Apr 26, 2009

QUERY- The Graces of Mercy & Circumstance

A revision of this query has been posted. Click here to read it.

I have recently completed an 83,000-word novel that is difficult to categorize within a single genre. It is both a crime novel and a psychological study, while a good portion could be classified as women’s literature if it wasn’t decidedly bereft of romantic themes—although it does contain ample examples of human absurdities. From your profile on [your agency website/Publisher's Marketplace/etc.], I believe the manuscript is compatible with your other clients’ novels and may interest you. The working title is “The Graces of Mercy and Circumstance”.

To sum up the plot, “The Graces of Mercy and Circumstance” is about three childhood friends who reunite decades later when they’re mothers and housewives facing unimaginable grief (the death of a child), unspeakable childhood traumas (an alcoholic mother, an absent father, molestation, and teenage pregnancy), and past lies (failure to speak out against an adopted father who was engaged in the sexual abuse of boys and, then later, the questionable paternity of her oldest child). When the women reunite, they find themselves suddenly pushing 40 and lose themselves, almost inadvertently, in a world of vigilantism during “girls’ night out”.

The man who inspires them to commit an unexpected act of violence represents, in various ways and somewhat subconsciously, something in each of the women’s pasts where their inaction caused their current regret or pain. But, what they don’t realize until it is too late is that the man isn’t who they think he is and their so-called perfect plan to find strength in numbers and empowerment in action may, in fact, rip their worlds and friendship apart.

“The Graces of Mercy and Circumstance” is my first novel and is set within small towns in British Columbia, Canada. I chose this setting not only because of my life-long familiarity with the landscape but also because of an entrenched fascination with all the trouble so-called “average” people get themselves in while living in an idyllic, and perhaps a tad bit too serene, environment.

I'd be glad to send you my complete manuscript for your review. Thank you for your time and consideration, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.


Rick Daley said...

You should settle in on one genre. Find the heart of your story. Agents and publishers will want to know who the target market is, and you should tell them succinctly. I have a link on the right side of the blog for AgentQuery.com's Genre Descriptions, it may help you.

For the story description, you're telling us, not showing us. I had a post a while back with a link to another writer's site that offers excellent advice on this topic:

I wouldn't dwell on what the themes are, the agent should be able to intuit this from your story description.

In your bio, only include information that is directly relevant to an agent's decision to work with you. Typically, very specific writing credentials go here. If you experience in some way makes you more qualified to write this book than any other writer then list it, but I think that would be more often relevant for non-fiction.

I never say "I look forward to hearing from you" because the odds are simply not in your favor, and do you really look forward to a form rejection? I don't mean anything regarding your query in particular, that goes for all queries...A simple "Thank you for your time and consideration" is all you need.

Eden said...

I agree. You need to know your novel and part of that is knowing the genre. It sounds like mainstream to me; you can always say "THE GRACES OF MERCY AND CIRCUMSTANCE is mainstream fiction that draws on elements of crime fiction and women's fiction."

There's also a lot of superfluous stuff like "To sum up the plot..." You don't need that. Just say what happens; the agent knows it's a synopsis. Also don't tell us "unimaginable grief" and "unspeakable trauma." What you need is the stuff you've relegated to parenthetical asides: the meat of the story. I also think it's a little heavy on backstory and that the best pp of the synopsis is the third.

I also have no idea the names of any of the characters. Try to work that in. Something like "On the eve of their fortieth birthdays, (Name), (Name) and (Name) reconnect..."

There's a lot of promise here. It just needs to be untangled. Best of luck w/ your queries.

Judy said...

I agree with the two above posters, especially the names. Agents need to know who the book is about.

folksinmt said...

When you revise, make sure you jump right into the action. Don't start with your genre description and the reason why you are querying that agent. You want to grab their attention as quick as possible.

Good luck.

hope101 said...

I'm a little torn on this one, because, to be honest, although it meanders a bit, you have such an accessible voice in this query. Can you keep that, but tighten it?

For instance, I would pick a genre and just go with it. (I think this is literary fiction, much like Joshilyn Jacksons's work).

Don't repeat the name of your novel twice. (I've also seen a lot of people bold it.)

I'd put the request for representation at the bottom. Start with your hook. Something like, "In too-serene small town British Columbia, three childhood friends reunite..."

And as the others have said, put more emphasis on the story itself than your have. Who is the antagonist. Maybe give some concrete examples of what occurs when they get carried away.

Good luck.

storyqueen said...

If I were an agent, I would request to see more based on the title alone. If I saw this book in the bookstore, I would pick it up and look at the back blurb....again based on title alone!

I guess I'm just a sucker for a title that grabs me, but I think your title totally rocks!

(And your story sounds intriguing, too!)

Good Luck!


Kat said...

All of you…thank you (esp. Rick for putting this blog together & administering it)! After considering everyone’s comments, I spent the day re-working the query and have reposted it. I think it’s vastly improved (if I say so myself) but I am concerned with excessive verbosity (I’m a sucker for concision and hate when it eludes me)—and a nagging feeling that I’m still telling more than showing. I’d love if you’d take another look. Your input has been truly eye opening…and appreciated more than I can express.

The only bit of advice I didn’t want to follow was to defer reference to the genre closer toward the end of the query. Personally, I prefer (as do some agents, according to their blogs) when the genre is specified at the outset. I think of it as being akin to shopping at a bookstore: I can immediately see the categories on the aisles and know which way I want to gravitate. When it comes to queries, I get a little annoyed when I read a paragraph, think the book’s geared toward one audience and then, by the second paragraph, realize that I was totally mistaken (e.g., Camilla is swept off her feet by Artemis in the first paragraph—so you think it’s a romance until Artemis morphs into a wizard in the second paragraph and suddenly you realize that Camilla is actually some sort of magical amulet in the middle of a piece of fantasy fiction, and not a tightly corseted virginal heroine locked up in a medieval tower as you had [unwholesomely] hoped). I think it’s really a matter of personal preference and there is no one, right way. Still, I do agree it’s best to grab the agent’s attention right away so I followed the advice. Hopefully, my revision manages to hook the reader better than the first draft.

But what do you think?

Again, thanks so much...