Monday, June 23, 2008

#47-two revisions

We met at the Writer’s Digest Writer’s Conference/BEA Convention on May 28th in Los Angeles. Thank you for inviting me to post my query for Twisted Sisters, commercial women’s fiction complete at 65,000 words, on query shark.

Mikayla Trelane's nearly perfect life implodes when she learns her dead father isn’t, and worse, she apparently has an eight-year-old half-sister in peril. Mik is reluctant to become embroiled in her father’s petty criminal activities and even more reluctant to take on a young child she’s never met. Mik’s best friend, business partner, and only true family for the last ten years, Abby Willis, joins her on a rescue mission to El Salvador. Murder, theft, kidnapping, romance and a gun fight bring her to a horrible choice. Can she protect the only two people she counts as family, or will she have to choose only one of them to save?


"nearly perfect" is one of those phrases that makes me think caricature. Almost no one I know, particularly not twenty-somethings describe their life as "nearly perfect". Happy maybe, not bad, sure; but I can't think of anyone who says "nearly perfect" when you ask them how they're doing.

The reason I leap on this is that it's imprecise writing. I'm looking for precise "nearly perfect" (ha!) word choices.

I don't understand the connection between El Salvador and her not-dead father. I don't get why her 8year old sister needs to be rescued (there's a mom who should be on the scene not to mention other family in El Salvador)

There's no mention of an antagonist, and there's no plot.

What you have here is a list of things that happen and that's not a plot.


I am a member of Rose City Romance Writers and RWA. Upon request, I would be happy to provide a short synopsis, chapters, or the the full manuscript, as well as a rough outline for the next Mik Trelane book. Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

If you read other entries here in the Shark tank you'll see I loathe "look forward to hearing from you soon" but that's just me, and it's not going to stop me from reading pages.

What will stop me from asking though is that I don't really have a sense of what the book is about and why I should care about the characters.

Revise!

______________

Revision #1

#47 - revision:

We met at the Writer’s Digest Writer’s Conference/BEA Convention on May 28th in Los Angeles. Thank you for inviting me to post my query for Twisted Sisters, commercial women’s fiction complete at 65,000 words, on query shark.

Mike Trelane is a woman with a friend and business partner who is like a sister, and a lot of money to live the way she wants. Then she receives a mysterious package that contains a shocking video of the father she was certain had died ten years ago. Turns out not only is the old man still alive, but he wants Mik to fly down to El Salvador and take her half-sister, Nola, off his hands. She doesn't believe it's that simple, still how can she leave a little girl in the hands of her criminal father? Mik, accompanied by her best friend, Abby, returns to her dark past and everything starts to slip out of control.

well, she's not returning to her dark past, she's going to Central America, a place she's not been before right?

Mik's father won't sign-off on adoption papers for Nola unless Mik does a little "favor" for him.

And the reason Mik doesn't say adios papa and leave on the next plane is?

Mik tries to find a way around criminal activity, but still manages to cross paths with the local crime boss, igniting an imprudent passion. While Mik struggles with her reckless attraction for a man far more dangerous than her own parent, she must find an ancient artifact known as the "twisted sisters." This is a jade statue her father wants her to "collect" for him and then he promises to sign off on the adoption papers and hand over Nola.



When Nola is kidnapped by local thugs, Mik must trade the statue to save her. The showdown arrives in an empty warehouse with Abby held at one side and Nola at the other, both with knives to their throats. Mik must make an agonizing choice between them and though she saves Nola, Abby is injured. Mik finally takes Nola home to Portland Oregon, but Abby, traumatized by the violence and near death experience leaves with her boyfriend for Boston.

You don't need a complete rundown of the plot, just the stakes for Mik if she does what her father wants, or doesn't. Also this all seems amazingly improbable. Come get the sister you never knew you had, and oh by the way if you really want her you have to steal something for me? That defies logic to me but then I'm a cold cruel beast.

I am a member of Rose City Romance Writers and RWA. Upon request, I would be happy to provide a short synopsis, chapters, or the full manuscript, as well as a rough outline for the next Mik Trelane book. Thank you for your time and consideration.

You don't need a menu of items available. I'm pretty sure if I called you up and asked for any of those you'd cough them up. Use those precious few words for the important stuff.

Sincerely,
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#47 revision #2

We met at the Writer's Digest Writer's Conference/BEA Convention on May 28th in Los Angeles.


Mikayla Trelane receives a mysterious package that contains a disturbing video of the criminal father she was certain had died ten years ago. Not only is he still alive, but he wants Mik to fly down to El Salvador and take her half-sister, Nola, off his hands. Mik didn't know Nola even existed and despite a deeply ingrained distrust of her father, her conscience leads her to investigate.



Accompanied by her best friend, Abby, Mik returns to her childhood home in El Salvador and everything starts to slip out of control. Nola is only 8 and Mik immediately bonds with the girl. Their father won't sign-off on adoption papers, however, unless Mik does a little "favor" for him. Unfortunately getting her sister is not as easy as she hoped and she finds herself in a dangerous situation. When Nola is kidnapped by local thugs, Mik must find an ancient artifact known as the "Twisted Sisters." Mik must trade the statue to save Nola, but then Abby is also held hostage and Mik must make an agonizing choice between saving her new found sister or her best friend.



I am a member of Rose City Romance Writers and RWA. Thank you for your time and consideration.


Much better

11 comments:

sesgaia said...

Ok, I'm risking sounding really dumb here, but if you describe the elements of a plot, don't you end up with a "list of things that happen?" Could someone delineate the difference for me?

josheverettryan said...

I don't think the plot description should be a list of things that happen. I think it's about interconnectivity, like where the protagonist fits into these events, what choices he or she has, what prevents them from accomplishing their goal and why will the reader care what the outcome is or if the hero succeeds.

Janet Reid said...

It's not a dumb question at all.

Think "stakes": what matters. WHY is it important that she save the kid. What happens if she doesn't?

Think consequences.

Plot is about choices. If you don't do this, that happens, and that's a bad bad thing.

mikandra said...

My gut feeling is that apart from the inciting incident, the 'things that happen', the events in the novel, are probably the last thing you should aim to include in the query. Much more important would be why the overall plot is happening and the characters' choices/decisions.

kitty said...

Might the query read like a book flap?

As an example, what kind of query would Dan Tomasulo write for his (absolutely hilarious) "Confessions of a Former Child"? Would it read like the paragraph on the back cover?

(P.S. -- I'm reading the chapter Kettle of Fish.)

...

sesgaia said...

Thanks everyone- very helpful. Reviewing my own query in the light of this new perspective, I clearly submitted it to the shark too soon (sigh).

Just_Me said...

Sesgaia- Nathan Bransford posted an entire article on plots on his blog last week.... the main point was that a plot is the thing that keeps the book moving forward. The "why" behind the actions as Janet said.

Finding out that your father is alive, a petty criminal, and has a new family does not instantly mean that you'll get involved.

Chin up, query letters are hard. That's why the rest of us stalk the Query Shark, we're looking for hints and trying to figure out what works before we submit.

Last thought: There a plenty of books on the shelves about guns, petty criminals, and family issues. Make sure your query highlights why yours is so special and what makes it unique.

sesgaia said...

Thanks again everyone. Just to clarify- "Twisted Sisters" isn't mine. No guns or petty criminals, just family issues (although there is a real estate addict, a frat boy and a facebook stalker). And I did go back and re-read my query based on these comments and decided it isn't so bad after all- though I'm braced for when that shark bites...

Kelley said...

"I would be happy to provide a short synopsis, chapters, or the the full manuscript, as well as a rough outline for the next Mike Trelane book."

Just curious about your feelings on the offer to send an outline on the next book.

Southern Writer said...

For me to read this novel, I'd first need to know why Mik is compelled to go and get her sister (whom she's reluctant to take on), and put up with the demands of her father. What will happen if she doesn't? What made her think her father was deceased, and why does it matter now that he's not? If this is a romance, why isn't it focused on the romance? That seems to be a subplot here.

All in all, this still isn't the worst query I've ever read.

Sindee said...

Is there a reason she's called Mike in one paragraph and Mik throughouth the rest?