Wednesday, July 29, 2009

20 Query Contest

At the beginning of her senior year, Sadie signs up for a writing class in an attempt to confront her deep-seated insecurities, unaware that these insecurities mask a power within her so great that it has the potential to save--or destroy--an entire universe.

When a provocative encounter with her handsome writing teacher generates taboo fantasies about the nature of their mentor-student relationship, Sadie's doubts about her self-worth become tangled up with a desire to please her newfound crush no matter what the consequences may be. Sadie's teacher pushes their relationship further and further beyond accepted boundaries as he encourages her to abandon everything in her life to serve his purpose; a purpose that will draw out the power hibernating within her, whether or not Sadie is ready to embrace it.

MUSE is a Young Adult Fantasy novelette of approximately 25,000 words. Per the submission guidelines listed in your [contest page], the first 250 words are included below.

I am currently the Senior Editor and Creative Director of [removed for contest], a graphic novel publisher which focuses on the YA demographic. I am in charge of selecting all licensed and original properties, editing all projects, and overseeing the translations of all licensed material.

Thank you for your time. I look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.


My muse

runs from me

my ineptitude its prison

to flee its only hope

my faithless muse

it even left this poem

"If it was ever there to begin with!" Sadie groaned. She crossed the poem out word by word, making sure every last bit of it felt thoroughly rejected.

Across the table, Larissa poked at her salad, hunting for any rogue bits of cucumber while her boyfriend, Nick, propped his feet up on the metal cafe table.

Sadie's furious scratching caught his attention. "Something wrong?" he asked.

"Just another disaster bigger than the Titanic," Sadie grumbled.

"Can I see what you wrote?" Larissa leaned closer, her slender back curving forward as she tried to peek at Sadie's notebook.

Sadie slammed it shut. "Trust me, it's bad."

Nick snorted. "No matter what you write, you say it's bad."

"That's because it is!" Sadie threw her pen on the table. It clattered off the edge onto the tiled floor of the outdoor patio. Sadie watched it roll away out of the corner of her eye, determined not to fetch it even if it was her favorite pen. It came to a stop next to a dark brown suede shoe.

"Oh my god, look at him," Larissa said under her breath.

She was referring to the owner of the shoe. He looked about thirty, with skin nearly as dark as the sleek, black hair haphazardly brushed back from his forehead. As he rested his smooth chin against the back of his hands, Sadie could have sworn that a hint of blue slid across his skin like raven's wings caught by the light.


  1. Not hooked. I just can't like stories about provocative teacher-student relationships. I'm sorry.

  2. Sorry I have to agree with Beth. The whole teacher/student relationship, especially as you describe it, making it almost seem mutual, is a little too off-color for me.

  3. I like the 250 wrods and I don't mind the student teacher thing, although it will need a hell of a twist which isn't obvious from the synopsis. ButI don't really get what you mean about her inner universe-saving power. What is it? How does it play out in the story?

    25,000 words seems incredibly short as well. I'd cut 'at your earliest convenience'

  4. Query: I'm on guard here because of the teacher/student taboo. Icksville. But I am hooked. If only because I'm curious about the power. Is she a Carrie?!

    Well, maybe I'd read the synopsis.

    Snippet: Yes... hooked.

  5. Not hooked. How do her insecurities mask her power? And what does that have to do with writing class? The whole teacher preying on a student thing didn't work for me either.

  6. The Query: Personalization can go a long way to catching the interest of the agent, I think. I would recommend a greeting and perhaps a sentence to let the agent know that this wasn't a mass query sending.

    The first paragraph drew me in and the second paragraph did hook me. On the other hand, could the relationship be changed from teacher/student to perhaps a transfer student or tutor to avoid the taboo? I had questions that peaked my curiousity enough that I did want to read the sample to find out if there might be answers to one or two of them.

    The Sample: The writing moved along at a good pace and I found myself drawn in and reading happily. I especially liked the last sentence. However, I do recommend that the taboo of teacher/student be a serious consideration for revision.

  7. The teacher student thing didn't strike me so much as the word count. 25000 words is a novella, not a novel. Even for YA you need twice that.

    Also, what does her universe saving power have to do with a relationship with her teacher? I left this query with no idea of what the story is except for maybe the Lolita-esque aspect of it.

    Sorry, not hooked.

  8. Okay the student-teacher thing is definitely a no for me. But this is fantasy and that seems to be okay in that genre (just read the Vampire Academy series to see what I mean), though I haven't figured out why it's okay for YA fantasy if it's taboo in YA contemporary.

    The length is definitely an issue as well. This contest was for novels only (as the Authoress had pointed out in the comments). And it's definitely too short for YA fantasy, which tends to run higher in word count than contemporary YA.

    I liked the sample, but I won't read more just because of the concept.

  9. I didn't like the query itself, but was hooked by the sample pages. I would feel better if it was a tutor that she fell for, rather than her teacher.

    Good luck.

  10. Thanks, everyone! This feedback was exactly what I needed. I do think the query needs tweaking to clarify certain elements; it was great to have that confirmed by a chorus of voices.

    In regards to the taboo teacher/student theme, there's no way I'd ever change that. Writing a provocative, disturbing, and hopefully emotionally *powerful* story is what I set out to do.

  11. I'm OK with the student/teacher thing. It does happen, even though it shouldn't. What bothered me was Sadie as a character. She seemed completely passive, pushed around by fate and her teacher. When I read your sample, this impression was reinforced. She sounded too melodramatic - throwing the pen and comparing writing a bad poem to the sinking of the Titanic. I know teenagers can be melodramatic, but they can do so in a likeable way. I don't know if I want to spend 25,000 words with her. Also, isn't this way too short? Or is this a graphic novel - you mention that's what you do in your bio, and I imagine these have a much lower word count.

  12. Hm.

    On one hand, I'm okay to wait for a connection between the teacher, the universe in peril, and Sadie's powers. On the other hand, I'm not yet convinced there *is*. I don't need the answers yet, but I do need the query to convince me I won't be disappointed, and I don't feel that yet.

    The student/teacher relationship -- ew, but okay. I suspend my morals for books about thieves and assassins, after all.

    I'm not feeling Sadie is an active enough character in this. Everyone else is in control. What are *Sadie's* decisions? How is this *her* book, aside from it being her power? (And is it her power if other people are controlling it?)

    The sample page didn't draw me in, though the writing was fine. I felt, mostly, nothing was happening to really ground me into the story and make me *care* about Sadie's inability to write a poem that satisfies her.

    I wouldn't request this. The agency doesn't represent novellas. (And someone asked before if novellas were eligible for the contest and Authoress was pretty clear. They're not.)

  13. need to know what powers you're talking about. and how is this a fantasy?
    stopped reading halfway through the query.