Saturday, December 13, 2008

#84-Revised twice

Revision 2:

Dear Query Shark,

The unwritten rule of nature is that people fall into one of three categories: the living, the dead or the undead. Kate Harmon is blissfully unaware that she is the exception.

Kate, a childhood cancer survivor, grew up in the Hollywood "glamour biz" under the shadow of her powerbroker mother. Graduating from law school, she worried her life would to be spent swimming with sharks, but vampires? It certainly wasn't what Kate expected when she accepted a live in faculty position in the quiet world of academia. At least she'd have her childhood hero, Professor Robert Harmon M.D., her former stepfather and the man who cured her otherwise terminal illness, to guide her along the way.

Unfortunately for Kate, the hallowed halls of Putnam University are far more treacherous than doing lunch on Rodeo Drive. While Kate settles into her new life in academia, Dr. Rob and his secretive vampire society known only as “the Covenant” attempt to maintain Kate’s ignorance of the group and their preternatural condition. A feat made more difficult by the bizarre murders plaguing the University and Kate's unusual immunity to their hypnotic powers.

To make matters worse, Kate's falling in love with a Covenant vampire. She's just not sure which one -- her mysterious visions of a vampiric chivalrous knight or the ever present letch, oozing sex appeal and lustful abandon.

As with most lawyers, who always seem to find out what you least want them to know, Kate soon discovers the true nature of the Covenant. Worse still, the Covenant's enemies and rival vampires realize that Kate, and her unusual immunity to vampiric powers, pose a threat to themselves and a weapon against the Covenant. Kate has no choice but to seek the Covenant's protection.

With the Covenant's enemies arrayed against them, Kate is forced to flee the University with only her wits, her mother’s notoriety and the man who is either the love of her life or the cause of her peril to protect her.

As Kate fights for her very life,(cliche!!) she realizes the question is not how to survive. Rather, its how did she survive? What miraculous cure for terminal cancer did her devoted ex-stepfather find to save his child? Or did he?

Bloodlines is a 129,000 word paranormal romance. The full manuscript is available upon request. (of course it is!) I would greatly appreciate the opportunity to introduce you further into the eerie and spellbinding world of Putnam University.

Very Truly Yours,

There's more of your wit showing through in this one.

There's a huge debate in our office about whether vampires are dead (ha). What I mean of course, is whether the vampire category is last year's hot topic. I'm not taking anything vampiric unless it's a wildly new approach just cause the editors I talk to always need to hear something very new and fresh right now.

To that end you might focus less on the backstory and more on the reason's Kate survived cancer. Get to the fresh and original part and focus there.


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REVISION 1:
Dear Query Shark:

The unwritten rule of nature is that people fall into one of three categories: the living, the dead or the undead. Kate Harmon is blissfully unaware that she is the exception.

What is she?

Kate, a childhood cancer survivor, grew up in the Hollywood "glamour biz" under the shadow of her powerbroker mother. Graduating from law school, she worried her life would to be spent swimming with sharks, but vampires? It certainly wasn't what Kate expected when she accepted a live in faculty position in the quiet world of academia.



Unfortunately for Kate, the hallowed halls of Hudson University are far more treacherous than doing lunch on Rodeo Drive. While Kate works to settle into her new life in academia, her ex-stepfather and physician, Dr. Robert Harmon and his secretive vampire society known only as “the Covenant” attempt to maintain Kate’s ignorance of the murders plaguing the University since her arrival.


He's her ex-physician? He's a physician and her ex-stepfather, most likely. Consider: Her former stepfather, physician Dr. Robert Harmon and his secret vampire society.

Why do they care if she knows?


To make matters worse, Kate's fallen in love with a Covenant vampire. She's just not sure which one.

Why? She's having vampire orgies?

With the Covenant's enemies arrayed against them (them who?), Kate is forced to flee the University with only her wits, her mother’s notoriety and the man who is either the love of her life or the cause of her peril to protect her.

Why does falling in love with a vampire make her an enemy of the secret vampire society. If anything, it's rather flattering isn't it? You haven't mentioned that perhaps she's come into some dangerous knowledge about the murders.

As Kate fights for her very life, she realizes the question is not how to survive. Rather, its how did she survive? What miraculous cure for terminal cancer did her devoted stepfather find to save his child? Or did he?



Bloodlines is a 129,000 word paranormal romance. The full manuscript is available upon request. I would greatly appreciate the opportunity to introduce you further into the eerie and spellbinding world of Hudson University.

Unless you get money from someone for calling this place Hudson University, I wouldn't. We all know it's the Law & Order name for Columbia. There are a lot of other perfectly good names for Universities: Query Shark College comes to mind instantly.

Very Truly Yours,


I'm very impressed with the improvement but you need another polish, maybe two.


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ORIGINAL


(name) ESQ.

ATTORNEY AND COUNSELOR AT LAW

(address) New York 10541
TELEPHONE: (redacted) (email redacted)
FACSIMILE: (redacted)



October 20, 2008

VIA Email to (Query Shark)

Submissions: Attn. Query Shark


Re: Submission for BLOODLINES: A Hudson University Novel

You've squandered the first 16 lines of your email with your return address and the date. My email window shows the first 20 lines of an email.

Don't do this.

ALL email queries should have your contact info at the conclusion of the email.

Dear Query Shark:

Nothing could have prepared Kate Harmon, a childhood cancer survivor and recent law school graduate, for the passionate and dangerous world of her stepfather’s past when she leaves behind the glitz of her mother’s Hollywood life to take a teaching position with him in the hallowed halls of Hudson University. Bloodlines is a 129,000 word paranormal romance thriller and the first in the Hudson University series. The full manuscript is available upon request.

There's no such thing as a paranormal romance thriller. Categories are "paranormal romance" or "thriller" or "urban fantasy" or "commercial fiction". One or two words. No more.

Bloodlines is the story of Kate’s journey to find an identity of her own after growing up in the shadow of her powerbroker mother, Mae. Excited by the prospect of her newly acquired position as a live in faculty mentor and professor, she is blissfully unaware of the new shadows about to overtake her life. Her ex-stepfather and physician, Dr. Robert Harmon and his secretive society known only as “the Covenant” are about to turn her search for a quiet life of introspection upside down. While Kate works to settle into her new life in academia, she struggles with the onset of unexplained bouts of extreme rage and passion focused primarily on the three men in her life: the damaged but steadfast, Vince; the ever exasperating letch, Jax; and the mysterious dark specter, Avery. All the while, Dr. Rob attempts to maintain Kate’s ignorance of the series of bizarre attacks and murders plaguing the University and its surrounding community since her arrival. Kate’s inquisitive and analytical nature prove impossible to control as she begins to unravel the mysterious past which haunts Dr. Rob, the Covenant members and Kate herself. As natural and seemingly supernatural forces converge on the University, Kate is forced to flee for her life. As the enemies allayed against her begin the manhunt, Kate realizes her only protection from the maelstrom are her own wits, her mother’s notoriety and the man who is either the love of her life or the cause of her peril, or perhaps both. Can Kate and the mysterious members of the Covenant find a way to withstand the onslaught brought about by their own tortured past?

This large block of text is literally unreadable on a computer screen. It's like a big inkblot.
White space is CRUCIAL in an email query.


Compare the above to this:

Bloodlines is the story of Kate’s journey to find an identity of her own after growing up in the shadow of her powerbroker mother, Mae.

Excited by the prospect of her newly acquired position as a live in faculty mentor and professor, she is blissfully unaware of the new shadows about to overtake her life. Her ex-stepfather and physician, Dr. Robert Harmon and his secretive society known only as “the Covenant” are about to turn her search for a quiet life of introspection upside down.

Well, I'm not sure how "a quiet life of introspection" fits in with "live in faculty mentor" but ok.


While Kate works to settle into her new life in academia, she struggles with the onset of unexplained bouts of extreme rage and passion focused primarily on the three men in her life: the damaged but steadfast, Vince; the ever exasperating letch, Jax; and the mysterious dark specter, Avery.

You've got six characters introduced in fewer than 100 words. This is a common mistake in queries: trying to get everything on the page. Focus. Your main character. What's her problem? What choices does she face? What's her dilemma? Leave out all the rest.

All the while, Dr. Rob attempts to maintain Kate’s ignorance of the series of bizarre attacks and murders plaguing the University and its surrounding community since her arrival.



Kate’s inquisitive and analytical nature prove impossible to control as she begins to unravel the mysterious past which haunts Dr. Rob, the Covenant members and Kate herself. As natural and seemingly supernatural forces converge on the University, Kate is forced to flee for her life.


As the enemies allayed against her begin the manhunt, Kate realizes her only protection from the maelstrom are her own wits, her mother’s notoriety and the man who is either the love of her life or the cause of her peril, or perhaps both.

Do you mean allied against her? Allay means to calm a strong emotion, for example, anger, or diminish and set at rest somebody’s fears or suspicions; or, to relieve or reduce the severity of pain or a painful emotion.

Misusing words is one of the things that sends a query letter to the rejection pile no matter how enticing the subject matter may be. Words are your tools and if you aren't using them correctly, it bodes ill for the novel.



Can Kate and the mysterious members of the Covenant find a way to withstand the onslaught brought about by their own tortured past?

I thought the Covenant was the antagonist? I'm confused.


I am not yet a published author. Most of my recent written work has focused on legal writing as the law clerk for a federal judge and attorney. Prior to my legal pursuits, I was a university student service administrator. I now maintain my practice while also teaching as an adjunct professor in (redacted) New York, where I live with my wife and two children.



I would greatly appreciate the opportunity to introduce you further into the eerie and spellbinding world of Hudson University.



Very Truly Yours,





(redacted), Esq.


This is pretty much a mess from start to finish.
There are some pretty good examples in postings #1-#83 that can help you revise.
Right now this is an instant rejection.

18 comments:

talpianna said...

All the while, Dr. Rob attempts to maintain Kate’s ignorance of the series of bizarre attacks and murders plaguing the University and its surrounding community since her arrival.

And just how does he manage that, considering that the print, TV, radio, and online news must be full of them?

Also, I don't know if there's a copyright consideration here; but "Hudson University" is used in all the LAW & ORDER franchises for its fictional clone of Columbia.

Janet, I'm not sure there's no such thing as a "paranormal romance thriller"; but since most paranormal romances ARE thrillers, the label is probably redundant anyway.

WV: unabless--a condition afflicting many writer wannabes

BuffySquirrel said...

So many words. So little information.

Cut out the irrelevant. The fact that Kate's a cancer survivor seems to have little to do with the plot as it unfolds in the query, so cut it. Focus on the character, their goal, what gets between them and their goal, what they have to do to fix it, and what will happen if they can't.

Just_Me said...

Author: the topic sounds interesting. I think you probably have a great story there. It's just not coming out in the query. Which may mean your story needs another edit or two, or may just mean you need some people to look over the query.


So:
* white space
* focus on what happens to the MC
* focus on the main plot (what keeps the action happening)
* double check your copyrights as Talpianna said

Good luck.

Crimogenic said...

yup, focus on the main character, Kate, and let the query build around her.

Lehcarjt said...

The story underneath this query interests me. I like the idea of the young, studious teacher and the mystery of what is really going on. I think perhaps the author is trying to give us the wrong information though.

I don’t have any sense for what the real problem is. Who is she fighting? What exactly is the enemy and why should I care that they are causing her anger? I’d encourage you to be very, very specific rather than trying to keep it all a mystery.

Kate’s inquisitive and analytical nature prove impossible to control This is a very odd thing to include. Saying she can’t control her inquisitive nature makes her sound like a TSTL heroine – the type that runs straight to the hatchet wielding serial killer because she thinks it is the best way to discover his identity. And I’m a pretty analytical person myself, and I’ve never seen that as something that is out of control.

jeanoram said...

I found this really helpful: "Focus. Your main character. What's her problem? What choices does she face? What's her dilemma? Leave out all the rest."

Thanks, Shark

Difficult, but maybe a good place to start over. You can do it!

JS said...

In addition to the good points everyone else has made, I want to highlight for the querier that this language feels incredibly stilted. (If the querier's been writing a lot of legal documents, that might explain it!)

Folks, read your query letter out loud. It's a business letter, but it still needs to have a conversational flow. I bet if this querier had read the letter out loud, he or she would have cut out some of the word-snarls like "attempts to maintain Kate's ignorance of the series of bizarre attacks and murders plaguing the University and its surrounding community since her arrival."

Beth said...

When you rewrite, watch the spelling errors. Allayed instead of allied. Letch instead of...lech? As in, lecherous?

Clare K. R. Miller said...

Actually, I thought "allayed" was meant to be "arrayed."

And too many commas.

JS said...

"Letch" is a perfectly correct variant spelling of "lech" (short for "lecher", as Beth guessed).

Reading the letter out loud probably would have caught the "allayed" thing (I can't figure out whether it was meant to be "arrayed" or "allied").

dmciii said...

I really want to thank you all for the comments. As a non-blogger I didn't even realize the comments section were available until a few days ago. I have been reading continuously ever since. I have been taking all the suggestions and reworking the query (the novel as well)

Talpianna - Dr. Robs maneuvers are focusing Katie away from all media by keeping her busy as she starts her new academic career. TV is the downfall. Im told by a local intellectual property attorney that Hudson University is a common ficticious institution too generalized to be copyrighted by name only. I would need to reference another works use of Hudson University to have any conflict. But Im glad I checked.

BUFFY SQUIRREL - You were right on and not. The fact she is a cancer survivor is central to the plot. But my query doesn't focus enough on Kate to explain that. Your comment really helped focus the rewrite Thanks

Just me/Crimogenic Thanks for the encouragement and your right as of course is Janet (i needed to rework/enhance the voice of my main character.)

Lehcarjt - Yeap As Janet said I need to explain the antagonistic and protagonistic character of the Covenant better. It was just too confusing and the nature of the covenant too involved. Either that or just leave it out since the
Query would be way too long. Her analytical nature and the conflict with her uncontrolable outbursts was my issue it came out unclear.

Jeanorum Thanks for the encouragment. Im trying but Im finding less is more

JS Boy did you say a mouthful. Ive had to rewrite and edit to give voice and take away cold stilted language. Too many years of legal briefs. I tried a legal thriller and found it way too difficult as a first novel in years. I needed to focus away from the law to find the characters. I hope it works

Beth Clare JS You were right (Im still wrong) it was a spelling error. IT was arrayed. in fact it was arrayed until I pasted to the email and stupidly did a last spell check before sending. I didn't trust my own proofs. checked the word one last time and hit the wrong alternative in a list. (Shame on me) But I do believe Letch is correct as is lech.

Again thank you all so much and now I can start helping other people (not that Im in a position to judge) At least some positive motivation Thanks again

pangolin said...

Wow, what a huge improvement in the revision. Not everyone can take advice and work with it so well. The story is really starting to sound intriguing. Good luck with the next iteration, author; it looks like you're on your way to nailing it.

dmciii said...

The reason its taken so long to rewrite the query is that all the comments and other posts here have really been helping rewrite the story. Before I could even try the query again I had to rework certain parts of the novel. Its been totally amazing and I can't thank you all enough. So time to start round three as soon as I finish the rest of the sharks posts. Back to the chum bucket

dmciii said...

A quick poll. Since Hudson University is out, but I need the name to end University (the storyline has the merger of two "colleges" into a larger "university") any votes:
a) Reid University
b) Hammerhead U.
c) Sharkson University
d) Squalus University
Query College sounds too much like an online school. I'll definately have to rename the sports teams the sharks though. Any thoughts, suggestions?

Janet Reid said...

Here are some suggestions on naming places

dmciii said...

That article is far too funny. But take it from a man who lived on Seaman's Neck Road and then moved to Dicktown Road. Names are far too important. My family will never let me live that down

talpianna said...

How about Xenacanthida U.? They all died out during the Permian Mass Extinction, so nobody's around to sue.

WV: upedled--open university offering continuing education for former Tour de France competitors.

Joy Slaughter said...

Ah! The antagonist. I see now that I need to strengthen the antagonist's portrayal in my query. Thank you.