Looking for Honest Feedback

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Kristina
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Looking for Honest Feedback

Post by Kristina » March 24th, 2013, 5:42 pm

I have worked very hard on my book. I have polished and re-polished. I am finally ready to start sending out my query letters. However, I want that to be as well written as possible. I am struggling with the debate as to how much information about my life I should include. I want to express just how vast the experiences I have had are; but I don't want to overwhelm the reader. Please give me honest feedback. I take criticism well and I attempt to use it as a means to progress my work.


Dear Mr. Ginsberg,

I am excited to be submitting my novel to you because it is similar to
Po Bronson’s WHAT SHOULD I DO WITH MY LIFE? Since you represented this
brilliant book,I am hoping you will love my book, entitled MY STORY WITH
COMPLETE HONESTY.

Just as the title suggests; this book is a completely honest and uncensored
account of my life. These 80,000 words tell the compelling, slightly humorous and
emotional journey that I have personally gone through in order to better understand
who I am and ultimate find peace. My life has proven to be “stranger than fiction”
and no part of my story has been embellished or diminished. There was no need to
do more than tell the truth.

I was born into poverty. My mother was from a family of religious extremists and she married
an abusive, alcoholic man. She eventually left my father and married a wealthy man. We ascended
from extreme poverty to wealth. My new father was a workaholic and moved our family all across
the USA. I observed many contrasting worlds and found inconsistency in each society. At one of the
Catholic schools we attended, my older brother was molested by the priest.

I managed to become close with a girl (in one of my passing schools) named Sara. She confided in
me that her older brother had molested her. I was a child, but I helped her as best I could. I found
myself in Europe. When I returned to Ohio, I fell in love. Meanwhile, my older brother got addicted to
drugs. Before I got married, Sara confessed to me that she was gay and in love with me. I got married
anyways. My husband and I had a son. I started college and became bulimic. My husband and I had another
son, and I came to grips with my bulimia. My parents got divorced and my father remarried an extremely
young girl. My mother married a transgender man. We had a third son and he was diagnosed with
Leukemia. While our whole world was falling apart, my older brother came to us because he was running
from the cops. I made the very emotional choice to turn my brother over to the police. (And inhale)

Most people’s lives slowly evolve and transcend into different shades. Mine is blocked
into contrasting colors; like a Piet Mondrian painting. I feel as though I have lived many
different lives inside my own. Each wedge contributes to different parts of my personality.
I have worked hard to accomplish the dexterity to be honest with myself and about my life. The ability to
look at my world and improve upon my own flaws has helped me to find inner peace even though there is
obviously much that I cannot control outside of myself. I have included a small excerpt from my novel and
I hope to have the ability to share the full journey with you.

Thank You,
Kristina

( I plan on providing the first five pages of my book along with this query)
* I apologize to anyone that already read this in the "query" section. I haven't gotten any feedback yet, and I thought moving it might help. I appreciate you taking the time to read my babel.

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abc
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Re: Looking for Honest Feedback

Post by abc » April 4th, 2013, 11:12 am

Kristina, thanks for sharing. This is quite the life you have lead!

I like your opening, but I think you need to punch up the whole thing. Make is snappier. As it reads, you basically just list things that happened to you. I think the agent wants to get a feel for how you are going to tell your story so I would tell it. Does that make sense?

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Kristina
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Re: Looking for Honest Feedback

Post by Kristina » April 4th, 2013, 4:23 pm

Yes it does, and I completely agree. Thank you so much for your feedback!!

Doug Pardee
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Re: Looking for Honest Feedback

Post by Doug Pardee » April 4th, 2013, 6:43 pm

You asked for honesty. I intend the following as constructive feedback, although I'm afraid that my writing tone tends to come off a bit harsh. Please try to look beyond that.

First, more than once you say that this is a novel. A novel is a work of fiction. From everything else you say, this sounds like a memoir. My comments below are based on the assumption that it is indeed a memoir and not a novel.

This query didn't strike me as anything special. You were born, a bunch of things happened, and you wrote this book about it. There is very little of you in there. You made a friend, you fell in love, you got married, you had children. You went to college, and you came to grips with bulimia. Only the part about turning your brother over to the police shows you doing anything out of the ordinary.

And yes, I'm saying that — as memoirs go — bulimia isn't really out of the ordinary. In My Ignorant Opinion. ;)

The paragraph that starts "Just as the title suggests" is extremely generic. It could apply to almost any memoir ever written. The closing paragraph is pretty generic, too. I don't think that either of these paragraphs are necessary, and I think they're hurting your query. I'd suggest you pretty much dump them.

Anyway, here's the thing. You're billing this book as being "with complete honesty," which I interpreted to mean "in complete candor." But this query is the opposite of candid. It's a screen that hides away everything you might have felt, everything you might have thought, and almost everything you might have done. It presents you sometimes as a disinterested observer and sometimes as a victim, but almost never as the hero of your own life. In addition, the only personal flaw it admits to is bulimia.

There's also no sex. :o

If this is a memoir where you truly have "put yourself out there," then do the same in your query. Make the query as intimate an exposure of yourself as your book is.

And — In My Ignorant Opinion — you don't need to put everything in the query. All you're trying to do is to pique the agent's curiosity enough to want to read your partial.

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Kristina
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Re: Looking for Honest Feedback

Post by Kristina » April 5th, 2013, 5:48 pm

Thank you for your feedback. I did in no way take it as harsh. I appreciate the constructive criticism. You were right. In my memoir, ;) I do dive heavily into each major event in my life and how it helped to shape me. That of course does include the process of coming to grips and enjoying my own sexuality. I agree that is also an essential part of a memoir that claims to be “completely honest”. However, I have really struggled with this query and I suppose that shows. The most devastating event in my life was when my son was diagnosed with Leukemia. I don’t want my book to come across to an agent as a “cancer book” or a “bulimia book”. I am proud of my book. I have taken the time to really reflect on the hardships in my life, the emotional journey and yes, my own flaws. I am still struggling with the daunting task of trying to represent all I have to say in one small page. However, I am sure your feedback will help me to eventually find the balance.

longknife
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Re: Looking for Honest Feedback

Post by longknife » April 6th, 2013, 7:13 pm

I think that, if you really want to interest an agent, your memoirs must focus on WHAT YOU LEARNED THAT CAN HELP OTHERS!

That's what publishers are looking for. Not just a generic tale of the difficulties in your life.

How did you cope with an abusive father? How can that help others.

So, you went from poverty to plenty - how did that affect you and what did it take to adjust? Were there problems?

How did you learn of your brother's molestation? What did it do to him and how did YOU deal with it?

I hope you see where I'm going with this. People want to read of how you overcame life's hurdles so they can do the same themselves.
Drop by Father Serra's Legacy http://msgdaleday.blogspot.com. Comments always eagerly awaited - but only if you find the item interesting enough to respond to.

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