Author Topic: Song For The Dead (Literary Fiction)  (Read 402 times)

Online jersey7152002

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Song For The Dead (Literary Fiction)
« on: August 22, 2022, 03:16:00 PM »
My name is _________________ and I'm seeking representation for my manuscript Song For The Dead, a piece of literary fiction clocking in at about 80,580 words. I saw (personalized thing) and I was wondering if you’d be willing to take a look.

“We must choose to live in the light or live in the dark and I’ve made my choice.”

That’s the suicide note of Mason Ellis, 18-year old Mason Ellis, a Jersey Shore aspiring rock star whose messy and complicated life comes to a horrible end.

In his absence, those left behind have to also make that same choice.

Mason’s brother Declan tries to write his brother’s life into fiction, wrestling with his own sexual identity in the process, while his widowed mother Jane guides her only remaining son through grief, pain, and new love. His bandmate Jake steals Mason’s song and catapults himself into a life of fame, fortune, and excess, leaving his mother Helen and brother Elijah behind and betraying Mason’s memory. Mason’s girlfriend Lizzy, racked by guilt at what she knew before Mason died, tries desperately to keep her friend's memory alive, but her guilt ultimately forces her to the same crossroads Mason faced. In the background, an increasingly unhinged group of nationalists called The Liberators threaten to destroy the country from the inside out, sending our cast of characters on a collision course with personal and national heartbreak. With each chapter told from a different character at a different point in the future, Song For The Dead is a story about grief and pain, but also about how we take that pain and use it. We all have to make the same choice as Mason, and our characters, for better or worse, come to understand that by story’s end.

We move, as the narrative progresses, from tremendous darkness to, in the final pages, light and hope. The last chapter is the only one in the narrative from Mason's perspective—a portion of the novel that borderlines on the speculative. And maybe...just maybe...it's the ending he deserved, not the one he got. Stories are the places we can say goodbye, ask for forgiveness, tell somebody we love them before they go. That is what stories do: they allow the impossible to become possible—even taking impossible pain and transforming it into something like love.

I edited this manuscript with author ______________________ in the summers of 2020 and 2021. I recently completed a manuscript sweep with agent ___________. I have an M.F.A from _____________ and I’ve published short stories and flash fiction in the following magazines: ______________.

I’ve pasted the requested pages below. I would be happy to send more should you be interested.

Sincerely,

______________________

Offline Pineapplejuice

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Re: Song For The Dead (Literary Fiction)
« Reply #1 on: August 24, 2022, 05:42:37 PM »
My name is _________________ and I'm seeking representation for my manuscript Song For The Dead, a piece of literary fiction clocking in at about 80,580 words. I saw (personalized thing) and I was wondering if you’d be willing to take a look.

“We must choose to live in the light or live in the dark and I’ve made my choice.” ( This feels a bit like cheating, using dialogue, but it did catch my attention. The risk is that the agent may think it's cheating.

That’s the suicide note of Mason Ellis, 18-year old Mason Ellis, a Jersey Shore aspiring rock star whose messy and complicated life comes to a horrible end.

In his absence, those left behind have to also make that same choice.

Mason’s brother Declan tries to write his brother’s life into fiction, (why? I think providing his motivation for this is important to help us understand and connect) wrestling with his own sexual identity in the process,(full stop. I think it feels like info dumping otherwise)  while his widowed mother Jane guides her only remaining son through grief, pain, and new love. (I'd stick to one point of veiw for the query) His bandmate Jake steals Mason’s song and catapults himself into a life of fame, fortune, and excess, leaving his mother Helen and brother Elijah behind (I'm getting confused with all the names. Generally only name 3 in a query)  and betraying Mason’s memory. Mason’s girlfriend Lizzy, racked by guilt at what she knew before Mason died, tries desperately to keep her friend's memory alive, but her guilt ultimately forces her to the same crossroads Mason faced. (I am wondering if this is normal for a literary novel query - saying everything that happens. I am not used to reading literary novel queries, and maybe you've researched it, but for me as a reader I feel like I'm being told everything that happens rather than being intrigued, so it  feels like there will be no mystery to uncover if I opened the book)  In the background, an increasingly unhinged group of nationalists called The Liberators threaten to destroy the country from the inside out, sending our cast of characters on a collision course with personal and national heartbreak. With each chapter told from a different character at a different point in the future, Song For The Dead is a story about what we do with greif grief and pain, but also about how we take that pain and use it. We all have to make the same choice as Mason, and our characters, for better or worse, come to understand that by story’s end.

We move, as the narrative progresses, from tremendous darkness to, in the final pages, light and hope. (This is very telly. I haven't seen anything in the story about light and hope. I think you should show that somehow rather than tell it.) The last chapter is the only one in the narrative from Mason's perspective—a portion of the novel that borderlines on the speculative. And maybe...just maybe...it's the ending he deserved, not the one he got.( I don 't understand this bit. I'm just not sure what you're implying) Stories are the places we can say goodbye, ask for forgiveness, tell somebody we love them before they go. That is what stories do: they allow the impossible to become possible—even taking impossible pain and transforming it into something like love. ( This feels like preaching to the converted to me. Literary agents love books, so might feel this is like stating the obvious. It's not part of the book, so I'd leave it out)

I edited this manuscript with author ______________________ in the summers of 2020 and 2021. I recently completed a manuscript sweep with agent ___________. I have an M.F.A from _____________ and I’ve published short stories and flash fiction in the following magazines: ______________.

I’ve pasted the requested pages below. I would be happy to send more should you be interested.

Sincerely,

______________________

I'm not sure if there are different rules for literary novel queries. I think there might be...I vaguely remember seeing something like that in an article once, about how you're allowed to convey the whole scope of the story. I think the voice of the query is heavy handed with a distant authorial angle...and it's taking up room for connecting with character.

I do think you're on the right track with the first line, unconventional as it is.  :)

Wirh the rest...I'm not feeling drawn in to the story enough and I think it's because you're mentioning so many characters... I'd focus on Mason. (Edit: Oops,I meant Declan) I feel like I'm getting told what I'll feel rather than understanding situations that make me feel something. I know it's muli POV but you can just say "multi POV" at the end.

I'd be interested to know how Declan feels about the friend stealing his brothers songs. Like what does Declan do about that? Is it part of his journey? The query feels a bit too fragmented in trying to cover so many people in tiny snippets. Since the GF feels guilty about something but that will remain a mystery, no doubt, I think unless Declan is determined to find out what she feels guilty about and you explain how he goes about it...I'm not sure you should mention it.

I would like to see a version with only one POV. Sorry I couldn't be more help with this version...Good luck!
« Last Edit: August 25, 2022, 08:53:55 AM by Pineapplejuice »

Online jersey7152002

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Re: Song For The Dead (Literary Fiction)
« Reply #2 on: August 25, 2022, 08:16:18 AM »
I very much appreciate this and yeah—I can’t seem to find a way to convey scope without it becoming convoluted.

Offline mulholland

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Re: Song For The Dead (Literary Fiction)
« Reply #3 on: October 06, 2022, 09:30:19 AM »
“We must choose to live in the light or live in the dark and I’ve made my choice.”

That’s the suicide note of Mason Ellis, 18-year-old Mason Ellis, a Jersey Shore aspiring rock star whose messy and complicated life comes to a horrible end. Does it come to an end during the book or before the book opens? You might need to change the verb tense here

In his absence, those left behind have to also make that same choice.

Mason’s brother Declan tries to write his brother’s life into fiction, wrestling with his own sexual identity in the process, while his widowed mother Jane guides her only remaining son through grief, pain, and new love. His bandmate Jake steals Mason’s song and catapults himself into a life of fame, fortune, and excess, leaving his mother Helen and brother Elijah behind and betraying Mason’s memory. Mason’s girlfriend Lizzy, racked by guilt at what she knew before Mason died, tries desperately to keep her friend's memory alive, but her guilt ultimately forces her to the same crossroads Mason faced. In the background, an increasingly unhinged group of nationalists called The Liberators threaten to destroy the country from the inside out, sending our cast of characters on a collision course with personal and national heartbreak. With each chapter told from a different character at a different point in the future, Song For The Dead is a story about grief and pain, but also about how we take that pain and use it. We all have to make the same choice as Mason, and our characters, for better or worse, come to understand that by story’s end.

We move, as the narrative progresses, from tremendous darkness to, in the final pages, light and hope. The last chapter is the only one in the narrative from Mason's perspective—a portion of the novel that borderlines on the speculative. And maybe...just maybe...it's the ending he deserved, not the one he got. Stories are the places we can say goodbye, ask for forgiveness, tell somebody we love them before they go. That is what stories do: they allow the impossible to become possible—even taking impossible pain and transforming it into something like love.

I'm not going to go through line by line, although I would be happy to make suggestions if you like. But I think you really need to tighten up this query. Stop telling what the book is about (grief, pain, etc.), and tell what the story is about. Is it Declan's story? Is he the main POV character? Then tell what happens to him. You've got too many names in the query for an agent to keep track of.  Three or four names is the usual number.

You've also got too many subplot lines going. Find the main plot and go with that and just hint that there's more. The purpose of a query is to make the agent want to read your book, not to tell the entire plot with all its subplots. Keep it simpler.

The paragraph that starts "We move" can be deleted entirely. You want the reader to come to those conclusions. You're telling the reader what to feel rather than showing how you make them feel that way. Have you checked out Query Shark? That's a good resource for simplifying queries. I know your story is literary, so you get some leniency, but this query is just all over the place. It doesn't convey the "literary" aspect of literary fiction, either. Your query reads more commercial than literary right now.