QUERY: Anomalous

Thanks to all for their invaluable comments. I have updated the query and am posting it below:

UPDATED QUERY:


Dear Agent,

Nelle’s father ended his life when he couldn’t bear to be the laughingstock of the town any longer. With his wild claims of alien abductions, the last person Nelle wants to meet is an alien.

Now the thirteen year old seems to be living parallel lives. In one she discovers that she is the only surviving half alien, an anomaly, with amazing yet undiscovered (and thereby unknown) superpowers. In her other life, her normal life, she herself is unknown, forever hidden in her older brother’s notorious shadow. Her only saving grace is her empathy – but let’s face it – it can only take you so far.

Suddenly Nelle is forced to come out of the shadows in both of her lives. The world is ending soon and only the anomaly can stop the catastrophe. As if that weren’t enough, her brother seems to be heading from one disaster to another, and she is the only person capable of helping him.

With both her lives seemingly imitating each other, she has trouble figuring out which one is real. One thing is for certain though. It is time for Nelle to step up and put faith in her own abilities, if she wants to save what is dear to her.

ANOMALOUS is a middle grade fantasy, complete at 50000 words.


Thank you for your time and consideration.
------------------------------------------------------
ORIGINAL QUERY:

Dear Agent,

I understand you are looking for YA contemporary fiction and would like to send my manuscript "Anomalous" for your consideration.


A brief synopsis is as follows:


This is a story about a young girl who may be part alien, and who is the only one who can save the world.
This is a story about a young girl who is fully sidelined, and who is the only one who can save her brother.

Thirteen year old Nelle seems to be living two parallel lives. 

In one, she finds out that Earth has been inhabited by the Egaelians, a travelling alien species since time immemorial, and she is the only surviving half-human half-alien. An anomaly. It is not until she encounters an archaic amulet and a sinister stranger, that she begins to figure out there's more to her than she realizes. Together with the amulet, she possesses surprising capabilities, including the ability to be an Immortal (and saving the Earth from destruction, of course)

In the other, she is who she has always been: Quiet, lonely and a loner-not-by-choice. Often ignored in favor of her troublesome brother Jo, and her notorious father before that, she has learned to keep her head down and avoid the spotlight, while yearning for attention. A misfit. Yet what she possesses is an amazing amount of empathy, with a little bit of freakishness, and is the only one who can help Jo, troubled and determinedly set on a doomed course. It doesn't help that bizarre natural disasters hit the town and he seems to be in their direct path. It is only Nelle who stands in the way and manages to save his life twice (but unable to stop his self destructive ways, after all).

She wins in the first one, but loses the other. The first one may never have happened at all. 

But in the process she ends up wiser for all her ordeals, real or imagined, and discovers her own true self, her true friends and perhaps her first true love.

The finished draft of the manuscript is close to 50000 words and I would love to send it to you if you are interested.

This is my first novel. I have an online blog (link below) where I have published several short stories, articles and poems.

Thanks for your time. Look forward to hearing back from you.

Regards,
S

11 comments:

Ashley Hearn said...

Hi there! Welcome to #HolidayQuery :)

You certainly have an interesting premise here and what I like most about your query is that I feel a strong sense of sympathy for Nelle.

I'm pretty thrown by the format of the query though. I understand they don't all HAVE to follow the touted "three paragraph format" but your brief synopsis at the beginning doesn't do anything for me that a standard introduction wouldn't do better. Also, while you do a great job of telling us who Nelle is, I don't get a clear sense of the story's plot. Save the world? OK. Save it how? What's the hero's journey? What are some of the obstacles?

The main thing I'm not sure about though is whether Nelle LITERALLY has two lives or not. If she does, I want to see how they come together. If not... the "double lives" wording is a bit confusing. I think you could hone this down for simplicity. Give us 1. Who Nelle is. 2. What she wants. 3. What is she going to do to get what she wants.

The bones are there. Just hidden under some unnecessarily cute layers.

In case you haven't checked it out yet. I would definitely look at the Query Shark archives for tips on how to hone and simplify your query.

Minor notes. In the final query you send to agents DO NOT call your manuscript a draft as in "the finished draft of the manuscript is close to 50000 words." They could take that to mean it isn't finished. Also, just say what your word count is. No need for "close to." They'll understand it's rounded.

That's so cool you publish short stories and poems to your blog. That's not something that's typically included in a bio paragraph though. The bio is for professional publishing credentials. However, I think you'd be OK to put the link to your blog in your signature, just in case the agent wants to click on it.

Heather said...

This is an interesting concept -- the idea of parallel lives is always fascinating to me.
I think there are a few things you could do to strengthen your query.
1) Start your query either with the stats (name, word count, comps, etc.) or simply with your pitch. Unless you're referencing a specific #MSWL or Twitter post, the agents assume you've done your homework and wouldn't query them if they didn't rep your genre.
2) VERY KEY: a query is not a synopsis. YOu're trying to hook the agent, not tell the whole story. I wouldn't even say the word synopsis in the body of the query.
3) remember that in a synopsis, you tell the end of the story, in a query you don't - you simply hook us with the stakes.
4) I think your query really begins with the words "Thirteen-year old Nelle is living parallel live" (cut out "seems to be" and "two")
5) There were several places I found myself having to re-read for clarity. One place I stumbled a lot -- the description of the lived. Perhaps find a way to tell us what's similar about the lives and what's not (both trying to save something important to her but in one life she's an alien in the other life she's just an awkward teenager)
7) Remember the query basics: Character, Conflict, Stakes!! Make them clear.
6) Check your genre - this doesn't sound contemporary. More like Sci Fi or Fantasy -- because of the alien element.
7) Finally -- No need to say you'd love to send it if they're interested. They know that. Just say your novel is complete at 50,000 words. Unless your blog has scads of viewers, I would skip that part.
Good luck!!

Magali Andrée Fréchette said...

A brief synopsis is as follows: ---{it's not a synopsis though - a query is very different}---


This is a story about a young girl who may be part alien, and who is the only one who can save the world.
This is a story about a young girl who is fully sidelined, and who is the only one who can save her brother. ---{this really doesn't start like a query, in my opinion, and feels more like a tagline to a movie or something}---


Thirteen year old Nelle seems to be living two parallel lives. ---{I'd start with this. And change to "Thirteen-year-old..."}---


In one, she finds out ---{how does she find out?}---


that Earth has been inhabited by the Egaelians, a travelling alien species since time immemorial ---{not sure what this means}---


, and she is the only surviving half-human half-alien. An anomaly. It is not until she encounters an archaic amulet and a sinister stranger, that she begins to figure out there's more to her than she realizes. ---{In my opinion, this sounds cliche and vague}---


Together with the amulet, she possesses surprising capabilities, including the ability to be an Immortal (and saving the Earth from destruction, of course). ---{I think that by adding more voice to your query, you'd be able to give the readers a sense of your character without having to add the parentheses}---


In the other, she is who she has always been ---{reads awkwardly}---


: Quiet, lonely and a loner-not-by-choice. Often ignored in favor of her troublesome brother Jo, and her notorious father before that, she has learned to keep her head down and avoid the spotlight, while yearning for attention. A misfit. Yet what she possesses is an amazing amount of empathy, with a little bit of freakishness ---{there's a bit too much description of all her traits - and you don't need to list them as much if you give us a sense of who she is and what she's like through voice}---


, and is the only one who can help Jo, troubled and determinedly set on a doomed course. ---{this feels random in a way; it's suddenly thrown in at the reader}---


It doesn't help that bizarre natural disasters hit the town and he seems to be in their direct path. ---{make the query about your main character, Nelle - if you switch points of view, we'll assume that's how your manuscript is also constructed}---


It is only Nelle who stands in the way and manages to save his life twice (but unable to stop his self destructive ways, after all). ---{how does she stand in the way? why is she the only one? twice?}---


She wins in the first one, but loses the other. The first one may never have happened at all. ---{this is confusing}---


But in the process she ends up wiser for all her ordeals, real or imagined, and discovers her own true self, her true friends and perhaps her first true love. ---{also feels random since nothing was ever mentioned about love before}---


The finished draft of the manuscript is close to 50000 words ---{ANOMALOUS is a 50,000-word *INSERT GENRE HERE*}---


and I would love to send it to you if you are interested. ---{no need to put this}---


This is my first novel. ---{no need to put this}---


I have an online blog (link below) where I have published several short stories, articles and poems.


Thanks for your time. Look forward to hearing back from you.

Regards,
S ---{This is just my personal information, but this sounds too informal - remember that this is basically sending a job application of sorts}---


I'd like to recommend checking out the absolute write forum since, after fifty posts, you can post your query there for feedback as well. It's helped my queries greatly, and people really do help out and tear the queries apart to really make them shine! Another great way is to critique other writers' queries as well! Here's the link: http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/index.php

Hope this helps! (and sorry if it was harsh!)
Good luck! :)

Lora Palmer said...

What an intriguing premise, and this is a story I'd love to read! I think some specificity would help the query. For example, what destruction is threatening the earth that she needs to save it from--an alien invasion, an asteroid, supervolcano eruptions? Also, what is it about your MC that makes her shunned by others. Is she shy, a daydreamer who just has trouble connecting? And what sort of trouble is her brother getting into--drinking, drugs, stealing, violence? What does she learn about herself in the process of trying to save the Earth and her brother?

I'm also curious about the parallel lives. Does your story literally follow two different realities, one in which she has to save the earth and one in which she must save her brother? Or is is that she has this one life as an ordinary girl, where she has to keep the extraordinary stuff she ends up getting into a secret?

Overall, love the idea for this story, and I think a few more details will help make this query shine!

Best of luck :)!

Laurie H. said...

I really like your concept. A girl living parallel lives is intriguing.
I was left confused though and I'm not fully understanding who your character is and how/why she is living this double life.
Starting with the 'ordinary girl' paragraph may be a better set up for the rest of the query. Give us an idea of who she is before you introduce the fantasy aspect of the character.
Just remember, you want your query to be as specific as possible. Goals, Obstacles, Stakes. Give us a reason to cheer for your character.
Good luck with your writing and your story!

Julie.M.Weathers said...

First off, hello! Congratulations on writing a book. That's a big accomplishment.

You want to get straight to the heart of the matter. The agent knows why you're contacting them. If you want to add something personal about why you're contacting them, do it at the end.

Start with the story. Thirteen-year-old Nellie....

"Together with the amulet, she possesses surprising capabilities, including the ability to be an Immortal (and saving the Earth from destruction, of course)."

This sounds like it's a given and everyone should just assume she can save the earth from destruction, no sweat. It shouldn't appear to be that easy.

"It doesn't help that bizarre natural disasters hit the town and he seems to be in their direct path. "

Who is he? Her father or brother Jo?

"It is only Nelle who stands in the way and manages to save his life twice (but unable to stop his self destructive ways, after all)."

I would restructure the sentence without the parentheses.

"She wins in the first one, but loses the other. The first one may never have happened at all."

Wins the first one what?

"But in the process she ends up wiser for all her ordeals, real or imagined, and discovers her own true self, her true friends and perhaps her first true love."

If you're going to mention true love at the end, it needs to be mentioned earlier. Also, from listening to agents earlier, don't try to sell your book as a girl grows up and finds herself. They're a dime a dozen, direct quote. Focus on what makes your book different.

"The finished draft of the manuscript is close to 50000 words and I would love to send it to you if you are interested."

Don't mention draft to an agent. They only want to see a very revised, edited, polished product. You also don't need to mention first novel. It's ok to link your blog, but unless your published, I wouldn't mention what else you've written.

Good luck!

Julie


L Evans said...

I don't think the comment I left the other day went through so I'm re-posting. Feel free to delete if this is a duplicate!

Hello! Right away, I got caught up in the format of the query. I would consider removing everything up until "thirteen year old Nelle". To me, it just delays getting to the actual good stuff, just something to consider.

I'd add the detail that your novel is YA contemporary fiction down in the spot where you mention the word count so that is all in one place.

fyi, the word anomaly made me think of the matched series.

I would delete draft when speaking about your ms and if the word count is over 49,000 you can just say it's 50,000. Otherwise it leaves some doubt, is this really only 45k?

Hope these thoughts and comments help. Good luck with this!!

Jen said...

Hi!

This sounds like a cool concept! I love the whole parallel world idea. I just have a couple of preliminary comments to make.

In the body of a query it's best not to call your pitch a 'synopsis', since a synopsis and query perform different functions. Best just to jump straight in with a couple of paragraphs outlining who the character is, what kick starts their journey/what they want, what makes it difficult for them and what will happen if they don't achieve their goals(character, conflict and stakes idea). A synopsis gives away the twists and turns, and also the ending. A query is there to make the agent want more! :)

I would cut the 'this is the story' introductory section - your hook is the fact she lives parallel lives, so best to lead with that :)

I notice your protagonist is thirteen - you might be better marking this as Upper MG or MG (but I don't read much MG so don't take just my word on that!) the strong themes of friendship and saving her brother might also be better suited for MG readers.

I also noticed your book is marked as contemporary. The amulet, powers, saving Earth and aliens suggest this is more sci/fi fantasy to me (which is cool, I love them!)so maybe have a look to be sure you're marking it for the attention of the right agent.

Hopefully these pointers are helpful, but bear in mind they're just subjective so take from them what you will! :)

1000th.monkey said...

I haven't read the other comments, so please ignore if I'm duplicating what someone else has already said.

This reads more like a synopsis than a query. The main point of trying to 'hook' an agent/reader is to give an idea of who the character is, what they want, and what's standing in their way.

From reading this, I know a bit about who Nelle is, but nothing about what she wants or what stands in her way... the only hint is that she years for attention. From who? Your wording is too vague... and as a reader, I need specifics... why should I care about Nelle? Why should I stick with her for 50,000 words?

As to her living two separate lives, I have no idea how this works... does she wake up each morning in a different universe? Is she one in the morning, and the other when she falls asleep? Does she suddenly jump between them during the day at any moment? Does she have any control? This is another example of where your wording is too vague.

I suggest you try to condense your story into (essentially) a tagline... which is one sentence: who is the character, what do they want, and what stands in their way?

From there, you should have the main components to re-write the query.

Nikola Vukoja said...

Hi Ashley,

as others have said, this is an intriguing concept but this is not a query. There is nothing wrong with breaking query letter rules, if done well, but to do so you need to understand those rules.

Again as others have said, don't write your MS is a draft, this tells an agent/editor it's not finished and don't write you've written a synopsis when they have asked for a query.

There are lots of resources online for basics of query letter writing. Michelle's blog has info on this, as does Query Shark (an endless supply of what to and not to do) and there's also Writers Digest, Agent Query, Query Tracker, Brenda Drake's blog and numerous others.

I'd also suggest reading the 30+ queries on here as, even though they may not be in your genre or category, by reading them all, you'll get a better understanding of what a basic QL looks like.

After that, maybe revise and update your own submission :)

Sarovar said...

A big thanks to everyone for posting their thoughts here. Most of all thanks to Michelle Hauck for giving us this wonderful opportunity. This has truly been an eye opening experience and there have been a lot of learnings for sure.
Best of luck to all the fellow authors!

Best,
Sarovar