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Public Critique: Erin's Query

Hello!  I have another query for public critique.  If you have the time, please give it a read and offer any advice or constructive criticism you may have.  If you're interested in having a query, synopsis, or excerpt posted on Lit Rambles for critique, check out my contribute page.

OFF THE EDGE
(query)
YA Romantic Adventure
by Erin Apelu

Dear (Agent):

Nineteen-year-old Eden Anderson is beautiful, popular, and well endowed. Her adventurous personality and perfect figure makes her the envy of many girls from her small town in Idaho. But Eden is unexpectedly single, and always leery of attention from the opposite sex after enduring a life-time of unwanted eyeball body scans and inappropriate comments. After finding the “man of her dreams,” she is dumped and discarded like yesterday’s paper when she won’t take their relationship to the next step—physically.

When Eden’s parents send her to live with her cousin, Claire, for the summer on the North Shore of Hawaii, the last thing she wants is to think about the male species. But Claire puts “Operation Eden” into play from day one, and tries setting her up with beach-volleyball-surfers hoping her cousin will find someone like her own Adonis-like boyfriend. Eden has no intention of indulging her cousin’s desires and only wants to relax on the beach while preparing her brain to start college in the fall.

Everything changes when Eden meets Noa, the mysterious playboy back from college and the one boy who can never be hers. She’s determined to have him, but only in her fantasy—the safest place for her beaten-down heart. When the charming Noa takes a sudden interest in Eden, she’s right to doubt his intentions—his reputation for being a "player" is as deep and never-ending as his pocket change, and she’s not willing to take that train again. Not to mention his “supposed” lunatic ex-girlfriend is stalking her. She tries her best to keep their relationship in the ‘just friends’ category, but Noa's good looks, charming attitude, and constant attention proves this a difficult task. When Eden agrees to accompany him on a sailing trip to Maui, she finds herself jumping off cliffs (something she swore she would never do again), swimming with sharks, and braving a storm that threatens to sink their tiny sailboat. Eden falls hard for the charming playboy, but it might not matter when an unexpected accident will most surely take everything away, including her life.

Eden’s summer adventure in Hawaii starts as a journey of escape, but follows deeper paths of real love and self-discovery. Come join Eden as she spends an adventurous summer in Paradise discovering if taking the leap of love is worth the risk. Told in Eden’s distinctive voice, at turns sarcastic and sensitive, “Off the Edge” is a complete 96,000 word young adult novel.

I spent five years as a tour-guide in Hawaii gaining knowledge of the island, culture, and expectations of typical tourists. Based on my real-life adventures while attending Brigham Young University Hawaii on the North Shore of Oahu, “Off the Edge” brings to life the everyday insecurities that young adults face with heartbreak, love, and lose.

Thank you for taking the time to get to know Eden (I dare you to not lover her!). I have included the first five pages below. The completed manuscript is available for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you, and I’m excited to jump in and promote “Off the Edge”.

Sincerely,
Erin Apelu

[contact info redacted]

18 comments:

  1. Erin-

    You have a lot going for you in your story, and obvious some level of dedication to have complete 100k words, revision etc. You are shooting yourself in the foot with this query.

    There are two paragraphs before you reach the main point of conflict for the story. When you provide this much back-story (2 of 3 paragraphs and about 50% of the actual words) it leaves the reader wondering how much back story is in the manuscript. Second the major conflict of the story is veiled behind endless tangents that I can only imagine were intended to give your personal flavor to the query; they don't, they are distractions.

    You need to go back to the story and figure out exactly what it is about. If you can put it in a single sentence then you are ready to start rewriting the query. Till then it will remain a tangled and confusing mess.

    Good luck.

    ReplyDelete
  2. this is way, way too long. Sorry that I can't help you more just now but I have to go to choir practice. I'll return to it in the morning with details.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Being able to condense your novel into a few paragraphs is hard, which is why everyone complains about queries.
    Remember you just want to entice an agent to read your novel so you don't need to put everything in there. I would pick a few sentences out of each of these paragraphs to start with.

    Example:
    Eden Anderson is pretty and popular but determined to remain single after being betrayed by 'the man of her dreams'.

    Which makes spending the summer in Hawaii with her cousin Claire even more difficult since Claire wants to set her up with every surfer jock on the island.

    Until she meets Noa. He's dangerous and so is his ex-girlfriend. Falling for him might cost her more than her heart. It might cost her life as well.

    That's really rough but hopefully you get the picture and this helps a little!

    Also, proof this out loud. You have a few errors in there like lose instead loss, and lover instead of love her. And don't feel bad! I almost sent out a query one time that said 'highly retarded agent' instead of 'highly regarded agent'. I am pretty sure that would have went down as the oops of all time.lol

    ReplyDelete
  4. I really enjoyed this query. I did not find it confusing, just a bit too long and overly detailed. I would tighten it up and get to the conflict of the story quicker. Agents are busy people and they need to see your hook fast. Good luck on the journey. I'm excited for you, Erin.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Agreed with the others. This is a seriously long query and should be cut, cut, cut!


    FIRST PARAGRAPH: (There is way too much going on in this first paragraph. Your main character is too lovingly described, and that equates to too much tediousness. The query should definitely introduce your character, but not to this extent. You might try rewording to something like:

    "Eden Anderson is all too used to the unwanted attentions of men. She's confident she can handle any man who comes her way. That is, until she meets "The One" -- and he dumps her like yesterday's garbage." )


    SECOND PARAGRAPH:
    (Again, you've got some good stuff here, but it's still just Too Much Info. Give just enough in a query to entice, but not so much that you end up writing a summary. Try this paragraph with something like:

    When Eden's parents send her to live with her cousin in Hawaii, she never thought she would become her cousin's project. "Operation Eden" has Eden dodging her cousin's attempts to find her with some guy.)



    THIRD PARAGRAPH:
    (This is an EXTREMELY long paragraph. Condense it. Why does she suddenly want this guy, when she has sworn off them? Also, don't use cliches like "charming playboy". And you can be vague on the details here. You don't need to describe their dates, as much as why This Guy has suddenly changed Eden's mind. Give us a reason why she's drawn to him.)


    FOURTH PARAGRAPH:
    (This entire paragraph can be deleted, with the exception of the 96,000 word young adult novel - which sounds a bit on the long side for a contemporary romance. But this tells us about the book, when you want to SHOW us these things in the book. It's kind of irritating to be told the moral lessons.)

    FIFTH PARAGRAPH:
    (Keep the tour guide bit, lose the second bit. It sounds like you're basing the book off of you. And I don't know about agents, but fiction characters that seem based off the authors wigs me out.)

    SIXTH PARAGRAPH:
    (Delete this entire paragraph. It tells us nothing new, and sounds too cocky.)

    ReplyDelete
  6. Erin--queries are sooo hard!! I think that you have a really good handle on what happens chronologically--you just need to figure out which info to include in order to entice an agent to read further. What I would do is focus on SHOWING Eden's "distinctive voice, at turns sarcastic and sensitive."

    If you include voice and simplified conflict, you'll be all set.

    I feel strange giving feedback and not having any way to follow up, so if you want to discuss it with me, you can email me at hegkelly at gmail dot com.

    Good luck, and thanks for sharing your query with us!!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hi Erin,

    I took the liberty of revising your query. Below is my take. I wish you the best of luck on your journey!!!

    Dear (Agent):

    Nineteen-year-old Eden Anderson is beautiful, popular, and well endowed. Let’s just say the well endowed part wasn’t all that great…for her.

    Eden’s parents send her to Hawaii for the summer to live with her cousin Claire. Her cousin puts “Operation Eden” into play from day one, and tries setting her up with beach-volleyball-surfers, but the last thing she wants to think about is the male species.

    Then Eden meets Noa, the mysterious and charming college playboy and she has a change of heart. She falls hard for him allowing herself to be seduced by him and the island. But an unexpected accident changes everything, most importantly her.

    OFF THE EDGE is a complete 96,000 word young adult novel.

    I spent five years as a tour-guide in Hawaii gaining knowledge of the island, culture, and expectations of typical tourists. OFF THE EDGE brings to life the everyday insecurities young adults face with heartbreak, love, and loss.

    I have included the first five pages below. The completed manuscript is available for your consideration. Thank you for your time.

    Sincerely,
    Erin Apelu

    ReplyDelete
  8. Kudos for being brave enough to post your query!

    As you may have already surmised, this query is far too long. ;) When you take into account that the manuscript itself is quite lengthy, it becomes even more important to show agents that you can also be economical with your words.

    The first two paragraphs are mostly backstory, and I feel like you can sum up those paragraphs in a few sentences to intro the mc (who, IMO, agents and editors may tell you is a little old for YA).

    Third paragraph also describes Noa using charming and playboy twice each, not sure if it's intentional.

    Most importantly, I think this query is missing something:

    "Told in Eden’s distinctive voice, at turns sarcastic and sensitive..."

    Don't tell us about Eden's voice, replicate it in the query. I don't mean writing in 1st person or anything, but by using words that Eden would use, you may find it easier to get the tone of the story across in fewer words.

    Sorry my advice is less concrete than others, but I feel like you've gotten excellent advice from earlier posters on that.

    Good luck!!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Writing the novel is easier than composing the query!

    Try getting the hook, conflict, setup, and conclusion into three paragraphs at around 200-250 words. No more.

    Introduce her, tell the reader her problems and why it will not be resolved...unless...

    Eden is a (hook) who (intro). Then (setup). But a (conflict).
    And she will never (conflict) unless (conclusion).

    If I were an agent, I would ask for more because I did enjoy the query. It read more like a synopsis though.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Hi Erin,

    Looks like you have a very interesting story--but the next step is to take all of that and turn it into a 6 sentence paragraph.

    The second to last paragraph is great--keep that and fold the word count into that.

    Shorten your thank you, and don't address the reader with dares or invitations to enjoy--it will work against you.

    Best of luck!

    ReplyDelete
  11. I don't think there's much I could add that hasn't already been said! Great comments!

    Good luck Erin!

    ReplyDelete
  12. I'm back, as I promised. A query shouldn't be longer than 250 words. In this short space you need to a) grab the agents/editors attention, b) SHOW him/her your story and c) deliver a few informations about yourself. That's truly hard. To succeed, you need to cut everything that's ordinary. To show you what I mean, I boiled down your query to roughly 230 words (In brackets I included one question that you need to answer if only with a hint). Use this as an example to create your next version. Since I do not know your book, I can't be sure if I emphasized the right events. Good luck.

    ***************************

    Dear Agentname,

    Emotionally bruised, nineteen-year-old Eden Anderson is not interested in boyfriends. When her parents send her to the North Shore of Hawaii to live with her match-making cousin, Eden only wants to relax on the beach while preparing her brain to start college in the fall.

    One day, Eden meets Noa, a mysterious playboy and the one man who can never be hers (why?). She’s determined to only have him in her fantasy—the safest place for her beaten-down heart, but the charming Noa takes a sudden interest. His good looks, charming attitude, and constant attention make it a difficult task. Not to mention his supposedly lunatic ex-girlfriend who is stalking her.

    On a sailing trip to Maui, Eden finds herself jumping off cliffs (something she swore she would never do again), swimming with sharks, and braving a storm that threatens to sink their tiny sailboat. Eden falls hard for the charming playboy, but it might not matter when an unexpected accident will most surely take everything away, including her life.

    Eden’s summer adventure in Hawaii starts as a journey of escape, but follows deeper paths of real love and self-discovery. OFF THE EDGE is a young adult contemporary novel complete at 96,000 word

    I spent five years as a tour-guide in Hawaii and attended Brigham Young University Hawaii on the North Shore of Oahu.

    Thank you for your time

    Sincerely,
    name

    ReplyDelete
  13. Wow--thanks for all the awesome advice. It's back to the drawing board. I knew it was a little long. Luckily an agent that rejected me has been nice enough to correspond with me. She told me the reason I was rejected was word count and wrong genre--too old for YA. I guess it's to the romance category.

    I will ponder and redue.

    You are all great for taking the time to help me!

    Erin

    ReplyDelete
  14. It seemed too long to me, too, but the thing that really caught me was the "I dare you not to love her". Agents know that authors are completely in love with their own characters, but they also read a lot of stuff in which they can't relate to the character or can't stand her. Of course as authors we just can't fathom this about our own beloved protagonists, but it's true. So, to me, this was a turn off.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Hey Erin--go you for being brave enough to post for everyone to help out. I don't have much else to say because everyone's critiques above were so insightful and giving. Um, @ Marsha, you can crit me ANYTIME! You nailed this query and made it burn! Everyone else was so great as well. Makes me rethink posting one of mine, but I'm still fixing all my stuff from the feedback recieved from writeoncon. Best of luck getting this published!

    ReplyDelete
  16. Erin, you got such great feedback! I'm so glad. You're definitely in a tough spot having a nineteen-year-old protagonist. You might have to revise to make it more YA or market it differently. You'll figure it out. E-mail me if you have any questions.

    Thanks everyone for chiming in!

    ReplyDelete
  17. I'd agree with Casey. When I read your query, it sounded like it was veering more toward an adult contemporary romance than YA. You might try making the protagonist a bit older, tweaking some stuff, and seeing how it works out. Or you can try the opposite and make her a couple years younger.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Dear Erin,
    I would suggest reading all the entries at Query Shark. I found it very helpful.
    Also, I'd lose the "I dare you not to love her" line.
    Good Luck. You'll get there!!!
    Sounds like a GREAT story.

    ReplyDelete