Tuesday, August 03, 2010

There's an Alien in my Head

By Darvell Hunt

"Arnie just wants to be a 'normal' sixth-grader, but he keeps hearing goofy words inside his head—words with mysterious power capable of turning him into an alien.

"As if Arnie’s troubles aren’t bad enough with his voice crackling and going deeper, he’s telepathically learning a foreign alien language, but he keeps that abnormality a secret—for now.

"As the language lessons progress, he discovers that his elementary school is on the front lines of an alien invasion, and if he completes the language training, he’ll be assimilated into the alien race.

"Good thing he meets up with a representative from the Alien Resistance Coalition (or ARC). Arnie gets sent on a secret spy mission to discover the identity of the boss alien, who’s hidden somewhere at his school.

"But even the ARC can’t help him as he slips behind enemy lines, seeking to stop the telepathic messages and save his school—but he must risk everything, including the ability to communicate with his friends and family, and possibly even having to move way to the home alien planet.

"For the past six years, I have been moderator of a group of over 200 prospective writers called Authors Incognito. I created and now co-write the official blog of this group, which can be found at LDSWritersBlogck.blogspot.com. An award-winning novel excerpt of mine was published in 2005 in Irreantum Magazine (www.aml-online.org). I have also won several awards at the LDStorymakers Conferences.

"THERE’S AN ALIEN IN MY HEAD is a completed middle-grade novel at just under 23,000 words. The full manuscript is available at your request."

That's the query for my current project. I feel pretty good about it, but so far I haven't landed an agent--just a bunch of form-letter rejections. The road to success is paved with those rejections and I fully expect to publish this novel.

I welcome your comments regarding my query letter. I haven't looked at it for awhile and am considering updating before sending it out again.


Steve said...

Sounds interesting. I'm also looking for an agent for my new MS Crater Lake: The Battle for Wizard Island but I'm not having any success yet, though I think it is much better than my first novel.

Thanks for sharing your querry example. Its helpful to see what others are doing and I think I may need to change my approach a little.

Jolene said...

I like your query. It's strong and gets to the point and so, so many just don't.
Good luck with it.

Evelyn Campbell Curtis said...

Your query seems good to me. I am not yet experienced enough to give a firm answer however. I found this blog that any and all of you might find interesting (if you haven't seen it yet). I have learned a lot from it.
Good luck with your submission!
Here is another blog that you might find useful, if you haven't seen it before either. I sure have found it informative.

Rebecca said...

Hi, Darvell!

Rebecca Blevins here, from AI. I haven't finished a manuscript yet, so I have no experience writing queries. So my impressions may be as worthless as fluffy dandelion seeds, but here goes:

The 'goofy words'. Are they just funny words to boys like fart, booger, etc, or words that Arnie doesn't understand? Are the goofy-sounding words the telepathic language he's learning? They may come across as two different things: goofy words as well as a telepathic language, the way it's worded currently.

Do we really need to know that Arnie is struggling with his voice crackling and going deeper at this point? Is there anything else in his normal life bothering him? I'm not sure I understand how the voice-cracking relates. The second paragraph kinda slows the pace of the query for me somehow.

I really like how it picks up the pace after that. Your last paragraphs are much stronger and capture my interest more than the opening ones.

I think you also need some stronger wording. Instead of "As the language lessons progress" I'd use something more descriptive like "As Arnie unwillingly learns more and more of the alien language" or something like that.

With "Seeking to stop" how about "Desperately trying to stop" I know I'm suggesting ly words so there might be a better way I can't see, but I think it would help to have more emotion somehow. Also "and possibly even having to move away to the home alien planet". How about something like "and possibly even being dragged away to live on the aliens' home planet.

Good luck! Your story sounds really fun! In fact, I have a ten-year-old boy who'd be all over this!

Evelyn Campbell Curtis said...

I would say that his voice crackling is showing that he is going through puberty... along with that, he is experiencing other changes that are not normal. I believe that is fine to have in the query.

I suggest you read through some of the submissions on the query shark blog I posted. There is some really good feedback. I think your query is pretty close to the ones that the query shark likes. You might even think about submitting there. If they like it, they will take it on too. Just a suggestion.

I think there are better ways than ly words. The key is to show the reader, not tell the reader. I'm not trying to step on toes or anything, it is just serious business. :)

Rebecca said...

I said something about the crackling voice not because it didn't show anything about going through puberty, but that it made me wonder if that's the toughest thing Arnie was going through in his personal life. I didn't mean that the information shouldn't be in the query, I just wondered why it was there. I'm not coming from a place of expertise (obviously), but thought that perhaps my thoughts could help in some small way, I don't know. I probably shouldn't have said anything.

Evelyn, I agree with what you said--and what I said-- ;) about using ly adverbs. They're most likely not the best way. That's why I said what I did about them.

By all means, I am not claiming to know anything. Just sharing my impressions on a first read-through, since that's what I thought was being asked. My mistake.

I agree that this is a serious business and I did not intend to give the impression that I took it lightly.

Darvell Hunt said...

Good comments, Rebecca. Thanks so much! (And everybody else, too.)

This is very much a coming-of-age novel for 5th and 6th graders. Bodily changes are a big part of the plot; Arnie feels strange because of these changes (and these changes are emphasized by the "goofy words" he's hearing in his head--his life is changing and he can't prevent it).

I can see I need some strengthening with this query letter. I think it's good, but maybe not great.

The "goofy words" truly are strange to him, as they are not just funny words in English, but rather an alien language being taught to him thru telepathy. This is the basic premise of my story and I feel is still not portrayed in what I have written here. I need more work; I can see that. So thanks!

(For a little more insight into this story, Arnie, along with the reader, is learning these "goofy alien words" such that some of the story is written using them later on. It a fun gimmick that I've found that kids, at least so far, really like. It's akin to word games like Pig Latin.)

Darvell Hunt said...

Thanks for the suggestions about QueryShark, Evelyn. I will certainly check that out!

Rebecca said...

I love the word game aspect! My eldest is really into that now, too.

Let me know when it gets published! We'll be one of your first sales. :)

Darvell Hunt said...

My sister read my book to her fifth grade class last Spring and they totally loved the word game aspect, but I don't think I have effectively got this part of the story captured in my query letter yet. Thanks for helping me realize that!