BROKEN MIRROR, new query, new delivery

Share your blood sweat tears query for feedback and lend your hard-won expertise to others
Serzen
Posts: 139
Joined: February 6th, 2010, 11:42 pm
Location: Upstate NY
Contact:

BROKEN MIRROR, new query, new delivery

Post by Serzen » May 11th, 2010, 10:41 pm

Safe to ignore this post, new version is top of page 2
Right! So, here goes another spin on things. It's been a while since I've visited my own query, but maybe I've got something that's, well, workable.

===============
Dear $Agent,

A mind shattered many years ago, leaving only cursory awareness to abscess in the body that carried it. Under a veil of normalcy, a lifetime of betrayal, mistrust and violence seethed. Now, at last, the body is as dead as the mind it hosted.

In death comes introspection.

Threatened with annihilation, a lost soul must relive the lies it created and re-experience its own breakdown. Along the way, it must come to grips with the results of its actions. Entrance to the afterlife can only be had through self discovery.

A work of literary fiction, BROKEN MIRROR is thematically similar to Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper", while dealing with the concept of redemption. At 45,500 words, it is of an ideal length for the emerging ebook market, yet the material is weighty enough that it won't feel out of place in traditional binding.

{Personal bits and closing}
==================

So, there you go. I'll be interested to see what thoughts people have.

~Serzen
Last edited by Serzen on May 12th, 2010, 6:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Il en est des livres comme du feu de nos foyers; on va prendre ce feu chez son voisin, on l’allume chez soi, on le communique à d’autres, et il appartient à tous. --Voltaire

daringnovelist
Posts: 33
Joined: April 30th, 2010, 6:54 pm
Contact:

Re: BROKEN MIRROR, new query, new delivery

Post by daringnovelist » May 11th, 2010, 11:26 pm

This is all really vague. The language and imagery is cool, but I don't even know enough to be able to tell what is metaphor and what is literal.

But the big thing is: Who is the protagonist? What does he or she have to do?

Emily J
Posts: 250
Joined: March 31st, 2010, 2:20 pm
Contact:

Re: BROKEN MIRROR, new query, new delivery

Post by Emily J » May 11th, 2010, 11:36 pm

ack sorry distracted by the punctuation outside of quotation marks. It is a major pet peeve of mine.

If you are British, however, disregard said rant.

JMB
Posts: 29
Joined: May 7th, 2010, 10:17 am
Contact:

Re: BROKEN MIRROR, new query, new delivery

Post by JMB » May 12th, 2010, 10:53 am

Sorry to say I read the opening lines several times and still have no clue what this is about. I liked the 'in death comes introspection' line but if there is a plot and a protagonist, you need to tell us what/who it is.

Look at nathan's blogs on how to write a query. I enjoyed his mad-libs approach.

[protagonist name] is a [description of protagonist] living in [setting]. But when [complicating incident], [protagonist name] must [protagonist's quest] and [verb] [villain] in order to [protagonist's goal].

It may seem counter-intuitive for literary fiction, but I suspect it still works. Keep at it!

brandi_fey
Posts: 26
Joined: March 30th, 2010, 4:04 pm
Contact:

Re: BROKEN MIRROR, new query, new delivery

Post by brandi_fey » May 12th, 2010, 11:19 am

I, too, was unsure what/who the story was about. Even literary works have protagonists, and I think we need to know who and why this dead mind/body is significant. (I do love the imagery, however. Excellent work there.)

Ghost in the Machine
Posts: 89
Joined: January 26th, 2010, 10:20 am
Contact:

Re: BROKEN MIRROR, new query, new delivery

Post by Ghost in the Machine » May 12th, 2010, 11:38 am

Hi Serzen,

I’ve been following your work for some time now. But be warned, the following critique has teeth. I anticipate a similarly sharp rebuttal.

First impressions: The first paragraph is useless. It’s way too confusing and tells us nothing. Sorry! I’m a fan, but this doesn’t work. Rewrites are rude, but you know me, I’m a bad mama-jama.

Lost in the afterlife, a tortured soul wanders. In life, this person lived a lifetime of betrayal and violence. Horrendous acts perpetrated in an altered state were never acknowledged due to (insert appropriate mental illness term here).

I know you can do way better than that. How many times did I use the word life or live in the first two lines? Four?! I should delete that, but I'm laughing too hard. Hang on, must slap head.

Okay, I'm back. The second and third paragraphs are much better, intriguing and rich. However, not being able to name the main character is a weakness. I know, I know, you write from a different perspective (2nd person) and you don’t want to reveal the character’s identity, sex, or occupation. But the agent won’t know this. Can you work this info into the query?

The fourth paragraph has an odd tone, pedantic somehow. The first sentence is too long, break it up or shorten it. Maybe ‘BROKEN MIRROR is a work of literary fiction similar to Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper”.’

You shouldn’t have to tell us your novel handles the concept of redemption. That should be well established by the earlier paragraphs. Why would a short word count vs. a longer one be ideal for an e-book? This sentence rubs me the wrong way. I assume all future books are going to have e-book clauses in their contracts, so why bother putting it in an email?

XOXO,

Ghost in the Machine

bcomet
Posts: 588
Joined: January 23rd, 2010, 2:11 pm
Contact:

Re: BROKEN MIRROR, new query, new delivery

Post by bcomet » May 12th, 2010, 12:02 pm

Serz,

This new query seems vague and perhaps too caught up in the themes and prologue and epilogue.
Sometimes we writers can get tangled up in the words and phrases we love and you are full of language in the best ways.
But in a query, I would focus more on communicating the hook from the plot.

A while ago, you had another query I liked more. I looked it up and have reposted it along with my comments from that post again below:
=====
A river meanders through this part of the country, constantly carrying someone's past into someone else's future. Dunningston is the present, a clean start. Kerring is the past, a messy, confusing place. Further upstream lies the ultimate past, shut out from memory, even by name.

A trip from Dunningston to Kerring upsets the natural flow of memory, bringing a past best left behind into the present.

A small trickle begets a great flood and a short period of isolation is enough to shred the facade of sanity, bare a soul and leave nothing but hope for release.

This is the story of a person swept away by that torrent, a recounting of a trip through deadly mental rapids. It is, ultimately, the story of an out of control mind rushing to empty itself in serenity.

TO STAND BEFORE A BROKEN MIRROR is a brief work of literary fiction; it's 40,000 words are delivered entirely in the second person. Using a combination of dreams, memories and hallucinations to offset the recounting of current events, the narrative describes a reality that is both distorted and enhanced by the filter of madness.

=====
I got lost in your first posted query. For me it was too abstract. I know you want the reader to work.
But this (above) query is just outstanding to me. It is so beautifully written and it lifts and titillates like music and completely reveals your voice as a writer and the protagonist's voice as well. It reads like water.

And I agree with the above poster (Ghost, I think) who said in this case the telling supports this query. It works for me anyway. Very well.
I am just another writer commenting and not an agent or experienced query writer myself. But as a writer, this piece made me sit up and take notice.

Best of luck and keep us informed.

You seem to have a lot of confidence and conviction in your originality as well as intelligence. It is interesting that you are so delighted in the conversations around your query and excerpt. I bet you'd be an interesting guest on a talk show too.

=====

I know I'm really abusing the river symbolism. But the river exists in the book, so it's not like I pulled it out of nowhere.

I like the river. I like it as symbolism and like it even better because it exists in the book as well.

I'm still stuck with telling and not showing, which bites.
Like I said. Above. This works here.

The text itself is a single stream; there are no chapters, pauses, sections, anything. You are taken from wakefulness to dreaming to utter lack of control without regard for anything. I should probably convey that here, but wonder if it's not too strong a tactic.
A work of art will find its own form. It takes courage, I think, to not interfere with it when it is off the beaten path. In the case of what I have read of your writing, the form works. You may need an editor at some point who gets this work and its structure.

All of the "test" readers that I've spoken with have indicated liking the way it's done, but being confused and having to re-read passages two or three times to be sure that nothing was missed.
Sometimes really deep work takes really deep reading.

I hardly want an agent to be unable to follow the letter.
I think this is quite followable. But again, I am a writer, not an agent.

Erg.

Anyway, feel free to use all three of the ideas to build something if you can. Or, if you can't, stick your tongue out, thumb your nose and do whatever else it is you do.
Hope my comments were helpful.I've enjoyed the discussions you've generated here. Reminds me of grad school and a group of advisors asking questions about someone defending a thesis.[/quote]

This process can get very subjective. As I have stated before, I think that a complicated project may benefit from several different query letters.
But there can also be a point where a writer can edit this way and that way until a work has lost its essence.
Hoping this is helpful, my friend.

Serzen
Posts: 139
Joined: February 6th, 2010, 11:42 pm
Location: Upstate NY
Contact:

Re: BROKEN MIRROR, new query, new delivery

Post by Serzen » May 12th, 2010, 2:42 pm

I seem to collect brilliant lines like others are collecting these stupid state quarters. I should roll all the damned things up and cash them in; it's the only way they have value, non?

Yes, too much focus on theme here...Too much of, ultimately, too little. I've been banging my head against the protagonist problem for far too long, I think. It's a daring point of view, and I've been too hesitant about bringing it to the front; a few noun changes in the above would make a difference, but still not wrest the value from the wreckage. The problem with coming down firmly on any identifying characteristics is that there aren't any, unless you count "office worker" as one. Maybe I painted myself into a corner with that choice, but too bad!

Sorry, not feeling very scathing at the moment, Ghost, so I can't more thoroughly abuse your points of view. As to the length issue, I thought I'd get out in front of it. I read a survey (can't find it now) that said people were more apt/willing to buy shorter books for their ereaders, thought it was notable. Oh well.

Emily J: I'm not British, but I nearly married an Englishwoman, so I'm prone to using both forms. I've mostly gotten over it, but it slips in sometimes.
daringnovelist: The indistinction between literal and metaphorical, real and imagined, is a key facet of the work itself, so I'm glad that came through, even if it's a stumbling block.

So, right, I'll return pencil to paper and come back later. Thank you all for the criticisms, however, and please check back, if you would.

~Serzen
Il en est des livres comme du feu de nos foyers; on va prendre ce feu chez son voisin, on l’allume chez soi, on le communique à d’autres, et il appartient à tous. --Voltaire

User avatar
Bryan Russell/Ink
Posts: 430
Joined: December 20th, 2009, 10:44 pm
Contact:

Re: BROKEN MIRROR, new query, new delivery

Post by Bryan Russell/Ink » May 12th, 2010, 4:26 pm

Hi Serzen,

I won't give you a full critique, as I don't have time and you always seem to have lots of eager volunteers for that. :) But I was just wondering if you'd consider starting with an introduction rather than going right into the story. A little less immediate, but there'd be some advantages for you.

So:

Dear Fantabulous and Literarily Daring Agent,

I am submitting to you because of your daring and your blah blah blah, etc. My novel, BROKEN MIRROR, is a 50,000 word work of literary fiction in the second person and deals with blah blah blah.

And then you can do your blurb and do it in second person, the way you want to, the way that's natural to express this story. With the introduction first, it will prevent that confusion, prevent the agent from being jarred, wondering if this is the story or some obscure reference to them. The intro would clarify, and then the story could be presented in its most natural form. Which will lose some agents, being in second person, but the agents it loses will be the ones it would lose in manuscript form anyway (or so I'm guessing).

Just a suggestion.

Best,
Ink
The Alchemy of Writing at www.alchemyofwriting.blogspot.com

daringnovelist
Posts: 33
Joined: April 30th, 2010, 6:54 pm
Contact:

Re: BROKEN MIRROR, new query, new delivery

Post by daringnovelist » May 12th, 2010, 4:47 pm

Serzen wrote: ... I've been banging my head against the protagonist problem for far too long, I think. It's a daring point of view, and I've been too hesitant about bringing it to the front; ...
daringnovelist: The indistinction between literal and metaphorical, real and imagined, is a key facet of the work itself, so I'm glad that came through, even if it's a stumbling block.
Don't be hesitant to tell us what it is. I know you want to illustrate it, but maybe you should just tell us, straight out, in the simplest, stupidest language you can come up with. Nail the literal meaning and then maybe you can go back to metaphor.

Who or what is the protagonist, and what is the problem he, she, they or it has to deal with?

Serzen
Posts: 139
Joined: February 6th, 2010, 11:42 pm
Location: Upstate NY
Contact:

Re: BROKEN MIRROR, new query, new delivery

Post by Serzen » May 12th, 2010, 6:15 pm

A rainy Wednesday afternoon home from work. What better way to use it than to read feedback (thanks!) and finally get some of those episodes of Chuck off my DVR. It is, in fact, my favorite show on TV right now, so watching three episodes back-to-back-to-back was quite awesome. Also, some time to contemplate how to take the next version of the query letter.

I've gone with the informational schtick first, this time, and a more full on example of the text for the rest.
================
Dear $Agent,

BROKEN MIRROR is a 45,500 word work of literary fiction. Thematically similar to Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper," it uses second person narration to ask whether there is anything that is truly unforgivable. {Extra crap to demonstrate that I've done my homework about your agency here. Or maybe in its own paragraph directly below this one. Or at the utter end, I don't know yet.}

Your mind is not entirely your own, you know that somewhere deep inside, down in that place where you store your memories, your identity, your shame. And, despite your greatest efforts, Jamie, to whom you've given your heart, has found the way into your hidden place. Soon thereafter, your job takes you to the site of your last failure, your last breakdown.

The burden of them together is too much, and the walls you so carefully constructed tumble around you. Past betrayals, loses, violences intrude on your fragile ledge and peel away your grip until you hold nothing at all.

But surrender is sublime, relief rewarding, if only someone will understand you.

Sincerely,

~Serzen
Il en est des livres comme du feu de nos foyers; on va prendre ce feu chez son voisin, on l’allume chez soi, on le communique à d’autres, et il appartient à tous. --Voltaire

Ghost in the Machine
Posts: 89
Joined: January 26th, 2010, 10:20 am
Contact:

Re: BROKEN MIRROR, new query, new delivery

Post by Ghost in the Machine » May 13th, 2010, 12:08 pm

Hi Serzen,

Oh boy. Second and third paragraphs overflowing with ‘your’ and ‘you’, but I guess that’s an unavoidable side affect of the 2nd person narration.

Moving the info about the word count and second person narration to the front is smart. Good call Ink. But you still aren’t telling us what the book is about. Instead you are giving us a sample of your writing. Leave this for the sample pages, which you can paste after the query.

Listen to DaringNovelist. Write down what the story is about: A mentally disturbed person who has murdered everyone unlucky enough to get close. But guess what? This mc has no idea what they’ve done. Now the mc is dead, and unless they acknowledge their crimes, the mc will be stuck in limbo for all eternity.

That’s your hook. Get it in the query. You don’t need second person for the query.

You can do this.

Ghost

User avatar
rainbowsheeps
Posts: 72
Joined: April 4th, 2010, 8:53 pm
Location: new york.
Contact:

Re: BROKEN MIRROR, new query, new delivery

Post by rainbowsheeps » May 13th, 2010, 2:27 pm

Serzen wrote:I seem to collect brilliant lines like others are collecting these stupid state quarters.
Watch out, I think over-inflation of ego is the leading cause of career death in literary fiction writers.
Serzen wrote: Dear $Agent,

BROKEN MIRROR is a 45,500 word work of literary fiction. Thematically similar to Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper," it uses second person narration to ask whether there is anything that is truly unforgivable. (You tell us what the book is about with that phrase, but nowhere else in the letter does it suggest that. The rest of the letter is vaguely telling us this person's having a mental breakdown. That's all.) {Extra crap to demonstrate that I've done my homework about your agency here. Or maybe in its own paragraph directly below this one. Or at the utter end, I don't know yet.}

Your mind is not entirely your own, you know that somewhere deep inside, down in that place where you store your memories, your identity, your shame. And, despite your greatest efforts, Jamie, to whom you've given your heart, has found the way into your hidden place. Soon thereafter, your job takes you to the site of your last failure, your last breakdown. (While the first few sentences are alright, the last one is awkward. Mostly it's because, what does the person's job and "last failure, last breakdown" have to do with almost reluctantly giving their heart to someone? Otherwise, in general, it's too vague to be interesting.)

The burden of them together is too much, and the walls you so carefully constructed tumble around you. Past betrayals, losses, violences (I don't think violence can be pluralized. It's just "violence.") intrude on your fragile ledge and peel away your grip until you hold nothing at all. (A decent description of a breakdown of the mind. The others are right, however. It's setting up the plot, but it doesn't give a firm enough grasp on the story that runs through the book. Supposedly, this is all supposed to be about learning if there's anything actually unforgivable, and none of this corroborates that theme.)

But surrender is sublime, relief rewarding,. iIf only someone will understand you. ("If only someone will understand you" doesn't sound like a natural progression of the first two clauses to me, either. If this person is giving up, and you're describing the alleviating feeling that there's nothing you can do about any of it after everything has gone wrong... well, you're showing this person is relaxed, in an accepting phase, but then showing angst with "no one understands what's happening to me." It's conflicting phases of grief and trauma, to me at least.)

Sincerely,

~Serzen
I think the others are right when they say there isn't a firm enough grasp on what the story will be like from this. Also, the fact you present the theme as one thing, then the descriptions that follow don't naturally unravel is a problem. I realize your story is probably about someone having a breakdown and killing someone, or doing something similarly bad, and its likely about the grief and tests of the soul after... but it's not strung tight enough for a reader to confidently follow the connections.

Clearly, you're trying to sell your writing ability over the story right now. In that one line, you misspelled "losses" and made "violence" plural. Be careful of that.

I write literary fiction too. These are a pain, they really are. Your form is far more experimental than mine, too, so it's likely even harder. I think you need to focus on letting the agent know what the story is about in the letter, and save stylized writing for the pages.

I also think putting the second person description at the top was a good idea. I'm not sure if writing the query letter in second person is still the best way to describe the story, though. Clearly you can't name the character in the query letter, but you could still make references to the person without giving them a name. I get you're trying a personalized, open feeling with second person, but I'm not sure it's going to get the response you want, particularly in the setting we're talking about... I used to open my query letter with a literary line or two describing dreams with the flashiest language I could think of, and I realized that's probably not what was best suited to sell the story. The audience here is a busy agent sipping coffee early in the morning, or late in the afternoon, reading a hundred or so of these at a time in a dingy office, and they're looking for stories that sound like they could really sell, written in a way that shows the writer has a command of language. Given that situation, it seems a little unlikely they might be as forgiving with something written in second person and that doesn't give them a great sense of what the story is actually about, even if it is emotional and personal like this is trying to be. I don't think you should give up. I'm alll for experimental forms. I just think you should consider that the way agents and writers do this in general probably has a reason, and it might help to at least try it that way.

Good luck with this.

Serzen
Posts: 139
Joined: February 6th, 2010, 11:42 pm
Location: Upstate NY
Contact:

Re: BROKEN MIRROR, new query, new delivery

Post by Serzen » May 13th, 2010, 10:49 pm

Allo again,

Just wanted to put out a quick (bunch of) word(s) before I throw up yet another trial.

Violence was made plural with full intention; I know it's not a "real" word, just as "innaresting," "slithy," or "brillig" are not "real" words. Just as "roiling" was, at one point, not a "real" word. Thankfully, English is alive and constantly changing.

Anyway, I've been stomping my way around through here, trying to figure out where the heck I'm going, and I've been making a lot of noise, knocking some crap over and, generally gotten myself well and truly lost a couple of times. "Clearly," I'm just trying to figure out WTF I'm doing. It's a learning process, and one I have been enjoying. Frequently, I enjoy my detractors more than my fans, for the former challenge me to do something.

Anyway, I tried to distill the plot down, inasmuch as I could. I tend not to think much about the plot, because it's not what the story is about, but maybe this works better:
==============
Dear $Agent,

BROKEN MIRROR is a 45,500 word work of literary fiction. Thematically similar to Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper," it uses second person narration to ask whether there is anything that is truly unforgivable. {Extra crap to demonstrate that I've done my homework about your agency here. Or maybe in its own paragraph directly below this one. Or at the utter end, I don't know yet.}

Driven for years on the cusp of madness, a haunted life finally ends. Before finding rest in the afterlife, this lost soul must face the truth: the dreams and hallucinations that hounded it through life veiled gruesome outbursts.

At long last, the ghosts of lovers and strangers are able to confront their killer as the shade relives its life, and to give voice to what really happened. The soul's ultimate fate depends on whether or not it is able to find truth within itself.

Sincerely,
~Serzen
Il en est des livres comme du feu de nos foyers; on va prendre ce feu chez son voisin, on l’allume chez soi, on le communique à d’autres, et il appartient à tous. --Voltaire

Ghost in the Machine
Posts: 89
Joined: January 26th, 2010, 10:20 am
Contact:

Re: BROKEN MIRROR, new query, new delivery

Post by Ghost in the Machine » May 14th, 2010, 11:02 am

Hi Serzen,

Your pretty words are like snakes strangling the flow of the sentences and covering up the plot. Maybe there are agents who would respond favorably, but I worry about this query—it still hints at the story.

Nitpick No. 1: If this person has killed others and doesn’t realize it, how can they be on the ‘cusp’ of madness. Aren’t they in madness up to their eyeballs?

Nitpick No. 2: ‘veiled’ is a beautiful word, but it trips me up as I read. You already have the descriptive word ‘hounded’ three words before, so perhaps you could use a simpler word like ‘hid’ for ‘veiled’.

Nitpick No. 3: For a first time reader, they might not realize ‘shade’ refers to the killer’s soul. I’d omit ‘as the shade relives its life,’ or give this part its own sentence. Then put ‘troubled soul’ in last sentence so we know it’s the killer.

Ghost

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 5 guests