Thursday, September 10, 2009

In which the query ninja rips apart our pitch for Unclaimed Baggage

I'm sure most of you guys know Elana Johnson, but what you may not know is that she's a query ninja. No seriously. She's been known to help aspiring writers write kick ass queries and many of the people she's helped (including us!) have landed an agent as a result.

She's also written an amazing eBook called From the Query to the Call. This book has tons of information about how to write a killer query and approach agents. Every aspiring author needs to read it. Now. Or when it's available on Monday. Whatever.

For those of you who have never experienced Elana's magic, behold:

Here's our original pitch for Unclaimed Baggage. Not bad, but definitely could use some work, right?

Here's Elana's commentary:
It all began in a hospital bed, where sisters Emily and Sarah were forced to do most of their dreaming. (I’m left wondering what “it” is. You know? I think this would be a better hook if it were turned around. Like: “Sisters Emily and Sarah are forced to do most of their dreaming together—from hospital beds.” Or something like that.) Emily is sick with Acute Myeloid Leukemia and to survive the endless rounds of chemo, the constant pricking of IV needles, and the annoying Make-A-Wish volunteers, the girls plan a trip. They call it “Into the Mild”—an epic trip to Europe: 1 year, 2 Eurorail passes and $3,452 (I think this would be witty and clever to make it $3,456, cuz then it’s like 1…2…and $3,456. You see? Or maybe that’s just the total math geek in me coming out.). All they need is for Emily to get better. (I wish this were stronger. Maybe like, “If only Emily could get better.” Maybe?)

But (I don’t like the “But” here. I think “So” would work, or just nothing at all.) when Sarah finds herself at a brand new boarding school with parental instructions from her parents to “focus on something other than her sister,” she plans to do exactly that.

Just not at school. (ooh, nice! But… I might change “Just” to “But” now that you don’t have that “But” up there in that other graf.)

She refuses to stick around to (and) deal with her bitchy roommate or the snotty kids whose families have known each other for generations. Instead, she’s got (has. “Instead, she has a one-way…”) a one-way ticket to London, a monster backpack and a crazy idea that this trip will somehow fix everything. (I want to know a bit more about this “everything.” I want to know what needs fixing. Her emotions? You sort of elude to that in the next sentence (which totally rocks, BTW), but I’m not sure. Her worry over Emily? The separation anxiety she has over leaving her sister alone in the hospital? So will the trip somehow make her forget that her sister is dying? So maybe like, “…she’s got a one-way ticket to London, a monster backpack and a crazy idea that this trip will somehow help her forget everything.” Or “…that this trip will somehow erase bad memories.” Or “…that this trip will somehow make her life less sucktacluar.” (Okay, that last one was a joke. But isn’t sucktacular a great word?) And yeah. I think that ending just needs something more.)

Too bad airlines don’t check emotional baggage. (Brilliant. Bloody brilliant.)

And here's the final product:

Sisters Emily and Sarah have never been afraid to dream big even when they're stuck dreaming from a hospital bed. Emily is sick with Acute Myeloid Leukemia and to survive the endless rounds of chemo, the constant pricking of IV needles, and the annoying Make-A-Wish volunteers, the girls plan a trip. They call it “Into the Mild”—an epic trip to Europe: 1 year, 2 Eurorail passes and $3,456. Plans have been made, bags have been packed, they're just waiting for one thing - Emily's remission.

When Sarah finds herself at a brand new boarding school with instructions from her parents to “focus on something other than her sister,” she plans to do exactly that.

But not at school.

She refuses to stick around and deal with her bitchy roommate or the snotty kids whose families have known each other for generations. Instead, she has a one-way ticket to London, a monster backpack and a crazy idea that this trip will somehow keep Emily alive.

Too bad airlines don’t check emotional baggage.

SO...
Not bad, right? Want to see what Elana's mad query skills can do for you? Stay tuned for information on how you can win a free copy of Elana's eBook, From the Query to the Call.

17 comments:

Dominique said...

Oooh, nice. I'd read more.

I'm curious, are these sisters twins, or just really close?

Solvang Sherrie said...

Cool! Elana's great :)

Tess said...

Elana is wicked awesome

Realm Lovejoy said...

Elana--you are the awesome!!

Little Ms J said...

You guys kill me. I've only been working on my query letter for a year and you've only been working on your WIP for... Ugh.

Elana - you are so not getting away from me now. I'll be in touch, sister.

Lunar Amyscope said...

Queries. My greatest foe. However, yours was really interesting and now I wanna read that shiz! Like, ASAP!

Ryan said...

That was kinda awesome. I wish I was that good at doing query letters. Maybe I should be the first person in line to buy a copy of Elana J's ebook, From the Query to the Call. Which by the way is totally happening. Elana J you rock my query socks!

Word Verification:...little bosheap?

Sarah said...

Wow. Must. call. Elana.

Christina Lee said...

wowsy wow wow- LOVE it- what tremendous help (you guys give good help too BTW)

Scott said...

Elana Rocks. She's helped me with my query . . . and I'm definitely getting her book. Must go now to put the reminder in my Outlook Calendar. Great post!

S

Donna Gambale said...

Nice! Writing It Out's Beth Revis had done a review & interview for this book, and the LiLa love has definitely convinced me once and for all to buy this book!

Frankie Diane Mallis said...

Very nice query...ok yeah now I think I need Elana's help too!

Tara said...

Brilliant!

Rebecca Knight said...

This kicks ass! What a great adverstisement for why everyone NEEDS to get a copy of her book :).

The lady's got skills (and so have you!)

LOVE the hook!

Katie said...

Hello my Dears,

I LOVED the "Too bad they don't check emotional baggage" line! genius!!

And I'd like to say that Elana is totally brilliant and her book is such an amazing tool! Seriously. Buy it. now.

I'm telling everyone about it.

storyqueen said...

a kick-ass sister adventure written by two kick-ass adventurous sisters!

Cannot wait to read it!

Shelley

Joanna said...

Elana! I had no idea you were such a query ninja. Great comments on LiLa's query! It really made it SO much stronger.