HomeWritersLiterary AgentsEditorsPublishersResourcesDiscussion
Forum Login | Join the discussion
+ Reply to Thread
Page 1 of 2 1 2 LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 12
  1. #1
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Posts
    4

    Query help needed for forum newbie

    I am new to the site and forums all together for that matter as I am always a bit afraid of those out there who seem to thrive on criticism without substance. Yet, tis the nature of the beast so I come with backbone I hope sufficiently stiffened and hope for some feedback and how to improve my query or chuck it all together and start over. It's only one page, but perhaps too long, too complicated. I don't know, my objectivity is gone, if I had it in the first place. I will also go to query shark too...thank you.

    A good train wreck is fun to watchóat a distance. Yet, from the view of the engineer, it is a terrifying, out of control race to escape demons conjured from a diseased soul. It is destined to end in disaster. Donít Take with Alcohol, is the story of my train wreck, one that lasted fifteen long years. It was a winding track of misery that included abusive relationships, prescription drug and alcohol abuse, incorrect psychiatric diagnosisí and the struggles of surviving as a woman in a world designed for men. It is the story of how I used substances rather than strength and faith to escape my bad choices when it came to relationships and career.

    The fifty-five thousand words in Donít Take With Alcohol begins with my loveless marriage and my inability to accept that mistake until addiction already captured me. The dissolution of my marriage accelerated my reliance on prescription drugs and alcohol. That pointed me headlong into a relationship well suited for Jerry Springer. The hell that was my life wore the disguise of normality, but it was riddled with anxiety and drama that I dissolved every night with pills and wine In time, the days came when I could no longer hide my addictions or pain. A night in jail brought me out of denial and I resolved to fight my way back to life. I created a sober truth for myself without the perfunctory rehab or mainstream treatment.

    This is a tale that I did not want to tell, one I certainly did not want to live. The fact that I did survive it, and came out better for it is enough reason to share my personal memories. There are many people out there who suffer quietly with or without addiction never understanding their unhappiness. I wrote Donít Take With Alcohol in an attempt to understand how I had so magnificently destroyed a life never destined for such a path. In doing so, I had to be brutally honest with myself and lay out every gritty, ugly detail along my path of self-destruction. It is my hope that in telling my story, in revealing my shameful secrets, I can touch at least one life. If someone else can see themselves within the spaces of my words, then perhaps they can turn around their lives.

    If a forty year old childless woman with a career can be average, then I am that. Iím a writer and an historian, but I am also the person whispered and gossiped about as those with normal lives conjecture and judge. Donít Take With Alcohol, is offered up as a light to the lost souls floundering about in the darkness so they may know that they are not alone. Hopefully, my honesty will enable them to see that their private miseries can become quite public and more destructive than they can ever imagine. All of that can be avoided if they realize that change is possible without following traditional rehab philosophies. I would appreciate your help in spreading this message to the world. I hope to hear from you soon.



  2. #2
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Location
    Ohio
    Posts
    3,866
    Mary Elizabeth, what I think you need to do is to go back and research query letters (what they are, how to format them, etc.) and then try again. This is waaay too wordy, has no real hook, and needs to be cut, possibly by half. Good luck.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Frank Baron's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Location
    Ontario, Canada
    Posts
    2,168
    Jena's right, Mary Elizabeth.

    And she expressed her opinion rather delicately, so I trust your still-tender psyche remains unbruised.

    Most of us understand that exposing your work for critique requires courage. We were all rookies once and know the sting of criticism and rejection. If improving your work is important to you, you'll learn to accept constructive criticism and shrug off the petty, hurtful stuff with equal equanimity.

    Good luck.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Zoe Saadia's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Posts
    350
    I like your writing style. The flow went very smoothly to me.
    Maybe the written above could fit into a sort of a synopsis?

    Good luck

  5. #5
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Posts
    508
    Mary,

    Great title.

    I think you've got to go back a few steps.

    You wrote, "The fact that I did survive it, and came out better for it is enough reason to share my personal memories."

    This might be reason for you to SHARE, which commendable. But it's no reason for anyone to READ. No reason for an agent to devote time and a publisher to invest thousands of dollars in your story. You're putting forth the idea that your desire to share makes your book deserving. It's your ability to get the reader to read that makes you deserving to get published. Flip your thinking here.

    Loads of people have horrid experiences and get past them. Many of them write out their memories. Many of them send them off to agents and publishers. These stories are extremely common. I don't think you can sell such a story without either having a unique angle or a voice that just makes a reader want to listen even if you're describing how to brush a camel. You know?

    I saw a couple of possible good angles in your Q, none of which you used as a lens to focus your story. I think you need to go back. Spend a few months reading every recent, well-published addiction memoir, thinking critically about why each sold. Then look at your story and see how you can carve out the angle or voice that will make READERS READ.

    A few of the bits that seemed like possible angles.

    I created a sober truth for myself without the perfunctory rehab or mainstream treatment.
    ...change is possible without following traditional rehab philosophies.


    So that bit seems outside the norm, unique. Maybe it isn't; I'm not up on addition memoirs. Still irked by that Pieces guy. But I remember reading, maybe, a Discover or Scientific American, article a decade ago about the uncounted hordes of alcoholics who lick their addictions without rehab and step programs. If I remember correctly, iffy, the article followed a couple of studies that were finding far more recovered addicts outside the programs than inside the programs. Such folks are just hard to find and count and study. Don't know where that research has gone. But if that sort of thing is true, it's not yet hit the popular mindset and could be ripe for a memoir.

    Iím a writer and an historian

    A historian looking at her own life through the lens of a historian seems promising. Just this morning I was helping a friends study for a history final. As we finished up, she described how studying history had provoked her to look at totality of her recently failed marriage with a different lens, looking at the continuity, cause and effect, changing ideas, allegiances, etc. By the way, if you're a writer, you need to give examples of your published work or places you've worked.

    Hope something here helps. I admire how you've turned your life around and your willingness to write honestly.

  6. #6
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Posts
    26
    Hey Mary!

    I first want to commend you for having the courage to both share your story and also opening yourself up to criticism. Don't be afraid of it, it will only make you a stronger writer and is the best way to improve. Also, take strength in knowing you've been through and then recovered from things far worse than some critiques on a message board!

    Not to just reiterate what everyone else has already said, but for a query letter you want it shorter and to try and sum up your book in a few paragraphs. That's why they are so hard, the reason you've got a whole book is because you've got lots to tell! I struggle with that myself, but try to think of the message or underlying theme of the book and work with that. Also, there are just some structural things that others pointed out that will make it more of a query. But I wanted to let you know that your writing style is very smooth and draws in the reader. I believe you've got a great story to tell and wish you luck!

  7. #7
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Posts
    584
    "The fifty-five thousand words in Donít Take With Alcohol begins with my loveless marriage..." Normally, you put the word count down near the bottom, and as numbers: 55,000, not fifty-five thousand. And, those words "begin with" not "begins with." Aside from that, I see nothing obvious to nitpick.

  8. #8
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Posts
    4
    Thanks to all, my ego is intact. It is way too long and I think that my writing yells of trying too hard. This book is different than others, a bit more personal, but I do think that I need to detach from that. Thank you all for honest opinions. I will take it all with me as I return to the drawing board.

  9. #9
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Posts
    508
    Mary,

    I doubt it's too personal. Memoirs are personal by definition. Addiction memoirs are gritty personal. I caution you not to put effort into making the work or the Q less personal. You just can't sell such a work if there isn't a real feel of intimacy. It's the package, the angle, the way you RELATE your personal story that needs attention.

    Don't give up an ounce of honesty and intimacy -- of personal. Just take that extra step of responsibility for communicating the personal to the masses. You can do it. It's just a little switch that gets flipped.

  10. #10
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Posts
    4
    Your comment brought me back to the genesis of the book to me. The statistics for recovery in programs is abysmal and clearly doesn’t work if they can proudly say 3% of their people succeed. Their stats can't reveal the truth because they don't include people like me and others that do it without them. Revealing hope of something else working wouldn’t be good for the piggy bank. Certainly this is an angle, but the book is mostly about the wreck, not picking up the pieces. I just don’t think you can tell others how to do it. That being the case, how then to sell it like that when it doesn't focus on recovery just that it is survivable without the steps?

Tags for this Thread

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts