9.02.2006

3rd SR Crapometer #30--partial requested

Dear Miss Snark,

Thank you for taking the time to consider my novel, _______, for representation. I believe your interest in exotic locales (North Central Florida) and snark (my main character, is nothing if not snarkastic) dovetails nicely with my 102,000 word, literary/commercial novel.

Claudette Taskett was the only person with her father, Hap, when he died in a mysterious accident on rural Orange Lake. But she refuses to talk about it, and within months, she’s gone, hitching north to outrun the tug of memory and guilt. Always an outsider, an edgy, angry girl who tells herself she’s above the goings-on in their small town, Claudette hooks up with Jack, a self-made outlaw with an agenda she doesn’t understand. It takes her a couple thousand miles and one too many bad nights to find value in the scant family she left behind, and by then, she’s caught between Jack and his overblown sense of himself and in serious danger.

Meanwhile, younger sister Leanne, still mourning the death of her father, faces the loss of her sister as well. Alternately despondent and furious, she withdraws to the Idylwilde Lodge, the Taskett’s rundown motel. Sometimes she’s sure she’ll never forgive Claudette for whatever it was that happened out on the lake, for taking off on her, for not being the protective older sister she’s needed. Sometimes she longs for Claudette just as she is: brave, snarky and utterly frank. When the hokey and hugely pregnant Citra Stark takes up residence in Claudette’s old room, Leanne’s unprepared for the feelings the older girl provokes, and even more surprised to find her new tenant holds the key to both her father’s death and her sister’s baffling flight. Armed with half a version of the truth, Leanne travels to the high desert of Colorado where the sisters must confront Claudette’s current mess, as well as the troubling circumstances that divided them.

I grew up in Florida, spent several years teaching in the rural communities around Orange Lake, and believe I have an insider’s sense of this distinctive and beautiful setting. I’ve also attended the University of Colorado’s Master’s program in Creative Writing, where I won a
teaching assistantship. I’ve published several poems and a few short stories in small literary magazines, but most of my energy has been devoted to this novel.

Sincerely,

A. Snarkling

P.S. I’m including a short sample. While not a prologue, per se, it introduces the central incident in the manner of Ann Packer’s “The Dive from Clausen’s Pier”.


this is a dogawful query. Laden with recitation of events and unfocused. Blah.




This is what happened. Claudette came first, swimming then crawling then standing in the damp sand, her eyes not catching on any one thing. Something in the pulled back curve of her sister’s lip called Leanne to her feet. But by then, Claudette had taken off, running down the beach and into the brushy woods, away. The men in the bass boat came next, hollering for help. And then Daddy lay where they’d dragged him, sodden t- shirt pushed halfway up his chest, the fishermen still attempting CPR.

Leanne ran to him. Her foot caught in the loop of the picnic basket she’d insisted on packing, and when she shook it free, a couple of Twinkies tumbled out and lay like dog turds in gullies of sand. Blood shushed in her ears and also the harsh, wet wind. She hunched beside him, and he was the same overcast color as the clouds that day, his gaze gone distant. Gone. While, out on Orange Lake, each choppy wave balanced at its crest. Birds hung in the sky as if stapled there.

She called and called for Claudette, though it was pointless, and then fell to holding his hand, pushing it along the length of her cheek. His fingers, so loose, so like inner tube rubber, caught on her ear and in her hair. It occurred to her—a brief stab, pushed away as quickly as it’d
come-- that soon there'd be only this body, the color of potter's clay, this story she would not ever have the words for. Then no no no no no! This could not-- could not! -- happen.
This is what happened, and although people at highway pile-ups, fires, TV disasters, always start off with "It didn’t seem real,” it did. She couldn't muster the attention to fool herself. Her future came unhinged, this new thing yawning open like another door. And she saw that later, for the whole rest of her life, she’d start off here.



Then you read the writing, and you thank all dogs you make people send pages.
This is good. I'd read more.

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

Woo-hoo, you, too, thir-tay!

AZ Author

Cathy said...

Dear Author,

I'd send the query to Evil Editor's blog and have him help you revise it.

Anonymous said...

Yowsers! That was good! You got the reader right inside that day and that horrible moment so very well and so very fast. Great job!

I didn't think the query was all that bad, actually. Dry, yes, but it did the job of making it clear that this writer understands how to explain his/herself clearly.

Dave said...

I love that writing.

try a synopsis like this:
This is sthe story of two sisters, Claudette and Leanne and how they deal with the mysterious death of their Father. Leanne chooses to remain in idyllic Orange Lake in the motel they inherited while Claudette hitch-hikes to Colorade with an outlaw.
Their reconcilliation and etc...
etc..

You can say that in your own words much better than I can try to imitate your voice.

Good Luck.

Anonymous said...

I humbly confess I can't tell why this query is bad. I'm not the author, just a bystander trying to learn. If anyone can clarify matters for me, I'd be grateful.

Corn Dog said...

Absolutely love the writing but the query's gotta go. I'm with Cathy, off to Evil Editor with the query.

Thomma Lyn said...

The query needs work (I agree with cathy's Evil Editor suggestion), but I like the first page very much. Great job, Author! I'm reading the Crapometer from number one on, and this first page is my favorite so far.

December Quinn said...

This is quite good, but north central Florida is NOT exotic. It's dull as sh*t.

I know. I lived in Florida for 12 years.

Chumplet said...

Wow. You're absolutely right. Birds stapled to the sky. Beeeoootiful.

wonderer said...

Agree that the query needs help and that the prose sparkles with originality, emotion, and vivid imagery. You've hooked me - I would love to read more.

Way to go!

Anonymous said...

:sniggers: I agree with december quinn about Florida as 'exotic'. I've lived close to it before, and exotic it's anything but. But hey, this author would have gotten a partial request!! Who are we to pass judgement on those whose writing would have recieved a second look by Miss Snark?

Elektra said...

December, I was just about to comment the exact same thing (also lived in Florida for 12 years--Jacksonville).

Author, does your book have a Publix? Nothing says Florida like Publix. Ah, how I miss it in my exile.

Anonymous said...

Fabulous writing! Flat-out fabulous.

jude calvert-toulmin said...

Good writing. Birds stapled to the sky, excellent.

Sam said...

I'd say that the query needs help because even after I wrote it I didn't catch what the plot was about.
The first page is very clear and full of emotion.

Anonymous said...

The first sentence, "This is what happened," happens to be the first sentence of my novel Triangle, if you care.

Katharine Weber

McKoala said...

What a great place to start, and how well you wrote it. I'd be reading on.

Xeu Q. Bpp said...

I humbly confess I can't tell why this query is bad. I'm not the author, just a bystander trying to learn. If anyone can clarify matters for me, I'd be grateful.

I'm not Miss Snark, but it strikes me that the query doesn't contain *specifics* of what *happens* in the novel. Look closely at paragraph two. We get setup (father's death, hitchiking), we get characterization ("edgy, angry girl"), and then...nothing.

Keep going: Claudette "hooks up" with Jack (why? what does that imply?) Jack has "an agenda" (meaning what? Unclear.) Claudette goes "one too many bad nights" (which means what?), the "finds value" (which means what?). Then she's "caught" and "in danger" (promising, but meaningless).

There are a lot of words here, but no sense of *story*, no meaning you can ascertain from them, no sensible specifics. Same goes for the next paragraph, which I won't bother to go over.

The writing was great, though. The best of the bunch, and something I'd consider reading, although I'm not usually one for literary/commercial writing.

Susan said...

And here's something we've been hoping for since the start of SR3: an opening paragraph with action. Notice the absence of backstory.

Anonymous said...

I rather liked the query, myself. I felt it gave me a succinct idea of What This Book Is About. Obviously I'm not in synch with the great MS here.

OTOH, I agree wholeheartedly with her assessment of the writing. Lovely! Best of luck to you!

Anonymous said...

Sorry, folks, I guess I'm missing something here. Yes, the query needs help, but dog help us if this is good writing. Twinkies like dog turds? Fingers like inner tube rubber? Okay, maybe I'm just an unsophisticated hick, but if I read those opening paragraphs, I'd fling the book across the room. And btw, I've lived in FL for over 30 years--the last 15 in a rural area. Exotic? Uh--no.
Sorry, author. Just one opinion, but might reflect others.

Anonymous said...

I grew up in Central Florida as well, and I think the exotic comment was meant to be tongue-in-cheek. At least I thought it was funny.

overdog said...

For one not from Florida, it's exotic enough.

To me, it's not the worst query, it's just awfully wordy without telling me much. Could be a lot more pithy and interesting.

But the writing is great. Really pulls me in. I completely agree with Miss Snark on that. I love the repetition of "This is what happened" juxtaposed against "This could not happen."

PW said...

Thanks for the comments everybody.

I had no idea my query was so crappy-- and this info alone was incredibly, incredibly helpful. Now I've got to start all over again... Maybe I'll try EE. Only, it seems he and Miss Snark have vastly different tastes in queries. EE wants a lot of info, almost a synopsis, and Miss Snark likes them to be ultra-concise, judging from the crapometer so far.

As for North Central Florida: I was being tongue in cheek. I lived outside of Gainesville for 7 years and can attest that you only miss it once you are a long way away (Funny how you do though....)

Thanks again to everyone-- you guys made my day.

Frainstorm said...

Wow, that's a fantastic start. I'm right there at the lake. Love it.

The query, not so much. My eys just glaze over after a bit because I'm not sure what it's telling me and after reading the header that said "partial requested" I couldn't figure out why when I was reading through the query.

But your opinion quickly changes in just the first lines of the story. Hooked right away. Your voice is so wonderful in the story, but I don't get that at all from the query, which I think is a terribly difficult thing to do -- put your story voice in the query -- so I understand the challenge.

I've read that opening line somewhere else and I can't place it off the top of my head. No big deal, just throwing it out as someone else mentioned re: their WIP.

Nikita said...

Stephen King uses "This is what happened" to start his novella The Mist, and he confesses in his author's notes to having borrowed it from Douglas Fairbain's novel Shoot.