Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Workshop Wednesday

By repeated request we've started Workshop Wednesday. It will definitely play out through 2011, and beyond that we'll just have to see. We've received well over 200 queries at this point, but we are choosing at random, so don't be afraid to participate as per the guidelines in our original post.

For anyone wanting to comment, we ask that you comment in a polite and respectful manner, and we ask that you be as constructive as possible. If you can be useful to the brave souls who submitted their query and comment on the query, that's great. Please keep any anonymous tirades on publishing or other snarky comments to yourself. This is and should remain an open and safe forum for people to put themselves and their queries out there so that everyone can learn. I'm leaving comments open and open to anonymous posters, as I always have; don't make me feel the need to change that policy.

And for those who have never "met" Query Shark, get over there and do that. She's the originator of the query critique, the queen, if you will.

Dear Query Shark,

Obviously this is addressed to the wrong agent. In the grand scheme of things I don't care about this and am sometimes amused and interested to see who else is receiving the query.

Sam Collins believed from an early age he was destined for something great -- to fulfill a mission in life bigger than himself.

Which is why he wants to die.

This is a very intriguing opening. These first two sentences grab my attention and make me want to read more.

Dear BookEnds,

Oops. Looks to me like maybe you were in the middle of a draft and hit send. Again. It happens. I will keep reading, but make sure you proofread before sending queries. In fact, write the query without a name in the "to" section, and then when it's sat for a bit, send after rereading a few times.

Up until now, Sam's life has been anything but great. His father abandoned him when he was 10, his wife was killed in a car accident, and now the only thing he has to show for his life is a lousy newspaper reporter job and an addiction to alcohol and painkillers.

Good. I get an idea of who Sam is. I like this so far.

But that all changes when Sam investigates a seemingly random murder just outside of Seattle. What he discovers begins to unravel a secret society dating back centuries and spanning the globe. What comes next will change Sam's life forever -- and perhaps help him fulfill his untold destiny.

I think this is very interesting. I think you've written a good query and I like your voice. One big tip, though: I don't think you brought it home. I think you'll get a few requests based on this, but they are going to be few and far between. To bring this home you need to first bring it back to the beginning. You've stressed earlier that Sam felt he was destined for greatness, but his life has not been great. Now Sam finally has that chance. Spell that out in the query.

Second, you hint at the secret society and how it will change Sam's life forever and that's your hook, and that's what this query is missing. One or two more sentences expanding on that will bring this home. I was thinking of it in terms of the Da Vinci Code, because your book made me think of the Da Vinci Code (Don't mention that in your query, though). It wouldn't bring you to the book to say that Robert Langdon got a call about a secret society that was going to change his life forever. That makes the book sound rather, eh. Instead you want to bring it home. Symbologist Robert Langdon discovers the murdered body of the curator of the Louvre and near him, a baffling cipher. While working to solve the riddle, Langdon discovers it leads to a trail of clues that could unveil the Holy Grail. In a race through Paris, London and Rome, Langdon matches wits with a faceless powerbroker who seems to anticipate his every move. Unless he can solve the puzzle in time, the Holy Grail could be lost forever.

(FYI--I heavily stole from the cover flap for that, and not very well, but I'm hoping it gives you an idea of what I mean by bringing it home.)

THE GIFTER is a 70,000 word mystery/thriller novel.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


The last few sentences and sign-off are fine. Great job.



Richard said...

im more a reader than a writer, but since i have a blog myself i have to write something. Id rather take pictures which i really enjoy. Richard from Lebanon countys Amish community.

scifi13 said...

Woohoo!!! My first ever comment and I'm first! Darn it - just noticed I was pipped to the post.

Aside from the 'Dear Queryshark" debacle, which I am sure the author is embarrassed about I like this query for a number of reasons:

It's short and to the point, without going into loads of detail about the main part of the plot. I also like the opening lines as a hook.

The main thing I like though, is the manner in which the MC's past history is addressed. In other queries that I've read on sites such as queryshark (I've just got through the entire site), that kind of character description sometimes seems to appear as if it is backstory. Here, however, it serves to not only illuminate us on the protags life, but also does so in such a way that it reveals some of his personality as well.

Anyway, I'm a newbie at this so these are just my opinions, but those are the things I liked.

WV: Litoe - low calorie toes.

Justin Holley said...

"Bring it home." Now that really struck a chord with me, Jessica. Thanks. It's really the difference between being good and being great...both in queries and in the story.

Lehcarjt said...

One more idea on 'bringing it home...'

The hook of the query is the protag wanting to die rather than fullfill his destiny. That is where it starts, and really, that is what is different about this.

The ending could circle back to deepen and/or explain that desire. But it doesn't. The ending gives a second hook (secret society). Can you either link these two or perhaps pick one of them to by the hook and de-emphasize the other?

Overall, I thought this was a decent query. I got a feel for the scope of the story and the character.

Laila Knight said...

I learned plenty from this one. Thank you for going into detail about achieving the perfect hook. I have trouble making a query sound as interesting as my actual manuscript, and it drives me insane. When I transform it from okay to outstanding I'm going to have to query you.

Your are also very understanding about the the "Dear Queryshark". Other agents would toss it out just on that basis.

Robena Grant said...

Thanks to the author for sharing. This was a good query, it drew me in and made me want to take the journey with that main character.

But you're right (of course) two more sentences and it would be great.: )

Sharla Lovelace said...

I agree, that "fulfilling destiny" remark needs to be spelled out with how.

And I kept wanting to know why he wants to die. Never got back to that.

Kristin Laughtin said...

I like it, but agree that the part about the secret society needs to be punched up just a little bit in order to bring the query home. The beginning mentions that he'd rather die than fulfill this grand destiny (and not just because his life sucks)--why? Give us a hint of why he'd rather avoid fulfilling it.

Like scifi13 said, though, there's a perfect amount of backstory here, and it also helps show who the character is. I get a sense of what his mindset must be as a result of his experiences, even though there's not a lot of length or detail. Good job!

Peace, Lena and Happiness said...

I may have read this wrong, but I got the impression that he wanted to die in order to fulfill a destiny greater than himself (or his life). So if that's not the case, maybe that should be clarified somehow, although I'm not sure how to do that w/o destroying your brilliant hook.

About the query shark thing--it happens. I once spelled an agent's name wrong in a query. The next day, I got a polite rejection. With my name misspelled.

Ah, well, it was good for a laugh.

Michael Seese said...

(Forgive me if this is a duplicate. I'm a computer guy, and I have trouble getting these @#$%#& posts to work. Grrr!)

I agree with the comments that the author does a nice job of quickly setting the stage: reporter, widower, alcoholic, Seattle, wants to die. I especially like the last one, though I am biased since (if you'll tolerate a blatant commercial) one of the tales in a collection of short stories I'm currently working on features a heroine who -- as learn on page 2 or so -- is going to die.

I think the main problem is that when he used the term "secret society," I couldn't help but think Dan Brown. Yes, I realize Mr. Brown was not the first author to write a thriller involving a secret society. But let's face it, he's largely cornered the market with three best sellers this decade. My suggestion: perhaps be a little more vague, and use a phrase like "uncover a long-kept secret." Admittedly it's close, but not so close as to enter the Angels & Demons / Da Vinci / Lost Symbol space, which to some is hallowed ground.

Just my $0.02.