Sunday, March 22, 2015

Become an Agent 2015 Post #19

Title: Master Copy
Genre: YA Fantasy
Word Count: Revised, it should come in around 99 000-100 000 words.

Query:

Seventeen-year-old Amber writes in her diary like it's a religion--once a day, never in class, and always an honest interpretation of her life--until she discovers her diary is lying to her. At first she thinks her little brothers are up to their usual pranks, but the lies are too personal and too well-thought out to be dreamed up by kids. And the worst part is...the entries are in Amber's own loopy cursive.

Amber knows she shouldn't continue holding onto the diary, but when the lies within help save a classmate from being crushed by a collapsing part of the school--one that shouldn't even exist in the first place--she can't deny that the diary just might be useful. As she continues writing and reading, each lie takes her on another wild chase through a memory she never had. The diary draws her in so far that her reality and the false entries begin to blur together. If Amber can't find the secret to the diary's lies, her whole past--and future--may change forever.

Aryanna of the Fury Clan is on a mission to stop the Council from voting in Condensation, an ancient ritual that folds timelines into one another. The man spearheading the movement, Kratos, is intent on their world becoming the Master Copy...before any other timeline discovers the ritual too. But Aryanna knows that whoever controls Condensation will control her world's history...with the ability to alter events and even people as if they never existed.

Aryanna sets out to sway the other clans against Condensation, but Kratos won't be so easily defeated. With only two weeks until the final vote, Aryanna must stop the Council and Kratos from using the ritual or her loved ones--and Aryanna herself--will be killed, an infinite number of times over.

Master Copy is a 99,000-100,000 word YA fantasy, told from Amber and Aryanna's POV.

First 250:

The sun hit my eyes like a one-two punch in the face after being stuck inside all morning. I winced until the brightness subsided and the school commons came into view. Kids milled about, enjoying the nice weather. I took a deep breath of spicy autumn air. Lunch time was often the best time, in my opinion.


I wove around a couple exchanging saliva—get real, you’d see each other after class—and made my way down the steps into the dappled sunshine. Crossing the grounds, I reached the oak I usually met my friends under and leaned against its large trunk. I slipped my diary out of my carrier bag. I only took it out when I wasn’t in class. The last thing I needed was someone grabbing it from me and reading it out loud. The pages curled in the breeze, but I could still read over the entry from yesterday without much hassle.

Emma and I went shopping tonight. I helped her pick out something cute for her seventeenth birthday at the end of the month. We both tried on a lot of stuff and had fun…the first time in a while. She’s been so reserved lately with me, but she insists nothing’s wrong. It all started around when school began, so I’m sure it’s—

That was odd. We didn’t go shopping yesterday. We went last week. And we never looked at anything for her birthday either. In fact, she hadn’t even mentioned it yet. I shuffled a few pages back, scanning my writing. If my brothers got into my diary again, I’d totally—

Query:

Amber Avalon is a seventeen-year-old senior, middle-upper class, thank you very much. Princess Aryanna is the future leader of the Fury Clan and a high priestess acolyte. Two girls. One goal: save time itself.

Amber writes in her diary like it's a religion--once a day, never in class, and always an honest interpretation of her life--until she notices something's wrong. It's as if her diary was written by a different person. The changes are innocent at first, like Diary Amber kissing her best guy friend. But when an entry helps save a classmate from being crushed by a collapsing part of the school--one that shouldn't exist in the first place--she can't deny that the book might be useful. As she continues writing and reading, each entry takes her on another wild chase through a memory she never had. The diary draws her in so far that she can't tell reality from pure fantasy. If Amber can't find the secret to the diary's changing ways, she may never remember her real life and continue living in a lie, forever.

Princess Aryanna’s objective is clear: gather votes in a diplomatic mission to stop Condensation—an ancient ritual that would merge all her world’s timelines into a single, streamlined Master Copy. The man running the show, Kratos, has the votes in his pocket. Aryanna knows that whoever controls Condensation will control her world's history, with the ability to alter events and even people as if they never existed. She'd give up her home temple itself to sway the other clans, but getting kidnapped was never part of her mission. If she and her companions cannot escape and track down Kratos, the Council will put Condensation in motion. Aryanna must stop them from voting for the ritual or her loved ones--and Aryanna herself--will be killed, an infinite number of times over.

Amber and Aryanna couldn't be more different, but they are about to find out how similar they really are. MASTER COPY is a YA fantasy, complete at 100,000 words, with series potential. It is told from two points of view: Amber’s and Aryanna’s.

First 250: 

The sun hit my eyes like a one-two punch after being stuck inside all morning. I winced until the brightness subsided and the school commons came into view. Kids milled about, enjoying the nice weather. I took a deep breath of spicy autumn air. Lunch time was often the best time, in my opinion.

I wove around a couple exchanging saliva—get real, you’d see each other after school—and made my way down the steps into the dappled sunshine. It looked like I was the first one of my friends to reach our meeting spot. I leaned against the oak's trunk and slipped my diary out of my carrier bag. I only took it out when I wasn’t in class. The last thing I needed was someone grabbing my innermost thoughts and reading them out loud. The pages curled in the breeze, but I could still read over my half-done entry without much hassle.

Emma and I went shopping tonight. I helped her pick out something cute for her seventeenth birthday at the end of the month. We both tried on a lot of stuff and had fun…the first time in a while. She’s been so reserved with me lately, but she keeps saying nothing’s wrong. It all started when school began, so I’m sure it’s—

What? Wait. We didn’t go shopping yesterday. We went last week. And we never looked at anything for her birthday either. In fact, she hadn’t even mentioned it yet. I shuffled a few pages back, scanning my writing. If my brothers got into my diary again, I’d totally—

23 comments:

  1. No.
    I love the premise - stories about diaries are always so much fun to read - so I think you've got a really workable concept.
    But -- while you've got great voice in your query, the rest of it is confusing. Is this a dual POV? If so, perhaps you should mention that in an umbrella comment right off the bat. OR give us a transition from Amber to Aryanna. I actually wondered if I had somehow toggled to another entry!
    The first 250 are fun - you've got a good voice here too, but your opener stutters a little and some of your wording is awkward ( Crossing the grounds, I reached the oak I usually met my friends under and leaned against its large trunk)
    Good luck!

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  2. I have to say no.

    This sounds VERY interesting. I love the idea of the journal writing false events, and of the "master copy" world. However, in the query there seems to be a disconnect between Amber and Aryanna. It's obvious that this is dual POV but I just need one line telling me how the two girls are connected. Your first 250 was where this became a definite no for me. Your opening is very cliché. Lunch time in a high school, kids making out... It isn't fresh. Begin somewhere else and I think this could be a yes.

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  3. This is a no for me.

    While the idea of the diary is intriguing, the query read like two separate stories. I think if you can clearly integrate Amber's story with that of the Fury Clan's mission, it would be much stronger. Perhaps if you added in/explained the diary's link to the Fury Clan?

    In the first 250, I think you could trim out a few extraneous words. I didn't think you needed 'in the face' in 'The sun hit my eyes like a one-two punch (in the face) after being stuck inside all morning.' and thought you could trim a few words from 'The last thing I needed was someone grabbing it (from me) and...' The MC's aside to 'get real, you'd see each other after class' didn't work for me -- since the MC has just mentioned lunch break in the previous paragraph -- so aren't they already 'after class' ? So I was momentarily confused about the time frame. That said, the situation of her diary entries changing sounds like a great puzzle as well as a jumping off point for adventure.
    #1

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  4. Yes. For your 250 alone, yes.

    The query does need some work. It is very long. But I loved your 250. I didn't even care it started at school lunch. Here's a laid back female voice who rolls her eyes at high school romantic drama, and some of your descriptive words. It is a little long in the word-count, too, but if I were an agent I'd be willing to help work on that :D

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  5. This is a no for me.

    I loved the concept here--timeline's folding in on each other, a Master Copy, a lying diary. However, the query was very confusing when you changed from one point of view to the other. If you could find a way to link the two, perhaps explaining how Amber's diary is related to Aryanna, then this would work much better. Also, I think both the query and 250 can be trimmed so the narrative is more direct and less clunky. For example, I think you could shorten the first sentence to just, "Seventeen-year-old Amber's diary is lying to her." Unfortunately, the opening was fairly typical, and to be honest, I wasn't sure why she'd be rereading a diary entry she just wrote the day before.

    With a few tweaks and a little streamlining this could turn into a yes.

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  6. The query is a bit confusing, and I do think you need to give me some link between the two main character somewhere. But I adore the premise, and love the voice in the first 250. I'd definitely request at least a few pages to see how the next couple of chapters hold up.

    If I were only allowed to pick two, I'd probably have to say no, due to the disconnect in the query letter. But I did like 16, so I get to pick four, and the means I'm super happy that I get to say YES!

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  7. No.

    Bystander here. I went through all 20 entries, made my yes, no, and maybe pile. This started out in the maybe pile. Because I had only two spots left for maybe's, I had to do some cutting, and this one didn't make it.

    The query started off confusing me since it jumped directly from your first main character in the real world (which made me scratch my head and wonder if it was miscategorized--UF maybe instead?) to your second main character (OK, yes, it's fantasy, I get it). At first, I thought you'd had a copy/paste mishap, but I figured it out.

    The fantasy world you described didn't come through. You've done a great job setting up the goals of the protagonists, but to stand out, your world needs to be interesting and unique. Collapsing realities have been done before, so I'd liked to have heard more about where Protag #2 is from and why it sets your story apart.

    The voice is voicey, but again, I didn't feel like it stood out. Nothing terrible about it, but it felt like a lot of YA protags.

    This was hard to say no to, but I didn't feel like anything grabbed me about it. I wanted it to--but it didn't.

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  8. No.

    This reflects the fact that query needs serious work and I needed to see more of
    the second main character before I made a decision. Would I go on to read this book if those issues were fixed? Definitely!

    To start with, you really need a summary line at the top of the query that explains the interweaving of the two main characters and their very different worlds. I was actually so confused on the first read that I thought you had accidentally posted two different queries as one. I’ll admit I was tired, but I think it’s safe to assume that many agents are also going be looking through queries in their downtime.

    That said, I do very much like the idea of the interweaving of the two worlds – one actively full of magic and the other not but with magic seeping in. It’s a plot very reminiscent of the late Diana Wynne Jones’s books, and that’s a compliment. I also love diaries that start talking back, so that was immediately attractive too.

    There’s a worrying thing happening in more than one entry here in which the character whose perspective we see in the first 250 words gets more emphasis at the cost of the second main character, the one who only appears in the query, feeling one dimensional. I don’t get any sense of Aryanna here, which makes her already harder-to-believe story even more distant. She also gets fewer words in the query than Amber. I think I would try to make Aryanna a little more three-dimensional even if it meant cutting back on Amber’s text in the query. You could also achieve this by describing the interaction of the two girls in the query: How do they interact/meet? What does it teach them? What threats do they face together?

    #2

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  9. #3 Commenting…

    You definitely need a transition between the Amber/ Aryanna sections of the query. Also, I think the second paragraph could be tightened cutting the word "just" and the line "one that shouldn't even exist in the first place" for example.
    In the Aryanna (I like this name!) section I don't get this idea of being voting IN Condensation. How do you vote in (I'm reading this like within/inside) a ritual. Should it be "for"? Or maybe this sentence just needs tweaking all over. Also, the use of ellipses here also bothered me.

    As for the 250 - In the first paragraph I'd get the kids milled/nice weather line. And in the second the "get real, you’d see each other after class" doesn't seem to fit. Small examples of where the writing doesn't shine.

    But you've got my attention with your layered worlds! So… Yes!

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  10. No.

    But it was ALMOST a yes. I love the idea of Amber's story. You'd totally sold me on the idea, and then out of no where comes Aryanna and I'm lost and confused, but worse, I don't trust you can blend these two characters together.

    I loved the 250 in the same way that I loved the part of the query that cover's Amber's story. But I was almost expecting this to be epistolary based on the description in the query, that we were going to be reading the story as if it were a diary entry.

    If you could make the combination in the query feel more organic, or show how Aryanna fits from Amber's perspective, my answer would likely be different.

    Aside: For your word count, just round up, having a range in there is needlessly complicating.

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  11. This is a no for me, but reluctantly. I love the idea that I think is here, but the switch from Amber to Aryanna is too abrupt for me. I'm not sure how the two girls relate to each other, are they the same person? Linked through magic? Twins separated at birth? I think once you clear that up the query will be less confusing and more enticing. Right now I'm not even sure what the main conflict is. Also on your word count, instead of listing 99,000-100,000 words, I would round to the nearest number, so either 99,000 or 100,000 and not birth.

    Good luck with this!

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  12. This is a No from me, but it's close to a yes. I love the premise. Here's where you lost me:

    The query reads like two separate stories. When it got to the fairy paragraph, I was like, "What?!!" I think you have to link Aryanna and Amber together and then go to the fairy world--but barely in the query. I'm not even sure I'd include Kratos, Condensation, or the Council. It's hard to offer more help/comments because I'm not sure where/how the stories intersect except that they do. Also, is "lies" the right word? Because if so, how does a "lie" help save a classmate? It wouldn't be true, right? That's something I'd clarify.

    I like the 250. I love the voice and especially the fact that we're getting into the diary issue on the first page. Nicely done!

    Overall, I think the query needs the work--tell us how the girls are linked, the conflict (more detail than the past and future may change forever), and the stakes for each. I like this premise though, and the story sounds super interesting. Good luck!

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  13. This is a no from me. The first half of your query is great and really got my attention. The second half confused me to no ends. Especially since it doesn't feature again in the first 250. I don't understand how the two are related, and if it isn't something that's immediately going to get an explanation, then all it's doing is providing a distraction from Amber's side of the story, which I really want to know more about.

    Your writing style is great. And you immediately answered my first question, which is "why is she reading back through her own diary when she already knows what's in it?" Love the descriptions and the details, but that second part of the query killed it for me.

    Good luck.

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  14. # 5 here - I probably would not request pages.

    First of all, I love the concept of a diary making up its own reality, essentially. I would suggest changing some different choices of words, however - for some reason the repeated use of the word "lies" feels wrong. And I don't think you undersell how taken aback Amber should be when she realizes THE DIARY is writing stories in her own handwriting. I would also like more specifics about how the alternate reality and the real reality are merging and becoming confusing and what's at stake for Amber as this happens.

    And yes, as others have mentioned, it's the transition to the next section that would cause me to not request pages. Not only is it jarring, but I don't find it nearly as interesting or unique as the premise you have already set up. I premise which, honestly, I think stands alone as a really great magical realism story.

    Maybe you have two novels here, I don't know. But the diary changing entries is a fantastic idea. The fact that it's changing things to seemingly help people, and Amber, is awesome. For some reason, this idea makes think of Field of Dreams, of something happening that appears to be for one reason, but the real reason is deeply personal to the character, and unraveling it causes the character to learn something about him/herself in an emotionally satisfying way. The fact that this is a diary, one of the most personal items around, lends itself to this as well.

    Your first 250 is great, full of voice. I'd like to see a little more set up with the diary, its importance to Amber, maybe even why Amber is so dedicated to keeping a diary. In other words, I'd like to be more grounded in your characters and world before the made-up diary stories are introduced. That does mean pushing it out of your first 250, but that's okay. We need to care about Amber before we care about what's happening to her.

    Lots of luck with this! Super, super creative premise!

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    Replies
    1. That should read, I DO think you undersell Amber's reaction, in the query.

      Delete
  15. No

    I'm starting this late thanks to the local plague, so I'm not going to rehash what others have said before too much.

    For the query I think it would work better almost backwards. Give a tip about Dual POV right up front. Then go into the Aryanna paragraph. It was great, just enough world building to let me know what was going on, but not too much that i had to read it over and over to get the picture. (great job!) I think that the Amber paragraphs could use a little remix though. It seems like the story is about how Aryanna is using the Diary to get Amber's help, or maybe it is a side effect of the Condensation, and the query should probably say that. I love the idea of a Tom Riddle style diary, and i love the fantasy elements, so i think there is some awesome potential here.

    In the first 250 there were a few spots where the voice didn't feel like a teen, or at least not teens today. like the "That was odd" felt incredibly understated for the reaction of her journal being tampered with. Also, when she is mentally rebuking the couple about their PDA she mentions they can do that after class, but isn't it already after class? That's why she's at lunch. Do you mean after school? Was she looking through a classroom window and they were in class but she wasn't? Reading the previous days entry felt like an info dump on her own part. It would feel more natural if a discrepancy caught eye or something. There was no narrative or real POV like there should be in the pen and paper inner monologue of a teen girl.

    I really think that with a solid substantive edit and rearranging of the query this could be pretty awesome.

    Tobias Eaton (4)

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  16. I think the others have summed up my reservations...but the main one is that I still don't get how the girls are related.

    But this book's premise is awesome. A lying diary! I wanted to say "yes" to this badly, but the query the way it is just stood in the way.

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  17. Revision Yes! I had to reread the first line in your query because "senior, middle-upper class" are kind of crazy together lol, but I get her voice there and makes me love her already. Love the mystery you build in the second paragraph. The plot of the diary, reality vs fantasy, make me want to read your whole book. I don't know if you need all the details in the third paragraph, maybe just get to the stakes faster. 250 words grab me right away with Amber's voice. You did a excellent rewrite adding more of her in there. The important mystery is introduced seamlessly. Great job here. (#10)

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  18. Revision critique from #17
    Okay...so you are getting so much closer. The query is much improved, but I still don't QUITE understand how the girls' lives intersect. I mean...what is happening in one world that affects the diary in the other? THere is just one detail missing there for me. Put that in there and this becomes a yes for me.
    I do hear voice! So kudos there!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for the second crit.

      That has been the most agonizing part.
      How to connect the two stories without giving away the mystery... As part of the way I have the story set up is the reader finding out why they're connected, chapter by chapter. Back to the drawing board. Lol

      Delete
  19. #1 on the revision here. The opening 250 grabbed me and read smoothly. I still think the diary changing her notations is intriguing and will appeal to your target audience. Though you've clarified many of the issues in the query, I'd like to see the connection between the two protagonists -- I'm assuming the diary is the key. If you can find a way to show us the link between the two MC's, I'd vote yes.

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  20. #2 commenting on the revision - yes! I really want to read this. You've done a good job of clarifying and balancing your two characters in the revised query. I might not use the word "fantasy" to refer to the unreal diary timeline in Amber's paragraph. Amber may be assuming it's her fantasy, but Aryanna's story indicates it probably isn't.

    "Amber and Aryanna couldn't be more different" doesn't seem quite true. They both sound very precise, determined and on top of things. I think they couldn't more separate, or that it's hard to imagine how they could ever come together.

    Keep working on it, you're so close!

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  21. Everything I've read about querying a dual POV story is to pick one (typically the one who has the first chapter) and focus on that character's POV in the query. A quick google of "querying dual POV" will point you in the right direction with articles from agents (including the Query Shark) and other writers that will help you do this right. It gives you so much more room to draw agents into the story than trying to cram two POVs into 250-300 words.

    That said, I think this is a great premise for a story and I love the voice in the first 250. The only part that stuck out to me was "get real, you’d see each other after school"--it feels clunky and I had to stop and read it twice before I got what you meant because of the "you" and the weird would in there. That first line is as brilliant as the sun that's blinding her. Best of luck from #13...

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