Monday, September 12, 2016

#SonofaPitch #8: Improbable Girl

For my regular readers, these are some special posts this week as part of a pitch contest I'm providing feedback for.

For participants, welcome to my blog! I'm happy to host you and excited to see what kinds of stories you've written. Please remember that only the author of this piece and the participating judges are supposed to comment. All other comments will be deleted.




Title: Improbable Girl
Age and Genre: Adult Women's Fiction
Word Count: 82,000

Query:

Daniel knows how many steps there are to his fifth floor walk-up, and tonight he counts as he climbs a little slower than normal. Inside his apartment, his numbers and rational logic can't comfort his wife, Jane. When he finally opens the door, it’s worse than he thought: Jane’s in the tiny living room trying to put a crib together—but she isn’t pregnant.

IMPROBABLE GIRL is a dual narrator, dual-timeline love story that begins in the middle as a marriage cracks under the weight of infertility. The story bounces back and forth in time, connecting the dots between the excitement of first dates and budding love to the turmoil of needles and ultrasounds. In the present, Jane, a former dancer who’s always been in control of her body, is so consumed by getting pregnant that she neglects everything else in her life. Daniel, a hyper-logical math teacher, can never say the right thing, so he retreats into silence. In the midst of an expensive and exhausting third round of IVF, Daniel’s infidelity is followed by a confession that he can’t handle the emotional toll of more treatments. Jane packs a suitcase and walks out, barreling forward with her third egg retrieval. She browses a sperm bank, unsure of what she wants more, her marriage or a baby. When doctors discover a tumor on Jane’s ovary, Daniel's fear of losing her for good impels him to find her and earn her forgiveness. For Jane, more than a baby is at stake now, and she recognizes that she can’t do everything alone. Reunited, they face Jane’s surgery together, knowing the cancer may have spread and she could wake up from surgery unable to ever carry a baby.

First 250 Words:

I counted the stairs on the day we moved in. There are 50 steps to our apartment on the fifth floor, so every five steps is equal to 10% of the trip to the top. That is, if you ignore the 6 steps on the stoop. If I count those, then every 5.6 steps is 10% and really, that is not so nice. I’d have to break the steps into fractions, and therefore break the rise of my foot as it travels between one step and the next. I walk home tired after teaching eleven year-olds and I can’t achieve that level of precision. So we’ll disregard those first 6 steps.

Tonight as I walk up, I count by ten percent as I always do. It’s a nice rhythm as my foot strikes each step and my shoe scratches across the surface. One, two, three, four, ten, one, two, three, four, twenty. That’s five-four time in music—five beats to the measure. If it was four-four time, it would be symmetrical, but five is prime. Tough choice, symmetry or primes. In general, four-four is my favorite, symmetrical with two downbeats.

One, two, three, four, fifty. Fifty percent is nice, but my legs are burning a bit. By seventy-five, I’m getting close, so I take the steps two at a time.

I like to know exactly where I’m going and how long it will take to get there.

Beyond these stairs and their five-beat rhythm, I don’t know where Jane and I are going or how far away it is. That distance is undefined.

9 comments:

  1. So...I certainly hardly ever read Women's fiction, but I started reading and was put under the spell of the first paragraph of your query. Daniel and Jane's story pulled me in. I don't have mush to say, I thought your query was great! Clear. Dripping with emotions.
    Your first 250...I love! A good example that you don't have to start with big action, but with steps, with counting. Steps and counting that Daniels needs to survive, because he needs the rhythm, the certainty. Heart-breakingly beautiful.

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  2. For reasons I cannot comprehend, my blog doesn't like Elsie Elmore and won't let her comment here. She's wonderful, so I can't imagine why that would be.

    Here's her feedback for you:
    ___________________________________
    Query
    Your query is formatted differently but it feels right based on the story. I could make suggestions on rearranging, but I feel your way lends itself to the back and forth of your tale very well.
    Take a peek at your last sentence. I think it could be trimmed and tightened to amplify.
    Great tone!

    First 250 Words:

    I counted the stairs on the day we moved in. Fifty. There are 50 steps to our apartment on the fifth floor, so every five steps is equal to 10% of the trip to the top. That is, if you ignore the 6 steps on the stoop. If I count those, then every 5.6 steps is 10% and really, that is not so nice. I’d have to break the steps into fractions, and therefore break the rise of my foot as it travels between one step and the next. I walk home tired after teaching eleven year-olds and I can’t achieve that level of precision. So we’ll disregard those first 6 steps. (Love how the monotony has been measured and how he strives to keep the math he didn’t need to use simple. Well done.)

    Tonight as I walk up, I count by ten percent as I always do. It’s a nice rhythm as my foot strikes each step and my shoe scratches across the surface. One, two, three, four, ten, one, two, three, four, twenty. That’s five-four time in music—five beats to the measure. If it was four-four time, it would be symmetrical, but five is prime. Tough choice, symmetry or primes. In general, four-four is my favorite, symmetrical with two downbeats.

    One, two, three, four, fifty. Fifty percent is nice (the word nice echoes here – and while it’s a simplistic word that suits him, is there an adequate substitute to avoid the echo?), but my legs are burning a bit. By seventy-five, I’m getting close, so I take the steps two at a time.

    I like to know exactly where I’m going and how long it will take to get there.

    Beyond these stairs and their five-beat rhythm, I don’t know where Jane and I are going or how far away it is. That distance is undefined.

    The writing is a bit poetic which may or may not contrast the mathematician it’s describing. I thoroughly enjoyed the 250 and the way those few words reveal so much. Great job.

    All suggestions are IMHO and are meant to be thought provoking, maybe helpful, but not gospel. Take ‘em, leave ‘em. This is your rodeo, so it’s up to you. Best of luck

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  3. This query kept me reading, but it might be too many details for the majority of agents. I don’t think you need the “The story bounces back and forth in time…” sentence. Let the pages show that. Start the next sentence “Jane, a former dancer…” Keep everything until “…he retreats into silence.” After that, condense the rest by saying something like, “Round after round of fertility treatments bring their marriage to a breaking point. Daniel is unfaithful, and Jane packs a suitcase…” And I think you can keep the rest.

    I LOVE the 250. Great character development, great voice.

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  4. I am an ovarian cancer survivor and dealt with infertility as a result... I love the tone of this query and this story. That first line is perfect. Just popping in to say that!

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  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  6. I am VOTING for The Improbably Girl

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  7. I couldn't post my votes until now (I'm a schoolteacher by day). But this piece has my vote! From Team Megara!

    https://38.media.tumblr.com/7a5a7a68f496d3b5620b3825ac581f45/tumblr_mys4zuIwfM1s4ip2qo1_500.gif

    ReplyDelete