Wednesday, December 21, 2011

On the Ninth Day of Querymas

my true Genn gave to me: spirit-walking time travel, serial killer dads, ticking countdowns, past-life memories, hot guys and cake, one confused rocker, a sick girl, two switched witches, and a role-play game that turns deadly.

Dear (Agent),Summer Tate killed her mother. At least, that’s how the seventeen-year-old secretly feels. The accident was her fault, and now her wrecked family has moved from urban Denver to rural Montana, determined to forget the past. After a mysterious old woman dies in her arms, Summer is catapulted in and out of 1927, where she meets rugged young rancher, Eli Ford. Inexplicable and frightening at first, their chance encounters blossom into highly anticipated visits, bringing them closer than Summer has ever felt with anyone in her own time. 
With Eli’s help, Summer uncovers the truth. The dying old woman granted her the power to spirit walk – the native Hawat√© ability to time travel – and Summer just might be able to control it. Desperate to change her mother’s fate, Summer makes a deal with a vengeful spirit walker bent on rewriting history. The terms? Help him break the hundred-year-old curse that banished him from his beloved, and he’ll show Summer how to use her power to rescue her mother. By trusting this dangerous spirit walker and interfering with time, Summer inadvertently sets off a chain of events that will ultimately destroy her family, Eli, and her very existence. With the lives of everyone she loves at risk, can she rectify her mistakes before it’s too late? 
Everything is gravy until we get to this part.  One of the best pieces of advice I have ever heard is from agent Kristin Nelson who recommends sticking to the first 50 pages of your story.  Personally, I prefer a query based on the inciting incident alone.  What is the event that catapults your protagonist into the plot/narrative of the novel?  That's what you focus your query on.  If you can't hook an agent with a query based on the first fifty pages of your story than your manuscript probably won't hook them either.  I think you have an excellent hook here.  It's compelling.  I can see where it's going without it feeling too familiar.  But then you start to tell me about the middle and end, and I kind of don't want to read that in the query, I'd rather get to it in the book.  My advice is to add 1-2 lines at the end hinting at Summer's dilemma.  Something like : She'll need the help of a vengeful spirit walker (more details about him - is he young, old, hot?) to learn how, but when it becomes clear they're both bent on rewriting history, Summer realizes ....  Something along those lines. Quick and to the point.  The initial events are enough to grab an agent's interest.
Wrecktify, a YA fantasy complete at 90,000 words, has an unconventional love story and a Native American twist on time travel. It was a finalist in the 2011 Southwest Writers competition. I grew up on a ghost ranch in Montana, where my grandfather’s stories and lifelong friendship with the Crow tribe inspired this novel. 
Very nice background info. 
(Reasons for querying agent here.) Thank you for your time and consideration.Sincerely,

Best of luck! 


  1. I am filing your advice away, Genn. I can really see how focusing on the first 50 entices a person to read more. Honestly, I can't keep all the complicated information of the latter passage in my head, so my interest wanes. Of course this sounds like a really great read - good luck author finding it a home. I'd buy it.

  2. What an excellent premise, Heather (not to mention AMAZING title)! And Genn, this is a great blog series! I'm just now getting out of the edit cave, sorry I've been MIA and haven't seen the others. I'll have to go back and peek. ;-) You gave some awesome advice on this one.

  3. bethchristopher.comDecember 22, 2011 at 5:21 AM

    Thank you so much for choosing my query and for your STELLAR advice! It makes perfect sense and will help clean up my bogged down query. You are the best.

    Heather and Anita, thanks for your kind words!

    I'm loving this series and learning so much. Genn, I vote that next you run the Thirty-One Days of JanuQuery. ;-)

  4. That is such a good title...JanuQuery....hmmmmm...