Wednesday, April 25, 2012

An Agent's Inbox #19

Dear Ms. Shea:

Although it looks like Monica, Sara, Sarah H., Jill and Lisa have nothing more in common than the small town they grew up in, they’ve somehow managed to stay (mostly) best friends for thirty years. Told entirely through their e-mails to each other, Virtually Friends takes an intimate peek at the craziest year these thirty-somethings have ever known:

--the ups and downs (and excessive ins and outs) of trying to get pregnant could push Monica out of her perfect marriage bed with her perfect high school sweetheart and into the arms of her sexy professor;

--Sara has fallen in love after years of no-strings-attached sex romps, but her new steady date could destroy her hard-fought political career and her heart;

--sweet Sarah H.’s business is booming, but a move to the big city brings lifestyle changes this good Christian girl is not ready to handle;

--Jill learns that she’s built her seemingly charmed world on a lie when the love of her younger life reappears; and

--unlucky in love and birth control, wise-cracking Lisa is stuck back in their hometown, buried under the weight of her four kids and in serious risk of drifting away from the gang for good.

They need each other now more than ever, yet all they can muster most days is a quick chat online. Secrets are uncovered and relationships teeter in the balance as their lives and loves are revealed through what they say--and don’t say--in their e-mails. When they’re hit with the scariest challenge of all, will a shared history and tenuous electronic connection be enough to hold their friendship together?

Always frank and funny, at times poignant or pissed off (think Sex and the City meets Atlantic Canada), Virtually Friends is women’s fiction that is complete at 88,000 words.

Thank you for your consideration and for generously offering up your busy inbox for this exciting contest! You will find a small sample of Virtually Friends below.



Catching up
Sara, Sarah H., Jillian, Lisa

Hello my lovelies! So sorry I’ve been incommunicado… September was INSANE! School’s been a HUGE adjustment but I seriously can’t even begin to tell you how much I love it! It’s going to be a ton of work, but it’s so... exhilarating!!! (Sorry--there was a sale on exclamation marks, and I got there early... !! ) Even work’s been busy this month. I think they sense an imminent defection… they’re throwing all these “interesting” projects my way (their adjective, not mine), but too little too late, I say. I’d love to go back to school full time (did I mention I frikkin’ love it?), but with Cameron working for love and not much money at this point, I know we can’t afford for me to quit my job AND pay for school AND start a family... which leads to perhaps the most draining part of my life right now:

Babymaking… or rather NOT-babymaking… errr, well there is excessive making, just no baby. Even Cam’s sick of it. I can’t believe I’m actually writing those words: yes, the man who could once construe a fart as an invitation to have sex can only muster “Ah jeez--not AGAIN?” when he hears the (I’m thinking defective?) basal thermometer beeping. Ahhh, the passion. But, he just climbs back up on the horse and plugs away at fulfilling his genetic imperative. (Admittedly not the best or most flattering mix of metaphors, but cut me some slack here people… I’m exhausted!)

So all this “romance,” work and school hasn’t left much time for my girls... What’s new?

Love, Monica


Susan said...

This line made me laugh: "Babymaking… or rather NOT-babymaking… errr, well there is excessive making, just no baby." This is a sensitive topic for many women, but it is handled nicely with humor here and piqued my interest in this character.

Regarding the query, the "bullet point" style of it put me off a bit. Perhaps this is just me, but I associate lists with tasks and work. When I read a query or the back of a book cover, I don't want to have that association. I want to have the sense that I'm being drawn into someone's world...

Kate Larkindale said...

I like the natural, humorous voice in the sample and I think telling to story through e-mail could work well.

The query didn't do too much for me though. If felt more like a list of characters than something telling me about the book, and after reading it, I'm not sure I know what is going to happen to this bunch.

Kathleen Basi said...

I actualy liked the query but wasn't crazy about the voice in the email. I do question having two Sara/h's in the book. Seems like a recipe for confusion. The stories seem really interesting, taking from real life, which I personally think is awesome.

Cari said...

Interesting idea. I like letters as part of a manuscript, but not sure about that technique for an entire book. Would suggest reading Carol Shields' Celibate Season, written as a series of letters. I found discovering most events in past tense, as is natural with writing letters, got boring for me as a reader.

I'm also curious about how what they don't say can be revealing, if the novel is entirely told through e-mails. Maybe some e-mails aren't to everyone? When I read that I think there must be some self-reflective or omniscient POV, but you say it's all e-mails, in which case everything has to be said.

I agree there's lots of characters to keep track of, especially when two are named Sara/h.

On the excerpt, I think I would be exhausted by a friend like Monica, even with half the exclamation marks. But it does make me intrigued about the other characters - how do they put up w/her?
Good luck!

Janelle said...

I think the writing here is really strong. I have to agree with Cari, the voice of Monica is a bit frenetic & maybe a bit much right off the bat. I'm also wondering about the way she introduces the baby-making details on her friends in this letter; has she talked to her friends about this before? It feels a little free-floating right now--I know she's been "incommunicado," but is this conversation at all continued from a past one?

Overall, my gut reaction is "interested." I like the variety of characters you've created & I think the query outlines the tensions in the novel nicely.

Mary Vettel said...

While not a fan of Sex and the City, I like the idea of the book being written via emails. I, too, question having 2 characters w/the same name. The writing is strong. Good luck.

Melinda said...

I agree with the concerns of the other commenters, but I do think this could be an interesting story.

One other thing, I've heard many, many times from agents that you should not offer opinions on your own work within a query, such as "Always frank and funny, at times poignant or pissed off." I would just stick with the Sex and the City comparison.

Valerie said...

You know, I like the list. I think it breaks the rules, but lays out each character piece. Something to consider: I think you should make your list parallel-- so either start each bullet with the character name.

I'm a young adult writer, but I would pick this up and read it! I like novels written entirely in email, Meg Cabot's Boy Meets Girl comes to mind.

Just don't forget to include dates/times sent--that will help with your pacing.

Good luck!

James Koonce said...

I enjoyed the first 250 a lot -- fun voice, very natural, and I like the modern twist on the epistolary novel. (Ever read Holly's Inbox? It's great, and this reminds me of that.)

I think the query could be reworked to introduce the charm of the story better, though. The list of what goes on during their crazy year reads just like a list, like we're being told about the characters rather than introduced to them. And I think the thematic wrap-up at the end, followed by the this-meets-that comparison, could be left out. I think the story should tell itself, but it's good that YOU know exactly how you want to book to be positioned in the marketplace.

Nice work.

Lori L. Clark said...

I liked your writing, thought you may have to shoot for an agent who reads the actual writing instead of just the query. I believe you query letter could use a little tightening up.

Perhaps joining a query critique group would help get your letter in tip top shape. The part of the query that doesn't work for me is the name dumping in the very first part of the letter.

JeffO said...

This is one of those queries that seems to 'break the rules' of query-writing I keep reading all over the place, but it worked on me. But, I think you need to be a little more explicit when referencing 'the scariest challenge of all.' I know the query is not the place for revealing all, but I think you need a little more there than you're giving.

The sample is fun, and the format gives you license to be creative with punctuation, grammar, etc. (glorious freedom!), but I'm not sure I'd be able to read an entire book like this.

Suzi said...

Interesting concept--sounds like it'd be a good read.

I'm in the camp who is not crazy about the query style. If you stick with it, I'd suggest dropping the long list of names right away. Don't think it's necessary, especially since you reference them all below

I'd also be concerned about the length and would try tighten it up a little.

Good luck.

Jodi R. said...

Wow - thank you all for your generous comments! Your observations and suggestions have been extremely helpful.

I have struggled mightily with this query, writing and rewriting, trying to get it somewhere near right, with only limited success. My novel doesn't "tell" well. It's really about the relationships between all the friends and how they ineract. Stuff happens, but it's more about their voices and their friendship. That's why I went with the list format - not standard, but I struggled with how else to approach it. Everything else I tried ended up being even worse! As Lori noted, I need to get an agent to look at the writing instead of the query - but that's a wee challenge, eh? Gah!

As for Sara and Sarah H. - one of the challenges with this format was making the voices so distinct that you wouldn't have to look at the subject line to see who was talking. If you were to get into it (and not everyone can, for sure), you would never confuse Sara and Sarah H!

Cari and Janelle - Monica isn't usually this hyper - I think she just had a good day and was excited to share. And Janelle - she's had limited conversations about the babymaking stuff with her friends, but she's really just getting into the public recognition that this is a problem. You know how people keep it a bit if secret when they're trying, and then they make the big announcement after the three month mark - but Monica's starting to reach out as she's getting quite concerned.

Melinda - that's a great point about offering my own opinions. In a previous iteration, the frank/funny/poignant/pissed off was used to describe the conversations/e-mails themselves, but it got changed to describing the book. Argh - too much cutting and pasting!

Valerie - great idea about the parallel list. I do have the dates and will add the times eventually. I don't know why I removed the date here - oops! (I spent hours and hours on the dates and timelines.)

James - I glanced at Holly's Inbox to see if it was similar to mine but didn't read it - I was worried about accidentally incorporating stuff from it. I think it was more about work and 20-somethings though, if I recall correctly...

JeffO - Yes, there was considerable freedom, but is came with a lot of work! One of the characters typed quickly and carelessly, one made grammar and spelling errors - getting their mistakes "right" took a lot of effort! It was fun though...

Thank you all again for your help - and a million thanks to Krista for all she does for us!


Katie Shea said...

This has been done. The premise is not strong enough to catch my eye. Not sure if I like the fact that the whole novel is in emails.