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  1. #1
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    Query Letter/ THE TEN THOUSAND STEPS TO GOODBYE

    Hi Everyone.
    I could really use some feedback on my query letter. I am finding it especially difficult to write since my novel is narrative fiction and not sci-fi, fantasy, or crime related. There are no zombies, high school kids who discover they are from another planet, or conspiracies to take out a public figure. So I am having a hard time making it sound interesting.
    I would greatly appreciate it if all of you would humor me and read my two query letters. When I wrote the first one I became so intimated by the 'rules' of a query letter that it came out very dull (in my opinion) and gave no indication of my writing style. This is unfortunately the one I sent out to 5 agents. Form rejections all around. In the second query letter I just let my voice come through and didn't worry so much about form. I have the feeling that a successful query letter lies somewhere between the two, but I could use an outside opinion. Thanks you for taking the time.

    Query Letter #1:
    Dear Agent,

    Restless loner Delilah Brown had been living from a backpack since she was seventeen. While rambling across the country she would pause in one place just long enough to find work, fund her travels, and move on. Then on a summer trek through the Sawatch Range in Colorado Delilah met handsome, adventurous, charming Humble Penny and everything changed.

    Four years later Delilah has settled down in Leadville, Colorado. She has a steady job, a small handful of friends, and a hundred and twenty year old house that she shares with Humble and his best friend Pete. Finally at thirty-one Delilah has found somewhere that feels like home.

    Later that year, however, Humble is killed in an ice climbing accident. In the old house Pete and Delilah, politely avoiding each and privately nursing their own hurt, try to adjust to life without him. Then one night a long buried tension between the two finally snaps and they find themselves doing more than just comforting one another. In the early morning hours Delilah quietly laces up her boots, packs up her grief and guilt, and without a word takes to the road.

    THE TEN THOUSAND STEPS TO GOODBYE begins with Delilah’s departure from Leadville and follows her as she wanders across the American West. She soon discovers that the road isn’t quite the lonely place she remembers and that her guilt is not the only secret she carried away from her confusing night with Pete. As Delilah journeys toward an uncertain future she is totally unaware that several people from her past are chasing her footsteps.

    THE TEN THOUSAND STEPS TO GOODBYE is literary fiction, complete at 63,000 words. This is my first novel.

    Per the submission guidelines listed on your website I have attached the first 50 pages of my novel.

    Thank you for your consideration.

    Query Letter #2

    Dear Agent,

    Delilah knows life on the road. The vastness of the sky over the blacktop. The sense of being swallowed by the indifferent mouths of red sandstone canyons. She knows just how much to carry on her back. Knows how long she has to waitress in a small town before she can move on. Knows how to survive. She just never expected to be there again. Her boots on. Her thumb up and out over the painted line. Someone’s discarded ugly brindle bitch at her side. On her left hand the weight of an engagement ring from a man she will never marry.

    THE TEN THOUSAND STEPS OF GOODBYE begins after the sudden death of Delilah’s fiance, Humble, and follows her as she attempts to overcome grief the only way she knows how, one foot in front of the other. On the highways and backroads of the American West Delilah follows the trails of her old life, but she can’t reenter it. Along with her backpack and her grief Delilah carries within herself a spiral of guilt from her last night spent at home. The night the tension between Delilah and Humble’s best friend Pete snapped and they found there might be more than just loss shared between them. Seeking to put distance between herself and the conflicts of her heart Delilah wanders aimlessly west. Focused only on moving forward she doesn’t realize that parts of her past, both recent and long thought lost, are trying to track her down in a monumental landscape.

    THE TEN THOUSAND STEPS OF GOODBYE is narrative fiction, complete at 63,000 words. This is my first novel.

    Thank you for your consideration.



  2. #2
    Member Lawrence Tabak's Avatar
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    Lots of good, intriguing stuff here. This would be really salable if it were nonfiction (ala WILD). That said, I'm not sure what "narrative" fiction is. I would just call it a novel. The first query seems to spend way too much setting up your story, while telling little about what actually happens in the book. The second strikes me as also having too much luggage (brindle bitch??) up front. Both miss the essential transformation which I suspect (hope?) is the heart of your story. What if you started here:

    THE TEN THOUSAND STEPS OF GOODBYE is a 63,000-word novel which begins [with] the sudden death of [31-year-old] Delilah [Brown's] fiance, Humble. The story follows her as she attempts to overcome grief the only way she knows how[:] one foot in front of the other. On the highways and backroads of the American West Delilah follows the trails of her [former wanderlust] life, but she can’t reenter it. Along with her backpack and her grief Delilah carries within herself a spiral of guilt from her last night spent at home [in the arms of Humble's best friend].

    Seeking to put distance between herself and the conflicts of her heart Delilah wanders aimlessly west. [Add a few of the notable events of the book.] Focused only on moving forward she [only gradually realizes] that her past, both recent and long [buried] are [inescapable]. When [seminal action] occurs, she understands she needs to [return to the only home she's known and to the man who offered her the only comfort she's likely to find. If he's still waiting.]

    THE THOUSAND STEP MARCH will appeal to readers who enjoyed the allegedly nonfiction personal discoveries of Cheryl Strayed's WILD and the self-indulgent New Age claptrap of EAT, PRAY, LOVE.
    Last edited by Lawrence Tabak; 02-11-2014 at 02:40 PM.

  3. #3
    Junior Member
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    Thank you Lawrence. This is exactly what I needed to hear. I purposefully made the second query over the top just to see what I had to say about it without the tight feel of my first query. I think that the way you have married the two together is much clearer. I guess I should call it a contemporary novel? Mainstream didn't sound right to me but maybe that would work too. I will definitely do a rewrite off of this and post it. I really appreciate you taking the time.

  4. #4
    Rogue Mutt
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    To borrow from Homer Simpson: You take forever to say nothing. The gist is that this lady's fiance dies and she starts hitchhiking [somewhere] and does [something] and [someone] is following her [for some reason]. You probably think you're being mysterious, but really you're just being vague.

  5. #5
    Administrator Wickett's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rogue Mutt View Post
    To borrow from Homer Simpson: You take forever to say nothing. The gist is that this lady's fiance dies and she starts hitchhiking [somewhere] and does [something] and [someone] is following her [for some reason]. You probably think you're being mysterious, but really you're just being vague.
    Are we really gonna take something Homer Simpson said seriously and apply it to writing? Heheh.

  6. #6
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    Thanks Rogue Mutt. This is the stuff I need to hear. Like I said before I've been having a hell of a time writing this query letter. I'm not trying to be mysterious and I definitely don't want to be vague. The Homer reference is great... he has said a lot of wise things (even if he never realized it). I will post my rewrite and you can rip that one up for me.

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