WIP Wednesday & Row80 Sep 18th

Okay, here’s why I love social media. Because you can hear about things that are crazy and awesome almost immediately. So, did you hear the one about the Northampton Clown?

Supposedly Northampton is one of those small cities in the UK you either move away from because of boredom or move to because you finally got fed up with city life. It’s small. Not much happens there. At least, not until recently.

Enter the Clown.

northampton clown

According to his Facebook page, he’s just an attention glut, but those of us who saw Stephen King’s IT are more than a little spooked thinking about it. Of course, my writer’s mind is going 100 miles a minute with story inspiration. Not that I’ll necessarily write about a clown, but it seems like events like these always serve for good inspiration. It does creep me out, but I also love it and hope he keeps it up—in his only-attention way.

The Goals

1. Read at least 10 more Anton Chekhov short stories to add to my progress starting from 50 of 201. No new progress. 60 of 201. Read his stories here free!

2. Finish reading both The Fire in Fiction and On Writing. No new progress.

3. Submit Trick or Tree to another writing contest. Finish Dog Shy and write at least one other short story, all to be submitted to contests. No new progress.

4. Write a flash fiction story. 2 flash fiction stories written so far.

5. Do at least one thing every week that increases my fluency in Spanish and Japanese. This Sunday I went to a potluck at my neighbor’s house. She and her husband are both from Japan, so I got a little practice in. Mostly I realized how much Japanese I don’t know. But one step at a time, right? Check!

6. Finish feedback edits on SHADE and get it queried. Query letter reworked. Actually, that’s something I could use your help with. More below.

Bonus Goals. I finished what I had plotted for Clemmings and I think it’s a decent first draft. I’m considering trying to make a 4,000 word version since Writer’s Digest is in the midst of contests right now (YA among them).

WIPpet Wednesday

Okay, so here’s where the query letter comes in. I know I usually do Clemmings excerpts, but I wanted to get your feedback on the recent draft of my letter for my other WIP Shade. Please give me your best feedback as I intend to send this letter out to agents. What parts did you like? Didn’t like? Suggestions? Etc. What this doesn’t include is an introductory paragraph (where I personalize it to the agent, why I selected them, believe they are a good fit, etc.). This is what (INTRO) will entail. The rest please look over with a sharp eye.


He calls a menacing, demon dog his pet. He can pull bone swords from his own body. Yet the one thing 15-year-old Logan fears most is shadow.

Logan is the Queen’s puppet prince and for years he’s danced when she pulled his strings. Born of a bloodline that houses the dark power of demons, he struggles to control his unique gift—summoning demons of shadow from the depths of Hell. When his mother commands he use that power to murder his own father, he learns a terrifying secret: refusal won’t stop the Queen from pulling the darkness through him anyway, channeling the power he thought was solely his to wield. He watches helplessly as demons tear through the castle, unable to stop them from killing his father.

Logan flees the castle—and his mother’s wrath. Taking refuge among strangers, he meets Vera, a headstrong girl with her own blackened past. She teaches him to confront his fears and take control of the strings his mother has held for so long. Now burning to avenge his father, he must master his dark power and destroy the one person threatening to annihilate his new home—his mother.

He’s had a castle all his life, but he’s never had a home until now. He’s got the power to protect it—if he can keep it out of the Queen’s grasp.

Complete at 96,000 words, SHADE is a YA fantasy in the vein of Graceling, by Kristin Cashore, but with a darker tone. My manuscript took first place in the YA category in a League of Utah Writers contest, of which I’m a member.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Thanks for all your help in advance. If you ever need someone to go over your query letter, you know where I am and I’m always willing to help. 🙂

36 thoughts on “WIP Wednesday & Row80 Sep 18th

    • Yes, with the strangers. In earlier iterations I had “tree village” or “strangers in the forest.” Good things to add? Would that make it too long? Is it already a bit longish?

      • From what I’ve read about query letters it is on the long side, but I don’t think it’s so long that it would get tossed out for it. Tree village is interesting… but I’m not an agent. Never listen to anything I say. Ever.

        Best of luck with submissions when you do go ahead with it. I’ll be waiting in the wings with confetti…

        • I think I may tuck tree village in there. They say interesting tidbits are good. I feel like it’s soooo long, but not sure how to shorten it without being too vague. I’ll keep thinking. Thanks!

  1. I like it for the most part…when writing these, the best advice I’ve gotten is that less is more. So…with that in mind. Concerning the second paragraph, the last part starting with anyway

    “anyway, channeling the power he thought was solely his to wield. He watches helplessly as demons tear through the castle, unable to stop them from killing his father.”

    can easily be deleted. It doesn’t had much. We know his mom is WEIRD and using his gift in a way that he doesn’t want…the rest is irrelevant at this point. We don’t care about his father yet–save that for the story. To make it flow with the rest … say “burning to avenge his father’s death.” in the third paragraph.

    The second to last paragraph–I almost want to see more of what the reader can get out of Logan. Like… “Logan is a kid who came from riches and learned quickly that blahblahblah =P He shows strength in adversity, stands up for what he believes in, and has learned to push back against evil” or something like that. I think that helps give a reason for why the book itself and the characters you have created at relevant to the publisher and to the reader. It gives meaning and purpose behind why they should take a look at the story itself.

    Small thing…you don’t need the “of which I am a member” all they need to know is that it won something, the rest is just a piece of personal stuff that they’ll figure out when the accept it =P which I’m sure they will. Last two little things, suggest writing out YA and writing out 15. It shows professionalism.

    These be my thoughts, feel free to ignore. =D The book itself sounds very interesting; I do get a great sense of the journey that Logan is about to embark on.

  2. I’m intrigued! Just one thought: the contractions in the second to last paragraph are out of step with the tone of the rest of the letter. It’s the only awkward place. Good idea (castle/home)–maybe just a rephrase.

  3. How exciting you’re getting ready to query! I recommend putting the last paragraph right at the top. That way they get the impressive stats first. I’ve also read it’s best to just give a paragraph blurb about the plot, kind of like what you’d put on the back cover. I don’t know if this holds true or all agents, but I remember seeing it a few times. So maybe see if you can shorten things a little? Good luck with your query!

  4. I’m Indie myself, and based on the other comments that have been given, I don’t have any new advice to add, but I was intrigued with the plot and I wasn’t bored. What caught my attention was Logan and being a string puppet for his mother and feeling helpless about it. That made me want to thumb through the book to find those moments (I have a thing for oppressed characters rising up out of their circumstances *grins*). With the advice given by others, this will no doubt make a great query letter! Good luck!!!

  5. So booksbysmiles basically stole my comment. I am pretty clueless when it comes to queries, and there seems to be so much conflicting info out there whenever I do try and read up about it,I end up with a headache. But I definitely found the synopsis intriguing.

    The only thing that wasn’t clear to me was that the Queen and Logan’s mother are the same person; when I read it the first time I read the “Logan has been the Queen’s puppet” as kind of a version of the Huntsman to Snow White’s stepmother. It wasn’t until further down I made the connection.

  6. I’m indie now, but I used to be traditional, and even managed to get a book published in the old-fashioned way. I agree with those who have mentioned that this description is probably too long for a query letter. The book does sound interesting, but received wisdom is that the description in a query letter should be no more than a paragraph. A longer description like this should go in your one page synopsis (if the agent or publisher requests it). All you want in the query letter is the big picture.

    To give you an idea what I mean, here’s the description for the book I sold:

    “For the price of a truce, Yseult is sent to a world where magic is dying — to marry the father of the man she loves. The story revolves around the tragic love between Yseult of Eriu and Drystan, prince of Dumnonia. Drystan and Yseult’s relationship plays out against the backdrop of a violent world threatening to descend into the Dark Ages — only Arthur’s battles to push back the Saxon hordes can save what is left of civilization.”

    Good luck!

  7. Good luck with these goals and congratulations on the first place spot at the writers’ conference! That’s great! I am no help with query letters–I’ve never written one and have no intention of writing them in the future–but your draft looked very compelling to me.

    • Thanks! And you may live a better life without attempting queries. They are the absolute worst part of this process. I’d rather rewrite my whole novel seven times in a row than write a query. But I guess it’s good to do challenging things…. 😉

  8. Hello! I like the new query. I intended to do an actual critique, but I know I won’t have time to get around to it. I agree with most of the other comments – the second paragraph is the weakest.
    I LOVE the hooking paragraph. I hardly thought the query was too long*, just in context; a lot of the second paragraph feels like backstory, rather than motivation. Maybe tweak it? So that it’s less ‘bloodline that houses the dark power of demons’ (for some reason, I feel this is irrelevant to the plot) and more – escape from bloodline involvement with demons.
    Also, nit-picking, but is saying ‘unique gift’ telling? I know what you mean – unique to even his world – but it kind of sounds like ‘he’s got powers that you readers don’t’. 😛 I think you know what I mean. As I said, that just made me stumble on a picky moment.

    *In fact, my own is about the same length. Do you have time to do a quick critique of it? I’m actually pretty happy with it as is, but I’d like your – highly-valued! – opinion of it.

    • Sure, send it to my inbox. And thanks. Yeah, it’s been through a few changes. I’ve cut it down a bit and tweaked things. But I’m glad the hooking paragraph is working. I feel like that’s the best bit. Maybe even from there they’d skip down to pages. (Wouldn’t that be nice?) Now I’m in the midst of researching agents. Blah…

      • Okay 🙂 Yeah, I realise my comment was probably a little late. Wednesday evening’s work was a bit of a rush.
        Ooh, researching is my least favourite part. I don’t know what sort of tone to take in the intro paragraph, especially as I have/will have not enough time to read books repped by specific agents. Bleh…

        • You can find articles they’ve written or blog posts and mention something you liked that they said. You can also find them on Twitter and do the same thing. It’s just an icebreaker which may or may not get completely skipped anyway. But for me they have tended to get more personalized responses, even if they’re still rejections.

        • Hmm, yeah. I’m always worried I’m gonna sound like a suck-up, though. I’d love to be able to interact on a level beyond ‘I liked your blog post about x because of y’. (Can I do that? Like, say that it appealed to me because it chimes with my work ethic, or is that just rubbish?)

        • I think the point is to show them you’re not just copying 100 other agents on the same email. We’re all sucking up, but the effort shows you did your research on that agent and not just mass emailing. Make sense?

  9. People saying the query seems long, I don’t agree with. It looks longer due to the blog format (I think), rather than the spread out-ness of an email.

    Now, here’s the odd thing: But I feel a query should be information packed punch. This feels more like a shove. It isn’t tight enough, but it does have impact and all the other right elements, so I wouldn’t say anything against it.

    • I think it’s the second paragraph. I felt like it started strong but tapered off. I have a new version. Maybe I’ll post it right here:

      He calls a menacing, demon dog his pet. He can pull bone swords from his own body. Yet the one thing 15-year-old Logan fears most are the shadows.

      A prince born of a bloodline that houses the dark power of demons, Logan thought summoning was his alone to master. But when his mother demands he murder his own father, Logan learns a terrifying secret: refusal can’t stop the Queen from pulling the darkness through him anyway.

      Logan flees the castle—and his mother’s wrath. Taking refuge among strangers, he meets Vera, a headstrong girl with her own blackened past. She teaches him to confront his fears and take control of the strings his mother has held for so long. Burning to avenge his father, he must master his dark power and destroy the one person threatening to annihilate his new home—his mother.

  10. Yes, the Northhampton Clown is intriguing and creepy and grist for all kinds of stories.

    Thanks for posting your new query as it answers my biggest concern. I think the purpose of the query is not the same as a synopsis — that is the potential agent should be nodding about the story and impressed by your writing style in the same moment.

    I do believe the first draft was too long. This revision works better. Some suggestions:

    –Can you revise “thing” out of para 2 (a real no-no word) as otherwise you have a subject/verb agreement problem. Maybe: Yet 15-year-old Logan fears shadows.
    –And maybe sub Logan for refusal or say ‘his refusal’ in the next para.
    –Finally, does that last para need to end on ‘his mother’? Sounds a little too Oedipal. Maybe just ‘annihilate his new home’?

    Congrats on working on the query. This is HARD. Good use of WIPpet Weds! 🙂

  11. I don’t read YA a lot. So when I say your MS sounds really good – take that as an uber compliment. 😉 The query looks solid. The only thing I’d wonder about is the length of the blurb. Maybe it looks smaller on paper though, so I could be way off in lala land.

  12. I’m coming very late to the party. I think the second version is much better, and that Beth’s comment was spot-on.

    Of course, you might be done by now. =)

    That clown – I love the idea, but *shudder!* Creepy. Even my kids would think so!

    • Thanks! I appreciate your feedback. And yeah, thanks to Stephen King’s IT I doubt we’ll ever be able to see clowns as anything but menacing. I wonder if they ever really were fun or funny…

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