Query - women's fiction

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writingmaniacally
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Query - women's fiction

Post by writingmaniacally » August 6th, 2010, 11:29 am

I am new to this forum (and new to writing queries!). I would appreciate any feedback on my query and synopsis. Here goes:

Dear ,
I am an unpublished author seeking representation for my first book, Normal, a 63,000-word women’s fiction novel. Thank you for taking the time to read my query, and I hope you enjoy.

Ellie Masters has it all worked out. She graduated from college, started her new career as a photojournalist in South Texas, and is determined to complete her list of life’s things to do by finding a husband and starting a family. When the naïve 23-year-old believes she has found “the one,” she rushes headlong into an engagement, despite the turmoil that plagues the relationship. When turmoil turns to violence, Ellie runs into the arms of Bryan Cohen, a married co-worker. Ellie and Bryan break the hearts of their unsuspecting significant others in the name of true love and destiny, creating quite a scandal when they become engaged the day after Bryan’s divorce is final. Ellie’s visions of a perfect world are abruptly shattered when she discovers a deadly secret her new love has been keeping from her – he has HIV and may have given it to her. Faced with a life-changing decision – to run away yet again or to stand by the man she believes is her soul mate – she follows her heart. Ellie and Bryan live in a state of pretend normal while refusing to acknowledge the challenges – and tragedy – that surely lie ahead. Much too soon, Ellie finds herself burying her husband and raising their daughter on her own.

At the center of this story of love and death is Ellie’s transformation from a naïve girl chasing a fairy tale to a hardened single mom who has experienced more devastation than love in her lifetime.

I spent 12 years in newspaper, as a copy editor, designer and blogger, before changing careers. I now teach 6th-grade English. Writing is my passion, and I believe my story will move readers on many different levels. Thank you again for your time.

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Re: Query - women's fiction

Post by notw » August 6th, 2010, 12:06 pm

writingmaniacally wrote:I am new to this forum (and new to writing queries!). I would appreciate any feedback on my query and synopsis. Here goes:

Dear ,
I am an unpublished author seeking representation for my first book, <---I would get rid of this part it isn't necessary. Normal, a 63,000-word women’s fiction novel. This shoud be at the end of the query. Thank you for taking the time to read my query, and I hope you enjoy. I probably wouldn't keep this last part either.

Ellie Masters has it all worked out. She graduated from college, started her new career as a photojournalist in South Texas, and is determined to complete her list of life’s things to do by finding a husband and starting a family. When the naïve 23-year-old believes she has found “the one,” she rushes headlong into an engagement, despite the turmoil that plagues the relationship. I might consider being more descriptive here and mention what type of turmoil. When turmoil turns to violence, Ellie runs into the arms of Bryan Cohen, a married co-worker. Ellie and Bryan break the hearts of their unsuspecting significant others in the name of true love and destiny, creating quite a scandal when they become engaged the day after Bryan’s divorce is final. Ellie’s visions of a perfect world are abruptly shattered when she discovers a deadly secret her new love has been keeping from her – he has HIV and may have given it to her. I would consider ending this sentence at "...he has HIV." Faced with a life-changing decision – to run away yet again or to stand by the man she believes is her soul mate – she follows her heart. Ellie and Bryan live in a state of pretend normal while refusing to acknowledge the challenges – and tragedy – that surely lie ahead. Much too soon, Ellie finds herself burying her husband and raising their daughter on her own.

At the center of this story of love and death is Ellie’s transformation from a naïve girl chasing a fairy tale to a hardened single mom who has experienced more devastation than love in her lifetime. I would consider getting rid of this so that way your query shows instead of tells :)

I spent 12 years in newspaper, as a copy editor, designer and blogger, before changing careers. I now teach 6th-grade English. Writing is my passion, and I believe my story will move readers on many different levels. Thank you again for your time.
Good luck on the querying journey!

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Re: Query - women's fiction

Post by Leonidas » August 6th, 2010, 12:19 pm

writingmaniacally wrote:I am new to this forum (and new to writing queries!). I would appreciate any feedback on my query and synopsis. Here goes:

Dear ,
I am an unpublished author seeking representation for my first book, Normal, a 63,000-word women’s fiction novel. Thank you for taking the time to read my query, and I hope you enjoy. Move all of this to the end of the query. You want the first thing the agent reads to be your story, not what it's supposed to be about. Query Shark rants about this all the time, and I highly suggest reading her blog if you're new to writing queries.

Ellie Masters has it all worked out.

She graduated from college, started her new career as a photojournalist in South Texas, and is determined to complete her list of life’s things to do by finding a husband and starting a family. When the naïve 23-year-old believes she has found “the one,” she rushes headlong into an engagement, despite the turmoil What turmoil? Give us some details here, and why would the turmoil only begin after she becomes engaged? Does she only notice it after she gets engaged, when the magic of the relationship has worn off, or is her fiancée secretly some abusive creeper?that plagues the relationship. When turmoil turns to violence, Ellie runs into the arms of Bryan Cohen, a married co-worker.

Ellie and Bryan break the hearts of their unsuspecting significant others in the name of true love and destiny, creating quite a scandal when they become engaged the day after Bryan’s divorce is final.

Ellie’s visions of a perfect world are abruptly shattered when she discovers a deadly secret her new love has been keeping from her – he has HIV and may have given it to her. Faced with a life-changing decision – to run away yet again or to stand by the man she believes is her soul mate – she follows her heart. I would rewrite this sentence. I don't really like how it flows with both of the line breaks, or how you've worded it. "Faced with a life-changing decision" doesn't really tell us much, other than that she has a problem, which is a given in all stories.Ellie and Bryan live in a state of pretend normal while refusing to acknowledge the challenges – and tragedy – that surely lie ahead.

Much too soon, Ellie finds herself burying her husband and raising their daughter on her own.

At the center of this story of love and death is Ellie’s transformation from a naïve girl chasing a fairy tale to a hardened single mom who has experienced more devastation than love in her lifetime. Here, you're telling us what the story is about, love and death, instead of showing us. Telling us doesn't make us care about her transformation, but showing us will.

Normal, a work of women's fiction, is complete at 63,000 words.

I spent 12 years in newspaper, as a copy editor, designer and blogger, before changing careers. I now teach 6th-grade English. Writing is my passion, and I believe my story will move readers on many different levels. Thank you again for your time.
This query is good for being your first try, you just need to polish it up. Read blogs (like Nathan's, or Query Shark's) for the do's and don'ts of writing queries. Another big thing, besides starting with your story, is white space. Most agents read queries on tiny little screens, and a massive block of text is intimidating and easy to get lost within. I broke up the one big paragraph that you had into several smaller paragraphs, but you could probably break it up even more.

Good luck with querying!

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Re: Query - women's fiction

Post by writingmaniacally » August 6th, 2010, 12:55 pm

Thank you both for your suggestions! I really appreciate it.

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Re: Query - women's fiction

Post by adamg73 » August 6th, 2010, 2:19 pm

I don't have a lot to add the the previous critiques; I agree with what they say and think that if you follow their revisions you should have a pretty strong query letter. It certainly isn't a bad start.

I'm looking forward to a revised version.

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Re: Query - women's fiction

Post by burnburn » August 6th, 2010, 4:11 pm

Hi - I'm new to this forum and new to the querying process myself, so please take all comments with that in mind.

writingmaniacally wrote:I am new to this forum (and new to writing queries!). I would appreciate any feedback on my query and synopsis. Here goes:

Dear ,
I am an unpublished author seeking representation for my first book, Normal, a 63,000-word women’s fiction novel. Thank you for taking the time to read my query, and I hope you enjoy.I agree with previous replies that the genre and word-count should be moved to the end of the letter. Start with your synopsis. The rest of this paragraph (unpublished, seeking representation, hope you enjoy) can be removed. It's obvious you're seeking representation so there's no need to state that. And, to me, the "hope you enjoy" comment might sound as though you don't have confidence in your work. I think you should approach the letter with the unwritten thought that of course they're going to enjoy this.

Ellie Masters has it all worked out. Okay - you start by saying she has it all worked out. But based on the rest of the paragraph, she doesn't have it all worked out. So should this be changed/removed? She graduated from college, started her new career as a photojournalist in South Texas, and is determined to complete her list of life’s things to do by finding a husband and starting a family. I'm thinking the first few sentences could all be deleted. They are the past, not what the story is really about. I'm not sure they add anything to the synopsis. Nothing about graduating college, the career as a photojournalist, etc seems particularly relevant to the rest of the synospis so why not take this out and start with something more like Ellie Masters is a naive ....When the naïve 23-year-old believes she has found “the one,” she rushes headlong into an engagement, despite the turmoil that plagues the relationship. What turmoil? This could be anything - different interests, abuse, financial troubles, etc.When turmoil turns to violence, Ellie runs into the arms of Bryan Cohen, a married co-worker. Maybe ... runs into the arms of her married co-worker. Do we need his full name? I think I've read somewhere that proper names should be limited in the synopsis, but I could be wrong?Ellie and Bryan break the hearts of their unsuspectingsignificant others in the name of true love and destinyMaybe it's just me, but I don't really like the part about "in the name of true love and destiny" - , creatingquite a scandal It's obvious this would cause a scandal, does it need to be stated?when they become engaged the day after Bryan’s divorce is final. Ellie’s visions of a perfect world are abruptly shattered when she discovers a deadly secret her new love has been keeping from her – he has HIV and may have given it to her. Okay, wait a minute. He loves her so deeply yet he didn't bother to tell her that he's HIV positive? And he might have given it to her meaning he didn't take necessary precautions in addition to not telling her? This seems to fly in the face of his true love for her. Why didn't anyone else tell her? Surely, someone else knows this and would have said something? Maybe this is all explained to satisfaction in the novel, but it raises a lot of questions for me in the synopsis and I'm not sure they're good questions. It just seems "off." It would be different if he had cancer or another non-contagious disease that he had hidden from her because of fear of losing her. But to have possibly given her a deadly disease ? If it's critical to the plot that it's HIV and this all works out in the novel, maybe just state that he has a terminal illness and not specify it in the synopsis - let the reader discover the nature of the illness in the midst of the story when they can get all the answers? I don't know - I'm rambling I know, but this sentence is sending up a red flag for me?????Faced with a life-changing decision – to run away yet again or to stand by the man she believes is her soul mate – she follows her heart. Ellie and Bryan live in a state of pretend normalNot sure about this word choice?while refusing to acknowledge the challenges – and tragedy – that surely lie ahead. Much too soon, Ellie finds herself burying her husband and raising their daughter on her own.This is the first we've heard of the daughter. Is it necessary to the synopsis?

At the center of this story of love and death is Ellie’s transformation from a naïve girl chasing a fairy tale to a hardened single mom who has experienced more devastation than love in her lifetime. My understanding is the story should be obvious from the synopsis, so there's no need to add a sentence explaining what the story is about afterward.

I spent 12 years in newspaper, as a copy editor, designer and blogger, before changing careers. I now teach 6th-grade English. Writing is my passion, and I believe my story willmove readers on many different levels. Thank you again for your time.
Overall, there's clearly conflict in your novel which is good. I hope my comments are helpful to you. But, of course, use only what works for you and disregard the rest.

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Re: Query - women's fiction

Post by writingmaniacally » August 6th, 2010, 4:44 pm

Okay, wait a minute. He loves her so deeply yet he didn't bother to tell her that he's HIV positive? And he might have given it to her meaning he didn't take necessary precautions in addition to not telling her? This seems to fly in the face of his true love for her. Why didn't anyone else tell her? Surely, someone else knows this and would have said something? Maybe this is all explained to satisfaction in the novel, but it raises a lot of questions for me in the synopsis and I'm not sure they're good questions. It just seems "off." It would be different if he had cancer or another non-contagious disease that he had hidden from her because of fear of losing her. But to have possibly given her a deadly disease ? If it's critical to the plot that it's HIV and this all works out in the novel, maybe just state that he has a terminal illness and not specify it in the synopsis - let the reader discover the nature of the illness in the midst of the story when they can get all the answers?
Hmmmm. Burnburn, your questions pose an interesting dilemma for me. What you suggest would change the story entirely. The way it goes is that Bryan does love Ellie, which is why he's afraid to tell her he has HIV early on in their relationship. He doesn't want her to get scared and leave him. The reader (and Ellie) finds out later that he has HIV because of a bad blood transfusion in the 80s (he's a hemophiliac). No one else knows because he doesn't go around announcing to the world that he's HIV positive, and Ellie doesn't have any reason to hunt down Bryan's family and doctors when they first form their relationship. The HIV is very critical to the plot -- it *is* the plot, really -- so I think I have to have it in the synopsis. But there are details I've left out of the synopsis, including how he got HIV and the fact that he also has hepatitis C, which is the main contributor to his untimely death in the end.

I don't know.... I think I'll be lying awake thinking about your comments and how to improve this story.

Thanks for giving me ideas and things to think about.

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Re: Query - women's fiction

Post by cheekychook » August 6th, 2010, 5:57 pm

writingmaniacally wrote:
Okay, wait a minute. He loves her so deeply yet he didn't bother to tell her that he's HIV positive? And he might have given it to her meaning he didn't take necessary precautions in addition to not telling her? This seems to fly in the face of his true love for her. Why didn't anyone else tell her? Surely, someone else knows this and would have said something? Maybe this is all explained to satisfaction in the novel, but it raises a lot of questions for me in the synopsis and I'm not sure they're good questions. It just seems "off." It would be different if he had cancer or another non-contagious disease that he had hidden from her because of fear of losing her. But to have possibly given her a deadly disease ? If it's critical to the plot that it's HIV and this all works out in the novel, maybe just state that he has a terminal illness and not specify it in the synopsis - let the reader discover the nature of the illness in the midst of the story when they can get all the answers?
Hmmmm. Burnburn, your questions pose an interesting dilemma for me. What you suggest would change the story entirely. The way it goes is that Bryan does love Ellie, which is why he's afraid to tell her he has HIV early on in their relationship. He doesn't want her to get scared and leave him. The reader (and Ellie) finds out later that he has HIV because of a bad blood transfusion in the 80s (he's a hemophiliac). No one else knows because he doesn't go around announcing to the world that he's HIV positive, and Ellie doesn't have any reason to hunt down Bryan's family and doctors when they first form their relationship. The HIV is very critical to the plot -- it *is* the plot, really -- so I think I have to have it in the synopsis. But there are details I've left out of the synopsis, including how he got HIV and the fact that he also has hepatitis C, which is the main contributor to his untimely death in the end.

I don't know.... I think I'll be lying awake thinking about your comments and how to improve this story.

Thanks for giving me ideas and things to think about.
My comments have more to do with your plot than with your query, but I think it will be easier to tweak your query if some plot points are clarified...

In your explanation (not your query) you state : Bryan does love Ellie, which is why he's afraid to tell her he has HIV early on in their relationship. He doesn't want her to get scared and leave him.----That's good. In an ideal world Brian would be open and tell Ellie his status, but it's not difficult to see why he would be afraid of doing that---in other words, this isn't a great trait, but the reader can still (potentially, depending on how you depict him) be sympathetic toward him---it is possible for him to retain his likability factor.

In your query, however, you state that: he may have given it to her.---Not so good. While a reader can sympathize with his plight, perhaps relate to his fear of loss/rejection/etc, it is VERY DIFFICULT to continue sympathizing with him if he has actually put Elle at risk. Unless Bryan is supposed to be really unlikable, this is a sticking point. Is he a "villain" or are we supposed to feel heartbroken by his situation and devastated when he dies?

Additionally, the mention of "their daughter" is a little confusing....is this a child Ellie and Bryan have together? Do they conceive her as part of their "pretend normal" relationship? There's quite a bit of work that goes into the process of an HIV positive man conceiving a child SAFELY. I assume Ellie forgives him for not telling her his status, is HIV-free in spite of the fact that he put her at risk initially, and they're pretending (hoping) that he will lead a long life in spite of his (apparently multiple) health issues?

You clearly have a conflict-filled, emotional story here, which is great, but that makes it all the more important that your plot and messages are clear. Hope these comments are helpful---don't lose sleep over them!
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Re: Query - women's fiction

Post by writingmaniacally » August 6th, 2010, 6:24 pm

In your explanation (not your query) you state : Bryan does love Ellie, which is why he's afraid to tell her he has HIV early on in their relationship. He doesn't want her to get scared and leave him.----That's good. In an ideal world Brian would be open and tell Ellie his status, but it's not difficult to see why he would be afraid of doing that---in other words, this isn't a great trait, but the reader can still (potentially, depending on how you depict him) be sympathetic toward him---it is possible for him to retain his likability factor.

In your query, however, you state that: he may have given it to her.---Not so good. While a reader can sympathize with his plight, perhaps relate to his fear of loss/rejection/etc, it is VERY DIFFICULT to continue sympathizing with him if he has actually put Elle at risk. Unless Bryan is supposed to be really unlikable, this is a sticking point. Is he a "villain" or are we supposed to feel heartbroken by his situation and devastated when he dies?

Additionally, the mention of "their daughter" is a little confusing....is this a child Ellie and Bryan have together? Do they conceive her as part of their "pretend normal" relationship? There's quite a bit of work that goes into the process of an HIV positive man conceiving a child SAFELY. I assume Ellie forgives him for not telling her his status, is HIV-free in spite of the fact that he put her at risk initially, and they're pretending (hoping) that he will lead a long life in spite of his (apparently multiple) health issues?
You are so right. I need to clarify some things, definitely in the query and in the story as well. Bryan is supposed to be likable, not a villain. Also, they have a baby with the help of a sperm donor program, and yes, Ellie remains HIV-free. Your points are spot-on. I have some work to do before sending out more queries. Thanks!

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Re: Query - women's fiction

Post by thewhipslip » August 6th, 2010, 8:25 pm

I agree with the comments above. Potentially giving your loved one a fatal disease does not make Bryan the new Edward Cullen. Yeah, I understand why he wouldn't want to tell her, but to marry her and STILL not tell her?

The good thing: you've got conflict. I was curious enough to want to read this, so bravo there. It's the worst trying to write a query and then realize that you don't have a story to tell. Been there. Done that.

Nice job. And if it's any consolation, most agents who blog say that the query is not the be-all end-all. As long as you can hook them slightly, they'll look at pages. It's the writing that matters.
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Re: Query - women's fiction

Post by writingmaniacally » August 6th, 2010, 8:32 pm

Yeah, I understand why he wouldn't want to tell her, but to marry her and STILL not tell her?
Thanks for your input. Just to clarify, Bryan tells Ellie about his disease shortly after they get engaged.

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Re: Query - women's fiction

Post by burnburn » August 6th, 2010, 10:54 pm

To clarify, I don't think there's an issue with him having HIV and being afraid to tell her at first. My main concern is that he might have given it to her. Is that essential to the plot? If it is, then I think you're best leaving that part for the novel - because getting readers to still feel sympathetic towards him is going to be a hard road if he exposed to her to a lethal risk. In the synopsis, I think it will make readers/agents think you have a very unsympathetic character and this could be a turn off to them. So, if it's essential to plot and works in the novel, you could just take off the part of the sentence where he may have given it to her.

Is this a darker novel or more of a romance? If it's more of a romance, I'm still concerned with the part of him exposing her to HIV without her knowledge.

As for adding how he got HIV to the synopsis, I don't think it's necessary. I don't think it will change the feeling of the story. There are many fine, upstanding people who contracted HIV/AIDS in many ways. I don't think the problem with the synopsis involves how he got HIV, but it's rather the fact he might have given it to her without her knowledge when he was fully aware that he had the disease.

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Re: Query - women's fiction

Post by writingmaniacally » August 7th, 2010, 11:59 am

Thank you all so much for your help on this. Here is a revised query. I hope it makes Bryan a little more likable and erases some of the confusion. There is still the jump from knowing Bryan has HIV to finding out they have a baby together, but I didn't think it would be wise to weigh down the query with the explanation of how that happens -- maybe leaving those details out would intrigue the agent and make him/her want to read the story (?)

Dear ,

Ellie Masters has it all worked out. She graduated from college, started her new career as a photojournalist in South Texas, and is determined to complete her to-do list of life by finding a husband and starting a family. Ellie latches onto the first charming man that comes along, and they get engaged despite the turmoil that plagues the relationship. After all, marriage is next on the all-important list – it’s what normal people do, and Ellie wants a normal life. She sets out to change the habits of her drinking, weed-smoking bad boy. But when turmoil turns to violence, she runs into the arms of Bryan Cohen, an unhappily married co-worker, and together they escape their toxic relationships.

Ellie and Bryan break the hearts of their significant others, creating a scandal when they get engaged the day after Bryan’s divorce is final. Ellie’s visions of a perfect world are abruptly shattered when she discovers a deadly secret her new love has been afraid to tell her – he has HIV. Ellie is devastated, but she stands by the man she loves.

Their life together is anything but normal, but Bryan shields Ellie from the ugly truths of living with HIV, and Ellie continues to chase her dreams – including having children. Her imagined fairy tale ends much too soon when she finds herself burying her husband and faced with raising their daughter on her own.

Normal, a work of women’s fiction, is complete at 63,000 words.

I spent 12 years in newspaper, as a copy editor, designer and blogger, before changing careers. I now teach 6th-grade English. Thank you for your time.

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Re: Query - women's fiction

Post by Leonidas » August 7th, 2010, 12:44 pm

writingmaniacally wrote:Thank you all so much for your help on this. Here is a revised query. I hope it makes Bryan a little more likable and erases some of the confusion. There is still the jump from knowing Bryan has HIV to finding out they have a baby together, but I didn't think it would be wise to weigh down the query with the explanation of how that happens -- maybe leaving those details out would intrigue the agent and make him/her want to read the story (?)

Dear ,

Ellie Masters has it all worked out.

She graduated from college, started her new career as a photojournalist in South Texas, and is determined to complete her to-do list of life by finding a husband and starting a family. Ellie latches onto the first charming man that comes along, and they get engaged despite the turmoil that plagues the relationship.Does she go into the relationship knowing that he's a "bad boy"? If so, how is he charming? I don't know many women who find excessive drinking and weed-smoking charming. After all, marriage is next on the all-important list – it’s what normal people do, and Ellie wants a normal life. The ideal length for a query is around 250 words. Eyeballing this, it looks longer, and you only want what you really need in the query anyway. Less is more. You don't need this sentence.

She sets out to change the habits of her drinking, weed-smoking bad boy. But when turmoil turns to violence, she runs into the arms of Bryan Cohen, an unhappily married co-worker, and together they escape their toxic relationships.

Ellie and Bryan break the hearts of their significant others, creating a scandal when they get engaged the day after Bryan’s divorce is final. Ellie’s visions of a perfect world are abruptly shattered when she discovers a deadly secret I know that it actually is a deadly secret, but the way you worded this here is cliched. her new love has been afraid to tell her – he has HIV.

Ellie is devastated, but she stands by the man she loves.

Their life together is anything but normal, but Bryan shields Ellie from the ugly truths First thing this makes me think of is the Gerard Butler movie. Maybe this is just me because I love Gerard Butler, but that doesn't seem like the image you want to associate your novel with, and it's also cliched.of living with HIV, and Ellie continues to chase her dreams – including having children. Her imagined fairy tale ends much too soon when she finds herself burying her husband and faced with raising their daughter on her own.

Normal, a work of women’s fiction, is complete at 63,000 words.

I spent 12 years in newspaper, as a copy editor, designer and blogger, before changing careers. I now teach 6th-grade English.

Thank you for your time.
This still needs to be tightened, and it needs more white space. If you really run through it with a finetoothed comb and take out every word you don't need, that should solve both the wordiness and the white space problems.

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Re: Query - women's fiction

Post by cheekychook » August 7th, 2010, 1:32 pm

This version is much more streamlined and straightforward than your first attempt---nice job with the revision. I know the title of your book is NORMAL (and I like that title), but it stands out that you use the word "normal" three times in the query. I think it might be more effective to only use it once, with impact, then "show" that she yearns for normal rather than telling us what is and isn't normal in her life. I've made some suggested tweaks below, just to illustrate some other ways you could say things---they're just examples---hope they're helpful. Seriously, this is much improved, you're definitely moving in the right direction. Best of luck to you!

Dear ,

Ellie Masters has it all worked out.(I know you're saying Ellie THINKS she has it all worked out because she has a master plan and a to-do list, but I think you might get more impact from your opening line if you bring up "normal" here. How about something like : Ellie Masters wants a normal life.) She's graduated from college and has started her new career as a photojournalist in South Texas. Now she's determined to complete her to-do list of life by finding a husband and starting a family. ("to-do-list of life" is awkward----how about something like : Now she's determined to check off the two most important goals on her to-do-list: find a husband and start a family.) Ellie latches onto the first charming man that comes along, and they get engaged despite the turmoil that plagues the relationship. (good) After all, marriage is next on the all-important list – it’s what normal people do, and Ellie wants a normal life. (If you go with something similar to my suggestions you will have already stated the things in this sentence so it won't be necessary.) She sets out to change the habits of her drinking, weed-smoking bad boy. (This is good, but you might want to make her sound even more hopeful/determined that she can "change" him by saying "She believes she can change...." or "Convinced she can change...")But when turmoil turns to violence, she runs into the arms of Bryan Cohen, an unhappily married co-worker, and together they escape their toxic relationships.

Ellie and Bryan break the hearts of their significant others,(okay, I see what you're saying---their partners are crushed they're leaving....but something about saying they break the hearts of their significant others makes me feel like we should have sympathy for these heartbroken ex-es....but then I think "wait, the relationships were toxic and Ellie and Bryan were just trying to escape..."---it's a little confusing/leaves me feeling torn about who I'm feeling sorry for---I think you'd be better served by making us only sympathetic to B and E at this point---we need to really want B and E to be together and feel they're the best thing for each other---essential to each other's happiness---maybe find a way to say how difficult it was to extract themselves from their existing relationships so we know they had to really struggle through a lot in order to be together?) creating a scandal when they get engaged the day after Bryan’s divorce is final. (good detail---shows how anxious they are to be an official couple---no matter what it looks like to the outside world) Ellie’s visions of a perfect world are abruptly shattered when she discovers a deadly secret her new love has been afraid to tell her – he has HIV. Ellie is devastated, but she stands by the man she loves. (somewhat cliche to say "stands by the man she loves"---yet it fits the situation....(and it's insanely hard to write something as condensed as a query letter without interjecting a few cliches---cliches say a lot in a few words, which is great, but the problem is, they're cliches---which is not so great. Is there another way to say this with equal clarity? Ellie is devastated but is confident she loves Bryan enough to make this work. Ellie is devastated, but her love for Bryan is so powerful she decides to stand by him, no matter what. I don't know---something.)

Their life together is anything but normal, but (I don't think you need that first part---it's understood that they're in for a bumpy ride based on your set-up of their situation, and I think repeating "normal" now takes away rather than adding---start with "Bryan shields..."---nice strong active opening, and it has us liking Bryan because he's attempting to protect the woman he loves) Bryan shields Ellie from the ugly truths of living with HIV, and Ellie continues to chase her dreams – including having children. Her imagined fairy tale (I know what you're saying---she's pretending that her life is going just according to her ideal plan---she's got the loving, protective husband, now she wants to complete the picture with the perfect baby---and she's pretending that Prince Charming being HIV-positive isn't going to threaten their happiness----but I think "imagined fairy tale"' may be a tiny bit too brief....even saying "...imagined fairytale life" or "Fairytale life she's imagined" or "Fairytale life she's convinced herself she can still have..."---something to make it even bigger and clearer that she's caught in a dream world and is thus blindsided by reality)....Also, you could add to this by saying something like "With determination and the help of a sperm donor Ellie makes her dreams of motherhood come true. Life seems like a fairytale...but then" ends much too soon when she finds herself burying her husband and faced with raising their daughter on her own.

Normal, a work of women’s fiction, is complete at 63,000 words. (You might want to check the word count guidelines---I think women's fiction is usually a minimum of 70-80,000 words...but I could be wrong, and it certainly might vary by publisher---just look into it before you submit.)

I spent 12 years in newspaper, as a copy editor, designer and blogger, before changing careers. I now teach 6th-grade English. Thank you for your time.[/quote]

Overall, much better letter. Hope the comments help!
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