Friday, January 31, 2014

Become an Agent #4 - GLASS HAND

Genre: YA Contemporary
Word Count: 55,000 (WIP)

Dear Agent,

Cyra Berque is on a quest for gold. She’s picked out the college with the best fencing coaches and teaches extra classes to pay for her own lessons. But when her coach sends her to a new club to work with a coach more likely to get her to the Olympics, Cyra has to come up with the extra money.

Christine Neuve just wants to dance. She has the talent, but her rich father wants her to get a college education. She wants a repertory company. But daddy is more than willing to pay a tutor to get his little ballerina into college, and Cyra is just the gal to help out.

Rochan Roi is the school’s best photographer. He’s also the cutest guy in school with a swarthy smile and a soft spot for Shakespeare. Cyra’s had a crush on him since eighth grade, but always assumed she didn’t have a chance with her big thighs and a hand gone AWOL. When Christine sees Rochan for the first time, sparks fly. The only problem is Christine doesn’t know how to catch the attention of the Shakespeare quoting, poetry loving artist, and if Cyra doesn’t help her woo Rochan, she’s promised to flunk her English class. Cyra has to choose between love and glory.

GLASS HAND, complete at 55,000 words (work in progress), is a contemporary retelling of Cyrano de Bergerac with the gender roles reversed. This book is my debut novel. I fenced in college, giving me insight into the world of fencing.

First 250:

When something went missing, it seemed to always be on the mind, like its ghost took up air in the room. I paced the hallways like an linebacker. Not that I hadn’t considered it being almost six feet tall and topping the scales at an unmentionable number, but football was definitely a sport where intelligence was reserved for the quarterback. I was more of a chess player.

Besides, I’d never seen a one-handed football player in the NFL.

I slipped into the library to break out of the crush of hallway traffic. This being my senior year, I knew whom to avoid, and Sara Baker and her gang of perfect little ballet mutants rounded the corner. Say what you want about ballerinas, Sara was evil incarnate. My mother swore that everyone became nicer in the senior year.

I’d believe it when I saw it.

Peeking through the crack in the door, I watched as the tribe of perfect, petite hags strode by.

“Louis Vuitton is where it’s at,” she told one of her toadies as she passed.

Her eye caught mine through the door, and she spun. I pulled open the door like I was just heading out of the library. “Oh, hi Sara.” I pretended to look surprised, but she knew better. Her ballet flunkies startled. They were freshman, the new class, and Sara was pretending to show them favor. She was really showing the rest of the high school her new minions.


  1. No. Being unfamiliar with the source material, I found the query needed more clarity. As is, I had to read it a few times and it still appears that the MC is going to teach the ballerina fencing. Perhaps more focus can be placed on her hand since that was intriguing, but left unexplained. (Entry #19)

  2. No. I'm having a hard time connecting the characters, and it took me a few reads to get a sense of the stakes. Also, I think the missing hand should be mentioned earlier in the query. I gather the character of Christine is the antagonist, but she doesn't inspire tension in the query - she seems more like the means to an end for the MC.

  3. #7
    No. I like the premise, but the query was confusing. All those names, two sounding and looking similar, had me reading it a couple times before getting the plot straight. Maybe mention Cyra is Christine’s English tutor, not a fencing tutor, as that is what I concluded after the first reading. However, the first paragraph of the query is good, really good.

    Also, the first 250 could use some polishing. The first line reads awkward and there is a lot of telling rather than showing. Try to have an even balance of both.

  4. (Entry #13)
    No. There is too much happening in your query in the way of characters for me to make any type of connection with any of them. Pick a character and run with that ONE. You've mentioned 3 and I didn't connect enough with any of them.

  5. No. Unfortunately, this query lacked focus and had too many names, which helps to further the lack of focus. I like the Cyrano retelling aspect.

  6. I have to echo others that the query bounced around a bit between characters without giving us a clear picture of what's going on for any of them. Is this a 3-POV story? Your query makes it sound like it is. Either way, from what I researched about multiple POVs, is that less is more. Focus on one (or max 2 if it's a clear duet) and then explain in your info paragraph that there are 3 POVs.

    There are a few things I think you should consider:
    - Consider sticking to Cyra for the POV for the entire thing. She wants to get to the Olympics, what does she need to make this happen, what is standing in her way, and what choice does she have to make to get what she wants?
    - The sentence: "a hand gone AWOL" makes no sense to someone who is unfamiliar with the source story... it makes it sound like her hand acts on its own, like it's possessed. I don't think that's what you're trying to say here.
    - Definitely leave the sentence in about your fencing experience in college - very cool, and relevant!

    As for your First 250, I don't really feel grounded. I know 250 is nothing in the scheme of a novel, but this is where you have to introduce something enticing - setting and/or character are the big ones in my opinion - and make sure we want to learn more about it. The voice of your mc seems gloomy and highly reactive (to the girls) instead of proactive. If you've chosen to introduce her first, give us a sense of her but not in terms of how she views others.... boy, I hope that makes sense! o_0

    No, but I think you have a premise that will appeal to a lot of agents.

    Best of luck!!

    Jeannette (#6)

  7. I liked the query, probably because I am familiar with Cyrano.

    However, the first two paragraphs of the text make me think that the main character is a 17-year-old male, and the query tells me that it isn't. There's also just a little too much (at-this-point) unwarranted venom aimed toward Sara and the other ballerinas. I don't see any connection with the query and the words in front of me. For that reason, although I loved the concept, I would say no.

  8. A note: You mentioned that this isn't finished yet. My editor told me that she always reads the first paragraph last to make sure it connects. I've rewritten the beginning of my WIP several times. So, it's possible that if you review it again when the whole thing is done, you can hook the reader better.

  9. This was an "almost", but in the end, it didn't hook me enough. It seems like I've heard this story before. In your query, the 3rd paragraph is clunky, and the stake isn't quite clear. It's a no for me.


  10. No. I echo some of your other comments in that I felt confused by the query - you have the fencing/need for money storyline, the ballerina whose father is a tyrant storyline, and the romance. AND all those characters. I am familiar with the story of Cyrano, and I love that you're retelling it with the genders swapped, but I think you need to tighten and clarify the query. Give us the hook, the stakes, the catalyst for action, and get out.
    The first 250 had a similar problem - a bit overwritten.
    With some tight editing though, I think you could really be onto something.
    Good luck!

  11. Query:
    Despite knowing your novel is contemporary, my first thought when I read “CB is on a quest for gold” was that she’s a leprechaun. Maybe say “gold medal” or have a little blurb at the top explaining this is a retelling and it has to do with the Olympics. I know it’s usually suggested that you put your query first, but since you’re retelling something, it’s good to get that information out as it can act as a hook.

    You should write this query from Cyra’s perspective only. The whole story seems to revolve around her, despite it including two other characters with their own goals. Sticking with one POV throughout makes it easier to comprehend.

    Overall, I know the stakes, despite all the POV switches. Once you rewrite it, it should be great.

    First 250:
    The first paragraph confused me. I don’t know what your MC is talking about. There’s football, something missing and a chess player. I can’t make sense of it.

    The rest of it is good. I wanted to continue reading when I hit the end.

    Verdict: No.

    Your query needs to be from one perspective and the confusing introduction paragraph in your first 250 needs a rewrite.

    Good luck!
    -Tiff (#3)

  12. No. I'm not sure why you say it's complete but also a WIP. The query felt disconnected and I'm confused about what the stakes are. Also, the first sentence of the text was in the passive voice, which was a turn-off.

    1. That was me! Sorry about that - I kept in the 'complete a XX,XXX words' to make it sound more like a legitimate query, but I put (work in progress) in so that every one would be aware that the word count wasn't for sure. I'm so sorry for any misunderstanding! I should have been more clear.

  13. REVISION of Query and 250February 6, 2014 at 12:52 AM

    Dear Agent:

    Cyra Berque wants two things in life: a date with Rochan and a chance to show the world that a girl with one hand can fence in the Olympics. To make enough money to train at that level, Cyra teaches classes and tutors whenever she can. When her coach informs her that he has taught her everything he can, he sets her up with another coach, but the new coach costs more money. Feeling her dreams slipping out of reach, Cyra agrees to tutor a ballerina with a rich father and a D minus in English. The ballerina only has eyes for Rochan, and if Cyra doesn’t help her get the boy, she’s promised to turn that D into a full-fledged F.

    Cyra has no intention of giving up either dream.

    GLASS HAND, a work in progress, is a YA contemporary retelling of Cyrano de Bergerac with the gender roles reversed. I fenced in college, giving me insight into the sport of sword play. The first page is pasted below.

    First 250:

    No one notices when things are perfect. One tiny thing out of place or missing—a pebble in a shoe, a lost tooth—and it’s all a person can think about, as if its absence were more important than its presence. I pushed into the hallway traffic, and wished classes could just be over. They took up too much time, and I had better things to do.

    “Louis Vuitton is where it’s at,” Sara Davies told one of her toadies as she passed. Her eye caught mine, and she stopped.

    “Oh, hi Sara.” I pretended to be pleasant.

    Sara looked down her perfect nose at me. “Cyra,” she said, raising an eyebrow as if she’d just found a slug in her point shoes. Her toadies twittered. I knew half of them would be gone by Winter Ball. The Freshman year was tough on the ballerinas.

    I fenced in the salle just beneath the ballet studio. Their teacher yelled in a Russian accent about how they had to lose weight to keep from having breasts. In ballet, everything had to be perfect: perfect body, dripping with talent, stage presence, hard work, form, everything. One thing out of place could ruin it all—too much curve of the hip or a lazy extension and someone was relegated to the wings.

    “My, that’s a low cut shirt.” It wasn’t, but her eyes snapped to mine. For a ballerina, there was nothing worse than being well endowed.

    Her eyes narrowed. “I can wear what I like, when I like, but some of us should think of spandex as a privilege, not a right.”

  14. Your query is much clearer. Well done! I really love your hook, as you give all the pertinent info; however, make sure you include the age of your protagonist. The sentence about her coach is a bit wordy. Could you maybe shorten it to something like “When her former coach sets her up with an A-list trainer the only problem is the price tag.” That’s dumb, but something to shorten it up, make it punchier.

    This sentence, “The ballerina only has eyes for Rochan, and if Cyra doesn’t help her get the boy, she’s promised to turn that D into a full-fledged F,” leaves me hanging a bit. Will she loose her tutoring gig if the girl fails, or was she told by rich daddy that his precious daughter needed a B or Cyra was done?

    As for your first 250, the first sentence doesn’t really flow with the next. It reads disjointed. I do love the line, so maybe try to transition a little smoother from that to her walking in the halls. Also, the explanation about ballerinas and curves isn’t necessary and breaks the flow. What you write after commenting on her top, “For a ballerina, there was nothing worse than being well endowed,” is powerful and gets the point across. I could infer that curves aren’t appreciated on ballerinas just by reading that sentence.

    I really love the premise of your story and I like how you’ve created a strong protagonist, which I can tell from your query. I’d definitely want to read more.