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Genre/ fiction public reform?


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#1 kellie

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Posted 09 March 2011 - 09:01 PM

This is my query letter. I have been advised that maybe I should go the route of non-fiction as opposed to fiction. All of the stories and characters are real. The names of the characters and names of places have been changed. I need some brutally honest critiques and I am open to any suggestions.

MANDATED

We are in the middle of a pandemic which is built upon the silence and shame of countless victims. It has been estimated that one out of four females and one out of six males in the U.S. are molested before they turn eighteen.

It’s time to end the silence and shame. It’s time to demand that offenders enter and successfully complete sex offender treatment. And of greater importance, although the subject of the book is quite controversial, it’s time to understand the value of community-based sex offender treatment. Until we move out of the darkness, shame, silence, and secrets of sexual offending, this plague will continue.

I have worked with sex offenders for more than eighteen years, both as a forensic sex offender evaluator and a certified clinical sex offender therapist. With help from my co-author, William Greenleaf, I have drawn on my experiences to write a novel entitled Mandated: Lying Believable Sex Offenders. The novel introduces the reader to the offenders who can be treated in their own community by certified sex offender treatment programs. Through my fictitious protagonist, therapist Claire Starley, the story also puts a face to the typical offender and takes the reader through the treatment process.

Story Line

Claire Starley never believed her career would lead her down a path like this. But as she watches her colleague, Dr. Tom Warren, confront his sex offender clients head-on, she can’t help but be intrigued. Under Warren’s tutelage, Claire will now preside over these same sex offenders, pushing them ever closer to that elusive thing called rehabilitation.

Along the way, Claire forms a close bond of friendship with the most unlikely people. She laughs with former pedophiles and cries with contrite abusers. All the while, she keeps these men on track with Dr. Warren’s experimental and apparently effective treatment program. She demands their honesty – both with others and with themselves. She meets clients who threaten to derail the practice, lawsuits that encroach upon her livelihood, and a neighborhood too afraid and close-minded to accept the possibility of recovery for criminals such as these. Aided by her husband Miles and a charming parole officer named Lance, Claire stands up to all who would try to put an end to her practice and the good works it represents.

Mandated: Lying Believable Sex Offenders has been completed at 85,000 words. I have included the items requested for submissions and would be pleased to send you sample chapters, chapter outline or the entire manuscript.

#2 jwmstudio

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Posted 09 March 2011 - 09:23 PM

I don't know, but I think you have to pick one or the other. Either change the names and write a non-fiction book or jetison the beginning and concentrate on telling a riveting story with the focus on the story not the message.
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#3 kellie

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Posted 09 March 2011 - 09:35 PM

the names, of course, have been changed. i don't understand how it could be non-fiction. please explain this to me. i apparently submitted this incorrectly. The title is Mandated.

#4 jwmstudio

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Posted 09 March 2011 - 09:42 PM

If you're using examples that actually happened, you could write it as non-fiction and keep the emphasis on your message. If it is fiction then the message isn't important and the story takes precedence. Given your obvious and understandable passion for the message, non-fiction might better serve your purpose.
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#5 kellie

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Posted 09 March 2011 - 09:45 PM

thank you. i might have to try that! do facts need to be checked or anything?
would i be able to keep my ficticous protagonist or do i just put in a clause stating the names and places have been changed, etc.?

#6 jwmstudio

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Posted 09 March 2011 - 10:05 PM

I don't know Kellie and I don't want to tell you the wrong thing. I think there is a non-fiction board where you could probably get more accurate advice.
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#7 kellie

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Posted 09 March 2011 - 10:18 PM

you are wonderful! thank you! if i can read or critique anything for you please do not hesitate emailing me.

#8 Pete Morin

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Posted 10 March 2011 - 09:36 AM

Kellie,

There is a specific format for a fiction query that you can learn from the pinned article "How to write a query letter" at the top of the forum list.

What I don't get in the story summary above is any sense of a story line. It is just a brief description of the overall theme.

A story has a beginning, middle and end. There is a protagonist who wants something. Something is in her way, obstacles and challenges thwart her mission. Stuff happens, and there's some sort of resolution, positive or tragic.

If this has been written as "fiction" purely for the purpose of avoiding the problem of identity of the subjects, then perhaps it has been written that way for the wrong reason (I submit). So before an effort is made to query the work, I think an examination of just what it intends to be has to become crystal clear.

As a fiction topic, I'd have to say that a sex offender therapist who spends her days confronting the trauma of sex offenders is an extremely intriguing premise. A skilled fiction writer could spin quite a story out of that, in any number of genres.

But perhaps one of the great challenges in doing so in this case is NOT becoming captured by the factual aspects of the research. The story comes first.

Hope this helps.
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#9 mwsinclair

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Posted 10 March 2011 - 11:14 AM

From the nonfiction perspective, I have to say I the question "do facts need to be checked" a little troubling. If you're writing nonfiction, make sure you get your facts straight.

But I think I'd lean toward fiction with this, for exactly the reasons Pete states. Sex sells, and the idea that such offenses could be allowed to proliferate (and unfortunately they do) would absolutely be able to engage a reader.

Oh, and in my opinion, the name of your protagonist is too close to Clarise Starling of Silence of the Lambs fame. I'd change it.



#10 bkeats

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Posted 10 March 2011 - 12:32 PM

First off, I'll agree with my more learned colleagues in that you need to decide whether this will be fiction or non-fiction. Neither is better than the other, but they are very different animals.

My comments here assume you're going the novel route, as I'm even more woefully ignorant of non-fiction than fiction.

Here we go.

Your first paragraph should list the title, word-count and what genre your book is.

We are in the middle of a pandemic which is built upon the silence and shame of countless victims. It has been estimated that one out of four females and one out of six males in the U.S. are molested before they turn eighteen.

It’s time to end the silence and shame. It’s time to demand that offenders enter and successfully complete sex offender treatment. And of greater importance, although the subject of the book is quite controversial, it’s time to understand the value of community-based sex offender treatment. Until we move out of the darkness, shame, silence, and secrets of sexual offending, this plague will continue.
This isn't pitching a book; you sound like you're delivering a college lecture.

I have worked with sex offenders for more than eighteen years, both as a forensic sex offender evaluator and a certified clinical sex offender therapist. (Good credentials, but put these at the end of your query.) With help from my co-author, William Greenleaf, I have drawn on my experiences to write a novel entitled Mandated: Lying Believable Sex Offenders. The novel introduces the reader to the offenders who can be treated in their own community by certified sex offender treatment programs. Through my fictitious protagonist, therapist Claire Starley, the story also puts a face to the typical offender and takes the reader through the treatment process. Story Line

Claire Starley never believed her career would lead her down a path like this. (Like what? What was she expecting?) But as she watches her colleague, Dr. Tom Warren, confront his sex offender clients head-on, she can’t help but be intrigued. Under Warren’s tutelage, Claire will now preside over these same sex offenders, pushing them ever closer to that elusive thing called rehabilitation.

Along the way, Claire forms a close bond of friendship with her own clients.the most unlikely people. She laughs with former pedophiles and cries with contrite abusers. All the while, she keeps these men on track with Dr. Warren’s experimental and apparently effective treatment program. She demands their honesty – both with others and with themselves. She meets clients who threaten to derail the practice, lawsuits that encroach upon her livelihood, and a neighborhood too afraid and close-minded to accept the possibility of recovery for criminals such as these. Aided by her husband Miles and a charming parole officer named Lance, Claire stands up to all who would try to put an end to her practice and the good works it represents. This last sentance sounds too preachy.

I agree with Pete that your premise is intriguing. If you are going the fiction route though, you'll need some major revisions. I can't get more specific yet because I don't have enough details. Claire's difficulties, in particular, need to be fleshed out and/or "pumped up" a little more, so the readers (and by extension, the agent) will be wondering, "Will Claire succeed?"

Mandated: Lying Believable Sex Offenders has been completed at 85,000 words. I have included the items requested for submissions and would be pleased to send you sample chapters, chapter outline or the entire manuscript. All agents asume your manuscript is completed, and that everything (synopsis, partials, etc, are available for their asking.)

Keep at it, kellie. I for one will read this book! :smile:

happy Writing.




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