Wednesday, July 15, 2009

#121

Dear Query Shark,

April is an ordinary girl with an ordinary life; the sort who is thrilled just by being wife. Sure, she used to be a feminist and she still gets angry when men open doors for her but there is nothing about her that sets her apart.

You've just told us there's nothing interesting about a woman you propose I should spend a novel with. Don't do this. Start where the action starts.


Or there wasn’t, until January 9th, 2009 when she came home to realize she was in one of more than 50% of marriages that don’t work out. Sometime between discovering her husband’s sordid affair was the least of his secrets and the mob banging on her door, she realizes that sometimes The Last Day of Your Life (as you know it) is only the beginning of something much worse.



The Last Day of Your Life is a story of solace for anyone who thinks their relationship ended badly.

Don't tell me what the story is about, show me.

April had been married to Drew for seven years when she came home to find him naked in the shower with a woman who represented everything that made April never want to live anywhere near LA; which she didn't, but apparently blonds with big breasts and the IQ of lint were legally allowed to live elsewhere. (1) She scoffs it off, says “it’s over”, and moves on with her life. She doesn’t need anyone anyway. Or so she thinks. But when her husband and his big breasted bitty disappear, the mob drops a calling card with six casings, and a detective starts asking questions she doesn’t feel like answering honestly, she discovers she may need more than her charm and sarcasm if she wants to live through it all. Of course, it is her charm and sarcasm which seduces one of Portland's finest into pleading her case and finding evidence just her side of justice. (2) It also happens to be her quick wit and delightful pecan brownies which convince two very dedicated mob men that they might have been better off playing hockey. Chaos, indecision, and lots and lots of secrets make up a most devastating attempt at life anew. This is not your standard, woman gets divorced and moves on with life story; this is the story the woman has to survive to get to that story. And if she does, she will need years and years of therapy.


This huge block of text is unreadable. When you query, break your query up into three sentence chunks EVEN IF IT MEANS YOU BREAK A PARAGRAPH.

(1) This sentence is both run-on and pointless. I've stopped reading right here because I'm very afraid that if you do this here in the query, you're going to do it in the novel.

(2) If I had read on to see this
Of course, it is her charm and sarcasm which seduces one of Portland's finest into pleading her case and finding evidence just her side of justice I would have stopped reading there too. This sentence doesn't make sense. I think I know sort of what you mean, but this kind of sloppy proof reading is death in a query letter.


The world of chic lit

It's NOT "chic lit," Just for starters, chic is French and pronounced "sheek." The phrase is chick lit.

has been desperately awaiting the arrival of such a dark and delectable piece of fiction.

Avoid these kind of Ronco pocket fisherman statements. Just talk about your book.

Paired with two friends, some mob guys, a sexy detective, and her own mind made up, April takes the reader on a journey which proves to be filled with everything from pistol whips to lumpy mascara. The reader is sucked into a world turned upside down and it is only when the earth settles to a gentle rate of spinning once again that they will be able to clearly see what has happened.

Pistol whips isn't a noun. It's a verb.

Well, I'd like to know what happens. This doesn't tell me anything.

The novel is just over 55,000 which makes it short enough to not be cost-prohibitive to most publishing companies. I would be glad to send you the completed manuscript upon request. Thank you for your consideration.

I cannot tell you how much I LOATHE hearing writers talk about short word count as some sort of added value (like the Ronco Pocket fisherman says "but wait, there's more!)

For starters, the actual cost of printing the book is probably the least expensive thing in the publication process. For second, it matters not a whit. The word count is what it is. If you pared out 20,000 words solely to save some publisher money, turn in your Smith Corona for a Smith and Wesson and just go shoot your career now.

Sincerely,



Sloppy proof reading, and lack of a clear description of the plot make this a form rejection.

21 comments:

Rain Likely said...

Oh boy! Three new queries . . . I'm in heaven!

PS I feel a little guilty, knowing it is mean spirited to love the Shark because my usual response to the reviewed queries is "What were they thinking? I can do better than that. Way better."

Horserider said...

*takes notes* What exactly do the delightful pecan brownies have to do with the story?

Moth said...

According to MS Word, this query is 507 words long. The sweet spot for queries (according to literary agent Nathan Bransford, http://nathanbransford.blogspot.com/2008/09/query-stats-by-word-count.html) is 300-400 words. So this is too long, and it rambles.

“for anyone who thinks their relationship ended badly.” People don’t think their relationship has ended badly. If you catch your hubby with another woman you know your relationship has ended badly.

“April had been married to Drew for seven years when she came home to find him naked in the shower with a woman who represented everything that made April never want to live anywhere near LA; which she didn't, but apparently blonds with big breasts and the IQ of lint were legally allowed to live elsewhere...” This whole section is trying way too hard to me. And… it’s not funny. Suggest something like:
When April comes home to find her husband being soaped up in the shower by a buxom blond with the IQ of lint, she kicks him out and vows to move on with her life.

“a detective starts asking questions she doesn’t feel like answering honestly” She doesn’t feel like it? This makes her sound dumb and bitchy. Like she’s interfering with a police investigation because she’s having a bad day.

The world of chic lit has been desperately awaiting the arrival of such a dark and delectable piece of fiction. Actually, this sounds rather a lot like Jennifer Crusie’s Getting Rid of Bradley, and that Michelle Pfeiffer movie Married to the Mob.

And, I’m not sure about this, but isn’t labeling your stuff as “Chick Lit” the kiss of death right now? I mean, the “Chick Lit” genre is supposed to very over, right? You can still write books like that, but you label them “women’s fiction” or “romance”. (This post is three years old, but I haven’t noticed the moniker Chick Lit making a comeback. http://pubrants.blogspot.com/2006/02/state-of-chick-lit-nation.html).. (Someone correct me if I’m wrong about this, please).

“The reader is sucked into a world turned upside down and it is only when the earth settles to a gentle rate of spinning once again that they will be able to clearly see what has happened.” Huh? I think you can safely cut this sentence. Don’t tell the reader how wacky and engrossing your world is, show me.

You might want to just start from scratch with this one. Aim for more clarity and concise prose, I think.

Southern Writer said...

A naked husband, a bimbo with big breasts and an IQ of lint, two friends, some mob guys, a calling card with six casings, one of Portland's finest, a sexy detective, pecan brownies, chaos, indecision, lots and lots of secrets, and everything from pistol whips to lumpy mascara sounds like a helluva lot to tell about in only 55,000 words (which is way too short for a novel). I think the chaos part is right. Do pistol whips taste anything like licorice?

Lehcarjt said...

The opening paragraph totally threw me. 'April is a girl' implies to me that this is YA. But then we get into her wanting to be a wife and I had to read it three times to ground myself. Not good for an opening line.

John said...

Since a pair = two, I'm not sure how an MC can be "paired" with at least five other people and her own mind. More importantly, there's no room - or need, really - to explain in a query how all these people fit together. There may be a good story hidden under all this, but we need some of the brush trimmed away so we can see it.

cinnie2 said...

Loved your comments! I applaud the brave souls who submit to you, and I envy them for the cut-to-the-quick feedback they have received at your hand. Go, Shark! I'll give it a try someday soon.

Lara said...

I just want to applaud the mention of the Ronco pocket fisherman. HA!

JS said...

when she came home to realize she was in one of more than 50% of marriages that don’t work out

This isn't even true.

Basically, that faux-statistic means that in any given year in the US, there are approximately x divorces and 2x marriages.

But since the marriage rate is going down, and the population demographic is shifting, that doesn't mean that any given marriage has a 50% chance of ending in divorce.

More detailed studies (longitudinal studies that don't just divide 2008's marriages by 2008's divorces--because obviously most of the divorces granted in 2008 were granted to people who had married in other years) suggest that a first marriage in the US has between 35 and 45% chance of ending in divorce.

I know there are lots of other things to take issue with in this query, but I am so sick of seeing people parrot that false statistic that I just had to rant a bit.

Shakier Anthem said...

Pistol whip : Query Shark :: Clue gun : Miss Snark

Jeannie said...

I think there might be a decent book here but cut to the chase! Just the facts ma'am. Too many wandering words. What's her conflict? Ex and bimbo disappear and they blame her? The mob is looking at her why?
I don't care she's witty and sarcastic or can bake. Give me the action.
I think agents have limited time to read each of the hundreds of queries they recieve so you gotta hit them with the hook quick.

chelsea said...

Wait . . . she used to be a feminist, but she's not now because she likes being married. What exactly do you think a feminist is?

BuffySquirrel said...

A feminist is someone who wouldn't describe another woman as a blond with big breasts and the IQ of lint?

If you're going to write ABOUT women FOR women, it's probably a good idea at least to pretend to LIKE women.

Southern Writer said...

I respectfully disagree, Buffy. I don't think we can lump the liking or disliking of all women together. I like women in general, but there are some I simply do not like, and any who can be described as this one has been must go a longer way to earn my friendship. Can we say, "Pam Anderson?" You know the cliche: if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's a duck. I wasn't offended by the description. It IS fiction after all. And the bimbo is a stereotype that probably fits a need in the story. And you can bet if I found someone like her in the shower with my husband, you can bet she'd be called a lot worse than "blonde bimbo."

Southern Writer said...

Ha. You would only need to bet once, though.

BuffySquirrel said...

Hah indeed! I wasn't offended by that description particularly; it takes a lot more than that these days. And after all, most women in chick lit aren't creatures with whom I feel much affinity.

But I felt the whole tone of the query didn't show much affection for (or understanding of) the protagonist. She 'used' to be a feminist but is now happy to be 'wife'. Just didn't feel the love :).

chelsea said...

Buffy! I missed you :)

I felt the same bristling at the description of the "bimbo". Gotta love the continual grouping of women into one of two categories: worthy of respect/love; or unworthy. By making the other woman a "bimbo," she automatically becomes two-dimensional, a stereotype. Less than human.

Goody.

However, my biggest problem with said bimbo is much simpler. She's a cliche. All cheating husbands everywhere must cheat with big breasted, blond bimbos. Right? Those Are The Rules. Because cheating is always, only, about sex. Not emotional needs, or deep-seeded psychological desires to sabotage one's happiness, or desperate attempts to feel desired after years of being neglected. Men Are That Simple. Right?

The query, as it is, makes me feel the writer doesn't understand men or women. Or, more generally, humans. I'm sorry. I'm not buying it.

Patrice said...

QS, you are hilarious.

Thanks for your time.

Marian said...

I really hate the idea that "feminist" = "woman who gets angry when men open doors for her". That's someone with a temper problem rather than someone who believes in equal rights.

Not a good way to interest me in the heroine.

Matt said...

QS, you are too funny.

Lithopedion said...

I agree with Marian. That kind of irrational anger just serves to make me hate the character right off the bat.