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Running in Flip-Flops - Back for More!!! (Page 2)

Posted: September 12th, 2010, 9:48 pm
by ABFTomioka
Hello everybody! Thanks to your wonderful feedback, I rewrote my query. Now I have two versions, and I would love to know what you all think. The manuscript is finally edited...again....and hopefully I can start sending the letters out really soon. Thanks in advance for your always-invaluable help!

The newest queries are in my latest post, on page 2.

Many thanks, again,
- Abigail


The (oldest) query:

Shannon Wheaton has no running water or electricity, and that’s the easy part. Blazing with determination to integrate and improve people's lives, Shannon dives into Senegalese village life. But good intentions are tainted by the challenge of a culture that seems the antithesis of her own personality. RUNNING IN FLIP-FLOPS, complete at 90,000 words, is a novel of general fiction with the flavor of a memoir.

Shannon arrives in Senegal, West Africa, a fresh-faced and enthusiastic college graduate, earnestly believing the Peace Corps philosophy of development from the inside out. She learns basic Wolof language and culture before moving to a rural village, where she shares everyday tasks like shelling peanuts, pulling water, and eating lunch from a communal bowl, along with weddings, baptisms, and Muslim holidays. But despite her training, loud, fun-loving, aggressive Wolof culture strains her to the breaking point.

Work attempts are plagued with defeat as Shannon realizes people would rather not use local resources, preferring to wait for outside funding. With repetetive conversations, sitting around doing nothing, refusing marriage proposals and requests for gifts, Shannon builds her own Wolof personality, one she doesn't particularly like. Occasional small triumphs brighten her spirits, and work gradually improves as she learns to navigate her new society. But for every success there is a matching failure, and the intense highs and lows of village life grate on Shannon's nerves. She hasn't been kissed in ages, and stepping out of her hut becomes a daily trial.

By her second year Shannon is mired in apathy, avoiding people to spend long hours reading, sweating, and counting the days, convinced of her futility and wondering if those two years in Senegal were a waste. Near the end of her service, she meets a sexy Portuguese road worker whose touch reawakens her emotions. But his shocking deception forces Shannon to reconsider her Peace Corps experience.

My Peace Corps service ended in November 2009, and this novel is strongly based on my experiences. RUNNING IN FLIP-FLOPS will transport you to a Senegalese village, with the cracking sound of peanuts, the sting of a rope at the well, the taste of millet, and the joyful smell of rain in farming season. And into the intimate world of a young woman who struggles to be better than she is, in a place she can never wholly belong.

Re: Running in Flip-Flops - I would love some help with my query

Posted: September 12th, 2010, 10:32 pm
by Quill
ABFTomioka wrote:
Shannon Wheaton has no running water or electricity, and that’s the easy part.
This seems like a tagline, or lead line, and as such should probably have its own paragraph here. (The next sentence does not so much follow as start the actual query.)
Blazing with determination to integrate and improve people's lives, Shannon dives into Senegalese village life. But good intentions are tainted by the challenge of a culture that seems the antithesis of her own personality. RUNNING IN FLIP-FLOPS, complete at 90,000 words, is a novel of general fiction with the flavor of a memoir.
This is not bad. A few nitpicks:

1. "Blazing, she dives" is slightly awkward, being these two metaphors don't quite work together.

2. "Intentions are tainted" also is slightly awkward. Can you find a better word for tainted (affected with decay)?

3. What do you mean "integrate people's lives"?
Shannon arrives in Senegal, West Africa, a fresh-faced and enthusiastic college graduate, earnestly believing the Peace Corps philosophy of development from the inside out. She learns basic Wolof language and culture before moving to a rural village, where she shares everyday tasks like shelling peanuts, pulling water, and eating lunch from a communal bowl, along with weddings, baptisms, and Muslim holidays. But despite her training, loud, fun-loving, aggressive Wolof culture strains her to the breaking point.
This is pretty good. I wonder if you might omit the last sentence. As it is you end up at the same point at the conclusion of the next paragraph, so it seems something should be changed. You might use this paragraph to merely set up her time there, and save the downside for next paragraph.
Work attempts are plagued with defeat as Shannon realizes people would rather not use local resources, preferring to wait for outside funding.
If you omit the previous sentence you might start here with "But..."

Also, this seems wordy. How about "But attempts at organizing work parties (or projects) fail more often than not, and Shannon realizes people would rather wait for outside funding than use local resources." Or some such?
With repetetive conversations,
Typo: repetitive
sitting around doing nothing, refusing marriage proposals and requests for gifts, Shannon builds her own Wolof personality, one she doesn't particularly like.
Good detail. But this building of a Wolof personality sounds interesting and you don't give it much explanation. What's happening here? Is she becoming one of the natives? Why doesn't she simply go into her shell? What causes her to take on Wolof qualities? Which of their qualities does she take on? Why do you say she doesn't "particularly" like this? Is she ambivalent to this transformation? Isn't this a major plot point?
Occasional small triumphs brighten her spirits, and work gradually improves as she learns to navigate her new society. But for every success there is a matching failure, and the intense highs and lows of village life grate on Shannon's nerves.
This seems to be a contradiction. You say "intense highs" whereas up to now it sounds like "sitting around doing nothing" is the main event. What highs?
She hasn't been kissed in ages, and stepping out of her hut becomes a daily trial.
This is pretty good. Not sure these two clauses quite fit together, but they're great detail.
By her second year Shannon is mired in apathy, avoiding people to spend long hours reading, sweating, and counting the days, convinced of her futility and wondering if those two years in Senegal were a waste.
I like it, but is there any way of avoiding telling us twice in the same sentence that it's been two years? How about "wondering if her time in Senegal has been a waste" or some such?
Near the end of her service, she meets a sexy Portuguese road worker whose touch reawakens her emotions. But his shocking deception forces Shannon to reconsider her Peace Corps experience.
Good, but it ends on a jarring note. She's had an unhappy experience, from the sounds of it, then she meets the worker and presumably becomes happier, then his deception presumably makes her unhappy again. So she had a poor experience and his deception is a poor experience. What is there to reconsider? How poor it was?
My Peace Corps service ended in November 2009, and this novel is strongly based on my experiences.
Good.

This sounds like an interesting story, and the fact that you write from personal experience makes it sound even better.
RUNNING IN FLIP-FLOPS will transport you to a Senegalese village, with the cracking sound of peanuts, the sting of a rope at the well, the taste of millet, and the joyful smell of rain in farming season. And into the intimate world of a young woman who struggles to be better than she is, in a place she can never wholly belong.
Omit this as it repeats what we already know about the project and adds nothing new. And basically a query should tell us the story in miniature, or enough of it so that we want more. Its purpose is never to say what the book will do.

Re: Running in Flip-Flops - I would love some help with my query

Posted: September 13th, 2010, 12:18 am
by fersnerfer
ABFTomioka wrote:
Shannon Wheaton has no running water or electricity, and that’s the easy part.
I agree with Quill, this looks like it should be its own paragraph.


Blazing with determination to integrate and improve people's lives, Shannon dives into Senegalese village life. But good intentions are tainted by the challenge of a culture that seems the antithesis of her own personality. RUNNING IN FLIP-FLOPS, complete at 90,000 words, is a novel of general fiction with the flavor of a memoir.
I have read conflicting opinions regarding putting word count at the very beginning. Query Shark seems to hate this, but I imagine every agent is different.

Personally, I think that putting the word count at the bottom and following "antithesis of her own personality" with the examples two paragraphs down reads better.
Shannon arrives in Senegal, West Africa, a fresh-faced and enthusiastic college graduate, earnestly believing the Peace Corps philosophy of development from the inside out. She learns basic Wolof language and culture before moving to a rural village, where she shares everyday tasks like shelling peanuts, pulling water, and eating lunch from a communal bowl, along with weddings, baptisms, and Muslim holidays. But despite her training, loud, fun-loving, aggressive Wolof culture strains her to the breaking point.
I don't know that this information is as interesting as the next paragraph. It follows the "Antithesis of her own personality" statement much better. Maybe try switching the two up.
Work attempts are plagued with defeat as Shannon realizes people would rather not use local resources, preferring to wait for outside funding. With repetetive conversations, sitting around doing nothing, refusing marriage proposals and requests for gifts, Shannon builds her own Wolof personality, one she doesn't particularly like. Occasional small triumphs brighten her spirits, and work gradually improves as she learns to navigate her new society. But for every success there is a matching failure, and the intense highs and lows of village life grate on Shannon's nerves. She hasn't been kissed in ages, and stepping out of her hut becomes a daily trial.
I would maybe pare this down a little. I really like "Shannon builds her own Wolof personality, one she doesn't particularly like." But the following sentences lose me a little. It gets interesting again at "She hasn't been kissed in ages, and stepping out of her hut becomes a daily trial."
By her second year Shannon is mired in apathy, avoiding people to spend long hours reading, sweating, and counting the days, convinced of her futility and wondering if those two years in Senegal were a waste.


This is somewhat redundant of the previous paragraph. You are spending a lot of time on how much she is being beaten down by the situation without really giving us any conflict. Now, granted, I am more a fiction writer than a memoir person, but you want every sentence to grab the reader's attention.
Near the end of her service, she meets a sexy Portuguese road worker whose touch reawakens her emotions. But his shocking deception forces Shannon to reconsider her Peace Corps experience.
Here is where I think the story gets interesting again
My Peace Corps service ended in November 2009, and this novel is strongly based on my experiences. RUNNING IN FLIP-FLOPS will transport you to a Senegalese village, with the cracking sound of peanuts, the sting of a rope at the well, the taste of millet, and the joyful smell of rain in farming season. And into the intimate world of a young woman who struggles to be better than she is, in a place she can never wholly belong.
It's definitely a good start. I would just try and shave down the paragraphs so that the reader gets a more urgent sense of character and conflict. I found the query to be more difficult to write than the book itself at some points. :)

I think that your actual experience in the Peace Corps is very valuable and you make good use of that.

Best of luck!

Re: Running in Flip-Flops - I would love some help with my query

Posted: September 13th, 2010, 4:43 pm
by elfspirit
I think you've gotten very useful advice. I'd like to add a caveat about how you handle the reference to the novel being like a memoir. The link below was referenced in Nathan's Friday blog.

http://jetreidliterary.blogspot.com/201 ... no-no.html

It's an important cautionary note that may prompt you to delete the memoir reference.

Re: Running in Flip-Flops - I would love some help with my query

Posted: September 13th, 2010, 6:05 pm
by karenbb
ABFTomioka wrote:Hello everyone! I'm still finishing the final edits on my manuscript and working on this query in the meantime. I would love some feedback and suggestions on how to improve it. Thanks in advance for your help!!

- Abigail

The query:

Shannon Wheaton has no running water or electricity, and that’s the easy part. Blazing with determination to integrate and improve people's lives, Shannon dives into Senegalese village life. But good intentions are tainted by the challenge of a culture that seems the antithesis of her own personality. RUNNING IN FLIP-FLOPS, complete at 90,000 words, is a novel of general fiction with the flavor of a memoir.

I agree with everyone else that the first three lines should be separate paragraph. I would put the word count at the end and I wouldn't say "a novel of general fiction" --I would say "it's a work of general fiction with the flavor of a memoir".

Shannon arrives in Senegal, West Africa, a fresh-faced and enthusiastic college graduate, earnestly believing the Peace Corps philosophy of development from the inside out. She learns basic Wolof language and culture before moving to a rural village, where she shares everyday tasks like shelling peanuts, pulling water, and eating lunch from a communal bowl, along with weddings, baptisms, and Muslim holidays. But despite her training, loud, fun-loving, aggressive Wolof culture strains her to the breaking point.

I would break up some of these sentences. They seem very long. You could try: Shannon arrives in Senegal, West Africa, a fresh-faced and enthusiastic college graduate. She believes the Peace Corps philosophy of development from the inside out. (Not sure about inside out, and I took out earnestly because I'm the adverb police these days). She learns basic Wolof language and culture before moving to a rural village, where she shares everyday tasks like shelling peanuts, pulling water, and eating lunch from a communal bowl. She particpates in weddings, baptisms, and Muslim holidays. Despite her training, the loud, fun-loving, and aggressive Wolof culture strains her to the breaking point. (You might want to add something about her intentions--she clearly wants to be part of this culture...Despite her training and her best intentions...).

Work attempts are plagued with defeat as Shannon realizes people would rather not use local resources, preferring to wait for outside funding. I find this sentence very confusing. With repetetive conversations, sitting around doing nothing, refusing marriage proposals and requests for gifts, Shannon builds her own Wolof personality, one she doesn't particularly like. I would change this to be more active: She endures repetitive conversations, sits around and does nothing, and refuses marriage proposals and requests for gifts. Shannon builds her own Wolof personality, but it's one she doesn't like. Occasional small triumphs brighten her spirits, and work gradually improves as she learns to navigate her new society. But for every success there is a matching failure, and the intense highs and lows of village life grate on Shannon's nerves. She hasn't been kissed in ages, and stepping out of her hut becomes a daily trial. I think you can pare down on some words in these last three sentences, but I think what you're trying to say is good. Something like: The occasional triumph brightens her spirits, and work improves as she learns to navigate her new society. Unfortunately, every success has a matching failure and the intense highs and lows of village life wear her down. She hasn't been kissed in ages, and stepping out of her hut becomes a daily trial.

By her second year Shannon is mired in apathy, avoiding people to spend long hours reading, sweating, and counting the days, convinced of her futility and wondering if those two years in Senegal were a waste. I would avoid giving us a specific sense of time here, because it makes it sound like it takes us most of the way through the book with her being depressed in Senegal. Maybe something like: Eventually, Shannon is mired in apathy (not sure about that wording), avoiding people, sweating, and counting the days, convinced her time in Senegal is futile. Near the end of her service, she meets a sexy Portuguese road worker whose touch reawakens her emotions. Again, I would avoid the specifics about the time--make it sound more exciting. Then, she meets a sexy Portuguese road worker whose touch reawakens her emotions, but his shocking deception... But his shocking deception forces Shannon to reconsider her Peace Corps experience. We already think she had plenty of reason to reconsider her Peace Corps experience before sexy Portuguese road worker came along (where does one get one of those?). I think you need to show us a bigger reason his shocking deception rocks her world.

My Peace Corps service ended in November 2009, and this novel is strongly based on my experiences. RUNNING IN FLIP-FLOPS will transport you to a Senegalese village, with the cracking sound of peanuts, the sting of a rope at the well, the taste of millet, and the joyful smell of rain in farming season. And into the intimate world of a young woman who struggles to be better than she is, in a place she can never wholly belong.

I would put these in different order and incorporate the word count from above: RUNNING IN FLIP-FLOPS is a work of general fiction with the flavor of a memoir and is complete at 90,000 words. I drew upon my personal experiences in the Peace Corps when writing my story. (Or something along those lines...not feeling particularly creative at the moment.) The other stuff...I don't mind it there but some agents are bothered by having the themes "shown" to them--they want to know what happens. Something to think about.

It sounds like a very cool and interesting story. I'm sure you'll have no problem whipping your query into shape--the best part is when you're finished with it! Good Luck!


Re: Running in Flip-Flops - Second Draft

Posted: September 14th, 2010, 9:12 am
by ABFTomioka
Here is the revised query as of 9/14.... I cut a lot out, hoping to keep the essence of the story without any extraneous detail. How does it look?

Shannon Wheaton has no running water or electricity, and that’s the easy part.

Blazing with determination to become part of a community and improve people's lives, Shannon embraces her Senegalese village. She shares everyday tasks like shelling peanuts, pulling water, and eating lunch from a communal bowl, along with celebrations and Muslim holidays.

But loud, fun-loving, aggressive Wolof culture strains her to the breaking point. Cross-cultural training and good intentions make poor armor for a soft-spoken young woman. Repetitive conversations, sitting around doing nothing, marriage proposals and requests for gifts are endless challenges. To cope, Shannon builds her own Wolof personality, one she doesn't particularly like.

Work gradually improves as she learns to navigate her new society, but for every small triumph there is a matching failure. Village life grates on her nerves, she hasn't been kissed in ages, and stepping out of her hut becomes a daily trial.

By her second year Shannon is mired in apathy. She avoids people to spend long hours reading, sweating, and counting the days, wondering if her time in Senegal was wasted. When she meets a sexy Portuguese road worker, his touch reawakens her emotions. But his shocking deception forces Shannon to reconsider her Peace Corps experience. Perhaps it wasn’t futile after all.

My Peace Corps service ended in November 2009, and this novel is strongly based on my experiences. RUNNING IN FLIP-FLOPS is a work of general fiction, complete at 90,000 words.

Re: Running in Flip-Flops - Second Draft

Posted: September 14th, 2010, 10:22 am
by Quill
ABFTomioka wrote:
Shannon Wheaton has no running water or electricity, and that’s the easy part.
Good.
Blazing with determination to become part of a community and improve people's lives, Shannon embraces her Senegalese village.
"Embraces her village" seems awkward, especially since we don't yet understand that she is a Peace Corps worker. Even with that, calling it her village seems to go against the grain of her experience there.
She shares everyday tasks like shelling peanuts, pulling water, and eating lunch from a communal bowl, along with celebrations and Muslim holidays.
Good. But again we are lacking the context of what is her role there.
But loud, fun-loving, aggressive Wolof culture strains her to the breaking point.
Okay but a bit odd. I guess too much fun-loving is enough to drive anybody over the edge.
Cross-cultural training and good intentions make poor armor for a soft-spoken young woman.
Here I would recommend a semi-colon before "cross-cultural" to tie it to the real reason for her strain, the fact that she's soft-spoken.

Also, maybe qualify it a bit more by adding "turn out to be poor armor" or some such. As though it takes her by surprise that her training cannot handle the situation.
Repetitive conversations, sitting around doing nothing, marriage proposals and requests for gifts are endless challenges.
Good.
To cope, Shannon builds her own Wolof personality, one she doesn't particularly like.
As I said in my previous comments, this seems important and perhaps should be explained a bit more. Here it seems low key, she builds a whole new personality, akin to the natives, but hum, she doesn't particularly like it.
Work gradually improves as she learns to navigate her new society,
This is descriptive but not dynamic, being weighed down by four five-dollar words and no exciting verbs or nouns.
but for every small triumph there is a matching failure.
Good.
Village life grates on her nerves, she hasn't been kissed in ages, and stepping out of her hut becomes a daily trial.
These three items don't seem to go together in the list you've created here. Plus:

1. The nerve grating seems like old news at this point.

2. The kissing is a great detail

3. The stepping seems vague. We can only guess why. She will run into people who will be loud, fun-loving, or aggressive toward her?
By her second year Shannon is mired in apathy. She avoids people to spend long hours reading, sweating, and counting the days,
Good.
wondering if her time in Senegal was wasted.
The change of tense is jarring. How about "and wonders"?
When she meets a sexy Portuguese road worker, his touch reawakens her emotions. But his shocking deception forces Shannon to reconsider her Peace Corps experience. Perhaps it wasn’t futile after all.
Good, but again, presuming his shocking deception is negative (and not a happy surprise), wouldn't this make her experience worse, and appearing more futile? Please clarify.
My Peace Corps service ended in November 2009, and this novel is strongly based on my experiences. RUNNING IN FLIP-FLOPS is a work of general fiction, complete at 90,000 words.
Good. Sounds like a wonderful story.

Re: Running in Flip-Flops - Second Draft

Posted: September 14th, 2010, 11:34 am
by fersnerfer
This is a definite improvement. Best of luck!

Re: Running in Flip-Flops - Second Draft

Posted: September 14th, 2010, 4:48 pm
by wilderness
ABFTomioka wrote: Shannon Wheaton has no running water or electricity, and that’s the easy part.

Blazing with determination to become part of a community and improve people's lives, Shannon embraces her Senegalese village. She shares everyday tasks like shelling peanuts, pulling water, and eating lunch from a communal bowl, along with celebrations and Muslim holidays. You might want to start with some context. She is here with Peacecorp, right?

But loud, fun-loving, aggressive Wolof culture strains her to the breaking point. I can't picture this. Why do those things strain her? Cross-cultural training and good intentions make poor armor for a soft-spoken young woman. Repetitive conversations, sitting around doing nothing, marriage proposals and requests for gifts are endless challenges. The phrasing feels very distanced, not really from Shannon's point of view. Also, it's really not clear why repetitive conversations or sitting around doing nothing would be so terrible. The lack of tangibles makes it hard to care. We don't know who is having these conversations, who is proposing to her, etc. Maybe you need to mention a few other characters. To cope, Shannon builds her own Wolof personality, one she doesn't particularly like. Why not?

Work gradually improves as she learns to navigate her new society, but for every small triumph there is a matching failure. Example? Village life grates on her nerves, she hasn't been kissed in ages, and stepping out of her hut becomes a daily trial.

By her second year Shannon is mired in apathy. She avoids people to spend long hours reading, sweating, and counting the days, wondering if her time in Senegal was wasted. When she meets a sexy Portuguese road worker, his touch reawakens her emotions. But his shocking deception forces Shannon to reconsider her Peace Corps experience. Perhaps it wasn’t futile after all. What "shocking deception"? That is very vague. Tell us what she discovers and let the strength of the plot intrigue the readers. Just telling us it is "shocking" is not enough.

My Peace Corps service ended in November 2009, and this novel is strongly based on my experiences. RUNNING IN FLIP-FLOPS is a work of general fiction, complete at 90,000 words.
Sounds like an interesting book, but I think the query does a lot of telling and not showing, and the tone seems very distant.

Re: Running in Flip-Flops - Second Draft

Posted: September 16th, 2010, 1:59 pm
by thewhipslip
I feel a flip-flop (pun intended) of characterization here. Shannon comes off as an altruist, but later in the query turns into a mope. My comments below:

Shannon Wheaton has no running water or electricity, and that’s the easy part.

Blazing with determination to become part of a community and improve people's lives, Shannon embraces her Senegalese village. She shares everyday tasks like shelling peanuts, pulling water, and eating lunch from a communal bowl, along with celebrations and Muslim holidays.

But loud, fun-loving, aggressive Wolof culture strains her to the breaking point Here's the shift. In the previous paragraph she's "blazing" and "embracing", now she's stressed and moody. Cross-cultural training and good intentions make poor armor for a soft-spoken young woman. Repetitive conversations, sitting around doing nothing So why doesn't she just leave? Don't get that part., marriage proposals and requests for gifts are endless challenges. To cope, Shannon builds her own Wolof personality, one she doesn't particularly like. You don't mention this personality again. I guess you're trying to say that the personality she chose takes her over, but that's not clear. What's the significance of this?

Work gradually improves as she learns to navigate her new society, but for every small triumph there is a matching failure Again, you're being upbeat and then pulling me down again.. Village life grates on her nerves, she hasn't been kissed in ages, and stepping out of her hut becomes a daily trial. I don't understand why she doesn't leave? Is she stuck there?

By her second year Shannon is mired in apathy. She avoids people to spend long hours reading, sweating, and counting the days, wondering if her time in Senegal was wasted. Now I'm wondering why I want to spend a novel with this woman if she's going to be depressed the whole time... When she meets a sexy Portuguese road worker, his touch reawakens her emotions. But his shocking deception forces Shannon to reconsider her Peace Corps experience. Perhaps it wasn’t futile after all. A little too vague of a conflict for me. If she's unhappy in Senegal, why doesn't she go home? What's stopping her? Okay, she falls in love. Is that what's stopping her? The worker deceives her. So why doesn't she just go home then? What's the deception? Being specific about that could help you a lot.

My Peace Corps service ended in November 2009, and this novel is strongly based on my experiences. RUNNING IN FLIP-FLOPS is a work of general fiction, complete at 90,000 words.[/quote]

Re: Running in Flip-Flops - Third Draft

Posted: September 16th, 2010, 10:43 pm
by ABFTomioka
Hello again!
Thank you, thank you everyone for your wonderful comments! It's so hard to write a query letter that gives just enough detail, but not too much. I hope this third version is a little better...

****

Shannon Wheaton arrives in Senegal as a young Peace Corps volunteer, blazing with determination to embrace a community and improve people's lives. Life in a rural village means constant discoveries as Shannon shares everyday tasks like shelling peanuts, pulling water, and eating lunch from a communal bowl, along with celebrations and Muslim holidays. In time the village feels like home, but it’s not always serene.

Loud, aggressive Wolof culture – with repetitive conversations, marriage proposals and pushy requests for gifts - strains her to the breaking point. Cross-cultural training and good intentions make poor armor for a soft-spoken young woman. To cope, Shannon builds her own Wolof personality. It suits her new world, but the stress of constant acting sends her, more often than not, scurrying back to her hut.

Work is a roller coaster of emotional highs and lows. Her agriculture assignment is a failure, but Shannon pushes aside her beliefs in grassroots development to help the village find funding for latrines. Though she sometimes feels she’s making a difference, Shannon often wonders if her presence is futile. Except for a few projects, she avoids people to spend long hours reading, sweating, and counting the days. She hasn't been kissed in ages, and she can no longer endure sitting around doing nothing. But going home never crosses her mind. She signed on for two full years, and small successes inspire her to keep going.

Near the end of her serivce, Shannon meets André, a sexy Portuguese road worker. Their golden affair seems perfect until André reveals he is married. His deception forces Shannon to reconsider her Peace Corps experience, as she realizes the truly good people were those she lived with all along.

My Peace Corps service ended in November 2009, and this novel is strongly based on my experiences. RUNNING IN FLIP-FLOPS is a work of general fiction, complete at 91,000 words.

Re: Running in Flip-Flops - Third Draft

Posted: September 16th, 2010, 11:04 pm
by Quill
So, she's enthusiastic, and then she's a failure, and then a basket case, and then deceived. Bummer. But please don't give us the denouement. Give us the crux. The reason to ask for pages. The reason to root for her. The main problem illustrated by all the little ones. The reason to read this book. The thing(s) that makes it unique, compelling, gripping. The dynamic element. The thing that will save her. The glimmer, the key, the light at the end of her soul's tunnel.

Re: Running in Flip-Flops - Third Draft on page 2

Posted: September 17th, 2010, 12:06 pm
by wilderness
Hi there,

I think this has improved a lot! It is a lot clearer and I like how you included specific examples of her projects.

The only thing I can think to improve on is to add a little more voice into the query. One good technique is to editorialize on the facts from your MC's point of view.

For example:
But going home never crosses her mind.
This is good.
She signed on for two full years, and small successes inspire her to keep going.
But this part could have a little more voice. Consider: She couldn't possibly consider going home after she finally got the leaky water pipes repaired. Or when she helped bring down that screaming, sweating baby's fever.

See how the POV is closer to the MC and less omniscient narration? (And also a good dose of specificity).

Finally, the last line in a query should usually end with a conflict. Consider something like, "Now, when her most crucial infrastructure project is about to be completed, she's got to put aside her broken heart for the people who have been driving her crazy for the last two years." That's very rough, but see how it leaves her with an obstacle (overcome her broken heart for the good of the people).

Again, I do think it is much improved and gained a lot of clarity and good specifics. Good luck!

Re: Running in Flip-Flops - Third Draft on page 2

Posted: September 21st, 2010, 1:12 am
by ABFTomioka
Thank you very much for your thoughtful comments. All your advice is extremely helpful! I'm going to rework this one rather later, I think; want to tweak some things in my manuscript first. But I truly appreciate everyone taking the time to read and comment. It helps so much to see through someone else's eyes!

Re: Running in Flip-Flops - Third Draft on page 2

Posted: September 26th, 2010, 6:18 pm
by priya g.
I like Shannon's character already! The determination to keep trying makes me love her even more. Just one point- maybe you can cut down just a bit on the examples of what she has to do. Yes, i know i am contradicting a lot of entries, but i guess if you put down instances that are completely imaginable and pitiable in the same moment, just a few, it will serve the purpose of showing the filthy conditions she is in. I live in Africa as well, so I know what a grim picture the world paints of it. since this story has a lot of your personal experiences added to it, show a new picture- deeper than starvation or the rural way of living. Give the agent a sense of luxury at just reading the query letter- that's how downtrodden Shanon's situation should be.

hope I am not too off the mark here.