Evolution of a Multi-POV Query Letter

Querying a multiple-POV story is difficult, especially if you have more than two narrators. Do you dedicate one paragraph to each voice? Focus on only the main character? How do you make it so it’s not overwhelming the reader with too much information? That’s the quandary I was facing when I was trying to query my six-POV (and post-Pitch Wars ’15, 4-POV) book, ALL HAPPY FAMILIES. I went through a series of revisions until I found one that worked, so I thought I’d share them all here for anyone who’s facing the same issue.

FIRST DRAFT:

In 1998, megastar actor Skylar Webb auctioned off his sperm to 100 women before having a nervous breakdown and disappearing into seclusion. Sixteen years later, a handful of his misfit offspring join forces to hunt him down as their own lives begin to fall apart.

Twins London and Skyla seem to have it all until their plastic surgery-addicted mother is diagnosed with a terminal illness, while an unplanned teen pregnancy pretty much guarantees Dee will never escape from her trailer park existence. Ruby Jean’s Down Syndrome is complicating her growing sexual awareness and independent spirit. Outcast loner Edgar is planning a school shooting as retribution for a lifetime of bullying, and a run-in with the law shoots Alexander’s burgeoning career as a drag queen all to hell before it even gets started. Their lives may all suck in different ways, but one common goal unites these kids: to find Skylar Webb and get some damn answers.

ALL HAPPY FAMILIES is a multi-POV YA novel complete at 61,000 words. Think FREAKS AND GEEKS meets WHERE’D YOU GO BERNADETTE with a dash of APOCALYPSE NOW.

[Note: This is the version that got me into Pitch Wars ’15. It’s the most concise I could get with each of the six (really? SIX?) POVs and not get too overwhelming. A pretty good effort, if I do say so myself.]

SECOND DRAFT:

In 1996, movie star Skylar Webb auctioned off his sperm to 100 female fans before a nervous breakdown sent him into seclusion. Sixteen years later, six of his children join forces to find him as their own lives start to fall apart.

Scattered across the country, Skylar’s offspring are a misfit bunch. Alexander is a budding drag queen whose time in the spotlight gets cut short after he encounters the seedier side of clubbing, while Ruby Jean’s Down Syndrome and her overprotective lesbian mothers are complicating her growing sexual awareness. The others are struggling with an unplanned pregnancy, bullying, suicidal thoughts, and a parent’s nearly-lethal drug overdose. In addition to sharing half their DNA, these kids are united by the hope that finding their bio-dad will provide the key to fixing all their problems. What they discover will change each of their lives forever, but not in the way any of them expect.

ALL HAPPY FAMILIES is a contemporary YA complete at 61,000 words. The story unfolds via multiple POVs, emails, Facebook chats, and news articles. It’s FREAKS AND GEEKS meets WHERE’D YOU GO, BERNADETTE.

[Note: I’ve cut it down to four POVs at this point, which I think is much less overwhelming in hindsight. It’s actually very close to what my agent is pitching to editors now, so I clearly wasn’t too far off-base.]

THIRD DRAFT:

After sixteen-year-old drag performer Alexander is betrayed by rival queens, he decides to seek out his biological family. Movie star Skylar Webb auctioned off his sperm to one hundred female fans—including Alexander’s mom—before a nervous breakdown sent him into hiding. Alexander and five of his troubled half-siblings track Skylar to a secluded South American island, where they discover their shared heritage is both a blessing and a curse.

ALL HAPPY FAMILIES is a contemporary YA novel of 61,000 words. The story unfolds via multiple POVs, emails, Facebook chats, and news articles. It’s FREAKS AND GEEKS meets WHERE’D YOU GO, BERNADETTE.

[Note: After getting feedback and hearing from more seasoned authors, I decided to focus on the main POV of the story and develop it in more depth, mentioning later that it was multiple POVs. It’s a little rough, but closer to the final version.]

FINAL DRAFT:

Sixteen-year-old drag queen Alexander was born to be a star. Like, literally. It’s in his DNA. He’s the son of movie star Skylar Webb, who auctioned off his sperm to one hundred female fans before disappearing into seclusion.

Alexander thinks he’s found his calling performing in a local amateur drag show until a jealous queen gets him banned from the club. He vows to make it on his own, and the opportunity arises when he and four of his half-siblings decide to run away to a South American island to find their father. But while Alexander hopes his video of the trip will make him internet-famous, his troubled brother, Edgar, is hatching a sinister plan to ensure they stay on the island forever—whether Skylar wants them to or not.

ALL HAPPY FAMILIES is a contemporary YA novel of 61,000 words. The story unfolds via multiple POVs, social media, emails, and news articles. It’s FREAKS AND GEEKS meets WHERE’D YOU GO, BERNADETTE.

[Note: This version clarifies Alexander’s voice, motivation, and stakes and is an overall better pitch, which is why I think it was successful in sealing the deal with my agent.]

I found relative success with all of these versions in attracting the attention of mentors and agents. I had many full requests along the way.  However, problems with the manuscript’s ending led to many ultimate rejections. (This is a whole other story… but at least I knew my query was intriguing!) Anyway, as I stated above, my agent has decided to pitch a version to editors that includes descriptions of all four POVs, which is closer to the second draft. So ultimately, I don’t think there’s a clear rule on the best way to pitch multi-POV, but there are some things I think you MUST have:

  • At least one protagonist with a clear goal, conflict, and significant stakes.
  • VOICE! That’s another major thing that’s lacking in my earlier versions, mostly because each character has a different voice and it’s hard to capture them all in a query. Focusing on one can hook a mentor or agent enough to request pages, where they’ll be able to see the variety of voices shine.
  • A clear reason why your story is told in multiple POVs, or at the very least a hint of why multi-POVs is necessary to telling your story.

If you have any questions about querying multi-POV stories, feel free to comment below (or @ me on Twitter) and I’ll do my best to answer!

 

 

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