Wednesday, July 15, 2009

#120-Revised Thrice *WIN*

Dear Query Shark,

Kate Menick makes problems go away. Kate is a project manager for a polygalactic consulting firm. She brokers assassinations, oppresses the working classes, breaks unions, and dabbles in securities.

Kate used to be a space pirate, until Killimall & Associates caught her embezzling from Bellicose Billy's Band of Buccaneers and purchased her immediately. She's good at her work and is not unhappy, although if her coworkers are company whores, Kate is locked into a mutually abusive long-term relationship with her job.

But that could change. In exchange for the opportunity to buy herself out, Kate agrees to take a fall. She'll screw over her own client, the Leprekaner People's Liberation Alliance, as it attempts to destroy the Fundamentalist Militia of the Trolls. The ensuing fiasco will allow her firm to disband its underperforming Earth practice group, and let Kate go for gross malpractice. Everyone wins--except the leprechauns.

And leprechauns are sore losers.

RINSE AND REPEAT, a work of speculative fiction, is complete at 61,000 words.

Thank you for your consideration, and I look forward to hearing from you.


The heck with the critique. Send this to me at once!
(You will of course have applied everything you learned here in the tank to your manuscript, right? Of course you have)


The reason I requested this: it sounds fun. It sounds FUNNY. It sounds charming. The author has demonstrated tenacity and courage under fire. She did NOT throw in the towel muttering "damn shark doesn't know flotsam from jetsam."

Speculative fiction is not normally my thing but I just sold TWO count 'em TWO novels that could have been called speculative (of course I didn't, I called them commercial fiction) so I don't let category deter me from something yummy.
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Dear Query Shark,

Kate Menick makes problems go away. As a project manager for a polygalactic consulting firm, Kate's accounts include brokering assassinations, arms dealing, sentient trafficking, breaking unions, suppressing dissent, and the occasional securities fraud.

I hate it when people lead with dependent clauses. Dependent clauses are frail little things, they need to come after big strong sentences: Kate is the project manager for a polygalactic consulting firm; her job is brokering etc etc.

See the difference?

Kate's firm bought her off of a band of space pirates several years back after uncovering her massive (and very successful) embezzlement scheme--which is exactly the kind of initiative they look for in a new hire. While her coworkers consider themselves company whores, Kate finds herself engaged in a marginally abusive long-term transactional relationship.

Break the first sentence into two: scheme. That's exactly

But that could change. In exchange for the opportunity to buy herself out, Kate agrees to take a fall. She'll screw over her own client, the Leprekaner People's Liberation Alliance, in its bid to destroy the Fundamentalist Militia of the Trolls. If all goes according to plan, the ensuing fiasco will allow her firm to disband its underperforming Earth practice group and let Kate go on charges of gross malpractice. Everyone wins--except the leprechauns.


And leprechauns are sore losers.

RINSE AND REPEAT, a work of speculative fiction, is complete at 61,000 words.

Thank you for your consideration, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

(redacted)

Wow. That's MUCH better.
The problem is you need another polish on this. Take out every single word you don't need (like of after off)

Don't lead with dependent clauses.
Say every phrase out loud for rhythm.

I think you're almost there.



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Dear Query Shark:

Kate came home from work to find the leprechaun's severed head bleeding all over her kitchen table. He'd stuck a post-it note stuck on the thing's forehead said: “Happy birthday, Sweetheart. --Spaceman Z.”

Leave off the "he'd" because we don't know who it refers to.

Kate Menick makes problems go away. As a project manager for a polygalactic consulting firm, Kate's accounts include brokering assassinations, arms dealing, sentient trafficking, breaking unions, suppressing dissent, and the occasional securities fraud. She bills everything to the client, though her intern seems incapable of maintaining a simple, up-to-date spreadsheet.

I like this paragraph better for the starting point.

I'm not sure why you have the clause about the intern. It doesn't fit well with what went before, and it makes Kate look like a nincompoop. If she's skilled in making problems go away, and her intern is a problem....well.... bye bye intern right?


Kate recently accepted a contract to resolve an ongoing property dispute between her client, the Leprekaner People's Liberation Alliance, and the Fundamentalist Militia of the Trolls. Specifically, the leprechauns would like Kate to acquisition the head of Oglethorpe, King of the Trollven Ones.

It's too bad this is so clunky with all the names, because the individual pieces are darn funny. If "Fundamentalist Militia of Trolls" doesn't end up on a t-shirt somewhere, I'll eat my chapeau. The problem here is that the pieces don't add up to a good paragraph. You need to smooth it out. One way to do that is to say more. You've got some room here. Use it.

In response, Too bad for Kate, the Trolls retained Spaceman Z, Kate's former colleague (and ex-boyfriend), to assure that their interests are adequately represented—and crush the Leprechaun Resistance once and for all.



RINSE AND REPEAT, a work of speculative fiction, is complete at 61,000 words.

Thank you for your consideration, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,


It's clear you've got the makings of what should be a darn funny book. You've given us the set up, but what happens if Kate fails? Does she want Spaceman Z back? Will the leprechauns bleach her blue? We need sense of the stakes. Humor gets my attention, but it won't get you a request if I can't see what the novel is about.

I can count on one cloven hoof the number of times I've asked people to write a longer query letter and this is it.

Form letter rejection, but with niggling feelings that I might have made a mistake.
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Dear Query Shark,

I came home from work to find the leprechaun's severed head bleeding all over my kitchen table. He'd stuck a post-it note on the thing's forehead: "Happy birthday, Sweetheart. --Spaceman Z."

It's been a bad week. I screwed up again.

After setting my house and half the neighborhood on fire (precautions, yeah?), I call Alice. She's canny enough to ignore me, though I know she's there.

Shit.

RINSE AND REPEAT is complete at just over 61,000 words. I would be happy to provide a partial or complete manuscript for further review.

Thank you for your consideration,



Fond as I am of brief and to-the-point queries (and I am) this one errs on the side of naked. You're also writing in the first person voice of your character and generally that's not the best choice. Sometimes it works, yes, and I've had those queries posted here, but this doesn't because you've left us too little to go on.

You need to give me enough to entice me to read on. This doesn't. Form rejection.

25 comments:

Josin L. McQuein said...

This one kind of scares me...

Caroline said...

I agree, it's too short, but this one intrigues me. With little more detail I think it could work.

Horserider said...

It doesn't say what genre this is...

Southern Writer said...

I liked the brevity, but I was confused about what happens.

Lehcarjt said...

The first paragraph totally caught me. However, I needed the second paragraph to explain it, give it some context, which it did not.

There is no story in this query, just words strung together in an interesting way.

Kristin Laughtin said...

I get that queries are supposed to be teasers in a way, enticing agents to want to read more, but there's nothing really here to make clear what the story is about. Switching to third person and adding another paragraph to explain more of the plot would probably be better.

Clare K. R. Miller said...

Isn't there a thing you can do in Microsoft word to auto-generate a "summary" of your document that actually grabs (seemingly random) sentences out of the doc and strings them together? That's what this reads like to me.

Jeannie said...

First sentence hooked me then you lost me. Who is this character? Witch? Fairy? Demon slayer?
What's the story about besides severed heads and burning houses?

jessjordan said...

I am oh-so-very confused. This looks more like the first page of the MS and less like a query. At least to me, anyway. I have to say, I'm kind of with Josin ...

Stephanie said...

I'm left wondering what the heck the title remotely has to do with the tiny bit of story that is explained here. The first paragraph is interesting...but that's about it.

Mystery Robin said...

I have a question for the query shark. You say that you don't like the dependent clause and then break it up into two sentences - both using "is" as the verb.

While I'm at peace with the "to be" verb phrase for the most part - a lot of the advice I see is to punch up the verbs in a query. Which is why, I'm guessing, she went with the dependent clause.

So... I guess I'm asking if you think it's ok to state things matter of factly with an is here and there in a query?

wlturland said...

Hell, I want to read this now. Can I proof your galley? :p

Mystery Robin said...

Wow - that's amazing revising skills! I want to read it too!

Buffra said...

Great job with the revisions! It sounds really fun.

WV: ressles - wrestling hooked on phonics

JS said...

Mystery Robin, there is nothing a priori wrong with the word "is". "Kate is a project manager" is stronger than "Kate serves as a project manager" or "Kate works as a project manager," and more accurate than "Kate manages projects."

OMG THIS REVISION IS AWESOME I hated it so much the first time, and now I can see that this is a great idea. Also, "The Leprekaner People's Alliance" made me laugh immensely.

Southern Writer said...

JS, I'm not sure the use of a priori is correct as you've used it. Could you explain how you meant it, please? Of course, yanno, it may be my error, as the word verification suggests:

misrelia

JS said...

I'm using a priori in the colloquial sense of "not an individual application of a general law."

The assertion is often made that sentences using any form of the verb "to be" are, by definition, sentences that are in the passive voice and should be edited out. This is a false assertion.

Even if one were to hold that "sentences in the passive voice should be edited out," sentences using "to be" as their verb are not necessarily part of the grammatical class of /sentences that are in the passive voice/.

Hence my point that such sentences are not a priori passive voice. They do not meet the criteria of the general law that is often mistakenly applied to them.

But if my use of the term isn't clear to others, that's a helpful datapoint to me, so thanks!

juliaspese said...
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juliaspese said...
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eitherly said...

i don't know what it is but i want to read this book. bad.

darlas-mom said...

Has this been published yet? I seriously want to read it the second it comes out. I may never see or hear tell of another book that has both leprechauns and space pirates!

philologia said...

I want to read this right this second, please.
It feels like Artemis Fowl for grown-ups.

Stephanie B said...

I liked this after the second revision, but that's because I love this kind of humor. And speculative fiction is my favorite.

fivecats said...

Personally, I liked the bleeding leprechaun head on the kitchen table opening. It grabbed my attention far more than the final first paragraph.

Just as importantly, it gave me a much better feel for what (I hope) the author's writing style is in the finished manuscript. I get a Terry Pratchett meets Eoin Colfer vibe from the earlier drafts that has all but evaporated from the dull-by-comparison final version.

Tom M Franklin said...

postscript: i was just doing a google search on "fivecats" and "almost there" (for a completely different reference) and came up with a hit on:

"Personally, I liked the bleeding leprechaun head on the kitchen table"

janet, Thank You for this incredible blog. not only have i learned so much from your comments/suggestions but i get to revisit the type of comments that lend credence to a co-werker's comment of "You find such interesting ways to entertain yourself."

...