Wednesday, April 10, 2013

An Agent's Inbox #23

Dear Melissa Sarver,

When Anna took on the daunting task of restoring Matt to a state of happiness, she never expected to fall in love; and she certainly wouldn’t have guessed the object of her growing desire would be Matt's father.

Before passing out and hitting the floor, Matt drunkenly declares his love for Anna. He may be her friend, but he is also her boss, so not only are his words shocking, they’re worrisome.

Knowing Matt is tottering between depression and sanity, Anna wishes she could fix everything by telling him she loves him back, but she just can’t. So she decides to search for someone who can.

Perhaps the solution lies with Matt’s father, Tom. Despite the fact everyone believes he is dead, after finding his old journal Anna has reason to believe otherwise. Embarking on a search through shark infested waters to a hellish island in the middle of nowhere, she discovers that the man she is looking for is indeed alive. A father’s love certainly isn’t the same as the love of a woman, but Anna hopes it will be enough to bring Matt back to himself.

However, soon what started as a mission to restore one man to his natural, happy self, turns into a fight between head and heart. And now the man who is supposed to be Matt’s saviour could be the man who ends up bringing him more pain and heartbreak. Leaving Anna to wonder, can she really bring happiness into Matt’s life? Or will she forever carry her burden of guilt for not loving him in return?

THE KEY TO LIFE is a literary fiction love story full of adventure that will appeal to hopeless romantics of all ages. It is complete at about 80,000 words. My own experiences of love and love lost, finding what I’m looking for and then running away, passion and heartbreak, have led me to the writing of this manuscript.

Thank you for your time and consideration. The first 250 words are enclosed. I look forward to sharing my full manuscript with you.



“The truth of the matter is…I think you’re amazing!” Matt stammered as he stood there on uneasy legs, the effects of half a bottle of rum finally becoming visible.

“Did you hear me? I think you’re amazing and…I’m in love with you.” These last five words were barely audible as he uttered them with a great sigh, just before passing out.

Matt was a tall man, nearly six foot nine, and like a big boulder being tossed from a rooftop onto the pavement, he didn’t land quietly.

In any other circumstance Anna probably would have tried to cushion his fall by attempting to catch him, but being completely shocked by Matt’s words, Anna had remained frozen to the spot, unable to react.

Gripping her chest, she could feel her heart pulsing with worry, worry that increased with each new beat. Matt was her boss, but over the years he’d also become a pretty good friend, a good friend who was going through a tough time, and although she’d wanted to help him anyway she could, the last thing she’d wanted was for things to become awkward between them. Still stunned, she just stood there, now with one hand gripping her slender waist and the other hand twirling a stubborn piece of hair back behind her ear while Matt’s words echoed in her head.

Once the initial shock of Matt’s statement subsided, she turned her attention to the incapacitated giant who now lay at her feet.


Laura Edwards said...

I liked the query. Even though it might benefit from being shortened, I didn't seem to mind the length. Loved the concept.

The 250 words were excellent. Actually laughed out loud at part where Matt fell like a boulder and why. If I were an agent, I'd definetly request more so I could keep on reading. Hope you have luck with this.

Ru said...

I think the query could be shortened up a bit. I'd recommend deleting "My own experiences of love and love lost, finding what I’m looking for and then running away, passion and heartbreak, have led me to the writing of this manuscript," just because I've read in a few forums that agents don't like seeing an overly personal connection to the work, because it may be difficult to convince the author to edit/change directions, and it doesn't really tell us anything specific about you/this story.

dianelashdecker said...

I love the concept !! It's different and, at the same time, believable. I agree with Ru above regarding your query - some unnecessary sentences at the end. The first 250 words ....GREAT!!!

Tasha Seegmiller said...

I really loved your first 250, but agree with the others that the query seemed a bit long. This is a great concept, I really would like to know how the whole thing builds up.

Sarah Diviney said...

Okay, so, I actually think the first paragraph of the query should be cut. Start with the second.

I also think the fifth paragraph could be cut. The last line of the fourth paragraph summed it up for me.

It's not that the writing isn't good, it's just feels anticlimactic. Perhaps you can work some of the questions in paragraph five into the middle of the query.

I enjoyed the first page, and would definitely read on!

Lanette said...

Using a logline instead of a hook at the beginning of the query didn't work for me because it made me think Matt's dad was already in his life, and I had to read the query twice to figure it all out.

I echo what everyone else said about the first 250 words. Very solid writing and comical.

yrjones said...

I really like the premise here and the 250 words were written well.

I agree with the others that the query should be shortened. Many unnecessary (emotional) words were using, which is not showing us what's happening (i.e. "so not only are his words shocking, they’re worrisome.") As readers, we would assume that it's a problem that Matt declares his love for his employee. (That good old workplace affair story.)

Also, I kind of like your hook, but it needs to be tightened. How about:

"When Anna took on the daunting task of restoring a broken Matt, she didn't expect to fall in love, especially not with Matt's father."

I agree w/ another poster that the last paragraph ("However, soon what started as...") is not needed at all. You query has already given us the conflict; a summary of it isn't need.

Mim said...


The first 250 words were great. You got right into the action, and set up tension between the two of them. The writing was solid.

The query did seem a bit long to me, and I agree with Ru about cutting out the personal connection part.
This is a bit nitpicky, but I may change the line tottering between depression and sanity. It just doesn't feel right to me.

Your writing is solid, and I definitely read on to find out what happens next.

Good luck!

Melissa Sarver said...

Your query is too long - the first five paragraphs can be combined into two that offer a tighter, crisper pitch for your novel. The first paragraph doesn't insinuate that Matt's dad isn't in his life, something that could be easily fixed by either adding a description or leaving out entirely from this sentence and making it more of a mystery who she falls in love with. The following paragraphs get repetitive after I think you've made your point about the conflict - Matt's in love with her and thinks his father is dead; as Anna cares for him, she finds his father to help Matt but then falls in love with the father.

Based on the writing in the query and the sample pages, I wouldn't consider this literary fiction but women's fiction. It would be helpful if you include comp titles or authors so agents know who your proposed audience is.

The first 250 words didn't feel incredibly fresh to me; I'd work on adding details that feel specific and interesting to your story and characters. Be careful of repeating words in the same sentence - I know you are doing it for effect but it didn't work for me, especially used more than once in the first page. "pulsing with worry, worry that increased" "become a pretty good friend, a good friend who was going through a tough time"
I'd also avoid starting with a phrase like "The truth of the matter is."
I don't think you need to give an explanation or background as to their relationship so quickly; keep us in the scene here of this giant man passing out and her having to react.

Jessica Peterson said...

I just wanted to say thanks so much to everyone for your help. You've all given some really useful tips. :) Best of luck to all of you!