Sunday, August 29, 2010

#174-Revised 4x FTW

Dear QueryShark:

When personal injury attorney Addy Giordano is hired by a client who claims to have a horrific injury that causes the worse pain known to man, Addy is willing to do just about anything to prove that her client is the real deal and not pushing an insurance scam to its limit.

There ya go! This is exactly right. Main character, and her problem. The only thing we're missing here are the stakes. What happens if she fails?

As she searches for the truth about her client, Addy uncovers some secrets that could make or break the case – not to mention her legal career.

And there are the stakes! Yes yes yes!

With a trial date on the horizon, Addy’s job description gets hazier by the second. She isn't sure if she should be a lawyer who is supposed to present the facts, a juror who is supposed to determine the truth or a private investigator who is supposed to expose insurance fraud.


Addy is sure about one thing; she wants to sock it to All American Insurance Company where it hurts the most – their pocket. God knows they have cheated so many of her worthy clients over the years. Plus, teaching All American’s defense counsel a lesson would be an added bonus. He has pulled off too many undeserved victories in the courtroom – not to mention the bedroom.


Suited up for an award winning performance in a navy pin-stripe ensemble and her personal version of war paint, Addy marches to trial and decides to do whatever it takes to serve up some justice – even if it’s after the jury is long gone.


Personal Injury PERSONAL INJURY is a legal novel. It is complete at 95,000 words. I have worked as an insurance defense trial lawyer for eighteen years.

Thank you for your consideration.

Well, nobody should ever underestimate you! You took A Query That Did Not Work, and got it into fighting trim.

This is a total win.

Take this puppy out for a spin and see the requests for fulls (I hope!) come in!

Very nice revision!

Dear QueryShark:

It hasn’t been easy for Addy Giordano to maintain a sense of dignity while working in an area of the law associated with phony claims and ambulance chasers. In spite of this, when she lands the biggest personal injury case of her career, Addy decides it’s time to prove that not all personal injury plaintiffs are out to beat the system.

You don't have enough time and space in a query for all this description. Get to the story.

Addy definitely wants to sock it to All American Insurance Company where it hurts the most – their pocket. God knows they have cheated so many of her worthy clients over the years. Plus, teaching All American’s defense counsel a lesson or two would be an added bonus. He has pulled off too many undeserved victories in the courtroom – not to mention the bedroom. A big win for Addy would definitely put a stop to counsel’s soapbox about how jury trials are popularity contests, how Addy is naïve and how her clients are liars.

More than anything else, Addy needs a big win to prove to herself that there are still some good, honest people out there, and that she can make a difference in their lives. After all, it was her compassion for the weak and wounded that made her want to go to law school in the first place. To Addy, being bamboozled by her most promising client would be worse than losing to All American or hearing “I told you so” from defense counsel.

It’s Addy’s last chance to get the last word; it’s time for her to win and save face or lose and lose faith.
Addy will need more than her quick-wit, good looks and superhero mentality to convince a jury that her client is the real deal this time. the story----->Her client was in a minor accident but is claiming a major injury that is supposed to cause the worst pain known to man. To make matters worse, Addy’s client has some secrets and crimes against insurance companies are never easily proven – especially when the injury claimed can’t be seen on an x-ray or diagnosed by a test.

While searching for the truth about her client, Addy’s job description gets hazier by the second. She’s not sure if she should be a lawyer who is supposed to present the facts, a juror who is supposed to determine the truth or a private investigator who is supposed to expose insurance fraud.

Defense counsel’s job description is clear; he’s an actor who is hired to entertain the jury, distort the truth and win.

Suited up for her own award winning performance in a navy pin-stripe ensemble and her personal version of war paint, Addy marches to trial and decides to do whatever it takes to serve up some justice – even if it’s after the jury is long gone.

Personal Injury is a legal thriller. It is complete at 95,000 words. I have worked as an insurance defense trial lawyer for eighteen years.

This is really not a thriller.  I'm still not sure what it is, but "legal novel" or "commercial fiction" or maybe even "women's fiction" are more likely than "thriller."

This query clocks in at 485 words which means it's about twice as long as it should be.  The 250 word maximum should guide you to paring down to what you really need.  Think of it as writing a prose poem, where every word counts.

Right now you have a lot of description but not much substance. For all the description of Addy, I don't really care about her. She's a lawyer intent on doing good. Ok...and?

This doesn't work yet.

Dear Query Shark

Addy Giordano is out to prove she’s no ambulance chaser when she lands the biggest personal injury case of her legal career. She has her work cut out for her though; Addy’s client was in a minor rear-end accident but is claiming a major injury that is supposed to cause the worst pain known to man.

Why is she out to prove anything? If she believes in the value of her work, and she's got a successful career, she's long past paying attention to anyone who calls her an ambulance chaser.

Unless of course it's her mother who's saying that.

To make matters worse, Addy’s client has some secrets and her injury can’t be proven by a test or seen on an x-ray.

In order to prove that her client is the real deal, Addy is led through medical school man-caves, convenience marts, paper factories, Italian diners, dead-end roads, theater classes and the backseat of her father’s 1973 Impala.

This is a list of events (I think.) What it's not is a sense of what's at stake for Addy. She loses the case. So what? She's not going to get disbarred, lose her house, lose her life is she? No. So what's at stake for her?

Along the way, Addy battles the personal agendas of doctors and insurance companies and the axe grinding of judges and other lawyers. Addy also teaches the razzle dazzle defense attorney from her past a thing or two about honesty, compassion and one night stands.

And more events without context. This is still not a plot.

The jury is left to decide if Addy’s client is truly injured or pushing an insurance scam to its limit.

And so what, again. There's nothing here about Addy.

Unfortunately, the defense attorney knows how to put on a hell of a show and Addy has found out the hard way that juries seem to lose sight of the truth during the theatrics of a trial. Fortunately, Addy also knows a thing or two about show business.

Addy’s role as an injury lawyer becomes hazier by the second, but she decides to do whatever it takes to serve up some justice – even if it’s after the jury is long gone.

Here's the first glimmer of something that might be a plot. What is she doing that isn't her role as an injury lawyer?

Personal Injury is a mystery and is complete at 94K words.

It's not a mystery. I'm not sure what this is, but there's no crime as far as I can tell.

I have worked as an insurance defense trial attorney for eighteen years.

Yea, and you're hamstrung by what you know can be real. This is a novel. You get to make stuff up. Go crazy. Invent stuff. LIE under oath!

I appreciate the chance to forward this query for your consideration.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

This is better, and less clunky, than the first versions but I don't see the plot at all.
There's certainly no crime.
That's pretty much a directed verdict for a form rejection.

Start over.
Show me what the stakes are for Addy.

Dear QueryShark,

Allison Giordano is no ambulance chaser. With a briefcase in her hand and three inch pumps on her feet, she’s ready to show the “old school” boys a thing or two about personal injury law.

She's not going to have the briefcase on her feet or her pumps on her hands, so you don't need to tell us that's where they are. That's the kind of over writing that bodes ill for a manuscript.

Ally wants to be taken seriously but the type of law she practices is flooded with people trying to scam the system. It doesn’t help that she works for a guy who stars in cheesy late night television commercials. It also doesn’t help that she has a paralegal whose favorite task is gathering accident reports from the police station. To make matters even worse, All American Insurance Company is headquartered in the city where Ally works.

This is actually a better starting paragraph than what you have because it gives us a sense of what Ally wants. (I can not stress enough how much you need to change her name to something that is not immediately associated with a television show)

If Ally wants to be taken seriously why is she working for a cheeseball? You don't need any of this anyway. All you need is the first line.

Whiplash and low back sprains make for a monotonous day. So does dating an accountant during tax season. Ally’s seven month relationship with Michael Novak doesn’t give her any fun stories to share at her girls’ nights out. Plus, to her Italian family, a seven month relationship is four months too long without an engagement ring.

All of this is description without any kind of momentum.

Ally’s monotony at work becomes mayhem when she agrees to represent a woman who tore her rotator cuff in an intersection collision. Although it has nothing to do with the client’s injury claim, Ally learns that her client has a psychiatric illness that causes her to turn into various alter egos. Ally is forced to contend with two of them; a southern gal and a pirate.

When you read this, can you see how clunky it is? One of the things you need to develop is the ability to edit yourself. All first drafts (and most second and third drafts!) suck. That's ok. The trick is to see what needs to be fixed.

Consider this: Monotony becomes mayhem when a client turns out to be multiple...multiple personality. Ally meets a southern belle and a pirate. The question is which one got injured?

Of course, all of this has to come out because, as it turns out, it's not the main plot. That's the next paragraph.

Ally thinks her luck is finally changing when she meets Robyn Dillon. Robyn was in a severe rear-end automobile accident and has been diagnosed with trigeminal neuralgia. Although Ally has never heard of this condition, she learns from her client’s doctors that the condition causes the worst pain known to man.

This is still very clunky. As a lawyer, you're used to spelling everything out. You can leave out at least half this paragraph and not only will it be less clunky, it will be more enticing.

Here: Ally's luck changes with Robyn Dillon, injured in severe car crash and now diagnosed with the condition doctors believe is the worst pain people can have...not that they can see it, measure it or test for it.

Of course, the insurance company and its defense attorney, Nicolas Sourvanos, haven’t heard of trigeminal neuralgia either. They learn that the condition lends itself well to insurance fraud since it is diagnosed based on what the patients says. There are no objective tests that can confirm its existence.

Again, clunky. Again, trim.

Ally learns that Nick will defend the case. Nick is no stranger to Ally. He was her law school classmate and prior one night stand – twice. He won their last trial together on nothing more than his charisma and ability to distort the facts. In his fifteen hundred dollar suits and tasseled loafers, Nick never misses an opportunity to taunt Ally about the legitimacy of her clients’ claims.

If Ally ends up with Nick at the end of the book there's got to something enticing about him. This paragraph makes him sound like a sleazeball, and certainly NOT someone I want to spend time with. That's death for a hero in a novel.

Ally prepares Robyn’s case as if it will go to trial. She raises the stakes by investing her own personal savings in the case. Then, she uncovers some secrets about Robyn’s past that make the legitimacy of her claim questionable.

Ally is quick to confront Robyn. However, Robyn provides a very credible explanation for why she withheld information about her past. Just to make sure Robyn’s claim is legitimate, Ally goes as far as conducting surveillance. She even invites Nick along.

In the absence of any conclusive evidence that Robyn is a fraud, Ally reaches for her dark navy suit and marches to trial. The jury returns a seven figure verdict in Robyn’s favor.

Months after the trial, Ally sees Robyn with the man who caused the accident that led to Robyn’s lawsuit. This makes it likely that the two of them staged the accident.

Although she’s enraged that Robyn scammed her, Ally accepts what she already knew; the courtroom is a place for lawyers to put on a show and not a place for lawyers to determine the truth.

She puts on her suit, grabs her briefcase, goes to work and moves forward with her next personal injury case.

Don't tell the entire story. Stop at the point where I want to read more.

Personal Injury is my debut novel. I have worked for twenty years as a trial attorney specializing in personal injury defense litigation.

Personal Injury is Romantic adventure, Chick-lit. It is complete at 90,000 words.

Pick one, and not any of those. I'm pretty sure I said this is a romance novel on your first version. Chick lit isn't hyphenated, and Never EVER use it in a query. The category is dead on arrival.

Thank you for your consideration.

This version is 649 words. Queries should run 250.

Clunky writing means this is a form rejection. I can and do overlook a lot of structural problems with a query, but if the writing doesn't hold up, even perfect form won't help at all.

Dear QueryShark,

She’s no ambulance chaser. She’s Ally Giordano, the idealistic, sometimes naïve, always quirky plaintiff’s personal injury trial lawyer.

My reaction here is "so what" This is not the reaction you want. You want to entice me to read on. Is this enticing? No. Why not? Because you have done nothing but describe someone who sounds like a ditz.

Even tightening up the writing here will go a long way toward solving that problem.

Consider this: Ally Giordano is no ambulance chaser.

Leave out the description. SHOW us that she's all those things. With just that one sentence you get me to ask "ok then, what is she?"

Ally is quick on her feet, confident and is ready to show “the man” a thing or two. Her success never goes to her head. Deep down she’s a blue collar girl from a manufacturing town fighting for justice amidst all the nut-jobs and crack-pots she meets along the way.

And you're simply compounding the problem of paragraph one here; more description. All bland. None enticing.

I don't stop reading here because I'm hoping that it will get better.

Ally is in the midst of the largest personal injury case of her career. Her client sustained a debilitating neurological injury from a rear-end automobile accident – or so she claims.

You've got a syntax problem that makes me reach for the "thanks but no thanks" form reply.
The problem is "or so she claims" could mean the client claims, or it could mean Ally claims.

It's not totally clear to me. I know it is to you, and my guess is you mean the client claims, but one of the things a beta reader can help with on queries, is getting you to see stuff that you're too familiar with to be objective to see any longer. This is one of those things.

With the help of her neurotic Italian family and her flamboyant paralegal, the empathetic Ally is determined to help her sweet little client fight the evil large insurance company.

And we're done. I'd stop reading right here. If you're trying to be sardonic "sweet little client/evil large insurance company" it doesn't work because you can't just suddenly be sardonic. If you are actually writing a novel that has characters like this, you're writing a novel with cardboard cutouts. That sweet little client better have a dark side, and that evil large insurance company better have a heart, or you don't have anyone very interesting in the book.

In order to do so, Ally will be up against Nick Sourvanos, the insurance company’s handsome and savvy defense lawyer. Nick is Ally’s ex-boyfriend - of sorts. He is the polar opposite of Ally’s steady accountant boyfriend. Although Ally and Nick continually fight for the last word, they can’t seem to get enough of each other.

I'm sorry but this is such a cliche that I can't even offer a suggestion for revision.

Nick’s pessimism about the legitimacy of personal injury claims challenges Ally’s convictions about the sanctity of the legal system. Especially since her client’s neurological injury lends itself well to insurance fraud.

You've got too much going on here. Nowhere here do I get a sense of what the plot is. I get the sense of your cast of characters, but that's all.

Ally uncovers a series of facts about her client that makes the legitimacy of her injury claim questionable. Having faith in people, honesty and the legal system, Ally discounts the facts and marches forward with blinders on.

Why do you want to make your protagonist, the character with whom we are to sympathize and root for, sound like an idiot?

Unable to settle the case, Ally takes it to trial. Will the jury do the right thing? Will she teach Nick a thing or two about people? Will Ally’s faith in the legal system be confirmed? Does Ally really want to win the battle if it means loosing the war?

Don't do this. Don't ask rhetorical questions about the plot of the book. It invites the worst form of sardonic response in my head (not what you want) and it doesn't entice me to read on.

What other adventures are on the horizon for Ally?

Revisions are in store for Ally. Lots of them.

Personal Injury is my debut novel. I have worked as a trial lawyer specializing in personal injury defense for twenty years.

Yup, I figured that out in paragraph four. Like many professionals turning their hand to novel writing, you know too much about your field. It's really really hard to get doctors/lawyers etc to see that plot trumps process in a novel. By this I mean your characters and your plot have to be more interesting than the scenes about jury selection and speeches about the sanctity of the legal system (which is not a phrase I understand at all, but that's another story)

Personal injury is a humorous, legal romantic suspense novel.
And a partridge in a pear tree.

You get to pick one category. Two at the MOST. Four is (4-2) two too many. The first category to go is "humorous" because that's the most subjective. The second is "legal" because the legal part should be secondary to the story. The third one to go is suspense, since what you've described above isn't suspense. You have, most likely, a romance novel here.

It is compete at 90,000 words. It could be the first in a series.

Thank you for your consideration.

This is a form rejection.


Gina said...

I'm not an agent, but if I were, I would add, the name "Ally" + "quirky" + lawyer = some very bad '90s flashbacks. No wonder "ditz" was the first thing that popped into your mind. Me, I nearly went into allergic shock. That show and its unrelenting hype machine used to drive me nuts.

Unknown said...

The worst sentence here has to be "What other adventures are on the horizon for Ally?"

I fear the writer hasn't read the other queries posted here at all.

Lorelei King said...

'Loosing' would've had it in the bin...

Richard Mabry said...

Janet, As a published author of medical suspense, I want to second what you said about members of certain professions--including mine--needing to remember that their books aren't textbooks or journal articles. They're novels, and plot trumps inside knowledge every time.

Anonymous said...

"...her neurotic Italian family and her flamboyant paralegal..."


I'm going to assume the author is him/herself Italian or Italian-American, because hopefully no one else would have written that. But it's still not okay.

As for the flamboyant paralegal, my Dictionary of Fictional Cliches tells me that "flamboyant" means "a gay man who acts like a stereotype of a gay man".

Anonymous said...

Dear writer,

I have a degree in criminal psych. I've never practiced but let me tell you, even the study process strips away whatever illusions you had about the inherent goodness of all people.

So why hasn't that happened to Ally? Granted, she's involved in injury cases, but as you yourself suggest, the field is full of people trying to scam some money.

Therefore I am forced to conclude that Ally is either willfully ignorant, a terrible lawyer, or most probably both. A sympathetic person, this is not.

I think the subject itself is interesting, though. If you did away with that romantic subplot and let it be about the shadowy implications and reveal of the client's story and its legitimacy, I might very well read it.

A3Writer said...

I think one of this query points out a more fundamental problem, and that's with the book itself. Reading "the empathetic Ally is determined to help her sweet little client fight the evil large insurance company." tells me that at best this novels is need of major surgery to become interesting, and at worst it's just plain uninteresting.

I'm with the Shark. Get people to read this, people who haven't read the book, and people who aren't afraid to tell you they're confused or that the query sucks. It's the best thing they can do for you.

Casey said...

The only character here that sounds even relatively interesting is what's-his-name at the insurance company. But even that sounds like a rip-off of the Spike/Buffy relationship.

Irene Troy said...

Midway through this query Janet uses the word “cliché” as referring to the paragraph about Ally and the opposition counsel, Nick. Frankly, the entire query screams cliché to me: ditzy lawyer, ditzy client, handsome, savvy opposition lawyer, big bad insurance company, possible fraud, etc. The concept, as presented here, is one giant cliché, overdone, unoriginal and, in the end, boring. By the third paragraph I had no interest in reading further and certainly no interest in the book.
Giving the benefit of the doubt, I will assume the book is much, much better than the query. However, my experience with my own writing and the writing of others who have chosen to leave one profession with the hope of becoming a published writer does tend to undermine my hope in the author’s novel. One of the first short stories I wrote after leaving 26 years of clinical social work featured a social worker as protagonist. The story was published in a local magazine several years ago. Now whenever someone says “oh, I read your story in ***” I cringe! Even I am bored by the story and find the characters one dimensional and the plot a giant cliché. This, in my experience, is all too common among those who try to turn reality into fiction: it comes out too full of jargon, one dimensional and far too clichéd. There are, of-course, many exceptions, writers who create wonderful fiction based on their real life work experiences. But, many of us have to first struggle through creating less than stellar work and having that work dissected into chum for our fellow writers and the Shark.

Anonymous said...

Your (attempt at) lively description mixes very awkwardly with phrases like:

--"Her client sustained a debilitating neurological injury" (Her client was hit in the head)

--"pessimism about the legitimacy of personal injury claims" (He thinks the whole profession feeds on hogwash)

--"her client’s neurological injury lends itself well to insurance fraud" (Crazy easy to fake)


--"uncovers a series of facts about her client that makes the legitimacy of her injury claim questionable" (She discovers her client has a few nasty secrets)

At least get a consistent voice for the rewrite.

Carl said...

Wow. I could anticipate each of Query Shark's comments before I read the blue text.

Either this one was too easy or I'm starting to think like Query Shark. Not sure if I should be excited or scared!

CB Hoffman said...

Even a cliche plot can be made interesting with strong enough characterization, good writing, and maybe a few unusual or unexpected developments peculiar to the particular circumstances or the characters. However, when your characters AND your plot are both cliche, you've got major problems.

And, agreeing with arhooley, lose the uber-clinical voice, or make it part of a particular character. If it colors the whole piece, your readers are likely to walk away after a few pages.

JS said...

I am with Gina on Team Ally McBeal Is The Last Ditzy Lawyer Named Ally Ever, Please.

Also, this sounds a bit too much like Adam's Rib for my taste.

I'd like to see the whole script flipped for once--the sweet, too-trusting plaintiff's lawyer as a man and the cynical, been around the block insurance company lawyer as a woman.

jjdebenedictis said...

I agree with the Shark this sounds like a romance, and if so, pitching it as such could make all the difference.

In romance novels, the characters and their chemistry are the most important part of the book. A plot that sounds stale to an agent representing a lot of crime novels (like the Shark's alter ego) won't necessarily seem a problem to an agent who represents mostly romance writers.

Ally sounds adorable, and if she has great chemistry with Nick, then yes: tailor your pitch to make this story sound like romance framed within a legal struggle, then send your query to agents looking for that.

Kim Z said...

I'd rather read a romance where the woman was the savvy insurance lawyer and the man was the naive but kind personal injury attorney.

Sometimes the little guy's just an effing weasel. Even sweet looking little old ladies can lie through their teeth. We all know this, and we're looking for it when we read.

The problem with the query is that that's where the story seems to be headed. We end up thinking Ally's a fool and her client's a crook. If Ally wins, then she's aided fraud and damaged the whole system. That's not an ending we can cheer for.

If Ally doesn't win, on the other hand, then we're left with the Big Smart Man teaching our heroine an Important Life Lesson. That's no fun either.

And Gina's absolutely right about the name. Quirky plus Ally plus lawyer is way too strong a connection to the show.

Anonymous said...

I get the impression that this writer hasn't read many legal thrillers (or seen an episode of Ally McBeal, though s/he can hardly be blamed for that). Reading a lot of books from your chosen genre can be a good cure for writing cliches.

Also, Ms. Reid, if I may make a suggestion? When you post queries here, would it be possible to post the date they were received? That way readers would know if their query hasn't been considered yet, or had already been passed over. (Of course, that would only work if you posted queries in the order they were received. I don't know how you go about this.)

I also sent you an e-mail about this. If that's overkill, my apologies.

Terri Coop said...

Hey, another lawyer chiming in. We didn't have time in law school for reading or TV, so Ally McBeal may well have been out the window!

I had to trunk a legal suspense novel with a paranormal twist because I lawyered myself into a corner and then bored myself half to death trying to get out of it.

It was very loosely based on a real case where the murderer confessed during a seance. Sounds great huh? Well, after the confession, the rest of the case was pretty tedious. So, in the trunk it went . . .

My new WIP (the query is somewhere in the chum pool) features women lawyers, but is more character driven and about relationships than just the law.

More than one lawyer doesn't like John Grisham because we know that lawyers never do any of the stuff his characters do (The Appeal, based on a real case, is a stunning departure from this generalization). Precisely. Lawyering is fairly routine and tedious work, and I guarantee you that none of you want to hear about my day in court tomorrow.

To me it sounds like she is trying to channel Lisa Scottoline with her madcap chick lawyer and her assorted escapades trying to do right in the justice system. Cool, if you can do it, but the writer isn't there yet. Keep after it and if you want a crusty old hen lawyer (sigh, not a chick anymore) as a beta, drop a comment here (or drop by my website) and we can figure out how to meet up.


Jessica Silva said...

Ally Giordano is idealistic, naïve, quirky, confident but not egotistical...

Yet she doesn't come across any of those things. The query doesn't read like that at all. A few comments have already mentioned a miss-match between the character presented and the voice. If we should feel drawn to her perils then we need to feel drawn to her. All that you described can be charming, but not with the way you've written it.

Not to mention, I feel like this whole thing is a summary. 1) Meet the character. 2) This is her job, and she's good. 3) A new case and she's determined to win it--because who plans to ever lose? 4) Her client may not be all that good. Her opponent is savvy. What to do?! 5) Her client might actually be scamming the system! But she has faith and proceeds. 6) Will she win or lose?

I would suggest starting with the case. Ally has run across people trying to scam their insurance companies before, but never like this. Start with the interesting part and go from there :) How she handles this will show us about her character, too.

Good luck!

dana e donovan said...

I'm puzzled about something. Ally uncovers a series of facts about her client that makes the legitimacy of her injury claim questionable. Still, she discounts the facts and marches forward with blinders on.

That makes it sound like her client is a shyster and she knows it. But then we are asked "Will the jury do the right thing?"

What is the right thing? Should they deny his claim in favor of the insurance company?

Also, Arhooley, most excellently put. I could have used you on my first query (if not the 2nd, 3rd & 4th)

To #174. I think you probably have an enjoyable (if not quirky) little novel there somewhere. Ally sounds like a very likable character.

I know it's hard reading these comments, but trust me. They will help you. Start on your revision and refer to them often, especially the comments in blue. That your query showed up here makes you one of the lucky ones.

Best of luck.

David Kazzie said...

As a lawyer (I once did insurance defense) myself, I echo the thoughts about the realism of the character. No plaintiff's lawyer is that naive even if they are crusaders -- they just get really good at sniffing out the legit cases.

But, I will state that all insurance companies, if not necessarily evil, have a single driving motive -- profit. Which is what you want if you're a shareholder, right?

Adam Heine said...

Author, you've gotten a lot of great (and I imagine hard to swallow) comments here. One other thing I noticed in the query is a TON of adjectives. These are usually a red flag that you're trying to tell the agent what the characters (or whatever) are like rather than use specific examples to show.

These are adjectives that popped out at me (not to rub it in, but so you know better what I'm talking about, and because I can't resist lists or statistics):

Idealistic, naïve, quirky, quick on her feet, confident, neurotic, flamboyant, empathetic, sweet, little, evil, large, handsome, and savvy. And for the novel: humorous, legal, romantic, and suspense (the shark is right: pick one).

'Empathic' struck me as particularly bad, only because it was the third time Ally was described. If we don't know she's empathetic by then, telling us won't solve the problem.

M. G. E. said...

Wow, um, I kept waiting for mention of the dancing baby.

I agree with Irene: "the entire query screams cliché to me."
Even the query -itself- is presented in a cliche form.

So what's the problem with it being cliche? The problem is we see the end coming a million miles away.

Of course her client is scamming her and the system.
Of course she ends up in bed with the insurance company's attorney, her ex.
And you've harped so hard on the insurance company being evil and the neurological disorder being an easy scam that we see a reversal coming a million miles away--which segments nicely with Ally's naivete being lost.
Etc., etc.

The story sounds so riddled with cliche that the amount of effort needed to rewrite it is probably better used on an entirely new work. Most likely this will end up a trunk novel, a learning experience. It's a well-worn road as it stands.

Here, familiarize yourself with legal cliches in fiction via the tv-tropes website, I've already found the section on Ally McBeal for you.

Stephanie Barr said...


I rolled my eyes at "In order to do so, Ally will be up against Nick Sourvanos, the insurance company’s handsome and savvy defense lawyer," since I was already over my limit in novel cliches.

Too frequently with queries I've read here, I find myself why should I care about the character. This is the case here as well. The last thing anyone needs is a naive lawyer (especially with an ex-relationship with the other side). And, if she's willing to close her eyes to the truth, so much less appealing I find her.

I read books for good characters. I don't see one here.

Patrice said...

Yeah but, but... please don't be discouraged. Go back and take off the lawyer hat (lawyer here too) and try to describe this story in fresh language. Strong verbs, quirky metaphors, and a clear telling of WHO wants WHAT and HOW she is being stymied.

Your book may be marvelous. It's just that we don't see it yet.

Carry on!

Deniselle said...

Irene Troy: I'd never say this under my real name - cowardly? - but a book my friend wrote about her work as a librarian was just that. Long convoluted stuff about the odds and ends of library work, the clients, the information desk, etc. Full of jargon. I'd read her poems and was surprised that she could write such boring prose. But maybe her problem was just what you said.

JS said...

It's really hard for most people to step away from the details of their everyday lives, and to realize that other folks won't find those as absorbing as they do. But the thing is to sketch in a character's career background accurately, but not in excruciating detail because that's too "inside baseball" for 90% of readers.

David Letterman used to do these great sketches (and my dad says that Steve Allen did them first) where, for instance, Flashdance would be reviewed by a welder, or Ferris Bueller's Day Off by a truant officer. It was hilarious to see the welder explaining in great detail why Jennifer Beals was wearing the wrong kind of mask, etc.

The best example of this is the review of Lady Chatterley's Lover that appeared in Field and Stream magazine (though this one was actually a wonderfully successful joke).

Irene Troy said...

Deniselle: if you want boring, repetitious and unreadable, read some of the short stories I wrote while still doing clinical work. One of the things I struggle with, and something many writers I’ve met struggle with, is turning real life experiences into fiction. It can be done and done well, but first you have to step outside of your professional self.

Your friend’s library story might be interesting if she were to remember she is not writing for librarians, she’s writing for the public. A writing buddy – who has published very successfully – once told me that after you finish the first draft, go back and remove every word learned while either studying for or practicing your profession, then re-read your piece and see if those jargon-ist words added anything to the piece. 99% of the time they serve only to remove the reader from the story. I think it was great advice!

These days I’m working on memoir, not fiction, but at least to some degree the same advice applies. If the goal is to write for a specialized audience then you can use examples from real life and use all the jargon you want. However, if the goal is to appeal to a wider audience, keep the jargon to a minimum and write to engage, not repel, the everyday reader. In short, whether in fiction or non-fiction, if the reader doesn’t feel attracted to the character(s) and enmeshed in the story s/he is not going to finish the book.

Orlando said...

I am totally new at this but...
I liked the very first sentence but only if it came with a clear description opposite of an ambulance chaser and a plot. You might have something you just need to revamp it.

D.N.Frost said...

You're catching a ton of flak here, ranging from your query is bad to just give up on this novel. There have been a lot of valid points, but nonetheless if you got all the way to my comment without steaming out the ears or crying tears of blood it's more than I think I could have managed.

That said:

This story seems cliched. If it's just the query presenting it that way, then that's an easy fix. If, as I suspect is the case, your novel is as cliched as it seems, you're faced with a hard choice: trunk it, or overhaul it.

If you're really attached to your novel, don't trunk it. If you write for the pleasure and don't really care one way or the other, just set it aside and start fresh. If you love this story and these characters, rewrite it.

I am rewriting my novel. I've spent nine years writing, revising, editing, having it edited, getting feedback and concrit and proofing. And last month I cast it all aside, threw off the chains of my old manuscript, and commenced the most glorious bout of fantastic writing I have ever achieved. I am so proud of my new chapters, ecstatic with the rounding out of foreshadowing, the fleshing out of characters, the powerful framework and torrential momentum of the new manuscript.

It seems like a horrible, dreary thing, to rewrite a novel--but it isn't. So, if it turns out you do love this work and you want it to be good, at least take heart in knowing that rewriting a novel you love is not demoralizing, but invigorating.

Unknown said...

Remora's comments triggered some memories for me, so I'll chime in a little with my own experience.

Ten years ago, I wrote the first draft of a novel, and I loved it. And it was pretty terrible, even at my (then) level of inexperience. You know, cliched and flat, with wonderfully purple prose. The funny thing, though, is that I knew I wasn't going to trunk it forever. I actually told myself, "I am not the writer I will be in ten years. And when the time comes, I will get back to this book. And it will become everything I wanted it to be."

I was right.

Isobelle Clare said...

Hm, seems to be a lot of lawyers around here *hides practicing certificate behind back.*

Personally I think your plot sounds interesting - there's certainly a lot of dramatic potential in personal injury. But less of the quirkiness please! I for one am tired of being patronised by being presented with an endless succession of "quirky" and "spunky" heroines.

That said, I think the suggestion of some other commenters that you flip the roles and make your protagonist the innocent naive man and the worldly-wise attorney the female love interest is an absolute stroke of genius. I'd read THAT in a flash.

I posted on my blog recently on jargon in the legal industry- if anyone's interested.

JD Horn said...

While I agree the query letter is lacking, it seems to me that the novel itself might be a gem. Of course, my favorite tv viewing has included Pushing Daisies and Ugly Betty, so take that as a caveat.

To hell with what is cliche and what isn't. Sometimes the tastiest thing in the world is a cliche pushed to absurdity. I mean, look at Numb. The novel takes advantage of the most overused cliche of soap opera (amnesia). Toss in a lion and a blind artist and you now have something that is in no way cliche.

Your job at this point is to find a way to write a query letter that entices.

Don't go shelving your work based on critiques to a query letter. Get into a writing group (if you haven't already) and get feedback on the work itself. Then decide for yourself if the work stands, needs rewrite or should be shelved.

D.N.Frost said...

Chiming back at Ms. Brouhaha: I would love a naive male role and a worldly female role too. It's an as-yet untired dynamic that would fit well in today's market.

Author: I didn't suggest you change the gender roles because, if you're devoted enough to the novel to want to overhaul it, you are probably devoted to your characters. You likely love Ally and her tireless optimism; cracking Nick's savage cynicism and renovating his heart to make room for love and faith in humanity could be part of the story in your eyes.

There's nothing wrong with that. The reason it's a cliche is because it's so good and so powerful that people have been doing that story for thousands of years. While the inverse is new and interesting, exciting and not overdone (yet), I think it's unrealistic to suggest you flip the roles.

If you aren't in love with your book, trunk it and start a new one rife with the ideas presented to you here. If you are in love with your book, then you aren't going to run with suggestions like "flip the gender roles" anyway.

Having a naive man and a savvy woman is an interesting spin on an old concept, but it is not the only spin, nor do I think it is the best spin for what it seems you're trying to accomplish with your romance.

Perhaps instead of being "quirky" and "naive", Ally is a bit jaded herself--just make sure she's jaded with something unique and unusual, something interesting. What if someone in Ally's life went through a personal injury claim before but it was rejected despite being legitimate? Or what if the person couldn't get representation, so they just had to live with their injury uncompensated? Maybe Ally isn't idealistic at all.

Maybe she's damaged in her own special way, and so when she marches forward "with blinders on" it isn't because she's an idiot impervious to good sense, but because she vowed she would never refuse to represent a personal injury case.

Give her a reason to represent someone she suspects is scamming her. She has to suspect; unless she really is an idiot, in which case very few people would identify with her, give your protagonist the credit that she can at least smell a rat.

She can smell a rat and press on with the litigation. There's no reason she has to either be a crooked con-artist or a naive idealistic star-chaser. Extremes like that are overdone and unrealistic. People aren't so cut-and-dry. When you present characters that way, it makes them seem flat and uninteresting, and it makes you seem unintuitive and inept. It also makes your story seem, as many comments have pointed out, incredibly trite.

Present Ally in a more multifaceted light, and show us a little about Nick so we can get a grasp of his character. This novel is a romance with a legal backdrop; the most important things are your characters and the way they fall in love. Your query needs to zing and crackle. Your characters need to have depth and chemistry, and you need to show that in the query.

The rest is just scenery, especially the jargon and the process. What's the single most exciting scene in the entire piece, to you? Make that extend throughout the rest of the novel, and use it as the essence of your query. Good luck, and I hope you don't give up.

Joseph said...

Honestly, I think you need to pitch your show to ABC or something, because it sounds like you wrote a sitcom, or a Meg Ryan movie :P

Mr. Write said...

I am just wondering how you got 90,000 words from a 40 page script. I think you may have planted an idea from an old memory about a romanticised character from your early egalitarian days into your graying brain as an original. It happens to all of us. I wrote a 125,000 word masterpiece of original, artistic fiction and realized when I was done that it was the episode where the Flintstones meet the Jetsons.

Hey, Janet, if I sent a query and haven't seen it yet but found need for revision from further study of the blogosphere, can I send it again? I got it Fixed so to speak.

Mr. Write said...

Just had a follow-up thought: Everyone is pointing toward the elephant in the teacup and noting the dense, chewy cliches abounding in this piece. What if you played on that strength?
You spoke of the stereotyped Italian family and the flamboyancy of the paralegal (who may NOT be gay, alaskaravenwhatever, it could be an over the top, flashy femme with a penchant for ornate body scarves and dazzling hair jewelery), why not camp it out to the extreme?
Inside the cover you could insert one of those musical cards that play a theme song a la the 90's. When she ranges emotionally, props could fall out from the pages like tissues and broken mirrors reflecting shattered faces back to the audience. The sky is the limit. Maybe the final scene when the hunky, musky ex carries her off to bed you could sent his pages with some sort of bullish pheremone and hers with lilac and rose water, and instead of "The End" a usable "Do Not Disturb" doorhanger craftily attached to a wooden veneered back cover.
It would rescue your hard work and recover it into a cult phenomena! I guess it would be up to Janet to figure on how to sell shards of broken glass without needing liability waivers...
Either way, well done, my friend, well done.

Unknown said...

Now I'm just get frustrated.

Did this writer pay any attention to QS the first time around? Or before that, for that matter? Some of the problems here are ones that the writer would have known about had she done even the lightest research on this site, like word count.

That aside, this whole thing is cliche after cliche. The condescending "with three inch pumps on her feet, she’s ready to show the 'old school' boys a thing or two about personal injury law." The talk of the girls nights out. Nick's entire persona.

And then there's stuff that just doesn't make any sense. A pirate? Ally invests her own personal savings in the case?

Did the writer pay any attention to Janet's loads of info on this site? Or the extensive feedback?

If the writer seemed like she was actually trying, I'd be willing to believe bad writing could get better. But bad writing with no indication of taking feedback?

Adam Heine said...

This is not an adventure novel any more than it is suspense. In both categories, someone's life (usually the protagonist's) is in jeopardy, among other things.

Teagen said...

I think the biggest problem is I don't want to finish reading this because I feel like I'm reading the entire novel and it isn't interesting. You've thrown a bunch of characters and facts at us, but there's no life. There's nothing exciting. And it all sounds like a rather juvenile set up.

Your biggest issue is a lack of stimulating voice. There are several authors who have smooth, clam writing voices, but are highly interesting. This isn't because there's no energy behind the calmness, and no life in this plot.

If you want to play up the romantic side of it, stick to she wants to be taken seriously, along comes Miss More than likely Lying, and, oh no, facing off against still hot ex. Spend less time on set up, and a little more time on the chemistry. But overall, don't tell the entire story. What's the point in spending 90,000 words on it if you can tell it in 700?

Stephanie Barr said...

Revision - Did you want Ally to appear self-delusional and hopelessly gullible? You start out saying she's not an ambulance chaser and then describe an ambulance chaser that lives in denial.

You description of Nick sounds like Ally's sour grapes that he's done better than she has even though he started at the same place. He doesn't sound appealing (sour grapes rarely do) but I think it reflects poorly on Ally, too, like she's petty and vindictive.

Then we get to the part where she's all excited, even puts her own savings, into a case that involves few if any facts, just personality and charisma (when Nick is already described as having that edge). That's when I realize, Ally is dumb as a post.

If this isn't the impression you want to give (and you don't, right?), it needs serious work.

In my opinion, work like this, which a cliched story and stereotypical side characters can work if and only if your main characters are charming, believable, and entertaining, people readers want to spend time with.

If you're going to have a plot that will end up turning on personality alone (as you seem to have set up here), having a strong capable character becomes even more important.

Anonymous said...

Did you say this attorney conducts surveillance on her own client . . . and not only tells opposing counsel but invites him along?

So does she always give away her client's secrets to opposing counsel -- or only when she thinks opposing counsel is hot?

Nick doesn't look like my favorite person, but Ally seems to have him beat in the sleaze department. I'm starting to actually feel worried that he might end up with her. Run, Nick! As fast as your tasselled shoes can carry you!

On the other hand, it does set up new romances. Coming up, it's the hot, savvy bureaucrat from the Grievance Committee ... the hot, savvy lawyer from Ally's malpractice carrier ... and finally, the hot, savvy warden of her cell block.

On a more serious note, Remora's comments are the best I've seen in a long time. When you have a novel that doesn't quite work, sometimes rolling up your sleeves to make it work is actually tougher than scrapping large sections and starting over. And it's often more rewarding --- even if you fail, you can reap great improvement in your story-building process.

It's possible that the novel needs less work than it appears, and that the biggest problem is that the author hasn't quite prioritized which story elements should get the most attention.

Anonymous said...

Oh man, are you the Bride of Lise77? Did this query actually get longer? It certainly feels like it. And the ear is just as tin as ever. Truly, the hands and feet sentence is so clunky that it makes me think you can't do description.

What kind of dullard is this Ally if her marriage-pushing family and her gossip-hungry girlfriends are significant problems for her? Does Nick actually belittle her in open court? I certainly don't take her seriously.

Then comes the jargon. You have been well advised by QS to delete or rewrite plenty. I can add:

"Ally goes as far as conducting surveillance." (Ally decides to snoop around herself)

"she uncovers some secrets about Robyn’s past that make the legitimacy of her claim questionable" (She digs up some dirt on Robyn that makes her wonder about that "injury.")

"This makes it likely that the two of them staged the accident" (Ally will never know if the two of them gamed the system)

Alisa said...

I don't usually chime in but this part made me so annoyed I just had to say something:

Ally learns that her client has a psychiatric illness that causes her to turn into various alter egos. Ally is forced to contend with two of them; a southern gal and a pirate.

You've had several lawyers offer advice, so here's some from someone with a background in psychology: Those two sentences alone make it painfully obvious that you have no understanding of Dissociative Identity Disorder (formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder).

A quick Google search of this very serious disorder could tell you how off base you are.

I can see that you're trying to write a fun book with quirky characters and situations, and there's nothing wrong with that. Your book should have interesting characters. Just do your homework before tackling a field that you obviously no nothing about.

Nothing will turn away readers (and I'm guessing agents) faster than reading about something very important to them in your novel and feeling like you couldn't even take the time to get your facts straight.

Stephanie Barr said...

Must. Edit.Comments.

I hate reading my own comments and wondering if I should start drinking coffee.

tlbodine said...

Maybe it's just because I've been stuck in the insurance business for a few years now, but this is starting to look like something I'd actually read.

the query's still got a ways to go and I'm guessing the novel itself could use some polishing, but this is leaps and bounds better than the last attempt. I think there's something here. Keep trying writer, I'm rooting for you.

Irene Troy said...

Oy Vey! My aching head…I want to believe the author of this query is a decent writer and the book is interesting and enticing. Unfortunately, I see none of this in the query. In fact, what is included in the query still sounds hopelessly cliché and worse - boring. Why should I care about a character that appears to be a complete ditz and well…ethically challenged. Does she invite Nick to come along on her surveillance work [there’s that ethical stuff again] because she’s hot for him or because she is trying to prove something? Her client’s a liar? And, most of all, why should anyone care? And, yes, it is clunky and awkward and dull. If the story itself has any similarity to the query, I urge you, with no nasty intent, to join a writer’s group, take some classes, hook up with some other writers, anything that will help you develop your ideas into a coherent, cliché-less and enticing piece of work.

M. G. E. said...

Is the romance the focus of the plot with the B-plot being the insurance scam, or is it the other way around? This will influence your query and your genre.

The reason your voice keeps falling flat is because you keep using this high and stuffy, prim and proper diction that's very formal and blocky and multisyllabical. Be less formal. You're sounding a whole lot like a lawyer in this one.

Beyond that you ventured into synopsis and the length was far too long.

I actually think this query was worse than the first, but that leads me to another issue:

Time spent polishing a query.

So you spend, what, a year or so actually writing and revising your novel? Yet it's only been four days since your first query went up and you already have a revision submitted? How is that possible?

A good query can quite literally take -weeks- to draft and polish before you're ready to send it out. Your book won't get read if your query isn't up to snuff. Your query is a show-case of your skill as a writer and your ability to write to a very specific audience: the agent.

If you choose to revise this again, do yourself a favor:
1. Draft a new query from scratch.
2. Read the entire Query Shark website from beginning to end.
3. Re-read the query you drafted in step 1 and laugh at it with your new-found query-critiquing skills.
4. Draft an all new query.
5. Polish, revise, polish, revise.
6. Have a few grammar-nazi friends comb it for fleas.
7. Polish, revise, polish revise.
8. Trim the fat: excess words, cliches, unnecessary adjectives, etc.
9. Let it sit for a whole week and don't look at it. Then come back after that week with fresh eyes, read it again, polish, revise.
10. Send it out when it's done, when it's the best thing you could possibly have created.

Orlando said...

I'm not sure, but I believe the plot would be how to represent a client with multiple personality and make them credible. That would be your focus point, if not then you lost me all together.

Also you should never give out the ending of the book. It kills the suspense, and desire to read on.

Write it long and then start cutting out leaving only the facts. Quick and to the point is what you want.

Demonstrate the problem, and what difficulties the lawyer has to go thru to prevail, leaving the question in the Agents mind, "Will the lawyer be able to win this fight?" causing the Agent to want to read more. This is your goal with the Query Letter.

D.N.Frost said...

I wish you all the best, Author, I really do, but at this point I just don't think you're ready. Your writing is clunky, your descriptions are trite, your presentation of the problems and choices Ally faces are convoluted, and frankly you seem to have no idea what you're doing.

If your book is written this way, I'd table it for now and look to something else for a few years. Do you read for fun? Get a couple good books and devour them, look for things as you read that you really like and want to emulate. A writer's style is personality built on a foundation of selective mimicry. You can't find your own voice until you can successfully incorporate facets of other writers'.

I'm not aiming to be mean, Author. I want you to do well, and part of that means creating something you can be proud of. And, to be frank, I don't think you're proud of this query. I don't think you're proud of this novel. You're just cruising on the hope that it's good enough to set adrift into the sea of publishing so you don't have to put in any extra effort.

There are snatches of powerful phrasing latent within this query. You have a developing voice, but just as you wouldn't shove a developing singer center stage, you don't want to put a developing novel on display.

That said, if you wish to press on, here's my $1.98:

*What is the main conflict of this novel? Is it Ally's family pressuring her to marry? Is it the personal injury case she suspects is a fraud? Is it her forbidden chemistry with the opposing counsel? I can't even tell, Author, and that is A Very Bad Thing.

Describe your book in one sentence. Just one. Nono, just one. Read that sentence. Stare at it; scrutinize it. It is probably very long. Cut it in half. What does it say now?

Your book has potential, Author. But even if you've got sixteen different angles within the manuscript, you can't inundate your query with complexities. I don't know what genre you're going for, or what the main conflict is, and I've read two versions of your query. For the sake of decent example, I'm going to take a wild stab and guess this is a romance where the main conflict is that Ally's going to look like a scammable idiot in front of the ex with whom she still has chemistry.

The rest, as I said before, "is just backdrop."

Also, I'm renaming her Rachel. Here's a go:

Rachel Giordano just wants to be taken seriously. She's sick of being discounted as a lawyer for practicing personal injury. She's sick of being belittled by her family for not landing a husband. Most of all, she's sick of looking stupid in front of Nicolas Sourvanos, the savvy and successful defense attorney who used to be an old flame.

The problem is, Rachel just can't seem to catch a break. Her current client is a total nutjob, and the charges are most likely a scam, but with Nick representing the defense Rachel will do just about anything to push her client's agenda, just to show Nick once and for all.

Her conscience bleeding out in one hand and her briefcase heavy in the other, Rachel can't keep herself together any longer. She needs help, and the only one stepping up is Nick himself. If she accepts, Rachel could look the ultimate fool, but she isn't so sure her personal integrity can handle this case alone.

Personal Injury is a debut romance at 90k words. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Anonymous said...

After reading all the other comments, I feel a little embarrassed admitting this... but it sounds like a fun beach read. That's not really a genre that I usually read, but it's a popular one and nothing in the plot sounds any dumber or any more ridiculous than anything in any other book of the same genre.

Joel Brown said...

These are opening arguments, but the jury box is empty. There are no wide-eyed jurors, dressed for church, lonely dogs following your movements. There’s no one in the box imagining their private production of Law & Order in which they get the last word.
This is a bench trial. There’s just a judge. And she doesn’t care if you’re wearing the pin stripes that help lift and separate. She knows the trick with the jewelry: the wedding ring and cross for an older jury, the flag pin for the middle aged folks and no ring at all for a younger jury but maybe that guy’s clumsy Iron Man sports watch you found between the headboard and mattress after it had been beeping for 10 minutes.
The opposing counsel is wearing that f*cking orange and black Princeton scarf that makes her look like she just pushed her fat head through a traffic cone. You know it’s not for the judge. It’s for you, and you take the bait. But she’s well-rested, prepared, and she’s running her finger across one of her iPads, editing her statement as you make the only sound in the room: the crinkle of paper.
So get on with it. Everyone’s a professional and no one cares about appearances. You've squared off the legal pad and laptop on the edge of your desk. Stand, resist clearing your throat and wiping your hands against your dress and say: Dear Query Shark. (242 words)

Diane_Holmes said...

I second jdh's comments, which are encouraging and productive. I also love that you got an offer from a potential beta reader.

Many of the comments here are quite harsh in a way that is about as helpful as saying, "bad, dog, bad!" Not sure dogs ever learn much from that, other than they're bad.

Figure out the pieces of the story that jazz you the most. (Or try to remember them from before heavy boots stomped all over what may or may not be in the actual manuscript.) Chances are those are fresh ideas.

Frankly, for many novelists it's hard, unintuitive work narrowing down a novel to a core concept.

Ah! I tried this exercise this week (from Gayle Lynds, thriller writer). Maybe it will help you. Try writing what the villain wants (will the villain blah, blah, blah), the word OR, then what the hero wants (will the hero blah, blah, blah).

This can be helpful for just seeing where the absolutely center of the book's engine is located. Then go back to Janet R's approach to query writing.

I wish you success.


Teagen said...

A few people, it seems from reading the comments, took the first client mentioned (the one with DID) as being the main client, and she/he isn't. Robyn is and her ailment has to do with suffering severe pain.

AUTHOR: I agree you need to be clear on what exactly is happening and what we're dealing with, and probably the best thing you can do is keep to the main characters only. There will be a lot less mess and confusion for it. You also need to handle the psychological and medical aspects of your work at least as professionally as you handle the legal side of it.

wizardonskis22 said...

Knowing not much about this type of book, or anything whatsoever about some TV lawyer named Ally, I can only comment about the query itself. It's long. Quite a mouthful, really. My advice: chop off the extra limbs. What's necessary? Only the head and torso, really. Maybe: lawyer named ally + shady, multiple-personality client + riveting, attractive opposition = problem. Ally can do this. Or, Ally can do that. Add a pinch of suspense to make the reader itch.
Top it off here with title, word count, credits, thanks for time and consideration, etc. You're done. 250 words, make it short and sweet. Maybe not perfect, but better than the long version. Most of that information is not necessary right now and does not make us want to read it more. Some does. You can do this! Enjoy! Good luck!

M. G. E. said...

Are the queries getting worse... or are we just getting harsher? >_>

Also, please do change your character's name. "Ally" + young-quirky-lawyer immediately = roll-eyes.

Unknown said...

The queries aren't getting worse; the comments are getting harsher. Sometimes people offer useful suggestions, but all too often wrapped up in extreme and unwarranted negativity and condescension. I feel bad for this writer, who made a good-faith effort at revision after an initial shredding. Maybe there is still room for improvement (and isn't that always the case for all of us?), but surely it would be more productive just to offer comments and critiques without the prefatory stomping and snorting. I know that this would make the comment section infinitely more productive from my perspective as a reader.

Anonymous said...


I have to disagree a tiny bit. While I think it is easy to slip over the line of critique and in to being a jerk, I don't think that's really happened here. What irks me is that this author hasn't done basic research and has kept that up for two queries. What is this, 600 words? I find that exasperating.

I will also say that, having spent the last two days working on a family member's book, that I do not think anyone is served by a big pat on the back for trying. (which I don't think this author did, really, or the thing would be a solid three hundred words. You know, standards)

Positives are important, but no one should expect hugs.

Stephanie Barr said...

Which is probably why it's Query Shark and not Query Koala

Unknown said...

You're right, Tiger (and Stephanie Barr), that hard-nosed critique is preferable any day over empty positives. I just think there's a boundary between a shot in the arm and a blow to the heart (a wound in the shoulder, perhaps?)

Stephanie Barr said...

Most of the commenters tend to tell the querier WHY they didn't like something, just as QS (though not with her authority, particularly in my case). I think that makes a difference.

Better, I think, to hear the reasons why, even if they're discouraging, then an endless supply of no's with no explanation.

#162 with 5 revisions, for example, really showed how paying attention repeated criticism can lead to success. That, I think, is what this is all about. I can't speak for everyone, but I want each one of these queries to succeed, not only because I want to learn something (and I've learned a great deal) but because I know how hard it is to be on the receiving end of anonymous no's.

I want each and every author that comes here to learn what it takes to tell their story so, at least, the caliber of the query doesn't keep a great story from its intended audience.

wizardonskis22 said...

Stepahnie Barr, I agree with you, but I would change Query Koala to Query Puppy or something, because Koalas are actually quite nasty when you get close to them, they just look cuddly from afar :-D
And the Query Shark has to accept comments, and says she doesn't accept any that are meanspirited or not helpful, so even if some seem mean, they must have some use.

Anonymous said...

There's A LOT of material here--too much for me to make any specific line suggestions. Before embarking on a resubmission, I'd strongly suggest focusing on word count: 250 max. It's going to seem like a daunting task, but it will force you to focus on the important elements of your story. Also, use the find command for all uses of the pronoun 'that' and try to delete them. 95% of the 'that' in your query should have been removed.

Hope that helps

Ethereal_buddha said...

"With a briefcase in her hand and three inch pumps on her feet,"
Personally I do this too, but sometimes I like to switch it up and wear the pumps on my hands whilst surfing with my briefcase....

Katrina S. Forest said...

Reading the new version and re-reading the old one, I'm noticing the phrase "a thing or two" pop up a lot (twice in this latest version.) Just something to be aware of.

jesse said...

Well done. Keep us posted :)

Unknown said...

Shark--curious as to why no comments on the final revision. I'm playing catch-up and am one year behind this query, so perhaps my fellow critics have moved on but for me this is the most shocking turnaround ftw I've yet read and I know I write in run-on sentences but so does Cormac McCarthy. Well done author.