QUERY: Shameless Acts of Grieving, Mainstream

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jessicatudor
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QUERY: Shameless Acts of Grieving, Mainstream

Post by jessicatudor » February 17th, 2010, 1:25 pm

Hello everyone! I'm new and I've begun contributing critiques of others' works and thought I'd offer one up myself. The novel is in revisions. I find writing my query helps me focus on what I want to do IN those revisions! (I like writing queries, though. I'm odd like that.)
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Dear Correctly-Spelled Agent Name:

/brief personalization/

Dolly Hill is the self-deluded matriarch of a disintegrating family. As a recent widow, she flounders to discover who she is without her husband, something she put off the fifty years they were married. Her grief threatens to destroy not only her, but her son and his wife who have taken her into their care. Their marriage is in ruins from her interference.

If Dolly could come to terms with what happened the day Mac died, she might stop the downward spiral and prove she hasn’t failed life, or at least keep her son’s marriage from ending because of her. As she struggles to reconcile that one day, she crosses activities off a list of things she would never have done while her husband lived, dragging her son and his wife after her on a hazardous road to healing.

Shameless Acts of Grieving, my mainstream novel, is complete at 70,000 words. I have a B.A. in English/creative writing from Eastern University and Drollerie Press released my short story, “The Blood Myth,” in the anthology Straying from the Path.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,
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Question: I thought about including this sentence after my word count: "It might appeal to fans of Joshilyn Jackson's The Girl Who Stopped Swimming or Patry Francis's The Liar's Diary.' I decided against it because I wasn't sure the agents would know those books, and as those have a somewhat more mystery element to them than mine, it might not be as effective as I'd like. Both feature a 'what did happen that day?' element being key to the book's conclusion, like mine, but mine is not a mystery. Thoughts on including the sentence?
'The world is but canvas to our imaginations.' - Thoreau

cjtrapp
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Re: QUERY: Shameless Acts of Grieving, Mainstream

Post by cjtrapp » February 17th, 2010, 1:56 pm

I really like your title -- its a hook unto itself.

But the query leaves me thinking that Dolly is a drag and a weakling. I doubt this is the case in the story. If it is, then fine, but it may be a tough sell as a story.

We need to like her, even if she is going through a rough patch.

Was she always self-deluded and now comes into her own because of the death? Her grief would be very normal, and would not likely cause so much trouble in and of itself (unless her son and wife are selfish dolts, or the grieving went on for an unreasonable length of time). Did her interference start after the death or was it common before?

I am sure all of these are answered in the book, and I get a sense from the last line that healing does occur. Give us the heart of the story. Set the stage, place the players on the stage, present the problem and give a taste of the resolution.

As for your final question, all agents are different. Generally you won't hurt yourself comparing provided you don't include obscure titles to appear smartish (agents are savvy pros, and will sniff this out right away), or declare your book to be the next Twilight or Harry Potter.

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theWallflower
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Re: QUERY: Shameless Acts of Grieving, Mainstream

Post by theWallflower » February 17th, 2010, 4:18 pm

Dolly Hill is the self-deluded matriarch of a disintegrating family. As a recent widow, she flounders to discover who she is without her husband, something she put off the fifty years they were married. Her grief threatens to destroy not only her, but her son and his wife who have taken her into their care. Their marriage is in ruins from her interference.
-How is she self-deluded? Cut that part
-That second sentence is awkward. I don't like the word "flounders", and you don't "put off" discovering who she is.
-You need to show, not tell. Give some examples of how Dolly's screwing up, especially something she does that puts her son's marriage at jeopardy
If Dolly could come to terms with what happened the day Mac died, she might stop the downward spiral and prove she hasn’t failed life, or at least keep her son’s marriage from ending because of her. As she struggles to reconcile that one day, she crosses activities off a list of things she would never have done while her husband lived, dragging her son and his wife after her on a hazardous road to healing.
-This is the beginning of the story, and belongs higher up. Kill the first sentence. Also, you've stolen your idea from "The Bucket List". Well, not stolen, but the story is very similar, which means it's going to be a hard sell.
-What motivates her to start the list? What's the inciting incident?
-What activities does she do? Is the whole novel just a bunch of chapters of her bungee jumping or running with the bulls? What's the overall storyline? It can't be about "self-discovery". That's a premise, not a story.
-And also, why are her son and wife dragged along? What happens to them?
Shameless Acts of Grieving, my mainstream novel, is complete at 70,000 words. I have a B.A. in English/creative writing from Eastern University and Drollerie Press released my short story, “The Blood Myth,” in the anthology Straying from the Path.
-No italics. Put your book title in all caps. Put anthologies in quotes
-You suffer from a problem of telling not showing. I know who the protagonist is, but I don't know what the conflict is she faces, or what she's going to do about. What is the story about? What sorts of things does she do throughout the book? You have a premise, but not a plot.
Question: I thought about including this sentence after my word count: "It might appeal to fans of Joshilyn Jackson's The Girl Who Stopped Swimming or Patry Francis's The Liar's Diary.' I decided against it because I wasn't sure the agents would know those books, and as those have a somewhat more mystery element to them than mine, it might not be as effective as I'd like. Both feature a 'what did happen that day?' element being key to the book's conclusion, like mine, but mine is not a mystery. Thoughts on including the sentence?
Your instincts are correct. Don't include other books your book is like unless the agent requests such a thing. The agent is either not going to know the books, or isn't going to care.
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jessicatudor
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Re: QUERY: Shameless Acts of Grieving, Mainstream

Post by jessicatudor » February 19th, 2010, 12:03 pm

Thanks, everyone.
'The world is but canvas to our imaginations.' - Thoreau

GeeGee55
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Re: QUERY: Shameless Acts of Grieving, Mainstream

Post by GeeGee55 » February 19th, 2010, 11:35 pm

I will disagree with something that CJTrapp said. We do not have to like Dolly we only have to find her interesting. And I think she could be very interesting. What this query needs I think is more specific detail about how Dolly interferes with her son's marriage once she becomes a widow and what the things are that she drags her son and daughter-in-law into that causes further friction. I think you are a good writer and you can do this. It is indeed odd to enjoy writing queries!

cjtrapp
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Re: QUERY: Shameless Acts of Grieving, Mainstream

Post by cjtrapp » February 20th, 2010, 2:59 pm

Agree, it is probably better put that way. I meant "like" from a reader's standpoint, not that she needs to be a likeable person (think hannibal lechter). However, she can't be weak, either, unless she starts there and gets stronger as a result of her struggle. Show us a glimpse of her transformation.

BAL
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Re: QUERY: Shameless Acts of Grieving, Mainstream

Post by BAL » February 22nd, 2010, 12:48 pm

First off thanks for your comments to my query and second I like the sound of your book it sounds intriguing. I agree with most but not all of the comments. I wish I could add more advice but I'm very new at this myself and your query is way better then mine to begin with. Good luck though and keep up the good work.

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