Friday, May 05, 2006

Face-Lift 13


Guess thePlot


An End to Longing

1. Martha suffers from both Agoraphobia and intense loneliness. Luckily, the cable guy comes to fix her TV the very day after she's installed a cage in the basement.

2. A corpse turns up in an isolated summer cottage in Pennsylvania, beginning a murder investigation that ignites the lives of everyone connected to it.

3. Anne Blatz yearned for the day when she and Dash Hardigan would be married. Then modern science cured her blindness.

4. In the tiny village of Nothings Close, Mildren Waddell ekes out a meager living darning socks and hose, always making them a bit longer and roomier in the toe. But a windfall from the football pools makes her a rich woman, no longer a slave to socks.

5. The backlash to genetically-engineered babies finally comes after three generations of freakishly tall humans bumping their heads in historic buildings. Suddenly, "petite" children are the norm. Will the generation gap widen if parents and kids literally can't see eye to eye?

6. Romain Dontrell and his boyfriend Tyreese Carnell are adopted orphans raised as brothers. Tyreese longs to be a reggae singer while Romain longs to be a powerful drug runner. They both end their days relieved of their longings in a nursing home.



Original Version

Dear Literary Agent:

I am seeking representation for my completed 98,000-word manuscript, An End to Longing, a mystery set in the fictional rural community of Sardis Springs during the late seventies. When Prominence County Sheriff Eli Martin discovers a young woman’s corpse in an isolated summer cottage in nearby Brights Landing, a murder investigation begins that ignites the lives of everyone connected to it, [an interesting image] especially assistant district attorney David Huston, who could lose everything as his life is dismantled by unexpected events. [Define either "everything" or the events, so that last phrase has some specificity.]

An End to Longing was inspired in part by a true crime that I researched for more than a year with the intention of writing an article for a Philadelphia Inquirer series. However, after reading 2000 pages of trial transcripts, studying police records and interviewing nearly everyone connected to the original crime, I uncovered material that led me away from the documented facts to create a psychological mystery instead, using the murder as a departure point to explore the fates of its characters and the true nature of the evil surrounding them.

One of the manuscript’s readers, editor and author Lee Quinby, Chaired Professor of English and American Studies at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, [who was a complete stranger to me when I accidentally dropped the manuscript under his office door, said to me, as he returned it weeks later, "I was just looking for your address so I could get this back to you when I happened to glance at the first paragraph, and found myself hooked. I must tell you that everyone I've shown it to] describes An End to Longing as a beautifully written mystery that effectively intertwines riveting suspense and graphic detail with the unfolding psychological drama. The story’s narrative line and use of dialogue is intelligent, entertaining, and radiantly applied.” [I thanked him for his kind words, though my gratitude was later tempered by my discovery of coffee stains on pages 75 through 83.] [Although the source of this gushing praise is no doubt more relevant to the novel's quality, Evil Editor can't help thinking the agent would prefer that you had quotes from, oh, say, Larry King and Oprah Winfrey.]

As a communication professional for more than 30 years, I have published numerous essays and articles. An End to Longing is my first novel. I am currently working on my next mystery, The Balinese Maiden, which takes place in 1963 Vienna. [So far I have a title and a setting.]

In the event you would like to read chapters or the entire manuscript of An End to Longing, I am enclosing a SASE for your reply. [A SASE? Or should it be An SASE? As Evil Editor has little to complain about with the query letter, perhaps it's time to open a different can of worms. There are three ways of reading "a SASE."

1. An ess a ess e
2. A Self-addressed, stamped envelope
3. A Sazzy

We can immediately eliminate #2. When you read, I own an IBM computer, do you mentally think, I own an International Business Machines computer? When you're watching a golf tournament, and an ad comes on for TRW, do you mentally think, I gotta buy stock in Thompson Ramo Wooldridge? Evil Editor didn't think so.

That leaves #1 and # 3. If you prefer "c," then to be consistent you must also say, The batter had two hits and a Ribbie, rather than two hits and an R-B-I. Do you say, "My Hummer's mileage is too good; I wonder if I can buy a Lem? Or an L-E-M?

Because any editor who prefers "a SASE" to "an SASE" (or vice versa) will reject your query in a heartbeat if you screw this up, Evil Editor is compiling a listing of those editors and agents who prefer "a", those who prefer "an," and those who swing both ways. Keep posted.]

Revised Version

Dear Literary Agent:

I am seeking representation for my 98,000-word mystery novel, An End to Longing. The story is set in the fictional rural community of Sardis Springs, Pennsylvania during the late seventies.

When Prominence County Sheriff Eli Martin discovers a young woman’s corpse in an isolated summer cottage in nearby Brights Landing, a murder investigation begins that alters the lives of everyone connected to it, most notably that of assistant district attorney David Huston, who could lose his job, his marriage and his reputation as his world is shaken by unexpected events.

An End to Longing was inspired in part by a true crime that I researched for more than a year with the intention of writing an article for a Philadelphia Inquirer series. However, after reading 2000 pages of trial transcripts, studying police records, and interviewing nearly everyone connected to the original crime, I uncovered material that led me away from the documented facts to create a psychological mystery, using the murder as a departure point from which to explore the fates of its characters and the true nature of the evil surrounding them.

As a communications professional for more than 30 years, I have published numerous essays and articles. An End to Longing is my first novel. In the event you would like to read chapters or the entire manuscript, I am enclosing a SASE for your reply. Thank you.

Notes

While Evil Editor has previously declared that third party opinions are neither harmful nor helpful, he recommends that if the quote from Professor Quinby is used, that it be limited to the first sentence. That word "radiantly' in the second sentence is going to send some editors' eyes rolling (though no doubt they'd be thrilled to have it applied to the book after they buy it).

9 comments:

Bernita said...

Was taught "a" or "an" is used according to sound ("a" for consonant sound, "an" for vowel sound); thus, "an SASE" because of "es."

Cindy Procter-King said...

Actually, there's a fourth way to pronounce SASE, EE - like "sass." So it's not grammatical; it sounds best. And it doesn't require that nasty n.

Cindy

Patrice Michelle said...

I never really thought about acronyms "sounding" different, but the a vs an application makes total sense once the acronym is sounded out.

Barbara said...

Is it a good idea to point out that something is your first novel? Or is that, like so many other things, going to vary a lot from query reader to query reader?

Stephen Newton said...

Evil Editor: Thanks so much for your review and edits. After finishing the MS, I think writing that letter was almost as difficult. I spent two weeks researching how to write one and found so many different opinions that I was totally confused. Everything you suggested makes perfect sense and I intend to adopt your revision for the next round of queries to go out. (Unfortunately, I discovered your blog after sending out the first ten last week.) I'll be back for more sound advice.

What'sPassable? said...

Evil Editor says this is "a query that even he considered passable".

What do you mean by passable? Good enough so that you'd request a partial?

Evil Editor said...

Yes, if that query met guidelines for length, and was a genre I was seeking, I'd want to take a look.

Thanks said...

Thanks, Evil Editor. (Re: What's Passable?)

Your critiques are very helpful.

Anonymous said...

Why not just assume your reader is capable of noticing the (HA-I dodged that bullet!) SASE when the package is opened, and save that valuable space in your query for communicating more important things?