Sep 18, 2010

QUERY- REMEMBERING YOU women's fiction

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,

“Genna” Genovase is smart, beautiful, driven and about to break the glass ceiling at the swanky country club in Delaware where she works. Taking her long awaited three-week vacation before she begins as “Director of the Kitchens”, Genna decides to surprise her family by driving up to Bristol, Rhode Island for the annual 4th of July Parade.

However, the surprise is on her when she runs into her ex-fiancĂ© at her uncle’s diner. Tony makes it clear he wants her back and Genna wonders if she can forgive him for breaking her heart a decade ago.

Things get complicated though, when little Petie DiCampo shows up at the diner one morning, all grown up and looking like a calendar boy. He sets his sights and his heart on Genna but Tony isn’t giving up that easily.

Genna also finds her aunt may be in the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s. The family is in denial; one cousin is hysterical, another completely shuts down and her beloved uncle, dealing with all the stress, has a heart attack.

Genna steps in to keep the diner open and the family together while he recuperates and she questions what’s more important – breaking that glass ceiling or her family.

When her uncle reassures her the family and the diner will be fine without her, she heads back to Delaware. Unfortunately, she leaves her heart behind in Rhode Island and wonders what it will take to get it back.

REMEMBERING YOU is a complete work of women's fiction at 87,000 words.
etc. etc.


Rick Daley said...

I think you're trying very hard to get this right. You might be trying too hard. Try to simplify it.

Craft a new hook. Make it an if...then statement. You may not end up using it in that fashion in the final query, but it will get you on track. An if...then hook shows not just an action, but also a consequence. If Genna breaks the glass ceiling, then...?

If breaking the glass ceiling is not the focal point of the story, find a different element. If Genna extends her vacation to help her family through a crisis, then she may sacrifice her career. If Genna goes after the promotion she has worked so hard for, then her family may fall apart.

Keep going until you have the most critical element of your plot boiled down to a single sentence, and build from there.

Be careful to to wander into synopsis-land. Side characters and sub-plots don't matter as much as a clear picture of the primary story line.

A few stylistic observances:

In your first sentence, don't put the main character's name in quotes. Her job title does not need to be in quotes either. It makes both seem sarcastic (at least to me it does).

Also, beginning with three adjectives to describe her (smart, beautiful, driven) is all telling. These kinds of character traits can be demonstrated by the story itself. Two men are vying for her attention; it shows that she is attractive. She's going to get a promotion at work; it shows that she is smart and driven.

Also, "long awaited" should be hyphenated; I wouldn't use both long-awaited and three-week to describe the vacation, though.

Who does she leave her heart with? Tony? Petie? Her family? There are a lot of elements left dangling in the query, which could leave a reader speculating that the same may be true of the manuscript. While some element of "Oh, I want to learn more, send me a partial" is needed, it should be based of curiosity to learn more about what we do know, not to answer what we don't know.

You've put a lot of effort into this and it's improving, but I think you may need to give it anther go.

Rick Daley said...

That was supposed to be "not to wander into synopsis-land"

Piedmont Writer said...

Thanks Rick, would you mind if I wrote you an email. There are things I want to address and I don't want to take up the space here, and you'll be able to answer at your leisure.

theemptypen said...

I liked this query (did not read the other drafts). Rick may be right about wandering into synopsis-land, but I feel that a little tightening is all you need. I think losing the last paragraph ("When her uncle...") goes a long way towards that.

Thanks for sharing!

Roni @ FictionGroupie said...

Hey Anne,

I agree with Rick's assessment--it's a bit too complicated with all the subplots. You have to boil it down to the hook first, then build on that. Is the main plot the romance, the family situation, her job, etc?

The whole first paragraph is setup instead of hook. You can lose most of it. We don't need to know what state she's working in, how long her vacation is, the specifics about a parade etc. Something more to the point.

i.e. When Genna Genovase decides to spend her vacation back home in Rhode Island, she expects a relaxing break before starting a new high-profile role as Kitchen Director at a swanky country club. But when (insert whatever the main conflict is--her ex-fiance, her aunt gets sick, whichever is the most important), then such and such happens.

Hope that makes sense. :) Good luck!

Anonymous Author said...

Not sure if I mentioned this before, but introducing a love interest as "little Petie DiCampo" makes him not sound so much like a love interest as a toddler.

The word "swanky" seems to jump out, too. It's a word with negative, not positive, connotations, and I'm not sure people really use it.

But I agree with Rick, this could stand to be simplified. I think you may want to start over again from scratch, following his suggestions, rather than trying to revise this yet again.

Donna Hole said...

This is a good synopsis. The flow and pacing is steady, just right. The tone is just the right mix of upbeat attitude and practical reality. It appears to hit all the major highlights of the novel. I could see you expanding on this a bit for your one page synopsis.

For a query though it lacks that bit of umph that excites an instant desire to know more. The conflict is introduced, then wrapped up with her leaving it all behind to go back to her life.

The first paragraph has a lot of pizzazz - a catchy upbeat attitude . And I like that you use her nick name - Genna - to introduce her. I wouldn’t put it is quotes though. I really like how you describe her as a progressive woman on the move.

I’m not sure I agree that the phrases “break the glass ceiling” and “swanky country club” fit together. The glass ceiling brings to mind male dominated power industries. Cutthroat politics and devious economic adventures. Swanky country club brings to mind “good ol boys” who have made their fortunes - possibly millionaires - but don’t engage in midnight meetings with world movers and shakers.

Unless she is Director of the Kitchens in a conglomerate, where she oversees several establishments, the dramatic phrase is overdone for the size of the promotion.

The next three paragraphs bring down the optimistic tone, and I like how neatly the reader is eased into the heartache of her past. There are a lot of specific details about what is happening in the town, but no emotional ties to Genna, or a reason why she did not know how badly her family was suffering. Did she cut all ties - willingly or not - to her home and family? Was there some reason she ran away all by herself?

Once home, she is confronted with the dark mysteries of her past, and the realization she had abandoned her family for her own selfish desires. To complicate things, she’s falling in love with Pete DiCampo, a respected townsman with life changing secrets of his own.

For a closing line, you disclose the true conflict to be resolved with: she questions what’s more important – breaking that glass ceiling or her family.

Don’t be discouraged. This is shaping up nicely. I had to write mine in synopsis form also in order to cut out the important points for the query. Now you’ve gotten the back-of-the-book blurb written. One less step to accomplish once an agent agrees to represent you.

Good luck.

Anonymous Author said...

back cover copy and jacket copy is written in-house

Dominique said...

I liked this query. I didn't go back to check out the others, but I feel like we get a good sense of the book here.

I think you might have, as Rick put it, wondered into synopsis land when you mention the details of her cousins. If that could be simplified, it would help the query a lot.

Something about the sentence involving leaving her heart in RI felt a little hinky to me. I'm not quite sure how to fix it up though.

Otherwise, I feel like I've got a sense of your story and your voice, which are very important in your query.

Piedmont Writer said...

Thanks everyone. I appreciate all the feedback. Simplify!