Monday, September 10, 2012

Pitch Polish #107


TITLE OF MANUSCRIPT: Outgrown Horses
GENRE: Adult/Literary Fiction
WORD COUNT: 66,000

Query:

OUTGROWN HORSES tells the stories of good people and some not-so-good people whose lives and sensibilities are molded by the culture of the barns where they live and work. Brent Sidell, a 20-year-old semi-closeted gay man, cleans up blood at a slaughterhouse while repenting by rescuing horses from the kill pen at slaughterhouse auction that otherwise would be sent to slaughter. When one of Brent’s rescue horses shows international grand prix potential, he is invited into the shady show circuit dominated by illegal drugging for both human and horse. To become true to himself, Brent must figure out how to save himself from this world without endangering both the lives of his horses and the people he cares for.

Colored by lyrical prose and horse-folk vernacular, OUTGROWN HORSES is an authentic, far-reaching novel that sympathizes with those who are wounded, outsiders, and sometimes only marginally articulate. I believe OUTGROWN HORSES would appeal to equestrians, the GLBTQ community, disabled people, fans of the contemporary western genre, and those who enjoy literary fiction.

First 150 Words:

The slaughtering business had been dwindling, machines now primarily responsible for the meat. The cows would receive a bolt to the head from a stun gun. Brain dead, they were hanged upside down, throats slit and bled. Meat was more tender that way. It hit the farming town of Hanson, nestled on the east side of the Longwood Valley gorge, where most everyone bred cattle. The gorge was elevated enough to make ears pop when driving up one of the half-paved roads without chewing gum. Almost no one could afford to level their fields. Their herds grazed on the incline where the property was dirt cheap, but the meat got tougher from muscle. To compensate, they’d slaughter young, tying calves just out of the womb in barns. Sometimes the same was done for lambs or piglets.


6 comments:

Michael Sirois said...

I can see the threat of a good story here, but as I read the query I wondered why Brent didn't just search for a different line of work. I think it might be important to emphasize (somewhere early in the query) how Brent is trapped in the slaughterhouse or the show circuit.

A tiny grammatical comment, although there's some dispute, the general agreement is that "hanged" should be used to refer to executions of people, all other past tense uses should be "hung." (The were hung upside down).

I like the language of your first 150 words, but it might be more powerful if you inserted Brent into the paragraph. Something like, "Brent knew the slaughtering business had been dwindling..." "He had seen the cows receive a bolt to the head..."

Good luck.

myupsndowns said...

I think this story idea is unique and could be wonderful, but as the comment above me says, the writing in your query and your first 150 words needs some work.

You need to personalize it more, show us what's at stake earlier. Bring your main character into the first 150 words.

I love the idea; it just needs some fine-tuning. :)

Jessica Peterson said...

I like how you start your query off. I think you could do without "that otherwise would be sent to slaughter" because we are able to assume this from the first part of that sentence. Also the last sentence of your first paragraph leaves me a bit confused. And one more little thing that threw me off was when you were mentioning who it would appeal to, I found myself quite curious why it would appeal to 'disabled people' in particular? Otherwise, I think it's pretty well written.

Good luck :)

amycavenaugh said...

I have to admit I don't like the opening sentence and would prefer you start the query with the second sentence. That may be a personal preference but I found myself thinking "There are good and not-so-good people everywhere." I love the premise, however, and agree with the other commenters that with tightening up and showing your voice earlier, this could be even better. Best of luck!

Stephsco said...

Hello, thanks for sharing your work.

The first line of your query can be cut. Talking about ordinary people and ordinary things does not engage a reader/agent. But sentence two does--you want to begin there.

I would suggest instead of saying he is a semi-closeted gay man, which sticks out strangely since you don't revisit his sexuality in the query, I would show how his relationship with another man affects the story. Is that a subplot? You should describe it if is, that way later in the query you don't have to tell us it that the LGBTQ community will identify with it, and instead we can glean that intention based on what you've written. Meaning, instead of telling us: this has LGBTQ themes, show those pieces of the story in the query.

I would also suggest spelling out the stakes in your book. Saying he needs to be true to himself is not quite enough conflict. So far, this is all set-up and we don't yet know what the stakes are for Brent if he doesn't participate in the shady show circuit. Is someone threatening his life if he quits? Does someone know his secret (since he hasn't come out) and is threatening to expose him? Why is he in this drug culture if he doesn't want to be? What happens if he quits? What happens if he doesn't? Make sure to answer those questions in the query.

I would suggest nixing that first line, making 2 paragraphs about your plot, and reducing the last paragraph to just title, word count and perhaps a few comparative works. Instead of saying who will like your book (something you don't really know) suggest a similar work: for fans of x (a book in your genre with a similar theme). Or I've seen it's X (movie/book) meets Y (contrasting movie/book).

The voice in your first words is nice, I get a real feel for the story that matches up with a lot of what's in your query.

Best of luck!

Jane Ann McLachlan said...

Hi. This is an interesting comment and could make a very good story. In your query, you could drop the first sentence and go straight to the second sentence. Start with a hook, something that will grab the agent's attention.
The same can be said for your first 150 words. They are simply an info dump. Start a story with action, emotion or some kind of tension or mystery. Work in the necessary info later.
Who is the narrator of the first 150 words? The author speaking directly to the reader is no longer done. If you're describing something, it has to be from someone's POV and you should make it clear whose. The sentence about ears popping is a direct comment from you to the reader. Find another way, later on, to describe this scene as one of the characters in the story is seeing it.
I do think this story has great potential.