Mar 24, 2010

Query- Launch On Need

Dear (Agent),

For more than two decades, NASA launch-imaging expert Ken Brown complained to upper management that debris would eventually bring down a shuttle. They didn’t listen. Brown could only watch as wayward pieces of foam and falling daggers of ice, threatened to wreck his birds.

Then on January 17th, 2003, Brown’s worst fear is realized while reviewing the previous day’s launch film: a small-suitcase-sized debris chunk smashed into Columbia’s wing during her ride to orbit.

Brown knows that if Columbia’s heat shield has been damaged, that in fourteen days the seven person international crew will perish in the inferno of reentry.

Although Brown contacts the necessary NASA officials about his findings, he is skeptical that sufficient action will be taken by management in time to save the crew. He decides to leak his findings to his friend John Stangley, a former CNN senior science correspondent.

NASA suddenly finds itself forced to respond to the international media’s demand for answers. Satellite imaging of Columbia is ordered, but the photos prove inconclusive. NASA then calls on two Columbia astronauts to perform an emergency wing inspection spacewalk, that reveals catastrophic wing damage.

NASA is challenged to solve the highest profile problem they’ve ever faced. The whole world watches and waits while NASA figures out how and if, it can safely bring the crew home.

The Columbia Accident Investigation Board was formed only hours after Columbia’s break-up February 1st, 2003. NASA engineers were asked by the Board if anything could have been done to save the crew. The Board’s final report published late 2003, contained a 22 page document created by NASA engineers, that outlined in detail how the crew might have been rescued.

Launch On Need, complete at 98,000 words, is a fictionalization of NASA’s rescue plan.

Thank you for your time considering my project for representation.


Daniel Guiteras


Dominique said...

I'm confused on what genre this really is. Without knowing that for certain, it's hard to know how to respond to the query.

Overall, it is dry-sounding, reading more like a historical fact list than the plot of a novel.

If Brown is the MC, why does he disappear after leaking to his friend from CNN? Would their be reprisals for his actions?

The Starving Writer said...

Why would a launch imaging expert think that NASA aren’t doing their best to save their crew in space? I suppose that in the novel there is an adequate justification, but how it reads in the query sounds like a stretch. After all, if he is their expert why wouldn’t they listen to him? Unless he is viewed as a kook.

Why would the international media care. I can understand the local ones, but international? Wouldn’t NASA respond more to the President etc?

Who becomes the main protagonist, after Brown disappears? NASA is stated, but who drives the rescue effort.

Don’t understand the “…The Columbia Accident…rescued” paragraph. How does it relate to the novel. Totally threw me.

DG said...

@ Dominique:

Thanks for taking the time to comment on my query. Your points are well taken and I agree with you. Keep reading for a better understanding.

@ The Starving Writer:

Also thanks for your comments and questions. You both bring up points I've struggled with while attempting to write an acceptable query.

The most difficult problem has been trying to explain the context of the story, that is what actually happened to Columbia, and still leave enough space to pitch the novel.

So let me explain in order for the comments to be even more helpful.

The Columbia Accident Investigation Board was a government board that was formed after the Columbia accident to figure out what happened. As it clearly points out in the final board report, NASA missed eight opportunities during the mission to learn that a problem existed. Engineers knew that Columbia had been hit by foam and tried to get managers to take action. They were unable to do so. I won't go into the reasons here, but they are clearly spelled out in the report and also in the introduction to my novel.

The international media is involved since the crew consisted of the first Israeli astronaut and an Indian women astronaut.

Hope that helps.


Suzan Harden said...

DG, I think you're missing Dominique and The Starving Writer's points.

A query is a sales tool, your marketing for your novel.

The fictional rescue must be sold to someone who, in all likelihood, knows absolutely nothing about the Columbia accident beyond a 10 second blurb on CNN and probably doesn't care. The goal of a query is make the reader care enough to want to read more.

Unfortunately, Dominique and TSW have valid points ABOUT THE QUERY ITSELF, not about the historical events. They are not questioning your research.

I'm one of those geeks who did read the board's report. I'm not intrigued enough to want to read a fictional rescue as presented in this query.

Go to YouTube and watch the trailer for Ron Howard's Apollo 13. What about the trailer makes you want to watch this movie? What makes you excited? Now, tap into that feeling to rewrite the query.

Best wishes on your submissions.

DG said...

@ Suzan Harden:

Okay I'm starting to understand what you're telling me. I watched the Apollo 13 trailer and am taking your advice to heart.

Although my novel covers Columbia's rescue in detail, the overall feel of the book has more to do with the impact the rescue would have had on Americans, at a time when we were a month or so away from going to war in Iraq, and the wounds of 9/11 were still relatively fresh. I will add this aspect to my query revision.

Thanks to all who offered comments. Your time spent crafting helpful advice is much appreciated. A revision will soon follow.


gj said...

Story is about individual people -- the protagonist and the antagonist.

To the extent you want to show the effect of a rescue on the public generally, then you need to show the effect of the rescue on ONE PERSON who embodies the public generally.

In the rewrite, focus on ONE PERSON, the protagonist, and what he wants (to avoid the re-entry problem), what he's doing to accomplish it, and who's stopping him (i.e., put a face on the establishment at NASA who is rejecting the protagonist's attempts to save everyone).

Get your premise (What if the Columbia tragedy could have been prevented) down to a single sentence, and then use the rest of the query to focus on what the protagonist is doing with that premise, and what the antagonist is doing to make the protagonist's work more difficult.

DG said...

@ gj

Your comments are very helpful in getting me to see where I need to focus.

I also realize now that my emphasis in my query should be on John Stangley as it is in my novel.

Thanks gj for taking the time to help!