DISREGARD THIS POST PLEASE. Women's fiction query - ELSA

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linda307
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DISREGARD THIS POST PLEASE. Women's fiction query - ELSA

Post by linda307 » November 15th, 2010, 12:22 pm

SORRY, I'M NEW HERE AND I PUT UP A SEPARATE POST WITH THE REVISIONS AND I CAN'T FIGURE OUT HOW TO DELETE THIS OLD ONE! I'M SO SORRY. NO NEED TO LOOK AT THIS ONE ANYMORE. PLEASE SEE THE NEWER POST INSTEAD THAT READS "2ND REVISION TO ELSA" - AGAIN, I'M SO SORRY!

Hi everyone! I'm new here. I have sent out two different queries to about 25 agents and so far have only received form rejections without a request to read a partial. I know 25 rejections aren't a lot in this business, but I'm trying to figure out how to improve my query, to make it sound different from the other thousands that go out. Can you help? Below are two versions and neither one has given me results. The first one is the first one I sent out, then I sent out the second one to a few more agents. Which do you think is better? Should I improve on one of them or should I start from scratch? Any comments/advice is very much appreciated!

First version:
Plagued by a family secret, Elsa Kartchner struggles to share the tragedy that creates lifelong tension between her and her mother. It only gets worse when her 84-year-old Jewish Mom shows up on her DC doorstep – to stay.

During the summer, overprotective Elsa helps her only daughter prepare for a year-long trip to Russia. But Elsa would rather send her mother packing. As middle age creeps in, Elsa says goodbye to a free-spirited daughter she adores and becomes caretaker to a mother she resents. Elsa copes by reliving the good memories of her Washington Heights childhood, her blissful marriage that was cut short, and the Madison Avenue job that revitalized her.

When her mother dies, Elsa wants to bury the family secret with her. Unfortunately, it’s not the type that stays hidden forever. Elsa must tell her daughter, the person she cherishes the most. To confess, Elsa travels to Russia and in the middle of Red Square gets a surprise of her own. Elsa’s walk on Russian soil isn’t her last. She returns to beg her daughter to come home. Instead, Elsa confronts her past with a little help from Alexei, a Russian expat she meets on the plane.

While living in Russia, I was inspired to write THE ARRIVAL OF ELSA. My 77,000-word women’s fiction follows three generations as grief, guilt, and resentment test their relationships. I’m a freelance writer and have contributed to [fill in].

Thanks for your time and consideration.

Second version:
Elsa Kartchner, single and independent, isn't bothered by middle age. Instead, she worries about her only daughter leaving for a year-long trip to Russia. Things get worse when her 84-year-old Jewish mother shows up on her DC doorstep - to stay.

Elsa says goodbye to a free-spirited daughter she adores and becomes caretaker to a mother she resents. To cope, Elsa devours letters she receives from Russia, visits with her optimistic neighbor, and overindulges in chocolate she stashes in her pantry.

A family secret plagues Elsa's relationship with her mother and overcasts the connection with her daughter. For years, Elsa struggles to bury the past or let her long-kept secret come out. Elsa faces the choice when her mother dies. Fearing her daughter may stumble upon the secret when she returns, Elsa decides to confess. She travels to Russia hoping for acceptance and, while there, she gets a big surprise of her own. Elsa's walk on Russian soil isn't her last. She returns to beg her daughter to come home. Instead, Elsa confronts her past with a little help from Alexei, a Russian expat she meets on the plane.

While living in Russia, I was inspired to write THE ARRIVAL OF ELSA. My 77,000-word women’s fiction follows three generations as guilt, grief, and a longing for forgiveness test their relationships. I'm a freelance writer and have contributed to [fill in].

Thanks so much for your consideration.
Last edited by linda307 on December 7th, 2010, 5:44 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Holly
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Re: Help! Women's fiction query - ELSA

Post by Holly » November 15th, 2010, 12:56 pm

Hi, Linda. I'm at work, so this will just be a short comment. I like the first version better -- mostly because it starts with the secret. I would tell the secret, or at least something about it. My only other thought is the material is well written, but seems heavy and sad -- can you add a heartwarming element somewhere? Good luck to you.

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Re: Help! Women's fiction query - ELSA

Post by Jaligard » November 15th, 2010, 7:38 pm

linda307 wrote:Plagued by a family secret. . .
Without the secret, we don't really know enough about the story to make this compelling.

It's big enough to ruin her relationship with her mother. it's big enough to spend thousands of dollars to keep her daughter from finding it out. It's been eating Elsa for years.

It leaves us wondering about the wrong things. We should develop a bond with Elsa, find out what she wants, and root for her. Instead, we have to guess what she's trying to hide. We should wonder how she's going to keep her daughter's love, or develop new love with Alexei (maybe, he's in the query for half a second), but we can't. The secret is in our way, too.

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Re: Help! Women's fiction query - ELSA

Post by linda307 » November 15th, 2010, 8:46 pm

Thanks so much for your feedback! It sounds like, so far, you think I should include the secret within the query letter. I've been so torn with that because the reader doesn't find out about the secret until several chapters in and I wasn't sure if I should give it away in the letter. Anyways, I'd love to hear more comments from the fabulous readers of this blog. Thanks so much to everyone, and good luck to you all as well!!

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Re: Help! Women's fiction query - ELSA

Post by Holly » November 15th, 2010, 8:52 pm

linda307 wrote:Thanks so much for your feedback! It sounds like, so far, you think I should include the secret within the query letter. I've been so torn with that because the reader doesn't find out about the secret until several chapters in and I wasn't sure if I should give it away in the letter. Anyways, I'd love to hear more comments from the fabulous readers of this blog. Thanks so much to everyone, and good luck to you all as well!!
Jaligard, well said.

Linda, I understand what you mean. However, I would turn the query inside out. I would tell the secret in the query and make the mystery how the relationships play out. Why don't you play with a draft and see what you think?

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Re: Help! Women's fiction query - ELSA

Post by linda307 » November 16th, 2010, 11:12 am

Thanks Holly and Jaligard for your feedback! I might have to try another draft with the secret in it to make the reader root more for Elsa. I've been told by my beta readers that they were really thrilled Elsa was able to let go of the past and find happiness. Maybe that needs to come across more in the query letter, because it's not all doom and gloom. The story has its sad moments, but Elsa does find her way. (This whole query process is hard!) Thanks to you both and I'll keep this up in the meantime if anyone else would like to comment. Thanks!!

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Re: Help! Women's fiction query - ELSA

Post by glj » November 16th, 2010, 4:06 pm

I can't say I liked either version much. Both include too much setup. So she has a meddling, elderly mother. And her daughter goes on a long trip. So she eats chocolates. The problem is that these are all normal life and a normal woman dealing with them in a normal way. I don't think a reader of the query letter will be intrigued. I wasn't.

Try to start out with a minimum of explanation--who the protagonist is--then show us a looming problem. I don't know if you would necessarily have to show us her secret, but more information would be helpful to create tension and mystery.

When her mother dies, Elsa wants to bury the family secret with her. Unfortunately, it’s not the type that stays hidden forever. Elsa must tell her daughter, the person she cherishes the most. Now, this has a little intrigue in it. Not much, but some. A family secret could hook interest. You write that it cannot stay hidden forever. Can you build on this? My guess is it has to do with either the parentage of Elsa and/or her daughter. I hope not, because that would be highly predictable. But if the secret is something else, many other people might still expect what I expect, that Elsa's supposed father wasn't her real father, or Elsa's former husband isnt the father of Elsa's daughter.

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Re: Help! Women's fiction query - ELSA

Post by linda307 » November 19th, 2010, 2:09 pm

Thanks glj for your critique of my query letter! No, the secret is not about Elsa's or her daughter's father or anything predictable that we often see/read. It is something completely different. But that makes me rethink the entire letter, that maybe the letter's theme shouldn't be about the secret at all. That maybe it's more about Elsa finding a way to deal with what happened, realizing that she may never mend the relationship with her mother, and finding her own happiness. As I was writing the letter, I was trying to find ways to make it enticing and I chose to talk about the secret. The difficult part, as everyone knows, is making your story stand out when thousands of writers are writing similar stories. I suppose, as agents say, it's mostly the voice that gets noticed. Thanks again.

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Re: Help! Women's fiction query - ELSA

Post by Netti » November 20th, 2010, 9:28 am

linda307 wrote: Second version:
Elsa Kartchner, single and independent, isn't bothered by middle age. Instead, she worries about her only daughter leaving for a year-long trip to Russia. Things get worse when her 84-year-old Jewish mother shows up on her DC doorstep - to stay.(I would specify which "her" you're talking about here since you have three in one paragraph.)

Elsa says goodbye to a free-spirited daughter she adores and becomes caretaker to a mother she resents. To cope, Elsa devours letters she receives from Russia, visits with her optimistic neighbor, and overindulges in chocolate she stashes in her pantry the chocolate she has stashed in the pantry.

A family secret plagues Elsa's relationship with her mother and overcasts the connection with her daughter.(Kind of out of the blue. Try to find a smoother transition. Is this why she doesn't want her mother with her?) For years, Elsa struggles to bury the past or let her long-kept secret come out(Again, this could be clearer. It sounds like a word is missing.). Elsa faces the choice when her mother dies. Fearing her daughter may stumble upon the secret when she returns, Elsa decides to confess in person. She travels to Russia hoping for acceptance and, while there, she gets a big surprise of her own. Elsa's walk on Russian soil isn't her last(You never told us she returned to America. It may be best to just take this sentence out. And maybe add a sentence about the daughter's reaction. Why would Elsa go to Russia to confess, return to the States, then go back? Why wouldn't she just stay?). She returns to beg her daughter to come home. Instead, Elsa ends up confronting her past with a little help from Alexei, a Russian expat she meets on the plane.

While living in Russia, I was inspired to write THE ARRIVAL OF ELSA. My 77,000-word women’s fiction follows three generations as guilt, grief, and a longing for forgiveness test their relationships. I'm a freelance writer and have contributed to [fill in].

Thanks so much for your consideration.
I think the second version is better than the first but you need to work on making things clearer. Good luck!
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Re: Help! Women's fiction query - ELSA

Post by chris13 » November 22nd, 2010, 8:59 pm

Hi,

I agree, the agent needs to know the secret, since that is what is driving her to Russia, interacting with her daughter, etc. What is the MC's major need, and how does she attempt to fulfill it? What are her obstacles? What happens if she doesn't overcome them, or if she does?

These are the things that drive the story, and what agents will want to know.

And how about including some Russia atmosphere?

Good luck!

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Re: Help! Women's fiction query - ELSA

Post by linda307 » November 29th, 2010, 1:29 pm

Thanks Chris! I'd thought about adding some more Russian atmosphere, but wasn't sure how important that would be in the letter (and to the story as a whole). I do suppose there are many readers who like stories set in foreign places. It might make it stand out from the other women's fiction queries. A good chunk of the story takes place there and the MC also receives letters from her daughter from Russia that are interspersed throughout the book. Thanks again and I'm grateful to everyone who has left a comment and advice!

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Re: Help! Women's fiction query - ELSA

Post by oldhousejunkie » December 7th, 2010, 5:06 pm

OK, I think what bothered me the most was the flow in both versions. It seemed kind of choppy and pieced together. The second one did seem to flow a little better, but still has some problems.
linda307 wrote: Second version:
Elsa Kartchner, single and independent, isn't bothered by middle age. Instead, she worries about her only daughter leaving for a year-long trip to Russia. Things get worseWhen her 84-year-old Jewish mother shows up on her DC doorstep to stay, Elsa must deal with years of resentment and a secret that won't stay buried.

Elsa says goodbye to a free-spirited daughter she adores and becomes caretaker to a mother she resents. To cope, Elsa devours letters she receives from Russia, visits with her optimistic neighbor, and overindulges in chocolate she stashes in her pantry.

While letters from her daughter help her cope, Elsa cannot deny the A family secret that plagues Elsa's her relationship with her mother. and overcasts the connection with her daughter. For years, Elsa struggles has struggled to bury the past, or let her long-kept secret come out. Elsa faces the choicebut when her mother dies, she has a chance for absolution..

Fearing her daughter may stumble upon the secret when she returns, Elsa decides to confess. Shetravels to Russia hoping for acceptance and, while there, she gets a big surprise of her own. There's a disconnect here. If you keep the main secret from the agent, you need to at least clue them in to what happens in Russia. Plus it might help better explain her return later. Elsa's walk on Russian soil isn't her last. She returns to beg her daughter to come home. Instead, Elsa confronts her past with a little help from Alexei, a Russian expat she meets on the plane.

While living in Russia, I was inspired to write THE ARRIVAL OF ELSA. My 77,000-word women’s fiction follows three generations as guilt, grief, and a longing for forgiveness test their relationships. I'm a freelance writer and have contributed to [fill in].

Thanks so much for your consideration.
I think the main problem is that you're losing the main conflict in the novel by withholding details. Agents need to know some of these, but just enough to entice them to ask for a partial, etc. Good luck to you!

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