Face-Lift 716: A Storm Hits Valparaiso
I got my query into great shape [on Evil Editor's blog] in January, and I have been making revisions to the novel for the last few months and I am getting ready to start sending it out again. In the last round I had several partial requests and a few fulls, so I am hoping to take the next step this time.
In this version, I took out all the information about the meeting of Bolivar and San Martin and saved that for the synopsis. Agent feedback suggested my query lead them to expect a different book and I have been advised to focus more on the other characters (other than San Martin) in my query.
Revised version below.
QUERY VERSION 423
I am seeking representation for A STORM HITS VALPARAISO, a 100,000 word novel of seven intertwining lives set during South America's independence struggle.
Catalina’s father is murdered by a sailor, leaving her to fend for herself in Santiago, but when Spain retakes the capital, she flees into the Andes. Diego is expelled from his home after a tragic accident, forced into a life of crime in Tucuman. Zé, a slave on a sugar plantation outside of Olinda, kills his master and stows away on a boat. Lord Cochrane is framed in the Great Stock Exchange Fraud of 1814, escapes prison and flees England to create Chile’s Navy. Jorge buries both of his parents then goes in search of Diego, joining the army in Tucuman. Pacha, freed from the death mines of Potosí by the advancing Argentine Army, enlists to protect his family. And San Martín deserts from the Spanish Army and is smuggled to London by the British Secret Service. Desperate to free his homeland, he must first free himself from his opium addiction. Forming a rag-tag army of Indians, freed slaves, runaways and ex-convicts, San Martín scales the Andes, liberates Santiago and attacks Lima by sea, frustrating Napoleon’s secret plan to escape his island prison and conquer South America.
A STORM HITS VALPARAISO, written and researched over three years in Peru and Argentina, may appeal to fans of Patrick O'Brian and Louis de Bernières. Thank you for your consideration, I look forward to hearing from you.
As an aside, I found myself focusing more on your commentary. Query Version 423 made me laugh!
In the last round I had several partial requests and a few fulls, so I am hoping to take the next step this time.
I'm interested in understanding what this means. Sounds like the query did its job of getting the ms in the door. I'm thinking the next step is the offer for rep, and the query won't get you there. If it was really several partials and a few fulls from a single round of querying, then you can't ask more from a query letter. Are you sure you want to fix something that was successful?
Agent feedback suggested my query lead them to expect a different book.
IMO, this is an execution issue. The agent(s) didn't respond to the way the idea was executed. The ms got read; the query did its job.
I have been advised to focus more on the other characters (other than San Martin) in my query.
Did an agent advise this? I'm curious as I've never had an agent advise me on my query. That's helpful, but again, the query got the ms read and it sounds like they passed because they weren't expecting multiple viewpoints and they weren't enamored of the execution. Would they have requested if you were more upfront with that? Something to think about...
As for the query, I was actually a multiple viewpoint advocate from the first (but again, if the query was working the other way, why change it?). My very subjective advice is still the same as what I gave on EE's site regarding your original query. That huge block of text in the middle of the query is way too dense and mind-numbing given the number of characters you introduce. I would paragraph each of them out to give each sentence and character equal weight.
I would also intro the action, focusing on San Martin first as he's the MC who brings them all together, and give the reader some context as to why all these people are important, other than seven entertwining lives, which IMO isn't very enticing.
Forming a ragtag army should be its own paragraph, too. Only you've left San Martin in London in the sentence before so it's not clear 1) that he goes to South America, 2) why we should care in the query that he made a stop in London, or 3) what the British Secret Service have to do with anything. And, yes, we know how it ends, but a little mystery in the writing would be nice, even if instead of the definitive frustrating Napoleon's secret plan you say in an attempt to frustrate Nap's secret plan.
All to say that if you take the query this route, please have another look at my original rewrite for a solid idea as to how to construct it (intro of the characters and why important, the characters and what order they appear, how and why they all come together, summation of what they accomplish as a group -- it's a tried-and-true formula). Use your own words, of course, but give the reader a logical progression to help them navigate the large cast.
Sunday, August 1, 2010
Query Revision 19
Face-Lift 716: A Storm Hits Valparaiso