Thursday, August 7, 2014

Become an Agent #20

Genre: YA Low Fantasy
Word count: 110,000

The worst part of Tessa’s last semester of high school wasn’t when Jason Garvie confessed his undying love for her best friend, Maria. It wasn’t when Maria squealed with delight at Jason’s confession. It wasn’t even the disastrous pre-prom dinner date where Tessa double dated with Maria and Jason—may they both break out in hives before the pictures! Nope, the worst part of the last semester happened before all that, when an investment broker gave a lame speech about the glory and beauty of being a teenager to an all-school assembly. Instead of listening, Tessa hid behind Maria, trying to write a love letter to Jason. It didn’t seem like a big deal at the time.

But the investment broker was actually a wizard pretending to give money to the school so he could see all the students. He was scouring the area looking for the Settfyrian, a powerful human born with magic to serve as the liaison between the magical races and the human nations of his world. To conquer his kingdom, he needs the Settfyrian—in a pinch, just her blood—to cement a spell to take control. After seeing Tessa’s aura leaking around Maria, the wizard assumed he’d found his girl. When he mistakenly kidnaps Maria from the doomed double date, he’s got the wrong girl, but that won’t make Maria any less dead when he spills her blood. The fourth dinner guest, the new guy at school with a penchant for making Tessa laugh, volunteers to guide her to this neverland of magic and mayhem. Now Tessa’s going to jump down the rabbit hole and get her friend back or burn that magical world to the ground, unicorns and all. There’s only one problem: her guide’s allegiance might not be what she hopes. He is the wizard’s son.

PROM, MAGIC, AND OTHER NATURAL DISASTERS is a YA low fantasy complete at 110,000 words starring a snarky Jewish girl.


The most dastardly form of literature was the love letter. Bearer of hopes, crusher of dreams, which was why I didn’t trust it to something as impersonal as a text. I’d already written the greatest love letter, but now I had to turn it into a true work of art. Maria bumped into me, and the ink smeared across the page. Again.

Damn this timing. I could have written this letter at my leisure during French. Then Jason Garvie would have been right there. I could have just dropped it into his backpack. He’d get home, read my letter, and then he’d know. Simple.


Far more deniable than a text.

But I wanted it to be special. I wanted it to be unforgettable. When he started asking me about kinds of paper, that was when I knew I had to whip out my glass quill and perfectionist lettering. Who knew a skill I’d agonized over in fourth grade would finally pay off.

Hiding behind Maria in the gym during an assembly didn’t qualify as “perfect.” “Do you have to shake the bleachers?”

She leaned back. “You’re the fool trying to make art on the benches.”

“It’s more than art.” I crumpled the ruined paper and hunted for a fresh piece in my backpack. “What’s the deal with this assembly anyway? It wasn’t on the schedule.” Fresh paper in hand, I dived back down to get back to work.

Maria shook her head, and her perfect curls bounced. “It’s some investment guy.

Genre: YA Low Fantasy
Word Count: 100,000


After writing a love letter to her long time crush, Tessa expected fireworks. Before she could deliver the letter, her crush gave her one of his own, but it’s addressed to her perfect best friend Maria. Determined not to be the loser who couldn’t get a date to prom, Tessa asks the new guy, Sean. He doesn’t know basic things like how to make a smoke detector stop squawking, but he has the most important qualification: he doesn’t already have a date. Still, he’s fun, so the pre prom double-date with Maria and her new boyfriend—may they both break out in hives before the pictures—shouldn’t be a complete disaster.

When a wizard crashes the dinner and kidnaps Maria, it becomes abundantly clear why Sean doesn’t know how to use a cell phone. Sean’s from another world, a world similar to the world of fae, Underhill. The wizard has mistaken Maria for a powerful mage, but the only thing magical about Maria is her ability to style hair. Being normal won’t make her any less dead after the wizard uses her blood in a spell to conquer his world. Tessa moved heaven and earth to land a date to prom and some blood sucking wizard isn’t going to ruin it. With Sean to help her, Tessa is going down the rabbit hole to get her friend back or burn the wizard and his magical world to the ground, unicorns and all. But Sean might not be as helpful as she hoped. He’s the wizard’s son.

PROM, MAGIC, AND OTHER NATURAL DISASTERS is a YA low fantasy complete at 100,000 words starring a quirky Jewish girl.


Without a doubt, the most dastardly piece of literature known to mankind was the love letter. Something so light shouldn’t carry so much weight. My hand slipped when Maria leaned back, smearing romantic, old fashioned ink across the page.

“Art in progress here!”

Maria put her finger to her lips. “Shh—I’m actually trying to hear what he’s saying.”

Damn this All School Assembly. I should have ditched like all the other self respecting seniors. Then I’d have time to craft the perfect letter, but Maria actually wanted to listen.

I’d wanted this letter to be special, not a rush job on the top bench, hiding behind Maria.

“Do you have to shake the bleachers?”

She leaned back. “You’re the idiot trying to make art on the benches.”

“It’s more than art.” I crumpled the ruined paper and hunted for a fresh piece in my backpack. “What’s the deal with this assembly anyway?”

“It’s some investment guy. He’s new in town. Big money.” She paused as if an extra moment could help her fathom the truth. “Tessa, he’s giving straight answers. I don’t understand. It’s so…unpolitical.”

I pulled out a fresh piece of paper and copied out the first few lines so it looked like a document from Shakespeare would have had. If I was going to write a love letter, it was going to be pretty.

Art was my thing, and only my best friend could make me compromise any aspect of my art.


  1. Query
    Overall I liked this query and was drawn in, however, the list of all the "it wasn't" was just a little too long for me and because of the word-real-estate lost to (for me) was just a little over-done, I felt a little short-changed in the next, meaty bit, that had so much damn potential!
    Even so, I was keen to read the page attached.

    1st 250
    I want to take a marker and delete the entire first paragraph. For me, the second was where I wanted to begin reading. I would keep reading but, because I wasn't completely drawn in by para-1 and because I thought QL dragged on a little also, I got the impression this MS might need just a little culling.
    Still, if I had another YES, I would have asked for more pages.
    This is an extremely reluctant NO & I really believe this MS is so close to being a yes that it hurts to say no.

    NO #7

  2. This was a tough one for me as it was the last one I read and I thought I already found my 2nd Yes (BTW SC_Author, I'm posting backward after reading straight way through my 7).

    What it came down to was that you had the stronger 250 words.

    I love your premise, but your first paragraph was a tad bit clunky and buried the lead. It helps that I'm very into this genre, so I was pulled in a lot by the second paragraph. Refine the first paragraph more though so it flows better and gets your point across in a more concise way while still being fun. Also, I LOVED the addition of "Snarky Jewish Girl."

    I personally love this first paragraph. I like the premise and the writing.

    YES #7

  3. WHOOOPS. I don't have coffee yet. My ending should read YES #13 My bad

  4. I think the opening of your query went on just a little too long about the crush. I got the idea right off. Don't pound it in the agents head.

    As for the 250, the opening had "was the love letter" as if they are extinct. They aren't. This may come as a surprise to the younger generations, but some people still hand write letters of all kinds. Very often love letters. And I didn't get the "burnable" out of nowhere. and the same with the next line. they didn't seem to connect.

    That being said, I love the premise and I was pulled in to the writing. As a reader, sure I'd read on. As an agent, I'm not sure. If you see long-winded writing in the query, you can expect that in the story. But I think some agents would look past that as something they would ask you to revise. I was up in the air, but my overall gut says yes. I'd read on.

    Yes. (#11)

  5. There's nothing in the first paragraph at all that tells me it's a fantasy. It's too long, and it doesn't have the kind of voice that really grabs me. The second paragraph is much better. I'd shorten the first part and see if you can take more of the plot and voice from the second, then expand.

    The first 250 don't really grab me, and I wonder if the story's starting in the wrong place. Why should I care about this love letter? What's special about this guy?

    Also, I know it's fantasy, but it's also YA, and that word count makes me shy away. It may not be too high for some people, but this is a subjective business, and it's too high for me.

    I'd have to say no. And I feel so bad about it, I don't think I'm cut out to be an agent.

  6. I love the concept. You could probably slim down the query a bit, take out some "it wasn't". I wanted to read more.
    The first 250, I liked. The way you portray your character was great though I kind of wanted more about the boy. Overall I'd say yes (#4)

  7. Love the title but the word count makes me flinch. Love the query, like the first 250 words. I would request more, including a synopsis, to try and see if the story can justify the wordcount.

    Quibbles; Query is very large feeling as just two paragraphs. I would want to turn it into 3 or 4 instead. I also feel sort of like the query is missing mentioning the part where the MC finds out about all of this otherworldly stuff - who is her Gandalf who explains why her best friend just got kidnapped?

    The voice feels very good for YA, except for the dialogue where her friend calls her a fool. I block out most of pre-20yrold me, but I remember even with a large vocabulary I didn't call anyone a fool, I called them a dumbass (and still do).

    Yes. (#5)

  8. I'd have to say no, even though I love the concept.
    I think the word count is too long - even though some fantasy and sci fi does creep into that range, the sweet spot seems to be around 80-90K, especially for a debut novel.
    Also - the query is too wordy at the top - I'd really tighten that up.
    Good luck!!
    Member of the Audience!! @HeatherMC66

  9. I love the voice your query opens up with, and I liked the premise.

    But when I got to the 250, I was disappointed. I wanted to hear the same voice from Tessa as from the Author (in the query). Also, swear words are an automatic pass for me, unless you are open to deleting them. But that's obviously a subjective thing.

    I vote No on this one.

    -- Pretend Agent JEN from the audience

  10. I really enjoyed this one, but I think it's not quite there yet, so I'd have to give it a no. The concept is pretty terrific. I dig the voice, too. However, 110,00 is too long for this kind of work.

    Also, I think you could start the query with one strong hook, probably just a sentence or two. The whole query could be three short paragraphs: hook, conflict, stakes. And I think you could start the 250 in a more dynamic place than writing a letter.

    That said, I'd be interested to see how it turns out. Good luck!

  11. Hi, while I like the concept, it'd be a no from me. The first paragraph is too long and it doesn't say much. I can see why you want it there. It gives a sense of voice and has some humor, but I think you need to get to the story more quickly. Also, I think the query might introduce too many people.

    Similar suggestion for the first 250--it seems to go on a bit long with the same idea. I think you can punch it up some.

    Good luck!

  12. I also flinched at the word count. I liked the premise but the query needs to be tighter. Even though you want to catch the agent's eye, remember the query letter is a professional, business letter. In your first 250 words, it feels like it starts in the wrong place. I might request a partial to see where you go with it.

    Yes for a partial (non-contestant)

  13. I like the concept and voice, but the word count gave me pause. I also felt a big question is left dangling in the query with the line about Maria squealing in delight -- even if this isn't the worst moment, does this excitement on Maria's part feel like a betrayal to Tessa?

    In the first 250, there seems to be a conflicting message. Tessa doesn't want to text; she wants something special, but she also wants something deniable -- and, while I understand her conflicted emotions, the 'burnable' line didn't work for me. I also stumbled over the opening paragraph line about the love letter. A love letter doesn't actually crush dreams, it's the response (or lack thereof) which does.All in all, I loved the voice but felt things could be streamlined a bit for greater clarity.

    Again, great voice and a most reluctant No - #9

  14. Yes, I like the voice, and don't mind at all that it focuses so much on the crush (but I'm not much of a fantasy reader.) The hook is a little confusing though, and almost made me dislike the MC. I think you can clear up my confusion by inserting "her crush" before Jason's name, so it doesn't make her sound like someone who just automatically becomes miserable when good things happen to her best friend.

  15. This was a very close no for me. The story sounds fun, and I enjoyed the writing in the 250 a lot. I think you could get it to a yes with some query revisions:

    * I'd break up the query into more paragraphs. These ones are big and clunky, which messes up the pacing.

    * I don't think you have the right genre -- if there's a second world full of nonhumans and unicorns and such, that's not low fantasy. I'd just stick with fantasy.

    * I'd leave out the Settyfrian word -- you don't need it. You can just say the wizard needs her blood without introducing an unfamiliar term.

    * You spend a lot of time in the query dwelling on the inciting incident. The voice with which you do so is great, but 2/3 of the query is all inciting incident, which seems a bit unbalanced. It'd be great to (without getting synopsis-like) to shift the focus a bit to give us more of a sense of the conflict past that point.

    * Finally, I wanted to see was more of a sense of what makes the story unique. Are there any details that will make this stand out from other, similar stories out there?

    I think this query is really close! Good luck with it!


  16. a No for me as well.
    I love the title!
    The wordcount and the genre gave me pause. I know a lot of agents won't look at first time manuscripts over 110. I'd try really hard to cut out words, even filtering words like "saw" can really bloat a manuscript.
    The genre too, confused me. Low fantasy, at least, as much as I know, is stuff like Good Omens, where as yours seems to be more Paranormal/alternate world/ or something? It's hard to tell since we're not told in the query if we're on earth or not. The snarky bit too, gave me pause. I think just the other day, Agents were tweeting about that word not meaning what often writers think it does.
    On the other hand, your 250 words are very good! My advice would be to trim words, and maybe research genre tags a bit more

  17. Oh, and I'm (1) in the list for tracking?

  18. The query spends too much time on the loveletter/confession before getting to the part of the story that grabbed my attention. The voice was great, but didn't carry over into the 250. Similar to the query, too much of the opening was spent on one detail of a detail. With the story being over 100k and YA (even though it is a fantasy), I worry the rest of it might be equally drawn out and in need of tightening.

    It'd have to be a no.

  19. Revision crit -

    I think this revision is definitely an improvement! Especially the first 250. It's much tighter and cleaner. Great job!

    The flow of the query feels a bit off in this revision, though. I would definitely break it up into more than two paragraphs -- everything feels very jammed together in the query in a way it isn't in the first 250. Some line breaks will help loosen it up a bit. I also think the first paragraph of the query reads a bit more stilted than the second paragraph... you may want to let it sit a bit so you can look at it clearly, then come back and clean up the flow to make it less stiff and make sure you're capturing the great voice in the first 250.

    If you actually cut 10K words already from the previous version, WOW, good for you! Keep going if you can! That's awesome, and getting under 100K will help.

    The biggest thing I think the query could still use is more of a sense of what makes this story unique. It's not clear what makes it stand out from the crowd of other "girl finds out she has powers and must fight evil wizard" fantasy books out there. Anything you can give us that's a unique twist or detail would be great.

    I think this revision may have nudged it over the line to a marginal yes for me. So good job! Cleaning up the flow of the query will make it a more solid yes. It's the voice that really sells me at this point.

    Good luck!


  20. It has improved even more. I love the voice in both. I liked how you added more about the other boy. Yes #4

  21. Still love the voice. I thought the query was stronger but still had a couple notes. I wasn't clear how the 'how to make a smoke detector stop squawking' figures in. I get you're trying to show he doesn't know about basic regular world things, but this kind of pulled me out of the flow of the query. You also may want to thinking about rephrasing the sentence starting 'Sean's from another world...' to avoid three uses of 'world' in the same sentence. My last hesitation was over 'Tessa moved heaven and earth to land a date' which kind of came out of nowhere. Her initial choice of him sounded pretty straightforward so this hint at great effort was surprising.

    In the first 250, I loved the line 'Something so light shouldn't carry so much weight.' I was a little surprised that an assembly featuring an investment guy would be held outside rather than in an auditorium. This line has a missing word/extra word?: ' it looked like a document from Shakespeare would have had.' Overall, a 'yes' from me. (#9)