Query: December--Your Help Needed!

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Hyaline
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Query: December--Your Help Needed!

Post by Hyaline » August 23rd, 2010, 6:59 pm

Hi all--thanks for taking a look! My main problem is that my novel is multi-storyline, multi-POV, and I want that to come across without overwhelming the poor soul reading my query. My biggest problem is that all the characters mentioned below get equal playing time--there is no one main protagonist, which I'm afraid is muddying things in the query. Here goes:

It’s December 1945, but the first peacetime Christmas after World War II holds few tidings of comfort or joy for Vernon Moore and his two daughters, Emily and Gloria. The telegram that arrived weeks before VJ Day about Walter Moore still hangs over their household. Gloria, a dancer, slips further into the seedy politics of the theater world, chasing elusive promises of a lead role. Meanwhile, Emily loses her job to a returning veteran but gains a friend—and perhaps more—in her brother’s childhood friend and wartime comrade Nate Bennett. But Nate harbors a secret he doesn’t want to share—he knows the real reasons Walter isn’t coming home.

When a French War Bride arrives in Chicago on an ordinary December day, she doesn’t expect to be the missing piece of a family’s war-torn puzzle. She is not precisely welcome—her presence interrupts Nate’s hopes of winning Emily affections, Gloria’s focus on her career, and Vernon’s execution of a simple lie he believes will protect his family from the loss of his son. The wounds opened by her arrival have only one remedy—rediscovering Walter Moore.

December, complete at 75,000 words, tells the post-war story that will appeal to readers who enjoyed Sarah Blake’s pre-war novel The Postmistress.
While earning my BA in history from Redacted University, my writing was honored with both a Campus Writing Program Award and a departmental Thesis Award. Research for December took me dancing at a restored Chicago ballroom, cooking in a WWII battleship galley, and attempting my own Victory Garden.

So there you go--thanks for reading, and I appreciate any suggestions or critiques.

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Quill
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Re: Query: December--Your Help Needed!

Post by Quill » August 23rd, 2010, 8:15 pm

Hyaline wrote:It’s December 1945, but the first peacetime Christmas after World War II holds few tidings of comfort or joy for Vernon Moore and his two daughters, Emily and Gloria.
This is pretty good.
The telegram that arrived weeks before VJ Day about Walter Moore still hangs over their household.
Not quite enough info. Telegram from Walter? From the military? Was/is Walter in the military (if so, maybe say "Pfc Walter Moore" or whatever).

You may be reluctant to give away plot points here, but we need a bit more to go on, otherwise it seems like you are writing badly that he was killed (wouldn't this be a natural assumption?). I wouldn't want this sentence to be a sticking point in your query.
Gloria, a dancer, slips further into the seedy politics of the theater world, chasing elusive promises of a lead role.
Pretty good. For me the word "politics" sticks out. Or maybe it's "seedy". Or both. But not bad.
Meanwhile, Emily loses her job to a returning veteran but gains a friend—and perhaps more—in her brother’s childhood friend and wartime comrade Nate Bennett.
A mouthful, but again, not bad. Maybe could be more chewable by a switch:

"...and perhaps more—in Nate Bennett, her brother's childhood friend and wartime comrade."
But Nate harbors a secret he doesn’t want to share—he knows the real reasons Walter isn’t coming home.
Good. Probably can remove "he knows".
When a French War Bride arrives in Chicago
Are you sure "war bride" needs to be capitalized?
on an ordinary December day,
Seems like you are waxing poetic all of a sudden. A bit incongruous.
she doesn’t expect to be the missing piece of a family’s war-torn puzzle.
Maybe not, but I'M puzzled. It sure seems like this has something to do with Walter, but what? Does it? If not, is this simply the intro to another character?
She is not precisely welcome—her presence interrupts Nate’s hopes of winning Emily affections,
Welcome where? In Chicago? In the Moore home? Why is she in the Moore home, or even sphere of influence? Whose bride is she? Why does her presence interrupt Nate?? Is she married to both Nate AND Walter? Help us out.

I'm starting to feel lost.
Gloria’s focus on her career, and Vernon’s execution of a simple lie he believes will protect his family from the loss of his son.
Incomplete sentence. What ABOUT Gloria's focus, and Vernon's execution?

Who is Vernon? I had to scan to the top of the query to remind myself (any way to make him more recognizable here?)

Thrown by the word "execution".
The wounds opened by her arrival have only one remedy—rediscovering Walter Moore.
Your crux line leaves me in even more of an enigma. Don't know why she arrived, who she belongs to, don't know what wounds she opens, and don't know what "rediscovering Walter means."
December, complete at 75,000 words, tells the post-war story that will appeal to readers who enjoyed Sarah Blake’s pre-war novel The Postmistress.
Don't know that book but I love the post-war period, so I'm interested. (but frustrated by some aspects of your description)

Capitalize DECEMBER.
While earning my BA in history from Redacted University, my writing was honored with both a Campus Writing Program Award and a departmental Thesis Award. Research for December took me dancing at a restored Chicago ballroom, cooking in a WWII battleship galley, and attempting my own Victory Garden.
This paragraph is golden! Don't let anyone talk you out of using it.

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Re: Query: December--Your Help Needed!

Post by GeeGee55 » August 23rd, 2010, 9:56 pm

Hyaline wrote:Hi all--thanks for taking a look! My main problem is that my novel is multi-storyline, multi-POV, and I want that to come across without overwhelming the poor soul reading my query. My biggest problem is that all the characters mentioned below get equal playing time--there is no one main protagonist, which I'm afraid is muddying things in the query. Here goes:

It’s December 1945, but the first peacetime Christmas after World War II holds few tidings of comfort or joy for Vernon Moore and his two daughters, Emily and Gloria.- this is good The telegram that arrived weeks before VJ Day about Walter Moore still hangs over their household. - this sentence does not make literal sense, I know what you are aiming for, but it sounds as if the telegram itself is hanging over their household, what you mean is the grief that came with the telegram or some such wording Gloria, a dancer, slips further into the seedy politics of the theater world, chasing elusive promises of a lead role. Meanwhile, Emily loses her job to a returning veteran but gains a friend—and perhaps more—in her brother’s childhood friend and wartime comrade Nate Bennett. But Nate harbors a secret he doesn’t want to share—he knows the real reasons Walter isn’t coming home. - this is all good, flows well

When a French War Bride arrives in Chicago on an ordinary December day, she doesn’t expect to be the missing piece of a family’s war-torn puzzle. - we don't know from the first paragraph that the Moore family lives in Chicago, so it made me wonder what you were introducing with this sentence. It could be more specific, I think She is not precisely welcome—her presence interrupts Nate’s hopes of winning Emily affections, Gloria’s focus on her career, and Vernon’s execution of a simple lie he believes will protect his family from the loss of his son. The wounds opened by her arrival have only one remedy—rediscovering - not sure this is the word you wantWalter Moore.

December, complete at 75,000 words, tells the post-war story do you need to say the genre, commercial or literary, just wondering that will appeal to readers who enjoyed Sarah Blake’s pre-war novel The Postmistress.
While earning my BA in history from Redacted University, my writing was honored with both a Campus Writing Program Award and a departmental Thesis Award. Research for December took me dancing at a restored Chicago ballroom, cooking in a WWII battleship galley, and attempting my own Victory Garden. - good for you for the recognition you've received and for having fun doing researchSo there you go--thanks for reading, and I appreciate any suggestions or critiques. Sounds like a good story. Good luck with it

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Re: Query: December--Your Help Needed!

Post by thewhipslip » August 23rd, 2010, 10:06 pm

Hyaline wrote:Right away I'm thinking of queryshark's phrase: "character soup", but it sounds like you've got a good novel here, so I wouldn't worry about it too much as long as your query is clear.Hi all--thanks for taking a look! My main problem is that my novel is multi-storyline, multi-POV, and I want that to come across without overwhelming the poor soul reading my query. My biggest problem is that all the characters mentioned below get equal playing time--there is no one main protagonist, which I'm afraid is muddying things in the query. Here goes:

It’s December 1945, but the first peacetime Christmas after World War II holds few tidings of comfort or joy for Vernon Moore and his two daughters, Emily and Gloria Nice, direct opening. Good job.. The telegram that arrived weeks before VJ Day about Walter Moore still hangs over their household This is all passive. I want to know what the telegram says because that's the catalyst of your story, and the catalyst is exactly what an agent wants to hear about because it leads to the rest of the novel.. Gloria, a dancer, slips further into the seedy politics of the theater world, chasing elusive promises of a lead role. Meanwhile, Emily loses her job to a returning veteran but gains a friend—and perhaps more—in her brother’s childhood friend and wartime comrade Nate Bennett. But Nate harbors a secret he doesn’t want to share—he knows the real reasons Walter isn’t coming home Here you hint at what the telegram might say, but there's no reason to be elusive in a query. Ever. Remember that this should make an agent want to read your book, so give us the juicy details!.

When a French War Bride arrives in Chicago on an ordinary December day "ordinary December day" is irrelevant and should be cut., she doesn’t expect to be the missing piece of a family’s war-torn puzzle Again, this is vague. Tell us what's going on. I really want to know!. She is not precisely welcome—her presence interrupts Nate’s hopes of winning Emily affections, Gloria’s focus on her career, and Vernon’s execution of a simple lie he believes will protect his family from the loss of his son The last part about Vernon is also vague. It sounds like there's more than one person who knows about Walter in this story. Can I be a part of that group too?. The wounds opened by her arrival have only one remedy—rediscovering Walter Moore Okay, this is hook"ish", but not good enough. What does it mean? How are the characters going to rediscover him? Be specific..

December, complete at 75,000 words, tells the post-war story that will appeal to readers who enjoyed Sarah Blake’s pre-war novel The Postmistress. Maybe I'm the only one, but you say "post-war story" and then "pre war novel" in the same sentence. The "pre" and "post" threw me a bit.
While earning my BA in history from Redacted University, my writing was honored with both a Campus Writing Program Award and a departmental Thesis Award. Research for December took me dancing at a restored Chicago ballroom, cooking in a WWII battleship galley, and attempting my own Victory Garden.

So there you go--thanks for reading, and I appreciate any suggestions or critiques.
This sounds like a great novel, just work on your specifics and you're golden. Nice job.
http://elenasolodow.blogspot.com/ - Submit your 250-500 word excerpt to be read out loud in a vlog post!

Hyaline
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Re: Query: December--Revision--Your Help (still) Needed!

Post by Hyaline » August 24th, 2010, 7:30 pm

Thanks so much for your help! It looks like I have a second problem--not wanting to give everything away, but still make the story intriguing. Thanks for helping me see that.

Here's round two--hopefully clearer:

It’s December 1945, but the first peacetime Christmas after World War II holds few tidings of comfort or joy for Vernon Moore and his two daughters, Emily and Gloria. A telegram arrived months ago informing them of Walter Moore’s bomber crashing into an English hillside, and the loss is still freshly embedded in each holiday tradition. Gloria, a dancer, slips further into the seedy politics of the theater world, chasing elusive promises of a lead role. Meanwhile, Emily loses her job to a returning veteran but gains a friend—and perhaps more—in Nate Bennett, her brother’s childhood friend and wartime comrade. But Nate harbors a secret he doesn’t want to share—the real reasons Walter isn’t coming home.

When Gloria meets a French war bride by chance on a train platform, she doesn’t expect that the quiet foreigner is the missing piece of her family’s war-torn puzzle. The revelation of who her husband is—and what, precisely, she has to do with the Moores—will disrupt Nate’s hopes of winning Emily’s affections, make Gloria question her career, and chisel away a deftly formed lie Vernon Moore crafted to protect his family. The answers to the questions the French woman raises can only be found in Walter Moore, and they will all have to decide if reopening their loss is worth learning the truth.

December, complete at 75,000 words, tells the post-war story that will appeal to readers who enjoyed Sarah Blake’s pre-war novel The Postmistress’s .
While earning my BA in history from Indiana University, my writing was honored with both a Campus Writing Program Award and a departmental Thesis Award. Research for December took me dancing at a restored Chicago ballroom, cooking in a WWII battleship galley, and attempting my own Victory Garden.

I'm struggling to decide if explaining exactly what's going on is the right move--I've read you don't want to give too much away, and saying exactly who the war bride is married to and what really happened to Walter spells out perhaps too much--doesn't quite give away the end, but certainly ruins the surprise :) Or maybe that's ok? Thanks for your thoughts!

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Quill
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Re: Query: December--Revision--Your Help (still) Needed!

Post by Quill » August 24th, 2010, 8:55 pm

Hyaline wrote:
It’s December 1945, but the first peacetime Christmas after World War II holds few tidings of comfort or joy for Vernon Moore and his two daughters, Emily and Gloria. A telegram arrived months ago informing them of Walter Moore’s bomber crashing into an English hillside,
Good
and the loss is still freshly embedded in each holiday tradition.
Awkward.

Could it be "their loss"?

"Freshly embedded" sounds weird. Does loss get embedded? Freshly embedded? I can't picture it.

"In each holiday tradition" sounds off because at first it sounds like "each holiday" after you said "first Christmas". And then "embedded in each tradition". I'm sure you mean rituals like trimming the tree, Christmas baking, etc, but for me it all gets lost in the odd word choices.
Gloria, a dancer, slips further into the seedy politics of the theater world,
Without a paragraph break or any other indication, this reads like one of the aforementioned traditions. It's an abrupt shift of scene, and I'm not even sure we're in the Christmas season anymore.
chasing elusive promises of a lead role. Meanwhile, Emily loses her job to a returning veteran but gains a friend—and perhaps more—in Nate Bennett, her brother’s childhood friend and wartime comrade. But Nate harbors a secret he doesn’t want to share—
This is good, but there's still a nagging wonder, what happened to the holidays. If you fix that transition, this will flow nicely.
the real reasons Walter isn’t coming home.
This doesn't quite balance with the telegram sentence. Does the family suspect anything amiss with the telegram? If not, then there's not much tension in him not wanting to share. And for me the reader, this is the first I'm hearing that the telegram may not be correct. You might want to broach this by first saying (Nate knows) he's alive. And then he has no plans to come home.
When Gloria meets a French war bride by chance on a train platform, she doesn’t expect that the quiet foreigner is the missing piece of her family’s war-torn puzzle.
What puzzle. They think he's dead. Who thinks there's a puzzle?
The revelation of who her husband is—and what, precisely, she has to do with the Moores—will disrupt Nate’s hopes of winning Emily’s affections, make Gloria question her career, and chisel away a deftly formed lie Vernon Moore crafted to protect his family.
Unravel this. I don't know how you can put this info smoother, because I don't know your story, but you can do it.

I wouldn't start with "The revelation of who". It isn't strong enough.

So Vernon is in on the secret, too? If so, it undercuts Nate's dilemma (whether or not to tell). And should be clarified.
The answers to the questions the French woman raises can only be found in Walter Moore, and they will all have to decide if reopening their loss is worth learning the truth.
Your last line here needs to have impact, and with all the secrecy, I'm afraid it just doesn't. Is IS intriguing, but without some clarity, it may come across that the book itself is muddled, too.

I'm afraid things aren't any clearer with this version. You don't have to reveal everything, but what you do reveal needs to be clear.
I'm struggling to decide if explaining exactly what's going on is the right move--I've read you don't want to give too much away, and saying exactly who the war bride is married to and what really happened to Walter spells out perhaps too much--doesn't quite give away the end, but certainly ruins the surprise :) Or maybe that's ok? Thanks for your thoughts!
I feel for you. It's a conundrum. You will need to decide. I suggest writing it several ways, from less to more revealing, and then picking one to start sending out. You will need to write very well on the less revealing versions to avoid appearing too coy and/or too unclear. If keeping this secret in the query is really important to you, this is a chance to make your art shine. Otherwise, see (decide in your heart) if it really hurts to show the real crux (problem, conflict) (not the ending) of your story.

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Re: Query: December--Revision--Your Help (still) Needed!

Post by otherside89girl » August 24th, 2010, 10:57 pm

Hyaline wrote:Thanks so much for your help! It looks like I have a second problem--not wanting to give everything away, but still make the story intriguing. Thanks for helping me see that.

Here's round two--hopefully clearer:

It’s December 1945, but the first peacetime Christmas after World War II holds few tidings of comfort or joy for Vernon Moore and his two daughters, Emily and Gloria. A telegram arrived months ago informing them of Walter Moore’s bomber crashing into an English hillside, and the loss is still freshly embedded in each holiday tradition. Maybe switch the clauses around in that last sentence. For example, you could start with "The family still struggles to accept the telegram that told them..." (of course in your words.) Gloria, a dancer, slips further into the seedy politics of the theater world, chasing elusive promises of a lead role. Meanwhile, Emily loses her job to a returning veteran but gains a friend—and perhaps more—in Nate Bennett, her brother’s childhood friend and wartime comrade. But Nate harbors a secret he doesn’t want to share—the real reasons Walter isn’t coming home. Good. Those sentences explain what Gloria and Emily are up to in a concise way.

When Gloria meets [Could you be more specific than "meets"? Just to give a clearer picture.] a French war bride by chance on a train platform, she doesn’t expect that the quiet foreigner is the missing piece of her family’s war-torn puzzle. The revelation of who her husband is—and what, precisely, she has to do with the Moores—will disrupt Nate’s hopes of winning Emily’s affections, make Gloria question her career, and chisel away a deftly formed lie Vernon Moore crafted to protect his family. I know you want to keep the suspense, but that last sentence just leaves too many questions in the reader's mind. One might guess that she was married to Walter (maybe?) but then it's a bit confusing as to why she would disrupt Nate and Emily's business and all the other stuff. The answers to the questions the French woman raises can only be found in Walter Moore, and they will all have to decide if reopening their loss [The word "loss" seems awkward here, because you would expect them to be reopening a wound or something... Not that you should use that specifically.] is worth learning the truth.
I think you should maybe reveal who the Frenchwoman was married to, just to clarify things, but definitely don't give away what happened to Walter because that seems like the juiciest bit. Your query is well-written and clear, and I like the sounds of this story. Good luck!

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Re: Query: December--Your Help Needed!

Post by GeeGee55 » August 25th, 2010, 5:15 pm

I think this second version is much, much better. It flows well now. I think with just a bit of tweaking you might send it out to a few agents and see what sort of response you get.

Just a few things to think about:
Hyaline wrote:Thanks so much for your help! It looks like I have a second problem--not wanting to give everything away, but still make the story intriguing. Thanks for helping me see that.

Here's round two--hopefully clearer:

It’s December 1945, but the first peacetime Christmas after World War II holds few tidings of comfort or joy for Vernon Moore and his two daughters, Emily and Gloria. A telegram arrived months ago informing them that Walter Moore’s bomber crashed into an English hillside, I might add something about Walter's body not being recovered or that he's MIA and not dead for sure, then it blends better with what follows and the loss is still freshly embedded in each holiday tradition. - I would omit this phrase. Gloria, a dancer, slips further into the seedy politics of the theater world, chasing elusive promises of a lead role. Meanwhile, Emily loses her job to a returning veteran but gains a friend—and perhaps more—in Nate Bennett, her brother’s childhood friend and wartime comrade. But Nate harbors a secret he doesn’t want to share—the real reasons Walter isn’t coming home. - this is all good

When Gloria meets a French war bride by chance on a train platform, she doesn’t expect suspect? that the quiet foreigner is the missing piece of her family’s war-torn puzzle. The revelation of who her husband is—and what, precisely, she has to do with the Moores—will disrupt Nate’s hopes of winning Emily’s affections, make Gloria question her career, and chisel away a deftly formed lie Vernon Moore crafted to protect his family.- I think this is ok, it makes me think she's Walter's bride, and I wonder how it ties in with all the rest, but I'm ok with that The answers to the questions the French woman raises can only be found in Walter Moore, and they - this pronoun is out of place, say his family or all his family or whatever but name it will all have to decide if reopening not sure this is the right word, don't think you reopen a loss, maybe the pain of examining their loss or something their loss is worth learning the truth.

December, complete at 75,000 words, tells the post-war story that will appeal to readers who enjoyed Sarah Blake’s pre-war novel The Postmistress’s . Isn't there a word missing here?While earning my BA in history from Indiana University, my writing was honored with both a Campus Writing Program Award and a departmental Thesis Award. Research for December took me dancing at a restored Chicago ballroom, cooking in a WWII battleship galley, and attempting my own Victory Garden.

I'm struggling to decide if explaining exactly what's going on is the right move--I've read you don't want to give too much away, and saying exactly who the war bride is married to and what really happened to Walter spells out perhaps too much--doesn't quite give away the end, but certainly ruins the surprise :) Or maybe that's ok? Thanks for your thoughts!
I'm liking this version a lot. Good luck with your queries.

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Re: Query: December--Your Help Needed!

Post by oldhousejunkie » August 27th, 2010, 5:53 pm

Ok, your new version rocks! I wish I could turn-around a query like that. Kudos to you!

To answer your question, you give just the amount of information away. I was confused by your first query, but totally drawn in by your second. I can see beyond the query and would guess that your work is polished, ready-to-go, and very readable. I have seen very few queries like this, and if I'm totally honest, I think this is the first one I've critiqued that has a real chance of being picked up.

I don't have much more to say, beyond that I hope you make it to print because I would so buy this novel. :-)

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Re: Query: December--Your Help Needed!

Post by Hyaline » August 30th, 2010, 5:35 pm

Thank you all so much--I think I've got it, and your comments helped me so much as I worked to refine this. All the best, everyone!

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