BROKEN MIRROR, new query, new delivery

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J. T. SHEA
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Re: BROKEN MIRROR, new query, new delivery

Post by J. T. SHEA » May 28th, 2010, 1:52 pm

BROKEN MIRROR will be a difficult sell, no matter what you do with the query. But this last version (28 May) is much better. Impressionistic but simpler than the earlier versions. It quickly itemizes protagonist, situation, relationships and challenge.

And you're right to use the second person. That's the voice and there's no point disguising it. If an agent dislikes it in the query, he or she probably won't like it in the novel either. Fair enough.

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Re: BROKEN MIRROR, new query, new delivery

Post by Ghost in the Machine » June 1st, 2010, 10:17 am

Hi Serzen,

So you’ve come full circle. This version is much stronger than the old one that ran along these lines. I can understand not wanting to base the query on the afterlife portion, if that is just a small part of the book. If the agent you query does have an interest in the paranormal, that version may be a better fit.

For nitpicks, of course I have a few.

1) The first line ‘never a success, but never quite a failure, and find success in the latter.’ I had to read this over a couple of times before I got it. But I’m slow. Maybe the ‘success’, ‘failure’, ‘success’ just overloaded the circuits. But I always have trouble with ‘former’ and ‘later’ sentences. I’m also right-left dyslexic, so there you go. I would be tempted to replace the last part with “, and learned to value the latter over the former.”

2) “Whenever things went pear-shaped,” From the context of the sentence, I know ‘pear-shaped’ is bad. But why pick this? Is it a reference that just went over my head? Is it meant to show the mc’s thoughts are beyond the norms of other folks? This word choice intrigues and frustrates me at the same time.

3) When you run into Laureen at the store it only worsens the problem, reminding you of Casey--first, tender love--drowning in the river the first night you kissed.

My grammar checker is unhappy with ‘worsens’. Perhaps a simpler version would work without wrecking your voice. How about: “Running into Laureen at the store only worsens the problem. It brings back thoughts of your first love—so tender, so innocent—drowning in the river after your first kiss.”

I left out Casey’s name. There are several names in the query, but you’ll have to determine if the amount is okay or bordering on confusing. It’s a toss up for me.

Good luck and may your query grab eyeballs,

Ghost in the Machine

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Re: BROKEN MIRROR, new query, new delivery

Post by bcomet » June 1st, 2010, 11:00 am

Hi Serz,

I agree with Ghost's points.

The "success-failure-success" line was confusing for me too, hard to unravel as it seems to keep curling back on itself, but it was intriguing because of that reason too.

"Pear-shaped" made me certain the protagonist is female. Yep, when things go "pear-shaped" it means: time for her to get a life, get rid of that slacker, get her figure back: damn, it's gone pear-shaped again! But (see comment in paragraph below), it is also frustrating. It's like here is a (another?) vague clue.

I admit that I find it frustrating that the protagonist is hiding their sexuality and all the unisex names too. It kind of makes me mad, like the writer is holding out on me, playing a game. Personally I find that even if the protagonist is opposite sex, if the character grabs the reader, the reader can relate. By keeping the sexualities unknowable, the writing also keeps the reader at a distinct distance.

Sometimes this work seems to be playing that game of "I want to trap you and make you relate" "Wrong!" "I'm smarter than you are. Catch my meaning(s) if you can." Not trying to be blunt or rude. But as a reader, invite me in, show me this world, or just post a Keep Out sign on the door.

The writing is impressive. The parts hiding around corners need to decide if they will trust the reader enough to let him/her in.

Just a lone opinion here and I hope you know how supportive I am about your writing, Serz!

Hope this is helpful.

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Re: BROKEN MIRROR, new query, new delivery

Post by Serzen » June 6th, 2010, 12:12 pm

Ghost and bcomet,

Thanks for looking at the last one and giving your thoughts. I've been up to my eyeballs in work and family recently, so I haven't reviewed the letter yet, but, as always, I find value in your comments.

I felt, during the drafting, that things were getting to name-dropping, but had a hard time trying to figure out which names could safely be left out. I'll take another look soon. I'm thinking that if I qualify who Laureen is I can leave out Casey's name, so that would be one cut. Jamie needs to stay, of course, and giving Chris a name avoids having one extra line of "some mystery person did something to you," so I'll probably keep it. I don't think three names is too many.

Success, failure, success: I wanted a desperate hope, a grasping at something that one could be satisfied with, looking back at yourself and finding that, Oh, thank BOB, you're not really a loser...right? I think I really hit it, but maybe I hit it too firmly.

"To go pear-shaped" is one of those Britishisms I developed during my long relationship with the almost-Mrs-Serzen. Used in the way which I've used it, it describes a situation in which something has gone far wrong from its intended direction. It's often attributed to RAF in the 1940s, from pilots attempting to perform aerial manoeuvres such as loops. These are difficult to form perfectly, and are usually noticeably distorted—i.e., pear-shaped. Ultimately, I'll concede that it may be too obscure.

Finally, bcomet, as to the notion that things are hiding. I'll grant that there is hidden material, but never that I'm trying to hide my meaning. Everything that I've left out has been left out so that you can fill in what makes the most sense to you. I've spent the last 20 years studying world religions, and I draw on that in order to create something that has the most depth and Truth I can infuse into it. But most people don't have that, so I've sprinkled in what I think of as connecting points, things that people can grasp at and understand, but I've had to leave places where it's up to you to draw conclusions. I hope that I've given enough of the right "clues" so that when the work is taken as a whole, you take away what I wanted you to take away. But, misfortunately, the work is a whole and any excerpt that I provide robs you of all the other connecting points. It's terribly unfair, but I have to work with what I can, and trust that those who are interested in things presented on the boards are willing to ask, question, discuss.

Hope the above makes sense. Thanks again for reading and commenting.

~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

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Re: BROKEN MIRROR, new query, new delivery

Post by bcomet » June 6th, 2010, 1:05 pm

[quote="Serzen"]

Success, failure, success: I wanted a desperate hope, a grasping at something that one could be satisfied with, looking back at yourself and finding that, Oh, thank BOB, you're not really a loser...right? I think I really hit it, but maybe I hit it too firmly.

Like I said, this twists but is intriguing to me too.

"To go pear-shaped" is one of those Britishisms I developed during my long relationship with the almost-Mrs-Serzen. Used in the way which I've used it, it describes a situation in which something has gone far wrong from its intended direction. It's often attributed to RAF in the 1940s, from pilots attempting to perform aerial manoeuvres such as loops. These are difficult to form perfectly, and are usually noticeably distorted—i.e., pear-shaped. Ultimately, I'll concede that it may be too obscure.

This is interesting to me. A footnote would clue me to your meaning. The one I concluded was more contemporary.

Finally, bcomet, as to the notion that things are hiding. I'll grant that there is hidden material, but never that I'm trying to hide my meaning. Everything that I've left out has been left out so that you can fill in what makes the most sense to you. I've spent the last 20 years studying world religions, and I draw on that in order to create something that has the most depth and Truth I can infuse into it. But most people don't have that, so I've sprinkled in what I think of as connecting points, things that people can grasp at and understand, but I've had to leave places where it's up to you to draw conclusions. I hope that I've given enough of the right "clues" so that when the work is taken as a whole, you take away what I wanted you to take away. But, misfortunately, the work is a whole and any excerpt that I provide robs you of all the other connecting points. It's terribly unfair, but I have to work with what I can, and trust that those who are interested in things presented on the boards are willing to ask, question, discuss.

I think, especially when a work is dense, complicated, and the understanding is dependent on the whole body, that the query letter (or back blurb) needs to direct the reader, give them a "first" explanation on the work so that the reader is willing and able to follow the loose threads through the work until they are tied together.

Sometimes, when I am reading such a work, I will refer again, even several times, to the back cover blurb just to get my bearings.

I am currently in the middle of a very dense novel I am reading with my spouse who is an expert on this book and author. Having this guidance has opened this amazing work up to me that I might have gotten too turned around in to have followed on my own past two or three chapters.

As one of my critique members pointed out in a recent critique: "I want to follow. I want to be brought in. Give me a way, even if it is not natural for me." I thought that was very profound. Of course, a dense, complicated writer will have those who can more readily follow, but how profound it can be to bring someone who might never have been a reader (naturally) in! (without dumbing/dimming the work down of course!)

I also have a dense novella of my own in my drawer. The map I have drawn for it is more so made available by a combination of the table of contents chapter titles, the "blurb," the title, (and introduction) without changing/altering the original text, which I wanted to keep in its pure form.

So I find the dilemma of this kind of challenge very interesting and think you are very generous in sharing it on this open forum.

Kind regards,
bcomet

Serzen
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Re: BROKEN MIRROR, new query, new delivery

Post by Serzen » June 9th, 2010, 12:22 am

Hrm, so, here's my newest. I really like this a lot better than just about any of them. My fave is still the "rivers" edition, but this, I think, is the best mainstream rendition.

=================
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…But probably here.}

You’ve made your way through life, never a success, but never quite a failure, and console yourself with the latter. Whenever things got too fouled up to make sense of, you picked up and moved on, started over. A couple of years ago, you met Jamie, and you’re beginning to think you're finally done picking up and starting over.

Your boss asks you to go to Kerring to pick up some files. Kerring, where Chris walked out on you, where you were deceived, betrayed, abandoned. The memories, fears, hound you to this day. When you run into your old schoolmate Laureen at the store, it only worsens the problem, reminding you of your first, tender love—and how it drowned in the river the first night you kissed.

And Jamie, your strength, your crutch, is on field assignment, out of touch for two long weeks. You are alone. Alone, with your thoughts, your fears and worse. It's only a matter of time until something breaks. When it does, the pieces will never fit back together properly.

Thank you,
~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

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Re: BROKEN MIRROR, new query, new delivery

Post by Quill » June 9th, 2010, 12:29 am

I like it. It's intriguing. Unusual, but intriguing.

This query's come a long way.

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Re: BROKEN MIRROR, new query, new delivery

Post by Ghost in the Machine » June 10th, 2010, 10:22 am

Hi Serzen,

This is stronger. I should probably leave it at that, but oh, what the hay.

Comma, comma, b-omma, banana, fanna, all right I’ll stop. The rhythm in this query is unique, but there was one spot it just hit me wrong: “The memories, fears, hound you to this day.” sings to me better as “The memories and fears hound you to this day.”

And the last sentence. I know too much. I know this person is a murderer fighting to get his soul out of limbo. So ‘the pieces will never fit back together properly” doesn’t feel strong enough. Maybe you could cut “properly”. Or maybe you could tie it in with your title, i.e. “When it does, the broken shards may reflect more than a shattered soul. In their jagged fragments there may lurk a monster.”

Okay, went overboard there. Happy querying!

Ghost

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Re: BROKEN MIRROR, new query, new delivery

Post by Serzen » June 10th, 2010, 11:47 am

Thanks, Quill.

Ghost: I'm a-feared I'll be keeping the commas for tempo. Particularly in the area you cite, they're used as much to create the feel of self-doubt as they are to simply establish tempo.

For my final sentence, I think I've settled on "When it does, the pieces will never again recreate the whole."

Thanks again, peoples.

~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

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