Years ago, officer Gina Russo fired a shot in
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.
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
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 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.
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
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.
FBI Agent Gina Russo is contacted by a
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Start over. Use the formula that I've yapped about endlessly. It's in the archives.
This is a form rejection.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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
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.