On the Other Side of Sleep (working title)
Sarah Turner is a young woman living in northeast England who has grown up living with her nightmares and learned how to control them.
Now she finds she can leave her dreams entirely and enter the dreams of anyone, anywhere. Resolving to embrace this, she begins to lose herself in the dreams of others, only to find herself in mortal danger.
However, her biggest mistake may be bringing hope to a man in a coma; when she finds not everyone should wield the power she has been taking for granted, and that death is not always the end.
ON THE OTHER SIDE OF SLEEP (working title) is an 80,000 word mainstream novel, which explores the beguiling prospect of living in dreams and the consequences when they clash with the jagged reality of contemporary life.
It will appeal to fans of the surreal worlds of Neil Gaiman and the readers of Michael Marshall Smith, where uncomfortable and extraordinary events fracture the lives of relatable characters.
I think that you're almost there with this one. But there are just a few details that might hang up an agent/editor.
First, the first sentence could be tightened more. You use "living" twice, and pair a gerundal phrase with and participial one. How about: X-year-old Sarah Turner would rather do X in her hometown in northeast England, but must instead find a way to control her all to real nightmares. (That's really rough, actually, but play around with switching the phrases.)
Second, the first few sentences of this sound very much like the recent series starting with the book WAKE. Your second paragraph, actually, could be describing that book instead of your own. If you've not read this one yet, I highly suggest you do--it will not only give you an idea of the market, but will also give you an idea of how to distinguish yourself from it, and make your own work stand out more.
The third paragraph, however, it totally intriguing. The concept of redemption and death not always being the end is a good one, and one I'd like to see Sarah use her powers with.
I think perhaps I'd be sold 100% if I knew more about what kinds of personal stakes are involved for Sarah. What exactly happens to put her own hopes/dreams in peril? Make me have that personal touch with her, and I'd be sold.
Awesome! I'm trying to do things like this. I am also looking for follwers of my blog. Could you please visit and comment on some of my posts at http://inkladendiary.blogspot.com/ ? Thanks. I'm a writer too, so I'm trying to get my voice heard.
I think that this is a great idea. I want more details. What does she do once she is flitting around in other peoples dreams, show a few more dream experiences. Then be more specific about what makes her realize that this power isn't as great as it seems. Why does it matter to the main character?
The entire thing reads a bit passive. A query should feel a little bit more action packed. Try rewriting it in a more active voice.
I like the comparisons that you make at the end of the query. It sounds like an intriguing novel.
Based on this query I probably wouldn't request.
It's too passive. Everything is happening to her.
I'm going to try my hand at formatting in comments to see if I can be more specific.
Sarah Turner is a young woman living in northeast England who has grown up living with her nightmares and learned how to control them. You started with backstory. Nothing has actually happened here to hook the agent.
Now she finds How does she "find" this?she can leave her dreams entirely and enter the dreams of anyone, anywhere. Resolving to embrace thiswhat exactly is she resolving? you skipped over any conflict. was she upset by this? terrified? excited?, she begins to lose herself make it more passive by stating "she loses herself" we don't need the begins to in the dreams of others, only to find herself in mortal danger Great place to show not tell. What kind of mortal danger? Describe it so it feels dangerous to us too
However, her biggest mistake may be may be? or it is? be decisive and firm in your word choice bringing hope to a man in a coma; when she finds third time this query she "finds" something not everyone should wield the power not everyone should wield the power? Other people wield it too? She shares it? Or are there others like her? she has been taking for granted, and that death is not always the end.
ON THE OTHER SIDE OF SLEEP (working title) is an 80,000 word mainstream novel, which explores the beguiling prospect of living in dreams and the consequences when they clash with the jagged reality of contemporary life most agents blogs tell you to eliminate all this explanation, except for the title, word count and genre. Don't tell us what the book explores here, because it should be shown in the above paragraphs.
make it more passive by stating "she loses herself"
-- should be make it *less* passive
This sounds like a fascinating premise, but I'm not hearing the voice in the query. The fourth paragraph has a different beat from the rest of the query. In the other paragraphs, it sounds a bit like a report, the fourth paragraph then sounds a bit like a movie preveiw: beguiling, clash, jagged. The word choice you use here is different from the rest of the query.
I think you have a good premise, but I would take this and see if you could infuse it with your voice. The idea hooks me, but the query doesn't.
I like your title and premise. But I agree with others that the query voice is passive and not detailed with specifics. Definitely read WAKE to be sure you can show how your story is different.
You could make it more active by saying something like Sarah lives with nightmares and has learned not only to control them but to enter other people's dreams. But this (give some concrete examples of what danger she has unleased and what obstacle that puts in her way). I'm intrigued by 'death is not always the end' but I want you to give me more specifics of what that means.
I think some agents dislike writers comparing their works to prominent authors, such as Gaiman. I know you are trying to show the genre but your description of the story and sample pages ought to do that on their own. Try to infuse the query with that very magic.
Thanks for being brave and sharing this. It's a neat premise with loads of promise.
Gosh I love this idea, Miss Beth. I wish we could sit around my living room with a cup of coffee. I'd love for you to pick mine apart. I love the next to the last line - so tight! My only criticism is the line that begins with Resolving to embrace... Resolving sounds weak. Can you tighten that?
I just wanted to clarify that so far, none of the critiques have been my own. The name of the author is given above the title of each sample. I just wanted to clarify!
Many thanks for all the comments.
Very valuable as sometimes I can’t see the wood for the trees.
Now it’s been mentioned, it definitely reads too passive. Reading mine after the excellent ones earlier this week it looks a bit sparse to me now, so I’ll absolutely look into making it connect with the reader more.
My problem was, I didn’t want to make it a synopsis, so I deliberately raised a few questions rather than gave a blow by blow, it sounds like I have journeyed too much the other way and drove right into vague town.
As for the Wake thing Beth, I found out about that book when I was 20k in to this one. I was a bit disheartened to find it so similar in concept and asked others on the SF&F Chronicles forum if I should continue or just abandon. http://www.sffchronicles.co.uk/forum/51534-idea-problem.html
They encouraged me to keep going - I'll still be buying and reading Wake when it's released in paperback in October in the UK, and making sure mine isn’t the same.
Thanks again all.
I don't think you're too similar to Wake, and Wake may actually open some doors for you--so don't be disheartened! But, if you can mention it in your query and show how it's different, that will (I think) may you look both knowledgeable about the market and unique through your differences.
I usually like to read the back cover copy as inspiration for what the pitch should look like. I also try to devise a way of including the internal and exeternal conflict: what they emotionally want they physically want.
Cheers Beth, good advice.
I'm a little late, but I wanted to say I LOVE the title and the premise sounds really cool. Looks like you've already gotten tons of great advice. Good luck!
So sorry! I'm still catching up from finals...please excuse me!
I can't say for sure whether this is a winner, but I can tell you what I like about it. I like the premise and how you relate it. I like the working title. This hooks me, although I don't know how much needs to be added to hook a potential agent.
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