Friday, April 18, 2008

#8-2 revsions

Dear Ms. Reid,

I read on Publisher's Marketplace that you are currently accepting queries for Women's Fiction. After reading your blog and researching your current clients, I believe that I would like you to represent me.

I believe you would too, but that's not the question here. There's a post on my other blog from someone else who didn't remember which way the traffic flows.


Unlike Avery Ellison, who doesn't know what she wants.

Ah, ok, so now I see that you're setting up a clever contrast here. You'll do better to reverse the order: Unlike Avery Ellison, who doesn't know what she wants, I know I want you to be enchanted with my manuscript (or something akin to that). And both sentences should be in the same paragraph.


She has been standing under the protective canopy of past regrets for so long, she's unable to step out into the open.

A metaphor should make a situation or a feeling or a condition more understandable, not less. I have NO clue what standing under the protective canopy of past regrets for so long, she's unable to step out into the open means.

Avery met the love of her life in high school, but then she let him go--the biggest regret of her life. She is the youngest daughter of a prominent financial planner, headed to a prestigious university. Finley Wentworth is merely the son of a struggling single mother whose best option is to work for a startup internet company. Avery is persuaded by her proud family to let him go. After all, if they are meant to be, neither time nor distance can separate them.

No matter how well you write this, you've got a problem, because this is such an obvious set up. Poor boy who must work at an internet start up? If he's poor and supporting his mom, the LAST place he's going to work is an internet startup because those guys got paid peanuts AND stock options that may have been worthless. A LOT of those companies failed. If he's poor he needs actual cash money. Also "internet start up" is code now for geeky guy comes back to home town with wads of dough. It's an overused trope.

Six years later, Finley unexpectedly returns to Avery's life, now a successful millionaire thanks to his stock options. (I knew it!) Meanwhile, her father has lost virtually everything because he invested in the wrong internet stocks. (surprise!) Just as Avery realizes she is still in love with Finley, (am I the only one saying it serves you right Avery?) it becomes clear that he no longer cares for her. Avery struggles to reconcile the past, especially when Liam Cullen enters her life. He's handsome, rich and he has all the right credentials to satisfy her self-righteous family. Avery finds herself falling in love with Liam, but something is preventing her from giving herself completely to him. Is Finley holding her back? Or is there something about Liam that she just can't ignore?

You've just described a heroine I don't much like. Women's fiction needs a likable heroine. It's a requirement of the category.

Loosely based on the Jane Austen novel Persuasion, A HUNDRED LITTLE PATHS has some similarities with the classic tale of redemption and second chances. And yet, there are elements that will surprise you as Avery strives to conquer her fears of making another mistake, even if it means disappointing the ones she loves the most.

You need to make Avery sound much more likable. Even people making foolish choices can be likable-that's your challenge as a writer.

Although A HUNDRED LITTLE PATHS is my first novel, my writing experience includes a five year career in advertising. I have a B.A. in Psychology from UCLA, and I am currently the owner of a successful home-based internet company in (town). I'm also the mother of two little girls, and married to my high school sweetheart, a Certified Financial Planner.


I'd be happy to send you a copy of the complete manuscript, which comes in at a little over 85,000 words. Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Best regards,
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Revision



I read on Publisher's Marketplace that you are interested in Women's Fiction. I hope you will consider my manuscript, A HUNDRED LITTLE PATHS, which is complete at 85,000 words.


Avery Ellison is the youngest daughter of a prominent financial planner, headed to a prestigious university and expected to meet all of her family's haughty aspirations. But When she decides to spurn her carefully orchestrated future to follow love, her family flies into a self-righteous fit of conniptions.


Avery had the impudence to fall in love with Finley Wentworth. To her superficial family, he has sealed his deplorable future by waiving college to work for his brother-in-law's fledgling technology firm. In a frantic attempt to separate the young lovers, Avery is forced to choose between Finley and familial obligations--including her dead mother's alleged wishes--and Avery is manipulated into letting him go.



After spending the next five years veiling her regrets behind wanton apathy and insincere felicity, it seems everything is falling apart around her. Avery barely graduates from college, and due to some poor business decisions, her father is close to foreclosing on her childhood home. To add more salt to her hardened wounds, a wealthy Finley unexpectedly returns, briefly tantalizing Avery with hope, before hurling both of them into a corrosive cycle of spite and conniving deceit that culminates in a tragic accident.

wanton apathy? insincere felicity?

her father is foreclosing on her childhood home? Wouldn't that mean HIS home?

adding salt to hardened wounds?

At this point you've drenched me in adjectives and descriptions that do nothing but muck up the works. You'll do better here to just pare down and say what you mean.


Drowning in guilt and denial, Avery runs straight into the alluring arms of Liam Cullen, who has all the proper credentials to satisfy her pretentious family. Desperate to escape her past and find an easy path to happiness, Avery finds herself falling in love with Liam. But something is preventing her from giving herself completely to him. Could she still be in love with Finley? Or is there something about Liam that she just can't ignore?


Loosely based on the Jane Austen novel Persuasion, A HUNDRED LITTLE PATHS has some similarities with the classic tale of redemption and second chances. And yet, there are elements that will surprise you as Avery and Finley struggle to find love and forgiveness, even if it means disappointing the ones they care about the most.

Although A HUNDRED LITTLE PATHS is my first novel, my writing experience includes a five year career in advertising. I have a B.A. in Psychology from UCLA, and I am currently the owner of a successful home-based internet company in (xxxxx,xxx). I'm also the mother of two little girls, and married to my high school sweetheart, a Certified Financial Planner.

Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely,
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Revision #2


I read on Publisher's Marketplace that you are interested in Women's Fiction. I hope you will consider my manuscript, A HUNDRED LITTLE PATHS, which is complete at 85,000 words.

Avery Ellison is the youngest daughter of a prominent financial planner, headed to a prestigious university and expected to meet all of her family's aspirations. When she decides to spurn her carefully orchestrated future to follow love, her family flies into a self-righteous fit of conniptions. She had the impudence to fall in love with Finley Wentworth, who plans to waive college to work for his brother-in-law's fledgling technology firm. Avery is forced to choose between Finley and familial obligations--including her dead mother's alleged wishes--and she is manipulated into letting him go.

take out all the green italic words. Then put back in ONLY the ones that you need to develop the story. Does it matter that Avery is the youngest? that her family is prominent?

Focus.

And you don't fly into a fit of conniptions. You have a conniption. Take it from me, the conniptions specialist of 35th street.

Five years later, everything is falling apart around Avery. She barely graduates from college, and due to some poor business decisions, her father is close to foreclosure. Avery reluctantly goes home to pack away her memories and confront her uncertain future, when a wealthy Finley unexpectedly returns, briefly tantalizing her with hope, before hurling them into a corrosive cycle of spite and conniving deceit. Desperate to find an easy path to happiness, Avery runs straight into the alluring arms of Liam Cullen, who has all the proper credentials to satisfy her family. But she's unable to give herself completely to him. Could she still be in love with Finley? Or is there something about Liam that she just can't ignore?

corrosive cycle of spite and conniving deceit? Sounds scary huh? Well, no, it doesn't. It sounds made up.

Loosely based on the Jane Austen novel Persuasion, A HUNDRED LITTLE PATHS has some similarities with the classic tale of redemption and second chances. And yet, there are elements that will surprise you as Avery and Finley struggle to find forgiveness and reclaim love, even if it means disappointing the ones they care about the most.

surprise me? You're telling not showing. Surprise me in the query letter, by..surprising me!


Although A HUNDRED LITTLE PATHS (Women's fiction, 85,000 words) is my first novel. my My writing experience includes a five year career in advertising. I have a B.A. in Psychology from UCLA, and I am currently the owner of a successful home-based internet company in (xxxxx,xxx).

Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely,

We're on the third draft and it's not the query form that's causing you problems, it's your writing. This is still getting a form letter rejection.

4 comments:

BuffySquirrel said...

Hmm, I dunno. I have a great fondness for "Persuasion", but it was written at a time when families had a lot of control over even their adult children. Postulating such a situation in modern America seems, at first glance, less credible.

Anne breaks off her engagement because she is persuaded it is the right thing to do. Anne always does what she thinks is right, even when it involves (covert) defiance. Austen shows this again and again, and it's one of the reasons why the reader is firmly on Anne's side. If Avery has similar qualities, they're not coming across in the query.

Belvoir said...

"He seems like a nice man. I think I'll let him publish my book."

-the immortal Nurse Jenny in "The World According to Garp". Admittedly the line is from the movie, but it's hilarious and unforgettable. Reminded of this from the opening paragraph here.

:)

Lucy said...

I just have to chime in on this, in case anyone is still reading it. I truly think that what's needed here is a writers' group, preferably including at least one experienced editor, English teacher or college professor.

You know, you talk about a background in advertising, and advertising means falling in love with adjectives. Passionately. Working old ones to death, looking for new combinations. Most beginning writers do the same. And then we get over it, usually after someone kindly or not so kindly points out that our purple prose looks like a walking bruise. (People who don't get over it end up writing political rants.)

One of the basic issues is that adjectives have to show what's going on. It's too easy to use them to tell; and sometimes they need to be used that way, but not often, and not all the time. This is where you need a writers' group or a writing class, to help you weed out the difference between show and tell.

Another point is that in fiction, unlike advertising, the unusual, rare or distinctive adjective is not necessarily the best choice. Any word that pulls the reader out of the story and makes him or her say, "Huh?" is the wrong word, unless you're J.K. Rowling, and your readers expect that from you. You don't want your readers to get hung up on snags.

One way to spot these is to read your work aloud yourself; the other is to have someone else read your work aloud. I know of no experience so humbling as to hear your beautiful language being mangled by the clumsy tongue of the uninformed, but it does tend to reveal where your weaknesses are, and especially where your punctuation is not working effectively.

I hope you find a great group to work with; and best wishes!

L.C. Blackwell

jane said...

Lucy,
Thank you so much for your encouragement and your advice. I went back and read my manuscript and I realized that my query sounds nothing like how I write. I think I just need to start from scratch and write the query the way I write, and not like I'm trying to cram 60 seconds of copy into a 10 second traffic report.

Janet, if you're reading this, am I allowed another revision? How hungry is the shark nowadays?