Son of a Pitch Query + 250

 

I know my query’s a little long, so I’d appreciate some advice on how to cut it down. All feedback is appreciated! Thanks in advance!

Query:

Every night, Marlowe has the same dream. She watches a family burn to death in a house fire. She doesn’t know if it’s her family. She doesn’t know if she loves them. She’d tell you that she doesn’t know why, in this dream, she’s always holding a match.

But that would be a lie.

The Diana Banesbury School for Exceptional Young Women is one of the last surviving members of its kind—a rigorous ivy and brick institution intended to propel its few lucky, wealthy students straight to the Ivy Leagues. So when popular, charismatic megalomaniac Marlowe Brady decides to stop sleeping, everyone notices. But when chronically depressed loner Gwyneth Rosewood decides to stop sleeping, eating, drinking, and living altogether, no one does. No one, except Marlowe, whose unwanted intervention lands them both in the school’s infirmary, where they meet Sloane Mischlin, a snarky thrill-seeker with a mysterious black eye, and Ellie Bishop, an ambitious student volunteer who suggests an unconventional solution to Marlowe’s insomnia: lucid dreaming, the ability to control one’s dreams.

Together, the girls form a club in the pursuit of lucid dreaming, and at Marlowe’s insistence, move into an abandoned classroom in the woods around the school where they can dream undisturbed. But as they grow closer and their abilities to lucid dream improve, Marlowe’s behavior becomes strange and restrictive, and Gwyn begins to suspect she has ulterior motives for bringing them together. As Gwyn leads the charge to uncover Marlowe’s motives and past, Marlowe works to maintain her control over the three of them by isolating them from each other and fostering their dependence on her, using gas lighting and manipulation to render them incapable of discerning reality from dream. To prevent the end she’s planned for them, the three girls must work together and find a way to wake themselves from her influence.

LUCID, a 98,000 word YA contemporary psychological suspense, may appeal to readers who enjoyed the characterization of Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Boys or the atmosphere of Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, and includes an LGBT relationship between two of the four main characters.

First 250:

Marlowe Brady lay awake at three in the morning in the fourth bed in the first of two rows in the Goldfinch dormitory of The Diana Banesbury School for Exceptional Young Women. It was November ninth. She was wearing silk pajamas, and doing fairly well considering the circumstances. The circumstances were that she’d been awake since November sixth.

In the first fifty hours, nothing very interesting had happened. But during the fifty-sixth, a fly landed on the bulb of the green shaded lamp on her bedside table.

At first, Marlowe tried to watch it without turning her head, by shifting her eyes as far in its direction as they’d go. But this gave her a headache, so eventually she resigned to face it, pressing her cheek against the pillow, her dark hair falling over darker eyes.

People didn’t tend to believe that insects had free will, or made decisions, but Marlowe had never doubted. Sometimes she would mentally urge the fly to move in one direction or the other, and most of the time it wouldn’t. But on the rare occasion that it did, she became re-invigorated by the illusion that her will had been so strong that it’d been unable to resist, that it was the sheer force of her own thoughts that pushed it back onto the heat of the glass bulb when it wandered off. She indulged in the idea that this small living thing would burn itself alive if she wanted it.

Not that she did.

8 Replies to “Son of a Pitch Query + 250”

  1. Hi Cameron, I like what you have here. Pretty intriguing premise. But I am a bit confused about the query. Is Marlow the main character or isn’t she? When the query starts telling us the story from the pov of the other three I was no longer sure, especially with the line “now the three girls must work together” which suggests that Marlow is the enemy. If she’s the main character I would not switch to the other three’s pov. I would probably cut the entire first paragraph and just go with Three chronic insomniacs at an all girls school’s for the rich form a club of lucid dreamers… Also, is Marlow waking up in bed and trying to control a fly the best possible opening for the novel? In these sorts of contests agents look for trouble on the first page, which is extremely difficult and frustrating, nonetheless….Good luck with the contest. If you feel like reciprocating, my link: https://lauravaleri.com/2017/02/13/son-of-a-pitch-query-contest/

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Good concept

    Query needs pruning. Start from here – when popular, charismatic megalomaniac Marlowe Brady decides to stop sleeping, everyone notices.

    Motivation/Inciting incident
    Goal
    Conflict

    i’m told those are the 3 elements of a query

    Also, no comps allowed for contest

    Excerpt – I like. Gives you a hint of MB’s character right away.

    if you feel like reciprocating – https://jayperinwordpress.wordpress.com/2017/02/14/updated-version-son-of-a-pitch/

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Cameron,

    I would echo Laura here. This is a wonderful premise and it’s clear that you have some great writing chops.

    Your query and story start as if Marlowe is the hero, but then it seems she is the villain. I suppose you could be trying to make her an anti-hero, but if that’s the case, your POV should remain with her throughout the query. I don’t have a problem with POV shifting within a story, but I imagine that an agent will want to who the protag is, so pick either Marlowe or the three girls.

    Regarding the 250, I like the scene. It’s creepy and do a good job describing Marlowe’s heightened sense of awareness from her lack of sleep. I question the presence of the second paragraph though. It seems unnecessary and a waste of precious word space and agent attention to say “she tried to look at the fly without moving her head, but then she moved her head anyway.”

    Of course, the bigger issue is whether Marlowe is the villain, and if you want to open a story from her POV,

    Great work though! I hope something comes of this!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Lots going on, and I like your first 250.

    For the query: focus on the protagonist and antagonist (who sound like one and the same??). Avoid naming secondary characters in a query. I agree with Jayperin’s suggestion of where to begin. You can trim more by cutting other names and just characterizing them as you’ve done.

    This really sounds fabulous. Good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks, everyone! To clarify, Marlowe is the villain/antagonist, but acts as one of the protagonists until it’s revealed until later in the book, so I was trying to mimic that here. I can see that just caused confusion though, so I’ll definitely take all of your advice to heart and work on it. Thanks so much for bringing the issue to my attention!

    Like

  6. I really like this – your writing is sharp, your story is exciting and interesting. I love the combination of dreams, a finishing school, and an evil manipulator. I really love your query, too, even though I agree it’s too long. I think the key to a query is to minimize the information. We don’t need every girls names, for instance. Also, you want to leave with a hook that makes the agent go straight to your pages. Just as an example, I cut your query down and added a couple things at the end to make it more hook-like. It’s still too long, but, on the other hand, if it’s a great story, inside the query, I think most agents will keep reading. Here are my edits. Mostly, I kept your words but cut out parts. If you want to make it shorter, I think you’re going to have to restructure the second half of the query, maybe tell this from a different angle. I really love all of it up to the line about Gwyneth not eating, etc. . If possible, I’d try to keep all that intact. Good luck. Also, liked your 250 a lot.

    Every night, Marlowe has the same dream. She watches a family burn to death in a house fire. She doesn’t know if it’s her family. She doesn’t know if she loves them. She’d tell you that she doesn’t know why, in this dream, she’s always holding a match.

    But that would be a lie.

    The Diana Banesbury School for Exceptional Young Women is one of the last surviving members of its kind—a rigorous ivy and brick institution intended to propel its few lucky, wealthy students straight to the Ivy Leagues. So when popular, charismatic megalomaniac Marlowe Brady decides to stop sleeping, everyone notices. But when chronically depressed loner Gwyneth Rosewood decides to stop sleeping, eating, and drinking, no one does. No one, except Marlowe, whose unwanted intervention lands them both in the school’s infirmary, where they meet a snarky thrill-seeker and an ambitious student volunteer who suggests an unconventional solution to Marlowe’s insomnia: lucid dreaming, the ability to control one’s dreams.

    Together, the four girls form a club but as their abilities to lucid dream improve, the other girls begin to suspect that Marlowe has ulterior, evil motives for bringing them together.
    Marlowe works to maintain her control over the three using gas lighting and manipulation to render them incapable of discerning reality from dream. If the trio wants to leave The Diana Banesbury School alive, they must find a way to wake themselves from Marlowe’s influence.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi Cameron. Very compelling story filled with intrigue. I agree your query tells to much. I would stick with one main character and leave out all the detail about the others. I think there is plenty here to lure the reader without explaining so much. Good job!

    Liked by 1 person

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