Feb 20, 2010

Query - Shards of Glass

SHARDS OF GLASS is women's fiction, complete at 83,000 words.

April Mitchell was seventeen years old when she helped her terminally ill father commit suicide. Six years later, she's living the perfect life, as a medical school student with a handsome boyfriend, but can't quite put the past behind her.

As her father requested, she lied to her mother, saying that he died alone. After her mother’s emotional breakdown, April realized no one was ever going to love her if she told them the truth. She’s been lying ever since – borrowing other people’s stories for her own, pretending that her father is still alive, even changing what she ate for lunch that day. It seems like the only way to remake her world – and herself – into what it should be.

The truth starts to come out when April runs into ex-lover Nick, who tells April’s true story to his jealous girlfriend. She exposes April's secret, endangering April's seat at medical school and the family's life insurance money. April must finally talk to her mother about the night her father died, as her lies are all uncovered. But telling the truth about her father’s suicide and her chronic lying since might cost her dream of being a doctor, her boyfriend, and any possibility of ever reconciling with her mom.

I have been previously published in Cicada and Windhover. I also run the writing blog This Is Not My Day Job (http://thisisnotmydayjob.blogspot.com).

I look forward to your response.

Sincerely,
Guinevere

16 comments:

Piedmont Writer said...

Guinevere, you've got some really good stuff here, it just seems to me it's a little mish-mashed.

April Mitchell was 17 years old when she helped her terminally ill father commit suicide. That, to me, is a perfect hook. Six years later, she's living the perfect life, as a medical student (take out school it's implied with student)with a handsome boyfriend. Period. Take out the but in the next sentence and use,
However, she can't quite put the past behind her. (Try not to start sentences with but.)

This next paragraph is where it gets confusing. As her father requested, she lied to her mother, saying that he died alone. After her mother's breakdown, (no need for emotional-it's implied)April realized (not sure if that's the right word to use here -- maybe, thought, or rationalized) no one was ever going to love her if she told them the truth.

Okay, why? She's been lying ever since - borrowing other people's stories for her own, Okay why?
pretending that her father is still alive -- okay why? It seems like the only way to remake her world , and herself, into what it should be. Okay why? And what should it be? Perfect, normal, what?

Next paragraph, the truth doesn't start to come out, it DOES come out when Nick's girl exposes April as a fraud. Why would this endanger April's seat at medical school and why the insurance money? Is Nick's girl so high and mighty (or vindictive and petty she would expose her to the ins. co.?)

I think that could be tighter somehow. The big thing is April must finally talk to her mother about the night her father died. Take out "as her lies are all uncovererd." it's implied with telling her mother. (Take out the but) Telling the truth about her father's suicide and her habitual lying, might cost her the dream of being a doctor, her boyfriend, and any possibility of ever reconciling with her mom.

I really like the premise for this book. It sounds very emotional.

For your bio, state what Cicada and Windhover are, Anthologies, publishing mags, writer's mags. DO NOT say you run the writing blog, thisismydayjob. We all have blogs, agents don't care and this will only mark you as a newbie.

Good luck with this, it'll be really great when you polish it up just a little bit more. I hope I haven't confused you too much.

Stacy McKitrick said...

Guinevere,

If I come of sounding rude, please forgive me. It is something I am working on. But I want to be honest (and maybe I need a class on how to do that tactfully.)

You should put the entire query in the present tense (going back and forth is confusing). For example, your first line could say "At the tender age of seventeen, April Mitchell helps her terminally ill father commit suicide."

But I think my major problem with the query is the premise of your story. I don't know how I can come to like a character that lies all the time.

I'm sure there's something in your story to make the reader like the character. You need to show that in the query. I'm sorry to say, your query turned this reader "off".

Shelley Sly said...

Guinevere,

A few things. First off, you have an excellent hook. Don't lose it. I'd even consider using "April Mitchell was seventeen years old..." as your first sentence and put "SHARDS OF GLASS is women's fiction..." at the end of the query, but it's not necessary. All according to personal preference.

I agree with Piedmont Writer that it needs to be tightened. Though I understand the story you're telling, an agent with tired eyes who has been reading queries all day will want to get to the point faster. ;) I think Piedmont Writer has some good advice up there -- personally, I'm not the best at cutting out information myself, or I'd offer my own version.

I don't think the lying is an issue for me. I think I'd like to know some more specifics about the lying though, such as what and why, in order to get a stronger sense of how it all ties together in the big plot. I can imagine how something as traumatic as assisted suicide can send her into a spiral like that, but I guess I don't want to just imagine, I want to know details.

I really like the storyline, it's very original. It's not just another book about the death of a parent, but a fresh take that seems like it throws the main character into something deeper than just grieving. Best of luck!

Guinevere said...

Thanks for the comments, guys. I tried to tighten it up a little more, being more specific and cutting a bit. Oy. Query letters are harder than the novel itself!

I made a few (drastic) alterations--


April Mitchell is seventeen years old when she helps her terminally ill father commit suicide. Six years later, she has the perfect life, a medical student with a handsome boyfriend, but she can't put the past behind her. She lied to her mother that her father died alone, in order to protect their life insurance payout. After her mother’s breakdown, she hasn’t stopped lying. She’d prefer that the world were a better place, and that she were a better person. Lying changes it all, at least for a little while – her father alive, her mother still loving her, and April content.

The truth comes out when April runs into ex-lover Nick, who tells April’s true story to his jealous girlfriend. She exposes April's secret to the insurance company, and to the medical school. April is faced with potential charges of life insurance fraud, expulsion from medical school, and the loss of her boyfriend, who’s sick of the lies. Telling the truth about her father’s suicide, and her chronic lying ever since might cost her dream of being a doctor, her boyfriend, and any possibility of ever reconciling with her mom. Falsehoods won’t work anymore, either. But a girl who was strong enough to help her own father die can find her way out of this mess. Maybe.

SHARDS OF GLASS is women’s literature, complete at 83,000 words.

I have been previously published in the literary magazines Cicada and Windhover.

Elaine 'still writing' Smith said...

Good luck with the Query - the advice offered here already is excellent.
I really felt for April and her struggle to deal with the consequences of this act.

Piedmont Writer said...

I really like what you did with the "drastic" alterations. Some people say that writing a book is hard, let me tell you writing a query is 1000xs harder.

Paragraph one is really great, you cleared up a lot of confusion and got the story on track.

Pragraph two --insert 'her' before 'ex-lover'.
I also think you need to separate par.2 .

"The truth comes out...who's sick of the lies."

"Telling the truth about her father's suicide, might cost her her boyfriend,her dream of being a doctor, but most importantly her reconciliation with her mother. Falsehoods just won't work anymore.
Can a girl who was strong enough to help her own father die, find a way out of this mess? Maybe."

I took out "and her chronic lying ever since" becasue it's redundant with the Falsehoods line. And I changed the last sentence to a question because you can't start a sentence with but and you needed another hook at the end.

Anyway nice job with the changes. Good luck with the query.

Aimless Writer said...

Very good query and I only have a few suggestions on your revised version above.
First paragraph is good. In the second I'm wondering if assisted suicide is considered murder in most states? Wouldn't the legal issue be more then insurance fraud?
That's all I got.
Great job on this second version and I think you have a wonderful hook. I see an emotional roller coaster here which will grab the reader and make them feel for your character.
Good luck!

Guinevere said...

Thanks guys! I'll make those last few tweaks. I really appreciate the help... I feel the revised version has a bit more voice, which I was struggling with.

Rick Daley said...

Guinevere,

I can take your revision from these comments and make a new post if you'd like.

Regarding the original query, I think you should focus more on the heart of the story and cut down the number of characters in the query. You mention:

- April
- Her father
- Her boyfriend
- Her mother
- Her ex-boyfriend Nick
- Nick's girlfriend

Guinevere said...

Rick, that would be great. Let me process what you've said too and then I'll put a new version up to repost. Thanks so much!

Guinevere said...

Here's the revised version if you could post it... I tried to make some more of the recommended changes and cut down on some of the extraneous characters.


April Mitchell is seventeen years old when she helps her terminally ill father commit suicide. Six years later, she has the perfect life, a medical student with a handsome boyfriend, but she can't put the past behind her. She lied to her mother that her father died alone, in order to protect their life insurance payout. After her mother’s breakdown, she hasn’t stopped lying. She’d prefer that the world were a better place, and that she were a better person. Lying changes it all, at least for a little while – her father alive, her mother still loving her, and April content.

The truth comes out when a jealous acquaintance discovers April’s secret, which she exposes to the insurance company and the medical school. April is faced with potential charges of life insurance fraud and expulsion. Telling the truth about her father’s suicide might cost her dream of being a doctor, her boyfriend, and any possibility of ever reconciling with her mom. Falsehoods won’t work anymore, either. Can a girl who was strong enough to help her own father die find her way out of this mess? Maybe.

SHARDS OF GLASS is women’s literature, complete at 83,000 words.

I have been previously published in the literary magazines Cicada and Windhover.

I look forward to your response.
Sincerely,
Guinevere

Piedmont Writer said...

I've read through them all and this is it! Very nice, very well done.
Congratulations!!! Good luck with the agent hunt.

Shelley Sly said...

I think the most recent revision looks terrific! Best of luck with querying!

Guinevere said...

Thanks, Piedmont and Shelley! Man, I am excited to start querying... we'll see how long that lasts. :p

Elizabeth Lynd said...

It seems to me the conflict is that April is living this double life, med student who lies. ("Perfect life" is cliche to me, so I'd ditch it.) And the thing is still wordy--length isn't the issue so much as getting to the meat of the matter. So I'd suggest putting the lie in the first sentence--something like:

At 17, April Mitchell lied to her mother about helping her terminally ill father commit suicide. Six years later, a med student with a thriving life, she's still lying. Unable to get past her guilt, April borrows other people's stories for her own.

But now her mother has had an emotional breakdown, and April's lies are no longer a comfort to her. Instead, thanks to the appearance of an ex-lover whose jealous girlfriend exposes the truth of the euthanasia, the lies April has woven unravel, threatening her carefully constructed life. As her father's insurance company reviews the settlement, April is reported to her university on ethics charges, and it feels like her life is crumbling.

Can a girl who was strong enough to help her own father die find her way out of this mess? Maybe. SHARDS OF GLASS is women’s fiction, complete at 83,000 words.

Me again. This isn't necessarily exact wording, but I think you can see what I'm suggesting. Also, I don't care for "women's literature." "Women's fiction" is the accepted genre; the other sounds stuffy or perhaps even pretentious--why risk that? You don't want to give agents pause over something dumb. At most call it "upmarket women's fiction." But don't invent a category.

Good luck! Sounds like an engaging story.

Julie said...

Okay so I'm doing this with out reading any of the previous comments.

Just from the opening paragraph I already love the concep however I think it might need a little snap to it. But nothing comes to mind at the moment.

I think you could summarize the second paragraph in one senetence staing that she lies about what she did and pretends her father is still alive. Maybe throw in a "Nobody will understand"

Third paragraph - ooh good stuff in this one. I think you need to get the part about her mother not knowing into the opening pitch. "Aiding in her fathers death was kept a secret, even from her own mother." something like that.

Your conflict is so clear you could have a very short query, which is a good thing (I've heard).

Sounds like a great book!