Query: The Forest and the Sea

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Forever Wilderness
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Query: The Forest and the Sea

Post by Forever Wilderness » July 18th, 2013, 7:34 pm

Hi everyone,

I am new to Nathan's extremely helpful blog and forum, and I look forward to contributing to this vibrant community. My first attempt at a query letter is below, and I would appreciate any suggestions that you would have to offer. I'll post a proper introduction in the introductions board, and promise not to be a drive-by poster...

-Wilderness

I am seeking representation for my first novel, The Forest and the Sea, a completed 65,000-word coming-of-age story with strong intimations of magical realism. Set amidst the frenetic backdrop of the 1986 World Cup and the lush rainforests of Mexico, The Forest and the Sea is a story of youth and possibility, of lost worlds and the clash of civilizations, and of loss and redemption.

Both intimate and sweeping in its scope, The Forest and the Sea unveils the journey of Alex Marks, a college student from the United States who is visiting Mexico City during the summer of 1986. After attending a thrilling World Cup soccer match between England and Argentina, happenstance leads Alex to meet Lucía, an enigmatic young woman who is struggling to deal with the loss of her mother, who died the previous year in an unfortunate national tragedy. Lucía draws Alex slowly into her mysterious world, and as the two grow closer and eventually disappear deep into the rainforests of Veracruz, Alex is forced to confront history and destiny. After Alex and Lucía encounter an eccentric old man living in the dark recesses of the forest, they are transported through his alleged recollections of the past to the New World before the coming of Europeans. Alex does not yet realize who he is or was, and these revelations, revealed slowly through his journey of discovery, will cause him to question everything he knows and understands about his world. He will face many difficult choices as he moves from our world to one long past, and throughout his experiences must confront the often harsh realities of loyalty, love, and betrayal.

Drawn to the mysteries of the human experience from an early age, my training as a professional historian has provided me with an opportunity to explore the human condition to better understand how and why people interact with others and the world around them. My historical scholarship has been published in a variety of academic journals and other venues, and I now seek to expand my interest in the past by exploring imagined worlds and peoples, delving deeper into essential human themes.

The first 25 pages of my manuscript (prologue and first chapter) are available following my e-mail signature. I thank you for your time and consideration and look forward to hearing from you.

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Beethovenfan
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Re: Query: The Forest and the Sea

Post by Beethovenfan » July 18th, 2013, 11:22 pm

Hey, welcome to the forums! Aren't queries a booger? My advice to you is simple. Go see the Query Shark (aka Janet Reid). You will learn everything you need to know about how to write a fantastic query. She suggests (and so do I) to read ALL of the posts from the beginning. This will seem a daunting task, but really, do it. You will not regret it. Here's the link: http://queryshark.blogspot.com/
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

Skyless16
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Re: Query: The Forest and the Sea

Post by Skyless16 » August 9th, 2013, 11:23 pm

I completely agree and second what Beethovenfan said. Query Shark is very helpful. You should definitely read through the archives. Trust me, it's going to help a ton.

Literary Flamingo
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Re: Query: The Forest and the Sea

Post by Literary Flamingo » September 5th, 2013, 4:56 pm

This is my first critique, which I am in no way qualified to provide, so take it with a grain of salt. I have read through the Query Shark archives, though.

This is probably obsessive, but I would break the main query up into multiple, smaller paragraphs. That's just me. First off, the writing seems great and your grammar is sound, which is definitely a good thing. I also like the setting and the bit about being a historian seems to tie in alright. I think your big problem here is vagueness. There's a guy named Alex, he's in Mexico City, there's a girl named Lucia, and then an old guy shows up. I see a plot in here somewhere, but I'm not sure exactly what it is. Instead of telling me that the story is "both epic and intimate in scope", try to show me through your writing. Also, what choices does Alex have to make? More importantly, where is the conflict? It's a coming-of-age story so perhaps it's more along the lines of Alex vs. reality, but I think an agent wants more details. Finally, the old man doesn't make sense to me and he seems to come out of nowhere. If he's critical to the plot, he should probably be mentioned earlier. To end on a positive note, you avoided character soup pretty well. I know who the protagonist is, the supporting cast, and I've got a setting. I just think you should focus more on conveying the plot and the specific choices Alex faces.

Shawnald
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Re: Query: The Forest and the Sea

Post by Shawnald » December 17th, 2013, 12:24 pm

Yeah. What the other critiquers are politely telling you, Wilderness, is that this query is way out of phase with what agents are telling us they expect.

You really have to get the marketing/advertising diction out of this and just attach the agent's emotional commitment to the characters as efficiently as you would in your novel.

It's my opinion that your title is not compelling. It's very Terrance Malick.


I am seeking representation for my first novel, The Forest and the Sea, a completed 65,000-word coming-of-age story with a touch of of magical realism. Set amidst the frenetic backdrop of the 1986 World Cup and the lush rainforests of Mexico, The Forest and the Sea is a story of youth and possibility, of lost worlds and the clash of civilizations, and of loss and redemption. [This is query death. I'm sorry. You should not tell the agent how they are going to feel about your novel. Instead, use your pitch to make them feel.]

Both intimate and sweeping in its scope, [ibid] The Forest and the Sea unveils the journey of [Start here and lose everything in red.] Alex Marks, a college student from the United States who is visiting Mexico City during the summer of 1986. After attending a thrilling World Cup soccer match between England and Argentina, happenstance leads Alex meets Lucía, an enigmatic young woman who is struggling to deal with the loss of her mother, who died the previous year in an unfortunate national tragedy [please tell me that it wasn't a kiln explosion.] Lucía draws Alex slowly into her mysterious world, and as the two grow closer and eventually disappear deep into the rainforests of Veracruz, Alex is forced to confront history and destiny. After Alex and Lucía encounter an eccentric old man living in the dark recesses of the forest, they are transported through his alleged recollections of the past to the New World before the coming of Europeans. Alex does not yet realize who he is or was, and these revelations, revealed slowly through his journey of discovery, will cause him to question everything he knows and understands about his world. He will face many difficult choices as he moves from our world to one long past, and throughout his experiences must confront the often harsh realities of loyalty, love, and betrayal.

Drawn to the mysteries of the human experience from an early age, my training as a professional historian has provided me with an opportunity to explore the human condition to better understand how and why people interact with others and the world around them. My historical scholarship has been published in a variety of academic journals and other venues, and I now seek to expand my interest in the past by exploring imagined worlds and peoples, delving deeper into essential human themes.

I am a historian with published articles in Journal X, Journal Y, and Journal Z.

The first 25 pages of my manuscript (prologue and first chapter) are available following my e-mail signature. I thank you for your time and consideration and look forward to hearing from you.

Forever Wilderness
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Re: Query: The Forest and the Sea

Post by Forever Wilderness » June 6th, 2014, 6:40 pm

Revision:

I am seeking agency representation for The Forest and the Sea, a completed 65,000-word coming-of-age story with glimmers of magical realism.

A man awakes in the ocean without sight or memory, clinging desperately to a lone piece of driftwood. He is at once a traveler of the past and denizen of the present who must unknowingly make peace between two starkly different worlds, both old and new. But in this life, Alex Marks is a college student from the United States, visiting Mexico City during the summer of 1986. After attending a thrilling World Cup soccer match between England and Argentina, Alex meets Lucía, an enigmatic girl who is struggling to deal with the recent loss of her young mother. Attempting to escape her sorrow, Lucía draws Alex into her mysterious world, fleeing from the frenetic city and into the dark recesses of the Veracruz rainforest, where the contours of the present and past begin to blur. After Alex and Lucía encounter an eccentric old man who claims to be the lone survivor of a long-forgotten shipwreck four centuries past, Alex disappears from his present life and emerges in the New World in the days before the coming of Europeans. Alex does not yet realize who he is or was, and these revelations, revealed slowly through his journey of discovery, will cause him to question everything he knows and understands about his world.

The first ten pages of my manuscript are below. I thank you for your time and look forward to hearing from you.

GeniP
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Re: Query: The Forest and the Sea

Post by GeniP » June 28th, 2014, 3:25 pm

Hi Wilderness. Your story sounds like it has a lot of interesting layers, probably with great thanks to your background in history. I think the prior comments pointing to Query Shark are great suggestions, as was the redline. Your current query tells us about the story from a distance (i.e. it is a story that does x,y, & z). I think what you are trying to do is get to a place where your query simply tells us what happens to the characters (i.e. Alex has this crazy trip to Mexico and ends up in the past). In the revision, I'm lost by the contrast in the first two sentences. Is Alex the man on the driftwood or is it the old man in the forest? I think this is probably key, but the way it's laid out here is confusing. If Alex is your main character (even if by the end of the story we realize he isn't who we thought he was), starting and sticking with him is the way to go. Good luck!

tree
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Re: Query: The Forest and the Sea

Post by tree » July 11th, 2014, 2:53 pm

Hi there! Interesting story you've got there. I've got a few suggestions for you.

I am seeking agency representation for The Forest and the Sea, a completed 65,000-word coming-of-age story with glimmers of magical realism.

A man awakes in the ocean without sight or memory, clinging desperately to a lone piece of driftwood. He is at once a traveler of the past and denizen of the present who must unknowingly make peace between two starkly different worlds, both old and new. This reads well but it isn't a hook & tells us nothing about what this book is about.

To me, this transition from dreamy to down to earth was jarring.But in this life, Alex Marks is a college student from the United States, visiting Mexico City during the summer of 1986. After attending a thrilling World Cup soccer match between England and Argentina, Necessary? Details are good in a query, but the right details.

Alex meets Lucía, an enigmatic girl who is struggling to deal with the recent loss of her young mother. Attempting to escape her sorrow Better place for detail - I don't care who was playing in the World Cup but I'd like to know what unique sorrow Lucia is trying to escape from. As is it is vague to the point of cliché., Lucía draws Alex into her mysterious world, What is mysterious about her world?fleeing from the frenetic city and into the dark recesses of the Veracruz rainforest, where the contours of the present and past begin to blur. After Alex and Lucía encounter an eccentric old man who claims to be the lone survivor of a long-forgotten shipwreck four centuries past, Alex disappears from his present life and emerges in the New World in the days before the coming of Europeans. Alex does not yet realize who he is or was, and these revelations, revealed slowly through his journey of discovery, will cause him to question everything he knows and understands about his world.

The first ten pages of my manuscript are below. I thank you for your time and look forward to hearing from you.

General:

> White space! Many will be reading on mobile devises and a wall of text is off-putting.

> Clarify what happens. You can keep the dreamy tone - which I think is well done - and still give some specificity.

> The query shark formula works, especially if you can retain your voice: Who is your protagonist, what happens to disrupt his world, what does he want, who or what is stopping him from getting it, and what happens if he fails.

Hope this is helpful. Good luck!

longknife
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Re: Query: The Forest and the Sea

Post by longknife » July 12th, 2014, 8:15 pm

Literary Flamingo wrote:This is my first critique, which I am in no way qualified to provide, so take it with a grain of salt. I have read through the Query Shark archives, though.

This is probably obsessive, but I would break the main query up into multiple, smaller paragraphs. That's just me. First off, the writing seems great and your grammar is sound, which is definitely a good thing. I also like the setting and the bit about being a historian seems to tie in alright. I think your big problem here is vagueness. There's a guy named Alex, he's in Mexico City, there's a girl named Lucia, and then an old guy shows up. I see a plot in here somewhere, but I'm not sure exactly what it is. Instead of telling me that the story is "both epic and intimate in scope", try to show me through your writing. Also, what choices does Alex have to make? More importantly, where is the conflict? It's a coming-of-age story so perhaps it's more along the lines of Alex vs. reality, but I think an agent wants more details. Finally, the old man doesn't make sense to me and he seems to come out of nowhere. If he's critical to the plot, he should probably be mentioned earlier. To end on a positive note, you avoided character soup pretty well. I know who the protagonist is, the supporting cast, and I've got a setting. I just think you should focus more on conveying the plot and the specific choices Alex faces.
I agree with this.
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