Sunday, May 4, 2008

#20- 2 revisions

Dear Query Shark:

I'd like to submit my novel The Raptor to you. It's the first in a projected trilogy featuring a psychic detective who works for the FBI finding missing children.
It is complete at 80,000 words.
Thank you for your kind attention,


This isn't a query letter. It's not even the hook for a query letter. It's not a log line.

Synopsis: Some people have nightmares...Others live in them. Rachel Martin works in the F.B.I. as a crime scene expert but her dreams solve the mysteries. She can visit that place between the world of the living and the world of the dead, and the dead show her
what happened to them. Then three girls vanish without a trace. The only clue is the date they disappeared. Rachel knows who committed the crime, but without proof and without
any bodies, she can't accuse anyone. And the person she wants to accuse is above reproach, who kills for pleasure, and who has decided to destroy Rachel.



This isn't a synopsis either, it's the set up for the story.

Biography: (redacted.)

Address:(redacted)

First five pages:




The purpose of a query letter is to entice an agent to read on. This is a packing list instead of a of a word picture of the contents of the box, or a list of ingredients for a cake rather than a taste of the cake itself.

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Revision

Dear Ms. Reid,

Rachel Martin is a crime scene expert who talks to dead people and finds missing persons to help Scotland Yard. When her husband and baby son are killed in an accident, Rachel returns to her hometown and locks herself in her house.

Talks to dead people is a cliche now, after the Bruce Willis movie.

She doesn't count on Stan Wheeler, one of her mother's best friends, seeking her out to be on his team at the FBI. He needs her talents. And out of love for Stan, Rachel agrees. But her first case may be her last.

If she's helping Scotland Yard, I've assumed she's in the UK. The FBI is in the US. Without any linkage here, it looks like a mishmash. And what does "locking herself in her house" or the death of her husband and son have to do with any of the plot that follows?

Three young girls have vanished on the same day a year apart, and no trace of them has ever been found. Were they runnaways or victims of a kidnapper? Only one thing links them together - a park in the middle of the city with a rowing club, a school for troubled teens, and a psychiatric hospital on the vast grounds. And then a fourth girl vanishes.
One of the girl's visions tell Rachel that the girls weren't runaways, but victims of a monster - a killer who commits perfect crimes.

This is actually your hook paragraph. Put this first.

Rachel knows who the killer is, (how?) but knowledge is not proof, and a dead girl's words are worthless in court. There's no way to prove the killer's guilt. To save the missing girl, Rachel has to lure a monster from its lair. When the killer discovers what Rachel knows and decides to destroy her, everyone around her is in danger.

If the only thing Rachel has going for her is that she talks to dead people, this is a non-starter, cause it just doesn't feel fresh any more. Once a gimmick like this has been in a movie, it's really hard to use it in a book without sounding derivative.

The completed manuscript of The Raptor, 80,000 words, is available. This is not a multiple query.

You're going to waste a LOT of time if you only query one agent at a time. No one expects exclusive queries. Some agents want exclusives if they are reading the entire ms, but exclusive queries..nope.

Thank you for your kind attention,


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REVISION #2


Three young girls have vanished on the same day a year apart, and no trace of them has ever been found. Were they runnaways or victims of a kidnapper? Only two things link them together - the date they vanished and a park in the middle of the city with a rowing club, a school for troubled teens, and a psychiatric hospital on the vast grounds. And then a fourth girl vanishes.

You don't need every detail. Right now you're building interest. We need to know there isn't much to link the three girls but we don't need a run down of all the buildings in the park.

Rachel Martin has been working for the FBI as a psychic consultant for years now, but psychics get no respect in the police department and Rachel hears the whispers behind her back. At work and at home she tries to play down her psychic abilities, telling everyone that she's a crime scene expert and that she's simply good a puzzles. But she can't get rid of her reputation - the 'loony lady'.

There's no segue between paragraphs one and two.

Then her boss, Stan Wheeler, gets permission from the FBI to make a whole new crime-expert team. A team especially trained in finding missing children. Rachel goes from consultant to full-time member of a brand new team of agents. There's Chris, the kidnapping and crime scene expert, Jesse, the profiler, Omar, the information and computer expert and Rachel - who feels like a fraud in the middle of the highly trained professionals. But none of them can hear the voices of the dead, or see the things they saw just before they died.


Too many names. It's impossible to keep them all straight, and you end up with this crazy quilt of names and description. We need to know Rachel is now a member of a brand new team that takes her psychic abilities seriously..or doesn't. That's ALL.


When the fourth girl vanishes, the girl's visions tell Rachel that the girls weren't runaways, but victims of a monster - a killer who commits perfect crimes. Secretly in love with her boss, Stan, and trying to find a way to work with Chris Winter, who hates everything about her psychic abilities, Rachel makes a mistake - and the murderer finds out that Rachel knows everything - but can't prove anything. Now the killer is killing Rachel's family and friends, and is determined to drive Rachel insane before killing her too. But the killer has underestimated Rachel. She's more dangerous than anyone can imagine, and she's already thought of the perfect way to kill the monster.

Again, you've got so much extra stuff here it's hard to see the plot of the book. Pare DOWN. This isn't the place for a lot of detail.

The Raptor is the first of a projected trilogy and is complete at 80,000 words.

9 comments:

beth said...

The problem I have with this is that I don't really get a sense of what makes this story unique. There are tons of stories out there about the psychic who solves crimes. Variations on that idea include Medium, Ghost Whisperer, even that new movie, 88 Minutes. A psychic crime-solver just isn't that unique any more...and it sounds as if the author is trying to make that be the unique thing.
What really makes this one different?

BuffySquirrel said...

Movies reach such large audiences that they're the kiss of death to many an idea. Only yesterday a story in slush with a "protag sees ghosts" storyline got a first-line rejection from me.

Not only has talking to dead people been done, but so has the "detective turned victim" angle. At the very least, this needs a third angle that is a novel plot idea, or it needs a shiny new take on its tried-and-tested ideas. Sorry :).

Josh Everett Ryan said...

"even that new movie 88 Minutes"?

I haven't seen the movie, but everything I know about it says that's about a forensic psychologist trying to solve a murder.... not a psychic. Two totally, entirely different things.

I like the idea for the book. I mean, I find it intriguing, though it has been done before.

kitty said...

I'm not an agent. I'm just a reader, and I know everything's been done before. So I'm not looking for something "new" or "fresh" or "unique." I'm looking for a damned good story that's well written. This idea has potential.

...

BuffySquirrel said...

Heh, colour me as the person who feels she's seen everything before, and does need something new or fresh before she'll get interested :). Even if it is just a fresh take on an old idea.

beth said...

I agree...if I'm going to invest the time buying a book from the bookstore and reading it, I expect something new. As is, I wouldn't buy this book. It sounds like too many other things that have already been done.

ChrisEldin said...

Can you also give your query letter some of your novel's voice?

I think it's also vague, which is why it sounds similar to Missing, etc.

Flesh it out more and see what happens...

Margaret Yang said...

I see a lot of improvement between versions one and two. I'd like to see another version that is even better. I think the querier can do it.

Seeing a query go from so-so to better to best is why I visit this blog. Keep trying, writer!

Margaret Yang said...

Each revision gets a little bit closer. Don't give up. Much as we praise those who are ready right out of the gate, we learn more from step-by-step changes. Keep trying!