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

Posted: June 15th, 2010, 2:19 pm
by khanes
September 23rd:
Hey everyone! I wrote yet another query, after a rewrite on my book. Now, the plot is a bit different. I put my revised version at the end of this post! Thanks for looking.

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June 17th: Thanks to everyone for all your help and support. I've written one more version of my query using your suggestions. I'll copy it below. And then, maybe, I'll stop pestering you :)

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News reporter Isabelle Martin has a knack for detachment: she can cover gruesome crime scenes, avoid a broken heart, and stifle a painful past. But when she sees a child shot to death at a standoff outside Seattle, Isabelle is rattled to the core, and has to escape. A travel show on TV and a job opportunity inspire her to move to Central Mexico, where she hopes to spend time alone and re-examine her life.

But handsome horse trainer Arturo Soto River puts the kibosh on these plans, wooing Isabelle with poetry, photographs and his operatic voice. He’s the only man who’s ever wanted to truly know her, and he digs into her psyche and past. But Isabelle has a lingering attachment to her ex-boyfriend Steve, and a meddling mother who sends him on a “rescue mission” to save her. Arturo finds the two together in her apartment, and Isabelle is confronted with a choice: pursue a meaningful, often painful relationship with Arturo, or go back to her former, superficial life.

My 75,000 word women’s fiction novel, THE GRAVITY OF SAN MIGUEL, explores how prejudice, a turbulent childhood and a closed heart can harm a relationship.

Like the protagonist, I was an award-winning radio news reporter for seven years in Seattle and Portland. I lived in Queretaro, Mexico as part of my degree in Spanish from the University of Oregon, and most recently visited San Miguel de Allende. I have Mexican-American friends who assisted me with the Spanish and nuances of Mexican culture. I’m a member of the Pacific Northwest Writer’s Association.

I look forward to your response.


--------------Original Post, sometime last week---------------


Hey everyone! I hate queries. When I write fiction, my words flow, but my queries often sound dry and stilted. What do you think about this one? I'm having a hard time deciding exactly how much detail to put. Thanks for your help!


Dear Agent,

[Insert something personal about agent]

Life will never be the same for news reporter Isabelle Martin after she sees a child shot to death at a standoff outside Seattle. She breaks up with her boyfriend Steve and makes a rash decision to move to San Miguel de Allende Mexico, where she unexpectedly falls for divorced horse trainer Arturo Soto Rivera. This new relationship prevents Isabelle from discovering who she really is, and doubt creeps in, forcing her to question her choice.

My 75,000 word women’s fiction novel, THE GRAVITY OF SAN MIGUEL, explores how prejudice, a painful history and a closed heart can harm a relationship.

Like the protagonist, I was an award-winning radio news reporter for seven years in Seattle and Portland. I lived in Queretaro, Mexico as part of my degree in Spanish from the University of Oregon, and most recently visited San Miguel de Allende. I have Mexican and Mexican-American friends who assisted me with the Spanish and nuances of Mexican culture. I’m a member of the Pacific Northwest Writer’s Association.

I look forward to your response.

Re: The Gravity of San Miguel - Query

Posted: June 15th, 2010, 4:57 pm
by wilderness
Hi,

Nice starting point, but it's too short. We need more details! Nathan had a blog post a while back about adding details from 1 sentence to 2 paragraphs: http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2010/05 ... d-two.html

Here are some details you might want to include:

* character details about Isabelle before the inciting incident (which I interpret is "sees a child shot to death")
* how does she meet the horse trainer and what draws them together?
* "doubts creep in" is very vague. what doubts? what is her obstacle and what is her goal after she has moved to Mexico? and can you tie the obstacle/goal back to the inciting incident?
* since you have an exotic location, maybe tell us a little about how she finds it or if she has any culture shock etc

Good luck!

Re: The Gravity of San Miguel - Query

Posted: June 15th, 2010, 7:46 pm
by khanes
Wow, Wilderness, those questions you posed and the link to Nathan's blog really, really helped. I reconstructed the query to add more details. My first one seemed very boring. How does this sound in comparison?


Isabelle Martin prides herself on her ability to stuff her emotions in a box and lock it. She can cover any crime scene; date any guy without falling in love, that is, until she sees a child get shot to death at a standoff. A travel show inspires her to leave an unsatisfying relationship and move to the artistic mountain town of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, where she hopes to spend time alone and rethink her life. But horse trainer Arturo Soto Rivera woos her with photos, poems and his beautiful, operatic voice, and she falls in love.

This is no easy romance. Isabelle must contend with a Mother who’s prejudiced toward Mexicans, and her own feelings of self-worth. It doesn’t help that Arturo is a divorcee with his own baggage, and her ex-boyfriend repeatedly inserts himself into her life. It’s a perfect storm that allows doubt about her relationship to creep in, and Isabelle questions her choice.

Re: The Gravity of San Miguel - Query

Posted: June 16th, 2010, 12:19 am
by ZWarr
Wow! Talk about a dramatic improvement! This is much more clear, and compelling. I do (of course!) have a few suggestions. First, in the first line I think you either need three examples, or a 'and' bridge and then a period before going to the child. That would have better flow. Also, the transition from standoff to travel show needs smoothing. As I read along, I didn't immediately see a connection and had gone back to re-read before I moved on down the paragraph and saw that she left in order to deal with the trauma of witnessing a violent death. And in the last (much clearer!) paragraph, I think we need just a bit more. Maybe a teaser to suggest how she works it out? Or how she grows? It just didn't quite feel complete.

You really did an amazing job. I had a dozen unanswered questions after reading the first version, but mostly they were fuzzy buzzy questions based on not getting it. After this one I'm intrigued and just want to read more. Sounds like a pretty good query, eh?

PS This is also an example of the author's credentials really benefitting the writing. I'm no agent, but at the end of the very-first-draft query, I found myself revising my opion and thinking I should read the query again after looking over your credentials. Nice!

Re: The Gravity of San Miguel - Query

Posted: June 16th, 2010, 12:49 am
by khanes
Thanks Zwarr, I'm so glad the second one read better to you. I'm going to take your suggestions to heart and do more work on this query. You made some awesome points that will expand the query and make it more complete. Thanks so much!

Re: The Gravity of San Miguel - Query

Posted: June 16th, 2010, 12:57 am
by Quill
khanes wrote: Isabelle Martin prides herself on her ability to stuff her emotions in a box and lock it.
Good, although "stuff her emotions" is a bit of a cliche. How about another verb, like "cram"?
She can cover any crime scene; date any guy without falling in love, that is, until she sees a child get shot to death at a standoff.
This sentence doesn't make sense to me.

First, the semi-colon probably should be a comma.

Second, you have two crime-based clauses separated by a dating clause (she can cover crime, she can date, then she witnesses a crime) Wouldn't it make sense to put the dating first, then? Or something? Maybe break into two sentences.
A travel show
Need context, what travel show? Traveling minstrels? A travelogue on television?
inspires her to leave an unsatisfying relationship and move to the artistic mountain town of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, where she hopes to spend time alone and rethink her life. But horse trainer Arturo Soto Rivera woos her with photos, poems and his beautiful, operatic voice, and she falls in love.
Good, although she comes across a bit spineless the way you've written this, to be swayed from her mission apparently in a snap.

Also, might want to give addition context here by saying where she moves from.
This is no easy romance. Isabelle must contend with a Mother who’s prejudiced toward Mexicans,
Unless this Mother is a nun, the word wouldn't be capitalized.

And, her mother? Why would she have to contend with her mother. Is her mother there in Mexico?

And, is it prejudiced toward, or against?
and her own feelings of self-worth.
What is a feeling of self-worth? Would it be doubts about self-worth? Or, a feeling of low self-worth?

And why would she have these? Have you given any indication that she doesn't thing well of herself? Maybe give why.
It doesn’t help that Arturo is a divorcee with his own baggage,
Don't we all have baggage? Maybe give a specific item of baggage to make it personal.
and her ex-boyfriend repeatedly inserts himself into her life.
He comes down to Mexico? Why? To make trouble? To woo her back? Not sure "inserts into her life" is visceral enough. Emotional enough, descriptive enough. What's his angle?
It’s a perfect storm that allows doubt about her relationship to creep in, and Isabelle questions her choice.
This wrap-up is a little lukewarm. "Perfect storm" is a cliche and the metaphor doesn't seem to fit, but maybe that's just me. And the words "doubt" "questions" and to a lesser extent "choice" aren't strong finishers. I think you can give this the power (and poetry?) it needs.

Overall I like the premise, off to Mexico with very unexpected results.

Re: The Gravity of San Miguel - Query

Posted: June 16th, 2010, 5:06 pm
by wilderness
Much improved! I think you can still flesh out some of the details but we've got a much better sense of it now. Specifically, what is the main conflict? You mention several problems, but I still think you need to boil it down. You definitely made some good progress though!
khanes wrote:

Isabelle Martin prides herself on her ability to stuff her emotions in a box and lock it. She can cover any crime scene; date any guy without falling in love, that is, until she sees a child get shot to death at a standoff. A travel show inspires her to leave an unsatisfying relationship and move to the artistic mountain town of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, where she hopes to spend time alone and rethink her life. Maybe more about what was unsatisfying about her relationship? But horse trainer Arturo Soto Rivera woos her with photos, poems and his beautiful, operatic voice, and she falls in love. If she can date any guy without falling in love, what made the difference here? Did seeing a child die somehow affect how she sees relationships?

This is no easy romance. Isabelle must contend with a Mother (mother shouldn't be capitalized) who’s prejudiced toward (against?) Mexicans, and her own feelings of self-worth. It doesn’t help that Arturo is a divorcee with his own baggage, and her ex-boyfriend repeatedly inserts himself into her life. It’s a perfect storm that allows doubt about her relationship to creep in, and Isabelle questions her choice. What is the crux of her internal struggle? Why does she have self-worth issues?

Re: The Gravity of San Miguel - Query

Posted: June 16th, 2010, 6:17 pm
by fivecats
khanes wrote:Isabelle Martin prides herself on her ability to stuff her emotions in a box and lock it.
Starting with the name of the main character is a much stronger start than your original first sentence. However, the strength of this sentence gets sapped away by the cliche at the end.
khanes wrote:She can cover any crime scene; date any guy without falling in love, that is, until she sees a child get shot to death at a standoff.
There's too much going on in this sentence -- it needs to be broken down to restore the power of what you're trying to say.

For instance, going back to Sentence #1, my initial thought was that Isabelle hides her emotions by viewing her entire life Professionally. That would fit for covering crime scenes, but not so much for dancing with guys.

Why does she pride herself with interacting with men if she's not remotely interested in them?

Seeing a child killed is clearly her life-changing event. It's also something that is likely to grab a reader. Why not start with "When Isabelle Martin sees a child killed while covering a news story..."?
khanes wrote:A travel show inspires her to leave an unsatisfying relationship and move to the artistic mountain town of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, where she hopes to spend time alone and rethink her life.
Sounds idyllic. I'm not sure about realistic. Does she have the money to be able to do this? Does she think she can get a job there to support herself? If she has enough money to support herself indefinitely I would think she'd have her pick of men.
khanes wrote:But horse trainer Arturo Soto Rivera woos her with photos, poems and his beautiful, operatic voice, and she falls in love.

This is no easy romance. Isabelle must contend with a Mother who’s prejudiced toward Mexicans, and her own feelings of self-worth. It doesn’t help that Arturo is a divorcee with his own baggage, and her ex-boyfriend repeatedly inserts himself into her life.
There's a lot going on in these two "Isabelle's Problems" sentences. To be honest, however, none of them sound all that insurmountable. As another commenter said, if mom isn't there, who cares? What's the real problem behind "Arturo is a divorcee"? How often does the ex-boyfriend show up in the book? If he "repeatedly" inserts himself into her life he must be all over the book. (I'm also not sure why Isabelle would allow him to do so)

I'm also not sure about "her own feelings of self-worth". If she's made the decision to give up a strong career as a reporter and move to Artsville in Nowhere Mexico, she must have a fair amount of self-confidence.
khanes wrote:It’s a perfect storm
Cliché. It needs to go and be replaced with something original.
khanes wrote:that allows doubt about her relationship to creep in, and Isabelle questions her choice.
I'm also missing the final, Big Crisis, the one that make me ask "how's she going to get out of this one?" This needs to end with a stronger, final hook.

______________________________

fwiw, I've decided that the first draft of query letters should be written by a critique partner or a good friend who has read our books. Good queries are an artform all of their own and require a certain degree of separation from the writing to get right. Figuring out that balancing act of How Much to Include and How Much to Leave Out and then wrapping that core in a catchy, hook-driven four or five paragraphs is danged hard work.

-- tom

Re: The Gravity of San Miguel - Query

Posted: June 16th, 2010, 11:24 pm
by aswiebe
wilderness wrote:Much improved! I think you can still flesh out some of the details but we've got a much better sense of it now. Specifically, what is the main conflict? You mention several problems, but I still think you need to boil it down. You definitely made some good progress though!
khanes wrote:

Isabelle Martin prides herself on her ability to stuff her emotions in a box and lock it. She can cover any crime scene; date any guy without falling in love, that is, until she sees a child get shot to death at a standoff. A travel show inspires her to leave an unsatisfying relationship and move to the artistic mountain town of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, where she hopes to spend time alone and rethink her life. Maybe more about what was unsatisfying about her relationship? But horse trainer Arturo Soto Rivera woos her with photos, poems and his beautiful, operatic voice, and she falls in love. If she can date any guy without falling in love, what made the difference here? Did seeing a child die somehow affect how she sees relationships?

This is no easy romance. Isabelle must contend with a Mother (mother shouldn't be capitalized) who’s prejudiced toward (against?) Mexicans, and her own feelings of self-worth. It doesn’t help that Arturo is a divorcee with his own baggage, and her ex-boyfriend repeatedly inserts himself into her life. It’s a perfect storm that allows doubt about her relationship to creep in, and Isabelle questions her choice. What is the crux of her internal struggle? Why does she have self-worth issues?
I agree with Wilderness on most points--and wow! The details really make this query pop. I would like to see something pointing toward the path she will take to find her way out of these troubles.

Re: The Gravity of San Miguel - Query

Posted: June 17th, 2010, 2:19 am
by rainbowsheeps
khanes wrote:Wow, Wilderness, those questions you posed and the link to Nathan's blog really, really helped. I reconstructed the query to add more details. My first one seemed very boring. How does this sound in comparison?

It's been a few weeks since I've critiqued anything. Forgive me, I'm a little rusty.


Isabelle Martin prides herself on her ability to stuff her emotions in a box and lock it. She can cover any crime scene; date any guy without falling in love, that is, until she sees a child get shot to death at a standoff. (I've read what others have said. They're all correct. I wanted to add some other problems I see with these sentences, though. Firstly, she's dating guys without falling in love, but is that a good thing? And, it's implied elsewhere in the query she's in a committed (albeit crappy) relationship, so has she really been dating that much lately? However, my biggest issue here is with the "stuff her emotions in a box and lock it" piece. You're painting a woman who's a bit detached, both from the tragedies of her work, and her personal (love) life. I got that. Instead of starting with the rather unsympathetic description of her being rather cold, though, wouldn't it be better to say something to the effect of, "Isabelle Martin has a knack for detaching her feelings, both in her personal life, with her abusive (or whatever) boyfriend, and from the gruesome crime scenes she reports on for her work as a reporter. But when she sees a child shot to death at a standoff, she's rattled, and a torrent of... distress/anxiety/doubt/whateverthisisanexamplesentenceanyway... floods in." Obviously, that's an example, but what I'm basically saying is that you can make this punchier and more sympathetic than it is here.) A travel show inspires her to leave an unsatisfying relationship and move (I agree with a previous commenter. The travel show is anticlimactic, and rather unnecessary. We don't need to know the how of the escape in the query, honestly. Leaving it out makes the connection with her anguish more clear. As a continuation of my (probably poor) example above, you can strip this part down as well: "Isabelle is rattled, the (whatever) floods in. She has to leave. She dumps her boyfriend, packs her things, and moves to the artistic mountain town of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, to be alone and rethink her life." Or something.) to the artistic mountain town of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, where she hopes to spend time alone and rethink her life. But horse trainer Arturo Soto Rivera woos her with photos, poems and his beautiful, operatic voice, and she falls in love. (I don't think this sentence sells the romance quite enough. If you could connect the wooing to her predicament, or um... I guess showing him weakening her barriers (without saying "he weakens the walls of her heart" please :P) would be more effective. I mean, this isn't exactly telling, but I guess it just doesn't "work" for me anyway. But then again, despite the name, I am not a woman. I'm a guy, so that may be just my opinion.)

This is no easy romance. Isabelle must contend with a Mother who’s prejudiced toward Mexicans (I do think against would be better, but if you could show her prejudice, or say something like "her mother who hates Mexicans" or something, would be more engaging), and her own feelings of self-worth (Dealing with her own feelings of self-worth... basically what Quill said. Self-doubt, or self-esteem, or something more specific here.). It doesn’t help that Arturo is a divorcee with his own baggage (again, what Quill said. Baggage is cliche and non-descript.), and her ex-boyfriend repeatedly inserts himself into her life.(... What Quill said. Inserts is also a weak verb, and more specificity is needed.) It’s a perfect storm that allows doubt about her relationship to creep in, and Isabelle questions her choice. (The child's death isn't linked to anything here in the end. It seems like it should be. It may just be a catalyzing event for the main story, but even so it's never mentioned again, not even her anxiety or the emotional devastation that it clearly caused her in the start of the story. I also don't think any of it is specific enough, really. Questioning her choice also probably isn't the strongest way to end this. If she has a new choice now, toward the climax, that should find its way here to make this more active. Otherwise, it probably needs some retweaking anyway.)
I like the start the most. The catalyzing violence of the start seems like a good premise. The excitement I had from that was diminished, somewhat, though, as the love interest was introduced and it turned into a much simpler "should I stay or should I go?" dilemma, with no real hints toward a promising catharsis like I would have hoped for when she witnessed such trauma. It becomes a bit self-indulgent, I guess, is my take. That's not to say the story wouldn't be interesting, but I'm hoping that the introduction of more specific details, especially in the second paragraph, will make me care about this guy she loves and if they stay together. Since your story's central conflict in the end is the romance, I think it needs to sell the love between her and this guy a lot harder. I should like him from his description and see why she fell head over heels for him, or at least care about more so I really want her to be happy and do the right thing or whatever. Right now, the story trails off too much and the vagueness isn't the enticing kind.

I'd say the query is pretty good, but it needs a little more work I think. Good luck with it!

Re: The Gravity of San Miguel - Query

Posted: June 17th, 2010, 11:28 am
by khanes
Thanks again everyone for the wonderful feedback. It means so much to me that you take the time to look at my work and offer suggestions. This is a huge gift, and I'll take all this to heart when I'm re-writing my query! It also makes me think about what may be missing from my MS!

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

Posted: June 18th, 2010, 2:47 pm
by wilderness
khanes wrote:June 17th: Thanks to everyone for all your help and support. I've written one more version of my query using your suggestions. I'll copy it below. And then, maybe, I'll stop pestering you :)

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News reporter Isabelle Martin has a knack for detachment: she can cover gruesome crime scenes, avoid a broken heart, and stifle a painful past. "Painful past" is kind of vague and so is "avoid a broken heart." Fivecats had previously suggested breaking down these problems. Maybe give an example of how she avoids a broken heart etc. But when she sees a child shot to death at a standoff outside Seattle, Isabelle is rattled to the core, and has to escape. A travel show on TV and a job opportunity inspire her to move to Central Mexico, where she hopes to spend time alone and re-examine her life. The phrase "artistic mountain town of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico" was more descriptive.

But handsome horse trainer Arturo Soto River puts the kibosh on these plans, wooing Isabelle with poetry, photographs and his operatic voice. He’s the only man who’s ever wanted to truly know her, and he digs into her psyche and past. "Psyche and past" is vague. But Isabelle has a lingering attachment to her ex-boyfriend Steve, and a meddling mother who sends him on a “rescue mission” to save her. Arturo finds the two together in her apartment, and Isabelle is confronted with a choice: pursue a meaningful, often painful relationship with Arturo, or go back to her former, superficial life. OK, I like how she has to make a choice when Arturo finds her boyfriend in her apartment. This is a much stronger conflict than the previous version. However, I'd like to see this conflict tied to the inciting incident somehow. She was rattled when she saw the child shot to death. What does this conflict have to do with that? Also, her former life was detached, but was it really superficial? Doesn't seem like you're giving her enough credit.

My 75,000 word women’s fiction novel, THE GRAVITY OF SAN MIGUEL, explores how prejudice, a turbulent childhood and a closed heart can harm a relationship.

Like the protagonist, I was an award-winning radio news reporter for seven years in Seattle and Portland. I lived in Queretaro, Mexico as part of my degree in Spanish from the University of Oregon, and most recently visited San Miguel de Allende. I have Mexican-American friends who assisted me with the Spanish and nuances of Mexican culture. I’m a member of the Pacific Northwest Writer’s Association.

I look forward to your response.
I think you've introduced some good conflict here, but it still needs to be focused a bit more. In addition, I think you might want to try to give it a little more "voice". It's hard explain how to do it, but I would consider the tone of your novel. Is it humorous, thoughtful, dramatic, romantic, or something else? And then try to apply that same voice/tone into the query by carefully selecting your phrases and word choices. For example "artistic mountain town of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico" has a much more romantic sound to it than simply "Central Mexico". I think adding more phrases like that will really make the query shine. Hope that helps, and don't give up yet! You're making a lot of progress.

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

Posted: June 18th, 2010, 11:58 pm
by khanes
Thanks, Wilderness! I have a feeling I'm going to be writing a lot of versions of this query. Now that I know which details to add, maybe now I can work on voice and adding style to the query. Right now its sort of boring. I think my book is both thoughtful and romantic, with a strong emphasis on place and human interaction. Hmm, lots of good food for thought!

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

Posted: June 21st, 2010, 11:18 pm
by mfreivald
I read the first version on the blog. This new one is better--especially the clarity of her life change. I still have a little disconnect between the last sentence of the first paragraph, and the first sentence of the second.

I blew by the "alone" part of the sentence in the first paragraph, so I didn't catch how Arturo's attentions would interfere with her plans. I think I would have followed it better if the sentence read: "A travel show on TV and a job opportunity inspire her to move to Central Mexico, where she hopes to reexamine her life in solitude."

In the second paragraph, her lingering attachment is a bit jolting. I would give it a quick hit in the first paragraph. So the rewrite of the sentence above might read: "A travel show on TV and a job opportunity inspire her to move to Central Mexico, where she hopes to escape her lingering attachment to her ex-boyfriend and reexamine her life in solitude."

Then you could doctor the second paragraph sentence to read: "When Isabelle's mother sends her ex-boyfriend to "rescue" her, Arturo finds the two together in her apartment, and Isabelle is confronted with a choice: (etc.)"

Finally, the "painful" aspect of Arturo jolts a tad, and the choice as written doesn't leave me with any tension because it seems so obvious. So I would rewrite the second sentence to reflect that pain, then rewrite the last sentence with a more difficult choice. And--I would drop the "buts."

It might read like this (some additions correspond with comments below):
Handsome horse trainer Arturo Soto River puts the kibosh on these plans, wooing Isabelle with poetry, photographs, and his operatic voice. He's the only man who has ever wanted to truly know her, and he spares her no pain digging into her wounded psyche and her turbulent childhood. When Isabelle's mother, who hates Mexicans, sends her ex-boyfriend to "rescue" her, Arturo finds the two together in her apartment, and Isabelle is confronted with a choice: pursue her new love who tears into her soul, or return to her former love who soothes her with sweetness.

Now you have left the query reader with a mystery: Which man is better? Which one will she choose? That mystery, and those questions, IMHO, is the kind of tension you want at the end of the teaser paragraph(s).

The third paragraph is okay, but it's difficult to see how prejudice and a turbulent childhood relate to the previous ones unless you interject them in some way like I have above.

I would change "a relationship" to "relationships" to, again, maintain a sense of mystery and open questions about them.

I get the impression your credits paragraph says too much, but I'm still too ignorant to comment at this point.

I like a lot of what the other critiquers have said, too.

I enjoyed working through this. Best of luck!

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

Posted: June 22nd, 2010, 1:26 am
by mfreivald
After some consideration, I think the third paragraph doesn't fit with the rewrite I provided because, although it should clearly relate to the preceding material, it should offer something fresh. I still think the prejudice and the turbulent childhood should appear before the third paragraph. They don't relate to the story well for me when sitting alone in the third.

So I would dig deeper into the meaning of your work. What are some deeper problems that make it more difficult to face her mother's prejudice, her scarred psyche, and her closed heart? How about: "My 75,000 word women’s fiction novel, THE GRAVITY OF SAN MIGUEL, explores how a heart can find happiness or be harmed by the way it opens itself up or shuts itself off."? (You would, of course, choose far less clumsy words than my 1:24am brain has just dropped.)