Monday, February 1, 2010

#145-Revised

Dear Query Shark

I would like to offer for your consideration STC- Sexually Transmitted Crime- an 80,000 word contemporary crime thriller set in Australia and Europe.

This title has got to go. How about BLUES SINGER.

After two years, four months and twelve days in prison for what her former lover had done, Isabella Lucas is out and he is the prey now/……../ delete the dots.

Having left the country, Isabella’s former lover Richard O’Reilly is likely to be keeping a low profile. But there is one thing that will bring him out: his complete vanity regarding his musical talents. Isabella needs to find a way to appeal to his desire for international recognition as a Blues Singer.

Blues Singer is not a proper noun. No caps.

You don't need "regarding his musical talents" because you have blues singer in the next sentence. Taking it out also helps the sentence sound less awkward.


The attempted murder charge is still pending, if only she can get him on Australian soil again, then he’ll see the hell prison is!

If she can get him on Australian soil again, where the attempted murder warrant is still outstanding, he'll see what hell prison is.

You have to start the sentence with the "if clause" or it looks like the murder charge is only pending if she can get him to Australia. The charge IS outstanding. She can get him arrested IF he returns.

See the difference?

With few employment options available to a convicted criminal and money running out, Isabella agrees to work as a bookkeeper and business partner for a fellow former inmate in a less than desirable industry. The steady income enables her to hire a private detective and together they hunt Richard down.


When she learns he is now married, her plans change from just seeing him in jail to all out revenge. Consumed with bitterness that his life seems so perfect, she sets about destroying his marriage first. She surprises herself at the joy she feels in succeeding.

Wow. She sounds like a real prize. The thing about anti-heroes is we, the readers, have to feel some sympathy for them. I don't feel much for Isabella right now. I would IF you mention she's in prison for something Richard did, and he purposely let her take the fall.

And you've got entirely too much of the plot here in the query. All we need to know is the choice Isabella faces, and what the consequences are.

She can choose to track Richard down and have revenge OR she can...what? You want to entice me to read the book, not tell me everything that happens so I don't actually need to read it.

His marriage collapses, his life in Europe is destroyed, now is the perfect time to set about the final step. An unexpected offer from a record producer in Australia, orchestrated by Isabella, is made to him. Even though he has reservations about returning, desire for fame and with seemingly no future in Europe he agrees to meet with the producer.

Once through customs, Richard sees Isabella. She cannot resist being at the airport. It feels like she had been planning a major performance and today is opening night. She is confident and smiling, Richard knows something is wrong. As he looks around him he can see police coming toward him. There is no time for him to think, nowhere to run. Savoring in his downfall she watches with satisfaction when the police escort him away.

His imprisonment is her freedom; or so she believed. She had been consumed with revenge for more than four years and now it’s over. The court system and even her prison cell where not her longest ordeal, her blackened heart was. Blind faith leads her into a life she could not have imagined but revenge lead her to a darker side of herself that only now she sees reflecting back at her. She thought she would feel free and satisfied, all she feels is empty.

She is finally ready to begin her own life; ready to work at being a free woman.


Thank you for your time and consideration.

Regards,

Form rejection


-------------
Dear Query Shark

I would like to offer for your consideration STC- SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED CRIME- an 80,000 word contemporary physiological thriller set in Australia and Europe.

That's the worst title I've seen in a long time. For starters, my spam filter is going to take a good long look it, and probably say no. Second, unless you're writing erotica, this is the wrong tone.

After two years, four months and twelve days in prison for what her former lover had done, Isabella is out and he is the prey now……..

This is a much better place to start. You've got the character and a sense of conflict all in one.

ISABELLA LUCAS

I'm not sure what reference text you all are reading that says to put character names in all caps but I hope you find it and burn it. This is a holdover from the movies. Don't do it in a query.

is a successful city accountant who believes life is close to ideal. A thriving business, a beautiful apartment and a loving boyfriend, even if he seems to be getting no-where with his musical aspirations. That all changes with a knock on the door.

This is back story. You had me interested in the revenge thing earlier, so we know this ends badly.

After her boyfriend RICHARD leaves for Germany on what she believes is a recording deal her home is raided. She hears words like attempted murder, drugs, illegal weapons and Richards name is constantly repeated. Her mind is fogged with confusion but clarity hits when the raid uncovers drugs and illegal weapons hidden in her home.

Without a credible reason why there are drugs in her home and Richard no longer contactable, she is charged with possession, the attempted murder charges being dropped due to lack of evidence implicating Isabella.

Consumed with anger and bitterness; after almost two and a half years in prison Isabella is released on parole. Her business gone, as are most of her friends, only her family and her loathing for Richard remain. Where once she felt love she now feels revenge. This is what kept her motivated throughout the sentence. This emotion sustained her through endless body strips, mindless raids on her cell, pointless prison programs and therapy sessions. And now she’s out.

With nine months of parole ahead of her and void of feeling anything but the need for personal justice, she plans her revenge on Richard. The attempted murder charges are still pending and he is a person of interest.


Having left the country Richard is likely to be keeping a low profile. But there is one thing that will bring him out, his complete vanity regarding his musical talents. Isabella needs to find a way to appeal to his desire for international recognition as a Blues Singer.

She agrees to be a business partner with a fellow former inmate in the unsavory Escort industry.

and here's where you lose me completely. I'm sorry but I just don't believe this. A successful city accountant leaves prison and becomes a hooker. No.

She needs the money and has few other immediate employment options. With a steady income Isabella hires a private detective and together they hunt Richard down. When she learns he is now married, her plans change. Consumed with bitterness that his life seems so perfect, she sets about destroying his marriage first. She surprises herself at the joy she feels in succeeding.

His marriage collapses, his life in Europe is destroyed, now is the perfect time to set about the final step. An unexpected offer from a record producer in Australia, orchestrated by Isabella, is made to him. Even though he has reservations about returning, he agrees to meet with the producer.

Once through customs, Richard sees Isabella. She cannot resist being at the airport. She is confident and smiling, Richard knows something is wrong. As he looks around him he can see police coming toward him. There is no time for him to think, nowhere to run. Savoring in his downfall she watches with satisfaction when the police escort him away.

His imprisonment is her freedom. She had been consumed with revenge for almost four years and now it’s over. The court system and even her prison cell where not her longest ordeal, her blackened heart was. Blind faith lead her into a life she could not have imagined but Isabella Lucas is finally a free woman.
******************************


why do you have a line of stars in a query? Don't do that.

Also, this plot is pretty hackneyed. The Other Side of Midnight by Sidney Sheldon was the first novel I read with this plot. It wasn't the last.

You can use an old plot if you want but what you MUST do is add something fresh and new to it. I don't see that here.


I am a qualified accountant who has experience with inmates, working with them in prison programs and on a one-on-one basis. I also have experience with the parole process. Additionally, I have worked along side both social workers and physiologists in after-release programs.

You don't need qualifications to write a novel.

Taking my varied experience I have created a story dealing with the social and emotional struggle of being completely consumed by revenge and of feeling true freedom again.

This is telling, not showing. It's as bad in a query as it is in a novel.

Synopsis and complete MS available on request. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Regards,


IF this makes it through the spam filter, it's a form rejection.

32 comments:

Josin L. McQuein said...

Sounds like a cheesy retread of "Double Jeopardy".

CKHB said...

Technically, the query only says that she becomes a "business partner" in the escort industry. Maybe she's still doing accounting? Surely high-end call girls need bookkeeping.

Just sayin'.

Lehcarjt said...

"Her mind is fogged with confusion." Ugh.

I liked your your qualifications. I know QS said to drop them, but that fact that you work with paroles gives you perhaps a different perspective.

This entire query read like a mini synopsis though. You want to tease us a bit, not give us the entire story. Take a look at some of the queries here that worked. None of them talk about the ending of the book.

Lydia Sharp said...

Too. Long.

And there is no focus.

I don't claim to be an expert, and I don't write this type of fiction, but I'm sure there are a million twists and subplots and character nuances that you wanted to highlight. That just isn't possible in a query letter. Keep it simple and direct.

Falen said...

crap - Josin beat me to the punch.

Sophia said...

You don't need qualifications to write a novel.

I was surprised by this, as I had thought that it was suitable to give qualifications when they were directly relevant to the story you had written, as seemed to be the case here. As a general rule, should we be skipping qualifications completely?

kregger said...

How can it be a physiological thriller? That would include all the bugs and goo that go along with STD's or other virulent surprises. There wasn't a bit of biological tension in the query. Psych!

The Invisible Writer said...

Leaving aside the treatment of the story throughout the query as though it's only backstory to the plot, what happened to keeping it to one page?

Marian said...

I'm not really seeing what crime was sexually transmitted. The title made me think of sex being used as a vehicle to somehow make people commit crimes or implicate them.

Isabella as a character is also problematic - the query says she's "consumed with bitterness" and "consumed with revenge" and has a "blackened heart". Even without the possibility that she went into the escort business in an up-close-and-personal way, that doesn't make her too appealing to me.

Then at the end, she gets Richard arrested, and... ? She's a free woman? What does that mean? Will she now have a steady income, such that she can give up her job in the escort business? What will she do now that she's reached the goal she pursued for four years?

Irene Troy said...

Last week I was in our local bookstore browsing through various subjects – one of my favorite cold day activities – and after reading a few book flaps something a bit disturbing (depressing) occurred to me: there seem to be no new plots. So much of what is being released is similar in plot, characterization, point of view, etc. What has happened to originality and creativity? Reading this query I can think of at least three other novels with very similar plots. The query is poorly put together, but, unless I’m very much mistaken, the premise for the story is simply a rehash of other work that – once upon a time – made the best selling list. I’m fairly sure the author is creative and probably does have the ability to write a story that is not just a rehash, but from this query that is very hard to tell.

jjdebenedictis said...

For the record, I loved the title. This doesn't sound like my cup of tea at all, but I'd probably pull a book with an intriguing title like that off the shelf, just out of curiosity.

But it probably is something that will fall afoul of spam filters.

Too Cute to be Very Interesting said...

Synopsis available upon request? I thought this was a synopsis.

Theresa Milstein said...

Based on the fact that fewer agents accept pages with their query, there's probably a temptation to provide more detail in the query. The amount of detail here is more like a synopsis, which has its own place. This query is more than one page, which I thought was standard.

I agree - lose the title.

SatyricalRaven said...

Hi Janet and & commenter’s, I’m the Author of STC.

First off, thanks to everyone who has commented, I will take onboard what has been said.

The title: STC is a play on words linking it to STD- Sexually Transmitted Crime (a generic social and financial term used worldwide) but I can see how this will cause problems for spam filters, will look at other options.

CKHB: Yes you are right, she takes the position of book-keeper/ admin manager for the business, accounting practice is totally out of the question with a Criminal Record and her options are limited at best.

Just on the plot, Janet I’ve never read Sydney Sheldon’s book so I am not sure of the similarities & Josin, I am not trying to make a copy of Double Jeopardy, but I can see how that would appear so.

I am aware the query was too long and wasn’t really good, I was/am struggling with it as I want to express that while her actions are less than honorable her motivation is self-worth, even though she’s going about it the wrong way.

Richard in prison doesn’t remove the economic stain of her own criminal record nor does it make her happy or successful- she just believes it will.

The Sexually Transmitted Crime is what she was put on trial & sent to prison for. On getting out we learn that she has gone form an optimistic successful content person to one with only anger and revenge, it is what sustains her throughout the entire ordeal, and she cannot let it go.

Like women who get plastic surgery to ‘feel better’ she thinks revenge will somehow make her feel better. It doesn’t. While she savors her triumph, she (eventually) accepts all she has done is waste more time; she can’t have her old life back.

The story follows her physically on this ‘mission of revenge’ but its all really physiological, her anger is sustained by her non-acceptance that life changes and we need to sometimes let go to find ourselves again.

As I say, I know the query needs work, that’s why I’m here. Thanks again :)

jessjordan said...

This reads much more like a synopsis than a query. And I'm pretty sure I read on a few blogs that names should be capitalized the first time they're used in a synopsis (someone please correct me if I'm wrong!). Definitely needs to be trimmed down.

Marissa Doyle said...

Do you mean "psychological" rather than "physiological"? If not, then I'm very confused.

Jenn McKay said...

Hello NUMBER ONE FORTY FIVE,

I have 2 points:

A semi-colon is "a punctuation mark (`;') used to connect independent clauses; indicates a closer relation than does a period".

I can understand the urge to include qualifications that prove you know what you're writing about, but sometimes, as is the case today, it only makes the author look like (s)he might be stealing lives without actually understanding where the main character is coming from.

Please note - I am in no way qualified to critique queries.

Donna Hole said...

I'd so rather read erotica than romance, and I really love the title. I do, I do!

But I can see Janet's point about the spam filter. I think if you were submitting this to an agency that accepted MS with sexual content, the SPAM filter would be less discriminating. So, maybe what you should be thinking about here is: does your title truly describe the content of the novel.

If not, then you might want to think about a different title. If yes, then really focus on that content in the query. Don’t be afraid - or embarrassed - to use plain language and get this to your target audience.

“After two years, four months and twelve days in prison for what her former lover had done, Isabella is out and he is the prey now..” I like this line; its exactly the way I expect an accountant to think. Very precise. Not the “roughly two and a half years” an average person would relegate the time to.

I'm a bit confused on how she could afford to hire a private detective with her limited funds, and why (and how) she would need to become a prostitute (even as an expensive "escort"). Since Isabella is relying on her prison acquaintances to assist her in revenge and income, I'd think any illicit organization would be more interested in her ability to cook books than her talents in a bedroom.

For all the intrigue of her illicit contacts, Richard seems pretty boring, and not really worth the effort of ruining. Yeah, he's happily married and has an adequate music career; but it's not like he's a super star who got there by any other means than talent. Exposing his drug habit (or trafficking) is cliché. Only the tabloids sell that kind of news.

And, I'm not seeing how she destroyed his happy life. Artists are eccentrics and they cheat, do drugs and alcohol, lie about their whereabouts. Don't pay their taxes. Isabella was with Richard as his career was taking off. Any woman after her married a rising star, and maybe she wasn't happy about the lifestyle, but she was attracted to it and it would take several years (not the two and a half Isabella was incarcerated) to become disillusioned.

I'm not seeing those years and that dedication to slander implied in this synopsis. So, how did Isabella get to him in just a few months? Did she seduce him into some bad investments, or re-introduce the drug life after he'd been clean for eons? And what of the murder; is that something she was able to prove and have him arrested for? How exactly did she destroy his life?

For all the backstory, the ending is anti-climatic. She sets a plan to destroy his perfect life, it works, she's satisfied. I do like that it ends where it begins. But it just brings the story full circle; ties the end to the beginning. Isabella gets out of prison, decides to ruin his life, it works, and she is satisfied. Spiritual freedom instead of physical freedom.

I'd bet your accounting credentials and prisoner associations would work well if this story was about how she brought down Richard by exposing his music career as a money laundering business. If the MC had knowledge and skills only an IRS or Treasury Agent could truly understand. Then of course your insider info would be relevant. The expectations for plot and character development might be overwhelming though, if you used it. Probably best not to include it in your personal bio, as it's not relevant to the content of the novel. You state she's a successful accountant, but don't use that to advantage in the plot.

Don't be discouraged, Author. This story has lots of potential for contempory, thriller, erotica, or even romance. What it lacks is focus on any one area.

Thanks for sharing your potential best seller with us.

........dhole

Marian said...

Satyrical Raven,

"While she savors her triumph, she (eventually) accepts all she has done is waste more time; she can’t have her old life back."

That seems like a bit of a downer - if I've followed a character through an entire novel and a complicated scheme for revenge, the last thing I want to hear is that the character has wasted her time. Because then it seems like she's wasted my time too.

In Sidney Sheldon's If Tomorrow Comes, the heroine is sent to jail for a crime she didn't commit, but she gets out and starts wreaking revenge on the people who put her there.

That ends at the halfway point of the book, though, and from then on it's about how she uses her ill-gotten skills to have fun and earn money, as well as having a barbed romance with a fellow con man. So it's got a happy ending.

I'm not saying the reverse (a woman who becomes unhappy thanks to her revenge quest) can't be pulled off, but it would probably be somewhat harder to do. Especially if revenge is the only thing she's really accomplished during the course of the novel - no rebuilding of her life, no romance, etc.

Josin L. McQuein said...

1st thing -- check how many times in the beginning paragraphs your verb of choice is "is". Simple state of being, no action. If your MC isn't in action, then why should I spend time reading what she isn't doing?

2nd -- this thing is WAY too long. You're still summarizing the whole story. Try starting with a bullet list (for yourself, not literally in the query)

3rd -- kill the title before it kills your book.

I'm going to take a stab at rewording this (it may or may not fit your theme, but I hope it helps.)

Forget Me Not is an 80K crime thriller

2 years, 4mo, and 12 days -- that's how long Isabella's spent plotting revenge. And she's got the marks on her prison cell to prove it. Now that she's out, her ex is a dead man.

At least he is if she can find him and drag his sorry butt back to Australia.

But Isabella never expected him to have moved on so completely. It's like she never existed. He has a real life now - family, house, business - every perfect thing he cost her. Every perfect thing she can take from him.

The revelation changes her plans. If she kills him, he only suffers once. If she destroys him, he'll feel it forever, and best of all, he'll never forget.



Ver. word: eptic -- The disease of thinking a story is "epic" when it could really be told in 75K words.

kitty said...

Josin beat me to it. I, too, thought of Double Jeopardy, which had the delicious tagline, "Murder isn't always a crime."

There's nothing like a good revenge story. Good luck!
...

Kate said...

Also, THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO. Obviously with a dude instead of a chick. But we all know that the same plots are used over and over. No surprise there.

I've found that working on my query AS I'm writing my WIP has helped me find problems with characters and plot. If the query doesn't work, the story might not be working either. If the query is boring, the story might be boring. If you can't just say "Woman imprisoned for a crime she didn't commit and seeks revenge on man responsible" (more or less) and it be interesting, you still need to add the twist that will make the old trope interesting again.

For example, your MC reads like a pretty loathsome gal in the query. And yet she also seems a little flat. If we had a better idea of what makes her special, why we want to be a fly on the wall while she goes through this cycle of rage, revenge, revelation, an old plot MIGHT be more forgivable and your query may have more impact without the need for so much plot detail.

I'm not an expert. Just a thought. Will leave expertness to the Shark.

The Invisible Writer said...

SatyricalRaven: You said "The title: STC is a play on words linking it to STD- Sexually Transmitted Crime (a generic social and financial term used worldwide) but I can see how this will cause problems for spam filters, will look at other options."

I didn't find any use of Sexually Transmitted Crime on Google except in reference to your book on or query...

JS said...

The Sexually Transmitted Crime is what she was put on trial & sent to prison for.

I do not understand this. She was put on trial for a "sexually transmitted crime" but it was really her boyfriend who did it?

This is very confusing. What is "a sexually transmitted crime"? The only thing I can think of is being charged with criminal negligence for transmitting AIDS, and obviously the person who was the victim could tell the difference between her and her boyfriend.

Kittie Howard said...

Terrific constructive criticism. But, sroll down to your paragraph that begins with 'wow'. It's, we, the reader, HAVE to...What's in parenthetical elements doesn't affect verb and subject agreement...you might want to re-think that sentence, grammar-wise.

SatyricalRaven said...

Hello all,

thanks again for the comments.

Invisible Writer, I think I didn't make myself clear.
STD = Sexually Transmittid Debt

I changed it to
STC = Sexually Transmitted Crime.
Sorry for the confusion; but as suggested I will be looking to make a change to the title - thanks all.

Josin L. McQuein: thanks so much for your effort and suggestions, I like the wording - thanks :)

Kitty: Cheers! I appreciate the comment.

JS: She is charged, put on trial and convicted of possession; the drugs and the illegal weapons are in her home, there is no-one else there but her, she has no credible reason for them being there other than 'I didn't know it was there' - the law does not readily accept the arguement of 'I Don't Know' - they try to charge her with attempted manslaughter but cannot make it stick; therefore the case of attempted murder is still a case pending.
Richard is a person of interest, but as he has not been questioned, he is not charged and can only be so if he is on Australian soil. (one of my best friends is a criminal lawyer and partner in a criminal law firm - got the legal basics from her)

Having said all that, the simple matter is this is not clear in the query and needs to be cleared up or altered in some way. Thanks :)

Thomas said...

I think some of you are overthinking the title. Her boyfriend committed the crimes. She went to prison for them. She "caught" the blame from the person she was sleeping with. In that sense, his crimes were "sexually transmitted" to her.

I'm not saying it's not a terrible title. It's a terrible title. But I'm pretty sure that's the logic behind it.

Aimless Writer said...

This reads almost like a synopsis instead of a query. Too much information. I need to get excited. Tell me something like: Exconvict, Isabella Lucas is out for revenge against the man who set her up and she'll do whatever it takes to bring him down.
Keep the excitement up. I don't need to know where she works. Also the fact that she's breaking up his marriage and by doing that hurting his wife (innocent victim) I lose respect for Isabella. Perhaps if I knew Richard's crime against her I might hate him enough for this to be okay but as it reads now I don't. We have to like the main character.
I think there's a lot of details you could cut.
Here's her conflict, her motivation and her goal. Give me one sentence for each and then elaborate (a little) on each.
Good luck!

Dave The Angry Rhode Islander said...

I would like to just comment on one point that someone made in another comment; All artists are NOT cheats, drunks, drug addicts, and liars - just the good ones ;)

I'm an artist, and I approve this message.

Phebe H.L. said...

Wow, this story honestly doesn't make any sense to me. Maybe make it a little clearer. State the most important parts of your novel.
But, even though QS told you to scratch out the qualifications, I think they are pretty good. Working with paroles are giving you a real perstective.

G'LUCK :)

holly said...

confusion is all i can say...they are very confused.

Bernard S. Jansen said...

I enjoyed the Shark's comments. Funny, and informative.