#28 Query Corner: THE EYE BEGINS TO SEE

Welcome to:

Morgan’s Query Corner:

Fresh Eyes For Your Query Quandaries

THE EYE BEGINS TO SEE is an upmarket novel that explores the coercive sterilization efforts in America.

When a privileged perfectionist and an ambitious street rat are hair-on-fire-late to their first law-school class and collide, it’s the beginning of a fast friendship. After the women discover a dark link, they must learn to forgive the past in order to embrace their futures.

NOTE: If you submit your query to me (morgan.s.hazelwood@gmail.com), and you are selected for inclusion, I will give you a high-level review, in-line feedback, and my own draft of your query. If this is your query, feel free to use or ignore as much of the advice and suggestions as you wish.

[Disclaimer: Any query selected for the page will be posted on this website for perpetuity. I am an amateur with no actual accepted queries and a good number of form rejections. This does not guarantee an agent or even an amazing query, just a new take by someone who’s read The Query Shark archives twice and enjoys playing with queries.]

Overall Impression:

THE EYE BEGINS TO SEE sounds like an intriguing upmarket story, with a sincere exploration of the sterilization efforts in America, even after WWII.

My main comments are just organizational for the query:

  • Try to keep the query under 300 words.
  • You don’t need to show all your research.
  • You only capitalize names in a synopsis, not queries. But do try to keep the number of names to 4 or fewer.

Querist’s Original:

[my comments are in blue/italics/brackets]

Dear [Mr./Ms. Agent Name Here],

[Personalization.]

The Eye Begins to See, dual narrative complete at 92K words, is upmarket/ book club fiction. A modern examination of eugenics, what it means to be coerced into or secretly sterilized, that will share an audience with Before We Were Yours (Lisa Wingate), Necessary Lies (Diane Chamberlain), and Second Glance (Jodi Picoult).

The story of two women on a parallel journey through Duke Law School discover personal worth and what it means to be enough. BERYL McCLAREN [Capitalized names are for synopsis] is privileged, driven, fearless. And certain she’ll never meet the expectations of her painfully perfect mother. METHEA ‘THEA’ CATTERSON is inner-city Chicago, tough, funny as hell. Brave and determined to escape the streets that devoured her mother and brother. They collide at Duke, hair-on-fire-late to their first class and become fast friends. Thea introduces Beryl to GRAYSON ‘GRAY’ HEGGS and HAZEL TANAKA. Gray is charming and hot nough to melt stone. He might be serious about Beryl, but falling in love with your best friend’s honorary brother could be a mistake. Hazel is an elegant Zen waif with a passion for gardening and an incalculable capacity for fostering community and compassion. She’s also the life-partner Thea never expected to meet. [This is a little heavy into synopsis]

Both women, after walking the long and sometimes heartbreaking path to personal and professional realization, find themselves buried by dozens of archived documents alleging eugenic sterilization authorized by the state of North Carolina. The search reveals a potential and startling link between Beryl and Thea: DR. HARPER ENDRISS, the nightmare they never saw coming.

Most states ended forced sterilization after World War II. North Carolina, backed by powerful elites including heirs to Procter & Gamble and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, didn’t. More than 7,600 individuals were sterilized during this chapter. However, the topic remains centered on the world stage. The Eugenics Crusade, documentary – PBS (2018); Black Mirror (Men Against Fire) –
Netflix (2016). Prominent scientist Stephen Hawking (2018) predicted widespread use of eugenics to edit traits such as intelligence. Psychology professor Aurelio Figuerdo (AZ) received $458K research dollars (2003-2018) from the estate of pro-eugenics textile magnate, Wickliffe Draper, then used a portion of the funds to attend the 2017 London Conference on Intelligence at
University of London. [You don’t need to show all your research in the query.]

This is my first novel and is a fictionalized version of my experience of sterilization in North Carolina. [I think we can reword a little smoother.]

Thank you for your consideration of representation. [A little blunt.]

Regards,

Q28


My Revision:

Dear Agent,

Thea Catterson’s made it out of inner-city Chicago and into Duke Law School. Determined to escape the streets that devoured her mother and brother, she’s going to have to make friends if she’s going to survive schooling with the elite. And maybe even find a girlfriend.

Beryl McClaren is determined to do her best to meet the expectations of her painfully perfect mother and become the best darn lawyer out there. When she literally collides with Thea, as they’re both hair-on-fire-late to their first class, it’s the beginning of a fast friendship. And that was before she met Thea’s hot, honorary brother. Through school, loves, and loss, the pair is there to support each other. Their professional lives lead them into the dark side of North Carolina’s past — eugenics — and deep in the papers, the friends find another, darker personal connection. The pair must learn to forgive the past or be torn apart by a wrong done before they were born. [Are these the stakes?]

Inspired by true events, The Eye Begins to See is an LGBT [since I took out the reference earlier. Oh wait, I just tried to add some back in] dual narrative upmarket/book club novel, complete at 92K words. It is a modern examination of eugenics and what it means to be coerced or secretly sterilized that will share an audience with Lisa Wingate’s Before We Were Yours, Diane Chamberlain’s Necessary Lies, and Jodi Picoult’s Second Glance. [see if you can pick 2. And if you move this back up top, I’d remove the ‘inspired by true events part, or work it in later. Unless you’re marketing this as a memoir, I wouldn’t launch with that.]

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Yours Sincerely,

Q28


And with a few tweaks to make sure their voice showed through, here’s the final version.

Dear Agent,

[Personalization.]

Beryl McClaren is privileged, driven, and certain she’ll never meet the expectations of her painfully perfect mother. Thea Catterson is inner-city Chicago-tough, funny as hell, and determined to escape the streets that devoured her mother and brother. They collide at Duke, hair-on-fire-late to their first class, and become fast friends. Through excruciating coursework, love and loss, they support each other to the finish line to achieve their dreams.

Beryl detours into an unexpected relationship and must escape the shackles of unimaginable abuse to right her course. Thea must repair the damage her family’s endured following the violent death of the junkie mother she never knew, bringing her face-to-face with the drug-dealing brother she thought she left behind. Beryl and Thea walk an arduous, heartbreaking path – a journey to enough. As public prosecutors, they land on a collision course toward a truth to rock their world. In 2003, drowning in heart-wrenching archives confirming unwanted and often clandestine eugenic sterilizations. The pair discovers a darkly startling link that binds them: Dr. Harper Endriss, a nightmare they never saw coming. The challenge? Forgive the past in order to embrace the future.

Most states abandoned forced sterilization after World War II. North Carolina did not. Almost 7,700 individuals were sterilized during this chapter in the state’s history. This topic remains centered on the world stage – The Eugenics Crusade, PBS (2018), Black Mirror (Men Against Fire) Netflix (2016), Stephen Hawking’s (2018) prediction of widespread use of eugenics to edit traits such as intelligence.

Inspired by true events, The Eye Begins to See is a dual narrative upmarket/book club novel, complete at 92K words.  It is a modern examination of eugenics and what it means to be coerced into or secretly sterilized that will share an audience with Lisa Wingate’s Before We Were Yours, Diane Chamberlain’s Necessary Lies, and Jodi Picoult’s Second Glance.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Regards,

Q28

An intense story of adulthood and dealing with consequences of the darker side of things.

Best of luck to Q28!


And for the rest of you out there?
Best of luck in the query trenches!

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Finding Your Own Pace: A Writer’s Struggle

Finding Your Own Pace: A Writer’s Struggle

All writers work differently, but since I started with NaNoWriMo, I’ve come to look at NaNo as my novel kick-off season. Even if it takes me months and months after to finish the story, (not to mention editing, revising, and querying the sucker) I can get at least the first 50,000 words out. Usually.
When it comes to daily word targets, like NaNoWriMo encourages, I’ve run the gamut.
For those who don’t know, NaNoWriMo sets the goal at 50,000 words– approximately 200 pages which is a bit short for a novel. Which breaks down to 1,666 words per day, or about 6 pages.

Pick Your Pace

I’ve failed NaNo, won NaNo by the skin of my teeth, and done 75k one glorious November. Different stories, voices, and points-of-view write faster or slower for me.Some writers wait for the spirit to be upon them and crank out 30,000 words in a weekend. Some write 5-6k on the weekends and a couple hundred on the occasional workday.

This might be you!

Me? Not so much.

As I’ve talked about before, I’m not a sprinter, I’m a marathoner, but 1,666 words is usually achievable for me. With the right story? I can hit an average of 2,500 words per day.

But.

I can only do it by writing EVERY DAY. If I wait until the weekend to sprint? I’m doomed.

I have NEVER written two-NaNo days worth of words (3,332) in a single day. If I get more than 1 or 2 days behind, I cannot catch up.
Left on my own, when it’s not November, I set daily word count goals (or at least weekly ones), but my writing pace (fit in around my day job) is approximately half-the-speed of a NaNo.

If you’ve never NaNo-ed before (look, I verbed it!), it can seem daunting. And it feels like there are just people who can commit and do it, and people who can’t.

But just because I’ve “won” NaNoWriMo once (by hitting that 50k target before midnight on November 30th), doesn’t mean I always win.

My Past NaNoWriMo’s

I’ve rebelled with half-Nano’s, spent a November edited instead. I’ve started to draft a sequel, but it petered out. My first NaNo win was my 3rd NaNo attempt — at writing the exact same book.
Two years ago, I did that nano-and-a-half in November. It was a sequel, so I knew the world and the characters, and how the magic works. Plus? My life was pretty settled that month.

 

Last year? I started a new job, had a full outline I wanted to follow because my story was a Robin Hood variant, and I barely squeaked out my words.

When my life is settled, I commit and focus — that’s what it takes for me to win NaNoWriMo.

NaNoWriMo18

This year? I’ve got a very rough outline that I need to revamp for the age range I’m writing for.

My story involves school-aged kids dealing with parents. So, that means middle grade or younger. YA typically are coming-of-age stories, where they have adventures without adults.

In prep, I’ve already created a list of about 50 names that fit my world, so I can grab and go. Left to my own devices, picking a name for a character can take longer than my daily allotment of time for writing.

But, placeholder names don’t really work for me. Remember that nano-and-a-half I mentioned? It’s filled with 30 place-holder names and is sitting as a rough draft on my googleDrive. (No offense, but Alice, Bob, Carol, and the invaders from Canadia don’t actually fit my fantasy world’s aesthetic.) I’ve gotta admit, it feels pretty daunting to fix.

I’ve got a few obstacles:

  • I’ve never written for this age range
    • so I’m not familiar with writing at this pacing.
  • I’ve never written a story in this world
    • so I’ll be having to think through the intricacies of the world as I go.
  • Plus, I’ve got a day-job deadline coming up.
  • It might end up being a chapter book
    • Those are typically around 20,000 words.
    • If that’s the case, what do I do?
      • write 2 novels? Start a series?
      • or call it a day

So now? The only way for me to find out what happens to those cool characters I’ve got half-formed in my head though? Is to write it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

So You’ve Decided To Write A Novel – Here are 7 Tips To Get Started

7 Tips for Preparing to Write A Novel

For Pantsers AND Plotters and #NaNoPrepMo

Whether you’ve just decided it’s finally time to write that book you’ve been thinking about on your own or you’ve been bit by the NaNoWriMo bug, starting a novel can be intimidating!

It doesn’t matter if you’re a pantser (writing by the seat of your pants), a plotter, or something in between, there’s still stuff you can do to prepare yourself before you start writing.

Plotters, you have your to-do lists, but even you can get stuck. Here are some things that may be on your list, and a few things that might not be.

Pantsers and plantsers? You might not want to do all the planning that the plotters do. You might be just along for the journey to see where the story takes you. BUT! That doesn’t mean you have to be left out of writing prep!

That said, here are my top 7 writing prep activities.

1. Outlining

Clearly, the plotter’s first choice and the fear of every pantser, but outlining can be as extensive — or as sparse — as you want it to be.

– You can have 10 pages of notes for every chapter
– A basic “[Main character] wants [objective] but [obstacle] stands in their way.” statement
– Just pre-write a query letter!
– Even most pantsers find having a starting point and an end target at least moderately useful.

(Here’s my level of outlining)

2. Beat Sheets!

The cousin of outlining. These help you check your pacing — whether you’re going for a 3 act, 4 act, or another sort of structure.

Jami Gold has a great collection of Beat Sheet Worksheets to help you plan out your story’s emotional arcs AND plot arcs.

OR — save the beat sheet and use it when you’re pantsing to decide what to do next!

3. Mood Boards

Gathering together pictures that suggest your characters, your settings, your wardrobe, and your world.

You’d think this would be most helpful for those writers who are more visually oriented — literally helping them see their story. But, my imagination isn’t very visual, and I say that mood boards can be INVALUABLE for those of us whose imaginations are more conceptual.

If you have a vague idea in your head of a character’s look or the settings, you can google image search until you have something that works for your story — then you can use that image to help describe your people, places, and things to your readers.

4. Character Sheets

It’s official. I’m a geek. I’ve been playing D&D and its cousins since 2000. But even if it’s not a true ‘character sheet’, writing out your characters strengths, weaknesses, and personality traits is very helpful when you’re deciding during the story how your character will react.

You can use things like Myers-Briggs designations, star signs, or zodiacs to help flesh out your character and keep them consistent.

5. Creating a List of Names

I can spend weeks picking the perfect name for a main character. During NaNoWriMo, I’ve definitely lost hours of writing time trying to come up with names for characters, places, and my magic system.

Two NaNos ago, I decided to save a lot of time by just giving everyone placeholder names: Alice, Bob, Carol… I went through the entire alphabet and ended up naming the enemy country Canadia. It helped me accomplish a NaNo-and-a-half, but it had consequences (yep! 75k!). The editing this is going to require has me scared off starting that rewrite. Don’t make my mistake.

This year? I intend to have a list of at least 20 random names that fit my story and world that I can grab-and-go with once I start writing. So far I’ve got 6.

6. World Building

Is your story happening in the real world or a made up one? Do the laws of physics work the same?

Having a good idea of how far apart places are, the transport times, and key landmarks is super helpful.

I spent a couple hours last NaNoWriMo figuring out how far it was from Loxley to Nottingham. And the number of times I’ve redrawn my fantasy map because of average pilgrim walking paces versus bicycle paces… is more than twice.

I also have 2 moons in one of my worlds, so I keep an eye on the tides and the moon fullness in regards to the aforementioned travel times. It can get tricky!

7. Minimize Real World Distractions

I’ve mentioned this before, but for me? Having a stocked fridge, clean clothes, and straightened house when NaNoWriMo starts means I can ignore those things for longer while I dedicate more time to writing.

It usually takes a week or so after a good clean for my house to start really getting piled up.

I try to keep my calendar light, preload the Panera app on my phone for write-ins (getting hungry? Keep writing and the food will come to me), and work hard to build up momentum. Once I’ve got a good streak going, meeting that daily word target, I don’t want to break it.


 

And that’s it! Are you starting a new novel? Tell me about it!

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo? Feel free to friend me: morganhazelwood!

( Are you new to NaNoWriMo or an old hat? )

 

#27 Query Corner: PREDESTINED

Welcome to:

Morgan’s Query Corner:

Fresh Eyes For Your Query Quandaries

PREDESTINED is a contemporary fantasy set in a magic school.

When Evie’s crush, Justin, offers to use his dark magic to help unlock her magic, she’s horrified. Now, the race is on for her to master her magic before the darkness consumes Justin.

NOTE: If you submit your query to me (morgan.s.hazelwood@gmail.com), and you are selected for inclusion, I will give you a high-level review, in-line feedback, and my own draft of your query. If this is your query, feel free to use or ignore as much of the advice and suggestions as you wish.

[Disclaimer: Any query selected for the page will be posted on this website for perpetuity. I am an amateur with no actual accepted queries and a good number of form rejections. This does not guarantee an agent or even an amazing query, just a new take by someone who’s read The Query Shark archives twice and enjoys playing with queries.]

Overall Impression:

PREDESTINED sounds like a solid magic school fantasy.

A couple of things to think about:

  • The ‘clumsy’ girl is a bit of an overdone trope at this point. I’d skip using it in the query.
  • Give details – keeping things vague show how you’re like your genre, details show how you’re different.
  • Focus on the stakes more than world building.

Querist’s Original:

[my comments are in blue/italics/brackets]

Dear [Mr./Ms. Agent Name Here],

Evie, a clumsy sixteen-year-old, is finally selected for something! Invited to train in the safety of Haven High, a special facility for the supernaturally gifted, Evie travels into a pocket dimension near her hometown in North Carolina. James Cabot, whose icy blue eyes have distracted her since… forever, can control fire, but no matter how hard Evie tries to coax her unknown power into being, it remains unresponsive. Evie finds some comfort in the warrior angels that train her, but absolutely nothing in her life prepared her to fight the things that fill the night.

Just as her fear and frustration are at their height, she finds out that she is the key to keeping the balance while evil fights to overpower the light. Hoping her first date with James will spark her power and change her luck, Evie follows him to an abandoned part of campus.  To her horror, he attempts to coerce her into abandoning the light, joining him, and forsake her destiny as the balance keeper. Just as she begins to understand her own gift over the air, Evie launches a battle against James and all of darkness, quickly discovering that true power isn’t manipulating flames, water, earth, or wind, but in mankind’s ability to choose.

As Evie’s new team of classmates and sentinels gather to face off against evil itself, the balance teeters towards destruction and eternal darkness.  Evie must learn to effectively weaponize air in time to keep the balance and rescue James from becoming a slave to darkness.

PREDESTINED is a 70,000-word fantasy novel.

When I’m not writing, I’m [job] in [place].

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Q27


My Revision:

Dear Agent,

Evie is finally chosen for something! Invited to train as a sophomore at Haven High, a special facility for the magically gifted, Evie travels into a pocket dimension near her hometown. To her surprise, James Calbot, the boy with the icy-blue eyes that she’s been infatuated with forever, is a student.

Evie’s excitement quickly turns to dejection when her gifts refuse to manifest. When James invites her on a date, Evie thinks her luck’s about to change. Instead, James offers to help reveal her gift using methods born of darkness. Evie refuses and James quickly loses control of his flames.

Seeing Evie burned, James is overwrought with guilt and shame, and allows the darkness to consume him.  When Evie can’t find him, she becomes determined to rescue him, launching a rescue attempt on her own. When Evie discovers James’s plans to make her queen over all darkness, Evie finally understands the danger she has been in. Now Evie must learn to effectively wield her gift if she’s going to save her brother Tristan before he’s sacrificed.

Predestined is a fantasy novel set in North Carolina and is complete at 70,000 words.

When I’m not writing, I am teaching 6th-grade middle school English in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

PREDESTINED is a 70,000-word fantasy novel.

When I’m not writing, I’m [job] in [place].

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Yours Sincerely,

Q27

A creepy sounding magical high school adventure–full of consequences and stakes!

Best of luck to Q27!


And for the rest of you out there?
Best of luck in the query trenches!