fact that his parents are never going to be on his side. If he’s stuck being alive, there’s got to be a better way to do it than this.

 

Claudia Peterson is an overachieving smartass who doesn’t suffer fools gladly—or at all. She’s unimpressed with her new town, her new school, and her new classmates. She can usually tolerate her parents, but her grandfather—who she barely knows—is dying, and it’s turning her mother into someone Claudia doesn't recognize.

 

After Claudia’s extended family arrives from Spain to visit her grandfather her home starts to feel like hostile territory, crowded with old hurts and grudges from a past she doesn’t understand. She knows she should try and be there for her mother, but all she really wants is for things to go back to the way they were.

 

When Ben and Claudia meet at the hospice where his mother is working and her grandfather is dying, it’s not exactly friendship at first sight. But as their paths cross and cross again, they begin to tell one another the things they can’t seem to say to anyone else.

 

Every story has another story tangled in its roots. This one starts with the Spanish Civil War, fights its way through the bullring, crosses the Atlantic, and lands in the American suburbs in 1998, where two teenagers try on selves until they find the ones that fit—for now.

 

ENOUGH is a 100,000-word novel. It is my first.

 

Thank you for your time and consideration.



#2 anathebookworm

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Posted 28 June 2017 - 12:02 PM

Here's my current query draft. I'd appreciate any feedback.

 

My main concerns are:

- it's kinda long

- tricky to introduce two protagonists quickly and not have it all feel like background

- the mention of historical stuff at the end feels a bit shoehorned in, but leaving it out entirely would be pretty misleading

 

* * *

 

X-YEAR-OLD Ben Tweed just had Usually, queries only use present tense a life-changing revelation: he isn’t really going to kill himself. The trouble is, it doesn’t actually change a thing—he’s still a fifteen-year-old screwup with exactly one friend, a dad he doesn’t see much, a mom who can’t stand him, and a dog that looks and smells like an old mop. The only difference is now there’s no way out. This IS nice, but it reads a bit clunky. I'd rewrite a few sentences so it doesn't read like a list. Plus, I'm not sure I understand what your last sentence means...

 

When his loyalty to his best friend Robert gets him into trouble—the serious kind, with the right to remain silent—Ben has to face the fact that his parents are never going to be on his side. If he’s stuck being alive, there’s got to be a better way to do it than this. What kind of trouble? What happens that he gets in trouble? This reads a bit too vague, and agents don't like vagueness in queries.

 

Claudia Peterson is an overachieving smartass who doesn’t suffer fools gladly Not sure what this means —or at all. She’s unimpressed with her new town, her new school, and her new classmates. She can usually tolerate her parents, but her grandfather—who she barely knows—is dying, and it’s turning her mother into someone Claudia doesn't recognize.

 

After Claudia’s extended family arrives from Spain to visit her grandfather, her home starts to feel like hostile territory, crowded with old hurts and grudges from a past she doesn’t understand. She knows she should try and be there for her mother, but all she really wants is for things to go back to the way they were.

 

When Ben and Claudia meet at the hospice where his mother is working and her grandfather is dying, it’s not exactly friendship at first sight. But as their paths keep crossing and cross again, they begin to tell one another the things they can’t seem to say to anyone else.

 

Every story has another story tangled in its roots. This one starts with the Spanish Civil War, fights its way through the bullring, crosses the Atlantic, and lands in the American suburbs in 1998, where two teenagers try on selves until they find the ones that fit—for now.

 

ENOUGH is a 100,000-word novel. It is my first.

 

Thank you for your time and consideration.

 

Hmm, I think the problem I see here is vagueness. I'm sure this is an awesome story, but right now it's hard to see the bones and flesh of the manuscript. I also think you need to focus more on the teens relationship with each, instead of only mentioning it as an afterthought.

 

I know it's not much--I'm awful at queries--but I hope this helps a little. Your comments on my query were golden to me! :)



#3 kathleenq

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Posted 28 June 2017 - 03:07 PM

Here's my current query draft. I'd appreciate any feedback.

 

My main concerns are:

- it's kinda long

- tricky to introduce two protagonists quickly and not have it all feel like background

- the mention of historical stuff at the end feels a bit shoehorned in, but leaving it out entirely would be pretty misleading

 

* * *

 

Ben Tweed just had a life-changing revelation: he isn’t really going to kill himself. (this is good, I like the hook, but what is this revelation? has he tried to kill himself before realizing he can't, or does he really not want to?) The trouble is, it doesn’t actually change a thing—he’s still a fifteen-year-old screwup with exactly one friend, a dad he doesn’t see much, a mom who can’t stand him, and a dog that looks and smells like an old mop. The only difference is now there’s no way out. (this is nitpicky, but earlier in the sentence, you say it doesn't change a thing, but now there's a difference, so which is it?)

 

When his loyalty to his best friend Robert gets him into trouble—the serious kind, with the right to remain silent—Ben has to face the fact that his parents are never going to be on his side. If he’s stuck being alive, there’s got to be a better way to do it than this.  I don't know that this section is necessary - it distracts from the other characters by introducing a name, and it doesn't really add things to the overall query.

 

Claudia Peterson is an overachieving smartass who doesn’t suffer fools gladly—or at all. She’s unimpressed with her new town, her new school, and her new classmates. She can usually tolerate her parents, but her grandfather—who she barely knows—is dying, and it’s turning her mother into someone Claudia doesn't recognize.

 

After Claudia’s extended family arrives from Spain to visit her grandfather, (comma) her home starts to feel like hostile territory, crowded with old hurts and grudges from a past she doesn’t understand. She knows she should try and be there for her mother, but all she really wants is for things to go back to the way they were. (Again, I don't know if this is really necessary/adds to the Claudia and Ben meeting. It's nice, but it's beginning to sound like their individual stories rather than their intertwined story if that makes sense)

 

When Ben and Claudia meet at the hospice where his mother is working and her grandfather is dying, it’s not exactly friendship at first sight. But as their paths cross and cross again, they begin to tell one another the things they can’t seem to say to anyone else. (This is good!)

 

Every story has another story tangled in its roots. This one starts with the Spanish Civil War, fights its way through the bullring, crosses the Atlantic, and lands in the American suburbs in 1998, where two teenagers try on selves until they find the ones that fit—for now.

 

ENOUGH is a 100,000-word novel. It is my first. (genre?)

 

Thank you for your time and consideration.

I think if you cut out some details and focus on the main story, it would help you with the length and focusing on the two characters. I think their introductions are great as they are, but maybe a little too much about themselves rather than on each other. Hope this helps!

 

If you have a minute, I'd appreciate if you checked out my query, Glass Domes. Thanks!


Query: Glass Domes


#4 Joni

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Posted 28 June 2017 - 05:35 PM

Here's my current query draft. I'd appreciate any feedback.

 

My main concerns are:

- it's kinda long

- tricky to introduce two protagonists quickly and not have it all feel like background

- the mention of historical stuff at the end feels a bit shoehorned in, but leaving it out entirely would be pretty misleading

 

* * *

 

Ben Tweed just had a life-changing revelation: he isn’t really going to kill himself. The trouble is, it doesn’t actually change a thing—he’s still a fifteen-year-old screwup with exactly one friend, a dad he doesn’t see much, a mom who can’t stand him, and a dog that looks and smells like an old mop. The only difference is now there’s no way out. (this threw me for a second until I realized you meant he no longer has the out of suicide.  Might consider rewording to make that clearer.)

 

When his loyalty to his best friend Robert gets him into trouble—the serious kind, with the right to remain silent—Ben has to face the fact that his parents are never going to be on his side. If he’s stuck being alive, there’s got to be a better way to do it than this.

 

Claudia Peterson is an overachieving smartass who doesn’t suffer fools gladly—or at all. She’s unimpressed with her new town, her new school, and her new classmates. She can usually tolerate her parents, but her grandfather—who she barely knows—is dying, and it’s turning her mother into someone Claudia doesn't recognize.

 

After Claudia’s extended family arrives from Spain to visit her grandfather her home starts to feel like hostile territory, crowded with old hurts and grudges from a past she doesn’t understand. She knows she should try and be there for her mother, but all she really wants is for things to go back to the way they were.

 

When Ben and Claudia meet at the hospice where his mother is working and her grandfather is dying, it’s not exactly friendship at first sight. But as their paths cross and cross again, they begin to tell one another the things they can’t seem to say to anyone else.

 

Every story has another story tangled in its roots. This one starts with the Spanish Civil War, fights its way through the bullring, crosses the Atlantic, (Is there any way you can incorporate this backstory, into the descriptions of each character above?  You touch on it with the "old hurts and grudges" line.  If you expand that to mention some of these things, perhaps this won't feel so shoehorned in at the end) and lands in the American suburbs in 1998, where two teenagers try on selves until they find the ones that fit—for now.

 

ENOUGH is a 100,000-word (GENRE?) novel. It is my first. (Leave that out.)

 

Thank you for your time and consideration.

I think if you could pepper some of the historical stuff into the main body of the query it would flow better than shoving it in at the end.  But that's just my opinion. 



#5 fernet

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Posted 29 June 2017 - 05:47 PM

Thanks to everyone for the feedback! Some of this definitely touches on stuff I was poking at and finding unsatisfactory.

 

kathleenq, the fact that you crossed out the parts that you did was really interesting to me. I kept switching the order of those around -- 'should it go Ben, Claudia, Ben, Claudia, meet? or Ben, Ben, Claudia, Claudia, meet??' -- and maybe the answer is to just take them out entirely? I have been dutifully reading queryshark and she talks a lot about making the stakes clear, so that's why I added those parts. (Also, the "Ben in serious trouble" stuff doesn't happen until Act III-ish, so it seems a bit wrong to include in a query.)

 

The truth is that the stakes themselves are largely emotional/interpersonal. There's plot, things happen, the story moves along, but the stuff that matters mostly comes down to small changes -- maturing, accepting certain things, allowing oneself to be vulnerable, standing up for oneself -- that kinda stuff. It sounds like a drag when I write it like that, but I promise it's not! It makes putting together a query difficult, though.

 

Regarding the hook -- I thought it was the most obviously "hook-y" bit to start with, but despite endless fiddling, the wording remains clunky. And maybe the intent? [re: Ben's revelation, what happens more specifically is "when a kid at Ben's school actually kills herself he realizes his thoughts of suicide were just escapist fantasies. now he feels more miserable than ever, and embarrassed, and angry, and trapped in his disappointing life."]

 

And then there's the historical stuff. It's basically two self-contained sections interleaved with Ben & Claudia sections. It has to do with Claudia's family history but other than that is pretty much separate, so I'm not sure there is an obvious way to put it earlier in the query. (That's another reason why I added more about Claudia's family situation; some mention of Spain makes the introduction of the historical bit at the end less out-of-left-field.)

 

Will think on all your comments and see if I can scare up a decent revision. Thanks!



#6 ShatteredSmooth

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Posted 03 July 2017 - 08:56 AM

Here's my current query draft. I'd appreciate any feedback.

 

My main concerns are:

- it's kinda long

- tricky to introduce two protagonists quickly and not have it all feel like background

- the mention of historical stuff at the end feels a bit shoehorned in, but leaving it out entirely would be pretty misleading

 

* * *

 

Ben Tweed just had a life-changing revelation: he isn’t really going to kill himself. The trouble is, it doesn’t actually change a thing—he’s still a fifteen-year-old screwup with exactly one friend, a dad he doesn’t see much, a mom who can’t stand him, and a dog that looks and smells like an old mop. The only difference is now there’s no way out.

 

When his loyalty to his best friend Robert gets him into trouble—the serious kind, with the right to remain silent—Ben has to face the fact that his parents are never going to be on his side. If he’s stuck being alive, there’s got to be a better way to do it than this.

 

Claudia Peterson is an overachieving smartass who doesn’t suffer fools gladly—or at all. She’s unimpressed with her new town, her new school, and her new classmates. She can usually tolerate her parents, but her grandfather—who she barely knows—is dying, and it’s turning her mother into someone Claudia doesn't recognize.

 

After Claudia’s extended family arrives from Spain to visit her grandfather, her home starts to feel use a better verb than "starts to feel" like hostile territory, crowded with old hurts and grudges from a past she doesn’t understand. She knows she should try and be there for her mother, but all she really wants is for things to go back to the way they were.

 

When Ben and Claudia meet at the hospice where his mother is working and her grandfather is dying, it’s not exactly friendship at first sight. But as their paths cross and cross again, they begin to tell one another the things they can’t seem to say to anyone else.

 

Every story has another story tangled in its roots. This one starts with the Spanish Civil War, fights its way through the bullring, crosses the Atlantic, and lands in the American suburbs in 1998, where two teenagers try on selves until they find the ones that fit—for now.

 

ENOUGH is a 100,000-word novel. It is my first.  Don't forget to add your comps. Readers of ____ and ____ will enjoy ENOUGH...

 

Thank you for your time and consideration.

You have a strong voice in this query, but I have some questions and concerns. 

-Why does he decide not to kill himself? 

-The paragraph about Claudia seems to come out of nowhere. Maybe you could say how they meet then introduce her?

-At the end, I'm not sure what the stakes are for both characters.

-The historic bit at the end also seems out of nowhere. Is part of the story set in the past? 

You have some gaps to fill in, and maybe a little rearranging, but you've succeeded in making me like these characters and giving me a sense of their voice, which can be difficult to do in a query. Good luck! 

 

 

http://agentquerycon...ost-7/?p=342054



#7 fernet

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Posted 05 July 2017 - 05:47 PM

Ben Tweed always swore he’d kill himself before the end of high school, but when a classmate does exactly that, he has to face the truth: suicide was nothing but a fantasy. Great—add that to his list of failures.

 

Now he’s stuck being Ben: a fifteen-year-old screwup with a dad he doesn’t see much, a mom who can’t stand him, a dog that looks and smells like an old mop, and exactly one friend—who ditches him to hang out with the school bullies. Ben has to find a way to make his life worth sticking around for, but that’s a tall order—especially when it seems like no one would miss him all that much.

 

Then he meets a girl named Claudia at the hospice where his mother works. It’s not exactly friendship at first sight—the girl’s there to visit her dying grandfather, and she’s busy with family drama of her own. But as their paths cross and cross again, Ben and Claudia begin to tell one another the things they can’t seem to say to anyone else.

 

Claudia’s just getting settled into a new town and a new high school, and thinks maybe her grandfather could have picked a more convenient time to die. When her extended family arrives from Spain to visit, her home turns into hostile territory, crowded with old hurts and grudges from a past she doesn’t understand—and doesn’t really want to.

 

She could do her usual thing and watch from the sidelines as all this family stuff goes down, maybe make a few sarcastic comments. Or she could take a risk for once, and try to figure out how she fits into the family story.

 

There are things in life you just have to face head-on—death, detention, driving tests—but sometimes you need a little shove from a weird kid you met at a hospice (okay, a friend) to push you in the right direction.  

 

ENOUGH is a 100,000-word novel.

 

 

 

------

 

Thanks for all the feedback.

 

I seem to have just scratched the mention of the historical parts -- I don't know if that's misleading, since fully 1/3 of the novel is historical and doesn't include Ben or Claudia. If someone reads the whole thing they can...be surprised!? I do have a differently arranged query that includes a quick summary of the historical stuff, but decided to go with this one for now.

 

As far as genre: I didn't say anything because it's not exactly YA, though it focuses on teenage protagonists. And if I'm calling it mainstream, I figure I'd just say "novel" and leave it at that. I realize the query voice sounds very YA, though.



#8 dizzywriter

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Posted 05 July 2017 - 07:46 PM

Ben Tweed always swore he’d kill himself before the end of high school[But] when a classmate does exactly that, he has to face the truth: suicide was nothing but a fantasy. Great—add that to his list of failures.

 

Now he’s stuck being Ben: a fifteen-year-old screwup with a dad he doesn’t see much  rarely sees, a mom who can’t stand him, a dog that looks and smells like an old mop, and exactly one friend—who ditches him to hang out with the school bullies. Ben has to find a way to make his life worth sticking around for, but that’s a tall order—especially when it seems like no one would miss him all that much.

 

Then he meets a girl named Claudia at the hospice where his mother works. It’s not exactly friendship at first sight.—the girl’s there to visit her dying grandfather, and she’s busy with family drama of her own. But as their paths cross and cross again, Ben and Claudia begin to tell one another the things they can’t seem to say to anyone else.

 

[When] Claudia’s just getting settled into a new town and a new high school, and thinks maybe her grandfather could have picked a more convenient time to die.   I don't think you need this. I makes her unsympathetic and you can use this valuable space to weave in the historical stuff,. which I assume is brought into the picture with the Spanish family When her extended family from Spain comes to visit, bringing old hurts and grudges that turn their home into a historical war zone, she must chose between her usual sarcasm and distance or  arrives from Spain to visit, her home turns into hostile territory, crowded with old hurts and grudges from a past she doesn’t understand—and doesn’t really want to.

 

She could do her usual thing and watch from the sidelines as all this family stuff goes down, maybe make a few sarcastic comments. Or she could take a risk for once, and try to figure out how she fits into the family story. [Maybe add her how Ben fits into this].

 

There are things in life you just have to face head-on—death, detention, driving tests—but sometimes you need a little shove from a weird kid you met at a hospice (okay, a friend) to push you in the right direction.  

 

ENOUGH is a 100,000-word novel.

 

 

 

------

 

Thanks for all the feedback.

 

I seem to have just scratched the mention of the historical parts -- I don't know if that's misleading, since fully 1/3 of the novel is historical and doesn't include Ben or Claudia. If someone reads the whole thing they can...be surprised!? I do have a differently arranged query that includes a quick summary of the historical stuff, but decided to go with this one for now.

 

As far as genre: I didn't say anything because it's not exactly YA, though it focuses on teenage protagonists. And if I'm calling it mainstream, I figure I'd just say "novel" and leave it at that. I realize the query voice sounds very YA, though.

I like the query and the writing and tried to tighten it up a bit. But 100K words is usually considered quite long.

 

I hope my comments are helpful and welcome yours on my query.



#9 Theo A. Gerken

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Posted 06 July 2017 - 07:07 AM

7/5/2017 UPDATE: revised version in post #7

 

 

Here's my current query draft. I'd appreciate any feedback.

 

My main concerns are:

- it's kinda long

- tricky to introduce two protagonists quickly and not have it all feel like background

- the mention of historical stuff at the end feels a bit shoehorned in, but leaving it out entirely would be pretty misleading

 

* * *

 

Ben Tweed just had a life-changing revelation: he isn’t really going to kill himself. The trouble is, it doesn’t actually change a thing—he’s still a fifteen-year-old screwup with exactly one friend, a dad he doesn’t see much, a mom who can’t stand him, and a dog that looks and smells like an old mop. The only difference is now there’s no way out.

 

When his loyalty to his best friend Robert gets him into trouble—the serious kind, with the right to remain silent—Ben has to face the fact that his parents are never going to be on his side. If he’s stuck being alive, there’s got to be a better way to do it than this.

 

Claudia Peterson is an overachieving smartass who doesn’t suffer fools gladly—or at all. She’s unimpressed with her new town, her new school, and her new classmates. She can usually tolerate her parents, but her grandfather—who she barely knows—is dying, and it’s turning her mother into someone Claudia doesn't recognize.

 

After Claudia’s extended family arrives from Spain to visit her grandfather her home starts to feel like hostile territory, crowded with old hurts and grudges from a past she doesn’t understand. She knows she should try and be there for her mother, but all she really wants is for things to go back to the way they were.

 

When Ben and Claudia meet at the hospice where his mother is working and her grandfather is dying, it’s not exactly friendship at first sight. But as their paths cross and cross again, they begin to tell one another the things they can’t seem to say to anyone else.

 

Every story has another story tangled in its roots. This one starts with the Spanish Civil War, fights its way through the bullring, crosses the Atlantic, and lands in the American suburbs in 1998, where two teenagers try on selves until they find the ones that fit—for now.

 

ENOUGH is a 100,000-word novel. It is my first.

 

Thank you for your time and consideration.

This query is very good. Even a person with low attention span can read and absorb that query. Very good character descriptions and that paragraph at the end is needed, it gives the macro perspective.

 

I have nothing to complain about this query is very strong.



#10 secondstar87

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Posted 06 July 2017 - 09:58 AM

Ben Tweed always swore he’d kill himself before the end of high school, but when a classmate does exactly that, he has to face the truth: suicide was nothing but a fantasy. Great—add that to his list of failures. I actually like your initial hook better; it had a lot of voice and personality to it. I would have just cut the "has had a revelation" part and start with: "Ben Tweed isn't going to kill himself." I think that would be a great hook with a lot of punch. 

 

Now he’s stuck being Ben: a fifteen-year-old screwup with a dad he doesn’t see much, a mom who can’t stand him, a dog that looks and smells like an old mop, and exactly one friend—who ditches him to hang out with the school bullies. Ben has to find a way to make his life worth sticking around for, but that’s a tall order—especially when it seems like no one would miss him all that much.

 

Then he meets a girl named Claudia at the hospice where his mother works. It’s not exactly friendship at first sight—the girl’s there to visit her dying grandfather, and she’s busy with family drama of her own. But as their paths cross and cross again, Ben and Claudia begin to tell one another the things they can’t seem to say to anyone else. Just thoughts to eliminate some unnecessary info. 

 

Claudia’s just getting settled into a new town and a new high school, and thinks maybe her grandfather could have picked a more convenient time to die. When her extended family arrives from Spain to visit, her home turns into hostile territory, crowded with old hurts and grudges from a past she doesn’t understand—and doesn’t really want to. You seem to have suddenly abandoned Ben for the rest of the query... which is confusing. If it's about both of them, you should show how their goals intertwine, or perhaps even conflict. 

 

She could do her usual thing and watch from the sidelines as all this family stuff goes down, maybe make a few sarcastic comments. Or she could take a risk for once, and try to figure out how she fits into the family story.

 

There are things in life you just have to face head-on—death, detention, driving tests—but sometimes you need a little shove from a weird kid you met at a hospice (okay, a friend) to push you in the right direction.  Over this query in rich in voice and personality, which is hard to accomplish in a query, so well done! My major confusion in what the plot really is and the overarching goals/tensions. There doesn't seem to be anything at stake here. Also, at the ages of your characters this would be YA and you should include that. 

 

I'd appreciate your thoughts on my query for TO SAIL THE STARS!

 

ENOUGH is a 100,000-word novel.


http://agentquerycon...sail-the-stars/

http://agentquerycon...ique-in-return/

 

"You cannot depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus." - Mark Twain 

"There are no rules of architecture for a castle in the clouds." - G.K. Chesterton 


#11 fernet

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Posted 14 July 2017 - 06:45 PM

Revision #3! This isn't so different from either of the previous versions, but I did add more about the historical part of the book, so I'm interested to see if people think that works better--or doesn't work at all.

 

Also I got conflicting feedback about the first line -- whether we need to know more about why Ben isn't going to kill himself or not. In this version I went back to the original hook, but I'm kinda fine with either. I suppose I could also try leading with Claudia instead of Ben, but I think that might feel more muddled.

 

I also added some stuff at the very end where I fudged the YA vs. mainstream genre question, because I can't decide what the answer is. (I asked over in the genre thread about it, actually.) But I think it might be too cutesy?

 

Thanks again for all the feedback!

 

 

--------------------------

 

Ben Tweed isn’t really going to kill himself.

 

Which sounds like good news, but all it means is he’s stuck being Ben: a fifteen-year-old screwup with a dad he hardly sees, a mom who can’t stand him, and a dog that looks and smells like an old mop. When his only friend ditches him to hang out with the school bullies, Ben really is on his own.

 

Then he meets Claudia Peterson at the hospice where his mother works--and where her grandfather is dying. It isn’t exactly friendship at first sight, but as their paths cross and cross again, Ben and Claudia begin to tell one another the things they can’t seem to say to anyone else.

 

Claudia’s grandfather lived through the Spanish Civil War and found glory and purpose in the bullring—until the magic of the bullfight failed him, and an injury destroyed his career. Her mother spent her entire childhood trying to bring back the kind and funny father she remembered, the father who came back forever altered after that day in the ring.

 

But Claudia doesn’t know any of that. All she knows is ever since her grandfather got sick her mother hasn’t been acting like herself, and when the rest of the family arrives from Spain to visit, things only get worse.

 

Claudia’s tried-and-true defense is not to care, but that isn’t going to cut it this time. She really does want to be there for her mother—not that she would use those exact words. Way too corny. But being there means dropping the sarcasm and braving the unknown, and Claudia hates unknowns.

 

Claudia has to work up the courage to find her own place in the family story, and Ben has to figure out how to make his life worth sticking around for. It’s the sort of thing no one else can do for them—but that doesn’t mean they have to do it alone.

 

ENOUGH is a 100,000-word novel for YA and adult readers alike, and for anyone whose family is a little—or a lot—less than perfect.



#12 RosieSkye

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Posted 16 July 2017 - 10:31 AM

Revision #3! This isn't so different from either of the previous versions, but I did add more about the historical part of the book, so I'm interested to see if people think that works better--or doesn't work at all.

 

Also I got conflicting feedback about the first line -- whether we need to know more about why Ben isn't going to kill himself or not. In this version I went back to the original hook, but I'm kinda fine with either. I suppose I could also try leading with Claudia instead of Ben, but I think that might feel more muddled.

 

I also added some stuff at the very end where I fudged the YA vs. mainstream genre question, because I can't decide what the answer is. (I asked over in the genre thread about it, actually.) But I think it might be too cutesy?

 

Thanks again for all the feedback!

 

 

--------------------------

 

Ben Tweed isn’t really going to kill himself. (I get what you're going for here, but this ultimately comes across as "There's not actually going to be any drama."  I'd switch this to something more gripping.)

 

Which sounds like good news, but all it means is he’s stuck being Ben: a fifteen-year-old screwup with a dad he hardly sees, a mom who can’t stand him, and a dog that looks and smells like an old mop. When his only friend ditches him to hang out with the school bullies, Ben really is on his own.

 

Then he meets Claudia Peterson at the hospice where his mother works--and where her grandfather is dying. It isn’t exactly friendship at first sight, but as their paths cross and cross again, Ben and Claudia begin to tell one another the things they can’t seem to say to anyone else.

 

Claudia’s grandfather lived through the Spanish Civil War and found glory and purpose in the bullring—until the magic of the bullfight failed him, and an injury destroyed his career. Her mother spent her entire childhood trying to bring back the kind and funny father she remembered, the father who came back forever altered after that day in the ring. (We've lost sight of Ben here - and Claudia, too.)

 

But Claudia doesn’t know any of that. (Now you've switched POV's. You start with Ben, so stick with him.)  All she knows is ever since her grandfather got sick her mother hasn’t been acting like herself, and when the rest of the family arrives from Spain to visit, things only get worse.

 

Claudia’s tried-and-true defense is not to care, but that isn’t going to cut it this time. She really does want to be there for her mother—not that she would use those exact words. Way too corny. But being there means dropping the sarcasm and braving the unknown, and Claudia hates unknowns. (This is a lot of telling, but no showing.  What does Claudia actually DO?)

 

Claudia has to work up the courage to find her own place in the family story, and Ben has to figure out how to make his life worth sticking around for. It’s the sort of thing no one else can do for them—but that doesn’t mean they have to do it alone.

 

ENOUGH is a 100,000-word novel (This is a bit lengthy - if you can cut 10,000-20,000 words you'll stand a better chance of being picked up) for YA and adult readers alike (You need to choose an age group, so agents get an idea of how to position your book. Your query screams YA, so I'd stick with that.)  and for anyone whose family is a little—or a lot—less than perfect.

 

 

I think you need to rework this, because you start with Ben and his problems, and then completely abandon him for Claudia.  We actually know more about Claudia's grandfather than we do about Ben.  Is your story a dual-POV?  If so, you should either restructure the query to reflect that, or just choose one MC and keep everything from his/her POV.  I think you also need to focus more on plot.  Your query is mainly setup and back story, with vague mentions of being there for people and making life worthwhile.  I've had the thankless job of querying character-driven stories, so I know how hard this can be.  But latch onto your most dramatic plot points and accentuate them in your query, so agents get an idea of what actually HAPPENS in your story.

 

Good luck!



#13 fernet

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Posted 16 July 2017 - 11:10 AM

Yeah, fully 1/3 or more of the story is historical fiction from the grandfather's & then the mother's POV -- no Ben or Claudia at all. That's why I'm having such trouble getting the query to come together.

 

(It's divided into five parts; 1, 3, and 5 are Ben/Claudia, 2 grandfather, 4 mother.)

 

I think my earlier drafts peaked at 125K so I've already cut a lot! Not sure I can trim it down much more -- because of the historical fiction component, I think.

 

I was working on writing a synopsis the other day; I might post it over in the synopsis thread -- hoping I could use that to help me structure a better query, too. It's a bit easier in the synopsis because I can just outright say that the story has these historical episodes interleaved with the main plot.

 

You're totally right about the difficulty of a query for a character-driven story. I keep trying to say it out loud and I end up like "well some stuff happens, but not that much stuff, but you're REALLY GOING TO CARE, I promise!"



#14 RosieSkye

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Posted 16 July 2017 - 11:17 PM

How old are the mother and grandfather during the historical fiction parts that focus on them?  I'm asking because if 40% of your book is focused on adults, it'll be a hard sell as YA, and you should probably try to market it as adult literary fiction.  If they're teenagers, that would actually give a great angle to your story, since not a lot of YA's jump back and forth in time like that.

 

Since it's Claudia's family, I might suggest having her as the primary MC and simply referencing Ben, and then doing a second POV paragraph for her mother (or her grandfather, if his story seems more appropriate.) Then you can make clear to agents that there are both multiple POV's, and modern vs. historical aspects.



#15 jaustail

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Posted 17 July 2017 - 01:50 AM

JMO:

 

 

Ben Tweed isn’t really going to kill himself.

 

Which sounds like good news, but all it means is he’s stuck being Ben: a fifteen-year-old screwup with a dad he hardly sees, a mom who can’t stand him, and a dog that looks and smells like an old mop(the dog part makes Ben sound like a snob. Is there any 'non-superficial' reason Ben doesn't like the dog? Like does the dog bark at Ben all the time). When his only friend ditches him to hang out with the school bullies, Ben really is on his own.(nice characterization)

 

Then he meets Claudia Peterson at the hospice(how does he meet her? why has he gone to the hospice?) where his mother works--and where her grandfather is dying. It isn’t exactly friendship at first sight, but as their paths cross and cross again(maybe instead of 'cross and cross again' use 'cross again and again'), Ben and Claudia begin to tell one another the things they can’t seem to say to anyone else.

 

Claudia’s grandfather lived through the Spanish Civil War and found glory and purpose in the bullring—until the magic of the bullfight failed him, and an injury destroyed his career. Her mother spent her entire childhood trying to bring back the kind and funny father she remembered, the father who came back forever altered after that day in the ring.

 

But Claudia doesn’t know any of that(I don't think the details here are helpful). All she(Claudia) knows is ever since her grandfather got sick her mother hasn’t been acting like herself, and when the rest of the family arrives from Spain to visit, things only get worse.

 

Claudia’s tried-and-true defense is not to care, but that isn’t going to cut it this time. She really does want to be there for her mother—not that she would use those exact words. Way too corny. But being there means dropping the sarcasm and braving the unknown, and Claudia hates unknowns.

 

Claudia has to work up the courage to find her own place in the family story, and Ben has to figure out how to make his life worth sticking around for. It’s the sort of thing no one else can do for them—but that doesn’t mean they have to do it alone.

 

ENOUGH is a 100,000-word novel for YA and adult readers alike, and for anyone whose family is a little—or a lot—less than perfect.

 

I'd request pages. Sounds like dysfunctional families. The issue with query is it starts with Ben and then ends on Claudia. Maybe focus entirely on Ben, and put Claudia's information from Ben's pov.

 

It can be hard to write query that is about coming of age and being mature. But if the agent is someone who reads such stuff like literary they would understand this.

 

Some queries are relatively easier cause if the mc doesn't do this or that then the world gets destroyed.

 

JMO.


JUPITER'S AMBITION

Revised on Post#70

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#16 fernet

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Posted 17 July 2017 - 10:12 AM

How old are the mother and grandfather during the historical fiction parts that focus on them?  I'm asking because if 40% of your book is focused on adults, it'll be a hard sell as YA, and you should probably try to market it as adult literary fiction.  If they're teenagers, that would actually give a great angle to your story, since not a lot of YA's jump back and forth in time like that.

 

Since it's Claudia's family, I might suggest having her as the primary MC and simply referencing Ben, and then doing a second POV paragraph for her mother (or her grandfather, if his story seems more appropriate.) Then you can make clear to agents that there are both multiple POV's, and modern vs. historical aspects.

 

The mother and grandfather sections are told in flashback during a single day for each of them -- so the grandfather's in his mid-30s, but his section tells his story from age 10 up to then; the mother is in her early twenties, but her section also tells her story from about age 8. So in the framing they are both adults, but each of their stories covers most of childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood. (So Claudia doesn't know all this backstory, but the reader sees the layers of family history that underpin the tensions in the present.) I've definitely been going back and forth on whether I should describe it as YA vs. mainstream vs. historical, and can't reach a satisfactory conclusion.

 

I guess I could do a query that goes grandfather --> mother --> Claudia, since each story lays the foundation the next, but then if someone asked for pages and I sent them a first chapter about Ben at school it might be... disorienting. Maybe 'll try out an explanation paragraph at the end to clarify the structure/different POVs like you suggest and see where that goes. Thanks for your thoughts!



#17 Vio Liddell

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Posted 17 July 2017 - 01:37 PM

 

--------------------------

 

Ben Tweed isn’t really going to kill himself.

 

Which sounds like good news, but all it means is he’s stuck being Ben: a fifteen-year-old screwup with a dad he hardly sees, a mom who can’t stand him, and a dog that looks and smells like an old mop. The dog part made me laugh. The tone blends dry humor and drama so well. When his only friend ditches him to hang out with the school bullies, Ben really is on his own. This is an excellent hook. Ben's character is perfectly set up.

 

Until he meets Claudia Peterson at the hospice where his mother works--and where her grandfather is dying. It isn’t exactly friendship at first sight (love this), but as their paths cross again and again, Ben and Claudia begin to tell one another the things they can’t seem to tell anyone else.

 

Claudia’s grandfather lived through the Spanish Civil War and found glory and purpose in the bullring—until the magic of the bullfight failed him (no comma here) and an injury destroyed his career. Claudia's mother spent her entire childhood trying to bring back the kind and funny father she remembered, the father who came back forever altered after that day in the ring.

 

But Claudia doesn’t know any of that. All she knows is ever since her grandfather got sick (comma here), her mother hasn’t been acting like herself, and when the rest of the family arrives from Spain to visit, things only get worse.

 

Claudia’s tried-and-true defense is not to care, but that isn’t going to cut it this time. She really does want to be there for her mother—not that she would use these exact words. Way too corny. But being there means dropping the sarcasm and braving the unknown , and Claudia hates unknownsThe voice is really cool here. You use "but" many times though... And I agree that you spend much time on Claudia while completely leaving Ben out. Can't you alternate between the two? You did a great job at intertwining their stakes in your closing paragraph.

 

Claudia has to work up the courage to find her own place in the family story, and Ben has to figure out how to make his life worth sticking around for. It’s the sort of thing no one else can do for them—but that doesn’t mean they have to do it alone.

 

ENOUGH is a 100,000-word YA novel. [You have to know your target audience: either YA or adult. I would tend to say that it's clearly YA, but it's up to you]. It will appeal to anyone whose family is a little—or a lot—less than perfect.

 

I love the YA voice here. So cool. Apart from a few tweaks here and there and the problem with Ben's POV disappearing halfway through the query, I think it's really well-written and grabbing enough for an agent to request pages.

 

Good luck to you!

 

I'd really appreciate your feedback on my query too: http://agentquerycon...fantasy-rev-36/



#18 ThatDan

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Posted 17 July 2017 - 02:07 PM

I once read that the MC is the one you start with, and it should be the one you finish with. Obviously this format doesn't work for all genres, but it might be worth considering. If you start with Ben, then maybe it's worth focusing on him, and presenting your query mainly from his POV.



#19 fernet

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Posted 17 July 2017 - 02:39 PM

Hmm, that's an interesting thought, ThatDan. The book does indeed start with Ben and end with Ben. It's just that in between it spends a lot of time with Claudia, and also... goes to Spain twice?

 

I just came up with a totally reworked query that starts with Claudia's grandfather, then her mother, leads into Claudia, and gets to Ben from there. But it seems a little long. I'm going to let it sit for a little while and give it some thought. Thanks to everyone for the great feedback, as always.



#20 MICRONESIA

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Posted 17 July 2017 - 06:05 PM

 

Ben Tweed isn’t really going to kill himself. This feels more like background, not an instigating event. What happens at the beginning of your novel that is DIFFERENT from what came before? What is the shift/change? Does he wake up one morning and finally look up how to make a noose? How is this "decision" an important event? If it's not, don't start with it.

 

Which sounds like good news, but all it means is he’s stuck being Ben: a fifteen-year-old screwup with a dad he hardly sees, a mom who can’t stand him, and a dog that looks and smells like an old mop. When his only friend ditches him to hang out with the school bullies, Ben really is on his own. This setup is cliche. We've seen the same thing in thousands of live-action Disney movies.

 

Then he meets Claudia Peterson START THE QUERY HERE. at the hospice where his mother works--and where her grandfather is dying. It isn’t exactly friendship at first sight, but as their paths cross and cross again, Ben and Claudia begin to tell one another the things they can’t seem to say to anyone else.

 

Claudia’s grandfather lived through the Spanish Civil War and found glory and purpose in the bullring—until the magic of the bullfight failed him, and an injury destroyed his career. Her mother spent her entire childhood trying to bring back the kind and funny father she remembered, the father who came back forever altered after that day in the ring. Why is any of this important? It seems to come from out of nowhere and has little to do with Claudia and Ben's emerging... relationship? We're not even clear on this last part yet. But yeah -- you need to do a bit more setup work here. How are Claudia's grandparents IMMEDIATELY important to the plot?

 

But Claudia doesn’t know any of that. All she knows is ever since her grandfather got sick her mother hasn’t been acting like herself, and when the rest of the family arrives from Spain to visit, things only get worse. Condense, along with the above paragraph. Convey all this quickly and get to the actual story.

 

Claudia’s tried-and-true defense is not to care, but that isn’t going to cut it this time. She really does want to be there for her mother—not that she would use those exact words. Way too corny. We're in Claudia's POV now? Confusing. But being there means dropping the sarcasm and braving the unknown, and Claudia hates unknowns.

 

Claudia has to work up the courage to find her own place in the family story, and Ben has to figure out how to make his life worth sticking around for. It’s the sort of thing no one else can do for them—but that doesn’t mean they have to do it alone. 

 

ENOUGH is a 100,000-word novel for YA and adult readers alike, and for anyone whose family is a little—or a lot—less than perfect.

 

You need to be more specific. I have a sense of the characters, but I have little to NO idea what the stakes are! What horrible thing will happen if [character] does ____________? What horrible thing will happen if he/she does not? 







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