Sunday, May 9, 2010


Dear QueryShark:

Can Jim Taylor and his horse thwart a gang of murders and kidnappers? Only Jim avoids capture when the son of an oil and gas magnate and his party are held for ransom.

The way you've organized those sentences makes it sound like Jim's horse gets kidnapped. You need to start with "When the son of (etc)" to make it work.

Solitude Showdown follows Jim and his horse and their efforts to rescue the hostages and survive the rigors of the Wyoming wilderness.

Jim has come to Wyoming fleeing a life he can no longer endure.

This doesn't matter to the core of the plot, and doesn't belong in the query. What matters is why Jim feels like he has to thwart these guys on his own. Frankly, if someone kidnapped my merry band of godsends, I'd leave them and run off to Vegas. Well, ok, maybe not. But here we get no sense of why Jim feels a stake in the outcome. Why does he care? Fleeing a life he can't endure because that's not specific enough to be real is not specific enough for us to understand why he'd risk his life (and his horse!) to thwart the bad guys.

He and his horse, Buck, witness the murder of one camper and the taking of the rest of the party. Calling on his cell phone, Jim learns that the local sheriff is unable to help. Only he and Buck can save the hostages.

This is really awkward. Buck witnesses the murder? Well, ok, but really c'mon. "The taking of the rest of the party" Anytime you have an eight word sentence and three of the words are "the" you have textbook "needs to be revised"

"Calling on his cell phone": Jim reaches the sheriff by cell phone, and learns he is unable to help.

"Only he and Buck can save the hostages" Well, no. Paying the ransom probably can too. Right?

Outnumbered six to one, Jim exploits his horsemanship and his knowledge of the wilderness to even the odds. Seeking redemption for past failures, Jim risks his life repeatedly and kills again and again. He is horrified to discover a talent for killing.

The only interesting sentence here is that he's horrified to discover he has a talent for killing. Why is he horrified?

Relying on Jim’s calls for information, Sheriff’s Zeke Thomason comes to suspect that the man held for ransom is actually a willing participant. Doublecrosses and forces of nature create chaos for the kidnappers and for law enforcement. Even escape from the mountains does not end the ordeal for Jim and Buck.

Solitude Showdown is 65,000 words complete. It is the first of several novels featuring Jim, Buck and Sheriff Zeke Thomason.

Let's start with one and see how it goes.

My guess is that the book is as full of awkward writing as the query. I see writers querying too early in their careers a LOT. I have a sneaking suspicion that's the case here.

this is a form rejection.
Word Count: 65,000

Title: Solitude Showdown

(name redacted)

The name on your email, and this name do not match.
That's a HUGE red flag for me on queries.
My guess is you had your admin asst send this.
Use a dedicated email for your writing, NOT your biz email, and certainly NOT your admin's.

(street address redacted)
(evening phone redacted)
(day phone redacted)

I know you said you read and followed the directions, but I simply do not believe it after seeing this.

Do not start with the word count and the title. And REALLY don't start with your contact information.

My computer screen shows seven FEWER lines of your actual query when you do this. If an agent is reading on her Blackberry, Iphone or other small screen, it's even less: the first eight lines you've used with housekeeping details are the ONLY thing she sees.

Once more cause it's clearly not sinking in: start with what the book is about.

Can one man and his horse thwart a gang of murders and kidnappers? The son of an oil and gas magnate and his party are held for ransom. Only one man avoids capture. Solitude Showdown follows that man and his horse in their efforts to rescue the hostages and survive the rigors of the Wyoming wilderness.

The one man in the first sentence is not the son of the oil magnate in the second. The third sentence goes back to the "one man." This is tennis match writing: bouncing from one court to another. That's not what you want, particularly in a query.

Consider this:

Can one man and his horse thwart a gang of murders and kidnappers? Only one man avoids capture when the son of an oil and gas magnate and his party are held for ransom. Solitude Showdown follows that man and his horse in their efforts to rescue the hostages and survive the rigors of the Wyoming wilderness.

Jim Taylor has come to Wyoming fleeing a life he can no longer endure. He and his horse, Buck, witness the murder of one camper and the taking of the rest of the party. Jim struggles to overcome self doubt and the impulse to flee from the crisis.

And you'd be much better off to replace "one man" in paragraph one with his name.

There's an offputting inconsistency between the first and last sentence. Jim Taylor is fleeing a life he can no longer endure. That seems to show he's got some gumption to make changes in his life. The last sentence (struggles to overcome self-doubt and the impulse to flee from the crisis) undercuts our sense that Jim might be heroic.

Communicating by cell phone, Jim is enlisted by the local sheriff to follow kidnappers through the wilderness. Forced by circumstances, both man and horse kill members of the kidnap gang. Jim is shocked to discover how easy killing becomes. He wonders whether he is any different from the men he has stalked.

Here's you've sunk into telling us about situations, not choices. WHY does Jim elect to do this? What's in it for him?

Alerted by Jim’s call, Sheriff Zeke Thomason tries to organize a posse. He is immobilized by meddling politicians. Frustrated at being held up in town, he must await Jim’s calls for news. A savvy old lawman, the sheriff comes to suspect that the man held for ransom is actually a willing participant.

Whoa. Cell phones are a feature of the modern day. Posses are not. You're also getting bogged down in too much detail here, and you're burying the most interesting part of the paragraph: the man held for ransom is actually a willing participant.

Here's where I'd stop reading. There's nothing enticing or interesting yet, there's at least one "whoa" and the jumbled writing of paragraph one makes me think the novel will have more of the same.

Jim and Buck endure rain, snow, and cold and survive a violent electrical storm and a forest fire. Their shared ordeal strengthens the bond between them. After finally escaping the mountains they must once again defeat the gang leader at the trailhead.

The query is not the place for a complete rundown on the book. You don't need to do anything but set up the premise of the plot and introduce the characters. In fact, the more you tell me, the less likely I am to want to read it because in this very short form of the query letter you have to leave out all the stuff that makes the plot actually work. More is actually LESS ENTICING in a query.

My writing experience dates back many years to when I was a reporter and columnist for a weekly newspaper (in addition to being a hot type topographer). For the past thirty plus years I have been a trial lawyer which means my communication skills have been focused on orally persuasive story telling.

None of this is a publication credential for novels.

For details on my legal career please see www.(redacted).com .

Never ever ever do this. Never. It has nothing to do with querying for a novel.

My legal experience dovetails into my platform. I am well known and respected in my field throughout (region redacted) and have hundreds of former clients who stay in touch.

Well, emailing them you have a novel for sale is a good way to pare down the list of people who want to hear from you.

I am also an experienced horseman and for the past ten years have lived on a farm with nine of the beasts. I have developed an expertise in equine law and am a popular speaker at equine related meetings. I get calls from horse people throughout the state seeking advice and counsel.

There are millions of horses in the United States. The last figure I read was seven million. There are many millions more horse lovers and people who will ride or watch riding events. The horse, Buck, features prominently in the novel and will appeal to all horse people and horse lovers.

This is the worst abuse of logic I see in query letters: My book has horses, people like horses, people will like my book. Not only is that not true, it's so clearly not true, it's one of those phrases that triggers the rejection button.

I am a baby boomer and believe I project that experience and philosophy into the novel. The character, Jim, is sixtyish and has a boomer’s perspective on life and taste in music.

There's now a baby boomer philosophy?

Look, you're trying too hard here. To use a riding metaphor, you're holding the reins with a death grip hoping to steer the query horse in the right direction. Ease up. Tell me what the book is about. That's all I care about.

I enclose a return envelope for your convenience.
This is an email query. If you've enclosed an envelope, I'll eat my cowgirl hat.

I get this kind of stuff every once in a while; mistakes that show you've written this for a paper query then just emailed it. It's not a big deal by itself but it shows you either aren't proofreading your queries, or you don't care. Neither of those are attributes I seek in potential clients.

This is a form rejection.

There are several excellent examples of good and enticing query letters on this blog. Read them.
Revise. Resend.


Unknown said...

Well, I love horses, but I hate murderers and kidnappers, so since this book has those, I'm obviously going to avoid it.

Or something.

One point:
"Can one man and his horse thwart a gang of murders and kidnappers? Only one man avoids capture when the son of an oil and gas magnate and his party are held for ransom." - This doesn't sound much better than the original. It's way too repetitive with the "one man." I'd say that if the second "one man" were changed to "this man," it might be stylistically a bit better.

Lehcarjt said...

The constant referral of the man and his horse came off as odd to me. In particular "Their shared ordeal strengthens the bond between them" has romantic overtones. And "both man and horse kill members of the kidnap gang" kind of turns this into a cartoon. I get that at horse can accidentally kill someone, but a horse turning selectively murderous (while perhaps true back when horses were trained to battle) is kind of funny. (Yes - we are a horse family too.)

Also, I have a hard time seeing a vigilante going around killing people on his own and the local law enforcement not going after him.

Anonymous said...

"Can one man and his horse thwart a gang of murders and kidnappers?"

Murders may come in threes, but they don't come in gangs. MurderERs might be found in gangs. The latter is a person, the former a crime.

I'd've stopped reading there, and if not there, when we got to the posse, where I'd begin to suspect a right-wing "militia" fantasy. Probably completely unfairly... but "posse" is a far-right buzzword, from _posse comitatus_, which reflects the belief that the only legitimate government power rests with the county.

Betsy Ashton said...

After reading this query, I have an image of a super-equine, killer horse who solves crimes and saves the world. Save this for horses that read!

Irene Troy said...

Perhaps QS can use this letter as a prime example of WANT NOT TO DO! I think this writer has created a query letter featuring more glaring examples of what not to do then any other letter I’ve read on the site. Good grief – did the author actually read other queries and critiques? Even a brief perusal of previously submitted letters and their critiques would be enough to stop the author cold in his/her tracks.

I also have some issues with the plot of the novel – although, of-course without seeing the actual writing, perhaps these issues are dealt more effectively in that narrative. I grew up in Montana and have spent a lot of time in Wyoming. Although the horse is still important in ranching and other work, mounted posses are a thing of the past even in these mostly rural states. Yes, on occasion horses might be used to explore true back country areas in search of lost hikers, campers and the occasional crime suspect, but this is a pretty hard reach as the central theme for a modern day novel. Couple a horse as hero with a human hero relying on a cell phone and your have me reaching for the Advil. Sure, Zane Grey wrote wonderful period novels featuring cowboys, sheriffs and their mounts as heroes, but those novels were written and set in the early to mid 1900’s, not in 2010. Horses may feature as heroes in stories written for children, but as a central character for an adult novel, the idea is a bit of a reach.

I live on a farm with horses and other animals; does this make me a better writer? In my dreams! And, unless your novel features a lawyer as central character, your experience and reputation as an attorney has no bearing on your novel. Frankly, including this type information in a query, along with statements about how many people respect your knowledge of equine law and all the rest reads more like bragging than helpful information relevant to your novel.

Start over from scratch, but first go read at least 50 or more queries from this site and learn from them. When you resubmit, make sure you actually understand and follow the rules. Good luck!

Nicole said...

Er, I just found it funny that it's mentioned the Buck witnessed the murder too. It makes it sound like Buck is going to start talking with Jim and together they're going to solve everything.

I like horses. This book has a horse. Not enough for me to read it, but if the horse starts talking, I'm in. After all, I *love* talking horses. =3

The Daring Novelist said...

BTW - there actually is such a thing as a modern day shriff's posse. They're very common as a matter of fact.

However, they are usually pre-organized. (They're something between a neighborhood watch and a volunteer fire department kind of thing.)

Theresa Milstein said...

This is one of those queries that's long and yet gives so little information about the MC and plot. The last few paragraphs can be cut and let's flush out the plot.

I think the one man and his horse gives a nod to the old Western movies, but now it sounds dated. Get to the action.

Lydia Sharp said...

I think those last few paragraphs may have been the author wanting to sincerely show credentials/marketability, but not quite sure which would be the best choice, and thus, presented everything. Like Janet said, less is more.

I'm eager to see the revision for this one. It seems to have a good underlying premise, just a few rough patches in the query that need to be smoothed out.

Ethereal_buddha said...

And here I was, ready to leave positive words of encouragement.

Ya killed it for me buddy.

The top half, and the feedback from shark, was good. Really good. I don't read westerns but I thought I could see Janet's logic in selecting it.

Then you screwed it up. YOU. Not your secretary.

Here's why.

What killed me was the rest of the query-which is about you. I will say this in the nicest way possible-I don't give a s*** about your background. Yes, I like horses, but I don't read westerns, so why would I care about your book? On the flip side of the argument, some people who really like westerns may not care for horses. Do you see the problem here? Let me give you a hint: it's not about horses. It's about people.

You didn't read the instructions. Your paralegal or secretary didn't read the instructions either. Just like writing and editing the novel is YOUR responsibility, so is the query.

And this is a side note: are you a 'orally persuasive storyteller' because you want to be, or is it because you're paid to argue and act in your client's best interest? I thought that's what trial lawyers were supposed to do.

Go back and do it again....this time YOU DO IT!

Francis said...

Plus he opened with a rhetorical question... he shot himself in the foot about 5 times before the query even begins!

Stephanie Barr said...

My reaction was much like Nicole's - why is Buck's witnessing the murder/kidnapping pertinent? Does it turn into the hulk when it gets angry?

But I also had to wonder - here's Jim being tagged (reluctantly) to help by the sheriff by cellphone, then the Sheriff being notified of the problem by cellphone by the same Jim. You're out of order, bud, and the most logical reason to have Jim involved is because he's RIGHT THERE (and presumably a member of the group according to your first paragraph).

Nothing you've written makes a bit of sense to me and, I'm afraid, if my own history is any example, being a well-known lawyer really doesn't equate to popularity anywhere I've ever been.

But thank you for playing.

(I'll eat the return envelope he sent with his e-query if he takes the trouble to revise. I don't see this guy taking that much trouble. I hope he proves me wrong. It would be worth the papercut to see him learn something.)

Ethereal_buddha said...

stephanie- beter yet, Jim calls the sheriff and rides off into the sunset.
Author/Author's secretary-Also, 65,000 words.. I don't know, nor will I presume to know, how long a western should be wordcount wise. I don't write the genre. However for all the events he described in the query (kidnapping/killing/persnitcky horse/cell phone/politians/electric storms/rain/snow/forest fire) how can you possibly fit it all into 65,000 words???
Not to mention that politicians want to 'hinder' the rescue of an oil magnate's son?? Or anyone's kid????? Wouldn't that kind of rank right up there with political suicide???
The point I want the author to take away from this rant is not to answer every question here. It's to prevent questions like these from coming up.
It doesn't matter what your background is. You're an unpublished writer, thus you start off where all unpublished writers start the slush pile (or as here in the chum bucket!)
WAY better writers with two or three novels under their belts are sitting in here with other novice writers. Most are unpublished, and unrepresented and this will be your 'creative' life for the next five or ten years writing, finishing books, sending out PROFESSIONAL query letters and collecting polite, professional and form rejection slips.
If you want this life, go back and do the query letter again. Do it AFTER you have someone with no interest in your feelings pick the hell out of your manuscript. (This does not mean your secretary-she wants to keep a roof over her head)
Figuring a paperback page has 330 words on it, that means your book is less than 200 pages long. The westerns/action books my dad used to read were at least 350 pages long. You don't have enough words to paint a mental picture for your reader, and for everything Jim Taylor has going on, how can anything make sense without those?

Jenn McKay said...

Is this horse the man's partner?

Peter Cooper said...

Is it just my imagination or is there more vitriol than usual in the comments here? The fact that this person posted their query to the shark, rather than sending it blithely to every agent in creation, shows they have a desire to learn and do it better next time. How about we cut the judgements about their motivations/intentions/commitment and get on with helping them improve?

My first attempts at query letters were woeful, too. Weren't yours?

Anonymous said...

Theresa Milstein, the idiom I think you meant to use is "flesh out the plot," meaning to add details onto a framework as in putting flesh on a skeleton. (However, I must admit that your variation, "flush out the plot," works well in this instance.)

M. G. E. said...

I'm half afraid that the reason he had someone send the query for him is the same reason he spends so much time giving credentials: to look important, to impress unduly.

It's amazing how transparent and off-putting the tactic is, seen from the other side.

However, your resume means less than nothing in publishing (unless you're already a Name).

The MC's relationship with his horse might warrant a single mention, not the repeated mention seen here.

I think the biggest problem is the plot. Besides parts of it not making very much sense (cellphone works in the wilderness? How far away is the highway, a quarter-mile?), your character can simply walk away from the action any time he wants and the reader will eventually ask, "why doesn't he?"

There seems to be nothing to keep him in the action; he has no personal stake in the outcome. Sure he witnessed a murder. So he goes to town, reports it, and gets on with his life. Why does he risk his life?

And if he doesn't know the difference between killing (in self-defense) and murder, I'd say his value system is too simplistic to function as an adult. Last thing I want to read is someone angsty over whether he was ethically in the right for defending himself.

Giles Hash said...

Overall, this story sounds like something I would have written in Jr. High.

Alisa said...

Did it strike anyone else as hilarious that one of the characters is the 'son of an oil AND GAS magnate'? No? Just me? I would just love to be able to go around telling people that I'm a gas magnate. It brings a smile to my face. Maybe this is a real occupation but it just sounds humorous.

The gang of murders made me laugh, too. I know QS says the occasional typos don't really matter but this one just struck me as really funny, especially since it was at the beginning. Try murderERS instead when you revise. I'll be much less amused but I guess that's a good thing in this case.

Also, the whipping out a cell phone to save the day really threw me. Everything in the query up until that point made me think this was an 1800s lone ranger-esque type of novel.

Oh, and I don't like horses. At all. But I will read books that have horses in them if I understand the context for them being there. I don't really get why the whole "one man AND HIS HORSE" is so important to this story. I get that the author gets it. But it's not coming through to me what the horse has to do with anything.

Is the book told from both the man's and horse's perspectives? That could be interesting. Or if the horse turns out to be some sort of mutant, futuristic ninja horse. Again, interesting. But all I see in this query is ONE MAN with a possibly disturbing relationship to his horse. And I don't get that at all.

Unknown said...

Wait, wait.
Quite a few 'query advice' things say to start the query with a hook. Don't just jump into the novel, they say. Said hook can be a question or startling fact. Starting with a question is bad?

Now I'm confused...

(Although, if the horse can talk, that's a startling fact!)

Anonymous said...

I have never read a query this all over the place! Good job trying to sort through it Sharky, and best of luck to the writer of it with the next attempt. I'd start with a better focus and understanding of what your story is about, and less of a focus on why you may be a great person to write it. I want to read your story, not your biography. Think less of a query as a resume for yourself and more as it should be - a glimpse into the world you've created in this tale. Yes it has to be engaging, but it also has to have FOCUS.

Good luck!

Pepper Smith said...

I'm picking up definite whiffs of Mary Sue's perfume here. Or is it Marty Stu's aftershave?

Is this a first novel? I don't remember if that was mentioned in the query. Honestly, my first thought is that the story needs work before you can get to the query stage.

Lynnda - Passionate for the Glory of God said...

Many things in the query made me flinch, but the thing that rubbed me the wrong way is when he called horses "beasts." Maybe where he comes from that is appropriate. In Texas, where I grew up, we might call a horse an animal, but never a beast. Vocabulary does matter. His choice leads me to wonder just how he relates to the nine horses he owns. Certainly in his query, the relationship between horse and rider seems to be the type that pre-teens fantasize about.

Christina Auret said...

I do not have as big a problem as everyone else seems to with having the horse as a central character.

What does strike me as odd is that books that feature the bond between a human and an animal are usually very heavy on the sentimentality factor. I don't read westerns, but the query points to action and adventure. Saving hostages, killing killers and what-not.

Action, adventure and lots of sentimentality. Maybe this works wonderfully in the book itself, but it doesn't do so in the query.

Unknown said...

I'm impressed that you still take the time to read and edit and give such detailed help to the people who repeat the same problem you've already described in so many other posts.

My suggestion for the querier is to do what most (I hope) of us have done already - read EVERY post in the Query Shark blog before you query. You're losing a lot of valuable help by repeating mistakes others have already done.

I like the idea of a horse and its rider as "main characters" in a modern setting though.

Marian Perera said...

"Their shared ordeal strengthens the bond between them."

If this was about two people, it would refer to either friendship or romance. Between a man and a horse... what exactly does it refer to? How strong is this bond, exactly?

Ethereal_buddha said...

Peter Cooper-No. THere's vitriol here. It's not that the first part of the query is really that bad. A nip here,a tuck there, and it could work.
The problem is 1.) he didn't read the instructions 2.)He took up over half the query talking about his law practice and equine law acumen, and 3.) he had his secretary send it out.
He came off as entitled and pompous. The other lawyer shark posted here a few months ago (I want to say 'october-ish) didn't talk about himself as much as this guy did, and he sent his own query. He sent it twice!

Stephanie Barr said...

Peter Cooper, there is a great deal of frustration with seeing a query that clearly indicates someone couldn't take the time to read the previous entries. Even though that's part of the directions.

Most of the issues in this query could have been readily addressed with even a cursory look through the previous entries. It's hard to evaluate the story when there's so little coherence.

My first query stunk too. But I didn't send that one. I read everything the Shark had on her site, rethought the query and the manuscript, fixed what I could see wrong with it, and then sent it.

I suspect many of the rest of the commentors have done the same. There's nothing wrong with making a mistake. Needless mistakes, however, that could have been readily avoided are something different.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Peter Cooper.

JS said...

Unlike most of the folks commenting so far, I do read Westerns (and love them! If anyone wants to read some good modern Westerns, let me recommend Loren Estleman's Page Murdock series as an excellent place to start).

65,000 words is an absolutely fine length for a Western; they generally run 60 to 80 thousand words long, about the same length as a cozy mystery.

However, I think that rather than the word count being too short, the plot as described in the query is too confusing.

I think there might be some interesting ideas here--the "jaded paladin" protagonist looking for redemption via action is an evergreen meme of Westerns, and the idea of the wily old sheriff suspecting that the kidnap is a setup is good--but they're lost in a duststorm of extraneous detail.

Pare it back, sir. Make it a closing argument rather than a brief. Better yet, think about how you'd describe your book to someone you're sharing the elevator with. Don't try to sound impressive--be impressive.

And the idea of a horse witnessing a murder doesn't parse, because horses can't testify. A horse can certainly be present at a murder, and a horse can see or hear or smell a murder, but that's not "witnessing" in the strictest sense. (Note: if you do have your horse testifying to what he saw at the murder scene, even informally, I promise you that if you ever publish this book I will hunt you down and leave flaming poo on your doorstep.)

Paula Stokes said...

To me this query feels like a closing statement.

Ladies and gentlemen of the open ocean, you will like my book because it contains likeable equine creatures. You will like my book because I am very successful and intelligent. You will like my book because I say you will like it.

It's just interesting to me how doctors and lawyers struggle to separate their 'work writing' from their fiction.

All hail anyone with the guts and gumption to send his letter and idea to the Shark! :)

M. G. E. said...

"Quite a few 'query advice' things say to start the query with a hook... Starting with a question is bad? Now I'm confused..."

Right, but a rhetorical question is a bad hook 95% of the time.

Furthermore, he didn't even begin with the rhetorical question, he began with the most boring thing possible: contact details.

Agents don't care who you are or how to contact you until they care about your story. Chances are your query is part of the 99% they'll reject. Give them the story up-front and then do the housekeeping on the back end.

Ethereal_buddha said...

Piper Quinn-I think the reason doctors and lawyers, because of the nature of their professions, have to document every thing.
It just becomes automatic.
But it's not a character flaw until they chose not to fix it.
Fiction writing is different from a lot of formats, and what I observe it really focuses on the story itself but also grammer. A lot of other professions don't have to do that.
Thanks JS for letting me know that. I could have sworn the page count for westerns were higher. Good information to know!

Amanda C. Davis said...

JS said: (Note: if you do have your horse testifying to what he saw at the murder scene, even informally, I promise you that if you ever publish this book I will hunt you down and leave flaming poo on your doorstep.)

I disagree. Put the horse on the stand and I will buy ten copies.

Borneo Expat Writer said...

"He and his horse, Buck, witness the murder..."

Can a horse witness a murder? Sure, but try putting that horse on the witness stand.

There's definitely a story here and the fact the author knows his way around horses help. Is he also a retired lawyer in the story, or could that be put to good use? Maybe he's had dealing with one of the kidnappers (or relatives) before so it's a little personal too, which would help to explain his dogged persistence. He wants to see justice done (this time around) and if he needs to dish it out himself . . .He's been burned before by a legal loophole and he's not about to see that happen again, not out in the rugged back country where rules of survival can change.

Stephanie Barr said...

First, let me say he can send his return envelope to me for consumption. I underestimated his willingness to do a revision and kudos to him for coming back with a revised query. My bad. His good.

Unfortunately, with the revision, the plot makes no sense to me, as if one were wanting to stash an old fashioned western (one man vs. the wilderness and bad guys with no way of getting help) with the modern world (where help is readily available almost anywhere).

"Calling on his cell phone, Jim learns that the local sheriff is unable to help." He called the Sheriff who said, what, sorry, I'm off today? I can't imagine that.

Bad guys killed one camper and kidnapped others (who we suspect of being complicit in the plot), but our hero "seeks redemption" by killing again and again, finding he has a knack for it.

It's possible there's a way these pieces can go together in a meaningful, thoughtful way. But I'm not seeing it.

Lehcarjt said...

While the revision is an improvement, I am still stuck on why the protag is involved. If I called a sheriff and he said he couldn't help on a kidnapping/murder, I would next call the FBI or my cousin, a PO in California, or a newspaper or politician. I don't see why he sees it as his responsibility to become a vigilante. What are the stakes for HIM?

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I agree with the others-- the sheriff says he's unable to what now?

Dude's got a cell phone, for some reason it works way out in the middle of nowhere: he's gonna give up seeking help after one phone call to one curiously incompetent and apathetic law officer?

Paige said...

You lost me at 'gang of murders'. Should be 'murderers'. Most likely your entire novel has similiar issues and will need some revision. I read every paragraph out loud, several times, after I have written a few pages. It helps me with the flow, and to pick out glaring little mistakes. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

I reject the common belief that westerns can't sell in the entertainment industry, especially with the success of True Grit a few years ago. Having said that, Westerns in a modern setting are not likely to work. I love John Wayne and all, but when it comes to taking out the villains in this age, I rather have snipers in a helicopter than a man and his horse, unless that man is Odin and that horse is Sleipnir. Sorry :-/