Sunday, September 20, 2009

#133-Revised 8x

Dear QueryShark:


Years ago, officer Gina Russo fired a shot in an act of self-defense, which caused and explosion, killing career criminal William Nicholas Mancuso., or so that's what she and fellow officers on the crime scene thought.

Now as an FBI agent, Gina receives a death threat and poems containing enigmatic clues, hinting at potential next moves, signed WNM. He know personal information about her, even about a past sour romance that still stings like hell. She doesn't like it...not one bit, especially not knowing the the bastard is.

The bureau assigns handsome, sharp, agent Joey Zicara as her partner. Now she's caught between a man, who wants her life, and a partner who wants her heart. With the intelligence of an experienced agent and the cautious heart of a woman scorned, Gina hopes to dodge both. But will she?

THE FINAL CLUE is a 100,000 word, character-driven suspense novel set in New York City.




This is better. You've connected the paragraphs, you've gotten the plot points down in the logical order.

You've pared out most of the stuff you don't need.  Now go back and pare out EVERYTHING you don't need.  Use the first paragraph as a guideline.

If you can take out a word and the sentence still works, leave it out. Say the sentences out loud one by one.

And if you're doing this on your query, you also need to do it on the novel.  One of the things I hear from other agents when we gab at conferences are complaints about really good queries followed by pages that go splat.  Make SURE what you've learned and applied to your query is also applied to your book.
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Dear Query Shark,

A calculating mysterious man with a vengeance threatens F.B.I. agent Gina Russo’s life, and a swaggering agent is sent to shadow her every move. For the first time in Gina’s career, she’s thrown completely off guard.

"with a vengeance" means he's doing something with particular ferocity. I think you mean vendetta. Misusing words is a big red flag when I read queries.

You've got two unnamed characters and Gina in the first paragraph. That's too much. Focus on ONE. What's her problem?

Gina not only has to protect her life from a man she doesn’t know, she needs to guard her heart from Joey Zicara, the green-eyed agent with dimples who can melt any woman’s heart with a smile.  Gina would rather switch careers and work in a soup kitchen then accept his help.

This is all filigree and decoration. After you say she needs to guard her heart you don't need anything more about Joey Dimples. You don't have enough space in a query to wax poetic. Get to what matters: the plot, and why we should care about Gina at all.



Gina had blocked out the horrific crime scene that occurred seven years ago, when, during a shoot-out, an explosion erupted and a man was killed. She presumed the wrong man dead, and locked up his brother for life in prison. Suddenly, Gina receives rhyming poems containing clues that lead to the mysterious man, dubbed The Rhymester’s, next move.

I'm now completely lost. You don't connect this with anything that's happened before (in the query)

If Gina can cast aside her stubborn pride, trust Joey, and keep her heart from going into overdrive whenever he gets within twenty yards of her, she has a chance to discover the rhymester’s identity.  Before time runs out.  Before he kills her.  Should Gina and Joey need that damn final clue, the game is over.





I look forward to sharing THE FINAL CLUE, a romantic suspense novel. The 126,000 word character-driven story is set in N.Y.C.  

NYC or New York. No dots. Dots are for lesser burgs.





I was born and raised in New Jersey then moved to South Florida where I’ve been working in law enforcement for 23 years to present time. What inspired me to write this novel was for the simple fact that unfortunately things don’t always turn out the way we want them to.

What inspired you to write the novel is a swamp you don't want to wade into. Better to just leave it out. The perils outweigh any benefit.

This still doesn't work at all. It's got too many people, too many unconnected threads, and worst of all, we don't really care about Gina.

There's a schematic for figuring out the skeleton of a query on a previous post. Use it as the starting point.





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Dear Query Shark,

Mr. WNM is presumed dead. That's bad news for Federal agent Gina Russo whom he holds responsible for his brother's lifetime incarceration. He plots down to the last letter containing THE FINAL CLUE to get his revenge.



The FBI is worried enough to assign an agent to assist and protect Gina after Mr. WNM contacts her. He makes it perfectly clear that he can get to her anytime he wants. He draws Gina into a game of chance. A very slim  chance at solving the hidden messages in the rhyming poems he sends to her home. It's the only way to discover his identity and her fate.

Gina's not too happy about having an agent in her home. What she's keeping from Agent Joey Zicara could get them killed, but he finds himself falling in love with her and unable to walk away even though he knows she's keeping secrets.

Thank you for your time and consideration, I look forward to sharing THE FINAL CLUE, a completed 120,000  word crime/romance novel.  There's no such thing as a crime/romance novel.

You're focused on the wrong thing here. In a novel of suspense (which is what this is), you want to focus on the person who is the target. The less said about the perpetrator the better. Take out everything that isn't Gina. Focus on what she sees and fears.

Also, re-read the archives. You're not making much forward progress here and sometimes you can get a breakthrough by seeing how other queriers have done so.



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Dear QueryShark:


FBI Agent Gina Russo is contacted by a my man identifying himself as Mr. WNM that everyone thought was killed in an explosion. He challenges her to a game of chance by sending rhyming poems containing hidden messages to her home. It's her on (you mean one) and only chance at discovering his identity and her fate. The FBI is worried enough to assign her an agent for her protection. Accustomed to living alone, she's not happy about Joey Zicara staying with her, invading her space.

You're trying to get too much information in this paragraph. By cramming in all this stuff, you leave me with nothing but questions. Questions like: who cares if WMN was killed in an explosion? Why would an FBI agent feel threatened by rhyming poems for godsake. Death by Hallmark?

Step back. Think of what you actually need to tell us: Gina is getting threats. The FBI is worried enough to assign an agent. She's not too happy about having an agent in her home.

By leaving out everything else we get clearer sense of the plot.



A yellow rose accompanied with yet another poem arrives at Gina''s front door. Her fiery reaction and defiant refusal to share it changes everything. What she's keeping from Joey could get them killed, but he finds himself falling in love with her and unable to walk away even though he knows she's keeping secrets.

You don't need to tell us about the yellow rose and poem. In fact it's better if you don't On the face of it, yellow roses and poems aren't threatening.  In the context of the book, you can make us see that Gina regards it as a threat. In the short form query it's a nigh on impossible task.

Mr. WNM holds Gina responsible for his brothers (brother's) life sentence. He plots down to the last letter containing the final clue. The bank heist, his coup de grace, will be Gina's ultimate failure, which unfolds in this completed 120,000 word crime/romance novel titled THE FINAL CLUE.

And here is where you have a problem in the novel.  This doesn't make sense.  FBI agents don't solve every bank robbery. In fact I think they solve about half. I don't understand why not solving a bank robbery would be Gina's ultimate failure. 
And if Mr. WNM doesn't want her to solve this, wants it to be her ultimate failure, why is he taunting her ahead of time? Why doesn't he just pull it off, THEN taunt her?

Even novels of suspense need to make logical sense.

Working in law enforcement for 23 years and finding circumstances don't always work out the way we want them to inspired me to write this novel.

I don't care why you wrote the novel. If you're trying to mention that you work in law enforcement, just say that.

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

One of the key requirement of a suspense novel (which is what this is) is what's left unsaid, and unseen. Your query should reflect that. Your query should make me wonder what happens next. So far, it doesn't.

Revise.
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Dear Query Shark,

An explosion during a botched armed bank robbery - The robber is presumed dead - The striking beauty, Gina Russo, a federal agent that he blames for his brothers lifetime incarceration. His wrongful quest to ruin her life unfolds in this 120,000 word novel:
THE FINAL CLUE


Ok, no. no no no. For starters unless "striking beauty" is critical to the plot, leave it out. Second no "he" unless it refers to someone you've already introduced, preferably by name. But mostly: this isn't a well-written paragraph. Your goal in a query, particularly the first paragraph is NOT to sound like a movie voice-over it's to entice your reader to want more.

When Gina can't get past the heartbreak of her life, she throws herself into her work. She becomes very successful at doing things on her terms in her own way; and prefers to work alone. Then a man with a deep muffled voice contacts her and makes it clear he's that he's been watching her and challenges her to solve rhyming clues for a shot at revealing his identity. A Federal agent, the handsome Joey Zicara, is assigned to assist and protect her. That changes everything.

You've set up a problem without stakes. Why does she care who the voice on the phone is? Why would she even listen to him past "hello?"


Joey's worked with some tough characters, but after working with Gina a few day, he longs for those other hard asses. Especially, after she gets her two best friends involved, and they plan a scheme behind his back. He's on to her, but makes a decision when he senses she's blocked out something significant that could shed light on the confusing rhymes. In spite of it all, he risks winning over the woman he's falling hard for and breaking the wafer-thin trust she has in him for his only chance to figure out who the man is and stop him from ruining his life.



Thank you for your time and consideration.

you're absolutely lost in words here, without telling me anything about what's at stake. Consider this: FBI Agent Gina Russo is getting threats from a man everyone thought was dead. The FBI is worried enough to assign her an agent for protection. What she hasn't told him might get them killed, but Agent Joey Zicara finds himself falling in love with Gina and unable to walk away even though he knows she's keeping secrets.


See the difference? Get to the nub of the plot. Leave out everything else.

Start over.
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Dear Query Shark,

Some things in life never work out the way we want them to.

Agent Gina Russo can't get past the heartbreak of her life. She flips when a yellow rose is delivered to her home three years later reminding her of what happened.

Is this supposed to be the heroine? Cause she sounds like a high-strung poodle. Three years after some sort of heartbreak she "flips" at the delivery of a yellow rose? I'm sorry, but this is not someone I want to spend 200+ pages with. Either gives us a sense the heartbreak is pretty major, or something else that would warrant this kind of response.

William Nicolas Mancuso, whom is presumed dead, vows to tangle with Russo who he holds responsible for his younger brother's life sentence and to free himself of the unbearable guilt he lives with.


This is very very awkward writing. You can see that if you try to read that sentence out loud.

"Tangle with" seems pretty mild if he holds Agent Russo responsible for his younger brother's incarceration. "Revenge" seems more likely to be what's on his mind.

Agent Joey Zicara, is assigned to assist Russo and extremely attracted to her, can't come to terms with her stubbornness and lack of trust as they race to stop Mancuso.

Race to stop him from what? Sending roses?

And now you've got three characters introduced, with no real sense of who they are, just their starting positions in the plot.

Agent Russo is pissed off with Mancuso'f ridiculous game.

What game?

Mancuso is ecstatic he's causing chaos in life.

I thought he wanted to tangle with Russo?

Agent Zicara is determined to discover who Mancuso is and figure out the the hell Russo's problem is as he tries to win her over.

Why the hell would he want to win her over? She doesn't seem all that enticing from here.    You'll want a protagonist with some strength here.

THE FINAL CLUE is a 130, 000 word quirky crime novel. Filled with action, twists and turns, combined with humor and leaves one wondering what the hell went wrong.


This is telling not showing. SHOW me this in your writing, don't tell me cause unless I read it, I don't believe it.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to share the entire manuscript with you at your request.

This is better than the first to tries in that it's shorter.
It still doesn't work because it fails to entice me to read on. You tell me it's funny, but there's not a drop of humor here to show me that's true. You tell me it's got twists and turns but you don't show me a single one.

Start over.
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Dear QueryShark:

For Nick Mancini time stopped when he saw the terrified look on his younger brother Anthony's face as Agent Russo apprehended him during a botched armed bank robbery. Nick couldn't shake the gut wrenching pain deep inside him and his feelings of remorse and guilt because he was unable to protect his brother. He vowed to avenge the life sentence his brother received.

Did you get a barrel of adjectives for Christmas? Words don't have expiration dates; you don't need to use them or lose them.


I'd stop reading right here because when I see this kind of over-writing in a query, I know I'll see it in the novel.

From a structural point of view, you have three characters introduced in one sentence. That hardly ever works, and now isn't one of the few times it does.



Years later Mancini contacts Agent Russo and identifies himself as her worse nightmare and tips her off about a crime he is about to commit to set her up. He makes it clear that he can see her through her apartment window and has been watching her. She becomes determined to discover who the caller is and why she is being targeted.

If I hadn't stopped reading before, I would now. It's a jumble of plot lines and confusing as hell. Simplify.



A Special Agent is assigned to assist and protect Agent Russo in her home causing her anxiety level to rise as she tries to fight the unwanted feelings growing toward the Special Agent. Because she can't let go of the devastating feelings she still has since her ex-fiance' broke her heart, she begins to not only doubt her feelings toward the Special Agent, she also begins to second guess her professionalism as an FBI Agent.

What you are describing as a crime novel has now sunk into some sort of emo-women's fiction about self-esteem. 

While it is true that many crime novels do feature characters who doubt themselves for all sorts of reasons, it's not a selling point for the novel.  Focus on plot and action; the enticing parts of the book.


THE FINAL CLUE is a 140,00 debut word crime novel set in New York City, one of possible series.

Thank you for your time and consideration. l look forward to sharing this completed novel with you.

Sincerely,




Start over. Use the formula that I've yapped about endlessly. It's in the archives.
This is a form rejection.


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Dear Query Shark,

I am seeking representation for my 140,000 word Crime Novel set in New York City, one of a possible series. Title: THE FINAL CLUE.

Don't start with this. I know you're seeking an agent because you've sent me the query. Don't start with the word count particularly since it's so high. When you've got troublesome word count (too high/too low) at least give yourself a chance and put it last. If I'm hooked on the story, I"m much more likely to overlook word count problems.
Leave out "possible series" or put it last.

Crime Novel is not capitalized.

Start here ----->William Nicholas Mancuso aka Nick Mancini, (why does it matter than he has an aka?) who is presumed dead after an explosion during a botched armed bank robbery, is determined to avenge his younger brother Anthony's life sentence. Agent Gina Russo is responsible for Anthony's arrest. Nick patiently tracks her for seven years, and then decides the time has come to execute his long awaited plan and let the games begin.

"Let the games begin" begs the question of why Nick doesn't just kill her. And why does it take seven years to track her?

When an unknown caller states his intentions (what intentions) to Agent Gina Russo and informs her that he can see her through her apartment window on the twenty-third floor, she is determined to figure out who he is and why she is being targeted.

My guess is the unknown caller is Nick. Just say so.


She wants to stop him before he executes his plan as he makes the game personal, mentally breaking her down.

This doesn't make sense. If you end the sentence at plan, you'd be better off.

And of course she wants to stop him. That seems pretty obvious.

Based on the caller's initial conversation, a Special Agent is assigned to assist and protect Agent Russo her in her home which unsettles her due to her own on going deep emotional struggle.

Again, you're better off with shorter sentences: A Special Agent is assigned to protect her in her apartment.  She's unsettled by this because (and then why)

And what's this deep emotional struggle? It doesn't actually tell me anything unless you say what the struggle is about. "She's struggling" is much less informative than "she's fighting off a lion that escaped from the zoo."

I was born and raised in New Jersey and have resided in South Florida for the past twenty-nine years. Working in Law Enforcement for 22 years to the present time has inspired me to write this novel considering the fact that not everything turn out the way we want or expect them to.

Where you were born and where you live doesn't matter (unless it's outer space.) Your inspiration to write the novel doesn't matter either. The fact you work in law enforcement can be perceived as a disadvantage.  People who work in law enforcement often suffer from over-accuracy. By that I mean they let accuracy get in the way of a good story.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to an opportunity to share the entire manuscript with you soon.

Sincerely,

There's no story here. It's just the set up. Bad guy is after the good guy. We have no sense of the characters other than one of them is an agent with emotional problems. Why should we care about any of them?


This is a form rejection.
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Dear Query Shark



I am seeking representation for my first novel entitled: “THE FINAL CLUE.” This 160,000, word crime novel is set in New York City and is the first of a possible series.

I've stopped reading right here. 160,000 words is too long. I don't care if it's more beautifully written than James Lee Burke, the ugly truth is I can't sell a long ass novel right now. Pare it down to 120,000 and better yet, under 100,000 words.
Agent Gina Russo received a phone call 5:15 am from a man who identified himself as Mr.WNM as in her worst night-mare, claiming he could see her in the window 23 stories up, through the heavily falling snow and informed her of his plans to rob millions from the National Vault institute.

This is supposed to set the suspense. It doesn't. You need to start with something that sounds real. Calling someone to inform them you're going to rob a bank isn't. Think about it. Set up the situation first, then you add the twist that she finds out he's going to rob the bank.

Seven years earlier, the caller, William Nicholas Mancuso aka Nick Mancini, was presumed dead after then Officer Russo fired her gun striking a barrel filled with explosives during a botched armed bank robbery. His world was torn apart when she apprehended his brother Anthony at the crime scene for which he now serves a life sentence. He vowed to avenge his brother. He observed her for seven years then decides the time has come, let the games begin.

What? This doesn't make any actual sense. You've got too many specifics and too many names. What you've got in so many (more!) words is: Nick Mancini vows revenge after Russo arrested his brother. Simplify.


Who the hell is the Commander? You're bogged down in details. Answer three simple questions: who's the protagonist; what choice does she face; what are the consequences of the choice. That's ALL you need. You've confused the reader here with too much detail.



I have worked in law enforcement over 21 years and although I am not an officer of the law, I have gained an enormous amount of knowledge throughout the years.

You don't need to distinguish between a position as a sworn officer or a civilian job.



Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to an opportunity to share the entire manuscript with you upon request.


This is a form rejection based on both word count and utter confusion.

30 comments:

TLH said...

It is hard to back away from the details you have woven into your story. It really was for me. But of course the Shark is completely right that we don't need all of those details to understand the story. They may be interesting (and numerous, in this case) but they're not really relevant.

Ms. Shark, thanks so much for another reminder to back away from your work before you try to query it.

Scattercat said...

Can I just say that the comma abuse and generally mediocre grammar ("night-mare?") put me off of this one after just one sentence.

Seriously, if you can't even get a query letter that doesn't sound like you speak English as a second language, what is your 160K darling going to read like?

Ruth said...

I have to agree with Scattercat here. I don't normally comment much on Query Shark, but the English was just so weird in this one. The tense changed twice in one sentence in paragraph two.

The story doesn't grab me, but more importantly - it doesn't make any sense to me.

It sounds like it's written the way you'd talk. That's NOT how you usually write.

Just my two cents....

BuffySquirrel said...

But if WNM escaped arrest by being presumed dead, then on at least one occasion Gina has failed to capture her suspect. Maybe work that in as motivation--he's spoilt her perfect record.

Stijn Hommes said...

"Based on the knowledge the Commander received from Agent Russo that morning, he makes the decision to assign an Agent to guard her due to the caller knowing her location and not knowing the caller’s true intentions" That sentence doesn't make grammatical sense. "due to" is not the phrase to use here and provided the other paragraphs do their work, "Based on this information the commander decides to assign an agent to protect her." is all you need.

"Agent Russo tries to solve the hidden clues within the rhymes continually sent by the caller." How the heck do you solve clues? Clues aren't the thing you solve, you solve the mystery the clues are a part of.

I have to agree with queryshark. While I understood what you're getting at, you were using far too much words to get it across. You're probably doing the same in the manuscript. Pare it down try to cut it into two standalone novels.

Lt. Cccyxx said...

I have a question about this one: it's somewhat peripheral to the main thrust of the query, and forgive me if this has been asked and answered elsewhere. The author mentions he has worked in law enforcement (obviously relevant to the plot). My question is: does this help, hurt, or make no difference in the effectiveness of the query?

I've read other places to list these qualifications if they're relevant, but I wonder whether it might hurt if the field is one that tends to produce poor story-tellers (for instance, a novel about a scientific discovery written by a scientist - would the agent worry the book would be filled with jargon)?

This blog is incredibly useful, and I love reading the queries, queryshark's critiques, and the comments!

kikipotamus said...

I'm with Scattercat. After just one paragraph I was aware the author's first language probably isn't English. There maybe a really good plot under here somewhere, but can this author write clearly or well enough to present it?

Anna Claire said...

I think this author would benefit tremendously from a good critique group. It sounds like the exciting plot is already there. The run-on sentences and incorrect grammar (i.e., nightmare, not night-mare) are things that can be easily fixed, with some effort and dedication to improving his/her writing. I have a feeling that cleaning up the prose will also cut the word count down to a more manageable (and saleable) size. Good luck, author!

Heather Wardell said...

I am presently cutting an 110,000 word manuscript down to 80,000 at an agent's request. Basically, she liked everything but the length.

It's unbelievably difficult but also an amazing education into what is really REALLY needed in a novel.

My first inclination was, "I need it all" but now I am really seeing what does and doesn't truly matter.

I sincerely hope this agent signs me because I like her, but even if she doesn't this has been so worth it. Might be worth it for the query writer as well.

Heather (who's at 13,000 cut and should really be there instead of here!)

Marian said...

As well as the awkward sentence construction/choice of words, there are sentences like "She needs to stop him from succeeding with his plans to rob the bank and his determination to mentally break her down". This is stating the obvious.

Also, I'd get rid of cliches like "Failure is not an option".

Robin said...

"Officer Russo fired her gun striking a barrel filled with explosives during a botched armed bank robbery."
I wonder why a barrel filled with explosives would be in a bank.

I feel for the author. Our beloved shark has always demanded we be more specific, and now is asking for less! We feel your pain, but it is necessary. Cutting words is as difficult as losing weight and its not like you can go to a gym and cut a chapter. Be brave dear author

Sina'i said...

My two cents: I am very confused here, but I am intrigued by the man who's dead but..... the protag thinks he's alive? If this query letter is an example of the writing in your book, I think I would get tired of reading it within the first chapter. IF you've done a lot more polishing on your novel, I would be curious about the story.

There's just too much here, and if I undertand correctly, this is supposed to be a suspense/thriller/crime story. The query letter should illustrate your own writing, and for that kind of novel, I think the writing should be tight and precise.

Also, to QueryShark, you've been nominated for the Kreativ Blogger's Award. http://www.worldofenantia.com/musesblock/?p=132

iadonisi said...

First I would like to thank Query Shark for opening my eyes. I am willing to learn whatever I need in order to get it right. This is a learning experience for me and I welcome all the critique I can get.

Secondly I want to thank you all for your comments. Constructive criticism is what I need. I apologize that my query was so confusing. Reference to the one comment, the barrel filled with explosives was not inside the bank and Agent Russo has no idea this man is alive.

Back to the drawing board for me,
Thanks again

Margaret Yang said...

Iadonisi said, "This is a learning experience for me and I welcome all the critique I can get."


That says it all. You're brave to submit to the shark so that we can all learn something. Good luck to you.

JS said...

Kudos to you, iadonisi, for taking all of the feedback on board so graciously.

As TLH says, you've got a lot of intriguing ideas. Maybe a critique group or an editing swap with another writer will help you to streamline your prose and present those ideas more effectively. Best of luck!

Pamela Hammonds said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
_*Rachel*_ said...

The sentence structure is killing me. Missing commas, runons, and too many dependent clauses. It's going to sound mean, but I'd recommend a grammar class.

Thanks for being brave and gracious.

Yaya' s Changing World said...

This is the first time I've come across this site, but I have already learned quite a lot. I do so appreciate that you have created a blog for learning how to eliminate the no-no's in sending a query. Query Letters present a dark and mysterious world for the writer without previous experience ande I am thankful to have found this site. - Yaya

http://yayashome.blogspot.com/

BuffySquirrel said...

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/entitled

Aimless Writer said...

There was too much here. You might have a great story but all the details confused me.
I need the main character, her conflict, motivation and goal.
Evil character, his conflict, motivation and goal. Break it down like that and then see if you need any more stuff. Read the backs of books and see how it's written there.
Good luck!

astrologybites said...

You lost me in the second paragraph, but maybe because at first, I missed that Gina Russo was an agent. It sounded like a stalker story and then when he told her he was going to rob a bank, my first thought was Huh? Why would she care? because I thought they were strangers to each other. Did anyone else think that?

Esc said...

This query has helped me take a new direction. I have completed a 180,000 word novel and have had a hard time getting any bite's on it. Now I know part of the problem. Thank You Query shark I will keep learning from you.

alaskaravenclaw said...

Re 12/4/10 revision:

Writer, I can't tell who the main character is. You opened with Nick, and his point-of-view, but then the 2nd half of the query is in Gina's POV.

Even if there are two POV's in your novel, you definitely only want one in your query.

Ms. Shark is right about over-precision. Here's an example:

Agent Gina Russo is responsible for Anthony's arrest. Nick patiently tracks her for seven years, and then decides the time has come to execute his long awaited plan

All you really need to say is that

(from Nick's POV) Nick finally catches up with the cop who sent his brother to jail

or

(from Gina's POV) Gina's being stalked by the brother of a criminal she arrested.

Stephanie Barr said...

12/4 Revision

Le sigh. You need a protagonist, an antagonist and a conflict. Here, you have a crank caller. True, the crank caller apparently intends something besides the phone call and a personal grudge, but I'm not sure that's really all that unusual either.

There's nothing here to establish any character. It should take more than a crank call to rattle a cop. Your antagonist bent on revenge seems dim-witted. Since we're given nothing else to go on, I'm already bored.

I have to know why I care about the characters or be given a story that compels me. I have neither here.

Stephanie Barr said...

1/2/11 Here's what I see. Someone wants revenge for his brother's incarceration, so he TIPS her off that he's committing a crime and planning to pin it on her (this is the plan he's been making for seven years?), a plan that goes awry since they assign a Special Agent/love interest to protect her (arguing that they're not pinning the crime to her).

So, the plan's caput and revenge is, what? Killing her? What is she doing? Hiding in protection or working with the Special Agent to track down the now ineffective peeping tom? She can't really do both.

Right now, this looks to me like a string of cliches without anything that gives it coherence or makes it seem logical. Try focusing on the stakes.

What if she doesn't find Nick? Is he a threat? Why? (And I don't mean revenge, I mean, why should she be afraid of him?)

Bratty said...

If it's a romance, shouldn't the format be:

Career agent Gina X. finds solving a recent rash of bank heists difficult with two men tracking her every move. One, the cop sent to protect her, is way too close for comfort. Almost as close as the serial killer who's marked her as his next victim.

Agent Y has enough experience with killers to know it's best not to taunt them. So why, when the killer's watching their every move is making a move on Gina all he can think about?

Together, they must unravel the killer's identity before it's too late.

Er...something like that!

Julianna Helms said...

"Can I just say that the comma abuse and generally mediocre grammar ("night-mare?") put me off of this one after just one sentence.

Seriously, if you can't even get a query letter that doesn't sound like you speak English as a second language, what is your 160K darling going to read like? "-Scattercat

Scattercat, I do agree with you, but you shouldn't mention the whole "English as second language" thing. There are plenty of Award-winning best-selling authors who speak English as a second language. I know you're just using it as an example, but there ARE better ways to phrase your intentional meaning.

And as for the query, I believe the shark is right. Too much. Simplifying is all you need. Also, I noticed that your word count kept climbing higher and higher--too much detail, perhaps? Don't be afraid to murder your darlings. Cut, revise, and cut some more!

Katrina S. Forest said...

Something that's bugging me a bit in this latest revision -- it reads like after Gina meets Joey, she goes from a well-trained, disciplined FBI agent to a daydreaming teenager who can't put her crush aside long enough to deal with the fact that there's a psychopath running loose. More than that, the only way for Gina to have any success is to "trust Joey" and "keep her heart from going into overdrive" around him. So, instead of being the protagonist, she's just following Joey and admiring him while he moves the plot. (I assume that's not how it goes, but that's how the query reads to me.)

On a much more minor note,the soup kitchen line threw me. Doesn't make her seem like a very charitable person, if serving food to people in need is the worst alternative job she can think of.

fuzzymango said...

Yay for great revisions!

One minor question for the Shark, though: in addition to crossing out the extraneous "the", shouldn't it be "...not knowing *who* the bastard is"?

Joy Slaughter said...

Most query format sites recommend the word count being given at the beginning, but in most 'real' queries, I see it at the end. Now I know the reasons why one would put it at the end vs. the beginning.