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Covers, Blurbs, 1st Line, Query > Feedback on query, "Behind the Ghost Metropolis", YA CONTEMPORARY

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message 1: by Aneta (new)

Aneta Dabrowska | 28 comments Hi guys,

I've rewritten my query a few times already and I'd love to get your feedback :) I can critique yours as well!


Dear Name of the agent

15 years of suffering caused by her parents’ abuse have eventually taken Punk’s strength away, leaving her alone and buried in despair. So when Punk is raped by a classmate, she falls deeper into depression hiding in a haze of alcohol and drugs. She can’t pretend anymore that she’s the same good, well-behaved student and starts causing troubles at school as well. Unaware of the traumatic experience, her friend and teacher try to help her, but Punk pushes them away. Being branded by hatred and bullying at home she believes she’s unworthy of kindness.

The ray of hope sneaks into her life after meeting an older boy, Nihil, and discovering that she has a junkie brother, Dragon. They both accept her rebellious nature and Punk slowly opens up and starts trusting them. She tries to find her way out of depression and fight her demons by quitting the stimulants and improving her grades.

But Punk’s inner voice, ‘You worthless piece of shit’, is stronger than her survival instinct. The dark secret from her past she’s been trying to forget haunts her down, and she realizes that she has two choices. End her life or ask for help and follow the long road to redemption.

BEHIND THE GHOST METROPOLIS is a 63,000-word YA contemporary novel which will appeal to fans of Ellen Hopkins and “Girl in pieces” by Kathleen Glasgow.

Following your submission guidelines, I have pasted the first (number of pages) of my book

Thank you for your time and consideration.
Sincerely,
Asper Blurry


message 2: by Keith (new)

Keith Oxenrider (mitakeet) | 1166 comments Your blurb is 'too long' at 211 words. The supposed sweet spot is 100-150 words. Always write out numbers up to around a thousand.

While your blurb may accurately reflect the general flow of your story, it doesn't seem unique to me. It should focus on what's unique and special about your story, what sets it apart from others in the genre. PM me if you'd like me to send you a link, or you can search my blog if you like, for my thoughts on how to craft a blurb.

Does the story start with Punk's abuse and include the rape, or does it start after she's sunk into depression and become a problem child? If the latter, you should start your blurb there. Even if the former, you may want to consider starting the blurb there, as the mystery of why she's so upset may help draw in readers.

Here's my attempt at your blurb, 106 words:


Punk, a fifteen year old girl, has suffered. Her parent's treatment leaves her alienated, then a horrific incident with a classmate has turned her into a problem child.

A ray of hope sneaks into her life when she meets an older boy and his brother. Their non-judgmental acceptance allows her space to open up about her trauma. She begins to fight her depression and her demons by cleaning up and improving her grades.

Punk's nasty inner voice keeps wearing her down, though, insisting that horror from her classmate makes her worthless.

She has a simple choice: end her life or ask for help.


Good luck!


message 3: by Aneta (new)

Aneta Dabrowska | 28 comments Keith wrote: "Your blurb is 'too long' at 211 words. The supposed sweet spot is 100-150 words. Always write out numbers up to around a thousand.

While your blurb may accurately reflect the general flow of your ..."


Thank you so much, Keith for your feedback! Actually, when I first wrote a query people said it's too short and it didn't have enough info :P I think that your version is too short, but you pointed out some important things. I'm actually worried that my query isn't unique...

Anyway, I'll start with this hook:
"A horrific incident with her classmate brings 15-year-old Punk closer to the edge,"

I think it's better not to mention rape. I'll rewrite the query once again and I'll pm you :)


message 4: by Aneta (new)

Aneta Dabrowska | 28 comments Ok, new attempt:

When 15-year-old Punk is raped by a classmate she once considered a friend it brings her closer to the edge of darkness. She’s ashamed of telling anyone because she blames herself for provoking her attacker. Abused by her parents her whole life Punk is convinced she’s unworthy of kindness. She feels like punishing herself by hiding in a haze of alcohol and drugs is the only way out.

Soon Punk discovers that she has a junkie brother Dragon and a ray of hope sneaks into her life as she slowly opens up to him. With the support of Punk’s new boyfriend, her rebellious spirit awakens and she tries to fight her demons to escape the clutches of addiction.

But even their love can’t quiet Punk’s inner voice, ‘You worthless piece of shit’. The dark secret from her past she’s been trying to forget haunts her down leaving her helpless once again. Terrified of facing it Punk realizes that she has two choices. Ask for help or give in to that cruel voice in her head.


message 5: by Keith (new)

Keith Oxenrider (mitakeet) | 1166 comments What happened to the idea of not mentioning the rape?

To me, it doesn't feel like a unique story. I assume you've got some take on the the idea of a redemption story for an abused young woman who seeks solace in drugs and alcohol. That's what needs to be on display in your blurb. While I'm sure there's some market for depressing stories with sad, tragic endings, most people want to read stories that have the protagonist overcoming the odds and ends with at least the potential for a happily ever after. The way I interpret your blurb is you have a long sad story with what sounds almost like a coin flip at the end if things will work out. You don't want to spoil the ending, though.

My opinion is the blurb you have won't motivate very many readers to take a gamble, which is likely to do the same thing for an agent.


message 6: by Aneta (new)

Aneta Dabrowska | 28 comments Thank you, Keith! Every time I try to follow people's advice I think I'm on the right track, but then it turns out I was wrong :/ I feel like I totally suck at it, but I won't give up.

Anyway, to answer your questions:

a) I've decided to write about the rape because it's how the story begins and has the impact on Punk's later decisions. and too many mysteries aren't a good idea.

b) My book is dark, but it shows the struggles with depression with the intention of overcoming it. There's a silver lining but I can't spoil the ending... But it's good you pointed out that it looks very depressing. That's why I've rewritten it:

When troubled 15-year-old Punk is raped by a classmate she once considered a friend it brings her closer to the edge of darkness. Ashamed of telling anyone she blames herself for provoking her attacker. She has to see him every day at school though and the only way to do it is by hiding in a haze of alcohol and drugs.

A ray of hope sneaks into Punk’s life as she discovers that she’s not alone anymore. She has a junkie brother, Dragon, who she’s never met before. Slowly they form a bond based on a mutual trust and understanding. But seeing her brother defeated by heroin addiction, makes Punk realize that she needs help.

With Dragon’s and her new boyfriend’s support, Punk’s rebellious spirit awakens. Torn between survival instinct and self-destructive voices whispering in her head she struggles to escape the clutches of mental illness.


message 7: by Keith (new)

Keith Oxenrider (mitakeet) | 1166 comments I like this version much better. You need an editor, though, as I feel you're missing at least several commas.

It's not clear to me if Dragon is actually related to Punk or if the relationship is psychological.

'Defeated by heroin' says to me Dragon died of an OD, yet the next paragraph indicates he's still alive.

I think a lot of people would think Punk was already being rebellious, so suggest something else, such as her will to live, or reawakened her inner spirit.


message 8: by Aneta (new)

Aneta Dabrowska | 28 comments Thank you, Keith, your feedback has been very helpful :)
Yes, I know, I'm terrible with commas. I have that problem with all languages actually :p When my query is done I'll ask someone to edit it.

Here's the newest version:

When troubled 15-year-old Punk is raped by a friend it brings her to the edge of darkness.

Ashamed and scared of telling anyone, she thinks that no one would believe her because he’s a good, well-behaved student. She still has to see him every day at school and the only way to do it is by hiding in a haze of alcohol and drugs.

Alone and depressed, Punk discovers that she has an older brother, Dragon. He’s fighting heroin addiction so he understands her demons all too well. Like her, he’s struggling, and through their struggles, they form a friendship. But, seeing Dragon losing the battle makes Punk realize that she, too, might need help.

Torn between the will to live and self-destructive voices whispering in her head, Punk tries to escape the clutches of depression and addiction.


message 9: by Sharon D. (new)

Sharon D. (tossacoin) | 24 comments I would like to read this for you~


message 10: by Keith (new)

Keith Oxenrider (mitakeet) | 1166 comments I think this is much better!

Is Dragon a full sibling, or a half? If a half, adding that word would explain a lot why she never knew about him.

I think your last sentence is a little weak. I liked an earlier version, such as "Terrified of facing those voices, Punk realizes that she has two choices. Ask for help or give in to that cruel voice in her head."

Don't forget to personalize your query (or, at least do the research to ensure it's a good fit). Do you have any writing credits to add a bio?

BTW, it's fifteen, not 15.


message 11: by Aneta (new)

Aneta Dabrowska | 28 comments Keith wrote: "I think this is much better!

Is Dragon a full sibling, or a half? If a half, adding that word would explain a lot why she never knew about him.

I think your last sentence is a little weak. I like..."


Thank you, Keith :)
Yes, he's her half-brother, I'll add it.

I'm still struggling with the last sentence. I'm afraid that maybe the one you like from the earlier version is too straightforward? I really need to think it through...

Yes, I remember about personalizing my query. I came up with something like that:

BEHIND THE GHOST METROPOLIS is a 65,000-word YA contemporary fiction. It’s a part of the series “On the Road to…?” which will appeal to fans of Ellen Hopkins and “Girl in pieces” by Kathleen Glasgow.

My short stories, poems, and literary translations have been published in literary magazines including “Wyspa” (Island), “Zupełnie inny świat” (Completely different world) and Kozirynek.


message 12: by Aneta (new)

Aneta Dabrowska | 28 comments Sharon {asleep} wrote: "I would like to read this for you~"

Thank you, Sharon, I've just pm'ed you :)


message 13: by Keith (new)

Keith Oxenrider (mitakeet) | 1166 comments If those magazines are recognized for their work, meaning someone in the business could be expected to have heard of them, then, by all means, put them in. The problem becomes if the journals are obscure enough that none of the (US) agents have heard of them, then there may not be any value. A judgement call, but researching the journal name as covered by US press should give you an indication. I suspect if the journals are regularly translated to English, that they might fit the criteria.

Alternatively, you could mention something along the lines of "I've been published in several Polish literary magazines." and let that be the end of it. Were you paid for your submissions? That's usually a dividing line. Mentioning anything where you publish for free (or, worse, pay to publish) is likely to be counter productive.

As for the last sentence, you need to give the reader a hook for why they need to read the story. Something unresolved. You've done a good job introducing your character and making her sympathetic and you've given her some obstacles, but you need to give her stakes. Life and death are pretty good stakes, so wrapping the blurb up with 'die or else' is the way I think you should go.


message 14: by Aneta (new)

Aneta Dabrowska | 28 comments Keith wrote: "If those magazines are recognized for their work, meaning someone in the business could be expected to have heard of them, then, by all means, put them in. The problem becomes if the journals are o..."

Thank you, Keith! I think they paid me for some of my work, but unfortunately, those aren't the big press titles... I think your advice is very good so I'm going to stick with "I've been published in several Polish literary magazines."

I've also self-published my first book (and "Behind..." is a prequel), but I heard there's no point of mentioning it unless it was a huge success.

Do you think that I should tell an agent that "Behind.." is a part of series?

Yes, you're right about the last sentence. The stakes are life and death after all, so I should point it out. What do you think about this ending:

"Terrified of self-destructive voices whispering in her head, Punk is faced with a choice of going back to life or giving in to depression."


message 15: by Keith (new)

Keith Oxenrider (mitakeet) | 1166 comments You should mention that the story has series _potential_, but the first needs to have a satisfying and clean ending. There can be plenty of lose ends to tie up, but the book needs to stand alone. Publishers love having a series when the first catches on, but don't want to commit unless the first does well.

Maybe this for the final sentence?

"Tired of being terrified by her self-destructive voices, one way or another Punk is going to end them."


message 16: by Aneta (new)

Aneta Dabrowska | 28 comments Keith wrote: "You should mention that the story has series _potential_, but the first needs to have a satisfying and clean ending. There can be plenty of lose ends to tie up, but the book needs to stand alone. P..."

The book has a clear but open ending, I did that because I wanted it to be a part of series :D Okay, so maybe like that:

BEHIND THE GHOST METROPOLIS is a 65,000-word YA contemporary fiction. It’s a standalone novel with a series potential called “On the Road to…?” and it will appeal to fans of Ellen Hopkins and “Girl in pieces” by Kathleen Glasgow.

My short stories, poems, and literary translations have been published in several Polish literary magazines.

Following your submission guidelines, I have pasted the first (number of pages) of my book.

Thank you for your time and consideration.
Sincerely,

And as for the final sentence, I like yours better than mine so I'll take it, thank you :)


message 17: by Keith (new)

Keith Oxenrider (mitakeet) | 1166 comments I think it works. Don't forget the editing by someone else.

PM me if you'd like my blog post on how I suggest crafting blurbs and synopses.

Good luck! And please post back to this thread if you get an MS request.


message 18: by Aneta (new)

Aneta Dabrowska | 28 comments That's great, Keith, thank you :)
I'll probably need to get into synopsis soon so I'll pm you.

Of course, I will post here if I get MS request! Man, that would be so cool... Thank you so much for all your help and suggestions :)


message 19: by Keith (new)

Keith Oxenrider (mitakeet) | 1166 comments Happy to help!


message 20: by Aneta (new)

Aneta Dabrowska | 28 comments :)


message 21: by Janelle (new)

Janelle Trees | 18 comments Great work, you two, thank you.
Keith--I'd like to read your blog. Are you able to send me a link or post one here?
Asper--Sounds like a great read for YA. I would have loved to read your book when I was a teen and would have been wiser for it.
Salutations,
Janelle


message 22: by Keith (new)

Keith Oxenrider (mitakeet) | 1166 comments Hey Janelle,

My profile has a link to my blog, but I'll PM it as well.


message 23: by Janelle (new)

Janelle Trees | 18 comments Thanks, Keith.
And thanks for the good work you're doing here.
I can see that you can't help yourself.
Shows me that you're on your path. I'll check out the website.
Janelle


message 24: by Aneta (new)

Aneta Dabrowska | 28 comments Janelle wrote: "Great work, you two, thank you.
Keith--I'd like to read your blog. Are you able to send me a link or post one here?
Asper--Sounds like a great read for YA. I would have loved to read your book when..."


Thank you, Janelle! I hope that agents will feel the same way :D
I wish I wrote this book earlier when I was still a teen. Maybe it would help me? But at that time I didn't believe in myself. I hope that it will at least help others now :)

Yes, I agree, Keith and his blog are awesome!


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