Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Can You Help Me Hone a Query?

Okay, folks, it's my turn.

I really appreciate you guys thoughts and comments on the draft queries that came through over the past few weeks. Now I'm hoping you can turn those helpful brains my way. Below is the query for the new book I'll start submitting soon. Tell me what works and what doesn't. I know this premise can be a little confusing in summary, so be brutal!

What makes you want to read? What makes you go "huh?":


Whenever she looks in the mirror seventeen-year-old Stacy can talk to her adult self.  Stacy calls her future self “Older Me”.

Older Me has supported Stacy through her parents’ divorce, schoolyard bullying and a broken heart. Stacy trusts her implicitly – until she finds out Older Me has been lying.

Older Me claims she’s been hiding her alternate past to keep Stacy from making the same mistakes. But it turns out, Older Me lived the life Stacy wishes for: Popularity, success and most of all, Mark.

Stacy is ready to do whatever it takes to find that life for herself – even if herself is the person she’ll hurt most.

LISTEN TO ME is a YA contemporary with a dash of magical realism, complete at 89,000 words. The premise was inspired by the website in which adult authors write letters to their teen selves.

I am a member of a writer’s critique group which includes represented and published authors. My former agent changed vocations last year, so I am back on the submission trail. LISTEN TO ME is a new work which my former agent has not reviewed.

As per your submission guidelines I have included...

I wanted to submit to you because...

Thank you for your time. I look forward to hearing from you,


Your Turn: What works? What doesn't? Do you want to read pages? Be honest! If I need to go back to the drawing board, I will. I want this one to be PERFECT.


  1. First paragraph. When I read it, I thought it was cute-- she's talking to an older version of herself, but there's no hook. Maybe to put the "magical realism" right up front. Say something like--

    ...Stacy can talk to her adult self, a version she calls, Older Me. And Older Me talks back.

    That last sentence is your hook.

    I want to read this story. :)

  2. I think the query works as it is now.

  3. You gave me such great feedback on my critique, I hope I can help you with yours.

    Now, these are only my humble opinions, so get the salt shaker.

    It's an interesting concept, but there's no kick to it at the beginning. It doesn't really draw me in with a great hook.

    The other thing I noticed is that there's no motivation for why Older Me would want to mess with Stacy's life. Could you include that too?

  4. Hi Aimee,
    You've got me interested. Perhaps a little more on the theme / premise running through the story. Also some info on why the Older Self is reaching out to the protagonist, as Emily suggested? Also what about 'Dearteenme' inspired you to write the story? Hope this helps!

  5. Hi,
    Just my thoughts but it may be nice to start with some kind of description of Stacy to hook the reader, for example: "Stacy looked at the face in the mirror, an old face, older than time and as tired."

  6. I might be an anomaly here, but I was hooked from the start. I could visualize it immediately, but it couldn't hurt to add how your MC is able to speak/interact with Older Me. Granted, magic realism doesn't always have explanations, but just food for thought. I LOVE how you italicized Mark's name and left it as is. THAT is intriguing. I like where this idea came from and I think it could really work.

    Good luck with this one! *hugs and Cadbury*

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  8. This is a very neat premise! Kind of creepy, but in a good way.

    The first paragraph confused me a little. I think it's the word "adult," because what is "adult"? Eighteen and thirty are very different ages, and though both are technically "adult," they conjure up completely different images. I think you'd get a better hook if you specifically state the age of Older Me.

    Other than that I really like it. Short, sweet, and to the point.

    1. Hmmmm... good point. I'll see what I can do :)

  9. I agree with Kathryn re the inclusion of the name "Mark" - it's a fantastic hit-and-run! I want to know who he is and would read to find out.

    I'm curious, though, what exactly Older Me's agenda is for lying, why she'd keep for herself all the things Stacy wants; is she an internal frenemy? I know you don't want to give too much away at first, but I do want to know a bit more before plunging into the novel.

    On that note: I see the potential for this as magical realism, but I also see it as a kind of horror story: a doppelganger tale. If you've read James Hogg's "The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner," what I'm getting at might be clearer (online synopses will help clarify; but the protagonist's "friend" seems to be himself, and that friend is dangerous.)

    For a YA novel, the story needn't be as dark as Hogg's, though the emotional horrors of high school certainly seem that dark at the time. Throwing in an "other" that is also the "self" has endless possibilities, and YA fiction is wide open for them. Add magical realism, and whoosh, off we go.

    1. Another good note. You guys are awesome! Thank you!

  10. Whenever she looks in the mirror seventeen-year-old Stacy can talk to her adult self. Stacy calls her future self “Older Me”.

    When she looks in the mirror, seventeen-year-old Stacy can talk with her (30-year-old -- or whatever age) self. Stacy calls her older self “Future Me”.

    When possible, use when instead of whenever in an introductory clause. It moves the clause along faster. But I also put a comma in because I think it is good to have a little pause before you let the cat out the bag so to say about what happens. I think a specific age for the older self would also be helpful. Somebody else already mentioned that, so enough said o that. I would also call the older self "Future me." I think it conveys the point a little more strongly and sets a little bit of irony for what you unfold in the next paragraph, which is this "Future me" might not be Stacy's future self.

    And I don't know if it was selected on purpose, but the name Stacy hints at "stasis," as in possibly stuck in a certain mode, position, attitude.

  11. I think your query is quite strong, Aimee, but I do agree with the suggestions to say "my 30 year old self" (or whatever age) and to include an indication of why older Stacy would want to lie to younger Stacy - what's the motivation?

  12. I think that's pretty good - I'm certainly intrigued...
    The first few sentences, I was like, 'Hmm...pretty interesting...' and then with " - until she finds out Older Me has been lying," I was suddenly like 'OOOOooh!' and way more drawn in!

    Good luck :) x

  13. I think this is a great premise, and I would love to read it. I agree with a few of the other comments about the opening line. One change could be, “When seventeen-year-old Stacy looks in the mirror, she can talk to her thirty-year-old self.” (Don’t know why we’re all assuming she’s thirty. ) And a little tweak to the last line, “Stacy will do whatever it takes to find that life for herself – even she is the person who’ll be hurt most.” (Just rearranging to keep those two ‘herself’s from being back-to-back.) You are so brave to put this out here! I think I need some fresh eyes on my query-- it's always easier to tweak someone else's.