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QUESTION: Hello Catherine,

In trying to compose the perfect letter (a  "Query" letter, wouldn't you know), I'm dithering over whether to exclude a certain two words. Given they are predicated upon TWO earlier stated criteria, (meaning, "those two things") I am torn over leaving-in the words, "such as", or if it is correct simply to say, "that".
"That" is singular--but "such as" sounds too stuffy.

The context of "life", btw, is that of Frankenstein's monster".

>>>
(Capitals are for highlighing purposes here only.)

“My ‘life’ of writing is only starting. Unique to the material, I am further and perversely provided with ultimate qualification by the otherwise dissonant circumstance of (....)  Only SUCH AS that could spawn the iconoclastic perspective needed to...”
<<<

Opinion?

Regards,
Dan O'Hanlon

ANSWER: Dear Dan,

My first instinct is to tone down the entire paragraph and write in a less formal, "highfalutin'," confusing manner -- UNLESS you are trying to show, through impersonation, etc., what Frankenstein's actual speaking patterns would be; in that case, the paragraph works and is a quite novel approach.

In either case, yes, do omit the "such as"; "that" will suffice.

I hope this helps -- please let me know if I've perhaps misread or misinterpreted something --

All Best,
Catherine Van Herrin




---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Hello again, Catherine.

Sometimes I fall over myself, trying to make things as easy as possible for those around me. Accordingly, your helpful comments now have me wondering if, in my having attempted to "shorthand" the paragraph, the result did indeed critically alter the hue. Accordingly, it seems the only way I have of considering if "highfaltin" is an appropriate criticism (and it may well be) is and reluctantly, to labor you with the whole paragraph--the last and "author's bio". This attempts the onerous task of getting past that most difficult hurdle of all, the "unqualified" first-time non-fiction writer. So, here it is: (Italics are there shown in capitals.)

Perhaps should know also, the subject matter fundamentally requires academia and the popular audience meeting somewhere in the middle. A tough job.

>>>
"The veteran of a childhood that somehow made even Vietnam seem a doodle, my being also an expatriate former Green Beret makes me the archetypal modern embodiment of an artificially constructed, well-meant but infamously misunderstood “baby-killer” warrior outcast. Thus, the MASTERPLANS are documented by someone who has himself lived a mythic existence eerily similar to the monster’s own. My “life” of writing is only starting. Unique to the material, the otherwise dissonant circumstance of being academically “unqualified” also and perversely provides me with ultimate qualification. No Frankenstein, no “scholar”, only that could spawn the iconoclastic perspective needed to clobber the self-aggrandizing and historically sterile "VICTOR-VIEW" implicit to two centuries of “scholarship” on things Frankensteinian. Now, the modern incarnation of the monster inside us all is wondering if, finally, He can have HIS say."
<<<

Perhaps I have tuned the language too high. I'd value your opinion.

Regards,
Dan O'Hanlon




ANSWER: Dear Dan,

I can't believe it. I just wrote the entire answer and somehow hit the wrong key and lost it all! So I'll attempt to rewrite what I did before. I hate it when that happens!

First, you are not "unqualified," as you say in this letter. You have a very dignified way of writing, which is sadly lacking in so much of our literature these days, such as it is. You also tend to use "quote marks" too much in this letter.

Second, I simply still do not know what you are trying to say in some instances, as I will show you below, in your text, in which my comments will be IN UPPERCASE AND [IN BRACKETS].

You just have to tone this down a bit; editors/agents will simply glance at this letter; they will scan it -- and if they see anything that stands out in a negative manner, such as the obvious misspellings, typos, or illiteracies they receive, they will toss it right out.

They will also throw away anything that appears too cute, too obscure, or a dramatic epic that reads too much like a thesis statement. And they will also bypass anything they are unable to understand, which is the case here, I believe.

I know this to be true: I was a slush-pile editor for two years, and during this time, I became a bona fide query-letter snob. Please do not tell anyone; no one else knows, and I have since most sincerely tried to overcome it. SMILE


YOUR TEXT:
"The veteran of a childhood that somehow made even Vietnam seem a doodle, my being also an expatriate former Green Beret makes me the archetypal modern embodiment of an artificially constructed, well-meant but infamously misunderstood “baby-killer” warrior outcast. Thus, the MASTERPLANS are documented by someone who has himself lived a mythic existence eerily similar to the monster’s own. My “life” of writing is only starting. [DON'T SAY THIS. NONE OF THEIR BUSINESS.]

Unique to the material, the otherwise dissonant circumstance of being academically “unqualified” [STOP PUTTING LIMITS ON YOURSELF. TURN THIS INTO A POSITIVE.]

also and perversely provides me with ultimate qualification.

No Frankenstein, no “scholar”, only that could spawn the iconoclastic perspective needed to clobber the self-aggrandizing and historically sterile "VICTOR-VIEW" implicit to two centuries of “scholarship” on things Frankensteinian. [THIS IS WHERE I BEGIN TO REALLY GET LOST. IS THERE A VERB OR A PERSONAL PRONOUN MISSING SOMEWHERE? I DO NOT KNOW WHAT YOU ARE TRYING TO SAY.]

Now, the modern incarnation of the monster inside us all is wondering if, finally, He can have HIS say." [VERY GOOD FLAIR]


I hope this makes more sense to you - if not, please send another follow-up.

All Best,
Catherine Van Herrin


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Hello again, Catherine.



Having (I think) corrected the problems you highlighted, I include the result below only to satisfy any curiosity you may have. Although a further critique would be welcomed, actually to ask for—or to expect—one, and a second time would, I think, be impertinent of me. (To put all in context—and to borrow a phrase from my Preface—“The Masterplans are not ‘about’ Frankenstein. They are about what Frankenstein is about. There’s a difference.”

The result leads to new confusion. Given the pile of  (perhaps way too many) "How to Write That Query Letter/Proposal" ~type books that I have at my elbow, you have recommended removing two of those very items so many other advisors specifically insist on including in the Bio paragraph:

1) Gist-over your track record.
2) Gist-over (in non-fiction) your qualifications. If short on expected academic qualifications, try to turn that deficit into a positive.

You, of course, being a real person (who has walked the walk) and not a book, you well have the upper hand—and so, my actual question:

Should a query letter really leave a prospective Lit Agent in the dark on these two points?

Regards,
Dan
(p.s. your secret is safe with me!)

>>>
An artificially constructed, well-meant, but infamously misunderstood “baby-killer” warrior outcast, I am an expatriate former Green Beret. Being also a veteran of a childhood that somehow made even Vietnam seem a doodle makes me the archetypal embodiment of a modern monster. Frankenstein is the pinnacle of cases where, not ignorance, but too much “education” has ever been the blinding factor. Thus, am I supremely qualified. Knowledgeable, able, yet uncorrupted by "form" ~al education, if humanity wants the truth here, it doesn’t need another "profess" ~or; it needs a monster like me. Only that could spawn the iconoclastic perspective needed to K.O. the self-aggrandizing and historically sterile Victor-view implicit to two centuries of so-called “scholarship” on things Frankensteinian. Now, the modern incarnation of the monster inside us all is wondering if, finally, He can have HIS say.

He thanks you... (etc.)  
<<<


Answer
Dear Dan,

Thanks for the nice feedback you have left for me; I sincerely appreciate that -- you are very kind.

In answer to your question, I don't see the omission of your educational credentials (or lack thereof) as leaving someone in the dark, so to speak, but again, as we've both agreed, it is always best, of course, to turn a potential negative into a positive.

Honestly, an editor does not care whether you've spent the last 12 years trying to build ant farms in the Sahara; if you can write, you can write. Consider J.K. Rowling, writing in a cafe while on unemployment, a newborn at her side. The manuscript will speak for itself.

So let it talk, and you just step aside! SMILE

All Best,
Catherine Van Herrin  

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Catherine Van Herrin

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I am an American-born, native English speaker with a BA in English and more than 26 years of professional editing, writing, and proofreading experience. I have edited several books and book-length manuscripts. References and titles available upon request.

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More than 26 years' U.S. publishing industry experience, editorial (print). I provide crystal-clear, clean grammar; strict attention to style, consistency, flow, logic, accuracy, and spelling, and I work quickly and efficiently.

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