Sunday, August 3, 2008


Dear Query Shark

Re: Manuscript Submission

I am seeking representation for the publication of my novel, titled “Before I Go, The Diary Of A Suicide”. The novel is aimed at the adult market and is approximately 50,000 words in length. It is written in diary format, in the first person and tells the story of Isabelle, a woman who experiences the devastating effects of severe depression.

The book explores the taboo subject of suicide whilst exploring the intimate thoughts of a loving and vulnerable woman. We journey with her as she struggles with miscarriage, serial betrayal and post natal depression.

This is a series of events, not a plot. You have to have a plot. A diary format is incredibly difficult for a novel. I'm not sure why you chose that form, but I strongly encourage you to try something else.

I'm not sure I'd describe suicide as a taboo subject anymore. Thirty years ago, sure, but heck, it's in the news every day now.

This is my first book and I am sending this query letter to you as I know from your website that you welcome first time authors.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely

6 comments: said...

It makes me a little nervous to criticize what might be autobiographical. I don't normally shrink from subjects like death or suicide, but this one doesn't grab my attention. I can understand the character's conflict (unlike Janet, I don't think every antagonist runs on two legs), but I think you need to add something in here about what it takes to resolve it. In other words, she's fighting depression. How is she going to beat it?

Because you mentioned this is your first "book," I'd like to help you avoid some beginner's mistakes you should fix before you query again: First, 50,000 words is too short for a novel. Flesh it out. Get a plot going.

Secondly, there are a couple reasons you should never say it's your first "book." It's not a book yet. It's a manuscript (or screenplay, possibly), or a novel. You're going to have a very hard time snagging an agent with those words because 99.9% of them believe (with good reason) that first novels belong under the bed with the dust bunnies, or in a drawer somewhere, never to see the light of day. They're learning tools, nothing more. If you put this one in the attic, and continue to write and work on your next novel, then dig this one out six months or a year from now, you'll see why.

While you're polishing your writing skills, do everything you can to learn about how the publishing business works. Lots of top flight agents blog now, so you should never lack for information. I think Janet has a list of some on her sidebar, and I have a very long list of links on mine. Personally, I would begin with Miss Snark. And although it's not a blog about writing per se, if your story is autobiographical, you might want to Google "Post Secret." You're not alone.

ver: vrgudd

EB said...

Depression makes for a difficult antagonist because it creates an internal struggle. Not to say it can't be done, but the challenges are significant. Other people may only see the somatic manifestations (not eating, sleeping, etc), but it's hard to make the true struggle real to those outside of the MC. What you've presented here seems to be "I was sad. I didn't get better." Obviously it's more involved than that...but there's gotta be some plot.

On the other hand, while the diary format lets you into the MC's head, I think it can limit you from accurately depicting interactions, dialogue, etc. Why, for example, choose the diary format over 1st person narration? It seems a bit too gimicky.

Nick Hornby's "A Long Way Down" is an interesting approach to the story of 4 would-be suicides. There are 4 different voices and definite plot. Suicide is not a taboo subject.

Unknown said...

I don't think your reason for sending the book should be "I know from your website that you welcome first time authors." It would be stronger if you know that agent rep'd someone who writes something similar, or some more specific reason to use that agent.

To me, the story is here: We journey with her as she struggles with miscarriage, serial betrayal and post natal depression.

Why not give more background on this? Set the story up so that we get a greater sense of what is gained/lost. In fact, you could leave out the suicide part until the end: pile up all the problems, then add at the end the suicide.

Agree with southern writer: try to downplay first novel. Also agree that 50k words is too short. What if you intersperse diary entries with narrative?

Marian Perera said...

I think Debbie Macomber has a novel which deals with a lot of tearjerker issues (cancer, death, marital breakups) and which is told through diary entries, letters, newspaper articles, telegrams and so on. Laid out in chronological order, these gave the book an interesting scrapbook feel while still telling a story. And there was plenty of variety. Maybe you could try something like this?

Liana Brooks said...

I've seen diary entries done well in a few books (Ya: Catherine, Called Birdie comes to mind) but it is a hard format.

Second thought: Is this your first book or the first you've queried? If it's your first book I think Southern Writer has the right idea, let it sit for a few months while you work on another project. I love the first novel I finished, the idea is great, but it needs a massive overhaul before I let anyone see the full thing. The more you write the better you get and the more you look at your early work and gee I need to edit that.

Yell a bit and then see what Beth wrote. You don't want to query depression, but a journey through that depression. All the ups and downs.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

...I haven't finished reading all the archives yet, as I'm currently doing that in preparation to send my own, but I read this and was curious. Didn't a novel called 'Before I Go' get published within the past couple years? One about a woman's decision re: suicide? Was that THIS book?