Tuesday, August 5, 2008

#63-Revisions

REVISION
Dear Query Shark:

Clint Vaughan and Mike O’Donnell, two aging CIA contract assassins with a colorful past, are on the seemingly impossible mission of killing a mission to kill a man who’s already dead.

By spelling out the obvious, you lose both the hook and the humor.


The year is 2002, and Saddam Hussein is at it again. In flagrant disregard of the Armistice and UN resolutions, he embarks on a rearmament program which could spell disaster for the whole Middle-East. The American President is fed up with the Iraqi’s shenanigans. Trying to avert a military confrontation, with a madman, he charges the CIA to remove him, once and for all. Against the background of these factual events, I webbed the intrigue of fiction.

"I webbed the intrigue of fiction" misuses two of the six words in the phrase.

1. Webbed is not a synonym for write or create or invent.

2. Intrigue is either a transitive verb (not a not a noun) or if used as a noun it means a secret scheme, a clandestine love affair or the practice of engaging in intrigues.

Now, I had to look up the definition for intrigue to find out it was a transitive verb. This is not stuff I keep in my head or can cough up without the aid of the trusty red Websters. What I do have in my head though, and what you need to work on is an innate sense of what words mean. You don't have to know why, just that they don't. I knew this was off when I read it. I had to use the dic to find out why.

Now, that is not to say you can only use words in the acceptable way. Far from it. You can line them up, dress them in leopard skin union suits and march them around the room whistling Layla if you want. The only requirement is that these machinations illuminate what you are trying to say rather than obfuscate it (yes, I had to look that up too, but it's a great word isn't it)

Saddam must know that he can’t win. So why is he doing it? Actually, he isn’t. Saddam is dead. Only the World doesn’t know it.

World is not capitalized in this use; it's not a proper name, it's a description.

With the help of disgruntled ex KGB officers, an unscrupulous oil Tsar keeps the myth alive. He plans a new gulf war, of much grater magnitude, and employs Saddam look-alikes to further his goal—control of the crude market.

This is your lead sentence by the way, it's the start of the story.
Grater involves cheese, not magnitudes.


From Washington to Moscow, and from Tel-Aviv to Baghdad, the story spells deceit.

"The story spells deceit" doesn't make any sense to me.

I’d like to interest you in this 95,000-word spy/thriller, One Hundred Hours to Kill a Dead Man. The novel, a relevant depiction of special operations procedures, shows how far people will go just to lay their hands on some black gold.

"relevant depiction" doesn't make sense. Relevant to what? And I'm not reading novels as a how-to lesson in controlling the oil market.


Russian Roulette, a second novel of the same genre which recycles some characters, is undergoing final editing and will be ready for submission soon.

Then why are you even mentioning it? First, query ONE novel per query letter. That is an ironclad rule. Second, query only when you're done. And that means after final editing.

Thirty years of globe trotting, research and analysis of international issues gave me the insight and expertise to write these novels.

(Redacted) a former metro staff writer for the Los Angeles Times and professor, with decades of writing and editing experience, is assisting me on these projects.



I look forward to hearing from you.



Sincerely,



The original query letter was much different than this, but neither one works.
Back to the drawing board.









Original
---------------------------------------------
Dear Query Shark,


The year is 2002 and Saddam is at it again. In flagrant disregard of the Armistice and UN’s resolutions he embarks on a rearmament program, which could spell disaster for the whole Middle-East. He must know that he can’t win. So, why is he doing it?
The American President is fed up with the Iraqi’s shenanigans. Trying to avert a military confrontation, with a madman, he charges the CIA to remove him, once and for all.

I’ll tell you a secret. They plan to send in Clint Vaughan.
Who’s he you ask?
Clint was the greatest contract assassin the CIA ever employed.
And don’t worry about him reaching seventy, next January.
Don’t shake your head that it won’t work!
He’ll have professional help.
Right, Mike O’Donnell will go along. He’s the best SAS operative that ever lived.
And he’s younger than Clint, by almost a year.
Don’t Holy Moses me!
Those two have done many ‘jobs’ together and were the best of friends, that is, until the day Clint ran off with Mike’s lassie.
Granted, it’s going to take a lot just to bring them together again.
I also accept that no amount of training could make these septuagenarians move like young men. But I know one important factor, together they have over sixty years worth of experience. When the going gets tough, all that knowledge and skill will come in handy.

When the two, old dogs of war, start after their elusive target they discover a shocking truth. Saddam is dead, long live…. Saddam?
With the help of ex KGB officers, an unscrupulous oil Tsar keeps the myth alive. He plans a new gulf war, of much grater magnitude, and employs Saddam look-alikes to further his goal; control of the crude market.

The 95,000 words spy/thriller novel, One Hundred Hours to Kill a Dead Man is a relevant depiction of special operation procedure, and shows how far people will go just to lay their hands on some black gold.
From Washington to Moscow, and from Tel-Aviv to Baghdad, the story spells deceit.

I hope you’ll find the story interesting, and it will be my pleasure to send the manuscript for your consideration.

Sincerely,


This is a hilarious query letter. My question is though, is the book supposed to be funny? I'm certainly not ready to laugh about the Iraq war yet. Grimace, groan, moan, and pray, you bet; but I'm not ready for The Sunshine Boys Meet Saddam. Maybe other people are, but I wouldn't bet on it.

And if the book is NOT funny, the tone of the query letter is counterproductive. I read this, and I think I'm hearing your voice, and how you write. You send me twenty pages of a "relevant depiction of special operation procedure" and I'm wondering what the heck this thing is. And I'm not sure why you chose the word relevant to describe a depiction of a special operating procedure. Relevant to what is my first question when I see that.

You've got a great voice though, and that's always good for a page request.

14 comments:

emeraldcite said...

Instead of Saddam, make up a dictator in the middle east. This sounds like a great movie premise. I could see this as a great comedy with two veteran actors at the helm.

I think it could work if the Saddam and Iraq angle were phased out.

beth said...

Agree that the tone sounds funny, but also that I'm not ready for a comedy about Iraq.

Sounds almost like a modern, male Mrs. Polifax.

Adam Heine said...

There are a lot of little errors here that bugged me:

"Trying to avert a military confrontation, with a madman..." Drop the comma.

"...reaching seventy, next January." Drop the comma.

"But I know one important factor, together they..." Comma should be a colon.

"When the two, old dogs of war, start after their elusive target they discover a shocking truth." Drop the second comma. Optionally drop the first and add a comma after "target".

"He plans a new gulf war, of much grater magnitude..." Drop the comma. Spell grater "greater".

"...employs Saddam look-alikes to further his goal; control of the crude market." Semicolon should be a colon.

And finally, when I first read "Clint ran off with Mike’s lassie," I thought he ran away with Mike's dog. I've never heard anyone use the word "lassie" in the States. "Girl" would be better.

philologia said...

This sounds almost better than Mrs. Pollifax, 'cause they sound like they might be a little grouchy. Mrs. Pollifax's charm is in her sweetness, whereas these guys seem like Grumpy Old Men on a Mission.

I think a fake dictator would be better, although I didn't find this offensive. It's like George Carlin; after enough wacky humor, things that probably ought to offend just don't any more. But I do know many people who would avoid this if it was about such a recent topic.

Adventurous Eaters said...

I can see Tommy Lee Jones, Clint Eastwood, Jack Nicholson or Morgan Freeman doing a role like this. I think it'd be a pretty funny movie if you made it a fictional war with a fictional dictator. I think Iraq is way too fresh at this point, especially since so many still have sons and husbands and friends there and many have lost loved ones there in the recent past, to laugh about.

Just_Me said...

This could be very funny, but my first reaction is: "Saddam? 2002? Isn't theis query a bit old?"

Two old guys rushing off to save the world is a cool idea, start with that and work in dictators and foreign countries later.

magdalune said...

I agree with just_me, it seems a little dated. Maybe take adventurous_eater's advice and make it mostly fictional - the parallels will still be clear, but keeping it entirely fictional makes it easier to add humor without stepping on too many sensitive toes.

I'll admit it, I smiled at the query. But my inner copyeditor is crying at the random commas.

helengranberry said...

I am going to agree -- use a made up dictator in a made up country. The war in Iraq is still going on. I skimmed the 2002 the first time and was thinking 'what?!? Isn't he already dead?'. For many people, Iraq is a subject that will be impossible to see as funny for a very long time. Plus, a book taking place in a recent alternate past is just going to seem dated. Especially when we all know how it *really* ends.

The concept of using a ringer for a dead world leader is old as the hills, but the two oldsters going after him takes another old as the hills concept and makes an interesting mashup. The voice is great. I agree with adventurous eaters that you could easily see the movie with Jack Nicholson, Tommy Lee Jones, Clint Eastwood or Morgan Freeman in the starring roles.

talpianna said...

James Garner should be in the movie.

Polly Kahl said...

Witty, but way too comma-happy.

BuffySquirrel said...

Well, I thought the comma before "with a madman" should go too, but maybe Clint's the madman?

jeanoram said...

I think it is really cool how everyone could see this as a movie. Maybe this person should try screenwriting! :) I like a good comedy when it comes to the serious stuff, but then again, I am Canadian and tend to not take things too terribly seriously.

Jean

Arlyle said...

I read this again and see Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon playing the leads.
Unfortunately, I think they are dead.
Maybe Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman?

Shabaescaba1 said...

I loved the voice of the original.

"When the two, old dogs of war, start after their elusive target they discover a shocking truth." Drop the second comma. Optionally drop the first and add a comma after "target".

Adam, he or she has to drop the first comma. You can't use commas between cumulative adjectives.