Thursday, April 28, 2016

#276-revised once

Revision #1

Mira is a thirty-two year old writer in Brooklyn whose past relationship, soul-sucking job, and frequent writer’s block all drive her to drink. This would be very bad except the local bar owner is Tom, a smart, sardonic, self-made man who is easy on the eyes and who looks at Mira in a way that makes her knees buckle. Mira’s past keeps her from acting on her attraction until a beautiful woman walks into the bar and starts hanging on to Tom’s every word. Suddenly, it is no longer easy for Mira to keep her feelings for Tom at arm's length. But Tom has had enough of Mira's push and pull.

This is better than the first iteration, but let's look at what you're doing here: you're using a LOT of cliches. "Soul sucking job" is a good example. Unless your job is an actual dementor (and yes I had to look that up to make sure I was using the right word) this isn't a phrase that sheds much light on things. What makes it soul sucking? The people? The customers? The literary agents who critique your every memo and tweet?  

And "drive her to drink" is another. It's a trite phrase. How much is she drinking? What is she drinking? Is she pouring vodka in her coffee cup at 6am or is she having two old fashioneds at the bar instead of one Shirley Temple?

Details make a story come alive. Right now this is bland. Bland does NOT entice. 

At work, Mira is presented with a distraction - a girl from the neighborhood has disappeared amidst whispers of a local drug ring. Mira starts covering the story but unfortunately her snooping catches the attention of the wrong kind of people. After spotting Mira witnessing a shakedown gone awry, these gang members give her chase making Mira run to the first place that comes to her mind - Tom's bar.

You'll want to ditch that whole first paragraph and start here. Here is where something interesting happens, and that's a whole lot more enticing than trying to suss out what kind of hooch Mira is guzzling and when.

But, honestly, if thugs are after me, my first stop is the local police station, not a bar. You might think about whether it's the first place that comes to mind, or the first place she actually sees. Again, details are what make the story work. 

And it's "give chase" not "give her chase" meaning to chase after her. Give her chase means they're handing her a bank.

While the gang members now lay siege outside, Mira and Tom must figure out how to get past their heated emotions in order to escape and Mira must accept that feelings are not resolved by keeping them at arm's length.

Wait, what?? There's a siege in Brooklyn? At a bar? Call the cops! For starters, how is someone laying siege in this day and age? Well, ok, I've laid siege to my liquor cabinet but I don't think that's what you mean here.

And we've gone from being chased by thugs, to figuring out our emotions? Does this actually make sense when you see it written down like this? (no, it doesn't)  Here's where you need to step outside your writerly self, and read with an objective eye. Does this make sense? Is this how someone would behave? If it's NOT, why are they behaving oddly? If Mira and Tom are reviewing their relationship while being threatened by thugs, there must be a reason it's more important to them. 

THE CHRONICLES OF MANIA is an upmarket women's fiction complete at 70,000 words.

This is better than what you had in the first iteration, but you're still on the wrong side of bland. We also need a better sense of the plot.

What does Mira want? What's keeping her from getting it? What's at stake for her with that desire?

Query #1
It’s the late eighties in New York and Mira is a thirty-two year old single woman living in Brooklyn. She works at a dead end job writing corny ad copy for a living. Her evenings are spent drinking with the old bartender at her local bar and thinking about her past love. She has a strong chemistry with the bar’s owner, Tom but she actively ignores it and refuses to let him come close.

There's nothing technically wrong with this paragraph, but I'd stop reading here and send a form rejection.  The purpose of a query letter is to entice your reader (in this case, me) to read more.

Honestly, Mira sounds like someone I'd actively avoid. 

Think about it: if someone asked you what your book is about, would you tell them what you wrote in this first paragraph?

I have no sense that you love this story and can't wait to tell it.

Also troublesome: why is this set in the 80's? That's practically historical fiction for youngish readers, and for those of us who were actually there, why go back? It hasn't become chic like the 40's or the 20's, and unless you need to have Ronald Reagan or Duran Duran in the book, why?

This has all the hallmarks of a "based on my life" kind of novel. Remember, most lives don't let themselves to well-plotted enticing novels (and thank goodness!)  If you are using events of your life, remember, this is a novel. You get to make stuff up. In fact, you can make it ALL up.

When you hear "not right for my list" this is the kind of thing we mean. It's not grabbing me.

On New Year’s Eve, alone and drunk in her apartment, Mira decides to finally take charge and do what she had always planned to do with her life - she decides to write a book and gives herself one year .

The only thing more painful than writing a novel is reading about someone writing a novel.

But fortunately it doesn't look like Mira's novel is actually a very important part of the plot....

For the next twelve months, we see Mira constantly trying (and mostly failing) to write while having a series of misadventures. Her job duties become more unbearable, she meets Jim Buckley, a persistent drunk who brings disaster wherever he goes, Tom leaves for Italy and comes back with a beautiful girl, and Mira’s neighbor, Lollys, disappears one day raising suspicions about a neighborhood drug ring.

What does this have to do with Mira's novel? It's also a series of events, rather than a plot.
And I'm sure this is just me but a character who is a "persistent drunk" is so unappetizing I don't know where to start. Drunk people are funny if you're also drunk with them. Reading about them, or being around them sober is excruciating.

Through a bizarre twist of events Mira finds herself one night being the witness of a drug dealer’s murder. She is chased by the murderers into Tom’s building where for five nights Mira and Tom stay trapped without a telephone while armed thugs guard the front door.

Wait, what? What happened to the novel? I thought Tom came back from Italy with a girlfriend?

And "bizarre twist of events" leaves me shaken and afraid. It's code for "I'm going to do something awful to these people" or "I'm going to show you what deus ex machina REALLY looks like."  If I'm reading your novel, a twist is great, I love the twists. Bizarre turns of events are where I put the book down and say "yea, not so much."

“The Chronicles of Mania’ is a novel finished at 70,000 words.

The only way to save this query is to energize the writing. You can do that with sentence structure and word choice.  I'll read almost anything if it sounds interesting. Your job is to make this sound interesting.

Right now it's not.
It's not a red hot mess.
It's got the fundamentals, but it doesn't do the job.

Don't be afraid to be bold in your query. Get some sizzle on the page.