Hope you all had a lovely weekend! Just a reminder to people querying me — if you receive a non-request missive from me (I’m still trying to think of the best euphemism for “rejection,” which is just so uncouth), and you would like to offer up your query for a critique on the blog, please send me a follow-up e-mail. Unfortunately I can’t critique every query, but if your query sparks some ideas for a blog I may take you up on that offer.
Here’s a query I received from a saintly soul who offered her work up so that all could learn. Thank you so much for that. And please, whenever you’re discussing someone’s work in the comments section please be as exceedingly polite as you possibly can. Because for some reason the Internet makes people MEAN and I’m instituting the Internet golden rule — Don’t say unto others what you wouldn’t say to their face. (can I copyright that?) Impolite comments shall be dealt with swiftly and with no mercy.
Since discovering your blog, I have appreciated your candid insights concerning fiction and the publishing industry. Although there are many wonderful blogs written by agents, I immediately related to yours when I noted that many of the books you have represented or admired are sitting on my own bookshelf. I am writing to you now in hopes that you will consider representing my novel, MOONBEAM IN A MASON JAR, which is literary fiction with a commercial bent.
When a renowned theater director’s carefully constructed world begins to plummet out of control, his impulsive reaction seems to be a detrimental detour from all he has worked to achieve. But as his path intertwines with the lives of strangers and repercussions of an unresolved relationship arise, a startling design emerges – he is forced to confront his own past culpability and to decide if the future will be one of regret or redemption.
Michael Roth is accustomed to calling the shots; he has spent the last twenty years directing hit plays and crafting his personal life in New York City. But when his wife abruptly leaves him after confessing a long-term affair, he is suddenly unsure of his past decisions and of his next step. In an effort to gain distance enough from Pat to alleviate the pain of her betrayal and to refocus his goals, he makes the spontaneous decision to move to his hometown of Chapel Hill, North Carolina. But back in the familiar southern community, his reprieve is destroyed when his first love reemerges and he is again blindsided by the far-reaching consequences of an abandoned heart. As he tries to deal with resurrected regrets, he begins to develop unexpected relationships that alter his perceptions of his circumstances. A recently widowed doctor unveils truths from Michael’s adolescence, a young mother’s addictions mirror his own thirst for hope, and a student in his theatre discovers that she may share more with him than just an interest in the stage. However, when Pat is diagnosed with a difficult disease, once more it becomes all too clear that leaving the past behind will not be as easy as Michael had hoped. As a devastating accident further pulls him into the lives of those around him and Pat makes a shocking decision, he must find a way to reconcile the life he hopes to create with the one he left behind.
I studied English at UNC – Chapel Hill and I continue to live in North Carolina, currently raising two children and working on my second novel. I am the author of three short stories published in InFuze Magazine , one of which was chosen for their 2006 anthology. MOONBEAM IN A MASON JAR, my first novel, is complete at eighty thousand words and is available upon request. Thank you for your time and consideration.
My reaction? This query is fine. It’s a little long and I think the plot description could probably use some tightening, but overall it’s fine.
But that’s kind of the problem. It’s fine.
There are a lot of things to like about this query. I really like the title MOONBEAM IN A MASON JAR, it’s personalized, it’s a blog reader, I think there are interesting conflicts at the heart of the story and it sounds like there’s a good climax. There are good elements here.
But I’m afraid it just wasn’t enough. The plot description? Fine. But it’s a somewhat boilerplate plot (man suffers tragedy, moves home and has to face past), and I just didn’t get a sense of a unique enough spin on that plot to compel me. The main character? Fine. He’s a famous theater director. But although there’s a quick description that he’s used to having control, his personality isn’t really infused into the query and he wasn’t exactly memorable. It’s all fine. I think she’s a good writer.
I receive a lot of queries at this level – they’re good, but when I’m reading so many queries, something really has to jump out at me. Maybe it’s a character that grabs me or a plot that grabs me or someone’s unique style of writing that grabs me. Something original and fresh and new and unexpected, even if it’s a fresh take on a standard trope.
Bottom line is that fine is something to be proud of, I think this query is good. I hope this writer is encouraged to strive for that next level. Because I’m afraid fine isn’t enough.