Friday, January 31, 2014

Become an Agent #14 - GRAVEL GHOST

Title: Gravel Ghost
Genre: YA/Thriller
Word Count: 65,000

Dear Agent,

GRAVEL GHOST is a YA/Thriller that is complete at 65,000 words.

When you’re a seventeen-year-old assassin about to celebrate your 100th kill, life isn’t so simple.

Along with her four sisters, Payton was adopted and groomed into a lethal assassin like her new parents. An Elite agency—part of a US shadow government—employs her family to gain power by executing their competition. Payton used to enjoy her training, even excelling at her tasks, but now she hungers for an average life. Her parents dictate everything, even her meals, and she hates having to kill people who don’t deserve to die. Yet, how can she strike out at the only life she’s ever known? She sneaks out to see Conner, her secret best friend and only source of sanity. If her family found out, they’d silence him the one way they know how.

In Chile, on her 100th assignment, Payton is stunned when Conner appears as she is poised to take out her latest target—Conner’s father. With help from her own father, she flees the country with the assignment unfinished, making her a liability to the agency.

But the rest of her adoptive family isn’t so forgiving. Her mother takes the mission to eliminate an interfering Conner and his father upon herself. Now Payton must choose between betraying her family, or turning her back on the only person who could help her escape them.

I have my Associates in Business/Management. I am returning to college and majoring in English Literature. GRAVEL GHOST is my first novel.

Thank you for your consideration,

First 250:

Sweat drips down my back and trickles off my forehead. It’s freezing in this tunnel, but my jacket remains tied around my waist. My hair is pulled back in a long braid, I’m sure it’s matted with grime. Mud and filth splatters my clothing. My legs are aching and my stomach keeps growling, but I can’t stop. In this small shaft that tunnels through the Rocky Mountains, I take my time working towards the beam of light ahead of me. Can five hours have passed already? I need to move faster. My breaths puff like steam in the frozen air to echo in soft whispers off the mine shaft’s walls. A musty smell fills my nose from the stirred up dust. I tread lightly to hold down the echoes of my steps.

Ahead, a small cove beckons me to sit and be hidden for just a minute. I hurry toward it like it’s my lifeline. Using the wall as a guide, I slide to the rough ground before my legs give out. I take my last bottle of water out and take a small sip, enough to wet my mouth and wash out the taste of dust. Sweet relaxation lures me to linger.

A rock shifts against the dirt maybe thirty yards behind me. I start to my feet, shoving the bottle back in my pack. Too long. Time to run. My legs and feet protest, but adrenaline pushed me forward. The beam of light gets brighter.


  1. No.

    The first paragraph of the query needs to be tightened up. No rhetorical questions. Watch those filler words, i.e. having to kill. Good set up of the conflict.

    First 250 didn't hook me. Maybe a punchier first line is in order.

  2. (Entry #13)
    The query could be tighter, BUT, it grabbed my attention and made me keep reading. I love the story and think that with a little polishing this will be amazing.

  3. With some more polishing and some tightening of the query, I would probably say yes, because I think it's an interesting concept. But based on this, I would pass. I feel like there are too many characters mentioned in the query (even though they're not all named, they're there).

  4. #21 No. I like the first 250 but the Query has too much information written in short choppy sentences. Also what happened to her old family? I think you have some very good ideas but stye need to be simplified to give us a clear idea of the MC and her goals and what happens if those goals aren't met. I, unfortunately, wouldn't have made it to your 250.

  5. No.
    I think the premise is interesting, but it's a little confusing with all the characters. Are the sisters really necessary to mention at this stage? If you tightened this query, I think you'd have something great. Also, I wouldn't mention your associates degree since it adds no value to the story. Mentioning English Lit works, but I would also not mention that this is your first novel. Let them figure that out if they can. :)

  6. Yes. The query could be fixed up, but I see potential. I don't see the point in mentioning that Payton has 4 sisters. #10

  7. #16. No. I think the query leads to more questions that should be clearer. I don't have a clear understanding of the reasoning behind her fleeing, or why the father (which one: paternal or adoptive) can't just assign the case to someone else. Why does it have to be her specifically?

  8. No,
    I liked the premise of the story but the query didn't hook me, I would like to have known what brought her there, the four sisters were unnecessary (I got the impression building for a 4 part book) I also didn't get how Connor could help her get free, role. It just didn't hook me.
    I liked the description in the first 250. (#18)

  9. Yes. What a great premise! Your first 250 are a great read- I can just FEEL what it's like to be in that tunnel; you really drew that scene well.
    As others have pointed out, the query is weak. As an agent, I would have read the first 250 anyway because the premise was so interesting, but not all agents would do that.
    I didn't mind the first sentence - it wasn't a question and it was pretty relevant. But I would tighten the next paragraph - lose the info about the sisters, the word "new" with parents (makes us ask questions that take us off-topic) I also think it might help clarify if you tell us why Conner's father is a target.
    Good luck! Can't wait to read this!

  10. No. But this is a tough no. I think the story sounds awesome. Work on rewording your hook. "life isn't so simple" is super vague. I don't always feel like I need a stand alone hook paragraph. And I was actually drawn in more by the second paragraph. I'm a fan of Kill Bill so I'd immediately be intrigued by the girl assassins. :) Good luck refining this. It sounds cool!

  11. Query:
    First thoughts: The introduction line isn’t the greatest. The assassin part is fine, but the “life isn’t so simple” make me want to go “duh?” Wait a minute, she’s only seventeen. Assuming she started killing people at 15, she’s had to kill at least 33.3 people a year or 2.7 a month. That seems a bit excessive. Unless, of course, she’s doing mass killings…


    -Maybe find a different word for “new parents”. I was confused by what you meant at first.

    -When you say “she sneaks out to see Conner…” it becomes present tense. Make it past tense.

    -I think you could combine the last two paragraphs to make them one super paragraph.

    Overall, this query tells me everything I need to know about your book. I know who Payton is, her problem and the stakes. I would suggest moving your word count/genre to the end as I think your query should come first.

    First 250:
    The one thing I know for certain from your first 250 is that your MC’s very dirty. There’s sweat and grime and dust. What I don’t know is what’s happening. She’s running through a tunnel for five hours? Not very exciting. Also, this lacks voice. I don’t have any idea of who Payton is from this. I think this opening could work, but cut back on the description. You want to provide your audience with enough detail that they can fill in all the blanks by themselves. But don’t tell them everything. Too much description can bog writing down.

    Verdict: No.

    From your query, I would’ve said yes. But your first 250 made it a no. It needs a bit of work.

    Good luck!
    -Tiff (#3)

  12. No--the query is windy and indirect.