Query Workshop R-10: BATTLEGROUND

Aw, guys – it’s the last day! Wipe away the tears – we’ve still got two queries to workshop! And don’t forget to check out the queries on the blogs of Brenda, Marieke and Sarah!

On with the show!

Full Query:

Dear Ms. Drake;

When fate is out of the picture, all that’s left is free will.

Sixteen-year-old Lilly Dawson isn’t one to question God’s Plan. For every tragedy, there’s a purpose; for every inexplicable event, a fitting reason. That is, until she meets Parker, a troubled yet persuasive atheist. As his cynicism challenges her belief in fate, new meaning shapes Lilly’s world — our free will, not some ultimate plan, define who we are. So when Parker abuses drugs in order to escape a deadbeat mother and a Christian extremist father, Lilly knows that if she can be his hope for a better life, Parker will rise above what appears to be his fate. It isn’t easy. One moment he’s putting down the needle, the next he’s shooting up.

Then Lilly is raped. Before, this would have been the work of God. Now, Lilly can’t shake the fact that this is a consequence of free will. What’s more, Parker’s got his hands on his favorite substances again. Lilly is convinced that love can save their lives, but if Parker can’t abandon his old life to save hers, Lilly must choose to either remain buried in the ruins of her broken trust, or redefine faith and identity for herself.

Battleground is a relationship-driven YA novel, complete at 60,000 words.

I work as a college-level writing assistant and tutor in writing and literature. I am the former opinion editor for the Linn-Benton Community College newspaper, The Commuter, and write the weekly opinion column Straight from the Hartsock and the humor column Dear Conscience.

Thank you for considering Battleground. I’m happy to forward exclusive materials upon your request.

Once More with Comments:

Dear Ms. Drake;

When fate is out of the picture, all that’s left is free will. (I’m ambivalent on this opening sentence. It’s fine – it’s just not singing to me.)

Sixteen-year-old Lilly Dawson isn’t one to question God’s Plan. (I like this opening better because it immediately grounds me in your MC and sets me up for everything around her to go ass up.) For every tragedy, there’s a purpose; for every inexplicable event, a fitting reason. That is, until she meets Parker, a troubled yet persuasive atheist. As his cynicism challenges her belief in fate, new meaning shapes Lilly’s world — our free will, not some ultimate plan, define who we are. (This sentence is a little on the vague side for me, and I’d rather have specifics. Like, where she met him? Why she hangs out with him? Why do his arguments work when I’m sure others have told her the same things?) So when Parker abuses drugs in order to escape a deadbeat mother and a Christian extremist father, Lilly knows that if she can be his hope for a better life, Parker will rise above what appears to be his fate. (I thought the sentence before this implied that Lilly was starting to err on the side of free will? Are Parker’s arguments convincing her or not?) It isn’t easy. One moment he’s putting down the needle, the next he’s shooting up.

Then Lilly is raped. Before, this would have been the work of God. (Before what? Before Parker? Does he convince her of free will or does the fact that she was raped?) Now, Lilly can’t shake the fact that this is a consequence of free will. What’s more, Parker’s got his hands on his favorite substances again. Lilly is convinced that love can save their lives, but if Parker can’t abandon his old life to save hers, (Save hers how? By loving her? Or by staying sober?) Lilly must choose to either remain buried in the ruins of her broken trust, or redefine faith and identity for herself. (I’m waffling on this paragraph. I feel like it’s skipping things to pull the big reveal on events that happen later in the novel, but that could just be me.)

BATTLEGROUND is a relationship-driven YA novel, (A simpler and more marketplace-savvy way to say this: YA contemporary) complete at 60,000 words.

I work as a college-level writing assistant and tutor in writing and literature. I am the former opinion editor for the Linn-Benton Community College newspaper, The Commuter, and write the weekly opinion column Straight from the Hartsock and the humor column Dear Conscience.

Thank you for considering BATTLEGROUND. I’m happy to forward exclusive materials upon your request. (I wouldn’t promise exclusive materials at the end of a query letter. If you send out eight and get three partial/full requests, you’re gonna find yourself in a bind.)

Overall: I will be perfectly honest – this isn’t really my genre, BUT I do think there is a lot of potential here. I think it’s just missing some set up. It’s jumping right to Lilly-and-Parker-are-intertwined, but I gather that the novel doesn’t start there, so make sure you’re giving us the set up so we have a clear idea of what the groundwork is.

Okay, people, take it to the comments! Do you agree with me? Disagree? Want to punch me in the face? Now’s your chance!

Remember: Every critique you do gets you an entry into a first chapter critique from Brenda!

8 thoughts on “Query Workshop R-10: BATTLEGROUND

  1. I feel like a broken record here, but I agree with Becks. 😀 Lots of potential and there are lots of conflict points, just needs some focusing a little on the relationship (which you mentioned was the core of the story). The how, why, where.

    The sentence “Then Lilly is raped” bothers me, not because of the content, but because it is so dry and not hooking. This is a catalyst for your story. It needs to feel that way. They way you have it written, it almost feels like an afterthought.

    Decisions drive consequences. Make sense?

    Good start!

  2. I agree that your second sentence is a better opening. The first doesn’t tell the agent anything s/he doesn’t already know.

    Here are a few more thoughts:

    For every tragedy, there’s a purpose; for every inexplicable event, a fitting reason.

    That is, until she meets Parker, a troubled yet persuasive atheist. <I like how you've made this short and sweet, but I don't think you need "troubled." You show us later on in the paragraph how he's troubled, so I don't think you need to tell as well.

    As his cynicism challenges her belief in fate, new meaning shapes Lilly’s world — our free will, not some ultimate plan, define who we are.

    So when Parker abuses drugs in order to escape a deadbeat mother and a Christian extremist father, Lilly knows that if she can be his hope for a better life, Parker will rise above what appears to be his fate.

    It isn’t easy. One moment he’s putting down the needle, the next he’s shooting up.

    Then Lilly is raped.

    Before, this would have been the work of God. Now, Lilly can’t shake the fact that this is a consequence of free will. What’s more, Parker’s got his hands on his favorite substances again. Lilly is convinced that love can save their lives, but if Parker can’t abandon his old life to save hers, Lilly must choose to either remain buried in the ruins of her broken trust, or redefine faith and identity for herself.

    I liked this a lot, and I have a ton of respect for you for tackling rape and faith and relationships. I’m a query novice, so please just use whatever suggestions you like and discard the rest. =)

    1. Eeep. Formatting FAIL. Most of my comments disappeared.

      In your last graph, I think you did a nice job of setting up consequences & stakes, but you could get more specific. What are Parker’s favorite substances? Who broke Lilly’s trust–God? her rapist? Parker? And is she redefining her faith in God? Or in fate?

  3. I agree with the Becca.
    One thing that struck me, though, and this just might be me is–Is Lillian raped by a drug induced Parker?
    Did anyone else think maybe it was Parker… If so, and he isn’t the one who raped her then I think that you need to change up that sentence a little.
    I might just be reading into it weird though.

  4. I’m not connecting with this query. I think the reason why is you tell us that Lilly and Parker are vital each other’s well being but you don’t show us. It almost comes off as Lilly delusionally latched on to someone who has no interest in her and she decided her life depends on him doing things she can’t possibly force him to do. I agree with Becca, why did they get involved with each other? Why does she believe him getting sober will save her sanity? Is it because it will mean all the terrible things that happened were God setting him up for redemption, which will in turn restore her faith? If that is the case, make it clearer.

    I’m also squeamish about the idea that as long as it was God’s plan, rape isn’t a big deal. Which is how it’s coming across to me in the query.

  5. If you have a moment, I have updated my query letter. There is not much voice, but I believe the structure is correct:

    Parker’s cynicism with Christianity challenges sixteen-year-old Lilly Dawson’s faith in God’s Plan. For every tragedy, there’s a purpose; for every inexplicable event, a fitting reason. But when Parker starts abusing drugs in order to escape a deadbeat mother and a Christian extremist father, Lilly can’t simply wait for God’s explanation. New meaning shapes Lilly’s world — our free will, not some ultimate plan, define who we are. Most important of all, if she can become Parker’s hope for a better life, then it is within Parker, and herself, to save him.

    And then, on one frightful night, Lilly is raped. Trusting in fate had warranted tragedy, but now, Lilly knows this is a consequence of free will. What’s worse, as the trial for justice draws near, Parker’s tampering with his favorite substances again. Desperate for resolution, Lilly latches onto Parker’s rehabilitation to restore her self worth. But if he can’t abandon his old life, Lilly must choose to either remain buried in the ruins of her broken trust, or redefine faith and identity for herself.

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