#19-UNRAVELED (Revised)

>Dear Agent:

             I am seeking representation for UNRAVELED, a 56, 000 word young adult mystery.
 All sixteen year old math prodigy, Autumn, wants to do is read about serial killers and dream about becoming an FBI agent. Until one day she comes home and discovers her murdered sister’s body on the living room floor. When the initial evidence points to a burglary gone wrong, Autumn, challenges the police’s theory because of the personal nature of the crime. Despites threats of arrest from the police, she conducts her own investigation using her affinity for math and forensics.
When her investigation reveals that the killer is someone she knows, Autumn offers herself up as bait and sets a dangerous trap to unmask his true nature and to obtain a confession for her sister’s murder.
            UNRAVELED is a stand alone novel with series potential. It will appeal to fans of the Veronica Mars TV Series and Alane Ferguson’s Forensic Files series.
I am regional advisor of the Central Ohio chapter of SCBWI and a member of Sisters in Crime, and a writing organization for female mystery writers. My previous publications include a creative nonfiction article published in the Columbus Dispatch and a short story published on suspensemagazine.com. My writing education includes Anastasia Suen’s online picture book workshop, Forensics for Writers, and Writers.com’s Online Fiction Writing Workshop.
The manuscript is complete and I would be happy to send you some sample chapters or the full manuscript.


How could I have forgotten them? I looked at my watch and sped up. Math club started in twenty minutes so I’d raced home, desperate to grab the practice questions I’d left behind. Once I got there, I bolted up the porch steps and paused on the stoop to grab my keys. I aimed them at the lock. My heart rocketed to my throat as the door squeaked opened when I touched the key to the lock.
I edged the door open and peered inside. The crime books I’d read stated never to go inside and to call the police from a neighbor’s house. I was going to do just that until I saw a running shoe with purple laces.
            I rushed inside and my world froze.
I couldn’t process what I was seeing.
Sliding in beside her, I pressed my index and middle finger against her carotid artery and felt for a pulse. Nothing. My heart leapt since her skin still felt warm. My mind scrambled. I couldn’t remember what to do.
Thank God my Junior Red Cross training took over and sprang into action. I grabbed the phone off the end table and punched in 911.
            “9-1-1, what’s your emergency?”
            “I need an ambulance immediately…my sister’s been hurt. She’s bleeding and I can’t find a pulse. I live at 1698 Nolana Road. Please! Hurry!”
            “Okay, Miss, I’ve dispatched the paramedics but I’m going to need to get some additional information,” she said.

7 Responses to “#19-UNRAVELED (Revised)”

  1. Annie McElfresh says:

    >Hi there! I like the concept–reminds me a little of Veronica Mars, which I love.

    On the query I wouldn't say that this is your first YA novel, just leave out the word first.

    I would also like to see some of her voice come out more in the first 250 words. Voice is so important in YA.

  2. Tuuli says:

    >This sounds like a great story.

    In the first paragraph, end it at mystery. The next sentence is a new paragraph.

    The query is great in the beginning but then it turns into a summary. The goal is to leave the agent wanting to read more to find out 1. who killed Autumn’s sister, and 2. what Autumn plans to do to find out the truth. But you don’t reveal who the killer is. Now I don’t have to read the book.

    Great credentials, especially the educational ones. Don’t mention it’s your first novel. And definitely don’t mention the sequel. Agents and editors want stand alone books. If you get an offer, then you can bring up the sequel. Otherwise they might worry it ends on a cliffhanger.

    250 words:
    I looked at my watch and sped up. (Was she biking?) Hey wait … I recognize this from Adventures in Children’s Publishing. Sorry. But your first paragraph still needs work. “Math club started in twenty minutes so I’d race home, desperate to grab the practice questions . . . ” is awkward.

    Watch for the big mistake of
    having your mc react before she ‘see’ the stimulus. It doesn’t build suspense, and it bugs agents. Show us what she sees (stimulus) then have her react. And she knows it’s her sister so don’t delay telling the reader this.

    Good luck!

  3. Jen Duffey says:

    For the most part I think you have a great query. I would agree with the previous posts to take out that this is your first novel. As far as the sequel research the agent before you add that line. One agent recently said she was okay with it, while most aren't.

    I would take out the sentence about surviving the attack. It gives everything away, and I don't really want to read more if I already know the ending.

    You've got a strong start. I would give a little more detail about what your mc sees when she opens the door. You build up the momentum to opening the door, then she is next to her sister. Where is her sister lying? Right next to the door or further in. Was she wearing the shoe or was it next to the door because that's where she was lying?

    Good luck.

  4. Laura Pauling says:

    >Query – Murder mysteries are terrific. Great idea. This could use some tightening. You don't need to mention so much how she wants to be an FBI profiler. You do have heart in there – the murder, the threats of arrest – but maybe you should get more specific about her obstacles.

    Opening – I'm not sure why she's so anxious before she unlocks the door, it's almost as if she knows the dead body is there. And maybe bring in all the five senses as she walks into the room. All we saw were purple shoelaces. you could possibly slow this way down and end chapter one with the dead body. Build up some suspense. Make us care for your character first.

    Best of luck with this idea!

  5. Dorothy Dreyer says:

    >Query: I like the premise, it sounds like an exciting read. As mentioned above, don't say it's your first novel and don't mention the sequel. Instead say that it is a stand-alone novel with the potential for a sequel/trilogy/series – whichever fits.

    Opening: I think I understand that you meant for her to get nervous because the door was already open, not that she actually opened the door. Your wording is a little misleading, which is why the above commentors don't know why Autumn is reacting before seeing the body. Maybe she shouldn't be reacting SO strongly, perhaps just confused as to why the door wasn't shut, and then her heart rate could skyrocket when she sees the body on the ground.

    Good luck!

  6. brendao says:

    >The premise of your story is intriguing, but I agree that the wording of the query could be tightened (for example, wanna-be FBI profiler is repetitive, and you use the phrasing "when the evidence points to…" twice in a short span). It isn't clear to me why the police would refuse to consider evidence pointing at the boyfriend if it's clear to Autumn he's the culprit. After all, most murders are committed by someone known to the victim, right? I also agree with the commenter who said it shifts to straight summary with the paragraph about her defending herself and capturing the confession.

    In the first page, I agree with the others about the reaction-action disconnect. And the language feels dry and distant based on what she's seeing — "I couldn't process…" for example. It's awfully unemotional for such a moment.

    Overall, though, it sounds as if you've got a great story here. Good luck with it!

  7. Kelly Hashway says:

    >Query: You refer to Autumn wanting to be an FBI agent twice. I'd take one of them out. I kind of felt like the kung-fu training came out of no where, but this might just be me. I don't like that you give away the ending in the final paragraph about the novel. Leave some mystery so that an agent wants to find out what happens. I think you can just delete that paragraph.

    Usually your bio paragraph should only be one paragraph. I'd take out your first two sentences about this being your first novel and about your Bachelors degree. They aren't necessary. Then combine the next sentence with the paragraph below it.

    Finally, for your final paragraph, I wouldn't ask if you send the manuscript. Simply say that it is complete and you'd be happy to send it for their review.

    First 250:
    I think there's too much explanation in the first paragraph. I'd condense it so that after saying "I bolted up the porch steps" you go right to saying "My heart rocketed to my throat as the door squeaked…"
    I'd also change the sentence beginning "The crime books" to read as "The crime books I'd read stated never to go inside. Call the police from a neighbor's house." Saying "and" makes it sound like you shouldn't go to a neighbors house either.

    You have the MC say that she couldn't remember what to do but then her Red Cross training takes over. That's very contradictory. I'd have her think something along the lines of "I couldn't handle seeing my sister like this. I thought I was going to lose it, but luckily my Red Cross training took over and I sprang into action."

    The story sounds interesting. I just think you need some tightening in the opening and the query.