Query: Rain on Your Wedding Day (Commercial Fiction)

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curtisedmonds
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Query: Rain on Your Wedding Day (Commercial Fiction)

Post by curtisedmonds » August 2nd, 2012, 10:25 am

I am new to this forum, but I am a long-time reader of the blog and I hope I have incorporated at least some of what I have learned in this query. I appreciate any thoughts or suggestions.

DearMr. Agent:

Will Morse lives alone in the remote North Georgia wilderness, lost in grief, sorrow, and regret. Will came to the mountains looking for quiet, isolation, and a refuge from the scandal that resulted from his daughter Trixie’s death. But Will longs for a connection to his daughter Alicia, who broke off contact with him after WIll and his wife divorced.

Alicia surprises Will with a Christmas visit. She tells Will she is getting married, and that she wants him at the wedding. Will is reluctant to attend because of conflicts with his domineering ex-wife, and because his emotions are still raw over his role in Trixie’s death. But Will accepts, as he recognizes the wedding is a chance to reconnect with Alicia.

Will devlops a romantic friendship with Dorothy Crawford, a writer who shows up at his cabin seeking directions. Dorothy provides Will with companionship and support, and the relationship could blossom into love. Before the wedding, however, Will breaks off the relationship when he discovers that Dorothy is working on a true crime book about Trixie’s death.

As Alicia’s wedding nears, Will must renew his relationship with Alicia, put Trixie’s death behind him, and weigh the pain he feels at Dorothy’s betrayal against his own need for forgiveness and love.

RAIN ON YOUR WEDDING DAY is a debut novel in the upmarket commercial fiction genre, complete at 76,000 words. Readers of Anne Tyler's books should enjoy this character-based family story. I am a frequent contributor to McSweeney's Internet Tendency, and had a recent piece published in Untoward Magazine*. I appreciate your taking the time to consider this work.

Cordially,

/s Curtis Edmonds
Duckthwacket, NJ

* Note to reviewers: The piece in Untoward is not yet published, but it should be before I start querying. My short fiction is at http://www.curtisedmonds.com if you care to check it out. Thanks!

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Re: Query: Rain on Your Wedding Day (Commercial Fiction)

Post by suef » August 3rd, 2012, 9:27 pm

Hi! Let's take a look at this:

Will Morse lives alone in the remote North Georgia wilderness, lost in grief, sorrow, and regret. Ok, why is he lost? A fellow writer told me once to never write a feeling ie. sad, happy-show the feeling. Remember, this is the hook to catch an agent's eye-grab him and hold him here...
Will came to the mountains looking for quiet, isolation, and a refuge from the scandal that resulted from his daughter Trixie’s death. But Will longs for a connection to his daughter Alicia, who broke off contact with him after WIll and his wife divorced.Ah, here is the reason, but don't bury it in sentence three. Also, why is there a scandal?

Alicia surprises Will with a Christmas visit. She tells Will she is getting married, and that she wants him at the wedding. Will is reluctant to attend because of conflicts with his domineering ex-wife, and because his emotions are still raw over his role in Trixie’s death. But Will accepts, as he recognizes the wedding is a chance to reconnect with Alicia.Woa-what role did he play? Once again, this should be paragraph one.

Will devlops a romantic friendship with Dorothy Crawford, a writer who shows up at his cabin seeking directions. Dorothy provides Will with companionship and support, and the relationship could blossom into love. Before the wedding, however, Will breaks off the relationship when he discovers that Dorothy is working on a true crime book about Trixie’s death.Interesting...

As Alicia’s wedding nears, Will must renew his relationship with Alicia, put Trixie’s death behind him, and weigh the pain he feels at Dorothy’s betrayal against his own need for forgiveness and love.

RAIN ON YOUR WEDDING DAY is a debut novel in the upmarket commercial fiction genre, complete at 76,000 words. Readers of Anne Tyler's books should enjoy this character-based family story. I am a frequent contributor to McSweeney's Internet Tendency, and had a recent piece published in Untoward Magazine*. I appreciate your taking the time to consider this work.

A good start, but grab with the tense filled facts right out of the gate. It might help to read some book jackets in the genre you're writing to get a feel for how this should go. Good luck! :)

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Re: Query: Rain on Your Wedding Day (Commercial Fiction)

Post by curtisedmonds » August 3rd, 2012, 11:06 pm

Thanks for your comments.

There are two reasons that I don't particularly want to start the query talking about the death of the daughter and the resulting scandal. I understand that may be a more compelling and interesting way to start the query, but I'm not sure it's the right approach.

First, I don't want to give anyone the wrong idea about the book. It's not a mystery or a thriller, and if you start the query with the sensational image of Will's daughter bleeding to death in the back of his car, then I think you're sending the wrong signal about what the story is about. (I thought about starting the novel that way, but it didn't seem right.)

Second, I worry that if I emphasize the more lurid aspects, that you'll lose empathy for WIll. This is actually the comment that I got when I presented a prior query at a conference - if you know from the outset that Will was a suspect in his daughter's horrible, tragic death, then why would his daughter ever have anything to do with him? Why would she want him at the wedding?

What I want to do more in the first paragraph is set up the character and to make him sympathetic and compelling. The story of the daughter's death is part of that, but I don't think it should overpower everything else in the story.

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Re: Query: Rain on Your Wedding Day (Commercial Fiction)

Post by Beethovenfan » August 4th, 2012, 4:01 am

Sounds like you have a great story on your hands. Congratulations on making it through to the end!
So, I think, since you really only have 250 words to work with, you should start with what the main problem is in your story. And from what I've read in this query, I think it's the part about the conniving Dorothy. This is where the stakes are at there highest for the protagonist.
curtisedmonds wrote:I am new to this forum, but I am a long-time reader of the blog and I hope I have incorporated at least some of what I have learned in this query. I appreciate any thoughts or suggestions.

DearMr. Agent:

Will Morse lives alone in the remote North Georgia wilderness, lost in grief, sorrow, and regret. Will came to the mountains looking for quiet, isolation, and a refuge from the scandal that resulted from his daughter Trixie’s death. But Will longs for a connection to his daughter Alicia, who broke off contact with him after WIll and his wife divorced.

Alicia surprises Will with a Christmas visit. She tells Will she is getting married, and that she wants him at the wedding. Will is reluctant to attend because of conflicts with his domineering ex-wife, and because his emotions are still raw over his role in Trixie’s death. But Will accepts, as he recognizes the wedding is a chance to reconnect with Alicia. These first two paragraphs are really backstory. I wouldn't begin there. Instead, begin where the good stuff is. This next paragraph.
Will devlops a romantic friendship with Dorothy Crawford, a writer who shows up at his cabin seeking directions. Dorothy provides Will with companionship and support, and the relationship could blossom into love. Before the wedding, however, Will breaks off the relationship when he discovers that Dorothy is working on a true crime book about Trixie’s death. This is the stuff that will make readers want to know more. Begin with this.

As Alicia’s wedding nears, Will must renew his relationship with Alicia, put Trixie’s death behind him, and weigh the pain he feels at Dorothy’s betrayal against his own need for forgiveness and love.

RAIN ON YOUR WEDDING DAY is a debut novel in the upmarket commercial fiction genre, complete at 76,000 words. Readers of Anne Tyler's books should enjoy this character-based family story. I am a frequent contributor to McSweeney's Internet Tendency, and had a recent piece published in Untoward Magazine*. I appreciate your taking the time to consider this work.

Cordially,

/s Curtis Edmonds
Duckthwacket, NJ

* Note to reviewers: The piece in Untoward is not yet published, but it should be before I start querying. My short fiction is at http://www.curtisedmonds.com if you care to check it out. Thanks!
Have another crack at it and let's see it. Good luck!
"Don't only practice your art, but force your way into its secrets, for it and knowledge can raise men to the divine."
~ Ludwig van Beethoven

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Re: Query: Rain on Your Wedding Day (Commercial Fiction)

Post by curtisedmonds » August 4th, 2012, 11:46 pm

OK, tried it that way:

Dear Mr. Agent:
Will Morse loves alone in a cabin atop the North Georgia mountains. He develops a romantic friendship with Dorothy Crawford, a writer who knocks on his door, seeking directions. Although Will is all but consumed with grief over the death of his daughter Trixie, five years before, he reaches out to Dorothy to find the support and companionship that he has been missing.
Will also reaches out to his estranged daughter, Alicia. Alicia is planning her wedding, and she invites Will to give her away. Will wants to attend, but he is concerned that his presence will reawaken memories of the scandal that followed Trixie’s death. Will maintains that Trixie committed suicide, but his ex-wife Danielle believes he played a larger role.
Dorothy encourages Will to work through his feelings regarding Trixie. However, Will breaks off the relationship after Dorothy reveals that she is working on a book about Trixie’s death. Will retreats into alcohol and depression, but resolves to attend Alicia’s wedding. At the wedding, Will must renew his relationship with Alicia, put Trixie’s death behind him, and weigh the pain he feels at Dorothy’s betrayal against his own need for forgiveness and love.
RAIN ON YOUR WEDDING DAY is a debut novel in the upmarket commercial fiction genre, complete at 76,000 words. I am a frequent contributor to McSweeney's Internet Tendency, and had a recent piece published in Untoward Magazine. I appreciate your taking the time
to consider this work.

Does that work better?

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Re: Query: Rain on Your Wedding Day (Commercial Fiction)

Post by Beethovenfan » August 5th, 2012, 6:31 pm

OK, it's getting there. But it sounds a little "this is this and that is that," like a list of events. Don't think of a query as an extemely shortened version of your story. Instead, it's means of capturing an agent's attention. Make that agent want to read more by clearly stating what the problem is, how the main character is going to solve the problem, and what the stakes are if he fails.
curtisedmonds wrote: Dear Mr. Agent:
Will Morse loves alone in a cabin atop the North Georgia mountains. He develops a romantic friendship with Dorothy Crawford, a writer who knocks on his door, seeking directions. Although Will is all but consumed with grief over the death of his daughter Trixie, five years before, he reaches out to Dorothy to find the support and companionship that he has been missing. Still needs more of a hook. Since I don't know your story, and have only what you have given here, I will try to give an example of what I mean. - - Will Morse is a man teetering on the edge of heartache and joy because of the women in his life. One daughter is dead, and the other wants to repair their torn relationship, and his ex-wife blames him for the death of their daughter. He finds solace in the arms of Dorothy Crawford, a woman who came into his life by chance. But happiness with her seems all but lost when he learns she is an author working on a book about his daughter's death. - I know this is lame and barely resembles your story, but my point is that you need to grab the reader from the very start - no lists!
Will also reaches out to his estranged daughter, Alicia. Alicia is planning her wedding, and she invites Will to give her away. Will wants to attend, but he is concerned that his presence will reawaken memories of the scandal that followed Trixie’s death. Will maintains that Trixie committed suicide, but his ex-wife Danielle believes he played a larger role.
Dorothy encourages Will to work through his feelings regarding Trixie. However, Will breaks off the relationship after Dorothy reveals that she is working on a book about Trixie’s death. Will retreats into alcohol and depression, but resolves to attend Alicia’s wedding. At the wedding, Will must renew his relationship with Alicia, put Trixie’s death behind him, and weigh the pain he feels at Dorothy’s betrayal against his own need for forgiveness and love.
I like this part about how he is going to solve his problem. Now you need to think beyond the fix - what will happen if he doesn't fix it? These are the stakes, and we the readers want to know them. They are why we keep reading to the end!

RAIN ON YOUR WEDDING DAY is a debut novel in the upmarket commercial fiction genre, complete at 76,000 words. I am a frequent contributor to McSweeney's Internet Tendency, and had a recent piece published in Untoward Magazine. I appreciate your taking the time
to consider this work.
I hope I am making sense, and not being discouraging. Writing a query is the most difficult part of the process. Ask anyone and they will tell you.
I have another piece of advice: If you haven't already, go visit the Query Shark (aka Janet Reid). She takes query submissions and picks them apart so you can see why they work or don't work. She's fabulous. She suggests reading through all (and she really does mean ALL) the posts because chances are, you will find one that resembles yours and you will learn from it. Here is the link to her blog:
http://queryshark.blogspot.com/
Best of luck!
"Don't only practice your art, but force your way into its secrets, for it and knowledge can raise men to the divine."
~ Ludwig van Beethoven

curtisedmonds
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Re: Query: Rain on Your Wedding Day (Commercial Fiction)

Post by curtisedmonds » August 7th, 2012, 10:59 pm

I tightened this up a bit. I am grateful for the feedback I've gotten, and hope that this resonates a little better.

I am a very linear thinker, and it's natural for me to focus on this happens-and then this happens-and then this happens, but you can't really do that in 250 words.

Dear Query Shark:
Will Morse is a recluse who is consumed with grief and regret over the death of his daughter, Trixie. On the day after Christmas, Dorothy Crawford knocks on the door of his remote mountain cabin. Will develops a romantic friendship with Dorothy, and finds the support and companionship that he has been missing. But Will discovers that Dorothy did not arrive by his door by chance. Dorothy tells Will she is working on a book about his role in Trixie’s death, causing Will to break off the relationship.
The scandal surrounding Trixie’s death also threatens to overshadow the wedding of Will’s daughter Alicia. Although Alicia believes that Will is innocent of any wrongdoing, she has barely spoken to Will since his divorce from her mother. Will wants to restore his relationship with Alicia, and the wedding is his last opportunity to do so.
Will’s emotional struggle deepens when his domineering ex-wife demands that he recount the details of Trixie’s death. Dorothy also resurfaces before the wedding, which throws Will’s emotions into further conflict. On Alicia’s wedding day, Will must choose whether he will put Trixie’s death behind him and find the strength to forgive Dorothy and find love. Otherwise, he risks sinking further into isolation and suicidal depression.
RAIN ON YOUR WEDDING DAY is a novel in the commercial fiction genre, complete at 76,000 words, and should appeal to fans of Anne Tyler. My short fiction has appeared in McSweeney's Internet Tendency and Untoward Magazine. I appreciate your taking the time to consider my manuscript.

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Re: Query: Rain on Your Wedding Day (Commercial Fiction)

Post by jenad » August 8th, 2012, 9:59 pm

There seem to be a lot of names mentioned (which is completely understandable). However, I found myself going back up to the first paragraph to remember who was who. Instead of repeating the name of a character in the following sentence, try using a pronoun. Or when referring to Trixie you could substitute the name as 'his youngest/oldest daughter.' When you mention Alicia, say that she's his 'other' daughter.

I saw you mention that the query must be 250 words, which is a difficult task. You need to make your query letter sound like what you'd want to read on the book jacket. Add some mystery to it as oppose to listing sentence after sentence of what's going on. Question marks are okay!

Best of luck!

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Re: Query: Rain on Your Wedding Day (Commercial Fiction)

Post by curtisedmonds » August 8th, 2012, 10:13 pm

The 250-word thing is more of a guideline - if an agent really likes a query, she's not going to do a word count.

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Re: Query: Rain on Your Wedding Day (Commercial Fiction)

Post by theWallflower » August 9th, 2012, 12:38 pm

Glad to see you're utilizing Query Shark.
Will Morse is a recluse who is consumed with grief and regret over the death of his daughter, Trixie. On the day after Christmas, Dorothy Crawford knocks on the door of his remote mountain cabin. Will develops a romantic friendship with Dorothy, and finds the support and companionship that he has been missing. But Will discovers that Dorothy did not arrive by his door by chance. Dorothy tells Will she is working on a book about his role in Trixie’s death, causing Will to break off the relationship.
-Why does the day after Christmas matter?
-There seems to be something controversial about Trixie's death, but you never say why. The stakes appear to be that the truth would be put out in the open, but unless we know what the truth is, it falls flat.
-I don't think the first sentence is necessary. I think the fact he's in a remote cabin is characterization enough.
-Why is Dorothy there? She has a secret motivation, yes, but what is the motivation Will knows?
-What does Will want? The protagonist seems more reactive than proactive, like he's going to be spending a lot of time sitting around and resisting things.
The scandal surrounding Trixie’s death also threatens to overshadow the wedding of Will’s daughter Alicia. Although Alicia believes that Will is innocent of any wrongdoing, she has barely spoken to Will since his divorce from her mother. Will wants to restore his relationship with Alicia, and the wedding is his last opportunity to do so.
-Why is the wedding the last opportunity? Is she going to Mars?
-Again, you talk about the scandal, but without context, it means nothing. Why is Alicia estranged from her father, especially if Alicia believes he's innocent.
-This subplot doesn't appear to do anything with the main plot. It seems incidental, I don't think it needs a whole paragraph dedicated to it.
Will’s emotional struggle deepens when his domineering ex-wife demands that he recount the details of Trixie’s death. Dorothy also resurfaces before the wedding, which throws Will’s emotions into further conflict. On Alicia’s wedding day, Will must choose whether he will put Trixie’s death behind him and find the strength to forgive Dorothy and find love. Otherwise, he risks sinking further into isolation and suicidal depression.
-Again, why? Why, why, why? Why are characters doing these things? They just show up and demand or coerce or manipulate. They appear to have no motivation other than "the plot demands it".
-And the biggest question of all, what are the stakes? What happens to Will if... whatever happens (you haven't sufficiently explained what the obstacle is, except that maybe he wants to keep the truth hidden (why?) and reconcile with his other daughter (again, why?)). It sounds like the worst that could happen is that he'll be sad. There's got to be more conflict than simply an "emotional struggle". Someone better be dying to going to jail.
RAIN ON YOUR WEDDING DAY is a novel in the commercial fiction genre, complete at 76,000 words, and should appeal to fans of Anne Tyler. My short fiction has appeared in McSweeney's Internet Tendency and Untoward Magazine. I appreciate your taking the time to consider my manuscript.
-The Anne Tyler reference won't work if you don't know who Anne Tyler is. Which I don't. Also, you should avoid making comparisons to other authors. The agent will decide what your story is like.
-Although you appear to be utilizing Query Shark, it's not apparently that you've done as she said and actually read through the archive. Otherwise, this query wouldn't be missing the three things it needs: who the protagonist is (Will Morse, who is... some guy?), what the problem/conflict/desire is (...he wants to be left alone?) and what the stakes are if he doesn't get it (he'll be a sad panda).
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curtisedmonds
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Re: Query: Rain on Your Wedding Day (Commercial Fiction)

Post by curtisedmonds » August 9th, 2012, 10:55 pm

Thanks for the feedback. I haven't yet sent the query to Query Shark - still writing and rewriting, but I intend to.

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Re: Query: Rain on Your Wedding Day (Commercial Fiction)

Post by Beethovenfan » August 16th, 2012, 2:58 am

curtisedmonds wrote:Thanks for the feedback. I haven't yet sent the query to Query Shark - still writing and rewriting, but I intend to.
Don't wait until you are ready to submit before visiting the Query Shark. In fact, do NOT submit anything until you do visit. She has some VERY stiff regulations for submissions. You must read ALL entries. All. Do you hear me? ALL! ;)
"Don't only practice your art, but force your way into its secrets, for it and knowledge can raise men to the divine."
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