Sunday, October 10, 2010


Dear Query Shark:

According to UNICEF, an estimated 2.5 children, the majority of them girls, are sexually exploited in the 12 billion dollar world wide commercial sex industry. It has been estimated by Stop Child Trafficking Now, SCTNow, that the average predator in the US can make more than $200,000 a year off one young girl.

Great! You're querying for a non-fiction book on the problem of sexual exploitation of women.  Oh wait, you're not.

Don't begin the query for a novel with a cold burst of information like this.  This isn't your story.  You're also telling (in the least enticing way you could) rather than showing.  I see this a lot with people who write novels to illustrate a problem or make a point.  Don't do it.

Danny Charman has retired after a career in the National Football League. He has started a new career as a lawyer in Dallas. Actually, all he really wants to do, is work a half day and play golf the other half. Oh, and of course, he would like to fool around with the ladies as much as possible. That is, until early one morning, he learns that one of his former teammates has been murdered. The murder took place at a hunting and fishing lodge in a national forest near a small town north of Dallas. That afternoon, he learns that another one of his former teammates has been taken into custody. Immediately, Danny knows something is wrong. His two former teammates were best of friends, born and raised together in the small town. One would not have killed the other.

This is clunky writing of the worst sort. It's a series of statements, not a paragraph. There is no cadence here; the sentences don't flow readily.

Consider this:
All Danny Charman really wants to do is work and play golf . Oh, and fool around with the ladies as much as possible. Early one morning he learns one of his former NFL teammates has been murdered at a hunting and fishing lodge. Another former teammate has been taken into custody. Immediately, Danny knows something is wrong.  These guys were best of friends, born and raised together in the small town. One would not have killed the other.

That evening, Danny and his young female assistant drive to the town to pay their respects and to start an investigation.   Later that night, with the rain turning into sleet, they are driving on a deserted road in the forest. Suddenly, a little girl darts out in front of them. Danny is able to stop the vehicle without hitting her as she runs across the road and into the forest. He searches and finds her collapsed underneath a tree. He picks her up. She is burning up with fever. She either cannot, or will not talk. He notices the bruises around her little wrists and ankles. They take her to the local hospital. No one there recognizes her. Evidently, she is not local.

You've got the same clunky problem here. Also, you're missing what's at stake for Danny.  Even if he doesn't think his former teammate would have killed his friend, why does he take it on himself to investigate?  There has to be an organic reason for this to happen. By organic I mean a motivation that flows from the plot and characters making choices, not the author deciding this is what has to happen.

In order to solve the murder of his former teammate, Danny must first solve the mystery of the little girl. A mystery that will take him into the underworld of human trafficking and child exploitation.

There is no linkage between the two things.  I don't understand what the plot is. 

BUTTERFLY SIN, a mystery complete at 110,000 words, is my first novel. Thank you for your time and consideration.


This is a form rejection. It's all set up, and no plot.  The writing is clunky and un-polished.  When I see that in a query, I know I'll see it in the novel.  

I'm also EXTREMELY wary of authors who are trying to make a point or teach a lesson, or illuminate a problem in novels.  Story comes first and authors who want to make a point rarely are willing to let the story dominate the points they want to make.  Stories with lessons are called parables, not novels.


Anonymous said...

That two people are friends doesn't preclude one murdering the other; quite the opposite. Murder victims are very likely to be friends or relatives of their killers.

(And yeah, lawyers don't usually investigate murders. That's what we have police for.)

It's hard to speculate about a manuscript from looking at the query, but it seems possible you might need to take out the manuscript and work on three things:

1. Sentence flow. Read the manuscript aloud and see how it sounds to you.

2. Logic. Watch out for things that are happening for narrative convenience rather than because they believably would happen.

3. Polemic. Old-time movie producer Samuel Goldwyn said "If you've got a message, send a telegram." If the reader finishes the book and notices afterward that hey, there was a message in there, that's fine. But if she's hit over the head with it from the git-go, odds are good she won't keep reading. Especially if the story seems a mere framework for the lesson.

(Unless there's a big famous name on the cover, like John Grisham or Terry Pratchett. These guys get away with it, but only in their later, after-becoming-famous books.)

Anonymous said...

Side issue here, but 183 should be advised that one of the late John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee novels begins almost precisely as this one does (or should?): Travis and his sidekick are driving up Alligator Alley in Nowheresville, Florida, when a girl darts across the road. Travis swerves and wrecks, then decides to unravel the mystery ...

Kate Halleron said...

First thing to jump out at me "2.5 children."

Well, let's help the 2 - I don't think there's much to be done for the .5 one.

Stephanie Barr said...

I don't have anything to add to QS' point on flow. Disembodied actions don't make a story. Everything has to fit together, make sense.

When it comes to "lessons," she's also dead on, but I wanted to stress that too much lesson, not enough story does the lesson a disservice. The more alive and compelling a story is, the more profound the lessons you can get from them - mostly because they don't feel like lessons. They feel like life.

Theresa Milstein said...

If you could tie the two paragraphs about the murder and the girl together, it would help. Is he solving a murder and uncovering what happened to the girl? Are they related? Why is he involved with either? What's at stake for him? What obstacles confront him?

Lehcarjt said...

Is it just me, or is there a typo in the first sentence. Shouldn't it be "2.5 million children" or "2.5 percent of children" or something along those lines.

Maddy said...

Do we really need to delve that far into the murder of the friend to talk about, what appears to be the main point of the story, the child trafficking? It almost reads as two separate stories to me.

M. G. E. said...

Once the clunky writing is polished you'd probably end up with 20,000 words taken off the novel.

But I'm more worried about the plot, there's no flow of motivation, no logical sequence. Your plot doesn't pass the sniff test.

These errors are so blatant, so egregious, that we know your novel must be rampant with them as well.

"In order to solve the murder of his former teammate, Danny must first solve the mystery of the little girl. A mystery that will take him into the underworld of human trafficking and child exploitation."

Why? What connection do these two incidents have? How could he possibly know he must solve her mystery first? And why was he interested enough in his friends to travel and find out what happened to them? Did one of them hire him as a lawyer?

These two things combined, poor plot and unpolished prose mean that this is likely a trunk novel, a learning experience--because there's so much work to be done that it would actually be as difficult to revise it up to standard as to write an entirely new book. And if you did revise it, it would be significant different in many ways.

And actually, that's my suggestion for you, author. To put aside this manuscript as a "first draft" and write the novel again from scratch. Call the first one 'practice' and start over. A lot of fine novelists have used this technique, btw.

But before you do that, learn how to polish prose and remove unnecessary words. Learn how to make sure your characters are properly motivated in what they do.

There's one final danger: don't try to polish prose as you write it. Leave that for the revision process.

Rather, learn to write more directly in the first place and it will come out of you naturally with only minor editing needed, hopefully :P

And remember the elegant and immortal words of Nobel prize winning author, Ernest Hemingway, "The first draft of anything is shit." :P

True writing is rewriting.

jjdebenedictis said...

This sounds like an interesting, high-stakes story, but I note the query could be streamlined. Try to chop out every unnecessary sentence and word, because I think that will improve the pacing enormously. Most of the rewriting the Shark did on your second paragraph was simply cutting everything that wasn't needed.

Given the large word count of your novel, it might be worthwhile going back and seeing if you can also streamline the story by cutting and condensing there as well. Your book will be more tempting to an agent if you can get it down under about 90,000 words.

Good luck with this!

Irene Troy said...

I well understand the desire to somehow make a social statement through writing a fictional piece. Once upon a time, I tried the same thing. I spent many years working with children affected by abuse and trauma, learned all the stats on child exploitation and grew increasingly angry about the maltreatment of children. I wrote several short stories and one far too long book addressing the issue of child sexual abuse and exploitation. Guess what? The writing was terrible! Overly dramatic, clunky and unfocused because I could not mold the fictional tale around the core of reality I wanted to express. Instead of trying to fit a round peg into a square hole, I decided to write a scholarly piece about the same issues. Guess what? The writing was good, good enough to be published. Lesson learned.

The actual query begins with paragraph 2 – the beginning of the setup for your protag. On first read I did understand the setup: former NFL player comes to the rescue of a friend accused of murdering another former player. The setup is okay, but the writing is too rough and the graph lacks the all-important flow needed to entice readers into reading more.

Then, in graph 3, you write: Later that night, with the rain turning into sleet, they are driving on a deserted road in the forest. This is hackneyed writing akin to “on a dark and stormy night”. Don’t rely on old formulaic writing like this, it shows a lack of skill and all too often a lack of creativity. As it appears in the query, the writing resembles the plot of at least a half dozen novels already on the stacks. Hopefully, the actual writing is not so durative and predictable.

Show us a protagonist that is alive, active and likeable. Get rid of all the awkward disconnected sentences and just show us the plot. Make sure the plot provides a clear sense of motivation for your characters, not just a “well, he was there” connection. We need to understand why your characters do what they do and what they hope to achieve within the storyline.

Joseph said...

I get the mild sense that the author is trying to strike that The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo iron while it's hot... the social theme is similar (I think the first in that trilogy even begins with a recitation of facts about violence against women). Shark is right though. The writing is clunky and a little breathless. I think you're trying to pull us into the world and your conflict by being slightly evocative, but all thrillers begin with a hook.

wizardonskis22 said...

I see what Joseph means about The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo thing. However, I think that this is fairly differnt. At least, I think I think that. I get the overall idea: protag's teammate is accused of murdering another one, goes to help him, finds abused girl, solves mystery, but besides that, it makes no sense. You haven't given us a connection between the two events. Your paragraphs each seem to stand on their own; you need something to help them flow together so that we understand why they are all stuffed into the same novel.

The story itself sounds like it could be really interesting. However, the protag's motivation is confusing. Why in the world did he go after the girl? Why is he investigating if he's a lawyer? Why do you even mention his female assistant--is she important (how?) or did you just put her in as detail? Why does he want to solve her mystery, and why does he have to do this to solve the mystery of his teammate? How does he know this?

Also, you have a few comma problems in there. One excuse is:
"Actually, all he really wants to do, is..."
The second comma does not belong there. You have a few other times when your commas seem a bit confused. If you clean that up a bit it will flow better.

As for the "clunky" writing, it's possible that it's just for the query. Many great writers write horrible queries. If that's the case, maybe you could pretend that you're describing the book to your friend, trying to convince him/her to read it. You wouldn't want to take too long, because they'd lose interest, but you'd want enough of a teaser to pull them in. If the writing is like that throughout the novel, a complete rewrite could do wonders. Anyway, it should be easier the second time around, because you know exactly what is happening.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

I agree that it's more common for murder victims to know their killers, and I think Danny would have to be a pretty naive lawyer not to know that - even if he doesn't normally represent murder cases.

Personally, I would have started with the little girl running in front of his car, and added backstory later. For example, you could say that while trying to find the girl's family, Danny discovers a connection to an old friend falsely accused of murder, etc.

Joel Brown said...

Danny Charman always played hard: on the gridiron, on the golf course, in the courtroom, in the bedroom. When one of his ex-teammates is accused of killing another, Danny’s no longer the quarterback: he’s playing defense.
When Danny Charman’s ex-wife won his Superbowl ring in the divorce, Danny studied his opponents and went to law school. Now he’s rebuilt his celebrity—but not his fortune—talking the talk and walking the walk with other superstar athletes. When one of his ex-teammates is accused of killing another, Danny endangers his life by taking his friend’s case.
Danny Charman is the name on the 1:00AM TV commercials and the signs on the side of buses. The cases he brings in cost more than they’re worth, and his paralegal Monica DeLeon thinks Danny cheated to get his law degree and pass the bar, so when he offers the firm’s resources to defend a former teammate accused of murder, everyone expects the worst. [Remington Steele]
Sooner or later, in the back roads of north Texas, you’re going to hit a deer. When a thin shape stumbles out of the woods, Danny Charman swerves his Lexus into a ditch. When he walks back to clear the road, he finds a naked child, blonde, pale, hair crowned with leaves, skin flayed by summer grass and feet bloody from parched earth.
Danny takes off his shirt to cover her and waits in the darkness with the 911 operator. Moments later, he flags down a police car. When he asks why they were so quick, the sheriff asks Danny how he was so quick? A handcuffed figure leans forward from the backseat. It’s an old teammate of Danny’s.
Danny presses down on the car door, causing it to tip towards him, “I’m his lawyer.”

Joel Brown said...

Wanted to hit a couple other things. There are some national grasslands, but no national forests. The first national forest north of Dallas is in Manitoba. Lodge is less common in Texas than Camp. Is he a Cowboy? (Danny Charman, Dallas Cowboy) How many of them are black? How many are white? There's a separate but unequal ethos in small town Texas. If you're serious, buy a half year of newspapers from the town (They have a morgue. They'll sell them to you.) Read the police blotter, the school news, the want ads and the editorial. Read about the country seat. Read the quotes. Do they just clean up the white folks quotes? All of them? Are there picture of black folks at all? Do you get the rhythm of the community? Watch a documentary. Read Horton Foote, watch The Last Picture Show. Watch North Dallas 40. Don't confuse being from the South and being from Texas. Everyone has an opinion about Texas, Football and Murder.

Anonymous said...

This is the most minor quibble imaginable, by why is the assistant "young"? That really stuck out at me, probably since I was really trying to figure out what the first paragraph had to do with anything. She's obviously not the trafficked child, so it just sounds sort of demeaning and cliche that she's young (and hot, right? Couldn't NOT have her be hot.)

But it also doesn't really make sense. What kind of assistant? His administrative assistant? A younger lawyer helping on the case? How is she billing her time if she's just tagging along on her boss's personal mission? Is she travelling around the countryside with her boss just for the fun of it? Because I've generally had pretty good relationships with the various bosses I've had, but I can't say I'd want to go on a road trip with any of them. So why is she in the car with him? It's all mentioned, so it must be important, but it comes across as sort of... creepy. And cliche and unrealistic. If she's important in some way, mention her. If she's not, then don't. If she's going to turn out to be the love interest, then yawn.

It seems like such a minor point, but it really stuck out to me as a potential red flag about this whole novel.

Katrina S. Forest said...

Perhaps I'm the only one, but when the query mentioned that one friend was killed and that afternoon, another friend was taken into custody, I didn't automatically think that one had killed the other. I thought the author was hinting that someone was targeting the members of this football team and Danny could be next. If the antagonist's goal is simply to make the football players incapable of moving about freely, jail or death both work. They don't have to be connected.

Just my thoughts on how things could be misread.

wizardonskis22 said...

Joel- actually, there are National Forests. In Colorado, for instance, there's White River National Forest, Gunnison National Forest, and quite a few others. In Texas, Angelina National Forest, Davy Crockett National Forest, Sabine National Forest, Sam Houston National Forest, and I think that's about it, but it's still quite a few.

I also agree with Megan, something is not right with the young assistant. Either remover her, or, if she's really important, than mention her before or somewhere else. Right there, she's not the focus of the moment, but she trips us up and disrupts the flow.

Also, I see the problem with the leap from one murdered to another in custody. Maybe if you throw in a mention of being taken into custody for the murder, then it would work better.

Good luck, and keep working!

Joel Brown said...

wizardonskis22: Absolutely right. There are dozens of national forests, including some in Texas--but the Texas forests are *south* of Dallas. My quip was imprecise, and you make a good point.

It's the danger of non-character specifics. Don't give them something to reject or that makes the rest of your research suspect. And national forest? I assume it's a jurisdiction thing.

Anonymous said...

I think #183's query shows that he/she hasn't read any of the previous 182. Preachy. Statement-driven. And no character motivation (that's shown in the query anyway).

Grisham could make this sort of thing work, and maybe that's what #183's after. Attack your story with a machette and cut out all the dross. Someone earlier suggested a 20,000 drop in word count - I reckon closer to 50,000 if the query is anything to go by.

But learn from this #183, don't be put off by all the negative criticism. Grow a think skin and continue. If you painted, your first attempt wouldn't be a multi-million dollar seller, so don't be discouraged because your first storyisn't either.

Hang in there. Learn. Get better.

Dave said...

How about:

When retired NFL hero Joe Hogan is found dead in a hunting lodge with a bowie knife in his back, his ex-teammate Danny Charman tells himself that he doesn't care. And why should he? Not a word has passed between the two men since Danny invested in one of Joe's high-risk property deals. Two point five million. Gone forever. Ouch.

But that was back in the last century. Now, Danny doesn't worry about money. He doesn't worry about anything. His Dallas law practice is flying, his golf swing is in perfect shape, and this month's girlfriend says she loves him.

Then, the day after the funeral, the cops knock on his door. They have the knife. An inscription on the blade says, To my best friend Danny, Christmas 1992.


I'm not suggesting that a knife must be introduced. It could be anything. But something has to happen to credibly force Danny into the conflict as an investigator, a suspect, or both.

The little girl should stay at home for now.

If you do use the knife, I want it back when you're finished.

Irene Troy said...

Joel – either purposely or not, you have made an important observation. The author only writes: "Later that night, with the rain turning into sleet, they are driving on a deserted road in the forest." There is no mention of “National Forest” in this query. The argument about the existence of forest south of Dallas is immaterial. EXCEPT that you became sidetracked by the mention of forest.

This, I believe, is very important. A fiction writer can make up an entire other universe or just a fictional town within a real state or country. However, if the writer chooses to use a real town/city/location, then accuracy becomes extremely important. You, apparently, know the general setting for this novel and because you have this knowledge, the mention of a forest seems out of place. If you give readers information that rings a false chord they focus not on your story, but the wrongness of that information. It is similar to writing “He drove many miles through thick forest” when the novel’s setting is Manhattan. The more a writer uses real locations, real events and real objects, the more important accuracy becomes.

JD Horn said...

If your name were Brett Favre, you would have no problem selling this. Just saying.

M. G. E. said...

Love this silly typo, though on a serious topic:

According to UNICEF, an estimated 2.5 children, the majority of them girls,...

So, apparently 1.5 of the children are girls? >_>

Nianne said...

The query does say "The murder took place at a hunting and fishing lodge in a national forest near a small town north of Dallas."

There are no national forests in the Dallas area, or any place north of it. The same is true of state forests. I did, however, find references to a "hardwood bottomland forest" associated with the Trinity River, near Dallas, TX. (This was in a scientific study of the effects of gravel mining on the plantlife in said forest.) Having never been to Texas, that's about twenty minutes worth of googling right there.

As it pertains to the query, I think this is an example of a writing issue the author is having with assuming the readers will follow along easily. Assuming the readers will take things at face value, such as the motivation of the lawyer to investigate the cause of his former co-workers arrest. And that the assistant is young (and by implication attractive) and has a reason to be there. The author doesn't think readers will question such things because the author doesn't question them.

The solution to this is to take a break from the novel, set it aside for a while, then come back and read it like you've never seen it before. If you've read enough of this genre before (you have read a lot of books like this before, right?) then the gaps in reader acceptance should become more obvious.

Anonymous said...

I am also wondering... almost always when a query author writes the paragraph about themselves at the end it is slammed as being irrelevant. And usually it is.

But this story has so many really specific details that it seems like some personal in depth experience or expertise would be needed in order to make it at all believable. Being an NFL player is kind of a niche career, kwim? And it seems like it would be one that is very easy to portray in an extremely unrealistic light. And I think that if the main protagonist is a lawyer, some real knowledge of both the theory and practice of law would be useful background. Some qualifications for expertise in child trafficking also seems like it would add some credibility to the story.

And I'm not saying at all that you can't write a good novel about any of the above things (or about anything, really) without having BTDT. This story just seems to be such a hodge podge of specific things that it's making me wonder where the author is coming from, and why (s)he's qualified to be trusted to portray any of these things.

Or am I way off base here? As I said, usually the paragraph writers add about their major in college 25 years ago (or whatever) is irrelevant. There just seem to be so many random elements of this story that I'm somewhat confused.

Anonymous said...

Megan, I think if the author had experience as a lawyer and/or an NFL player, it would be relevant to mention it.

But it's certainly not necessary that s/he have such experience. Plenty of believable stories about NFL players, lawyers, princesses, spies, boy wizards, and dragon riders have been written by people who were none of the above.

An author's job is to overcome the reader's disbelief... even in the query letter. Good, confident writing, rather than relevant life experience, is the way to do this.

Joel Brown said...

CONSIDER THIS: That night, after Danny and his latest paralegal, [ethnic female name], pay their respects and ask a few questions, they drive home to Dallas. A girl darts across the road, stumbling on the icy pavement. When the car stops spinning, Danny charges into the darkness and finds her collapsed under a tree. She is burning with fever. Her slender wrists and ankles are lavender with bruises. Danny and [her name] take her to the hospital, but no one recognizes her, and she hasn’t made a sound.

BUT FOR THE QUERY: You have to tie it in.

AND: I want to apologize to my chums for getting lost in the Forest. Won’t happen again. I get the forest thing, though. You need something akin to the drug dealers who raise marijuana in the California forests and soak the ground with pesticides. Secrecy without ownership, places wide enough to hide yet anonymous.

Anonymous said...

Well, the protagonist could still be plenty selfish, even corrupt, and still believably go out of his way looking out for his personal buddies from his football days . . . if only to take care of his NFL contact who helps arrange special ticket deals for that special judge. On top of that, professional football players do legitimately need lawyers with distressing regularity, even without benefit of murders and child trafficking.

I do like the suggestion of the female assistant being the voice of a buried conscience, though. She doesn't necessarily have to be "hot" at all, she could be someone who'd be much happier doing free work for the public, but is maybe working for the protag because the money is better and she desperately needs it for her family.

And hats off, Joel. You're good!

Unknown said...

Yes. The form rejection. I agree with QS and most of the other posts. Like, lose the first paragraph, start with the second, clean up the clunky sentences and keep revising.

As with jjdebenedicts post, I, too, believe that this can be an interesting, high-stakes story. I see a murder mystery. One NFL player murdering another. Probably, not as good as the O J story, but, probably better than the Michael Vick story. Some humor. Can’t you just see Danny? As he’s talking plea-bargain for his client with the beautiful ADA, he constantly looking at his watch, making sure he doesn’t miss his 1:00 p.m. tee time. Lust. And, just how many cheerleaders can he get into one bed at the same time? (A little Jackie Collins, maybe)

Sorrow and sadness. One teammate has been murdered, and the other has been taken into custody. Why wouldn’t he go to the small town and pay his respects to the family he knows, who has lost a loved one? And, why wouldn’t he go there, just on his own, to start an investigation as to why the teammate was arrested? Lawyers don’t investigate? Really? Let’s see. If a police detective talks to a witness, it is called and investigation. So, what is it called if a lawyer talks to the same witness, and asks, essentially, the same questions? Interrogation? Only, if it’s done in the courtroom and the witness is on the stand.

Why does he take the “young female assistant” with him? I’m thinking Perry Mason, here. The greatest lawyer ever on tv. I can still see his “young female assistant,” Della Street, (she looked younger than Perry, to me) with her pad and pen in hand to take notes, probably in short hand (No self respecting lawyer can take his own notes or remember a conversation) as the two of them go to a witness’ house to do an “interrogation.” Instead of the pad and pen, Danny’s “young female assistant” probably has a lap top in hand. And, this brings us to seduction or perhaps romance. Wow, will the “young female assistant,” go for the brass ring? Will she seduce the rich, good-looking lawyer? Or, will it be a case of true romance? (Nora Roberts, here. Seems she always has the obligatory sex scene in most all her novels).

The sick little girl. More sadness and sorrow. The “plot thickens” as they say. I agree with Theresa’s post. The author should have tied the murder and the little girl together. A sentence or two could have done that. Suspense. Will the little girl live or die? If she dies, oh, my goodness. If she lives, wow, what a miracle. Perhaps, the little girl, (human trafficking, child exploitation) is the reason the teammate was murdered. Maybe, the teammate was involved in doing those bad things and the bad guys got mad at each other. A “drug deal” gone bad, sort of thing. Wow, what and ending that would be! Or, maybe, he found out that “Mr. Big” in the small town was involved and “Mr. Big” had him knocked off. Either way, it “makes good tv” as they say.

And, why does Danny, the main character, have to have something “invested?” The “crime of the century” was just dumped in his lap. Isn’t that enough? Perry Mason didn’t have anything “invested” in any of his cases. Not, even his reputation. Everybody watching knew he was going to win the case over the hapless and pathetic DA. Maybe, there is an intense courtroom scene where Danny has a “Perry Mason” moment and the real killer will be exposed. Wow! How thrilling will that be?

Forget the query! QS should ask for pages immediately! Don’t assume clunky sentences are in the MS. Maybe a case of a bad query, but, excellent MS. And, if any of the above is actually in the book, then, what a book! I think it might turn out to be, what was it, oh, a RAINMAKER. I think QS missed really missed this one.

Joel Brown said...

Thank you siebendach, you're very kind. I can run very fast when I'm going downhill.

Dear #183,

Good job.

You thought of an idea which sent our imaginations racing. It’s a great premise. Don’t give up on it. (Visit East Texas, if you can. When the price of oil is high, the old derricks get going again. Sometimes you can hear them wheeze and smell them fart in the pine forest, and it reminds you of a sticky gas station bathroom.)

It's easier for me to edit than write, to mimic than compose. You'll notice that I haven't had a query on the Shark—not only because my query would get lost, but because I haven’t offered myself. I haven't finished a novel (I dropped the cards as I was performing the trick, and they've sat on the table so sunlight could mark the deck.)

Are you a better writer than I am? Yes. Because you’ve finished something, and you have the courage to submit it.

So: good job. (And read good writers.)

Unknown said...

I am in the process of finishing my first novel. Before doing so, I though I’d better check out this query thing. I have read several of the queries and the comments which followed each of them. And, I would like to say thanks to everyone for trying to help out a new author(s). These are my first comments, so don’t be too critical of them. Evidently, #183 is poorly written as most of you have pointed out. I don’t have any specific way (s) to help the author, other than what’s already been said. But, like jjebenedicts and Jake, I think this might turn out to be a really good book. If the only way Query Shark, will ask for a submission is due to the quality of the query, then I want to encourage the author of #183 to continue to revise his or her query until it meets the Query Sharks satisfaction.

Unknown said...

Dear Joel:

If you think that I am the author of #183, you would be wrong. I was just trying to help another first time author out, just like you guys would do for me, if I ever get up the courage to send in my query.

But, I do stand by my comments about #183. I must have read something entirely different than what you guys read. What I read was the possibility for a great plot with believeable characters. I'm sorry, I didn't see clunky sentences, parables, or really the author making a point about a personal cause(s). All I saw was the posssibility for a great novel.

And, my comments probably didn't help the author of #183 score any points with the Query Shark. She probably doesn't read them anyway. And, if she does, she already has her mind made up about this one.