Feb 11, 2010

Query - Sienna

Dear Agent,

The need to protect her sister from their abusive father weighs heavily on 10-year-old Sienna’s mind. One night out of desperation, Sienna informs her mother that her father has been sexually abusing her. This assertion leads to the murder of her father by her mother. Covering up the murder as an accident, Sienna’s mother says it is Sienna’s fault and orders her to leave and never return. Sienna’s grandmother takes her in.

Now, 15 years later, Sienna’s life appears to be full. There’s only one thing lacking and that is love. And love is one thing that she does not trust.

One day Sienna’s best friend and next door neighbor, Chantal, wins tickets to a rock concert. Sienna is not really interested in going, but Chantal will not take no for an answer.

David Black is a rock star. He is secretly married to a woman he does not love, and he becomes captivated with Sienna when he sees her sitting in the front row at one of his concerts. He invites her back stage to meet him.

Eventually, Sienna and David fall in love. When David asks Sienna to accompany him on the last leg of his concert tour, she agrees. Unfortunately, David fails to mention his married state to Sienna and she finds out.

She quickly heads for home on a Greyhound bus, more convinced than ever that love has nothing but hurt for her.

When she gets home she discovers that her sister, whom she has not seen or spoken to in 15 years, has left a phone message that their mother has died.

Sienna must now travel back to the home where the horror of her childhood was played out and to the sister that she left behind.

What she doesn’t know is that David is right behind her and determined to win her back.

Sienna, a romance novella, is complete at 35000 words.



RCWriterGirl said...

RPT, I'm not sure where to start.

First, I guess I should say, it takes a lot of guts to put something out there for the world to critique, so kudos for you for having the guts to do it.

Second. A novel has to be at least 50,000 words. And, usually, 80,000 words are wanted for an adult fiction. Romance is different, in that, I think some can have shorter word counts (I think I saw an agent seeking some in the 65,000-75,000 range). But, either way, your novel is too short for mainstream publishers or agents.

Third, while the story sounds interesting after reading the entire query, I don't think any agent would finish the query as it's presented. Right now, it's just a telling of what happened--in chronological order as it occurred in the book. Generally, queries should have a hook (a one or two sentence statement that sums up the main issue or dilemma of the book and really gets the reader interested).

After the hook, you can explain a little bit about the story details.

Ultimately though, if you hope to sell your work commercially, I think you'll have to go back and work on the word count.

Good luck.

Piedmont Writer said...

I'm sorry to say, I agree with RCWriterGirl. You have no voice in this query, it's flat, just a retelling of what happens to this 10 year-old girl.

Right off the top, you say Sienna informs her mother her father has been sexually abusing "her". Who? Sienna or the sister. It's not clear. I know she wants to protect her sister but it doesn't come across that way to me.

"Covering up the murder as an accident, Sienna's mother says it is Sienna's fault and orders her to leave and never return. Sienna's grandmother takes her in." This is just two sentences with no bite, no hook. It could be so much more.

The rest of the query is synopsis.

I think the hook should be the murder and consequent leaving of Sienna. The plot should revolve more around Sienna going back home to face her sister and deal with her mother's death. David, needs to be a stronger image than what he is now. To me he seems like a cartoon cut-out, he has no meat no substance. I know he follows her, but he's married, which for one, a lot of agents arent't going to rep this. He needs to have some other obstacle, other than a wife.

As for the last sentence, Sienna should be in all capitals, it's the title of the book. Because it is a romance novella, it should also say a "a contemporary romance novella." Obviously, you must be looking at certain e-publishers for this because a major house, or even a smaller boutique isn't going to touch a novella unless you've 10 books behind you.

I'm sorry to sound so harsh, I don't mean to be. Unfortunately this is a very subjective business these days and you want your query to stand out among the tens of thousands an agent sees every year. Go back, polish it up, read the sights Rick has on the sidebar of this blog.

You have an interesting story here, it just needs a little fine tuning. Good Luck.

Robbin said...

Thank you so much for your comments. It's pretty much as I expected.... I just needed to hear it. Thanks.

Aimless Writer said...

You need to excite me and get rid of the back story. Where does your story start? It sounds like it starts with the rock star. If this is true everything before that is back story and not needed in the query. Don't tell me David is secretly married...show me. And if she only knows him a short time is she really thinking it's love? This part isn't really clear.
I think this confused me because she meets him at a concert and then joins him on the last leg of it. Makes me think she's known him for what? a month?
I think you have a good story but you need to cut some stuff and bring out the conflict more.
They are right about the word count, but The Wild Rose Press will do novella's as ebooks, so you could still find a market for it.

Dominique said...

If this book is 35k, then I have a feeling most of the plot centers around the relationship with the rockstar and the stuff with her dad's death is backstory. If that's the case, then it should take a less prominent place in the query, and more time and space should be devoted to the central plot of the story.

Also, this query reads more like a summary of the plot. It needs more tension and emotion.

Draconium said...

The mundane details are weighing this query down. We don't need to know who brings Sienna to the concert how she doesn't even actually want to go. We don't need to know that she finds out about her mothers death via her voice mail. What's enticing is the meat of the story, cut out the rest, there's no room for it.

About the story, i have a question: How can a mother want to protect her daughters enough to murder her husband, if only to turn around and throw her daughter away? is it jealousy? I think it's feasible, but it's so far from what you'd expect, you'd have to give me more to make me believe it. Right now i'm just repulsed, which is maybe what you want in the book but not in the query. Which brings me to what i think is the main problem here:

The story has two seemingly unrelated parts, the past and future. I think you have to either find a way to wed the two together, or focus on one (I'd suggest the romance because I'm guessing it is the real focus of the story) and remain elusive about her dark past. Something like, off the top of my head "But everything changes when Sienna gets a call from her long estranged sister...reopening the door to her past, a door she had hoped wold stay locked forever."Or something.

You could also choose to focus on the past story, but if you do, then maybe remain vague about her future love life, ending with a sentiment like, "Will she ever find love and learn to trust again."

The point is, you're trying to fit too much in. You don't need to tell us everything, just enough to leave us wanting more.

Oh and one last small note: "fails to mention his married state" is really clunky wording. "state" implies a blameless miss fortune i.e "car crash left john doe in a catatonic state" It would be much better to say, "David fails to mention one small detail: he's married." and own up. Also, you don't need to tell us up front about it, "He is secretly married to a woman he does not love," cut that out and drop it like a bomb, so we (the readers) find out with Sienna. Much more dramatic that way.

Good luck with everything.