Apr 16, 2009

Query- Severed Ties (Revision #2)

Click here to read the original query.
Click here to read the first revision.

Dear Agent,

Three hundred and twenty three passengers feared dead. For Suzanne Taylor, surviving the fiery crash of Flight 148 is bittersweet.

Waking from a coma a week after the accident, Suzanne is told that her son is dead. Her dreams tell her otherwise. Suzanne’s dreams show Caleb growing older with each passing month, causing her to believe that her son is still alive.

Her marriage begins to unravel as Suzanne continues to pursue her quest for the truth. Feeling alone and desperate to find answers, Suzanne finds herself wrapped up in an affair with a handsome N.T.S.B. investigator.

When a fellow survivor is interviewed during the one year anniversary coverage of the crash, Suzanne reaches out to her, hoping to find answers regarding her son’s fate. As the survivor recalls the final moments of Caleb’s life, a cry from an ajoining bedroom reveals everything Suzanne has been searching for. Caleb is alive.

I am seeking representation for Severed Ties, a women's fiction work, complete at 114,000 words.

Thank you for your time and your consideration.

Sincerely,

D. Ross

7 comments:

Jordan (MamaBlogga) said...

I do want to say that the first time I noticed this query (the last round of revisions), I found the idea of a woman who dreams about her supposedly dead child continuing to grow up, convinced that these dreams were real, intriguing.

Is finding Caleb alive the end of the book? That's good for a synopsis, but the query technique is usually just to get the initial hook of the story in: she's in a fiery crash and her son dies, but she's convinced he's alive. No one believes her; her life falls apart. Then one last glimmer of hope as she finally tracks down another survivor, who may hold the key to what really happened to her son.

As it stands, getting the end of the story in the query is kind of anticlimactic. It doesn't make you want to read more.

However, if this is only the beginning of the story (the fellow survivor has been raising Caleb as her own, eg), then I'd make that clear that this is the twist that will hook readers in instead of the resolution of the story.

Also, in para 2, the word dreams feels a little repetitive. Maybe "Waking from a coma a week after the accident, Suzanne learns her son is dead [active instead of passive]. But when her dreams show Caleb growing older with each passing month, Suzanne comes to believe that he is still alive.

HTH!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your advice, Jordan. The fourth paragraph has been my achilles heal, I'm afraid. On the previous two revisions, it was said that the paragraph was too abrupt, that there needed to be an ending. I agree with you. If the agent knows what happens, they may not want to read more...it is like a season finale, a cliffhanger. I also agree with the repetitive use of dreams. I will put that in the next revision....Is there a limit? I saw four and I am now on #3. If you allow me to correct, I will work to perfect it.
Thank you again, MamaBlogga.

D. Ross.

PurpleClover said...

Personally I thought the first query was the best. I think less is more and some of the wording was a bit awkward but could be cut or changed. This second revision seemed to add too much that wasn't necessary.

Here are some very BASIC suggestions that you are welcome to do with what you will:

UPDATE: formatting wouldn’t allow strike-throughs. So I hope you don’t mind I put my changes in captions and deleted what I thought should be struck.Three hundred and twenty three passengers feared dead. For Suzanne Taylor, surviving the fiery crash of Flight 148 is bittersweet.

Waking from a coma a week after the accident, Suzanne is told that her [infant] son [Caleb] is dead. Her dreams tell her otherwise causing her to believe that her son is still alive.

[Suzanne's] marriage begins to unravel as [she] continues to pursue her quest for the truth. A torrid affair with a handsome N.T.S.B. [wah?] investigator further damages her fragile union.

[One] year after the crash, Suzanne seeks out a fellow survivor who may have answers regarding her son’s fate. As the survivor recalls the final moments of Caleb’s life [Suzanne learns the startling truth.]

I'm not saying my revisions are great but these are just personal preferences for wording.

Suzan Harden said...

Hi D. Ross,

As I always tell people take whatever I say with a grain of salt.

1) Drop the first line about the other passengers. You want to focus on Suzanne's story.

2) I agree with another commentor (John, I think) that you need to rethink the use of 'bittersweet' in the first paragraph. Losing a child is a gut-wrenching experience. 'Bittersweet' connotates losing a high school boyfriend or something of that caliber.

3) Why is Suzanne's marriage unraveling? If you're going to have protagonist commit adultry, there needs to be a solid reason. Is her husband too caught up in his grief to give her the comfort she needs? Does he think Suzanne's nuts and is trying to have her committed? Does he blame her for the death of their child? And yes, it's okay (and encouraged) to put your character's motivation in the query. *grin*

4) I have to agree with a couple of the other commentors--why did Suzanne wait so long to approach this other passenger? If there's a reason, the agent needs to know and have a feel for your resolution.

5) Add the black moment choice Suzanne must make in your query. (I'm assuming that she must choose between fighting for her son or letting him stay with the grief-stricken passenger who snatched Caleb after her own son died in the crash.)

Hope this helps a little.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the advice and great comments....I am going to drop bittersweet and use 'devastated'. I used bittersweet because she was one of five survivors of the plane crash, but though she is alive, her son is not. I understand this may not come across as harsh enough, but I figured that would be implied. Good points, all.
The question about her marriage unraveling:
'Her marriage begins to unravel as Suzanne continues to pursue her quest for the truth. Feeling alone and desperate to find answers'
The husband is angry that she won't just accept their son's death and move on. Should I add after---'Feeling alone (in her grief) or maybe (feeling alone in her quest for answers) and desperate to find answers---?
NTSB investigates airline/train, etc. crashes.
The woman that 'stole' her son is deranged, should I add this,---As the deranged survivor lies about the final moments of Caleb’s life, a cry from an adjoining bedroom reveals the truth.---
I have been fighting this query for awhile, due to the one page query rule, so it is hard to add in little explanations. I figured to get those answers, maybe the agent would be interested in reading my pages...
Thank you again to all that have given me priceless advice and I hope that this process helps others just starting their queries. Happy Writing.
D. Ross

PurpleClover said...

If this is more of a suspense type novel you may want to include that in your query "Suspense with a female protagonist" rather than "women's lit"...I think of women's lit to focus more on the struggles (like her failing marriage and affair). I got the "suspense" from the present tense you were using in the wording and using phrases like "quest for the truth".

If it is a book more about her struggles on her path to find her son, you may not want to mention Caleb so much and definitely mention why her marriage is failling (hubby needs her to let go - she needs hubby to express emotion, etc), but if it is a suspense about her finding her son and that is the main theme, I would probably query it as suspense and minimize the failing marriage and affair to one sentence that covers both.

I hope this all made sense.

Rick Daley said...

AgentQuery.com has a good breakdown of Genres. Here's what it says about Women's Lit:

"Like chick lit, women’s fiction often explores similar themes related to women’s struggles with men, their friends and family, or their own sense of self. Unlike chick lit, women’s fiction often delves into deeper, more serious conflicts and utilizes a more poetic literary writing style. Over the past several years, the publishing industry has seen an over-saturation of the straight chick lit market. As a result, hyrid variations, such as chick lit/mystery, chick lit/paranormal, chick lit/suspense, chick lit/power girl, have quickly become the new pink within this genre."

The full description is available at:
http://www.agentquery.com/genre_descriptions.aspx