Tuesday, July 26, 2016

July Pass Or Pages Entry #2

Time for our favorite part of Pass Or Pages, the feedback reveals! We hope that everyone following along will get something out of these reveals that they can apply to their own writing. I did!
We are so grateful to our agent panel for critiquing these entries. We would also like to give a shout-out to the authors for being brave and willing to improve.
Final note: with 4 agents on the panel, we have trimmed down some of their comments to keep the posts from being overwhelming.


Entry #2: TO LOVE AND DIG HOLES

Query:

I am seeking representation for my romantic comedy[DB1], To Love and Dig Holes, which is complete at 90,000 words.

Grace Tepper wants to call off her wedding.[AS1]  She’s not sure how she’ll explain it to the groom, Bob Pelton. Is a gut feeling a good excuse?[MJ1]  She better come up with something quick, because she’s already walking down the aisle. As she spends part of her wedding day saving a life and attending a stranger’s funeral (surely these good deeds should offset her shoddy performance during the ceremony)[AS2], she can’t ignore the fact that she’s loved him almost since the day they first met, when their respective dates ran away with each other.[MJ2][DB2][PN1]  

Hopefully, the week she spends by herself on a Caribbean cruise (formerly known as the honeymoon), will offer the opportunity to decide if she made the right choice or the biggest mistake of her life. Unfortunately, Bob shows up at the airport and insists on joining her, so she may not have time for reflection after all. If they can’t get along on the flight to Miami, how are they going to manage spending seven nights together in a cramped stateroom?[PN2]

As the week progresses, Grace can’t understand why Bob, for the most part, is kind to her when he has every reason to throw her overboard. She doesn’t know how she’s supposed to sort through her feelings with the added distractions of a pirate, a robber, and a monkey.[PN3]  Chaos becomes Grace’s constant companion. [AS3]

To Love and Dig Holes is a humorous tale of love’s resilience, and the ability to move beyond our fears.[DB3]

**********
Andrea's Notes:
[AS1] Good opening line--I'm intrigued.
[AS2] I suggest leaving this part out--I think it distracts from the primary storyline and conflict. 
[AS3] Perhaps it's possible to further clarify what Grace has at stake? I'm worried from this description that the manuscript might be too meandering.  



Melissa's Notes:
[MJ1]
 First line is compelling. Second line not as crisp. Third line loses me. Then she’s already down the aisle and I can’t keep track of what’s going on.
[MJ2] So did she call off the wedding? The details in the parenthesis --which you should NOT use in a query letter—are funny but still somewhat confusing. And WHO is the guys she loves and really, why doesn’t she want to marry him. You’ve written this to be cute but I have no idea what’s going on. I’d stop now. 

Danielle's Notes:
[DB1]  Rom com is more of a movie categorization than a book categorization. I would probably go with commercial women’s fiction.
[DB2] This paragraph is jumping around a lot, which is making it hard for me to follow exactly what is happening. The idea of a bride getting cold feet is compelling, but, because you jump from walking down the aisle to a funeral to her having messed up the ceremony, I’m confused about logistics and timeline. I’d rather see a more direct description. Share enough to intrigue, but you don’t need to share everything. Pretend you’re marketing the book to readers and try making your query sound like the description on a book jacket. There’s a certain type of language that is used in those descriptions and it really does help!
[DB3]  Based on the description provided in the query, this is a PASS for me. It feels very chaotic and I’m left with a lot of questions. Why did Grace call off the wedding? Why did she wait so long to do so? Why do she and Bob still go on their honeymoon? The description makes the narrative sound very slapstick-y and unrealistic where I would be looking for a certain level of emotional authenticity.

Patricia's Notes:
[PN1] There’s a LOT of info packed in this sentence, and I got a little lost. Again, assume agents are skimming queries – short, straightforward sentences are better.
[PN2] Why doesn’t she just tell him no? Or not go herself? Right now the set-up is reading a bit contrived – why does she NEED to get on that boat, even if he does too?
[PN3] This is another one of those case of: leave out details that confuse the reader. These elements may very well work in the story, but in the query it just makes me puzzled.



First 250:

I know, I know, I should have said something a little earlier. [MJ1]

I’m walking down the aisle, my freshly manicured, ruby red fingernails digging into Uncle Ray’s arm.[AS1]

I survived a year’s worth of planning, agonizing, and decision making, to reach this long anticipated, glorious moment. Bob, my handsome groom, is waiting for me at the front with a wide smile.

Only one small snag has come up today. I have no intention of getting married. Okay, it’s not a small snag.[AS2]  Unfortunately, I don't remember reading any wedding tips on the proper etiquette to cancel your wedding after the ceremony has started. [MJ2]

I’m not sure how to get myself out of this. I thought I would be saying I do, because I did, but now I don’t.[AS3]  My mouth is so dry; I'd give anything for a glass of sweet tea right now. Sweet tea, vodka, whatever.[PN1]

The guests are standing, having popped up from the pews at the first notes of “Here Comes The Bride” and appear captivated as I pass by. I feel like royalty, with everyone's attention focused on me. I do look like a princess in my ball gown wedding dress. I'm even wearing a tiara encrusted with Swarovski crystals which match the ones drizzled on my dress.

I contemplate handing my bouquet to Uncle Ray and doing the Queen Wave. Instead, I glance at certain people as I walk by them, baring my teeth, hoping it comes off as a smile.

**********

Andrea's Notes:
[AS1] I like the narrative voice, however I think that there's some lines that you don't need--they don't necessarily add to our understanding of the character or move the story forward. With that in mind, I've indicated some sentences that you might think about striking.
[AS2] Cut
[AS3] Cut
Pass: I think there is some solid prose in these pages but the opening pages felt a bit too familiar to me.

Melissa's Notes:
[MJ1] For me, personally, I don’t enjoy first person present.
[MJ2] Your MC is chatting with the reader. I want to be in her head, not be spoken to like we’re friends. I think it’s just the tone and that’s keeping me separated from her as a character.
OA Note: Like Andrea, Melissa suggested cutting out several sentences.

Patricia's Notes:
[PN1] I see a lot of these “talking to the reader” openings, especially in women’s fiction, and I find them much less compelling than actually being in the moment with the character -- think of the old adage “show don’t tell.” If you must talk to the reader on the first page, best in my view to resist doing it for more than a sentence or two. (There are exceptions to this rule, of course, but in my experience they are rare.) I would stop reading here.


Results:
Andrea Somberg: PASS
Melissa Jeglinski: PASS
Danielle Burby: PASS
Patricia Nelson: PASS

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