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Love, Literary Fiction: Closed for Now


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#81 smithgirl

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Posted 04 August 2018 - 08:47 PM

Dear Agent:

 

At forty-three, Henry’s irresponsible, hedonistic lifestyle finally catches up with him. His one salvation could be a troubled student named Marc. That is, if Henry can keep the boy from suicide.

 

Henry is Marc's literature professor. Patiently, he coaxes from Marc the reason he comes to his office, over and over, but doesn’t speak. It’s all about an obscure book Marc’s parents read to him repeatedly when he was a child. That same book, the story of a boy abused by his father, is among those in Henry's bookshelf. Now Marc is firm Henry is the only person who can understand the images that drive him over the edge, and he won't take help from anyone else.

 

But Henry isn't a therapist. All he has to offer are office visits and his sympathetic ear, which troubles him because he knows Marc needs a professional. Plus, Henry’s own life is on the rocks. Due to Henry's recklessness, the one man he ever loved just left him, and to punish himself, Henry is screwing a woman he hates and who hates him back.

 

After a lifetime of wild confidence, Henry is learning what it means to be hopeless. He feels so unqualified to assume the role Marc begs from him: the loving father Marc never had. If Henry can't save himself, them Marc will have no one to keep him alive.

 

LOVE [not real title] is a 100,000-word literary novel. Author bio, comps, etc. 



#82 taylorhale

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Posted 05 August 2018 - 09:46 PM

Dear Agent:

 

When Henry’s (need more on who he is here. age/profession) hedonistic bachelor lifestyle finally catches up with him, he thinks he's lost everything. (I think this is too vague. what's he lost? his house? wife? I think I liked your old hook better!) His one salvation could a troubled student named Marc. That is, if Henry can keep the boy from suicide.

 

Henry is Marc's literature professor. Patiently, he coaxes from Marc the reason he comes to office hours, over and over, but doesn’t speak. It’s all about an obscure book Marc’s parents read to him repeatedly when he was a child. That same book, the story of a boy abused by his father, is among those in Henry's bookshelf. Now Marc is firm Henry is the only person who can understand the images that drive him over the edge.

 

Because Henry's read the book, he does understand. He knows that Marc needs so much more (like what?) than office visits and his sympathetic ear. But Henry’s own life is on the rocks. The one only man he's ever loved just left him, and Henry is screwing a woman he hates. (why? because he feels empty? lost? because there's no one else?) After a lifetime of reckless confidence, Henry is learning what it is to be hopeless and empty. 

 

So even as Marc’s prospects spiral downward, Henry is falling, too. Unfortunately, Marc won’t take help from anyone but him. Henry knows if he can’t save himself, then Marc will have no one at all. (I like this ending)

 

LOVE [not real title] is a 100,000-word literary novel. Author bio, comps, etc. 

I think you're getting there. Combining some of this with some versions of your older query could create that final draft :-) good luck!

 

One more thing actually: You say in the first para he has a bachelor lifestyle, then say later the only man he ever loved JUST left him. so that implies he was not a bachelor and was in a relationship, so definitely change one of those for consistency/clarity



#83 jpfranco

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Posted 06 August 2018 - 11:19 AM

Dear Agent:

 

At forty-three, Henry’s irresponsible, hedonistic lifestyle finally catches up with him. His one salvation could be a troubled student named Marc. That is, if Henry can keep the boy from suicide. How could the boy his salvation, though? Sounds like he needs to save the boy, not the other way around. Also, you don't mention suicide again in the query. 

 

Henry is Marc's literature professor. Patiently, adverb he coaxes from Marc the reason he comes to his(?) office for(?) hours, over and over, but doesn’t speak. That's so weird. He just sits in the professor's office for hours? It’s all about an obscure book Marc’s parents read to him repeatedly when he was a child. That same book, the story of a boy abused by his father, is among those in Henry's bookshelf. Now Marc is firm this needs re-wording, and also is a change in POV Henry is the only person who can understand the images that drive him over the edge. I'm wondering if the book was part of the abuse, or what.  

 

Because Henry's read the book he does understand. He knows that Marc needs so much more than office visits and his sympathetic ear. Well, what does he need? How can Henry give it to him?  But Henry’s own life is on the rocks. Because of Henry's own indiscretion, too vague the one man he ever loved just left him. Is he looking to fill that hole with his vulnerable student? I sure hope not. To punish himself, Henry is screwing a woman he hates. Huh. Also super-weird.  After a lifetime of reckless confidence, he is learning what it is to be hopeless and empty. 

 

So even as Marc’s prospects spiral downward, what prospects were those? Henry is falling, too. Unfortunately, Marc won’t take help from anyone but him. Henry knows if he can’t save himself, then Marc will have no one at all. Stakes are vague. Henry's life is 'on the rocks' and he's been left by his lover, but what does he have to save himself from? Why won't Marc have anyone? Even Henry knows Marc needs more than what he can give him. Surely he would encourage him to get professional help. 

 

LOVE [not real title] is a 100,000-word literary novel. Author bio, comps, etc. 



#84 smithgirl

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Posted 06 August 2018 - 12:13 PM

Dear Agent:

 

At forty-three, Henry’s irresponsible, hedonistic lifestyle finally catches up with him. His one salvation could be troubled student named Marc. That is, if Henry can keep the boy from suicide.

 

Henry is Marc's literature professor. Patiently, he coaxes from Marc the reason he comes to his office, over and over, but doesn’t speak. It’s all about an obscure book Marc’s parents read to him repeatedly when he was a child. That same book, the story of a boy abused by his father, is among those in Henry's bookshelf. Now Marc is firm Henry is the only person who can understand the images driving him over the edge.

 

But all Henry has to offer are office visits and his sympathetic ear, which troubles him because he knows Marc needs a professional. Plus, Henry’s own life is on the rocks. Because of Henry's reckless sexual gallivanting, the one man he ever loved just left him; to punish himself, Henry is screwing a woman he hates and who hates him back.

 

After a lifetime of wild confidence, Henry is spiraling into hopelessness and despair. When it becomes clear to him what Marc wants, for Henry to become the loving father figure he never had, Henry feels terrified and unqualified. But Marc won't take help from anyone else, so if Henry can't get his life in order, then Marc will have no one to keep him alive.

 

LOVE [not real title] is a 100,000-word literary novel. Author bio, comps, etc. 



#85 jpfranco

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Posted 06 August 2018 - 05:48 PM

 

Dear Agent:

 

At forty-three, Henry’s irresponsible, hedonistic lifestyle finally catches up with him. His one salvation could be troubled student named Marc. That is, if Henry can keep the boy from suicide.

 

Henry is Marc's literature professor. Patiently, he coaxes from Marc the reason he comes to his office, over and over, but doesn’t speak.  It’s all about an obscure book Marc’s parents read to him repeatedly when he was a child. That same book, the story of a boy abused by his father, is among those in Henry's bookshelf. Now Marc is firm Henry is the only person who can understand the images driving him over the edge.

 

But all Henry has to offer are office visits and his sympathetic ear, which troubles him because he knows Marc needs a professional. Plus, Henry’s own life is on the rocks. Because of Henry's reckless sexual gallivanting, the one man he ever loved just left him; to punish himself, Henry is screwing a woman he hates and who hates him back.

 

After a lifetime of wild confidence, Henry is spiraling into hopelessness and despair. When it becomes clear to him what Marc wants, for Henry to become the loving father figure he never had, Henry feels terrified and unqualified. But Marc won't take help from anyone else, so if Henry can't get his life in order, then Marc will have no one to keep him alive.

 

LOVE [not real title] is a 100,000-word literary novel. Author bio, comps, etc. 

 

There's very little change here from the previous version. I'm still not sure how Marc is the salvation, other than Henry needing to save himself in order to save Marc, which really doesn't make Marc the salvation. It's still very odd to state that the kid comes to his office and just sits there for hours. The thing is, this query is all telling: Marc comes to the office, Marc is obsessed with some book his parents read, Marc fixates on Henry. Henry is a mess, Henry is worried about Marc, Henry can't help Marc but Marc won't let anyone else help him. That's what your query pretty much boils down to. Yawn. I'm not trying to be mean, I'm trying to think like an agent. Make it more active, give us glimpses into the action, give us a little character, but don't slip from Henry's POV into Marc's by saying that Marc is now firm on this, and tortured by these images. We have to see it from Henry's POV. 

 



#86 lnloft

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Posted 06 August 2018 - 09:05 PM

 

Dear Agent:

 

At forty-three, Henry’s irresponsible, hedonistic lifestyle finally catches up with him. How so? His one salvation could be troubled student named Marc. I just feel this sentence is too bland. That is, if Henry can keep the boy from suicide.

 

Henry is Marc's literature professor. While important for context, this sentence feels just kinda plopped in right here. It doesn't feel organic. Patiently, he coaxes from Marc the reason he comes to his office This is grammatically correct, but it just reads awkwardly to me, over and over, but doesn’t speak. It’s all about an obscure book Marc’s parents read to him repeatedly when he was a child. That same book, the story of a boy abused by his father, is among those in Henry's bookshelf. Now Marc is firm Henry is the only person who can understand the images driving him over the edge. Again, there's just something a little awkward about this sentence to me. I think the start got me off on the wrong foot, because I started reading it expecting it to be "firmly" instead of "firm", and then I got myself all sorts of confused.

 

But all Henry has to offer are office visits and his sympathetic ear, which troubles him because he knows Marc needs a professional. Plus, Henry’s own life is on the rocks. Because of Henry's reckless sexual gallivanting, the one man he ever loved just left him; to punish himself, Henry is screwing a woman he hates and who hates him back.

 

After a lifetime of wild confidence, Henry is spiraling into hopelessness and despair. When it becomes clear to him what Marc wants, for Henry to become the loving father figure he never had, Henry feels terrified and unqualified. But Marc won't take help from anyone else, so if Henry can't get his life in order, then Marc will have no one to keep him alive I'm not a huge fan of how this sounds. Maybe something like, "Then Marc will be the one to pay the price"?.

 

LOVE [not real title] is a 100,000-word literary novel. Author bio, comps, etc. 

 

It's just... not clicking. Maybe something more to show why Marc is so determined to come to Henry instead of anyone else? I'm spitballing a little, but I mean really the connection is fairly tenuous, basically based on the presence of a book (although I realize that could be part of the point, of that even Henry is like, "Huh?", but if that's the case then play up the emotional impact of that too, I guess).

 

Also, and hopefully it's just me, but the initial vibe I got from the hook was that this might end up being a student/teacher romance thing, and that sort of put me off a little. I'm assuming that's not your book's situation, since you talk about a father/son relationship later. It's probably not necessarily anything you did, but more a factor of a lot of romances having hooks that start with "Troubled Protagonist's only hope of salvation is Eventual Love Interest."

 

Anyway, it's not a terrible query, it's just feeling flat to me. Lacking that emotional punch that the story clearly has. Which, again, I guess goes back to the relationship between Marc and Henry. Good luck.


Nothing to reciprocate on right now; I'm off in the query trenches.


#87 smithgirl

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Posted 07 August 2018 - 09:20 AM

There is no romantic relationship between Marc and Henry, and I don't want there to be any confusion in that regard. I guess I need to revise to make that extra clear. I guess I need to rethink the hook if it gives that impression.

 

I think I need to hire someone to write my query for me. Ha!



#88 smithgirl

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Posted 07 August 2018 - 03:19 PM

OK, most recent attempt to improve.

 

 

Dear Agent:

 

At forty-three Henry’s irresponsible, hedonistic lifestyle has finally caught up with him: he’s lost the one man he over loved; to punish himself, he’s screwing a woman he hates. And one of his literature students, Marc, just chose him to be the father figure Marc desperately needs.

 

Despite his own troubles Henry, a professor, coaxes from Marc the reason he comes to office hours, over and over, yet barely speaks. It’s all about an obscure book Marc’s parents read to him repeatedly when he was a child. That same book, the story of a boy abused by his parents, is among those in Henry's bookshelf.

 

In a bizarre and tenuous fashion, that Henry can’t grasp, Marc has taken the story of the book boy as his own, and he suffers accordingly. Henry knows Marc needs serious help, so he urges him to see a professional, to see anyone, really, more qualified than himself.

 

Because for the first time ever, Henry feels abandoned and despised. He isn’t eating, he isn’t clubbing. However, when Henry finds Marc calling his personal phone, huddling at his doorstep, he is beginning to grasp that Marc won’t take help from anyone else. He is letting Marc inside, and giving him hot tea. Exhausted from his own odious and sleepless nights, Henry is making Marc an expected promise: I will help you. Henry just hopes he actually can.

 

LOVE [not real title] is a 100,000-word literary novel. Author bio, comps, etc.



#89 taylorhale

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Posted 07 August 2018 - 06:40 PM

 

OK, most recent attempt to improve.

 

 

Dear Agent:

 

At forty-three Henry’s irresponsible, hedonistic lifestyle has finally caught up with him: he’s lost the one man he over loved; to punish himself, he’s screwing a woman he hates. And one of his literature students, Marc, just chose him to be the father figure Marc desperately needs. (This is a lot messier than your previous hook. Weird semicolon in there too. How about:

 

Forty-three-year-old Henry's irresponsible, hedonistic lifestyle has finally caught up to him. After losing the only man he's ever loved, Henry punishes himself by screwing a woman he hates, but every time he feels emptier inside. All that changes when Marc, one of Henry's literature students, chooses him as a father-figure.

 

^prob a little messy but just an example!

 

Despite his own troubles Henry, a professor, coaxes from Marc the reason he comes to office hours, over and over, yet barely speaks. It’s all about an obscure book Marc’s parents read to him repeatedly when he was a child. That same book, the story of a boy abused by his parents, is among those in Henry's bookshelf.

 

In a bizarre and tenuous fashion, (seems wordy) that Henry can’t grasp, Marc has taken the story of the book boy as his own, and he suffers accordingly. (Suffers how and why? We need more here) Henry knows Marc needs serious help, so he urges him to see a professional, to see anyone, really, more qualified than himself.

 

Because for the first time ever, Henry feels abandoned and despised. He isn’t eating, he isn’t clubbing. However, when Henry finds Marc calling his personal phone, huddling at his doorstep, he is beginning to grasp that Marc won’t take help from anyone else. He is letting Marc inside, and giving him hot tea. Exhausted from his own odious and sleepless nights, Henry is making Marc an expected promise: I will help you. Henry just hopes he actually can. (Eh... this paragraph is a little messy and seems extraneous, like in the detail of hot tea and the phone and stuff)

 

LOVE [not real title] is a 100,000-word literary novel. Author bio, comps, etc.

 

Imma rewrite your query, take what you like and leave what you don't! :P

 

 

Forty-three-year-old Henry's irresponsible, hedonistic lifestyle has finally caught up to him. After losing the only man he's ever loved, he drowns himself in sex and booze. All that changes when Marc, one of Henry's literature students, walks into his office and asks for help.

 

Marc is troubled by an obscure book his parents read him repeatedly when he was a child. That same book, the story of a boy abused by his parents, is among those on Henry's shelf. Marc has adopted the story as his own, causing him to have deep-rooted psychological issues: he stops speaking in class, he's contemplating suicide, and the only person he confides in is Henry. But Henry is only a literature teacher, not a trained mental health professional, so he doesn't know how to help Marc. Plus, Henry has his own problems to deal with, like the fact that he's stopped eating and can't sleep.

 

But when Marc shows up on Henry's doorstep in the middle of the night, Henry realizes that Marc won't accept help from anyone else. If Henry can't put aside his issues and find a way to help Marc, it could cost Marc his life.

 

 

 

^I know the flow is all over the place and it's very bare-bones BUT I just wanted to help you streamline things a little. Hope it helps! Also, in response to Inloft's review, I personally never got romance vibes from this story. The use of the word "coax" made me uncomfortable before but the tone always suggested to me that this is a story about an adult helping save a teenager's life.

 

 

 

Would you mind taking a gander at my new query? I'm trying it in dual-POV for the first time :-)



#90 Kjcloutier19

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Posted 07 August 2018 - 11:17 PM

 

 

 

OK, most recent attempt to improve.

 

 

Dear Agent:

 

At forty-three Henry’s irresponsible, hedonistic lifestyle has finally caught up with him: he’s lost the one man he over ever loved; to punish himself, he’s screwing a woman he hates, and one of his literature students, Marc, just chose him to be the a father figure Marc desperately needs. (This last bit makes your hook fall flat. Either get rids of the extra words at the end there, or give it even more oompth by playing into the suicide thing, like "and one of his literature students is threatening to kill himself." Or something like that?)

 

Despite his own troubles Henry, a professor, coaxes from Marc the reason he comes to office hours, over and over, yet barely speaks. (this is a super awkward sentence. Try something like "After Marc repeatedly shows up for office hours but never says a single word, Henry finally understands why: )  It’s all about an obscure book Marc’s parents read to him repeatedly when he was a child. That same book, the story of a boy abused by his parents, is among those in Henry's bookshelf. (The relevance of the book is unclear. At first I thought it was the book itself that had messed the boy up, but now I'm realizing the fact that the teacher also has this book is why Marc sought him out for help? And is the fact that it was about a boy abused by his parents significant? If not, you can leave that out probably because it confuses things)

 

In a bizarre and tenuous fashion, that Henry can’t grasp,(Too much) For reasons Henry can't grasp, Marc has taken the story of the book boy as his own, and he suffers accordingly. (Suffers how?) Henry knows Marc needs serious help, so he urges him to see a professional, to see anyone, really, more qualified than himself.

 

Because for the first time ever, Henry feels abandoned and despised. (What does this have to do with him not being professional enough to help the boy. This is obvious because he's just a literature prof and not a therapist. And why does he feel abandoned and despised?) He isn’t eating, he isn’t clubbing. (The clubbing thing seems weird. I'm guessing it's strange for this character to not be clubbing, but for most people - especailly at 40 - this is not weird. This is growing up lol) However, when Henry finds Marc calling his personal phone, huddling at his doorstep, he is beginning to grasp realizes that Marc won’t take help from anyone else. He is letting Marc inside, and giving him hot tea. Exhausted from his own odious and sleepless nights, So Henry is making makes Marc an expected promise: I will help you. Henry just hopes he actually can.

 

LOVE [not real title] is a 100,000-word literary novel. Author bio, comps, etc.

 

I think the biggest issue with this query is that you get a little wordy - not only adding extra unnecassary words, but large awkward words too - and your points get lost. I think if you can trim it as much as you can, the query will be much stronger! You're getting there! Best of luck, and thank you for your comments on my own query. You were very helpful!



#91 Tanja

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Posted 08 August 2018 - 03:20 AM

I think Taylorhale has given you a great version to work with. Go from there. Maybe you need to take a break from the whole query thing. Wipe it from your brain for a few days or a week and then return to it. You'll get there. Don't give up


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#92 LeeAllan

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Posted 10 August 2018 - 03:00 PM

Thank you for critiquing my query. I have browsed the last 20 or so critiques of your query, and it seems like there have been various opinions about how to change your critique. And as you have changed your query we get glimpses of other parts of the story we hadn't heard before. Perhaps it might be helpful for reviewers if you posted your synopsis (if it is just a single-spaced page). That way we can all get a better feel for what to highlight. Several reviewers have attempted to rewrite your query, but if we don't know an entire summary of the novel that is a difficult task. Just a suggestion.

 

I like the rewritten query taylorhale gave, perhaps you could tweak it as you wish:

 

Forty-three-year-old Henry's irresponsible, hedonistic lifestyle has finally caught up to him. After losing the only man he's ever loved, he drowns himself in sex and booze. All that changes when Marc, one of Henry's literature students, walks into his office and asks for help.

 

Marc is troubled by an obscure book his parents read him repeatedly when he was a child. That same book, the story of a boy abused by his parents, is among those on Henry's shelf. Marc has adopted the story as his own, causing him to have deep-rooted psychological issues: he stops speaking in class, he's contemplating suicide, and the only person he confides in is Henry. But Henry is only a literature teacher, not a trained mental health professional, so he doesn't know how to help Marc. Plus, Henry has his own problems to deal with, like the fact that he's stopped eating and can't sleep.

 

But when Marc shows up on Henry's doorstep in the middle of the night, Henry realizes that Marc won't accept help from anyone else. If Henry can't put aside his issues and find a way to help Marc, it could cost Marc his life.






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