Ask Daphne! About My Query XXXVI

January 8th, 2010 • Kate

musicianThis watercolor of a musician’s feet by Elizabeth Perry, from her website about the Pittsburg Symphony Orchestra. Which I hope fits well with today’s About My Query post, from Jane L. Without further ado:

Dear Ms. Unfeasible:

Although she’s only 23, Joey Mikalos plays viola for the Boroughs String Quartet, proudly “conceived during a one-night music stand,” but she’s got two problems. First, music doesn’t earn enough to quit that day-job in a toll booth. That’s a problem first violinist Harrison thinks he can solve, which leads to problem number two: he’s driving Joey nuts by unilaterally setting the group’s direction, until Joey’s more tense than her A-string.

Hair-dye to match a client’s bridesmaid dresses? A publicity shot of Joey wearing only her viola? If it gets attention, Harrison agrees to it. He’s plotted out everything, right down to whom Joey is supposed to marry: himself. She’d be flattered, but the one Joey has loved since first grade is their cellist, if only Joey hadn’t ruined everything six years ago.

Success comes by increments, but more important than their performances are their interlocking friendships. When Harrison forces out the cellist, Joey needs to draw on everything she has–an EZ pass, a stray cat, a funeral, and a seventeen-year-long secret love–to save their music.

My first novel, [NOVEL1] ([Publisher], 1994, under the pen name Jane H.) sold 25,000 copies. My second novel, [NOVEL2] is currently in-print with [publisher], a small press. I’ve had shorter pieces published in two volumes of Chicken Soup for the Soul, Catfantastic IV, Liguorian Magazine, New Christian Voices, Celebrate Life Magazine, Mothering, and The Wittenburg Door, among others. I have an MA in English from SUNY Brockport.

Complete at 95,000 words, RIDING THE METRONOME will appeal to readers of “Little Earthquakes” in the way it combines humor, interwoven friendships, and self-discovery. Thank you for your attention.

Jane L.

So I think this has some interesting bits, but I have some questions. You start off with “Although she’s only 23” but I don’t feel that the following description of the string quartet really deserves that “although”. The idea of a music group conceived during a “one night music stand” really didn’t convey to me that 23 was too young to be a member — more of the opposite, in fact.

You have some fun with the music-related puns, which I think work in small does, but if this is a love story between Joey and the cellist, than I ought to be able to call him something other than “the cellist.” Also, who’s the fourth? How does he/she fit into the story?

These two sentences also feel a little awkward: “She’d be flattered, but the one Joey has loved since first grade is their cellist, if only Joey hadn’t ruined everything six years ago.” and “Success comes by increments, but more important than their performances are their interlocking friendships.” Readers, how would you fix them?

Additionally, I’m not sure a funeral is really something that Joey “has”. But your credits are very strong, and the comparison to Jennifer Weiner’s “Little Earthquakes” seems apt — although I’d also prefer a less didactic comparison than “will appear.”

Readers, you all asked for more About MY query posts. Help Jane L. out with some useful critiques! Later this moth I’ll put out another call for queries to review here — please keep your eyes peeled.

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4 Responses to “Ask Daphne! About My Query XXXVI”

  1. Erin S Says:

    Here is how I might fix those awkward sentences:

    "She is flattered but Joey is in love with the quartet's cellist." (is it necessary for us to know about Joey's history with the cellist right now?)

    "Though the quartet sees success, their achievements are secondary to the importance of their interlocking friendships." (or if you want to keep the music theme: "…the harmony to the melody of their interlocking friendships". That might be stretching the theme too far, though! LOL)

    **Thanks for the challenge! This was fun!**

  2. Stina Says:

    You might want to change "RIDING THE METRONOME will appeal" to "RIDING THE METRONOME might appeal." You don't know for certain that it will appeal to reader of "Little Earthquakes." I'm assuming the story you mentioned is well known if you're making comparisons to it. I only read YA so I've never heard of it before. But the way you have it set off tells me it's a short story, not a novel. If it's a novel then you need to italicize the title. If it's a short story, will the agent or editor know it?

    Good luck with it!

  3. Katie Says:

    I would go with Riding the Metronome is in a similar vein to Little Earthquakes rather than 'might appeal to'. Might suggests you don't have confidence in your work. You are pitching it to an agent- that already suggests that you think the work will in fact appeal to a lot of people- no need to second guess yourself.

    As for the trouble sentences I'd go with something like-

    Joey might have be flattered by Harrison's attention but she's been in love with cellist [insert name here] since first grade, if only she had messed that one up six years ago.

    And then maybe I'd bring the success line back to Harrison. something like- Harrison's new marketing scheme pays off for the group as they meet some success but Joey can't say the same for their friendships…

    Not really a complete sentence but I feel like there has to be a way to tie what you are saying into the story. You say that the friendships are more important- are they more important to the plot than the musical success or are they more important to Joey? I am assuming you mean the later in which case this sentence should reflect the fact that in Joey's eyes success is not as meaningful as her (rapidly deteriorating) friendships…

    I was also curious about member number 4? I know quartets are pretty standard in music but you can't have a group of 4 central character if one character is not important enough to mention in the query.

    Good luck selling this book. Sounds funny. I like the sound of Joey.

  4. Jane Says:

    Thank you so much for all the feedback. I'm sorry I didn't get back here sooner to reply, but I'm taking notes and sharpening my axe to revise this. I've never had this much trouble writing a query before, for anything, so I'm grateful for all advice.

    About the second violinist — I didn't know what to do about an ensemble cast, and since the query seems to be the place for the biggest plot points, I omitted the second violinist in favor of brevity. That can be fixed. So can the cellist's name. Joey's age can be omitted.

    Thank you for highlighting the awkward sentences. They sound smooth after I've read them 500 times. 🙂

    I'd always heard the "appeal to" line as the suggestion for comparisons, but I'll remove that since it's a problem. The last thing this query needs is to sound arrogant.

    Again, thank you so much. I really appreciate it.