Apr 22, 2009

Revision 4 - BROKEN

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

Dear Agent,

A hate-filled attack in a London alley two years ago claimed his lover, but left Eli Burke with a limp and scars as permanent reminders.

Alec Sumner, a psychologist and author, understands loss. Not only has he written about it, he’s lost his home, his relationship, his mother’s love, and today – his heart to Eli on a busy street.

Though fueled by liquor, lust, and heartache, their brief encounter in the back seat of a car convinces Alec that he must have Eli in his life despite the young man’s inability to move beyond his traumatic past. By way of a sympathetic ear, a bold embrace, and his persistent proximity as one of four other housemates, Alec works his way under Eli’s skin and past his defenses. But Eli fights his growing attraction to Alec, having set his sights on isolated charity work abroad to avoid loving and losing again.

BROKEN is an m/m romance complete at 65,500 words. The full manuscript is available upon request.

I have a B.A. in Journalism and worked as a copy editor for The Charleston Daily Mail for eight years, occasionally writing columns and movie reviews for the lifestyle section.

Thank you for your time and consideration.



Belinda Frisch said...

I think you've gone in a passive direction with #4.

My instincts tell me that you're delving too much into specifics and being a bit too over-dramatic: "he’s lost his home, his relationship, his mother’s love, and today – his heart to Eli on a busy street." without giving us a WOW! concept.

Sentence structure has gone awry in para. 3 starting back to back sentences with "though" and "by way of" which support passiveness.

On a positive note, I think making the last para. about you more concise is a good choice.

Consider something like: Eli Burke lost his lover in a hate-filled attack in a London alley two years ago and has never emotionally recovered.

Cut the cliche in para. 2 and keep to the facts about Alec, then introduce the men meeting. How did they end up in the back seat of a car?

Alec Sumner, a psychologist and author, understands loss. Not only has he written about it, but he's experienced it first hand. And when Alec and Eli (insert their tryst in the car)...

Also, the bit about the housemates feels dropped in there as if out of fear of omitting it. If that's their biggest obstacle as a couple, there should be more to it in your query. As I remember there is some manipulation by one of the housemates? I think that is essential to your query if it is a central conflict.

Hope this helps. Best of luck!

Scott said...

A few things:

1) loved this - My 80,000 word gay fiction manuscript, BROKEN, explores the idea that whatever scars you carry, there might be someone out there who will see beyond them and love you through the pain - from your first query draft. Personally, I think this needs to stay in any version of the query you submit. For me, at least, this is a powerful statement that makes me want to read more.

2) The title is very reminiscent of Stephanie Kallos' "Broken for You" with a very similar theme. Just a thought.

3) I'd list the genre as commercial fiction. Forget the m/m romance since that's not necessarily an accepted genre. You could try 'gay lit'. As a writer who also writes about gay characters, I normally pick the 'commercial fiction' genre, especially since attitudes toward the GLBT community are more accepting in 2009, than they were back when Armistead Maupin was paving the way for gay fiction. Again, just a thought.

4) Your word count seems to have dropped from version one to this version. From everything I'm finding on writing (agent and otherwise) blogs, commercial fiction is anywhere from 75,000 or above unless you're writing young adult or middle grade fiction.

Lastly, the query is intriguing and just needs some slight tweaking. I also believe that one agent blog always said that the query should be in present tense.

Whatever you do, keep writing.


Judy said...

I just wanted to add that I really like your hook.

The rest could use a little tightening.

Good luck with this.

Dawn said...

I really appreciate your comments, but I think I've exhausted this and should leave it be for a while.

I was trying to narrow it down to just the two main characters as a standard romance set up. That's why I removed the earlier comments about Ilsa and the details about the housemates.

I agree with ditching the passive voice. I don't know what I was thinking when I wrote that. Hahaha!

Scott, I was shooting for 80,000 words when I first submitted the query, but I see now that's not going to happen.

I did query an agent who called me and suggested I pursue an e-press. I've already submitted to one and have two others I'm considering, but I'd like to get the query right first.

Again, thanks for the comments.

hope101 said...

Take this for what it's worth, because I'm unpublished, but I write romance too, and I think there are a few elements you're missing from the query, if not from the story itself.

For starters, if you want to create the kind of book that lingers after the reader puts it down and makes us believe in a HEA, beware instalust and instalove as motivators. They can be the instigators of a relationship, but they just aren't sufficient to sustain a credible romance, particularly in this circumstance.

Why do I say "in this circumstance"? Because of Alec's profession. Eli is hurting, broken. If Alec is any good at his job, he should be aware that any relationship between them at present will be a codependent one. He should be doing everything he can to fight his attraction to Eli while doing his best to persuade him to get therapy with someone else. Then, when Eli is healthy, they might have a real chance together in a healthy relationship. (You'll still have to give me something in the query to make me want them to end up together anyway.)

Therefore, if I were you, I'd make this a reluctant attraction on Alec's part.

--Second, where are the stakes if Alec fails? He's an expert on surviving loss. It's hard for me to understand why he couldn't easily survive a rejection by Eli. This brings me to my third point:

--In the best romances, you want to create conflict such that the *worst* possible thing for both people is to fall in love right now. It's best if they have a concrete, urgent external goal that means they will have to fight for love, take the leap of faith, do whatever is the worst possible thing they could imagine to achieve their HEA. Without those kind of stakes, we, as the reader, just don't care.

So can you set it up that each man has a concrete, specific, urgent goal that makes falling in love right now the worst possible thing for each of them? If you could do that, you'd have a really powerful story.

PS: It seems to me that the worst possible thing for Eli right now isn't just falling in love, and risking his heart, but also that his love might become publicly known, thereby making both he and his lover targets for another hate crime. You might think about his and Alec's opposing goals being something that brings them together repeatedly in public, where even the slightest hint of a romance between them could ignite his panic once again.

Anyway, good luck. Hope I haven't discouraged you but only given you some food for thought.