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Hindsight Query
Tawni Peterson
Posted: Tuesday, July 12, 2011 10:47 PM
Joined: 5/10/2011
Posts: 69

This is my first attempt (revised) at a query letter for Hindsight. Input/insight on how I might streamline this (or whether or not I need to) is greatly appreciated.

HINDSIGHT is a Literary Fiction Novel with Romantic elements, complete at XXXX words.

Embittered and battle torn by years of infertility Claire and Grant Carter find themselves on opposite ends of the chasm of barrenness.  At a crossroad of love and loss, Claire travels home to Louisiana, leaving Grant behind in a wake of silence and bitterness.

Claire’s mother’s battle with Alzheimer’s takes a terminal turn for the worse leaving Claire to wrestle with the demons from her family’s past. She is caught entirely unaware when she runs into her college sweetheart, Nicholas Ainsworth. Face to face for the first time in twelve years, the question of what might have been haunts them as they struggle to manage the inexplicable bond they clearly share.

Claire must call upon strength she never knew she to face everything about her history she has tried so hard to forget.  The love she ran from, but never let go of, the secret she has never spoken of, and the voice of her mother resounding in her head. An unexpected choice is hers alone; follow the road not taken, or fight to save her marriage.

I am the mother of four children; Two I enjoy on a daily basis, and two I hope to meet someday, on the other side of this life. I have a B.A. in Theater Arts and a minor in Psychology. This novel is my debut effort. Thank you for your consideration.

Tawni Peterson

Elizabeth Sogard
Posted: Tuesday, July 26, 2011 3:29 PM
Joined: 5/3/2011
Posts: 15

Hi Tawni!

Your novel sounds like there is a lot of strength and determination to be had. To get it there I think there are some things you will want to consider.

You use many cliches. One would raise eyebrows, but you have more than that.

"turn for the worse," that is telling (and also cliche) Let us feel like we are in the story. Show me! After sitting at her mothers bed side wondering how long it would take and praying it wouldn't, her mother left her devastated.

"Demons of her familys past" also cliche. Show us the dirt.

"Call upon a strength" Which strength. How does she call it? Does she have a direct line to fate? Do you see why it is cliche? Be specific and show us.

You use unexpected at least twice. Think about which is more important. Readers don't like a book they can't figure out at all.

My last critique:

I am the mother of four children; Two I enjoy on a daily basis, and two I hope to meet someday, on the other side of this life. (I was originally going to tell you that is too personal and unimportant but I have changed my mind. Others may think otherwise, but the fact you have lost two children is a qualification of sorts to write Claire's story)
I have a B.A. in Theater Arts and a minor in Psychology. This novel is my debut effort. (Cut the last sentence. It is assumed if you don't have any writing credentials) Thank you for your consideration. (I always do some sort of a call to action: I look forward to your response, is what I typically use but there are others.)

Some overall thoughts. I don't really get a sense for what drives the story. There is this secret in the background. A cheating husband and a potential lover. I understand it is her personal growth, but why do your READERS care about her growth.

I promise I am not being a jerk. Do you want her to find love after a destroyed marriage? Do we want her to find closure? It reads to me she has been kicked around and doesn't know what she wants. We need to know what we are supposed to root for. I would hate to pick up this novel on a whim and find out that her hubby is still a jerk, her lover is more of the same, she is baren for life and has to pay all the funeral expenses for her mom. GIVE ME HOPE! We don't know what her goal is. Figure that out, slam it in the query and you will be golden!
Tawni Peterson
Posted: Tuesday, July 26, 2011 3:48 PM
Joined: 5/10/2011
Posts: 69

Great stuff, Elizabeth! Thanks so much for the honest feedback. I sincerely appreciate it.

Which part made you think her husband was cheating? I am curious, because that isn't actually happening in the story (though maybe I should throw that in )

I completely agree about the use of cliche's, as well as the need to give the reader HOPE! I need to look at how to communicate that hope in the query. I am nervous about giving away too much, but perhaps for a query (this is my very first one) that isn't a concern.

The big secret is that Nick (her former lover) actualy got her pregnant but she nevertold anyone and had an abortion. Since then, she hasn't been able to get pregnant and stay pregnant. That truth has implications for her as well as each of the relationships. The unraveling of all of this and Claire's process of self discovery is much of what drives the story. It really is more literary ficiton than genre fiction, as it is so much more character driven than plot driven...but that happened on "accident." I set out to write a romance and this is what 'came out.'

I really needed some feedback, so again, thanks!
Posted: Tuesday, July 26, 2011 4:17 PM
Joined: 3/13/2011
Posts: 245

Biggest tip on query writing that I've come across: Don't try to tell everything. As I've been trying to write both a query and a blurb to put on my website to pique interest, someone told me to only cover the first 50 pages or so when you're writing it. From there, hint at what's to come by showing the stakes. And leave it at that. The synopsis is where you'll have to reveal everything to the agent and you'll have to work to craft that as interesting as your novel, but on a much shorter scale.

My biggest comment on your query is that I have no sense of what happens in the book other than she goes home and runs into people she used to know. That doesn't read plot to me, that reads more on the cliche. I'm not seeing what makes this book stand out. I actually stopped reading and went straight to the comments after the first sentence of your next to last paragraph.

You might be trying to cover too much in your query, but it is still under that magic 250 word mark most agents recommend for query length.

Get rid of the cliches, talk about the story itself, about what makes it unique in the market (not saying "This is unique because x, y, z, but actually showing us what she faces that makes it stand out).
Tawni Peterson
Posted: Tuesday, July 26, 2011 10:21 PM
Joined: 5/10/2011
Posts: 69

Thank you, Steph. I am not entirely sure how to only cover the first 50 pages leaving them wanting more, and also communicate plot lines/stakes.

I think what makes the book stand out would be the subject matter it covers...but it looks like I need to get a more well-rounded view of what a query should be.

Again, thanks for your feedback!

Posted: Wednesday, July 27, 2011 12:04 AM
Joined: 3/13/2011
Posts: 245

Query Shark is probably the best place for query stuff. Also, my friend Elana Johnson has an e-book called "From the Query to the Call." She's an expert on queries. Check out her blog for tips and you might check out the book.
Tawni Peterson
Posted: Wednesday, July 27, 2011 5:26 AM
Joined: 5/10/2011
Posts: 69

I actually just finished reading through all of the Query Shark posts and have found it pretty darn helpful! I will definitely look up the e-book. Thanks!

Jay Greenstein
Posted: Monday, August 1, 2011 5:50 AM
This isn't a query, it's a mini synopsis. If you could boil the novel down to a few short paragraphs it wouldn't be much of a story. So, what happens when you try is that it doesn't work, unless you already know the story, and so don't need it.

Think of the back cover blurb. Think of the voice-over for the theatrical trailer. Think high concept. Think emotion not fact. Selling not telling.
Tawni Peterson
Posted: Thursday, August 4, 2011 3:51 PM
Joined: 5/10/2011
Posts: 69


I really appreciate your feedback. I feel like I am getting mixed messages a bit as to exactly what a query should look like.

I started with something that I felt was more 'seling not telling' in format and got back reponses that said it left them wondering what happened in the book. And of course it seems for you, I have too much summary in the query. I suppose writing a great query requires a balance of the two.

Would you agree? Is it a balance of emotion and summary, or is the 'selling' aspect of a query most important?
Jay Greenstein
Posted: Tuesday, August 9, 2011 3:03 AM
Th problem is that everyone responds with what they believe. And which would you think better advice, that from someone who has written several successful queries or someone working on their first sale?

Here are some useful resources, if you've not seen them. QueryShark is a great one. You can learn a lot there.And you might visit Miss Snark's blog. It's no longer active, but start with the early ones and work your way toward today. There's a lot to wqde through, but it's good information on all aspects of writing, from an agent's-eye view, and worth the digging,(http://misssnark.blogspot.com/search?updated-min=2005-01-01T00%3A00%3A00-05%3A00&updated-max=2006-01-01T00%3A00%3A00-05%3A00&max-results=50)

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