New & Improved Query for Blogfest

WOW! That’s all I can say. I can’t even begin to express how thankful I am for today’s query assignment. I’ll admit I was prideful at the start, thinking I’d written a marvelous query. Boy was I wrong (add it to the already long list of things). I know most of you are probably done looking at queries, but if you’re still up like me, perhaps you wouldn’t mind taking a look at my new one? I’m gonna hop onto some more blogs and look at queries. I apologize for not getting around to everyone yet. It just turns out I totally suck at writing these things and needed lots of time today to fix my own. Not to mention I probably wouldn’t have been that much help anyways in my ignorance. Whoever said ignorance is bliss is wrong!

Dear Kathleen Rushall,

At almost seventeen years of age, Olga finally has a plan: make Random notice her as more than the girl with pigtails he used to chase at recess. After all, she’s been in love with him for as long as she can remember (they bonded over their horrible names in kindergarten).

Just as Olga dares to hope her plan is working, lightning strikes. Literally. She saves his life and they’re rushed to the hospital where a nurse orders some tests and they discover Random has leukemia. So much for the saying lightning never strikes twice.

Olga writes her own prescription in the form of a list titled “18 Things.” The list consists of eighteen quests Random must accomplish before his eighteenth birthday. Olga hopes this journey will help him discover the will to live. What she doesn’t count on is discovering the beauty and strength within herself, and his secret love for her, in the process. Fire-walking, riding the biggest rollercoaster in the U.S. and breaking a world record, not to mention plenty of interferences from a smitten head cheerleader, are minor things. The major quest isn’t even on the list. She’s convinced tragedy helps give life meaning and is not a random act without purpose as his name suggests. Time for a new plan: persuade Random to believe in the same lesson she’s learned on their journey. Pain is the price you pay to love, and it’s worth it. If she fails, she risks losing her soul-mate forever.

This coming-of-age story about friendship and the turmoil of real life is a young adult version of The Bucket List. I learned about you through Deana Barnhart’s “Gearin’ Up to Get an Agent” Blogfest. I’d love to send you my 74,000-word novel, 18 THINGS.

I’m a member of SCBWI, RWA-PRO, YA-RWA, and Southwest Florida Romance Writers. The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society already agreed to review the book upon publication in its national newsletter (circulation around 250,000). I’ve appended the first five pages of the novel to the end of this message. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Very Best Regards,

Jamie Ayres

*Left off usual contact info for blogfest

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13 comments on “New & Improved Query for Blogfest

  1. hi

    I know what Olga’s goal is, but I don’t know what her plan is to achieve that goal, so when you mention her having a plan, or the plan almost working, it feels a bit vague. Her saving him from being hit by lightning (I think that’s what you’re saying) is also presented in a vague way, How does she save him? I think what she does isn’t as important as how she does it, because that’s how we get to know what kind of girl she is. Of course getting that across concisely is an art in itself.

    As a variation on the Bucket List idea I think it’s fine, but I think you might need to emphasise the forces working against them, otherwise it will just be a travelogue. If it’s the cheerleader or their families or whatever a stronger sense of that would help bring out some conflict I think. I also think the things they choose to do for their list need to be quite unusual or in some way not what you would expect for it to stand out from other books using a similar device. The ones you mention are a bit too obvious, imo.

    As an idea the premise works fine and I can see the potential for the emotional aspects of the story. As a pitch for a book it feels mostly like you’re telling me what it’s going to be like rather than giving me specific examples.

    mood

  2. Hi Jamie,

    It sounds like a really sweet and sad story. The premise is strong. I think you’re pretty close, but you could simplify the last paragraph. I like the line about the major quest not being on the list but you could spell out more what you mean. Is the major quest is giving Random the Will to live? Or showing him that love is worth pain? You could focus on just one motivation to make it simpler. I think the goal of giving Random the will to live is strong enough as a motivation to carry the query without adding additional aspects. I also agree with mooderino that you could show more what the conflict is. I assume the antagonist is leukemia. Are they racing against the clock to complete the list because his time running out? From my understanding leukemia is a devastating disease, but very often treatable, especially in young people, so if he is likely to die, I think it might help to have that spelled out more.

    Great job with your query! Good luck!

  3. I was drawn into the story — I didn’t care what Olga’s plan was, or if Random’s leukemia was treatable. Everything is huge to young people. I felt your compassion and Olga’s love on the page. I love it that she’s given him 18 quests. This sounds like a remarkable story.

  4. This is really strong. I might cut it down slightly but I tend to be a minimalist. Also, look up Before I Die (the book) which is also a YA bucket list book and make sure you hook your book differently. That’s all I got. Nicely done.

  5. Thanks all for your thoughtful comments on the new version.
    @ Mooderino–the pitch part of the query was exactly 250 words so I didn’t think there’s anything I can add or detract. I don’t think you need to know what her plan is, that’s what the synopsis is for & if they read the first page of my ms.-they’ll discover what it is. Maybe I could say “make him notice her as more than the girl next door” instead of the pigtails thing b/c that stereotype paints a picture right away of what kind of girl she is. The lightning strike was meant to be vague-was trying to show them that something major happens at the beginning to throw her plans. The forces working against her are the smitten cheerleader (love triangle) and Random’s cynicism (plus an overly strict mom but didn’t think that fit in the query). Idk about the list being too obvious. I asked young people what would be on their list and took that into consideration. I did change it to “Heli-snowboarding, pulling off the perfect prank and breaking a world record”—are those items less obvious? It’s all a matter of opinion I guess.

    @Sharon—Olga’s goal starts out giving him the will to live. He’d breezed through life up until his diagnosis and then developed the “life isn’t fair” attitude so why bother? His leukemia is beatable, but he’s still afraid of dying and so isn’t fulfilling his number one on the list: tell Olga he’s in love with her. I left the specifics out of it b/c I didn’t want to give away ending in query. But Olga discovers his #1 secretively (also her #1 on the list she created for herself) and so her goal changes into persuading him that pain is the price you pay to love & it’s worth it.

    @Christa—thanks for the comparison. I’d never heard of it. I guess it’s from a British author and came out in 2009. I don’t know what all the things are on her to-do list but it seems to focus a lot on her having sex (her # 1), and Amazon also mentions drug use being on her list. My list is a far cry from that, although having sex does come up since it is a 17-yr-old boy I’m dealing with.

  6. Nicely done. I love the “coming of age” part, particularly since I’m a former high school teacher, and those books, in my opinion, really tugged at the teens’ heartstrings. 😀

    • Hi Jamie, and thanks so much for stopping by my blog. This story sounds amazing, and I think you’ve done a great job with this. I feel invested in the story already–which is saying something, as this story and I just met. 😉

      Just two quick points for you. Although I love what you’re saying in your first paragraph, I was thrown off by the parentheses… It almost felt like you paused from telling me the story to whisper in my ear, “Psst, by the way, they met in kindergarten.” Is there a way you can present the same information without using parentheses?

      I also loved the comparison to “The Bucket List,” but I think you may need to throw in one more comparison–perhaps to something entirely different–so it doesn’t feel like you are simply presenting the same story and calling it “The Bucket List, Junior.”

      Your descriptions make it sound much different, so I almost felt let-down by the stand-alone comparison, like, “Oh? It’s just like The Bucket List? Dammit, I loved that movie, but I’ve already seen it…” Does that make sense?

      All in all, though, I think this book sounds EXCELLENT–so much so, in fact, that I find myself daydreaming about all the funny/sad/heartwarming/heartbreaking stuff that you may have decided to write about. I’m also really curious about the ending. In short, you’ve hooked me, and I would DEFINITELY request more pages!

  7. This is looking good! Sounds like a really sweet story. Great job!

    A few suggestions: 1) perhaps change So much for the saying lightning never strikes twice to So much for lightning never striking twice” OR “So much for the saying “lightning never strikes twice”. I felt it needed quotation marks if you are calling it a saying, or just to be rephrased. 2) I might trim down the third paragraph, as such:

    Olga writes her own prescription in the form of a list titled “18 Things.” The list consists of eighteen quests Random must accomplish before his eighteenth birthday. Fire-walking, riding the biggest rollercoaster in the U.S. and breaking a world record, not to mention plenty of interferences from a smitten head cheerleader. What she doesn’t count on is discovering the beauty and strength within herself, and his secret love for her, in the process.Time for a new plan: persuade Random to believe in the same lesson she’s learned on their journey. Pain is the price you pay to love, and it’s worth it. If she fails, she risks losing her soul-mate forever.

    I

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