Query Critique 8: We Were Broken

9 Feb

Dear Agent:

I am writing to inquire if you would be interested in my contemporary romance novel, WE WERE BROKEN, due to your stated interest in the romance genre (that line will change according to the agent’s sales and whatnot– I’ll always try to mention a book they’ve sold recently). A brief overview follows:

Twenty-one year old Grace Blanchett just wants to forget about the night she found her fiancé sleeping with her best friend.

So when Grace meets Summer at a coffee shop and learns that the girl has recently become homeless, she offers her the spare bedroom in her apartment. Because Grace needs someone, anyone, who’ll help ease the loneliness that’s crept in since she cut off her old life. An unlikely friendship grows between the two girls. They may be from very different walks of life—Grace from a privileged background, Summer the product of a broken home—but they need each other.

Their new friendship is put to the test when Summer discovers that she’s pregnant. Terrified of following in her estranged mother’s footsteps, she needs Grace’s support more than ever. Summer’s half-brother, River, does all he can to help, but his presence only complicates matters when Grace starts falling for him—even though he’s already seeing another girl. Grace has a decision to make—one that will challenge all that she stands for: should she follow her heart and become the other woman, or once again sever all ties—this time with River—and risk losing Summer in the process.

Written in the third person narratives of the two female protagonists (Grace and Summer), WE WERE BROKEN is complete at 75,000 words.

My passion for literature led me to pursue a bachelor’s degree in English from Hull University. Also, I passed a Starting Writing Fiction course with the Open University. (Please note this query is a multiple submission. I would be happy to send you my completed manuscript.)

Thank you for your time and consideration,

Laura E. Wardle

~~~

I’m not usually one for contemporary romances, but I really liked this concept (and the title).

Firstly, I think 21 might be too young for your MC’s. Not because 21 is too young to be engaged (I was engaged at 20), but because in the genre I think characters tend to be a little older. Not really a huge deal though; if they’re out of college it would be easy to just up the age if an agent felt like you needed it.

Your opening sentence is great. Already we have tension, and can immediately sympathize with the main character, and we’re not even reading the book yet! I think the transition to the second paragraph is weak though. You say ‘So’, but there’s nothing linking the opening with the action. You might need to add in a sentence about how after losing her fiance and BFF she’s desperately lonely and just wants to move on with her life. SO, when Grace meets Summer…

Second sentence in the second paragraph opens weak, too, in my opinion. Try not to start sentences with Because. If you cut the ‘because’, you could actually move the second sentence and make it the first and fix the problem I was just talking about.

The rest is pretty clean, but I have read a few agents saying they have a problem with the MC deciding to become the ‘other woman’… I don’t know how your ms reads, but in the query you make it sound as if she has the option to have a continuous affair with River, which automatically makes him a scumbag and shows that she has self-esteem low enough to not see this in him. Something to consider.

Best of luck!

-Savannah J. Foley

~~~

Laura! I’m so glad you sent us your query. I’ve been interested in hearing about your book for a while, and having read your letter, am really excited about it!

I think Savannah’s right, though. 21 seems kind of young for a romance. Because fiction is still pretty segregated, 21 falls into that black hole known as “the college years,” and therefore isn’t very prominent in contemporary stories. If it wouldn’t change the feel of your manuscript, I’d maybe change the ages to 25 or 26. That way they’re still young professionals, but far enough removed from that taboo-esque age of 21.

Also, Susan mentioned this last week: A romance novel is a very specific genre in which the heroine and the hero are main characters — the story is from both POVs. Because you mention that your story is told from Summer and Grace’s points of view, it makes me wonder how to actually classify it. From the query, it sounds less like a romance and more like commercial fiction with a little bit of love thrown in. Just something to consider when pitching it.

Savannah covered everything else I was going to say! Except, you don’t need to put that last bit about multiple submissions in parentheses. Other than that, good job!

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2 Responses to “Query Critique 8: We Were Broken”

  1. Rowenna February 9, 2011 at 9:56 AM #

    Awesome premise! This is probably just me, but for some reason, when I read “When Grace meets Summer in a coffee shop” I jumped to the conclusion that Summer was the aforementioned best friend (my brain may not be working this morning). BUT–if other people have said that, perhaps you can clear that up by saying “When Grace meets a homeless nineteen year old, Summer, in a coffee shop” or something like that. Again–was probably just me!

    Best of luck!!!

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