Several months ago I ran across a contest sponsored by Moonrat on her blog. (Moonrat is an editorial assistant at a publishing house—you can read her profile if you’re curious.) She has a friend who is receiving treatment for cancer and has no health insurance. Not only is Moonrat an insider who generously offers advice to those of us trying to get published, she’s wonderful to her friends as well. She created a raffle, offering her feedback to those interested. I purchased one chance at her reviewing a partial manuscript. And out of 252 entries, I was lucky and got selected.
I waited a while before submitting and then asked her to review the first 50 pages of Center Court Seats and a Pair of Jimmy Choos, a romantic comedy that I wrote along with my friend Joan. Joan and I met for lunch one day at Mimi’s Café in Lewisville and hammered out the story idea. A year later, we were done. Joan took on the writing of the character Mimi (named in honor of the place where she was conceptualized), a romance author. And I decided to write her sister Jac, an investigative reporter for a fictionalized Dallas newspaper. (Later we’d muse about how the story might have unfolded had we written the other’s character.)
Here’s an excerpt from our query letter to help you understand the storyline:
Dallas reporter JACLYN LIVINGSTON considers romance writing the fallback for wannabe journalists. Her sister, romance author MIMI, becomes exasperated by Jac's attitude and presents an improbable challenge: Jac must write a novel and get a publishing contract within six months. Since Jac doesn't read romance, and her non-existent love life can't possibly inspire her, Mimi assumes the bet is hers to win. As Jac dives headfirst into the contest, Mimi discovers her boyfriend cheating on her—with her agent. Unaware that her sister is using her misfortune as a storyline, Mimi struggles to put her life back together while Jac finds love in a most unexpected place.
Through mishap and betrayal, sexy trysts and serendipitous twists, the sisters discover that in life, as in fiction, you can't always stick to the outline. And pursuing the subplots can lead to a better ending than the one you planned to write.
So we sent off the entry to Moonrat along with our query letter since she offered to critique that as well (Did I mention she’s generous?), and this is an excerpt from her response:
"This is a very clean--almost impeccable!--manuscript, and an engrossing read. You guys are in really good shape. I only tended to mark things up when I wanted to suggest a change, so if you're basing a judgment on what you see marked up in the document you're bound to think I didn't like it, which is NOT TRUE even vaguely.
Congratulations on all your hard work! Please remember that anything--ANYTHING!!--I've marked up is just a suggestion. Obviously my feelings will not even be vaguely hurt (I won't even know!) if you just override what I've put in. But I hope that some of it at least is helpful to you!
This, ladies, was a very enjoyable read. I sincerely hope that someone snaps it up in a heartbeat!"
Joan and I then spent some time reviewing and accepting her suggestions and now I have to make those changes to our manuscript so we can begin querying more agents. I’ll be sure to let everyone know what response we get.