First Query for my cross -genre memoir...Please read and critique! Thanks
Former Rock musician Jenn Wertz has set about writing a memoir of her life and times with Rusted Root, the popular 90s rock band she helped define. As she recounts her charmed Rock n Roll youth, her ill fated teenage foray into the darker side of Hollywood, her time with the band, and the conflicts therein, she hits a Wall, behind which lies a timeframe that leaves her fighting off panic attacks.
Enter Javier, a challenging and eccentric writing coach solicited by Wertz to assist her in formatting the book. Javier leads Jenn toward breaking into the subject matter behind the Wall, their humorous and endearing sessions evoking in her a rebellious resistance and eventual acceptance of diving into the uncomfortable subject matter with honesty and candor:
After being booted from the band due to irreconcilable differences at the height of their success, with a record on the way to platinum and a mass of adoring fans, Jenn embarked on a trip to Sedona, Arizona for a spiritual retreat which left her in the midst of a psychological earthquake,fearful, seemingly emotionally and mentally unhinged,or rather---extremely connected to a shifting sense of reality. Jenn leans toward framing this timeframe behind the Wall as the dawning of a "Dark Night of the Soul"…But, Javier, it would become clear, has other ideas.
Javier challenges Jenn to adjust her life view from one of victimization to one of choice: A life story traversing the gamut of fame and adventure to sexual assault, of serendipitous connection to alienating darkness.
Who is Javier, and why is he so intent on her reframing her story from one of a "fall from grace" to one of enlightened guidance?
A BITE OF THE SKY: A TRUE STORY OF COSMIC ROCK N ROLL, SELF SABOTAGE, AND REDEMPTION is a 290 page complete memoir with a fictional narrative subplot.
Well, first...book length is measured in number of words not pages.
You use weak verbs, particularly "ing" verbs. Use simple present tense. That third paragraph, you start telling the story instead of telling what the story is about - quite frankly, I was pretty well lost by the end of it. I'd lose that paragraph entirely.
The purpose of a query is to capture the agent's attention quickly and pique his interest enough to make him ask you for some chapters. You don't want gold-plated language or convoluted sentences. Tell what the book is about generally with clear, simple language. Something like this:
Former rock musician Jenn Wertz begins to write a memoir of her time with Rusted Root, a popular 90’s band, but as she recounts her past, certain memories trigger writer’s block and panic attacks.
She hires an eccentric writing coach named Javier to assist her in formatting the book. Through humorous sessions, Javier helps her address those painful memories with honesty and candor. He challenges Jenn to adjust her life view from one of weakness and victimization to one of power and choice.
Jenn discovers on the rocky road from pain and confusion to enlightenment, nothing is more valuable than a wise guide…and a good friend.
A BITE OF THE SKY: A TRUE STORY OF COSMIC ROCK N ROLL, SELF SABOTAGE, AND REDEMPTION is a memoir of 100,000 words with a fictional subplot.
Last edited by John Oberon; 05-29-2012 at 10:34 AM.
By the way, why the fictional subplot in a memoir?
Hi, John, Thanks for reading!
I'm new to the forum.
Believe it or not…I was on a different forum, and there was a discussion on the page length versus word count. I've seen both, but you seem to know your stuff!
Thank you for this feedback. I have had a confusing time with query letters, because, I think I got it in my head somewhere along the line that I want to be sure the reader of the letter gets all the information necessary. For instance, I would not want to turn anyone off having them think it is strictly an expose, or tell all, nor do I want the impression to be that it is mainly a new age type book. It is kind of both, and the fictional sub plot adds a different layer, too.
I started off with just a few lines, a movie tag line type of teaser.I guess I need to give the agent more credit and let their imagination be piqued.
I like your rendition, and I will work with it.
As far as why the fictional narrative…After I wrote the chapters of the book that I began writing, which was a chronological account of magical events, and frightening periods of my life, my writing coach (who is a higher up at the University here) asked me where I would be musing from, what is my narrative platform? How do I wrap it up, tie it together, more creatively?
I thought on that, and the musing took on a life and story of it's own, like Fried Green Tomatoes…wherein the present day storyline becomes affected by and eventually flows into the retelling of the past.
It was the best device that I could use to show more in the story, about what led where. It was a highly creative and kind of flowing experience for me.
My coach calls it a cross genre book. The query is giving me some trouble in this way.
Well, that sounds like a pretty ambitious project for a first-time author. So...you're using the fiction as sort of springboard into fact. Alrighty.
I think that I would not even mention the fiction in the query then. I'd simply call it a memoir and leave it at that, so just lop off "with a fictional subplot" from my example and use that as your lump of clay.
A query is a work of salesmanship. What an agent looks for is a good premise for a story and a strong indication that you're a writer with the requisite skills to tell it. That's basically it: I have a great story, and I'm a great writer - that's the message you want the agent to receive. All the other "necessary information", the agent can get by reading your MS. That's the purpose of the query, to get the agent to ask for your MS, or at least sample chapters. However, the quality of the writing in your MS better match that of your query. Don't want the agent to feel snookered into reading a lousy MS by a well-written query.
Yes, it is an ambitious endeavor. I feel pretty confident that the MS will be well received, and I'm a workable person, with an open ear to constructive criticism.
I am meeting with my coach next week to work more on the query. She is the director of professional writing at the University here. It is a major University.
I guess I need to put on my sales hat. And I do have one of those...
Thanks for the feedback.