Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Workshop Wednesday

Thanks to all of your contributions, Workshop Wednesday has been a success. We're going to continue on with it for as long as we have entries and the energy to comment on them. If you haven't yet submitted but are still interested, 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 Jessica Faust,

The day Claire has prayed for the last ten years has somehow become an inescapable nightmare. Her best friend Alice woke up from her coma but Claire's guilt did not lessen. Jackson returned home with Alice and Claire is still just as heartbroken. More than that, she's terrified of what happens next. Claire failed to realize what their return would really mean - her reprieve is over.

I'm definitely intrigued by this because I sense that there's something about the overall story that sounds interesting. I love the idea of praying for what might be considered a miracle and when it happens realizing the nightmare hasn't ended. That being said, I don't think this paragraph, or this query, is particularly well written, and for that reason I have major reservations about wanting to read more.

I have no idea what you mean by "Jackson returned home with Alice and Claire...." Who is Jackson? Returned home from where? The hospital? Still heartbroken from what? And "just as" heartbroken as Claire, Alice or as he was earlier? None of this makes any sense here and I'm getting no sense of the story. I like the idea that Claire's guilt did not lessen, but lessen over what? I'm missing huge chunks of the story here.
I have no idea where these people are returning from or what sort of reprieve Claire had. Basically, I have far more questions than answers.

The happiness Claire has longed for is overshadowed by her fear. Alice's accident was not the only consequence of their last night together. Now, Claire has something more important than their friendship to lose - a daughter she would do anything to protect.

This feels a tad stronger, and only a tad. That doesn't mean I would recommend keeping it. I still don't understand the setup or how they got where they are or where this daughter comes in.

Claire knows in her heart that Jackson belongs with Alice. Resisting him will be easy. This time, Claire is older, smarter and she has a very good reason to stay as far away from Jackson Montgomery as possible. Besides, her love for him was replaced with hate the second he abandoned her. Or at least that's what she thinks until she takes one look into his eyes.

So in the opening I would have assumed this was women's fiction, but now I realize it's a romance, and that throws me.

Reawakened is a 70,000 word contemporary romance novel. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Overall I think you're going to have a hard time getting any traction with this query. It tells bits of what a story could be, but doesn't really tell me anything about your story. Most important, it doesn't give me the confidence that you could actually write an entire book.



Jeff Carney said...

Agreed. I see no reason to be so coy about the accident. You can tease your reader (assuming you do it well) but a query needs to be more up front about what's going on.

Anonymous said...

Nice critique. The writer is definitely being coy, and there's no need for that in a business letter (which, essentially, a query is). Give hard facts: Who's Claire? Where is this taking place? What was the accident? What was at stake?

Depending so much on emotions doesn't help the reader understand what's going on. We don't know the characters, so we really don't care what they're feeling (yet). ;o)

Good luck with the rewrite!


Julie Daines said...

I have to agree with what's already been said. The query doesn't make sense and it depends too much on emotions.

Tracy said...

I would begin this query: Claire has prayed for the day her best friend Alice would waken from her coma but when she does (insert whatever horrible thing occurred).

The guilt you referred to that didn't lessen--I can't see a reason for the feeling. At least not without searching the entire letter for it. When you introduce the feelings of guilt would be the time to mention that she has feelings for her best friend's husband and that she's hiding the fact that her child is also his.

This set up is ripe with tension. However, considering their circumstances, it might be difficult for me to cheer on this hero and heroine to their happily ever after.

Susan Spann said...

To me, it seems as though the author was concerned about "giving away" too much of the plot - either because this query would be published online or because of a general fear that someone (including an agent) might steal the story. That's a common fear in new writers, but unfounded. From a copyright perspective, there's really no concern about giving away a summary and, as Jessica points out, an agent really needs some meat to sink teeth and an opinion into.

My advice to the author is this: pretend you are talking to someone who read 200 books in your genre this year, but can't remember which book was yours. Summarize your book in 2-3 sentences. "My book was the one in which..."

Then cut off the bit I put in quotes above and revise your wording so it's smooth. If it seems convoluted, your story probably is convoluted too. If it flows, you will have a nice summary to start with in your query. You might not use it exactly that way, but it's a start.

Anonymous said...

I had to read the first sentence three times to figure out what it meant.

Laura W. said...

Weird, but I read the back cover of a YA novel whose plot is almost exactly this. The shy sister of a girl in a coma from an accident finds out she's not so excited to have her outgoing sister back after all, not least because of an awkward boyfriend issue. I think one of them may even have been named Claire...not sure.

My main issue with this query is that I don't think the main character sounds at all sympathetic. "I really really want my best friend to come out of her coma...except...not really, because I'm selfish and there's a guy involved..." It's understandable that she'd feel conflicted/guilty, but the query makes her sound like a hypocritical b****.

Julie Nilson said...

Also, a minor point: "Jackson Montgomery" is the name of a longtime romantic hero character on All My Children. Character names aren't a copyright issue, but since it's an unusual name and romance novels and soaps probably have a fair amount of audience overlap...

Shadow said...

Scrambled query or not, this is not a book I would read. The comments above hit spot-on. Going on the evidence in the query alone, this is a book about nothing. My advice would be, start at the meat of the story, then go into a bit of backdrop. Give the query to someone who doesn't know your story, and see if it confuses them. If it does... you have a problem.

newmancht said...

Wow...maybe I'm just dense, but I have absolutely no idea what this book is about....and I doubt any prospective agent would either. I think (humbly) that I can sum up what's missing from this query in one word: CLARITY.

Look, I know you're intimately familiar with your book...and it's probably a good one too, but you want to step outside that and provide clear, valuable info illustrating who the protagonist and antagonist are and what the conflict is. Otherwise, it's just a bunch of drivel to an agent. If there's confusion in your query, it'll go nowhere. Make it clear what the point of your story is. No being coy allowed.