Thursday, May 22, 2008

#31-Revision

Dear Query Shark:

Gus had warned Proli not to get involved with the first angry mob that comes along, but when the workers stormed across the city that night, she drunkenly joined their ranks without hesitation.

That's a pretty intriguing opening line. The only problem is that I don't have an immediate sense of when/where. Paris in 1968? Petrograd in 1911? Babylon in 1165BC? New York in 2020?

Poor work conditions had led to the gruesome deaths of two young girls at the Governor's paper mill, the latest in a long string of injustices. Armed with out-dated weapons and homemade bombs, the angry workers clash violently with the security forces at the Governor's estate and are forced to retreat.



At 76,000 words my first novel, Viva La Stasis, is a work of literary fiction that follows Proli as she is forced to ask herself the very question most of us try to ignore: what if nothing happens? From the war vet hammering an "Impeach Bush" sign into her front yard to the English teacher stammering his way through rounds of speed dating on a Thursday night, we adamantly reject any inkling that our efforts may prove fruitless. In the days following the workers revolt, that sentiment burdens Proli as she walks the streets of a city awash with rumors of a full-scale uprising.

It's not discussed in the factory where she works, but York Finster, a former resistance hero, has emerged from retirement. Proli hears his name whispered in taverns and diners through out the city, and his demands for change are echoed in the hearts of every worker. Except for Proli's. York Finster has delivered thousands of moving speeches, and nothing has ever come from them. She cannot lend her energy to a false revolution, especially with rent being past due and her roommate, Gus, spending most of his time chasing after university girls instead of honest employment. As the Governor and his council clamp down harshly on suspected dissidents, however, Proli discovers that she has unwittingly been entangled in the heart of a messy rebellion she never thought could happen.

I am seeking your representation for this novel. A full manuscript is available upon request. Thank you for your time.


I'm absolutely not clear about when this takes place. There are hints that it's now (Impeach Bush) and hints that it's 50 years ago (former Resistance fighter).

I like the idea but you need to be much more specific. Every single word in a query letter matters. Use the most specific, vivid word you can every single time.

This would be an automatic rejection right now because I just don't have a compelling sense of where this novel is headed.


------------------------

Proli knew better than to get involved with the first angry mob that came along, but when the workers stormed across the city that night, she drunkenly joined their ranks without hesitation. In the city of Grand Betelsburg, many have silently endured poor work conditions, low wages, and other injustices, but the days of quiet upset are coming to an end.

How many tenses are we going to have in two sentences? Pick one. Stick with it.

The gruesome deaths of two young girls at the Governor's paper mill sparked a riotous rage among the workers. They jeered loudly as they headed toward the Governor's estate, and Proli shouted along with them, raising her fists in solidarity.

You're now in the present but "that night" implies all this happened a while ago. This is just plain bad writing.

Viva La Stasis follows a factory girl, Proli, and her profiteering roommate as they struggle to make rent and end up making a stand.

This sentences has NOTHING to do with what came before it.

In the days following the worker's march, rumors of a full-scale uprising bring Proli more hassle than hope. The Governor and his council begin to clamp down on suspected dissidents and impose a strict curfew. Fears of being interrogated by a heavily armed street patrol keep her indoors at night when she'd rather be out dancing with Hank, a fellow factory worker who admires the freckles on her nose as much as her ability to throw a decent punch. When she does sneak across town to his apartment, Hank welcomes her with copies of the city newspaper filled with council sponsored lies and bores her with endless praise for York Finster. She notices that Hank's not the only one talking about York Finster. His name is whispered in back rooms and taverns throughout the city, and his cries for resistance soon echo from the lips of every worker except for Proli's. She remembers that even in his glory days York Finster was a failure and a coward: two traits that make him a lousy champion for the working cause.


At this point I'm so confused about who what and when that I've stopped reading. It's also a hugely long paragraph for a query letter. Paragraphs need to be short and sweet. Big blocks of text are literally unreadable.

Where Proli sees futility, her roommate, Gus, sees profit. He tries to secure lucrative munitions deals with the strengthening resistance, but his previous line of business selling contraband literature has not prepared him for the arms trade. Despite his inexperience, he quickly establishes ties with some of the underground's most influential members. When Gus learns that York Finster is plotting with the Governor to sabotage the worker's rebellion, he and Proli will do the unthinkable and plan a revolution of their own.

I am currently seeking your representation for this work of literary fiction. A completed manuscript of Viva La Stasis (76,000 words) is available upon request. I have included a self-address, stamped envelope. My other contact information is listed above should you prefer to correspond by another method. Thanks for reading.


Simplify. Use short declarative sentences to say what the book is about. Garnish as needed AFTER that. This is a mess.

11 comments:

Lehcarjt said...

I second the need for some reference info. Specifically where and when.

It also threw me that the story is about Proli, but you open with "Gus had warned." Then Gus isn't mentioned again until we learn he's not really part of the story anyways - he's just a party guy.

You lost me entirely with York Finster. I can't see a direct connection between him and Proli. Is he just a name on the wind or is she some how connected to him?

The topic is interesting though and if the setting grabbed me, and if it seemed historically accurate, I might just pick this up.

R. Lyle Wolfe said...

Perhaps this novel is set in a not too distant future when the third or fourth Bush has been "elected" president?

Mags said...

r. lyle wolfe said...
Perhaps this novel is set in a not too distant future when the third or fourth Bush has been "elected" president?

That's just funny. (I won't sleep tonight, but it's funny as hell!)

ChrisEldin said...

I was also thrown thinking the book would be about Gus, but is really about Proli. But the premise sounds interesting. I hope you get the query polished.

(Also LOL about the Bush joke!)

illana cool said...

Thanks all for commenting on my query. I will work to revise this.

The book itself is set in a nowhere nation state, which means the reader is never able to pin down an exact year, country, or even race of the characters involved...it's just a fictional city from a familar time.

I will add this to my second try.
Thanks again

Julia said...

"York Finster" is as much of a joke name as "Ford Prefect" but it doesn't seem that you're trying to be funny.

I'd suggest changing that, at least.

And "Impeach Bush" signs don't really suggest "a nowhere nation-state"--they suggest...er...my neighborhood, actually.

Southern Writer said...

Illana Cool, I stumbled at the Governor having a paper mill. Usually when a person gets that high in government they give up their "real" jobs.

Julia, I don't agree about York's name, but your comment about your neighborhood is a knee slapper. Sadly, I live in a place where a lot of people voted for him, and would do it again. Sheesh.

Beth said...

The book itself is set in a nowhere nation state, which means the reader is never able to pin down an exact year, country, or even race of the characters involved...it's just a fictional city from a familar time.

In that case, I think you'd want to do away with the "Impeach Bush" sign, which definitely sets the story in the last few years, in the US, and probably in Vermont.

Beyond that, IMO a story needs a specific setting, because the the place, the culture, the times, the current events--together these form the alembic from which character and conflict are distilled.

Julia said...

"York Finster" is a joke name because it's so similar to popular tourist destination York Minster.

It's like naming someone "Brand Canyon."

jjdebenedictis said...

Here's your query with extra words snipped out and a bit of rearrangement. This gives you more space to work with, so you can add the few extra details we need to really be interested in how the book ends.

Gus had warned Proli not to get involved with the first angry mob that comes along, but when the workers stormed across the city that night, she drunkenly joined their ranks without hesitation.

Poor work conditions led to the gruesome deaths of two young girls at the Governor's paper mill. Armed with out-dated weapons and homemade bombs, the workers clash violently with security forces at the Governor's estate.

Viva La Stasis is a work of literary fiction that follows Proli as she asks herself the question most of us try to ignore: what if nothing happens? From the war vet hammering "Impeach Bush" signs in her front yard to the English teacher stammering his way through a round of speed dating, we reject any inkling our efforts may prove fruitless. Proli doesn't.

York Finster, a former resistance hero, has emerged from retirement. His demands for change echo in the hearts of every worker, but nothing has ever come of his thousands of moving speeches. Proli cannot lend her energy to a false revolution, especially with the rent past due and her roommate Gus chasing girls instead of honest employment. As the Governor clamps down on suspected dissidents, Proli discovers she in entangled a messy rebellion she never thought could happen. [And here is where you give us details on exactly why she's in a deep pile of dog doo.]

Viva La Stasis, my first novel, is complete at 76,000 words and available upon request. Thank you for your time.


The main problem with what I have above is that it sounds jumpy. The paragraphs don't connect logically one to another. The plot also comes across nebulous, but that was a problem in the original query also. As everyone says, add some more detail to fix that.

Other than that, I think your book sounds really interesting! Good luck with your rewrites; I think this is something I'd enjoy reading.

Twill said...

You can't have "a nowhere nation state" and "impeach Bush" in the same story.

Your first paragraph gets points for a sense of humor, which you immediately lose when you bring up Bush. That part screams "polemic".

Are the vet and the English teacher scenes in the novel? Or are they just examples of what she isn't doing?

Get it nailed down in real examples and points from your novel. What situation is Proli in, what does she do, and how do her efforts get her in more trouble?

The message better be buried in an interesting read, or no one will pay to read it.