Saturday, June 5, 2010

Query Revision 13

Face-Lift 774: Beauty for Ashes

I would love to see if this is better. There's less plot given away, but it's more succinct and I tried to emphasize each of the three main characters more. By the way, the book title comes from a verse in the Bible:

Isaiah 61:3

To console those who mourn in Zion,
To give them beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;

Dear Evil Editor,

When John Douglas' wife and infant are killed in a fire, he abandons his faith in the God who betrayed him. Ignoring the persistant Voice of the Lord calling him back, and drowning his pain with alcohol, he falls further and further from the man he used to be. An unthinkable act finally leaves him broken before the Almighty, but he must still deal with the consequences of his sin.

April has escaped an abusive relationship and fights to make it on her own, refusing to be a victim. With no place to go, she is willing to do just about anything to keep herself off of the street. It will take grim circumstances for her to realize she’s not alone.

Jenni is a faith-filled college student, waiting for life to begin. But when things don’t go as planned, she questions whether or not she has the strength to follow God even through the darkest valleys.

When their paths collide, God moves in each of these three lives, weaving their circumstances together to make something beautiful out of tragedy.

BEAUTY FOR ASHES is a 92,600 word Christian Fiction novel. Thank you for your consideration.



It IS much more succinct, Michelle, so kudos on that! Unfortunately, I think this is way too vague to be useful in evaluating the strength and merit of the manuscript. Honestly, it doesn't take any more words to be specific. Plus, you wind up with more bang for your buck through detail. And as M.G.E. pointed out in your first draft, you seem to rely on cliche to carry your message. Inspirational fiction still demands a story, not a sermon. CBA agents likely see tons of sermons.

My [Partial] Revision

When John Douglas' wife and infant [son] are killed in a senseless fire, his rampage against God leads him first to alcohol and gambling then progressively deeper into Las Vegas' seamy underbelly. He doggedly ignores the persistant Voice of the Lord calling him back until he wakes up one morning in a stranger's bed and [something profound and concrete happens that reawakens his faith and puts him back on the straight-and-narrow].

April has escaped an abusive relationship and fights to make it on her own. Even though she [turns to prostitution] to support herself, she doesn't realize she is simply substituting one form of victimization for another. It's only when she discovers she's pregnant after a one-night stand that she [instinctively reaches out for help and finds she's not alone.]

Jenni is a faith-filled college student who falls for John as hard as he falls for her soon after he starts to rebuild his life. But when a very pregnant April shows up and names John the father, Jenni [questions whether she has the strength to follow God through even what's fast becoming her darkest valley.]

Leave it to God to be able to weave something beautiful out of the fabric of this tragedy.

BEAUTY FOR ASHES is a 93,000-word inspirational novel. Thank you for your consideration.


Michelle Massaro said...

Thank you! I do see where your additional details have shown how my story is unique among the rest of the books out there. I'm never sure how much detail to give away. I even have yet another version I worked on this week, and while it doesn't have all the details contained in your review, it does have a bit more than before. May I post it? Please let me know and thank you again!

fairyhedgehog said...

I'm only a reader but I'm not sure why you're hesitant to "give away" the details of your story to an agent or editor. Without those details they have no way of knowing whether they're interested in your story or not.

It's also much more interesting to read the more detailed version. I'd go with what Pheonix has written!

Phoenix said...

Absolutely post your new revision in the comments! I'd love to see it and others should be along in a day or two to comment, too.

Michelle Massaro said...

Ok, I want to post this version which I had worked on before getting the review here because I have already sent it off to a couple agents to test the waters. I'm sure I will still tweak it and use more of the suggestions I am receiving but I hope this one is better than the last and perhaps enough to get a request for a partial.:

Dear Agent,

Following a fire that takes the lives of his young wife and daughter, John Douglas turns his back on God and goes through a period of prodigal living. He embraces a life of sin and pushes away the persistent Voice beckoning him to return to the Lord.

An unthinkable act- a night with a prostitute named April- finally leaves him broken and ashamed. He calls out for the forgiveness of a God who had never left him. His relationship with God is restored following this low point, but the consequences of his sin later threaten his relationship with his new fiancé- and his faith- when a pregnancy results.

Struggling with shame, insecurity, and bitterness, John and his fiancé Jenni are both called by God to minister to April, and share His love and mercy with her.

Uniquely weaving the stories of three different characters together, BEAUTY FOR ASHES brings the reader directly into the minds of its characters through first person narratives, listening to their heart-cries and personal prayer lives. This General Christian Fiction manuscript stands at approximately 92,600 words.

Sarah Laurenson said...

Hi Michelle,

I like that this latest version focuses on John. It creates the strand of the story that weaves seamlessly throughout.

No clue what "prodigal living" is, but I suppose agents/editors interested in your work will.

Phoenix already pointed out what needs clarified.

Michelle Massaro said...

Thank you! BTW- "Prodigal living" is the idea of spending time living in rebellion to God even though you had previously been a close follower. I will try to add clarity where you pointed out. However, I am unsure how to do that with the "ministering to April" without opening a can of worms that needs to be addressed. See, April gets diagnosed with leukemia and John and Jenni take care of her- bring her meals, drive her to doctors, help her walk to the bathroom, and yes- pray with her and tell her God loves her. She does end up dying. I don't want to make the query too much longer so I have some thinking to do. I'll post revisions soon. Thank you!

Michelle Massaro said...

ok, how's this:

Following a devastating fire that takes the lives of his young wife and daughter, John Douglas rebels against the God who betrayed him. Ignoring the persistent Voice of Lord, he drinks himself into depression and arrives at the brink of suicide.

It takes an unthinkable act- a night with a prostitute named April- to finally leave him broken before the Almighty. As he begins to rebuild his life, as well as his relationship with God, he meets and falls in love with Jenni. But this second chance at happiness, and the faith of them both, are threatened when April shows up pregnant and names John the father.

Struggling with shame, insecurity, and bitterness, John and his fiancé Jenni are called by God to take care of April, now facing a diagnosis of leukemia, and to share His love and mercy with her. It will take incredible faith to follow God even through the darkest valley, but a willingness to surrender all could save a soul in the process.
And what do you think about adding this line to introduce the narrative:

"Not everything stays in Vegas..."

(too cliche, or kinda catchy?)

sylvia said...

I'm no expert but here are some thoughts:

"Following a devastating fire that takes the lives of his young wife and daughter, John Douglas rebels against the God who betrayed him."

I don't think "who betrayed him" is necessary - it's clear through the rebelling that he blames God for the fire.

The second paragraph is much stronger than the original but I'm unclear as to what makes him begin to rebuild his life. Maybe re-evaluate and then rebuild?

I think you can keep the extra detail on Jenni that you took out for the original. To avoid repetition of the darkest valley, maybe something like:

...he meets and falls in love with Jenni, a faith-filled college student who has been struggling to find the strength to follow God.

I would take out "But" and simply say This second chance ... and personally I would say "names John *as* the father" - but now I'm being really picky :)

You'll have to build Vegas into the query (which I think would be good) to use that line - I'm not sure if using it is a good idea though. Possibly a bit too cliche in a serious story like this.

Michelle Massaro said...

Thank you for your further insights! I want to send off another round of queries but really wanted additional feedback first so I was pleasantly surprised to see your post, Sylvia. I wasn't sure I'd get any more replies.

I think that being broken before God is the starting point for him to rebuild his life. I thought it implied a change. I'll have to see if I continue to get an unclear response to that. I'll look again at the Jenni part and see about adding back some detail.

Thanks! :)

sylvia said...

Yeah, I'm about a week behind the rest of the world. ;)

I think the verb "rebel" gives that aspect of change (we don't rebel against strangers, only against our caretakers?).

Broken before God struck me as an all-time low. So I read it as the dark moment before the change - so a necessary part but not the actual change. Might just be me though.

fairyhedgehog said...

I wonder if "broken before God" has a specifically Christian meaning that those of us who aren't Christians might not get. I don't know whether agents who represent Christian books are necessarily Christian but I suppose they could be.

Michelle Massaro said...

Sylvia, don't worry- I was so behind the rest of the world that I didn't even see that I had any comments when my first try appeared on EE! By then the conversation was over, lol.

Fairyhedgehog- it does have meaning in Christian circles I suppose. But I had thought the verbage was clear to anyone (I was wrong). The original version had another line that specifically said "he repented", but EE pointed out that it was redundant since I had said "broken before the Almighty". The picture I thought I was painting was that when you rebel you are fighting against, and when you are broken you have surrendered.

Thanks for the insight and the communication; it's invaluable help!

Krista Hanna said...

I think your new query is a great improvement and to be honest- the first one didn't catch my attention. Your new query makes me want to read the book and I like how it specifically shows us how all three of these stories are intertwined and that one horrific event (the fire)can touch the lives of others and even indirectly cause the creation of a new life (the baby).

I agree that stating "the God that betrayed him" in the first paragraph feels a little redundant.

I also enjoyed reading the details about Jenni and think it would be good to incorporate them again if you can find a way to fit it in!