Query: Divisions REVISED

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misstante
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Query: Divisions REVISED

Post by misstante » February 27th, 2011, 3:06 pm

round 2! thanks so much for any input on this. i really appreciate it.

Dear:

Because you so successfully represent women’s fiction, I hope you will be interested in my novel, DIVISIONS, complete at 81,000 words.

Just as she is celebrating her one-year survival of pancreatic cancer, sixty-five year old Lang Ellis loses her athletic husband and only true friend to a heart attack. Lang
is terrified when she realizes his death is only the first of several losses she must face without the stable mooring of her husband.

A competent florist in the small town of Whiteside Mountain, Georgia, Lang isolates herself like some injured animal holed up under the porch to nurse her grief alone. She is both puzzled and irritated when two insufferable acquaintances, A.J. and Camilla, suddenly impose their friendship on her.

A.J. is in deep denial over her husband’s affairs, and desperately tries to preserve her marriage by enduring countless cosmetic surgeries to achieve perfection for him.
Determined to be welcome on the ‘right side of the tracks’, she believes she must conceal who she really is, and where she came from.

Camilla suppresses her grief about the accidental drowning of her husband and children decades ago, and tries to justify her survival by tutoring inner-city children.
Comforted by food, she uses her weight as a barrier to any potential romance, but she develops serious heart problems as a result.

Each carrying their own paralyzing burdens, the three women are faced with life-changing decisions as they forge an unexpected yet familial union.
Last edited by misstante on March 1st, 2011, 1:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.

fishfood
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Re: Query: Divisions

Post by fishfood » February 27th, 2011, 3:47 pm

misstante wrote:I am brand new, and this is my first post. If any of you have time to look it over, I would really appreciate any advice you have. The insights and critiques I've read from you in this forum have been very helpful, and right on target in my opinion. thanks so much.

Dear Ms. Agent:

Because you so successfully represent both literary and women's fiction, If you're querying her, it's obvious she represents these genres so I'd cut it and use up more words to show your story. I hope you will be interested in my novel, Divisions. Title in caps. And I'd actually cut these first two lines. Agents differ on what they want as the opening paragraph, but unless the agent specifically states what she prefers, then just start out with the plot.
Just as she is celebrating her unexpected one-year survival of pancreatic cancer, Lang Ellis loses herathletichusband and only true friendto an unexpected heart attack. Without the mooring of her husband, Lang must face both her internal and external problems alone. This is telling. What does she have to face?
A competent florist with deep roots in the small southern town of Whiteside Mountain,
Lang's relationships with her controlling daughter, narcissistic mother, and ne'er-do-well son are awkward at best, and she isolates herself in her grief, choosing to hole up like some injured animal under the porch, and nurse her wound alone.

Lang is dismayed to find a mutestray dog at her doorstep the day of the funeral, and is both puzzled and irritated when two insufferable acquaintances, A.J. and Camilla, suddenly impose their friendship on her. This is a really long sentence. Can you break it up and tie it into the previous paragraph? Maybe...
...nurse her wound alone. Only she can't. Thanks to a stray dog who refuses to leave and two meddling acquaintances named A.J. and Camilla. Turns out though Lang isn't the only one with open wounds that need healing... I don't know...something like that. I'd try to get rid of as many adjectives too, they end up doing too much telling and not enough showing.

In deep denial over her husband's affairs, A.J. is desperate to preserve her marriage, and has endured countless cosmetic surgeries to achieve perfection for him. Camilla is suppressing her grief about the tragic drowning of her family decades ago, and justifies her survival by tutoring inner-city children.

Dealing with issues of inferiority, guilt and abandonment, the three sexagenarians forge an unexpected yet familial union, and through each other, learn to accept life, and live it. Hmm...I get this is literary, but literary still needs to show us that the characters make choices, not just "deal" with stuff. Will A.J. leave her husband? Camilla actually sounds like she's dealing with her grief in a pretty healthy manner. It'd be more interesting if she was making unhealthy choices for herself in an effort to block out her grief/guilt. Otherwise, I don't get what she has to overcome.
Complete at 81,000 words, Divisions is a story of emotional healing through unlikely relationships. I am working on two other novels.
This sounds a like a really great premise! And the query isn't bad, you'd probably still get requests because the story sounds really sweet and the characters likable. If the plot is divided equally between these three women, I'd divide the query up that way. I think you have room to expand on showing what these women are like and what choices they will make.

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Quill
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Re: Query: Divisions

Post by Quill » February 27th, 2011, 5:25 pm

misstante wrote:
Because you so successfully represent both literary and women's fiction, I hope you will be interested in my novel, Divisions.
I rather like this straightforward approach and don't mind it up front in this query.

DIVISIONS, not Divisions.

Why not put ", complete at 81,000 words" here and be done with that?

Just as she is celebrating her unexpected one-year survival of pancreatic cancer, Lang Ellis loses her athletic husband and only true friend to an unexpected heart attack.
Please don't leave two "unexpected"s in the same sentence. Especially with another instance later in the query, plus an "unlikely". I'd eliminate three of the four "un" words.

Without the mooring of her husband, Lang must face both her internal and external problems alone.
"The mooring of her husband" seems awkward and is unclear; do you mean her husband moors to her or that she moors to him? I mean, it's a little obscure anyway; one is like a dock in this relationship, and one is like a boat? In what ways?
A competent florist with deep roots in the small southern town of Whiteside Mountain,
I like the details so far, but this seems incomplete. Either leave it at "small southern town" or say "the small town of Whiteside Mountain, Alabama (or whatever state it is).

Lang's relationships with her controlling daughter, narcissistic mother, and ne'er-do-well son are awkward at best, and she isolates herself in her grief, choosing to hole up like some injured animal under the porch, and nurse her wound alone.
Okay, but isolates/grief, hole up/ injured, and nurse/wound might be one too many combos for the same situation. How about "she isolates herself like some injured animal holed up under the porch to nurse her grief alone"?

As it is you'd need to pluralize "nurse" (she nurses) for it to read grammatically correct.
Lang is dismayed to find a mute stray dog at her doorstep the day of the funeral,
I thought this would turn out to be significant, but there's no further reference to it, so I'd remove this.
and is both puzzled and irritated when two insufferable acquaintances, A.J. and Camilla, suddenly impose their friendship on her.
Okay
In deep denial over her husband's affairs, A.J. is desperate to preserve her marriage,
As written it first sounds like Lang is in deep denial. It would help to put the name up front: "A.J. is in deep denial..."
and has endured countless cosmetic surgeries to achieve perfection for him. Camilla is suppressing her grief about the tragic drowning of her family decades ago, and justifies her survival by tutoring inner-city children.
All drowning is "tragic" so I'd omit that. Maybe substitute "accidental". "Her family" is vague. Her entire family? All the aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews?
Dealing with issues of inferiority, guilt and abandonment,
Agree with previous poster that "Dealing" is not the verb you want to feature in your big wind-up sentence describing the crux of your book. They need to resolve, face, choose, act, that sort of thing.
the three sexagenarians
Whoa, this seems big info for so late in the query. I'd figured them all for younger from the details you've given, so this is a bit of a monkey wrench in the works. I'd work this in earlier somehow.

Also, not sure what sexagenarian is, right off the bat, and I wouldn't want an agent to stumble here either (is it 60-something or 70-something; maybe use that term instead?)
forge an unexpected yet familial union, and through each other, learn to accept life, and live it.
A little too pat (and overuses the word "unexpected"). Could you say a bit more about the challenges, to hint at the main conflict(s) facing the three in their quest or process of coming together?
Complete at 81,000 words, Divisions is a story of emotional healing through unlikely relationships. I am working on two other novels.
I'd move the word count up with the other intro info, and delete the line telling what your story is (never a good idea), and also omit the info that you're writing other stuff (not relevant to selling this project).

Good luck!

misstante
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Re: Query: Divisions

Post by misstante » February 28th, 2011, 7:52 am

thank you so much! i am going back to the 'drawing board' and really appreciate the help and insights.

AllieS
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Re: Query: Divisions REVISED

Post by AllieS » March 9th, 2011, 5:46 pm

Because you so successfully represent women’s fiction, I hope you will be interested in my novel, DIVISIONS, complete at 81,000 words. This could go at the bottom of the query.

Just as she is celebrating her one-year survival of pancreatic cancer, sixty-five year old Lang Ellis loses her athletic husband and only true friend to a heart attack. Drop the athletic. Lang is terrified when she realizes his death is only the first of several losses she must face without the stable mooring of her husband. Hm...I don't really know what this means. It sounds like you're saying his death is triggering other losses.

A competent florist in the small town of Whiteside Mountain, Georgia, Lang isolates herself like some "an" sounds better for me, but that's a personal choice. injured animal holed up under the porch to nurse her grief alone. She is both puzzled and irritated when two insufferable acquaintances, A.J. and Camilla, suddenly impose their friendship on her.

A.J. is in deep denial over her husband’s affairs, and desperately tries to preserve her marriage by enduring countless cosmetic surgeries to achieve perfection for him.
Determined to be welcome on the ‘right side of the tracks’, she believes she must conceal who she really is, and where she came from.

Camilla suppresses her grief about the accidental drowning of her husband and children decades ago, and tries to justify her survival by tutoring inner-city children.
Comforted by food, she uses her weight as a barrier to any potential romance, but she develops serious heart problems as a result.

Each carrying their own paralyzing burdens, the three women are faced with life-changing decisions as they forge an unexpected yet familial union.

So far I have a good idea of how A.J. and Camilla are handling their problems . . . but I don't have a clue what Lang is doing. How is she handling her grief? How does this friendless woman react to having these insufferable acquaintances thrust their friendship upon her? I care more about A.J. and Camilla than Lang. Otherwise, I think it's a good plot.
Last edited by AllieS on March 26th, 2011, 8:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.

enewmeyer
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Re: Query: Divisions REVISED

Post by enewmeyer » March 10th, 2011, 8:24 pm

Just a question, but what life changing decisions do they need to make and what necessitates them? Right now, the query seems to be all about the set up to the situation they each find themselves in. I'd like to know more about the conflict and the choices they make. Also, what genre is this?

misstante
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Re: Query: Divisions REVISED

Post by misstante » March 11th, 2011, 8:30 am

enewmeyer, thanks for reading my query. i think divisions would be women's fiction. lang is a loner, and must learn to open herself to people now that her husband and sole friend is dead. critical of her granddaughters mother b/c she won't marry Lang's son, Lang has to accept her when she finds out her granddaughter is not her son's daughter.
camilla needs to unburden herself of her terrible secret, and stop letting guilt dictate her life, and a.j. needs to find her own identity, independent of her husband who wants a divorce.
all of a sudden this sounds terrible. :(
i am working on rewriting the query, and really, really appreciate all the help and insights in this forum. incredible! this query-writing is impossible!! thanks for taking a look.

glj
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Re: Query: Divisions REVISED

Post by glj » March 11th, 2011, 11:46 am

I think enewmeyer asked the right question. I agree, this reads like a good query setup. Now you need to show us what conflict these three will face and make us want to read it.

enewmeyer, thanks for reading my query. i think divisions would be women's fiction. lang is a loner, and must learn to open herself to people now that her husband and sole friend is dead. critical of her granddaughters mother b/c she won't marry Lang's son, Lang has to accept her when she finds out her granddaughter is not her son's daughter.
camilla needs to unburden herself of her terrible secret, and stop letting guilt dictate her life, and a.j. needs to find her own identity, independent of her husband who wants a divorce.
all of a sudden this sounds terrible. :(
i am working on rewriting the query, and really, really appreciate all the help and insights in this forum. incredible! this query-writing is impossible!! thanks for taking a look.
No, this doesn't sound terrible. Actually, I think the above information could be worked in. True, you will need to change the phrasing, as it reads like a summary, but that is not a big task. But it will still need some conflict, and difficult tasks/choices that they will have to make. The hook is usually a task/choice/conflict that the MC must overcome, and it must look difficult, but not impossible, but difficult enough that the reader will want to see how it all turns out in the end.

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