The Gravity of San Miguel - Query - Sept. 23rd

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khanes
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Re: The Gravity of San Miguel - Query **Updated!**

Post by khanes » June 22nd, 2010, 1:06 pm

mfreivald,

Thank you SO much for reading this and giving me feedback. I think you hit the nail on the head by saying "dig deeper into the meaning of your work." I was discussing my book with one of my beta readers last night, and she gave me some very interesting feedback/discussion about how my book is about the wounds of PTSD from an abusive childhood. I think I need to focus more on Isabelle's inability to experience emotion and feel close to a man. She's also deathly afraid of horses because of the type of abuse her father inflicted on her as a child, so of course, that conflict with Arturo is also the focus of my book. Sounds like I may have to do a third, completely different rewrite. haha. Aren't query letters fun. Anyway, thanks again so much! It's greatly appreciated.

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Re: The Gravity of San Miguel - Query - Sept. 23rd

Post by khanes » September 23rd, 2010, 3:30 pm

Here is my updated version - September 23rd!!

(beginning, tailored to each agent, includes title and word count, which is 80,000)

It seems like news reporter Isabelle Martin has it all. A job at a top radio station in Seattle. A handsome, well-off boyfriend who wants to get married. But something’s missing, and when Isabelle sees a child shot to death at a standoff, her life is thrown into a tailspin. Harsh memories of her abusive past resurface, and Isabelle moves to the artistic mountain town of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico to rethink her life.

But Isabelle isn’t alone for long. She’s wooed by Arturo Soto Rivera, an eclectic mix of horseman and Juilliard-trained singer. He leaves poems and photographs on her doorstep, and pries into her disabling fear of horses and corrosive childhood secrets. Isabelle wants to open her heart to love, but must first confront her father in Seattle, and come to terms with her past.

I was a news reporter for seven years, and have lived in Central Mexico. I have degrees in both broadcast journalism and Spanish. This is my first novel.

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Re: The Gravity of San Miguel - Query - Sept. 23rd

Post by sgf » September 23rd, 2010, 4:50 pm

Hi khanes,

First, thanks for your thoughts on my 1st page. It's great getting feedback for something that I've tinkered with so much that I'm not sure what works and what doesn't.

I'm really enjoying looking at other people's queries. In the long run, I hope it will help when I revise my own (selfish, huh? :)) Ever since working on my query, I've developed a great respect for that anonymous person who writes those movie summaries on cable TV guides. Anyway, on to your query. I'm just going to comment on the summary part. The rest looks fine to me.


It seems like news reporter Isabelle Martin has it all. A job at a top radio station in Seattle. A handsome, well-off boyfriend who wants to get married. Thought this was a great start.

But something’s missing, and when Isabelle sees a child shot to death at a standoff, her life is thrown into a tailspin. Here, I almost think you need to elaborate on what's missing in her life. Otherwise, it's unclear why her life is thrown into a tailspin.

Harsh memories of her abusive past resurface, This seems to be the conflict of the story, and I think you should be more specific here. For me, "Harsh memories" and "abusive past" are too generic-sounding. Maybe specify what the memories were, and who had abused her (i.e, her father).

and Isabelle moves to the artistic mountain town of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico to rethink her life. At this point, I wanted to know what drove her to escape her life to go to Mexico. I didn't feel that the memories stirred up by seeing the accident should have been enough. If you had specified the memories and how much they bothered her, I would probably have accepted it.

But Isabelle isn’t alone for long. She’s wooed by Arturo Soto Rivera, an eclectic mix of horseman and Juilliard-trained singer. This sounds interesting. But, I kind of felt sorry for for the handsome, well-off boyfriend who wants to marry her back in Seattle.

He leaves poems and photographs on her doorstep, and pries into her disabling fear of horses and corrosive childhood secrets. I liked the details in the first half of the sentence, but I think "pries into her disabling fear of horses and corrosive childhood secrets" didn't sound right. He's prying into her fear of horses? It sounds like something she would resent. Maybe he soothes her fear of horses? And forces her to confront her childhood memories? (if that's what he does...)

Isabelle wants to open her heart to love, but must first confront her father in Seattle, and come to terms with her past. It's not clear why she has to confront her father before opening her heart to love. I think it's really her own feelings for her father that she has to confront, not the man himself.

There seems to be a lot of good stuff in here. But, there were some details in the query that I felt need more explanation. For example, why does it matter that Isabelle is a news reporter? If it doesn't matter, why mention it? Another question I had was what becames of her boyfriend back in Seattle? If this story is about Isabelle fixing her love life and untangling her emotional past, then I'd think her fiance would play at least a minor role in the story.

This query reads as if the main conflict is really Isabelle's past. That's great, because it sounds like Isabelle is a complex and well-developed character. Is there some conflict that occurs in the story that's worth mentioning as well?

Hope this helps and thanks for sharing your work.

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Re: The Gravity of San Miguel - Query - Sept. 23rd

Post by khanes » September 23rd, 2010, 5:11 pm

Thanks so much for your help SGF! I do need to work more on the actual conflict in the book - which is a lingering ex-boyfriend, a prejudiced mother, and Isabelle's own issues with Arturo (ie, his job, his ex-wife, his not pursing his dreams of singing). Ack its so hard combining a book full of problems into a couple of measly paragraphs.

I also agree with you that critiquing and reading other people's work really helps with your own!

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Re: The Gravity of San Miguel - Query - Sept. 23rd

Post by fishfood » September 23rd, 2010, 7:10 pm

sgf wrote:Hi khanes,

First, thanks for your thoughts on my 1st page. It's great getting feedback for something that I've tinkered with so much that I'm not sure what works and what doesn't.

I'm really enjoying looking at other people's queries. In the long run, I hope it will help when I revise my own (selfish, huh? :)) Ever since working on my query, I've developed a great respect for that anonymous person who writes those movie summaries on cable TV guides. Anyway, on to your query. I'm just going to comment on the summary part. The rest looks fine to me.


It seems like news reporter Isabelle Martin has it all. A job at a top radio station in Seattle. A handsome, well-off boyfriend who wants to get married. Thought this was a great start.

But something’s missing, and when Isabelle sees a child shot to death at a standoff, her life is thrown into a tailspin. Here, I almost think you need to elaborate on what's missing in her life. Otherwise, it's unclear why her life is thrown into a tailspin.

Harsh memories of her abusive past resurface, This seems to be the conflict of the story, and I think you should be more specific here. For me, "Harsh memories" and "abusive past" are too generic-sounding. Maybe specify what the memories were, and who had abused her (i.e, her father).

and Isabelle moves to the artistic mountain town of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico to rethink her life. At this point, I wanted to know what drove her to escape her life to go to Mexico. I didn't feel that the memories stirred up by seeing the accident should have been enough. If you had specified the memories and how much they bothered her, I would probably have accepted it.

But Isabelle isn’t alone for long. She’s wooed by Arturo Soto Rivera, an eclectic mix of horseman and Juilliard-trained singer. This sounds interesting. But, I kind of felt sorry for for the handsome, well-off boyfriend who wants to marry her back in Seattle.

He leaves poems and photographs on her doorstep, and pries into her disabling fear of horses and corrosive childhood secrets. I liked the details in the first half of the sentence, but I think "pries into her disabling fear of horses and corrosive childhood secrets" didn't sound right. He's prying into her fear of horses? It sounds like something she would resent. Maybe he soothes her fear of horses? And forces her to confront her childhood memories? (if that's what he does...)

Isabelle wants to open her heart to love, but must first confront her father in Seattle, and come to terms with her past. It's not clear why she has to confront her father before opening her heart to love. I think it's really her own feelings for her father that she has to confront, not the man himself.

There seems to be a lot of good stuff in here. But, there were some details in the query that I felt need more explanation. For example, why does it matter that Isabelle is a news reporter? If it doesn't matter, why mention it? Another question I had was what becames of her boyfriend back in Seattle? If this story is about Isabelle fixing her love life and untangling her emotional past, then I'd think her fiance would play at least a minor role in the story.

This query reads as if the main conflict is really Isabelle's past. That's great, because it sounds like Isabelle is a complex and well-developed character. Is there some conflict that occurs in the story that's worth mentioning as well?

Hope this helps and thanks for sharing your work.
SMA!! In all the time I lived in Mexico my one regret was never taking my friends up on the chance to visit this beautiful place. Did you ever run with the bulls?

I have to apolgize up front, I've only read your latest query, so my comments are based off that.

I thought sgf had a lot of the same comments I was going to make. I think overall, your query is great in that it's short and succinct, but it also means some of your sentences are too vague and generic without explanation, such as "re-think her life." It's something i definitely struggle with because you can't obviously explain everything in the detail that you'd like in a query!

One thing that stood out for me was your first sentence. Try if you can to make it jump out more. Seeing a child shot is obviously traumatic and where the story begins. Is there another word for stand-off you could use? I keep imagining a Western gun show down scenario... Also, I was confused about how she was witness to a stand off if she reports news for the radio? If she was a field reporter, this would make more sense. You could maybe try something like:

Field reporter [if she is one, or something like it, I have no idea!...], Isabelle Martin, is in the midst of witnessing the most exciting [stand-off] of her career.

Until a child gets shot.

Long repressed memories of her own childhood abuse come screaming back.
Now you can explain why she escaped to SMA. I think it's important that you state what her connection to this place is and why she would go there.

This sounds like a story I'd LOVE to read!! :D

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Re: The Gravity of San Miguel - Query - Sept. 23rd

Post by thewhipslip » September 23rd, 2010, 7:48 pm

I like fishfood's suggestions for the hook. That'll connect the catalyst with the rest of the plot much better. I also feel kind of bad for her almost-fiancee too. Why'd she leave him if she was happy? That might be too much info for a query, but I'm throwing it out there. Make us feel her inner turmoil so that we understand why she has to heal it.
http://elenasolodow.blogspot.com/ - Submit your 250-500 word excerpt to be read out loud in a vlog post!

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Re: The Gravity of San Miguel - Query - Sept. 23rd

Post by khanes » September 24th, 2010, 11:28 am

Thanks for all the wonderful comments and feedback!! I'm going to get cracking on yet another version :)

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