Query: VALENTINE, New Revision & stuff

Share your blood sweat tears query for feedback and lend your hard-won expertise to others
User avatar
rainbowsheeps
Posts: 72
Joined: April 4th, 2010, 8:53 pm
Location: new york.
Contact:

Query: VALENTINE, New Revision & stuff

Post by rainbowsheeps » April 9th, 2010, 6:32 pm

* NEW VERSION ON THIRD PAGE!

So, this is mine. Any feedback is greatly appreciated. And thank you!

Dear Specific Agent,

Nineteen-year-old Adam has just failed a suicide attempt. His five-year-old sister, Evelyn, saw him bleeding on the floor pressing a gun to his head. Every night, Adam tucks her into bed and hopes to find a way to make it up to her. His one real chance could be Richard White, a young and compassionate psychologist, but their prepaid appointments are running out fast.

In the waiting room one day, Adam meets the strange young love of his life in Cherith, a teenage punk girl. But just as he first finds true happiness, he learns she's been diagnosed with cancer. Suddenly, he's haunted by vivid nightmares. Her condition declines, and Adam's dreams change along with her. Every time he closes his eyes, he sees a crow carrying a beating human heart in it beak, or the violet skies and red grass blades of what could be heaven. The visions begin to seep into real life, and Adam is torn between dreams and reality. All he wants is to win back Evelyn's trust and keep a promise he made to Cherith on Valentine's night: that nothing, not even death, can keep them from being together. He just may find his dreams are exactly what he needs to keep his promise.

VALENTINE is a work of literary fiction of approximately 100,000 words. [Specific agent information omitted.]

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,
[redacted]
Last edited by rainbowsheeps on May 6th, 2010, 9:01 pm, edited 3 times in total.

BethC
Posts: 46
Joined: April 5th, 2010, 10:28 pm
Contact:

Re: Query: VALENTINE

Post by BethC » April 10th, 2010, 11:29 am

rainbowsheeps wrote:So, this is mine. Any feedback is greatly appreciated. And thank you!

Dear Specific Agent,

Nineteen-year-old Adam has just failed a suicide attempt. His five-year-old sister, Evelyn, saw him bleeding on the floor pressing a gun to his head. Every night, Adam tucks her into bed and hopes to find a way to make it up to her. His one real chance could be Richard White, a young and compassionate psychologist, but their prepaid appointments are running out fast.maybe Evelyn discovered him...saw just seems like she walked by and noticed to me. did he shoot himself? I guess I was confused...he was bleeding but still holding a gun to his head..

In the waiting room one day, Adam meets the strange young love of his life in Cherith, a teenage punk girl. But just as he first finds true happiness, he learns she's been diagnosed with cancer. Suddenly, he's haunted by vivid nightmares. Her condition declines, and Adam's dreams change along with her. Every time he closes his eyes, he sees a crow carrying a beating human heart in it beak, or the violet skies and red grass blades of what could be heaven. The visions begin to seep into real life, and Adam is torn between dreams and reality. All he wants is to win back Evelyn's trust and keep a promise he made to Cherith on Valentine's night: that nothing, not even death, can keep them from being together. He just may find his dreams are exactly what he needs to keep his promise.

I'm still confused. I would like to hear more about their relationship...meets her in a waiting room and...how is the relationship established? and I'm intrigued...how is he going to win his sister's trust and keep a promise to Cherith (by the way...love the name) by not letting death keep them apart??

VALENTINE is a work of literary fiction of approximately 100,000 words. [Specific agent information omitted.]

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,
[redacted]
I am probably the last person that needs to offer help as I am struggling with my own query, but these are just some questions that came to mind. I'd like to hear more.

notw
Posts: 79
Joined: January 7th, 2010, 4:36 pm
Contact:

Re: Query: VALENTINE

Post by notw » April 11th, 2010, 6:48 pm

rainbowsheeps wrote:So, this is mine. Any feedback is greatly appreciated. And thank you!

Dear Specific Agent,

Nineteen-year-old Adam has just failed a suicide attempt. His five-year-old sister, Evelyn, saw him bleeding on the floor pressing a gun to his head. Every night, Adam tucks her into bed and hopes to find a way to make it up to her. His one real chance could be Richard White, a young and compassionate psychologist, but their prepaid appointments are running out fast.

Slightly confused here also with the suicide attempt.

In the waiting room one day, Adam meets the strange young love of his life in Cherith, a teenage punk girl. But just as he first finds true happiness, he learns she's been diagnosed with cancer. Suddenly, he's haunted by vivid nightmares. Her condition declines, and Adam's dreams change along with her. Every time he closes his eyes, he sees a crow carrying a beating human heart in it beak, or the violet skies and red grass blades of what could be heaven. The visions begin to seep into real life, and Adam is torn between dreams and reality. All he wants is to win back Evelyn's trust and keep a promise he made to Cherith on Valentine's night: that nothing, not even death, can keep them from being together. He just may find his dreams are exactly what he needs to keep his promise.

Maybe it is just me but I was a little confused with why the two examples of dreams you gave are important.

VALENTINE is a work of literary fiction of approximately 100,000 words. [Specific agent information omitted.]

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,
[redacted]
I think you have a very intriguing story here. I am already interested in how things will turn out between Adam and his sister. Looking forward to reading your next draft. :)

User avatar
Holly
Posts: 500
Joined: December 21st, 2009, 9:42 pm
Location: Gettysburg, PA
Contact:

Re: Query: VALENTINE

Post by Holly » April 11th, 2010, 7:20 pm

rainbowsheeps wrote:So, this is mine. Any feedback is greatly appreciated. And thank you!

Dear Specific Agent,

Nineteen-year-old Adam has just failed a suicide attempt. His five-year-old sister, Evelyn, saw him bleeding on the floor pressing a gun to his head. Every night, Adam tucks her into bed and hopes to find a way to make it up to her. His one real chance could be Richard White, a young and compassionate psychologist, but their prepaid appointments are running out fast.

In the waiting room one day, Adam meets the strange young love of his life in Cherith, a teenage punk girl. But just as he first finds true happiness, he learns she's been diagnosed with cancer. Suddenly, he's haunted by vivid nightmares. Her condition declines, and Adam's dreams change along with her. Every time he closes his eyes, he sees a crow carrying a beating human heart in it (its) beak, or the violet skies and red grass blades of what could be heaven. The visions begin to seep into real life, and Adam is torn between dreams and reality. All he wants is to win back Evelyn's trust and keep a promise he made to Cherith on Valentine's night: that nothing, not even death, can keep them from being together. (Unfortunately, this doesn't happen when someone has incurable cancer. You both have to accept that you will lose each other, that we are all temporary visitors here on Earth, and nothing is forever. I lost someone I loved to cancer, so this strikes me as a fundamental wrong note -- unless there is some other way you are going to pull this off and you haven't explained it.) He just may find his dreams are exactly what he needs to keep his promise.

VALENTINE is a work of literary fiction of approximately 100,000 words. [Specific agent information omitted.]

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,
[redacted]

GeeGee55
Posts: 173
Joined: February 19th, 2010, 11:01 pm
Contact:

Re: Query: VALENTINE

Post by GeeGee55 » April 11th, 2010, 7:53 pm

This is so very difficult isn't it? Getting the story down to its essence. I feel you leave me to guess at some things that are important. I'm not expert, haven't gotten a positive response to my query yet, but here's my impression. Hope it helps:
rainbowsheeps wrote:So, this is mine. Any feedback is greatly appreciated. And thank you!

Dear Specific Agent,

Nineteen-year-old Adam has just failed at a suicide attempt. His five-year-old sister, Evelyn, saw him bleeding on the floor pressing a gun to his head Perhaps instead - Feeling guilty that his little sister witnessed the whole event, Adam tucks her into bed and hopes to find a way to make it up to her. His one real chance to do what? could be Richard White, a young and compassionate psychologist, but their prepaid appointments makes me wonder prepaid by whom - are running out fast.

In the waiting room one day, Adam meets the strange young love of his life in - I'd omit this phrase, just say he meets her at this point Cherith, a teenage punk girl. But just as he perhaps begins to fall in love with her first finds true happiness, he learns she's been diagnosed with cancer. Suddenly, he's haunted by vivid nightmares. Her condition declines, and Adam's dreams change along with her.- I'd omit this, flows better without Every time he closes his eyes, he sees a crow carrying a beating human heart in it beak, or the violet skies and red grass blades of what could be heaven. The visions begin to seep into real life, and Adam is torn between dreams and reality. All he wants is to win back Evelyn's trust and keep a promise he made to Cherith on Valentine's night: that nothing, not even death, can keep them from being together. He just may find his dreams are exactly what he needs to keep his promise.

VALENTINE is a work of literary fiction of approximately 100,000 words. [Specific agent information omitted.]

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,
[redacted]
Sorry, no time to finish. Family want supper. The only way I can think that death won't part them is if he joins her - and he has a history of suicide. That's kind of a downer. Don't quite get the part of how dreams will help him keep his promise. Good luck with it.

User avatar
JustineDell
Posts: 293
Joined: January 15th, 2010, 11:38 am
Location: Indiana
Contact:

Re: Query: VALENTINE

Post by JustineDell » April 11th, 2010, 8:31 pm

rainbowsheeps wrote:
I read through it once first, and found myself asking more questions than necessary. And not the good kind. The kind that make me wonder how we got from point A to point C and skipped B. You know? I think you've got a VERY good story here, but I can't really tell what the story is because the query is really vague. I've offered some advice, not that I totally know what I'm talking about either.

Dear Specific Agent,

Nineteen-year-old Adam has just failed a suicide attempt. His five-year-old sister, Evelyn, saw him bleeding on the floor pressing a gun to his head. Every night, Adam tucks her into bed and hopes to find a way to make it up to her. His one real chance could be Richard White, a young and compassionate psychologist, but their prepaid appointments are running out fast. The first sentence can be made shorter. And what does the psychologist have to do with the story as a whole? I ask because this is the only place in the entire query they are mentioned. Yet, you say he is "the one real chance" of making up the suicide attempt to his sister.

Suggestion:
Nineteen-year-old Adam attempted suicide, but failed . His five-year-old sister, Evelyn found him bleeding on the floor, gun in hand, and saved his life. Now he must make it up to her.


What is the connection between his sister saving him and him making it up to her, and Cherith? Because, again, you don't mention the Evelyn anymore in the query (except near the end when mentioned gaining back her trust again). I get the fact that he met her in the office of the psychologist. I think you used that as plot device to get the two together in the story, but I don't see where that particular information fits in the query. Unless of course, there's something about the psychologist that we aren't be told here. So far, it looks like there is no bridge between everything.

In the waiting room one day, Adam meets the strange young love of his life in Cherith, a teenage punk girl. But just as he first finds true happiness, he learns she's been diagnosed with cancer. Suddenly, he's haunted by vivid nightmares. Her condition declines, and Adam's dreams change along with her. Every time he closes his eyes, he sees a crow carrying a beating human heart in it beak, or the violet skies and red grass blades of what could be heaven. The visions begin to seep into real life, and Adam is torn between dreams and reality. All he wants is to win back Evelyn's trust and keep a promise he made to Cherith on Valentine's night: that nothing, not even death, can keep them from being together. He just may find his dreams are exactly what he needs to keep his promise.

Is this one of those rips your heart out type stories? Gah! Sad stories make me sad. ;-) Okay, the second paragraph is kind of confusing. And, it's pretty vague. What do the nightmares have to do with Adam and Cherith? How do the visions "seep" into real life? How is Adam "torn between dreams and reality"? And, how do dreams help him keep his promise? I think I see where you are going, but I think we needs more specifics. Angd again, how does his sister and his attempted suicide fit into the picture?

Suggestion: (and this is me totally making up some details because I don't know what the specifics are to your story. Hopefully you get the idea)

When Adam meets Cherith, a young cancer patient, his priorities change. Not only does he have to rebuild trust with his sister, but he must follow his heart. Cherith is his lifes one true love (cliche here, but you can come up something). As Cheriths condition worsens, vivid nightmares haunt Adam. Every time he closes his eyes, he sees a crow carrying a beating human heart in its beak, or the violet skies and red grass blades of what could be heaven. The worse Cheriths gets, the more realistic the dreams. To Adam's surprise, the dreams start becoming a reality.

Cheriths grows worse and Adam makes her a promise: nothing, not even death, will keep them apart. Now Adam must continue rebuildilng the path of trust with his sister, and make sure he keeps the promise to his one true love.


Okay, so it's not the greatest and I've left out some details too, but hopefully you can see what I tried to do? Or, maybe not. Maybe you should just print out this page an burn it. I won't be offended. It's difficult to write a query as it is to critique one, I think anyway.

Like I said before. I think you've really got an interesting story here, I would just like to see more of the story. The conflicts, what Adam has to face in order to get from A to C (don't leave out the B!)

Good luck!

~JD


VALENTINE is a work of literary fiction of approximately 100,000 words. [Specific agent information omitted.]

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,
[redacted]

http://www.justine-dell.blogspot.com/

"Three things in life that, once gone, never return; Time, Words, & Opportunity"

User avatar
rainbowsheeps
Posts: 72
Joined: April 4th, 2010, 8:53 pm
Location: new york.
Contact:

Re: Query: VALENTINE

Post by rainbowsheeps » April 11th, 2010, 10:03 pm

To all of you: Thanks for the feedback :) I really, really appreciate it.

BethC: I didn't even realize how confusing the description of the suicide attempt and his sister finding him is. I knew I probably couldn't really fit the entire event into the story... he shoots himself but doesn't die, so he tries to shoot again to finish it but his sister walks in, so he stops. I tried to shorthand the description but didn't realize the problem it created. I'm not sure I ever would have noticed that without a second pair of eyes. Thanks :P

notw: Ditto on the suicide attempt explanation. I'm not sure the examples of the dreams are important to the plot, but I thought it might make sense to give the reader an idea of what the dreams are like that are being described. I'm not sure how necessary it is, exactly, but I thought the reader might want a sense of what to expect of them. If that makes sense?

Holly: First, I apologize for your loss. As far as the "wrong note" you mentioned... believe me, I sympathize. I don't think I can explain why I feel this story isn't offensive to people who've lost someone without describing a number of details about the story and the ending that I'd rather not get into. What I did want to say, though, is that the query is written to follow the beliefs and expectations of the main character Adam, and I'm trying to follow the reasoning of someone who believes his love for her can somehow save them from this, when his beliefs might or might not be true in the end. Your mentioning of the plot striking a wrong note definitely concerns me though. I know the pain of losing someone. My best friend died of a terminal illness when he was 17. I think I'm hoping that the reader of this query will at least find the conflict and plot appealing enough to read the whole story, that doesn't necessarily always agree with the main character. Mostly, I just wanted to set up the protagonist's goal and what's at stake, which maybe explains it some? Regardless, I hope it didn't offend you.

GeeGee55: Haha, you pointed out all the things I was thinking might be a problem, but I posted the query anyway to see if maybe it wasn't a problem like I thought it might be. Anyway, I was trying to say that Richard White, the psychologist, was his one real chance to win back the trust of his sister through their appointments, but I realize it maybe wasn't tied together or clear.

JustineDell: I'll respond in a new reply.

Thank you all again for your feedback :)
Last edited by rainbowsheeps on April 12th, 2010, 4:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
rainbowsheeps
Posts: 72
Joined: April 4th, 2010, 8:53 pm
Location: new york.
Contact:

Re: Query: VALENTINE

Post by rainbowsheeps » April 11th, 2010, 10:21 pm

JustineDell: Thank you so much! It's clear you put a lot of thought into this. And don't worry, I never burn good suggestions or critiques :P

I think I understand what you're saying. The first paragraph is about his suicide attempt, the guilt and goal of helping Evelyn. The second paragraph is all about Cherith, and how he wants to save her. But the two don't seem connected. I think that's what you mean?

Haha, I think, in all my ambition to strip the whole story down, I might have boiled too much away in the query :( I don't think the story with Evelyn and Cherith are directly connected. One basically is about the damage his suicide attempt left behind, and his subsequent desire to make up for it. The other is about learning to appreciate the value of human life, I think. He chose to throw his away, but she chooses to enjoy every minute, because her time is limited. If I'm going to directly connect his two goals (win back his sister's trust and "save" his girlfriend), I think I see what you're saying. Tie it together with something else, like the fact both of these goals are part of his drive to become a better person who appreciates life, etc.

It's difficult because, unlike in genre fiction I think, these things aren't directly linked with plot, like through a conspiracy or a quest or anything, they're only connected through theme. And I don't think discussions of theme read as compelling in queries :/ I tried to just follow Adam's basic story and belief, what happened, what he wants, but I understand that basically just opens up a world of (bad) questions when these things don't appear to be connected.

The dreams are a whole other problem, unfortunately. They're meant to be metaphorical for the conflicts in his life, but the aspect of *heaven* in one of the dreams described is supposed to be significant to his believing they might be the answer to his promise of being with Cherith forever. Haha, I was hoping the questions the reader asks about the dreams and how they could possibly help with Cherith's situation would be compelling, not frustrating, but I suppose they need some work, too.

I'll definitely try some new things out in the next revision of the query to see if I can connect the threads a little better to make it compelling rather than incoherent. Thanks again for your feedback :P I really appreciate the thought and effort you clearly put into it.

KappaP
Posts: 58
Joined: December 9th, 2009, 12:44 pm
Location: Macedonia
Contact:

Re: Query: VALENTINE

Post by KappaP » April 12th, 2010, 3:32 am

It's difficult because, unlike in genre fiction I think, these things aren't directly linked with plot, like through a conspiracy or a quest or anything, they're only connected through theme.

Whew! Do I ever know what you mean... literary fiction is god-awful to write queries for. When I posted my query here, I got a lot of the same suggestions asking for "plot plot plot" but also a lot of questions saying "tell us what makes this different." Which of course is the theme and NOT the plot. What I did, though, ended up working out well, so I'll pass it on.

Basically, I mapped out two things: "Material plot" and "Thematic plot." Going on what your query gives us, it would look something like this:

(1) Adam attempts suicide --> (2) Falls in love with cancer patient, Charith --> (3) Her death gets closer (put his dreams in here if they directly relate to the plot... if they are a way for him to understand her impending death, etc) --> (4)CONSEQUENCE (I don't know what this is-- but what are the results? Generally speaking, without giving the ending away. "Adam believes he finds a way to save Cherith using his dreams?)

Then do it for Adam. From what you mention in your reply to JustineDell, it seems like his quest is related to his discovery of the value of human life. Map it out the same way, but try and do it in relation to the events above. Where was he on the thematic arc at point (1)? (2)? (3)? Delve into character here-- tell us what his mindset is, etc. Give them numbers as well.

Then ask the age old questions: Who is it? (Adam) What choice does he have to make? And what are the consequences? I found that the (who) and (what choice) questions were already answered mapping out the thematic arc, so I just gave those the same numbers, and I saw that real CONSEQUENCE was what I kept leaving out of my query.

So you have 1-4 MATERIAL plot points mapped out, 1-4 character plots and you've answered the who/choice/consequence questions. Now sit down and order those numbers in the logical way-- how do you have to encounter each of those crucial facts in order to give them the most punch?

For yours it may look something like this:

(1) Adam attempts suicide --> (5) Showing Adam at the beginning of his arc-- his disregard for life --> (2) He meets Cherith --> (6) When he meets Cherith, he sees how she takes advantage of every moment of life (since she'll soon lose it) and decides to learn from her. (7) As they fall further in love, Adam begins to find X and Y in life and transform as a character. (3) As her death gets closer, Adam begins to have dreams that show him A and B about life and death. (What choice does he have to make) Adam must keep the promise he made to Cherith on Valentines night: that nothing, not even death can keep them apart. (What are the consequences) ___________________

I don't know enough about your story to make this work right now, but I found it was a very effective way to get across both the PLOT everyone wanted and the CHARACTER that I felt was necessary. More than likely, your theme content is what makes your story pop-- so its important to really delve into that without making your story totally ambiguous.

I hope this helps-- I'm interested to hear a revision, this sounds really interesting. Also, this is just a side note-- but I like you description that the story is coming from Adam's belief system which HE believes is right, but isn't always. I would find a way to hint to that in the query. That's a fantastic source of tension between the reader and the character that I think would really enhance your pitch if you can pull it off in such a short space.

Good luck!
www.patchesandsara.blogspot.com

Not a writing blog... at all.

stardog911
Posts: 35
Joined: February 11th, 2010, 8:43 pm
Contact:

Re: Query: VALENTINE

Post by stardog911 » April 12th, 2010, 9:51 am

rainbow,
if the sister is a major player in the book, maybe up the stakes as to her part. eg. Nineteen year-old Adam owes his sister. Big time. The five year-old saved his life when she found him lying in a pool of blood after he tried to commit suicide. He swore he'd make it up to her!


Something like that. Not that I'm a pro or anything. I'm struggling with my own query. :) If there's anything I've learned from all the feed back I've gotten though, you have to make them care about your MC and your story.
Good Luck!

stardog911
Posts: 35
Joined: February 11th, 2010, 8:43 pm
Contact:

Re: Query: VALENTINE

Post by stardog911 » April 12th, 2010, 9:52 am

P.S.please feel free to shred my own query! :)

User avatar
JustineDell
Posts: 293
Joined: January 15th, 2010, 11:38 am
Location: Indiana
Contact:

Re: Query: VALENTINE

Post by JustineDell » April 12th, 2010, 2:09 pm

rainbowsheeps wrote:JustineDell: Thank you so much! It's clear you put a lot of thought into this. And don't worry, I never burn good suggestions or critiques :P

I think I understand what you're saying. The first paragraph is about his suicide attempt, the guilt and goal of helping Evelyn. The second paragraph is all about Cherith, and how he wants to save her. But the two don't seem connected. I think that's what you mean?

Haha, I think, in all my ambition to strip the whole story down, I might have boiled too much away in the query :( I don't think the story with Evelyn and Cherith are directly connected. One basically is about the damage his suicide attempt left behind, and his subsequent desire to make up for it. The other is about learning to appreciate the value of human life, I think. He chose to throw his away, but she chooses to enjoy every minute, because her time is limited. If I'm going to directly connect his two goals (win back his sister's trust and "save" his girlfriend), I think I see what you're saying. Tie it together with something else, like the fact both of these goals are part of his drive to become a better person who appreciates life, etc.

It's difficult because, unlike in genre fiction I think, these things aren't directly linked with plot, like through a conspiracy or a quest or anything, they're only connected through theme. And I don't think discussions of theme read as compelling in queries :/ I tried to just follow Adam's basic story and belief, what happened, what he wants, but I understand that basically just opens up a world of (bad) questions when these things don't appear to be connected.

The dreams are a whole other problem, unfortunately. They're meant to be metaphorical for the conflicts in his life, but the aspect of *heaven* in one of the dreams described is supposed to be significant to his believing they might be the answer to his promise of being with Cherith forever. Haha, I was hoping the questions the reader asks about the dreams and how they could possibly help with Cherith's situation would be compelling, not frustrating, but I suppose they need some work, too.

I'll definitely try some new things out in the next revision of the query to see if I can connect the threads a little better to make it compelling rather than incoherent. Thanks again for your feedback :P I really appreciate the thought and effort you clearly put into it.
Yes! That's exactly what I mean. Now, I realize this is literary fiction and I should have pointed out that when comes to query for literary fiction, I'm a little...err - okay A LOT out of my element. I'm sorry I didn't point that out before. Hopefull the other poster who mentioned literary queries can be of more help. Good luck on the revisions!
~JD

http://www.justine-dell.blogspot.com/

"Three things in life that, once gone, never return; Time, Words, & Opportunity"

User avatar
rainbowsheeps
Posts: 72
Joined: April 4th, 2010, 8:53 pm
Location: new york.
Contact:

Re: Query: VALENTINE

Post by rainbowsheeps » April 17th, 2010, 7:33 pm

Again, any new comments, criticisms or suggestions are appreciated. Thank you.

NEWEST VERSION:

Dear Specific Agent,

Nineteen-year-old Adam failed a suicide attempt. His five-year-old sister, Evelyn, found him bleeding on the floor. Every night, Adam tucks her into bed and hopes to find a way to make it up to her. His only chance might be Richard White, a young and compassionate psychologist, but their prepaid appointments are running out fast.

In the waiting room one day, Adam meets the strange young love of his life in Cherith, a teenage punk girl. But just as he first finds true happiness, Adam learns she has cancer. He promises to stay with her, but suddenly he's haunted by vivid nightmares. Forced to replay his suicide attempt again and again, he becomes afraid to sleep. Richard believes the dreams are a manifestation of his guilt, but Adam is already trying harder than ever to win back Evelyn's trust.

When Cherith collapses on Valentine's night, Adam's dreams change from death and decay to the radiant beauty of a carnival made completely of light, or the violet skies and red grass blades of what he believes is heaven. Soon, his visions begin to seep into real life, and he can't discern the difference between dreams and reality. All Cherith wants to hear is Adam won't hurt himself if she dies, but he desperately wants to believe his dreams are showing him a world where they can be together forever.

VALENTINE is a work of literary fiction of approximately 100,000 words. [Specific agent information.]

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,
[redacted]
Last edited by rainbowsheeps on May 6th, 2010, 9:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Yoshima
Posts: 93
Joined: January 3rd, 2010, 4:34 pm
Contact:

Re: Query: VALENTINE

Post by Yoshima » April 22nd, 2010, 9:17 pm

Hey rainbowsheeps! Thanks so much for your help with my query. I come to return the favor (though I doubt I'll be nearly as helpful, but I can give you an honest opinion as a reader who would be either picking up your book or putting it down in a bookstore).
rainbowsheeps wrote:Again, any new comments, criticisms or suggestions are appreciated. Thank you.

NEWEST VERSION:

Dear Specific Agent,

Nineteen-year-old Adam failed a suicide attempt. (maybe "failed to commit suicide?" or "failed to [specific death chosen]?" Attempt makes it sound like he was only half-serious.) His five-year-old sister, Evelyn, found him bleeding on the floor. Every night, Adam tucks her into bed and hopes to find a way to make it up to her. (Hmm. I'm wondering if there's a stronger image you can give us to describe how hard he's trying to make it up to her. Just tucking me into bed wouldn't cut it. Does he read her her favorite bedtime story, or something more specific that your reader might relate to better?) His only chance might be (is?) Richard White, a young and compassionate psychologist, but their prepaid appointments are running out fast. (Giggled at this last line. Great first paragraph. I'm definitely reading on.)

In the waiting room one day, Adam meets the strange young love of his life in Cherith, a teenage punk girl. ("strange young love of his life" felt clunky to me. I think "punk" gives us a stronger image of Cherith than "strange," and both "young" and "teenage" is kind of redundant. Just a suggestion: "...meets the love of his life in Cherith, a punk teenage girl.") But just as he first finds true happiness, Adam learns she has cancer. (Aw, poor kids. Great job on making them, Adam especially, sympathetic to the reader.) He promises to stay with her, but suddenly (use of "suddenly" kind of reminded me of a movie tagline) he's haunted by vivid nightmares. Forced to replay his suicide attempt again and again, he becomes afraid to sleep. (Wondering if it's absolutely necessary that we know he's afraid to sleep--I think the focus is the nightmares, right? Maybe combine the two sentences: "...by vivid nightmares of his gruesome suicide attempt.") Richard believes the dreams are a manifestation of his guilt, but Adam is already trying harder than ever to win back Evelyn's trust. (Again, I think giving us one specific example of what he's doing to win back her trust in the beginning would help back up this statement, and make his dilemma seem more real to your reader.)

When Cherith collapses on Valentine's night, Adam's dreams change from death and decay to the radiant beauty of a carnival made completely of light, or the violet skies and red grass blades of what he believes is heaven. (use of "or" threw my flow a bit. Does he only see one or the other, or does the light morph into the violet-red world? Maybe use "and" instead?) Soon, his visions begin to seep into real life, and he can't discern the difference between dreams and reality. All Cherith wants to hear is Adam won't hurt himself if (when?) she dies, but he desperately wants to believe his dreams are showing him a world where they can be together forever. (I have to admit, this paragraph threw me for a loop a little bit. I'm guessing you mean that he's going insane...? I remember a commenter mentioned the consequence thing, and I have to agree. I get that this is largely thematic and not so much plot-centric, but right now this ending doesn't leave me with the feeling that all of the theme "strings" are coming together toward the climax of the story. Or, maybe you could just flesh out the conflict that he's presented with that impacts his life the most. What is the actual conflict with him and the dreams? I think leaving us on a note of "oh crap! is this going to make or break him??" note would really make the ending pop, because I already care about what happens to Adam and want good things for him. You did such a great job with making him a character I want to follow around. He's got that lost-soul appeal, and I want to see his happy ending--and I get very grumpy with unhappy endings, so he'd better have a good one! :)


Other than that, I thought the writing of the query itself was very professional and flowed very well (except for that bit with the strange young love of his life), which bodes well for your novel. The length of the query was good, and the characters all sounded like people I wanted to meet. I'm not a big literary fiction reader, but if I were in a bookstore I'd definitely be flipping through the pages to see if I like the writing. So, mission of the pitch (for a reader, anyway): accomplished. :) I think you're well on your way to a final version. Best of luck to you!


VALENTINE is a work of literary fiction of approximately 100,000 words. [Specific agent information.]

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,
[redacted]

User avatar
ocelott
Posts: 12
Joined: April 23rd, 2010, 8:03 pm
Location: Canada
Contact:

Re: Query: VALENTINE

Post by ocelott » April 23rd, 2010, 9:42 pm

I have not got much to contribute, because I am the last person on the planet who should be critiquing queries. (And yet, here I am... hmm.) Just wanted to stick in that because your first two sentences are both so short and simple, the flow of them brings to mind an easy reader rather than something literary. "See Adam bleed. Bleed, Adam, bleed! Evelyn finds Adam bleeding." Probably not what you want to bring to mind. One short and simple sentence can pack a powerful punch, but a few together always gives me the impression of something being dumbed down even when it's not.

You could try to combine them to something like "When nineteen-year-old Adam failed to kill himself, his five-year-old sister, Evelyn, found him bleeding on the floor." Or whatever variation you fancy.

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 3 guests