Wednesday, March 14, 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 Ms. Faust:

Thank you for the opportunity to submit to the BookEnds Literary Agency query workshop. Don’t Mess with Mick is a completed Romantic Suspense of 75,000 words.

This is a great opening. Succinct and respectful.

Amateur photographer, Rachel Copeland, is in trouble. An early morning wildlife shoot at the deserted Salton Sea, soon becomes a shoot-em-up. And she is the one being fired at. Held at gunpoint, and her male attacker demanding her camera, she fights back and escapes.

Newly transferred detective, Michael Delaney, is on surveillance at the sea. Rumors have circulated that a Mexican Kingpin and his brother, who evaded capture when their drug compound was toppled by a U.S. DEA agent, are out for revenge. It’s Michael’s assignment to find them before they can identify the agent who has turned civilian and resides in one of the California desert cities.

Hearing gunfire, Michael gives chase. He apprehends the guy only to find an angry, but very sexy, redheaded woman. She tells him she was shot at, had her camera stolen, was subjected to a harrowing highway chase (by him), and she is grieving the recent disappearance of Grandpa Henry, a wildlife photographer and her only living relative.

The above paragraphs read like a synopsis of the beginning of your manuscript. We don’t need to know exactly what happens, play by play. Instead, we want to know who the characters are, what their conflict is, what is standing in their way and how they might get around it. We need the larger scope of your story.

Michael learns Henry’s isolated cabin is at the edge of the Salton Sea, and that he has a dark room. He’s convinced that photographs might hold a clue to the whereabouts of Henry, and the Saurez brothers. Rachel is sure that Henry is not dead, and Michael begins to believe her. While they uncover clues, and their mutual attraction grows, someone is waiting for them to produce what he needs, and then he has a plan of his own: to extinguish them both.

This last paragraph comes the closest to telling me the gist of the story, but it should be expanded to the size of the whole query and should absorb pieces of (but not all) of the paragraphs above it. The skeleton of the story here is that two people need to find the same guy—Grandpa Henry—for different reasons and they come together to make that happen. But we don’t learn this information until the last paragraph and by that point, you seem to be wrapping up.

I am a member of RWA and the Los Angeles chapter, LARA, and have attended many of your panels at the national RWA conference, and also enjoy your daily blog. Should you wish to read more of Don’t Mess with Mick, it is completed.


Although I think there is an intriguing story here, I would reject this query because it takes some time to get to the point and I worry that would continue in the full manuscript. I wish you the best of luck!



Lauren B. said...

I love the setting and the title is snappy, though maybe a little lighthearted for the genre?

I agree that the query needs to be a little tighter and have a bit of a broader scope. I also expected a little more emphasis on the romantic elements, since plenty of suspense stories have a male/female pairing and sexual tension without qualifying the genre as 'romantic'.

This is nitpicky, but there were also a few instances of sloppy comma usage in the query. I'd polish that up just so you don't give any unintentional impressions that the manuscript hasn't been polished, either.

Sounds like an exciting story.

Colin Smith said...

I also got the feeling I was reading a synopsis, not a query. I think I understand how the writer structured the query: para 1, introduce MC 1; para 2, introduce MC 2; para 3, how their lives intersect; para 4, the story. But I don't think this really works. As Lauren said, the whole query should be about telling the story.

Also, there were some points of confusion. For example, it says, "He apprehends the guy only to find an angry, but very sexy, redheaded woman." But in the first paragraph we are told that Rachel fought back against her assailant and escaped. Either I'm misunderstanding, or something was edited out that makes sense of this.

One recommendation I would make would be for the writer to try re-writing the query from the POV of just one of the MCs. Keep it third person, but introduce Michael from Rachel's POV, for example, and describe the danger and conflict as she sees it. This exercise will, at least, help the writer focus the query on the story's essence.

Just my 2-cents.

Just Another Writer said...

The commas in this query really tripped me up. They interrupted the flow, and several of them were used incorrectly.

There should be no commas around the characters' names.


Amateur photographer Rachel Copeland is in trouble. An early morning wildlife shoot at the deserted Salton Sea soon becomes a shoot-em-up.

And so on.

sarahhawthorne said...

I'm getting tripped up on Rachel's involvement. Is she involved because she took the wrong picture at that early morning shoot? Or is she involved because she's looking for her missing grandfather? She seems to have two separate and seemingly unrelated motivations.

Actually, on second reading, now I'm wondering - is this about a picture she took earlier, not at the early morning shoot? In that case, I would suggest changing the language to something like:

Amateur photographer, Rachel Copeland, is in trouble. First her beloved Grandpa Henry disappears. Now her shoots are turning into shoot-outs with a mysterious attacker after her camera.

Cindy Dwyer said...

Maybe it's just me being from the East Coast, but I didn't know of Salton Sea before I looked it up online. For the sake of the query, does it matter exactly where she is? The fact that she is shooting wildlife implies at least some element of seclusion.

You wrote "He apprehends the guy only to find an angry, but very sexy, redheaded woman". This confused me because I thought she had gotten away. Then I'm not sure what he does with the suspect when he and Rachel are looking for Henry.

I love Sarah Hawthorne's suggested wording!

Take another look at your query and ask yourself which details DON'T we need. Does it matter that the detective is newly transferred, or that the agent resides in a desert city, for example?

I think you have a compelling story. The reader will want to know what's on those photos. Polish the query and I bet you'll get requests for pages.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

I don’t think an agent will accept this because of the numerous problems.

“An early morning wildlife shoot at the deserted Salton Sea, soon becomes a shoot-em-up.”

Actually, it is not a shoot-em-up unless two parties are shooting, bad western movie style.

“And she is the one being fired at.”

Being shot at would work better given two uses of the word in previous sentences.

“Held at gunpoint, and her male attacker demanding her camera, she fights back and escapes.”

She might escape by stealth, but fighting back and escaping strains credulity.

“Newly transferred detective, Michael Delaney, is on surveillance at the sea.”

This is clumsy. Better to say “Detective Michael Delaney is in the area searching for a Mexican kingpin who evaded capture by the DEA and is believed to be in the area.”

Somehow I don’t think “their drug compound” would be “toppled” by a single DEA agent, especially if it was in a foreign country.

The phrase “the agent who has turned civilian and resides in one of the California desert cities” is also clumsy. Better to say he resides in L.A., San iego, Carmel, or wherever.

“He apprehends the guy only to find an angry, but very sexy, redheaded woman.”

Angry redhead is a cliche. Also, why would he apprehend “the guy” only to find a woman instead? Where is the guy he apprehended?

I think you need to mess with Mick some more and fix some of these problems.