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Monday, September 16, 2013

Workshop #5 Cloudland, and Other Stories

Revision #1:
Six-year-old Jake knows his mom isn’t dead. After her car tumbled off a bridge during a freak autumn storm, his father said she died, but there’s no body. So when a mysterious, arrogant Voice magically appears in Jake’s head, and tells him It’s there to help him, Jake knows it’s up to him to find his mother and bring her home.

Jake knows where his mom has gone: to Cloudland, to the stories she tells him about before bed. He just isn’t sure how to get there. It’s only when he meets Sara that he and the Voice understand how he’s going to get to the Stories: Sara is going to help them.

Sara, however, has enough problems of her own. Her first job as a school social worker is interrupted by her father’s sudden death. She can barely manage to get to work, much less help a grieving child with a heartbreaking story that’s far too similar to her own. But everything in Sara’s life is pushing her towards Jake, and when she finally agrees to work with him, the session is beyond anything she could have expected. The Voice transports them both into the sky, to a strange, wild land made of clouds and stories. Together, Jake and Sara undertake a heart-wrenching and ultimately healing quest to find their lost parents.

At nearly 90,000 words, CLOUDLAND, AND OTHER STORIES is a literary fiction with fantastical elements. It is my first novel. I live in Boston, Massachusetts and spend my days working with relaxed people in a dim cave with soothing music; in other words, I’m a massage therapist.


Original
When six-year-old Jake’s mom is killed in a car accident on a bridge during a freak autumn storm, he knows she isn’t really dead, no matter what anyone says: there’s no body, after all. As his now grief-stricken and always inscrutable father organizes a funeral with an empty casket, Jake understands that it’s going to be up to him – and the mysterious, arrogant Voice that magically appears in his head – to find her, and bring her home.

Jake knows where his mom has gone: to Cloudland, to the stories she tells him about before bed; he just isn't sure how to get there. It’s only when he meets Sara that he and the Voice understand how he’s going to get to the Stories: Sara is going to help him.

Sara, however, has enough problems of her own. Her first job as a school social worker started just two days before her father’s sudden death; she can barely manage to get to work, much less help a grieving child with a heartbreaking story that’s far too similar to her own.

But there are forces at work that Sara can’t even imagine, and everything in her life seems to be pushing her towards Jake. When she finally agrees to work with him, the session is beyond anything she could have expected: the Voice transports them both into the sky, to a strange, wild land made of clouds and stories, on a heart-wrenching and ultimately healing quest to find their lost parents.

At nearly 90,000 words, CLOUDLAND, AND OTHER STORIES is a literary fiction with fantastical elements. It is my first novel. I live in Boston, Massachusetts and spend my days working with a (hopefully) relaxed person in a quiet, dim cave with soothing music; in other words, I’m a massage therapist.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

11 comments:

Huntress, aka CD Coffelt said...

IMO, I’d simplify. Six-year-old Jake knows his mother isn’t dead. After her car tumbled off a bridge, his father said she died, but there’s no body. When a mysterious, arrogant Voice tells him (insert what the Voice says here), he knows it’s up to him to find his mother and bring her home.

Watch the tense in the second paragraph. And again, simplify. You have a good story going here but you are losing it in too many words.

I’d work on getting the excessive words down a bit more. Excellent premise, btw.

Charity Bradford said...

I think CD nailed it. You've got a great idea and story here, but it's getting lost in the words. Simplify, clarify. Make it short and to the point. You want us to have questions, that's why agents ask to read pages.

Of course it needs to be the right kind of questions. :)

I'd work on making the first 2 paragraph 1. How does Jake know his mom has gone to Cloudland? Did he see something, hear something? Maybe a clue from one of the stories. There has to be a clear reason why we should believe a six year old.

Here's my suggestion for the last 2 paragraphs:

Sara has problems of her own. Her first job as a school social worker is complicated by her father’s sudden death. She can barely manage to get to work, much less help a grieving child with a heartbreaking story that’s far too similar to her own. When she finally agrees to work with Jake, the session is beyond anything she could have expected. The Voice transports them both to a strange, wild land made of clouds and stories. Together they undertake a heart-wrenching and ultimately healing quest to find their lost parents.

L. Blankenship said...

I'd skip the first paragraph entirely. Finding his mother is a perfectly good motivation, and doesn't need much explaining.

And keep this query focused on one person's journey. Whose story is this, Jake's or Sara's?

Shorten your sentences. Drop the colons. That will make things feel like they're moving faster.

Patchi said...

I'm with L. The story might be about Jake and Sara, but who has the higher stakes? Pick that one for the query.

This is how I see it through Jake:

Six-year-old Jake’s mom drove off a bridge during a freak autumn storm. But he knows she isn’t really dead. There’s no body, after all.

As his grief-stricken and inscrutable father organizes a funeral with an empty casket, Jake understands that it’s going to be up to him--and the mysterious, arrogant Voice in his head--to bring her home. He knows she's gone to Cloudland, from the stories she used to tell him before bed. Jake just isn't sure how to get there.

It’s only when he is sent to counseling with his school's social worker that he and the Voice understand how he’s going to get to Cloudland. This lady is going to help him.


But I can also see the focus on Sara:

Sara's first job as a school social worker started just two days before her father’s sudden death [how?]. She can barely manage to get to work, much less help a grieving child with a heartbreaking story that’s far too similar to her own.

But [what happens?] that pushes her toward the troubled boy that hears voices that no one else can. When she finally agrees to work with him, the Voice transports them both to a strange, wild land made of clouds and stories.

As they set out on a heart-wrenching and ultimately healing quest to find their lost parents, [stakes?].


I hope this helps.

mshatch said...

You could condense the first second paragraph like so:
When six-year-old Jake’s mom is killed in a car accident on a bridge during a freak autumn storm, he knows she isn’t really dead, no matter what anyone says. After all, there’s no body in the casket. Jake knows where his mom has gone: to Cloudland, to the stories she tells him before bed. But to get her back Jake is going to have to team up with the mysterious, arrogant Voice that has magically appeared in his head.

-or something like that.

oh, and I like the idea for this. If I was an agent I'd be requesting this one for sure.

nwharrisbooks said...

I agree with the above. Had a similar problem with the query I submitted last year because that story really had two protagonist. In the end, you have to pick the one who has the highest stakes and gear the query toward them, maybe only giving the other character a quick blurb where you don't even mention their name. This book sound really intriguing and I think the query could be a bit shorter and have even more impact. I like the bio paragraph at the end, but agents might not like it because it your massage job doesn't directly relate to writing.

nwharrisbooks said...

I agree with the above. Had a similar problem with the query I submitted last year because that story really had two protagonist. In the end, you have to pick the one who has the highest stakes and gear the query toward them, maybe only giving the other character a quick blurb where you don't even mention their name. This book sound really intriguing and I think the query could be a bit shorter and have even more impact. I like the bio paragraph at the end, but agents might not like it because it your massage job doesn't directly relate to writing.

Liz Blocker said...

Thanks, all! I always overwrite, so I'm not surprised that this needs cutting :)

A note about the two protags: Jake and Sara really do carry equal weight in the book. They are integral to each other's journeys. The book is told from both POVs, switching back and forth from section to section. My understanding is that this should somehow be clear in the query, but I really don't know. I tried cutting and keeping them both in...?

Huntress, aka CD Coffelt said...

Try not to use colons like in your second paragraph of the revision

Raluca Balasa said...

Just a quick note about the double POV thing. I read on QueryShark that a way to do it is to keep the query in one POV (while still mentioning the other POV character, of course), and at the end say: "Complete at 90,000 words, CLOUDLAND is a literary fiction told from two points of view." Elaborating on what they have in common would be even better. "...told from the perspectives of two kindred spirits in search of their parents." Or something like that. You don't actually have to write the query from both POVs.

Good luck!

mshatch said...

I like the revise.