Sunday, June 15, 2014

#259-Revised twice

Questionish:
I am confused about how much info I should reveal. I have given an alternative choice in red.

I know you said not to begin a query with a rhetorical question, but are they always taboo? It seems like some rhetorical questions can create tension or am I misunderstanding? Yes/No/Yes Rhetorical questions do not create tension. Tension by definition means something is at stake, something will change. Rhetorical questions are used in conversation to make a point.



A rhetorical question is: "Do you want me to kill you?"
A question that creates tension is "Why do you want me to kill you?"


Is it normal to feel like I'm getting worse? Yes. Revisions often involve two steps forward three steps back. Don't feel like a failure because of that. Just keep trying.


Dear QueryShark:

The past doesn't always stay in the past. Sometimes it comes to life on the dance floor.


Enter a world of big band jazz, dance halls, malt shops and meet
Violet's. Her life begins to unravel when she finds her alcoholic father on their doorstep, blood from a bullet wound oozing from his head.


For the first time you actually have an enticing sentence here to start the query.

Violet turns to her jitterbug sailor, Charles. Dance becomes their refuge and language of love in a war torn world.


And then you go splat.  There's NO connection between her wounded father and jitterbug Charlie. I'm interested in how her dad got wounded. You never mention it again.



AND when you open a query with a sentence, I assume it's and important part of the story.  If you never mention it again, that's Very Confusing.  I don't have to tell you that's Death in a query.

His battle group deploys before they can marry. When his war letters mysteriously stop arriving, Violet has no chance to tell him she's pregnant, and is forced to make the choice of a lifetime, alone.

splat.



Half a century later, another 17 year-old ingénue discovers dirty martinis, old jazz, vintage clothing and a skirt wrapping around a warm thigh on a crowded dance floor.

When an accomplished dancer is injured before the international jitterbug contest, June is tapped to take her place. June fights her fears and insecurities in the midst of discovering her recently deceased grandmother is not her biological one.
or Can June overcome her fears, win the contest and not to fall in love with her otherwise engaged dance partner?

While searching for her grandmother answers June finds an antique dress which leads her to Violet and the key to unlocking a fifty year old mystery.

THE GIRL IN THE JITTERBUG DRESS is the parallel story of two young women struggling with self-doubt, loss and redemption, united across generations by a 1940's swing dress.

THE GIRL IN THE JITTERBUG DRESS is Women's Fiction, 120,000 words. Readers who enjoyed The Notebook, Water for Elephants, and Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, are the target audience.


Being a Navy wife, Editor in Chief for Swivel: Vintage Living Magazine, (out of print) and teaching vintage dances combined with years of writing about antique clothing, movies, sewing, and collecting have given me a unique and studied perspective on my subject. I have been published in "The Lucid Stone," "Red Dog Journal," "Spoken Word from Lalapalooza" and other small press magazines.

Thank you for your time and consideration.











The problem of what's at stake hasn't been solved. In The Notebook, the question is the basic one of a romance: will the boy and girl get together across all the challenges life has put in their way. Here, I'm not even sure who the main character is, let alone what they care about. Winning a dance contest isn't what's at stake. Finding out who grandma was isn't what's at stake. What's at stake are the CONSEQUENCES of wining/not winning, discovering/not discovering.

You've got to get the stakes on the page here. And I hope you've got them in the novel.


You might want to start with June, not Violet, in the query.


--------------------------- 


FIRST REVISION
 

Questions:


1. My rhetorical question was supposed to be a tagline. I read on another agent blog that I needed a logline and a tagline. Start with the tagline end with the logline? I have others like: "Sometimes the Past Doesn't Stay in the Past, Sometimes it Comes to Life on The Dance Floor." Should I forget about the tagline?

Yes.  I'm not sure I could tell you the difference between a log line and tagline. What I can tell you is that loglines are ways to express the concept of a novel, and it come from the film world where they love that kind of short hand thing, because in film it's NOT ABOUT THE WRITING.
A query is about the writing. Tell me about your story.


2. A couple of the comments said it was too long. Is it? 

Your word count right now is 452. A good taut query is 250. If you lose all the "platform" stuff at the end, you're down to 330.



3. I thought of my query letter as my blurb, but my new and improved query seems like it might be too much information? What do you think? 
You're throwing around terms here that have zero relevance to your query. Your query is the query. It's not the blurb. It's not the log line, it's not the tag line. It's not the Maginot Line.


4. I'm still confused my how much platform to include. Most of the blogs for writers drive the platform hard. So, how much do I say, if anything?
You don't need platform to write a novel. You don't need to tell me why you're qualified to write a novel.  All you have to do in a query is tell me about a story I want to read.  It's harder than it looks.



Dear QueryShark:

Enter Violet's world of big band jazz, dance halls and malt shops. Violet's mother has abandoned her and Violet's father. Violet must take care of her alcoholic when she finds him on their doorstep, a bullet wound oozing from his head. Her jitterbug boyfriend, Charles, tries to help, but Violet sends him away. 


Bullet wounds don't ooze, blood oozes. (This kind precision is what I look for in a query because it tells me the level of precision I can expect in the novel. I value precise elegant writing in EVERY genre and category.)

Why does Violet send Charles away?

 
The young lovers battle their fears about life, love and death. Dance becomes their refuge and language of love in a war torn world. Charles is called to duty before they can marry. When his war letters mysterious stop arriving, Violet has no chance to tell him she is pregnant, and no choice but to give their baby up for adoption. 
Ok a couple of word choices; Charles is called UP (not "to duty") if he's in the service.  You probably mean mysteriously, not mysterious.

And Violet DOES have a choice. By saying that she doesn't you squeeze every bit of tension out of the query in two words. This is A Bad Thing.  Violet has a choice, but what she chooses is to give up the baby. You might want to mention why.

 
Half a century later, another 17 year-old ingénue discovers dirty martinis, old jazz, vintage clothing and a skirt wrapping around a warm thigh on a crowded dance floor. The Lindy Hop becomes a vertical expression of her repressed sexuality. 
 
June discovers her recently deceased grandmother is not her biological one. While obsessed with finding her real grandmother, dealing with her anxiety disorder, and navigating college, she finds an antique jitterbug dress which may lead her to the one person she’s been looking for and an unexpected quest to find the woman’s long lost dance partner.
I've said before and I'll say again: the stakes here are not high enough to sustain my interest in reading this novel.  Complex family relationships need consequences if untangling them is the plot of the novel.



I haven't even gotten to all the cool stuff you do with dance at this point in the query, and if this was a query in my in-box, I'd stop reading here.  You MUST entice me to read the book before anything else.

 
The Girl in the Jitterbug dress is the parallel story of Violet and June: Violet, who races against her boyfriend's deployment and her grifting father to win a dance contest and tie the knot before WWII interrupts; and June, who half a century later struggles to find her biological grandmother and solve a fifty year old mystery. United across generations by a 1940s swing dress and their passion for dance.
 
The novel fits into the Women's Fiction category. Readers who enjoyed the parallel story structure and time era juxtapositions in The NotebookWater for Elephants, and Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, will want to read The Girl in the Jitterbug Dress. The manuscript is complete at 120,000 words.
The Girl in the Jitterbug Dress is women's fiction, 120,000 words.  Readers who enjoyed (list all those books) are the target audience.

Say things simply with as few words as possible.
 
The chapter titles are song titles which reflect the mood of each chapter and are listed and linked on the soundtrack portion of the website <http://www.girlinthejitterbugdress.com/soundtracks/>  as well as a glossary for 1940s slang.
You absolutely do not need this in the query. All it does is take up space. At the query stage I'm looking at 3-5 pages, not chapters. I'm not going to your website to listen to the soundtrack, I'm reading your pages.
 
After my run as Editor in Chief for Swivel: Vintage Living Magazine (1996-1999, currently out of print) my dance blogs inspired a novel. Fifteen years of being a Navy wife and teaching vintage dances (1920s-1950s styles) combined with years of writing about antique clothing, movies, sewing, and collecting have given me a unique and studied perspective on my subject. I have been published in "The Lucid Stone," "Red Dog Journal," "Spoken Word from Lalapalooza" and various other small press magazines (some out of print). For my complete publishing credits, please see my resume.  <http://www.girlinthejitterbugdress.com/about-tam-francis/resume/>
 
Thank you for taking time to consider my novel.


Thank you for your time and consideration



The problem here is that the novel doesn't have high enough stakes to sustain interest. You can have all the pub credits in the world, and a lot of cool things that make you knowledgeable in your field but you MUST have a novel that I want to read first.


The problem isn't your query. It's the novel, or at least what you're telling me about the novel here.




Original ----------
Questions:

(1) I have been getting a one out of four response and request for ms. Is this good? Can I do better?

(2) I wasn't sure about listing publishing credits since they are smaller magazines and some out of print. Many of the queries in the archives lead me to believe NOT, but honestly, I'm not sure. You told one gal not to list her "college paper" credits or small obscure publications. You also told another person that living in France did not (alone) qualify or make them an expert to write about France.

(3) Looking for help.

(4) Is my (below) signature fine for contact info or should it be in the query body?


Dear QueryShark:


Can one dance change your life?


Don't open your query with a rhetorical question. Not now. Not ever.


Enter the world of a world of big band jazz, dance halls and malt shops. 17 year-old Violet struggles to balance her troubled father, seamstress job, and growing passion for a jitterbug sailor. He moves her to distraction by "expertly shifting his leg between hers, delicately pushing her into intricately guided dance steps.” 



This is description. It's not bad, but it's not all that interesting either. A world in and of itself is not enticing. What HAPPENS in that world can be enticing. What's really enticing though is tension, and while you allude to it here (struggles to balance) it's still pretty bland.


They race against his deployment and her grifting father, to win a dance contest, and tie the knot before WWII interrupts.

This might be the plot of an old movie but it's not all that enticing now. It's not enticing because it's not specific.

Fifty years later, June, another 17 year-old ingénue, discovers dirty martinis, old jazz, and her vintage skirt wrapping around her thighs on a crowded dance floor. Before leaving for college, June's mother drops a bombshell: her recently deceased grandmother is not her biological one.

Unless there's some huge amount of money or a life threatening hereditary condition involved: so what?



While researching her ancestry, navigating college, (work, school, dating), June finds an antique jitterbug dress which may lead her to the one person she’s been looking for, and an unexpected quest to find the woman’s long lost dance partner.



This sentence doesn't seem to relate to anything that came before it.  Who is she looking for? Bio-gramps?



THE GIRL IN THE JITTERBUG DRESS is the parallel story of two young women struggling with budding sexuality, new independence, and recent loss, united across generations by a 1940's swing dress.




None of those are things you mentioned before.  "New independence" --isn't Violet still emeshed with her grifting father? Budding sexuality? I didn't see any hint of that all unless you consider dancing to be vertical sex.  And recent loss? Again, nothing.




The novel fits into the Women's Literature category with Historical Fiction, and New Adult cross-over. 



NO NO NO. For a start, the category is women's fiction, not women's literature. There's no New Adult crossover here. Pick ONE category (and pick the one that has the largest amount of shelf space) and ONLY ONE.


If you enjoyed reading THE NOTEBOOK, WATER FOR ELEPHANTS and HOTEL AT THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET, you will want to read THE GIRL IN THE JITTERBUG DRESS The manuscript is complete at 125,000 words.

I don't think of those books as comparable to each other at all, but ok. I also intensely dislike the form "if you enjoyed reading" because what you really want to say is "readers who enjoyed these books will like yours."




The first draft of a sequel, THE GIRL IN THE JITTERBUG DRESS HOPS THE ATLANTIC is also complete. The chapter titles are song titles which reflect the mood of each chapter and are listed and linked on the soundtrack portion of the website (website)



NO NO NO. You're wasting valuable space on something that doesn't belong in a query.  This is the stuff you put on your website if you must. And don't get ahead of yourself on a sequel.


With the success of "Dancing with the Stars," and "So You Think You Can Dance," this novel taps into America's renewed obsession with dancing, vintage fashion and nostalgia. In addition to its commercial appeal, THE GIRL IN THE JITTERBUG DRESS has a built-in niche market in the swing dance/vintage subculture community (networked by websites, clubs, camps, events contests and global communities). I am intimately connected with this community. Social networks (facebook, twitter, google+) as well as my novel website (website)  are well established.

Those are TV shows, not books. There's almost zero correlation between popular TV shows and sales of novels, unless the TV show star is involved.

After completing the run of my magazine, Swivel: Vintage Living, my dance blogs inspired a book. Fifteen years of being a Navy wife and teaching vintage dances (1920s-1950s styles) combined with years of writing about antique clothing, movies, sewing, and collecting have given me a unique and studied perspective on my subject. For my complete publishing credits, please see my resume.  (resume)



NO NO NO. List your publishing credits. Do NOT just put a link in the query.


Thank you for considering my novel.




You're too occupied with what you think you need (credentials, platform) and too light on what is really important: what is the novel about.  We have no sense of who June and Violet are. Because of that, we don't care.  And "your grandfather isn't who you think he is" is too low on the scale of what matters to be very interesting.  You need to raise the stakes here a LOT.







Answers to your questions:
(1) I have been getting a one out of four response and request for ms. Is this good? Can I do better?
Of course you can do better. You can get an offer of representation.  I don't know if you mean you're getting a request for a full for every four queries you send but if that is so, that's good.

(2) I wasn't sure about listing publishing credits since they are smaller magazines and some out of print. Many of the queries in the archives lead me to believe NOT, but honestly, I'm not sure. You told one gal not to list her "college paper" credits or small obscure publications. You also told another person that living in France did not (alone) qualify or make them an expert to write about France.
YOu can simply say you've been published in smaller magazines (some now out of print).

(3)Looking for help.
Well, here ya go.

(4) Is my (below) signature fine for contact info or should it be in the query body?
If you've read the archives you know the answer to this question.




21 comments:

John "Ol' Chumbucket" Baur said...

MISPLACED MODIFIER ALERT! "Before leaving for college, June's mother drops a bombshell." Did June's mother leave for college? Since mother is hte subject of the se4ntence and the phrase "Before leaving for college" is right next to it, that's what the sentence says. The sentence should read something like: Before June left for college, her mother drops a bombshell..."
This kind of error is really, annoyingly common. Makes me not care about grandpa, because I got stopped in my tracks wondering who's going to college.

John "Ol' Chumbucket" Baur said...

Only without all the typos and the disagreement in tense caused from rushing to get the comment up. I need to either type slower or think faster. Or both.

Christopher Meades said...

There's no way this writer read all 258 queries posted before hers.

DLM said...

The resurgence for 40s/50s vintage, swing, and so on started at least fifteen years ago. I haven't heard of anyone swing dancing in some years now. (The more recent vintage trends are for the 1960s and 1920s, led by Mad Men and Downton Abbey.) DWTS and SYTYCD are not at their fever-pitch heights anymore. And, as Janet points out, these are television shows.

You can NOT write to the market. You also can't query to it, not this way.

Make us care about the characters and what's about to happen to them. Agents are not interested in having fashion explained to them - the point of a query is to tantalize with a *story*. Do that. If it's sellable, an agent will know.

Elissa M said...

This sounds like there might be an interesting story somewhere in here, but it's not coming through in the query yet.

I'd be less worried about the 1 in 4 response rate on the query than the apparent fact that the manuscript isn't generating interest. Unless only 4 agents have been queried thus far.

In addition to rewriting the query, you might want to solicit feedback from some experienced beta readers to be sure the manuscript is the best it can be.

Good luck! :)

Beta Shy said...

Two new posts in 2 weeks! Get the scotch- QOTKU is finally realigning the planets…even Pluto :-)

Congrats on the requests for the Full. The setting sounds interesting, but the query doesn’t really bring it to life. More stuff below…

1. At the beginning, are you quoting your own MS? If so, that’s addressed somewhere in the archives (don’t do it)

2. I’m confused about the category/genre, especially since both protags are 17. YA Historical Fiction?

3. Violet’s problems sound pretty mild

4. Some of the sentences were awkwardly phrased. “He moves her to distraction.” What does “they race against her grifting father” mean?

5. The phrase “drops a bombshell” is a cliché and a very difficult one to live up to

6. Marriage won’t prevent him from getting deployed, right? So why is the marriage a pressing issue? Seems like a false choice…

7. This is probably me being a tad prudish on a Sunday, but describing a 17-year-old girl’s “vintage skirt wrapping around her thighs,” kinda grossed me out

8. “June’s mother drops a bombshell: her recently deceased grandmother…” The way you have it phrased, I thought you meant June’s mother’s grandmother (June’s great-grandmother)

9. Is 125K too long?

Steve Stubbs said...

I am not a romance novel expert, but I think the formula is, lovers get separated. Something keeps them apart. Then lovers finally get back together. What we seem to have here is, lovers race against time to get married, then man ships off to sea, possibly not to return. Anybody can get married at any time, so racing against time to get married does not make any sense unless you explain to us why it does. Then if the man gets shipped out and that is the end of the story, that does not make sense either, because the lovers are supposed to somehow get together in the end. Another ending could be that one or both of them end up dead, preventing a reunion. That worked for Shakespeare. I am sure there is more to the story than appears in the query, so what I am saying is, what is missing in the query is crucial to selling the story. Also if the heroine is old enough to get married, it is likely her sexuality is past the “budding” phase. If you mean she is 13 and cannot marry without approval from her grifting father that should be made plain. Then you would have something like LOLITA, which would have to be treated gingerly. That could work if the kid is smitten, she cannot marry, nothing happens, and her heart is broken when Mr. Charm ships out. I am sure the plot works, but there is something missing from the description.

Finding a dress and then being transported into the past sounds like LADY CHATTERLY’S LOVER. Something like that certainly worked for D.H. Lawrence, but he would have made it plainer what he was doing in a query.

Lastly I wonder about the length. 125,000 words seems rawtha long for a first novel aimed at a New Adult audience.

Tam Francis said...

Wow, thank you so much for all your comments and opinions. I will take them to heart. I'm so glad I took the risk and tried query shark.

Although I'd had requests for the manuscript and made it past the first round of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest last year, it's clear I haven't done my story justice.

I did have another agent say she would be interested if I could cut it down to 100K, so your advice is warranted and I will put it to the chopping block again.

Thank you for your kindness and time. I'm excited and energized by all your help!

Do you gurus know of anything like query shark for back cover blurbs? I'm self-publishing a collection and something like this would be outstanding.

Thanks!

Kalli said...

Sounds like all the ingredients of a really awesome novel, but I don't actually know what *happens* - there's a seamstress in love with her dancing sailor, while struggling with a troubled father, then rushing to get married before the outbreak of WWII, all of which sounds like very fertile soil for a romance novel. But then the shift in timeline comes along and muddies the waters, so i no longer know what kind of story i'm in for. There's a girl with a not-real grandma and a dress and something she needs to find out... but I don't know what, why, or why any of that matters. The Shark nailed it when she said you gotta up the stakes in that part of the story. I'd probably ask for pages tho, because it has enough tantalising ingredients to make me think the finished cake will taste good. But 125k *IS* long... (says the person who's agent told her to aim for 130k)

Tam Francis said...

Hi, now that I've taken a week to rewrite my query and get over my initial shock. I thought I'd answer your questions and maybe learn something in the process :)

From BETA SHY
1. At the beginning, are you quoting your own MS? If so, that’s addressed somewhere in the archives (don’t do it)

Thanks. I did read them for a week straight, but must have missed that. I got the advice to "show a sample of your writing in your query" from another website.

2. I’m confused about the category/genre, especially since both protags are 17. YA Historical Fiction?

I used a quiz for determining whether it was Romance of Women's Fiction: http://agencygatekeeper.blogspot.com/2010/07/romance-womens-fiction-or-chick-lit.html I'm taking Janet's advice and picking ONE category: Women's Fiction.

3. Violet’s problems sound pretty mild

You're right. I hoped I've fixed this in my revision. Thank you.

4. Some of the sentences were awkwardly phrased. “He moves her to distraction.” What does “they race against her grifting father” mean?

Yup, that was the quote. Gone. Thank you.

5. The phrase “drops a bombshell” is a cliché and a very difficult one to live up to

Yes, you're right. I didn't see it when I wrote it, but fixed it. Thanks.

6. Marriage won’t prevent him from getting deployed, right? So why is the marriage a pressing issue? Seems like a false choice…

He might never come home and if they're not married she has no rights to find out information about him if he's a POW or MIA. Still, maybe not compelling enough. I hope I fixed this, too.


7. This is probably me being a tad prudish on a Sunday, but describing a 17-year-old girl’s “vintage skirt wrapping around her thighs,” kinda grossed me out

The dancing is like sex, written like sex and is supposed to be an expression of her repressed sexuality. I've added that to the query as well. Sorry to gross you out. This novel might be too sexual for you? Maybe it's too sexual all together. You've given me something to think about. Thank you.

8. “June’s mother drops a bombshell: her recently deceased grandmother…” The way you have it phrased, I thought you meant June’s mother’s grandmother (June’s great-grandmother)

Doh! Thank you, I see it now. Fixed it ;)

9. Is 125K too long?

I'll keep working on this. I have to confess the MS started at 170k YIKES! I edited to 150k, then 140K, then 125K for the Amazon contest. I'm sure I could find another 5-10K to cut. Its pretty tight now, but will look again.

DLM:
Yes, you are right, the BIG resurgence was in the 1990s, but there is still a huge domestic and international niche market rich with websites,weekend Festivals and more.

There are anywhere from 200-1000 people at these events. I'm hoping to do book signings and promotions at these events, but no, its not as big as it was when they were making the GAP commercial with Lindy Hop :)

I've taught for years and know most of the event organizers, so I have an "in" and thought it a good place to build from. Maybe not. Its all new to me. If you have any more advice about that, I'm interested. I'm reading and learning and open. Thanks.

ELISSA, STEVE, KALLI:
I have read and reread your advice and taken it to heart. Thanks for not being too cruel and actually giving a few words of encouragement! You guys are awesome. Thanks for taking the time!

JOHN: Doh! Thank you.

CHRIS: I did, but read them for a week straight and at times my eyes grew blurry and may have skimmed some. I wish there were a search, to find specific problems or difficulties unique to the writer :)Sorry if you feel I am unworthy of query shark's gifts. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity.

Tam Francis said...

@DLM (again)

Re: writing to a genre. You are so right. I did not intend to do that when I wrote the novel and sequel. I wrote a book I would want to read with characters I liked and situations I wanted to see them in. I hope it doesn't come across that I wrote to a genre. Yikes! Good to keep in mind for sure :)

Theresa Milstein said...

Just because a 17-year-old girl is about to go to college, doesn't make me think NA. And I don't think you can say historical fiction because it's contemporary too. I'd just say women's fiction. There are too many temptations to jump on the bandwagon (first YA and now NA). But the manuscripts aren't all that pliable. Part of it is the content/aim of the book rather than the market.

There is a lot of vagueness in this query, but it looks like you're addressing it, as you state above. Good luck.

Tam Francis said...

Looks like I got my ass handed to me...again. The big take-away for me on this round is upping the tension MORE.

Big fix: instead of: Violet has no choice, maybe: What will Violet choose? Violet has a choice to make, or something like that.

And I realized I never said anything about June conquering her fears and insecurities when asked to step-in for the international jitterbug contest.

What is enough tension/stakes? Does every story have to have "live or death" consequences?

I still wonder why so many other bloggger agents would recommend the whole logline, tagline and platform stuff. I'm mystified by this complete dismissal, but will do more research.

Here are blogs that reference loglines and taglines and the difference, if anyone is interested:

http://graemeshimmin.com/writing-a-logline-for-a-novel/

http://www.raindance.org/10-tips-for-writing-loglines/

Blogs on including Platform in your query:

http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/the-10-dos-and-donts-of-writing-a-query-letter

http://www.writersdigestshop.com/query-letter

I thought I was strong, but not sure I can handle a third round. I'm still grateful, but will sit on this for awhile before I put myself out there again.

Thank you all for your advice.




Beta Shy said...

Welcome back! I love when writers take the query process seriously enough to actually do revisions.

Dual perspective is tough to pull off. Take a look at other queries again (#199 is a good one) and novels like “Sarah’s Key” to see how they addressed it. Might give you some ideas.

Just a thought, and I know it’s a departure from the work you’ve put in so far, but you might be better off writing the query from just one perspective, and then having a line at the end “…parallel story of two young women connected by a fifty-year-old mystery” (but without the clichés).

Navigating college, dealing with anxiety- that’s all very generic. Buying a dress that becomes a clue to solving a 50-year-old war mystery connected to the protag’s ancestry tells a very different story.

You had a line buried in both queries “the quest to find the woman’s long lost dance partner.” I have a feeling that’s where your stakes are, but not as you have it written.

Like Janet said, you have to nail the stakes to make this work. I still think there’s an original concept in here.

PS: in your revision, the thigh line didn’t gross me out at all. Maybe I’m just not in a pearl-clutching mood today :-)

Good luck with the next round of revisions!

Shawna said...

I see the shark changed "will want to read" to saying who the "target audience" is. I'd definitely agree with this change, though it does seem like a small one.

As I read through the queries on this site, one thing that I don't like is when queries say "readers of (these books) will like my book" or "this will appeal to people who liked (these books)". Because maybe they won't. Maybe your book might have some of the same surface qualities that those books have, but it also lacks all the things that actually made those books so good, like wit and plot and good characters. Just because your book is set in a fantasy world with talking animals doesn't mean I'll like it because I liked Narnia. Just because I like Georgette Heyer doesn't mean I'll like your book because its a Regency romance. That sort of thing. I guess this is why I personally don't like book comparisons anyway. It seems to set the reader up for disappointment. (Although obviously I'm in the minority in this opinion. That's just my personal feeling.)

Tam Francis said...

@Beta Shy. You're a godsend. Thank you. I will take a look at 199. I did some revisions today, but was a bit teary and defeated. I'll rally and come back stronger. I think there must be a part of me that's slightly masochistic. I will explore those ideas some more, but your kind words made my day.

Best to you :)

Tam Francis said...

@Shawna I totally understand what your saying and agree, but most agents want to know where you sit on a bookshelf and QOTKU (aka Query Shark) requests this comparison in her queries.

Even though I see you point, it's pretty standard for query letters :)

I chose my comparison because they all deal with a similar time era, all have elements of romance, and all bounce between modern and historical times. Oh, and I happen to have really enjoyed those three books.

On my first go-round Query Shark didn't think my selections went together. So, I've googled the genres and found that the Notebook is considered Romance (although it has historical romance feature), Water for Elephants is Historical Romance, and Hotel at the Corer of Bitter and Sweet is Historical Fiction.

But when I look at the definition of these genres it get confusing: from WD: The difference between Romance and Women's Fiction: http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/guide-to-literary-agents/agent-scott-eagan-on-romance-vs-womens-fiction "In women’s fiction, is there no happily-ever-after? Does this mean there is no romance? No. Women’s fiction is about something much more. I have always tried to define this genre as a story that shows the female journey. The goal and the intent of this genre is to be able to relate to the character and understand her own life. We want to know what it is to be a woman. Like romance, this can occur in any time period, but the goal is still the same – to understand the female psyche. The story can be multicultural, like Amy Tan, or historical, like Philippa Gregory."

Historical Fiction: "Historical fiction is a literary genre in which the action takes place in the past. The settings are drawn from history, and often contains historical persons. Works in this genre often portray the manners and social conditions of the persons or times presented in the story, with attention paid to period detail."

Further confusing is that The Notebook shows up on lists of Best Women's Fiction: https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/8691.Best_Women_s_Fiction_Novels

Over all, my story has elements of history and elements of romance, but rings more true to the definition of "the female journey," and in this case two women's journeys :)

Shawna said...

Yes, I suppose it is standard. Part of my dislike might come from the fact that I'm not very good at coming up with comp titles for my own books. Or when I do, they wouldn't mean much to the agent reading. If I said something like, "This book should appeal to readers who enjoy Stephenie Meyer, Jim Butcher, and Ted Dekker," agents would probably just go, "WTF does that mean?"

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Query letter #255 demonstrates how writing two POV could work. Good luck.

Beta Shy said...

Don’t get discouraged! Remember these folks: #211 revised 7X FTW; #190 and #168 both revised 5X FTW.

We usually don’t care about the past for the sake of the past; we care because of what it means for the present.

If you take Janet’s suggestion and look at this again from June’s perspective, try answering her staple questions (What does June want? What/Who is keeping her from getting it? What choice/decision does she face? What bad thing will happen if she does/doesn’t choose X?)

I don’t quite have a sense of who Violet and June are in terms of voice. Is June shy, intense, or giggly or brash? A couple well-placed words could really make a difference.

Here’s some brainstorming:

17-year-old dancer June can’t believe her luck when her rival is injured and June is tapped to take her place in the 2015 international jitterbug competition.

June jumps at the chance to win the contest—and the desperately-needed prize money—with her too-handsome and far-too-engaged dance partner.

Before June can make her debut, her grandmother dies suddenly. This was no Christmas-and-Birthday Grandma– Nona taught June everything she knows about swing, jazz, and how to make one hell of a martini.

At the funeral, June discovers Nona wasn’t her blood relative. A vintage swing dress hanging in Nona’s closet reveals a clue to June’s real bloodline- and a fifty-year-old mystery involving the dance competition and a young woman named Violet who lived—and loved—during the war.

Obviously, I don’t know your story, so what I wrote above won’t be an accurate portrayal of your plot points or voice (haha, nor is what I wrote intended to be an example of awesome writing!) I just wanted to show how much you can leave out and still get the basics down. Try different approaches- you’ll figure out what works.

Best of luck on this!

Tam Francis said...

Lisa and Beta Shy:

Thank you, thank you! I will take your suggestions and try again in a week or two.

It could be that my stakes are not high enough in the novel, although I've read loads of books that I thoroughly enjoyed that didn't have fevered stakes.

I'm going to have to think of how I've structured my novel and if there's a way to change it and if I want to change it :)

Thanks so much for the encouragement. It's greatly, greatly appreciated. Best to you!