Thursday, October 02, 2008
Guess the Plot
1. Jewell drifts from man to man: a Vietnam vet, a rock musician, a used car dealer, a right wing Christian. This may explain why her four daughters, Ruby, Emerald, Pearl and Jade, are so different. When Jewell is killed, can the girls draw on each other's strengths as they make their way into adulthood?
2. Habbard G'Lana, King of Huylandia, has four daughters: Opal, Jasper, Agate and Aventurine. He summons Princes of all lands to compete for their hands in marriage. But will an assassination attempt, a murder, and the sudden appearance of a dragon derail the happy event? Also, a hunchbacked wizard.
3. When all the other girls got assigned their jewel names for their coming of age, Heidelleine got Quartz. Not Beryl, or Lapis or some other respected semiprecious stone, but the common quartz...thus dooming her to a life of common labor in the high tech manufactory. But when she meets Jayson Obsidian, together they make...The Tool of Endor!
4. Daughter #1 was "Precious", so what nickname did dad come up with for daughter #2??? Semiprecious. And that is why 90 pound weakling Jane Melrose is slinking through the dark alleys of Brooklyn in search of a drug dealer, when voila! She meets a hunky dude in a bat suit! Will they get a burger and fries? Or heroin for two?
5. When Gollum's evil twin Gomer learns that the ring of power has been destroyed, he sets out to locate a plastic ring he once found in a Cracker Jack box, dubbing the trinket his . . . Semiprecious.
6. Open-road trucker Chuck Watson has always called his semi "Precious." But when the other truck drivers at Big Mama's Truck Stop see him talking to his rig and kissing its hood, Chuck gets a ribbing like never before. Can he regain his self-respect by winning the National Truck Roadeo?
I am writing to introduce you to my literary novel, Semiprecious, for which I am currently seeking agency representation.
A family saga running from 1972 through 2004, Semiprecious is a journey into the blue-collar upper Midwest, where the paper industry steadily churns trees into noxious smoke and the corner bars are neon-lit havens of working class camaraderie though [through] the long, bleak winters. At the novel's center is freewheeling matriarch Jewell McQuinn, an irrepressible frizzy-haired blonde determined to live a life a million times bolder and happier than her mother's ever was. Often seeing herself as a the star of her own TV show, Jewell spends decades drifting across central Wisconsin with a cigarette in hand, hopping from adventure to adventure, job to job…and man to man. Over the years, she becomes involved with a haunted Vietnam vet, a local rock musician, a used car dealer, and even a right wing Christian keen on changing her sinful ways.
Out of these relationships come children: four daughters uniquely affected by their mother's unconventional lifestyle. Growing up inhaling her secondhand smoke, encountering her half-dressed boyfriends in the middle of the night, and exhilarated by the escapades they share with her, Jewell's daughters each develop their own methods of survival. Ruby, the eldest, is chronically embarrassed by her mother [yet exhilerated by her escapades?] and, in response, angrily champions all things traditional and conservative. Her sister Emerald, meanwhile, idolizes and emulates Jewell's rebellious spirit. Pearl, sensitive and pensive, retreats into quiet fantasy worlds--while Jade, the youngest, cultivates a cold, lovely aloofness that masks the painful secrets of her childhood. [Once you said they each developed their own method of survival, that was enough. We don't care who used which method. We want to know something that happens.] When Jewell is suddenly, violently removed from their lives one winter night in 1996, [Finally. An event.] the sisters must draw on each other's strengths as they each awkwardly stumble into adulthood.
But while Semiprecious is largely the story McQuinn girls' relationship to their mother, it is also very much the story of their relationship to the "mother" city they grow up inside. Most of the novel is set in Pawlaw, Wisconsin, a fictional city based on my hometown (Wausau, WI) and infused with just as much northern Fish Fry Friday culture and pioneer logging lore as the real place. [I don't care to read about the McQuinn girls' relationship to Pawlaw and its fish-fry culture. Not in the query anyway.] Like the McQuinn sisters, Pawlaw, too, experiences growing pains while moving toward the new millennium, as the Hmong immigration explosion of the mid-1980s forces a 99% white small town population to readjust its norms and attitudes. [If we put the first phrase last, this would make a great entry in our next bad analogy exercise: Pawlaw experiences growing pains while moving toward the new millennium as the Hmong immigration explosion of the mid-1980s forces a small town population to readjust its attitudes . . . like the McQuinn sisters.]
Narrated in a third person omniscient voice with a tongue-in-cheek sense of humor throughout, the full manuscript of Semiprecious runs 54 chapters, 584 pages. I have enclosed the first chapter ("Opening Credits") for your review. If you are interested in reading further sample chapters or the entire manuscript, please contact me and I will happily forward you additional material. I have enclosed an SASE for your response.
Thank you very much for your time and consideration.
There's some nice writing in the query, which can't hurt your cause, but the query is too long. I'd dump the Pawlaw paragraph entirely. You can also eliminate the following paragraph. Add the word count to your first paragraph. Page and chapter count don't matter. Word count shouldn't matter either, as 50,000 words that are mostly dialogue will fill more pages than 60,000 words that are mostly action and description, but word count is what everyone hitches their wagon to.
Using your page count, I conclude that your book is over 140,000 words. I don't see how you can hold our attention that long without leaving central Wisconsin, but if you can, some mighty interesting stuff must happen to these characters, and you need to provide some examples in the query instead of the lengthy descriptions of each daughter's personality.
Perhaps the book should end when Jewell dies, and the story of the gems can be the sequel. That'll shorten it considerably, and if we cut out the growing pains of Pawlaw, that's another 20,000 words saved. See how easy that is?
I would choose a main character and focus on her. Not Jewell if the book runs eight years after her death. One of the daughters. The one who's you, if one of them is you. Otherwise maybe the eldest.
I'm not sure how we reconcile the claim that Jewell spends decades drifting across central Wisconsin with the statement that most of the novel is set in one city.
I'm not crazy about Jewell naming all her daughters after gems. Possibly I'm the only person who would find it hard to like a character who found that idea cute.
The two references to Jewell's smoking aren't needed in the query.