Thursday, August 7, 2014

Become an Agent #13

Title: The Truth About Two Shoes
Genre: YA Contemporary
Word Count: 80,000

Query:

Sixteen-year-old Ellie knew what everyone was saying about her. She also knew it wasn’t true. Being the pregnant daughter of a Mississippi pastor has been social suicide, leaving her exiled by her once-”perfect” Christian friends and labeled the embarrassment of her crumbling family. Now Ellie is left to navigate an already complicated junior year with the only people who aren’t judging her: some weirdo called Freeble, a gorgeous hot head with great hair, and a thrill-seeking, slacker chick who is hellbent on plotting revenge against the guy responsible for knocking Ellie up.

But there is more than just judgement hovering over the former goodie-two-shoes now that the “goodie” is gone from her nickname. Ellie struggles to conceal the truth surrounding her pregnancy-- especially since she doesn’t know all the details herself. The more she runs away from the truth, the closer she gets to letting it define her. But when she faces it head on, she realizes not all is as it seems regarding friendship, faith and most of all-- herself.

250:
And there it was, scrawled across my locker in jagged, red chicken scratch. Staring at the words, I pulled my faded, red cardigan tighter around myself as if fidgeting would do any good or make this better. The stifled laughter was already erupting around me in little waves of awfulness. They were watching. They always were.

I squeezed my eyes shut as I forced a shallow breath— Just breathe, Ellie. Don’t let it show— and then fluttered my lashes open again, only to see the words even more clear than before. I knew closing my eyes wouldn’t make them automatically go away. But I figured it would at least make it easier to face. It didn’t.

The red lipstick clashed with the muted green metal of our lockers. WHORE.

Technically, the R and E were actually on my neighbor’s locker, so I guess I could just pretend “WHO” was the real message meant for me. Rather than a label of what I was, perhaps my peers just wanted to know WHO I was. Who was Ellie McSatterfield? I knew I sure would like to know.

WHORE. I couldn’t look away from it. No amount of kidding myself made the message any less there. WHORE was meant for me. It’s who they thought I was. And no amount of crying or yelling would change that.

Wrapping my arms around my swollen belly as I sucked in one last strained breath, I somehow moved my feet toward the words, letting my flats quietly slap against the dingy tile.

25 comments:

  1. I like this one. The backstory in the query isn't forced and tells me all I need to know, while weaving a little mystery in there. The first 250 looks good. I suggest not starting it with the word "And" Cutting it would tighten it.

    Yes.

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  2. Love the voice, love the conflict, love the mystery. Yes.

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  4. Great conflict, and you jump right into it, grabbing my attention. I like your sensory details in the first 250. I was a bit thrown off by the phrase once-"perfect" because I felt like the once and the quotes do the same thing. You probably only need one or the other. Putting both together made me stop and try to figure out what you meant. Maybe it should be "former "perfect" Christian friends" or something like that? Because it's more that they used to be her friends than that they used to be perfect (I assume their "perfect"-ness is still the same, at least in their own eye)?

    Yes-16

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  5. This one was really close for me -- I was torn between it and another -- but I'm going with a marginal No.

    I think the first 250 is really strong (I love the "Who" bit, and the voice is strong); the No is largely because of the query. Mostly, I think the query needs to show a little more about what makes this story unique -- I'm sure there's more to it than just "Whoops, pregnant! Awkward," and I'd love to see you call that out more clearly when setting up conflict, stakes, and character.

    You hint that there's some mystery surrounding how she got pregnant in the first place -- can you give us more about that? Does she not remember or something? This seems really important to the story, and could help heighten dramatic tension if you do more than just hint at it.

    Also, I'd love to get a better sense of where the story is going (conflict and stakes). The end of the query is very vague. What are her goals? What does she have to overcome to reach them? What are the consequences if she fails? I'm not clear on that... I understand that she's in a tough situation where the people around her are ostracizing her, but I don't have a good sense of where the story is going from there.

    I hope this is helpful! Good luck!

    (#17)

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  6. I think the query left me wondering too much. she says she knows what they are saying but it isn't true. Then you go into how she's pregnant. so, what's not true about that? she is or she isn't. it's only much later that there is a hint that it could have been rape. i think this needs to be much earlier and not just hinted at. the query is where you need to be specific. don't give away the ending, but DO give away what the story is about. Even at the end you say not all is as it seems. this is cliche. tell us what she is really facing. what is really holding her back from getting what she wants? what does she really want? I don't know. Just to survive one day to the next? that's fine, just tell us that.

    the first 250 were interesting, but seemed to drag on. I didn't believe she'd really consider just the who. don't make her ridiculous, make her likable so i want to go along for the ride.

    Overall, I like the idea of this story and generally like the opening. But it needs some tightening and the query needs help. As a reader, I'd probably keep reading for a bit longer to see if I like the mc. But as an agent with 50 other queries in my inbox that same day, I'd pass.

    No. (#11)

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  7. I was into the query until you mention that she is trying to conceal the truth about her pregnancy...don't be so vague! Tell me what it is. I think your query needs more specifics about that, and about the stakes. She's already pregnant, so what else is going to happen?

    In your first 250, I loved this part: "I guess I could just pretend “WHO” was the real message meant for me. Rather than a label of what I was, perhaps my peers just wanted to know WHO I was. Who was Ellie McSatterfield?" That was GREAT! I think you have good voice, but I think you should open it with more of a pop. If I were you, I'd start the book with WHORE. It really gets the reader's attention!

    No--but I think with some polishing this could be awesome! (#18)

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    1. Ohh... Starting with WHORE. I hadn't thought of that! Thanks for critique. Ill def mull over that :-)

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  8. I really love the premise, and that is a killer title. I feel like you should give us more about the relationship that led to the pregnancy so we can see for ourselves what sort of relationship she's hiding.

    I love the opening, so I'm going to vote Yes (#20)

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  9. Yes (#15)
    I like your query. It's very tight, shows clear stakes, conflicts and characters. And i love the way you began your story with the locker scene. I think it brings the reader right in to the fact that the MC is in trouble and we want to know why.

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  11. I really love the voice in the 250, and your query is clear and concise. I'm already sympathizing with your MC. And I LOVE the title!

    YES! (non-contestant)

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  12. YES. I a previous version of your query and think it's much tighter. Love the first 250. I think just leaving off the "And in the first line would o the trick. I don't think you have to spell out the "how she got pregnant. Maybe add a couple of words to the "she doesn't know all the details herself "--ie how she got home from the party, going to the party. Waking up in someone else clothed after the sleepover, etc. VERY Solid work!

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  13. Poor Ellie. Poor, poor, poor Ellie. I can think of nothing but how much I want to read more of this. I want to see what happens.

    I'd break up the sentence length in the query. It's all good stuff, and it's interesting, but that will help the pacing a lot. The conflict and character are good, and the stakes are clear.

    Love the voice in the first 250. Love the description, like the flats slapping against the tile. Very good.

    Yes.

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  14. Audience member here voting YES. I want to get to know this new cast of friends. I want to know the story of the pregnancy and how the dropping of "goodie" came about. I like her perspective in this section. "Technically, the R and E were actually on my neighbor’s locker, so I guess I could just pretend “WHO” was the real message meant for me." HA

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  15. During the query, I stumbled and had to reread the bit about the people not judging her. Is Freeble the hottie with a gorgeous head of hair or is Freeble just the weirdo? It tripped me up because Freeble is the only one given a name out of the three (?) of them. I would've liked to see the word earlier rather than waiting to spell it out. I liked the bit about the RE being cast off and played with, but ultimately, there was a bit of extra words that left this dragging (i.e. "my feet moved toward the words", rather than just "moving toward the words").

    No. (#19)

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  16. Hi, it's a no from this audience member. Nothing screamed original to me, and I have a hard time believing she lost all her friends under these circumstances. That a preacher's kids are goody-two-shoes is such a stereotype that I lost interest right away. Also, it's judgment, not judgement. I do like the 250 though. Very clean, though again the "Whore" sign scene seems as though it's been done before. Just my opinion. I see a lot of people loved it, so good luck!

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  17. Loved it. The opening paragraph pulled me right in. In the first 250, the chicken scratch and Ellie's cardigan are both red -- can one be a different color -- or is this a scarlet letter kind of thing? Suggest periods instead of em dashes in the following: '...forced a shallow breath (--). Just breathe, Ellie. Don't let it show. (-- then) My lashes fluttered open again...' Loved her trying to rationalize that only the 'WHO' applied to her. This is a YES for me. (#9)

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  18. Audience member weighing in with a solid YES here. Growing up in the South, I can totally empathize with Ellie and all I want to do is read more. Pregnant in high school is hard enough, but with something more involved-- and she's a minister's daughter? I would buy this in a heartbeat.

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    1. Not to mention I LOVE the voice. Strong and I can sense humor. Fantastic.

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  19. Its a YES for this audience member. Great stakes. The first 250 drew me in and I want to read more. I want to know Ellie's story.

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  20. Audience members: This is something I would totally read - reminds me of the recent trend of young adult contemporary fiction. First paragraph really caught my attention. Who knocked her up? I need to know!

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  21. Oh I'm late. I meant to come in here and vote a Yes on this one, but since you've won without my help, I guess no harm no foul. But I wanted to let you know still that this was a killer query and 250. The story on the surface isn't one that I would gravitate towards, but the voice and the writing stood out and drew me in. Kudos!

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  22. This was a yes for me as well. Well done.

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  23. I really like the first 250 words because they bring you instantly into the head of the MC and make you care about her - kids can be AWFUL. The writing is GOOD. But the query feels too short and vague. There isn't enough there to really give me a sense of the story, just enough to make me wonder if this is a religious themed story about a girl dealing with immaculate conception which is not as interesting as a pregnant teenager facing real issues like whether the babydaddy is one of five boys on the football team from a party she doesn't remember. The more I think about it the more I see that's exactly the problem I'm seeing - this is more like jacket text, to tempt a reader into reading more. But you need to give away more information for an agent to want to read more. An agent needs to understand the secret, rather than saying to an agent, "if you want to know this big secret you'll have to request more pages from me".

    This SHOULD be a No, but it's only because the query needs more work at conveying the story, that's all. Writing is great.

    If I was an agent I'd be requesting pages anyway, but I'd still be irked by the query being so evasive, and I'd ask for a synopsis to make up for it.

    Yes. (#5)



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