OVERBOARD - New 1st Person Query (4th Revision at Post 11)

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alienbogey
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OVERBOARD - New 1st Person Query (4th Revision at Post 11)

Post by alienbogey » April 12th, 2011, 6:56 pm

I can't seem to stay away from writing my query in the first person. Here's the latest, greatest attempt:


Dear Agent,

I pulled a trigger, killed my father, and half a year later I’m face down in Memphis mud trying to forget the girl who betrayed me.

I buried my father in his grave, my guilt in myself, and left home on the first available steamboat. Within a month I met my best friend in a brawl, my worst enemy in a poker game, and my mentor, Josie, taught me to gamble, cheat, and fornicate in ways I had never imagined.

My redemption began when Hannah Granger pulled me from the river and nursed me back to health. She runs slaves to freedom on the Underground Railroad and I joined her, helped her, and it was the best thing I ever did in my life - until I fell in love with her. Now she’s in jail and my enemy is looking to kill me, Josie wants to bed me, and I’m falling down drunk because Hannah deceived me all along.

I’ll rescue her - I owe her that - but I don’t think I can love her anymore. As for my redemption - to hell with it.

OVERBOARD is historical fiction complete at 158,000 words.

My professional writing credits are [ etc ].

I appreciate your consideration.

Sincerely,
Last edited by alienbogey on April 19th, 2011, 2:01 pm, edited 4 times in total.

glj
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Re: OVERBOARD - New 1st Person Query

Post by glj » April 14th, 2011, 12:33 pm

Dear Agent,

I pulled a trigger, killed my father, and half a year later I’m face down in Memphis mud trying to forget the girl who betrayed me.

I buried my father in his grave, my guilt in myself, and left home on the first available steamboat. Within a month, I met my best friend in a brawl, found my worst enemy in a poker game, and my mentor, Josie, taught me to gamble, cheat, and fornicate in ways I had never imagined.
There is something about "buried my father in his grave" that bothers me. The "grave" seems unneeded, and as a matter of flow just doesn't work with "my guilt in myself", at least in my opinion. Maybe if you added the word "buried" to "my guilt in myself". Or change "his grave" to something else like "in the ground"?

My redemption began when Hannah Granger pulled me from the river In the first paragraph, you say "Memphis mud", so I find this confusing. and nursed me back to health. She runs Word choice: "runs" makes me think of what you do with a horse in a horse race. How about "slips" or "guides"? slaves to freedom on the Underground Railroad and I joined her, helped her, and it was the best thing I ever did in my life - until I fell in love with her. Now she’s in jail and my worst enemy is looking to kill me, Josie wants to bed me, It is not clear that the protagonist is male, only implied here. and I’m falling down drunk because Hannah deceived me all along.

I’ll rescue her - I owe her that - but I don’t think I can love her anymore. As for my redemption - to hell with it. Good voice. Makes me interested in the story.

OVERBOARD is historical fiction complete at 158,000 words. Can you tie the title in more? Seems like the protagonist falls overboard/throws himself overboard (from the steamship) on more than one occasion, but this could be much more direct and clear. And emphasize (or at least hint) that the action takes place largely on steamships. Otherwise the title seems a bit remote from the body of the query.


I like this. It is short and punchy and give a picture of what will happen in the story.

Then I see your wordcount and wonder how such a tight, streamlined query could be written by a person with a 158k manuscript? The wordcount is your biggest problem. From everything I have read, agents will not consider such a large manuscript from an unpublished author. If you have previous publications and sales, then it may be acceptable. Otherwise, you need to do some heavy-duty editing.

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Re: OVERBOARD - New 1st Person Query

Post by oldhousejunkie » April 14th, 2011, 4:02 pm

First off--welcome fellow historical fiction writer.
Secondly, I like the first person thing. It certainly will get an agent's attention. It evokes a sense of Mark Twain.
Thirdly, I think you can do up 125,000 words for a first historical. So google self-editing and get at it. You'd be suprised how many extraneous words can be cut.
Lastly, I think I would work at setting the scene more. We have no clue what era this story takes place in. The first line could fit into any novel, modern or otherwise. You mention steamboat and poker in the second paragraph, so the reader starts to get the idea that we might not be in modern times. But it's not until the third paragraph when you mention Underground Railroad that we know that this story takes place in the Antebellum period. Yet, it might take a real history buff to know exactly what span of time that covers. You'd be surprised how many people know the terms "Underground Railroad" and "Antebellum" and have no clue where they both fit into history.
alienbogey wrote:I can't seem to stay away from writing my query in the first person. Here's the latest, greatest attempt:


Dear Agent,

I pulled a trigger, killed my father, and half a year later I’m face down in Memphis mud trying to forget the girl who betrayed me.

I buried my father in his grave, my guilt in myself, and left home on the first available steamboat. Within a month I met my best friend in a brawl, my worst enemy in a poker game, and my mentor, Josie, taught me to gamble, cheat, and fornicate in ways I had never imagined. This last sentence is colorful and well written but reads funny because you generically mention the best friend, the enemy, and then suddenly you name the mentor. Maybe: "Within a month I met my best friend in a brawl and my worst enemy in a poker game. But then Josie came along and taught me to gamble, cheat, and..."
NOTE: I don't like the repetition of the first mention of the father's murder and then pulling it back out again above. But I generally don't like log lines because they put me in mind of the story as a whole, and then jerk me back into the particulars of the story.
My redemption began when Hannah Granger pulled me from the river and nursed me back to health. She runs slaves to freedom on the Underground Railroad and I joined her, helped her, join and help are pretty similar, so this is repetition and it was the best thing I ever did in my life - until I fell in love with her. Now she’s in jail and my enemy is looking to kill me, Josie wants to bed me, and I’m falling down drunk because Hannah deceived me all along.

I’ll rescue her - I owe her that - but I don’t think I can love her anymore. As for my redemption - to hell with it. LOVE THIS! So much voice! And probably because it would be something my husband would say if he was in the same situation. :-)

OVERBOARD is historical fiction complete at 158,000 words.

My professional writing credits are [ etc ].

I appreciate your consideration.

Sincerely,
Good luck to you! It sounds like you have a real gem on your hands.

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Re: OVERBOARD - New 1st Person Query

Post by alienbogey » April 14th, 2011, 8:33 pm

I'll make a few comments before posting my revised query below.

• Thank you for the thoughtful, helpful replies.

• Title: OVERBOARD has been the working title since the start, and I kept it here because I have posted query versions here under that title before. I've been asking my beta readers to suggest a better one and I have a page full now. REDEMPTION ON THE RIVER is the current favorite, and I have incorporated it into the revision.

• Character names: I'm trying to avoid what Query Shark describes as character name soup, but as oldhousejunkie points out it's inconsistent to use generic character descriptions and names in the same sentence. Fixed. I hope. (It kills me though, because the best friend's name is colorful as hell, but I can't figure out how to work his name into the query without getting into the aforementioned soup.)

• Word count: Sigh. Yes, yes, I know, everybody says that. In my defense the first draft weighed in at 220K and the current draft, the 9th, stands at 158,000. Self Editing for Fiction Writers has been a great help, and I'd like to think that the book, despite the count, actually is tight and streamlined (as glj describes the query). WRT the query, tight and streamlined is exactly what I'm trying to achieve to show the agent that the 158,000 words might actually be tightly written. We'll see.

Without further ado, thanks again, and here's the revised query:


Dear Agent,

I pulled a trigger, killed my father, and half a year later I’m face down in Memphis mud trying to forget the girl who betrayed me.

I laid Pa in his grave, buried the guilt in myself, and left home on the first available steamboat. Over many Mississippi miles I met my best friend in a brawl, made my worst enemy in a poker game, and a beautiful professional gambler taught me to play cards, cheat, and fornicate in ways I had never imagined.

My redemption began when Hannah Granger pulled me from the river and stitched me back together after a knife fight. She smuggles slaves to freedom on the Underground Railroad and I joined her, trusted her, and it’s the best thing I ever did in my life - until I fell in love with her. Now she’s in jail and my enemy seeks to kill me, my mentor wants to bed me, and I’m falling down drunk because Hannah deceived me all along.

I’ll get up from the mud and rescue her - I owe her that - but I don’t think I can love her anymore. As for my redemption - to hell with it.

REDEMPTION ON THE RIVER is historical fiction complete at 158,000 words.

My professional writing credits are [ etc ].

I appreciate your consideration.

Sincerely,
Last edited by alienbogey on April 16th, 2011, 12:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: OVERBOARD - New 1st Person Query (Revised at Post 3)

Post by akila » April 15th, 2011, 10:13 am

Really interesting concept. Okay, here goes:
Dear Agent,

I pulled a trigger, killed my father, and half a year later I’m face down in Memphis mud trying to forget the girl who betrayed me. Love the start to this query.

I laid Pa in his grave, buried the guilt in myself, and left home on the first available steamboat. I would change this to "I buried Pa and my guilt, and jumped the first available steamboat. I think it's pretty obvious that if you bury someone it will be "in his grave" as glj mentioned and "guilt in myself" seems clunkier than "my guilt." I think 'jumped' gives his leaving a sense of urgency that 'left home' doesn't quite have.

Over many Mississippi miles I met my best friend in a brawl, made my worst enemy in a poker game, and a beautiful professional gambler taught me to play cards, cheat, and fornicate in ways I had never imagined. By Mississippi, do you mean the Mississippi River or Mississippi the state? It's not clear and a little confusing because you start the book off in Tennessee. I would consider changing the words "brawl" and "poker game" to something a bit more descriptive . . . like "I became best friends with the guy who took a swing at my mug and became enemies with the card shark who showed a pocket pair he couldn't have had" or something along those lines.

My redemption began when Hannah Granger pulled me from the river and stitched me back together after a knife fight. She smuggles slaves to freedom on the Underground Railroad and I joined her, trusted her, and it’s the best thing I ever did in my life - until I fell in love with her. Now she’s in jail and my enemy seeks to kill me, my mentor wants to bed me, and I’m falling down drunk because Hannah deceived me all along.

I’ll get up from the mud and rescue her - I owe her that - but I don’t think I can love her anymore. As for my redemption - to hell with it. Love the last two paragraphs. I really hear your voice.

REDEMPTION ON THE RIVER is historical fiction complete at 158,000 words.

My professional writing credits are [ etc ].

I appreciate your consideration.

Sincerely,

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Re: OVERBOARD - New 1st Person Query (2nd Revision Post 5)

Post by alienbogey » April 15th, 2011, 4:37 pm

Revised again:


Dear Amazing Agent,

I pulled a trigger, killed my father, and half a year later I’m face down in Memphis mud trying to forget the girl who betrayed me.

I buried Pa on our farm, my guilt in myself, and jumped on the first available steamboat. Over many Mississippi River miles I met my best friend in a brawl, made my worst enemy in a poker game, and a beautiful professional gambler taught me to play cards, cheat, and fornicate in ways I had never imagined.

My redemption began when Hannah Granger pulled me from the river and stitched me back together after a knife fight. She smuggles slaves to freedom on the Underground Railroad and I joined her, trusted her, and it’s the best thing I ever did in my life - until I fell in love with her. Now she’s in jail and my enemy seeks to kill me, my mentor wants to bed me, and I’m falling down drunk because Hannah deceived me all along.

I’ll pick my sorry self up from the mud and rescue her - I owe her that - but I don’t think I can love her anymore. As for my redemption - to hell with it.

Redemption on the River is historical fiction complete at 158,000 words.

My professional writing credits are [ etc ].

I appreciate your consideration.

Sincerely,

Awesome Author

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Re: OVERBOARD - New 1st Person Query (2nd Revision at Post 5)

Post by AllieS » April 16th, 2011, 6:48 am

I pulled a trigger, killed my father, and half a year later I’m face down in Memphis mud trying to forget the girl who betrayed me.

I buried Pa on our farm I'm glad you changed grave to farm here, my guilt in myself, and jumped on the first available steamboat. Over many Mississippi River miles I met my best friend in a brawl, made my worst enemy in a poker game, and a beautiful professional gambler taught me to play cards, cheat, and fornicate in ways I had never imagined. There's something about the word fornicate that just sounds awkward to me, but that might just be me. It seems as though your character is a pretty candid guy, so I feel like being a tad more explicit here (without going too crazy) would work.

My redemption began when Hannah Granger pulled me from the river and stitched me back together after a knife fight. She smuggles Since she's now in jail, wouldn't it be "smuggled"? slaves to freedom on the Underground Railroad and I joined her, trusted her, and it’s the best thing I ever did in my life - until I fell in love with her. Now she’s in jail and my enemy seeks to kill me, my mentor wants to bed me, and I’m falling down drunk because Hannah deceived me all along.

I’ll pick my sorry self up from the mud and rescue her - I owe her that - but I don’t think I can love her anymore. As for my redemption - to hell with it. I don't get a sense from the rest of the query that your character is seeking redemption. Maybe add a mention of that at the beginning? Otherwise, I think this is a great query with a strong voice and it's interesting.

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Re: OVERBOARD - New 1st Person Query (2nd Revision at Post 5)

Post by SSB » April 16th, 2011, 8:03 am

When I see your title I can't help but think of Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn in their comedy Overboard. I also did not get a sense of a plot from your query. You show a lot of your character's voice, but I don't know if it is wise to stray so far from the typical query path.

I also believe you need to edit. 158000 words is to many for (I am assuming) a debut author.

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Re: OVERBOARD - New 1st Person Query (2nd Revision at Post 5)

Post by alienbogey » April 16th, 2011, 12:48 pm

Thank you everybody for your inputs. Slightly revised:


Dear Amazing Agent,

I pulled a trigger, killed my father, and half a year later I’m face down in Memphis mud trying to forget the girl who betrayed me.

I buried Pa on our farm, guilt in my gut, and jumped on the first available steamboat. Over many Mississippi River miles I met my best friend in a brawl, made my worst enemy in a poker game, and a beautiful professional gambler taught me to play cards, cheat, and fornicate in ways I had never imagined.

My redemption began when Hannah Granger pulled me from the river and stitched me back together after a knife fight. She smuggles slaves to freedom on the Underground Railroad and I joined her, trusted her, and it’s the best thing I ever did in my life - until I fell in love with her. Now she’s in jail and my enemy seeks to kill me, my mentor wants to bed me, and I’m falling down drunk because Hannah deceived me all along.

I’ll pick my sorry self up from the mud and rescue her - I owe her that - but I don’t think I can love her anymore. As for redemption - to hell with it.

REDEMPTION ON THE RIVER is historical fiction complete at xyz,000 words.

My professional writing credits are [ etc ].

I appreciate your consideration.

Sincerely,

Awesome Author

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Re: OVERBOARD - New 1st Person Query (3rd Revision at Post 9)

Post by glj » April 17th, 2011, 12:40 pm

This is better. Good, tight wording. But maybe a bit too sparse. I wanted some hint as to why the MC feels betrayed by Hannah. I wanted some hint as to the conflict the MC faces, the decision he must make.

Dear Amazing Agent,

I pulled a trigger, killed my father, and half a year later I’m face down in Memphis mud trying to forget the girl who betrayed me.

I buried Pa on our farm, guilt in my gut, and jumped on the first available steamboat. This is missing a transition from the first paragraph, relating the events of a half year ago to now. Such as "A half year ago, I buried Pa..." Over many Mississippi River miles, I met The use of "met" implies to me that they were already best friends, and then encountered each other again during a brawl. But I don't think that was what you were going for? I think "found a best friend" might work better. my best friend in a brawl, made my worst enemy in a poker game, and a beautiful professional gambler taught me to play cards, cheat, and fornicate in ways I had never imagined.

My redemption began when Hannah Granger This is confusing, as it could imply that the "beautiful professional gambler" is Hannah, but yet it doesn't seem that way from the rest of the query. pulled me from the river and stitched me back together after a knife fight. She smuggles As another commenter pointed out, this should be "smuggled", and should match "I joined...trusted..." slaves to freedom on the Underground Railroad and I joined her, trusted her, and it’s the best thing I ever did in my life - until I fell in love with her. Now she’s in jail and my enemy seeks to kill me, my mentor wants to bed me, and I’m falling down drunk because Hannah deceived me all along. This last sentence implies Hannah isn't the mentor, so this begs for a label for Hannah so that the reader does not confuse them. I did.

I’ll pick my sorry self up from the mud and rescue her - I owe her that - but I don’t think I can love her anymore. As for redemption - to hell with it.

REDEMPTION ON THE RIVER is historical fiction complete at xyz,000 words.

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Re: OVERBOARD - New 1st Person Query (2nd Revision at Post 5)

Post by oldhousejunkie » April 18th, 2011, 5:59 pm

alienbogey wrote:Thank you everybody for your inputs. Slightly revised:


Dear Amazing Agent,

I pulled a trigger, killed my father, and half a year later I’m face down in Memphis mud trying to forget the girl who betrayed me.
I'm still not sure about this transition. Maybe it's the tense? Obviously log lines are okay, I'm just tripping up when I start off with this next part.
I buried Pa on our farm, the guilt in my gut, and jumped on the first available steamboat. Good! Over many Mississippi River miles I met my best friend in a brawl, made my worst enemy in a poker game, and a beautiful professional gambler taught me to play cards, cheat, and fornicate in ways I had never imagined. Something is missing in this paragraph. Maybe it is the plot. I think you are relying on the reader's ability to play connect the dots because there is definitely a plot. For instance, I'm guessing that he's decided to raise hell as a way of burying his guilt over his father? If not, why is he doing this? Is he just a hell-raiser?

My redemption began when Hannah Granger pulled me from the river and stitched me back together after a knife fight. She smuggles slaves to freedom on the Underground Railroad and I joined her, trusted her, and it’s the best thing I ever did in my life - until I fell in love with her. Now she’s in jail and my enemy seeks to kill me, my mentor wants to bed me, and I’m falling down drunk because Hannah deceived me all along. This reads well. You get a sense of the plot without overwhelming the reader with details. But...why does he want redemption? Because he killed his father? Because he feels guilty over his fast lifestyle?

I’ll pick my sorry self up from the mud and rescue her - I owe her that - but I don’t think I can love her anymore. As for redemption - to hell with it.

REDEMPTION ON THE RIVER is historical fiction complete at xyz,000 words.

My professional writing credits are [ etc ].

I appreciate your consideration.

Sincerely,

Awesome Author
I'm still excited over this, but I'm beginning to think we are mangling the heck out of it. It was so fresh and exciting and now its reading a little sparse as glj put it. Be wary of taking our advice too much!

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Re: OVERBOARD - New 1st Person Query (4th Revision at Post 11))

Post by alienbogey » April 19th, 2011, 2:00 pm

Thanks for the comments!

Here is the once-again-slightly-revised query with a question/comment following:


Dear Amazing Agent,

I pulled a trigger, killed my father, and half a year later I’m face down in Memphis mud trying to forget the girl who betrayed me.

I buried Pa on our farm, guilt in my gut, and jumped on the first available steamboat. Over many Mississippi River miles I met my best friend in a brawl, made my worst enemy in a poker game, and a beautiful professional gambler taught me to play cards, cheat, and fornicate in ways I had never imagined.

My redemption began when Hannah Granger pulled me from the river and stitched me back together after a knife fight. She smuggles slaves to freedom on the Underground Railroad and I joined her, trusted her, and it’s the best thing I ever did in my life - until I fell in love with her. Now she’s in jail and my enemy seeks to kill me, the gambler wants to bed me, and I’m falling down drunk because Hannah deceived me all along.

I’ll pick my sorry self up from the mud and rescue her - I owe her that - but I don’t think I can love her anymore. As for redemption - to hell with it.

REDEMPTION ON THE RIVER is historical fiction complete at xyz,000 words.

My professional writing credits are [ etc ].

I appreciate your consideration.

Sincerely,

Awesome Author


Item regarding the following part of the query:

"She smuggles slaves to freedom on the Underground Railroad and I joined her, trusted her........"

Several commentators are of the opinion that 'smuggles' should be changed to 'smuggled' in order to match tenses with 'joined' and 'trusted'. Subject to correction, I don't agree.

My intent is to use 'She [Hannah] smuggles slaves to freedom' as a sort of job description. It's what she does. If I wrote "She is the president of the company and I joined her executive staff...." would that be incorrect? I'm thinking not, because, in this example, she IS the president of the company, and I DID join her staff.

Getting back to the query, later Hannah is in jail and is certainly not smuggling slaves to freedom at that moment, but that doesn't change the fact that smuggling slaves to freedom is what she does, her career, so to speak.

Now, I'm fully cognizant that I'll never get the chance to explain that to an agent and the query must explain itself, so even if I'm right about the grammar it's no good if it's confusing or appears to be in error. Thoughts?

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