Dear Query Shark:
She-wolf is a nickname Mina Hearst has earned as an elite assassin whose instincts never let her down. She'd like to know who she works for, but she doesn't always get what she wants, unless it's a new pair of Louboutin heels. When she's told she'll have a partner on her most dangerous assignment yet, taking out men at the head of a billion-dollar human and drug trafficking operation, a partner sounds like a good idea. Until she meets his ego.
This is an ok start. I'd keep reading.
I’m leery of “she-wolf” since it’s sort of like “lady surgeon”; surgeon works just find to describe what she does. Mina’s a wolf, you don’t need the “she”
And of course the idea that shoes define a woman’s character is so last century I really hope you can find an alternative.
Mina's partner Cy has no faith in her instincts, but he knows who they work for, and will tell her if she does what he says. When they're sent to a booby-trapped island to eliminate their final target, Mina knows Cy's overcomplicated strategy will probably get them killed. She's willing to take a risk to find out who her employer is, but she knows she can do the job better alone. Problem is, fighting off the island's guards is a two person task.
Well Cy is certainly a piece of work isn’t he? What a douchecanoe. Why does he have no faith in her instincts? Is he stupid or just blind?
So why the big whup to know who the employer is?
That seems fairly meaningless in the life or death stakes.
If Cy agrees to Mina's strategy, he won't tell her who their boss is, but she'd rather survive. Compromising feels harder than shooting a target a mile away while BASE jumping off a high-rise (Cy brags he did this with one eye closed), but once they're on the island, they'll have no time to figure out how to be a team. Their target has a USA-marked nuclear missile ready to launch at North Korea just for the fun of it, and Cy and Mina are the only people who can stop him.
This really is over wrought. You’ve made everyone and everything too too much. Billion dollar smuggling ring; nuclear missiles; elite assassin; braggart Cy (who sounds like a crazy man).
None of that feels real at all. I know it’s ironic that a novel has to feel real, but it does. And real is generally not an elite assassin letting some narcissist braggart lead the way. Hell, I’m not an elite assassin but I’d just shoot Cy and bring an attack dog to take down the guards.
KILLER IN HEELS is a 70,000-word suspense novel.
This is not a suspense novel, it’s the concept for one of those movies where the hero fights off a machine gun with a spear and never gets nicked by the hail of bullets.
I think your problem here is the book, not the query.
You’ve got these nuclear missile stakes with two main characters who seem like cartoons (i.e. overblown, able to fall off cliffs without breaking a nail, let alone a bone.)
If you go back and read the first two iterations of this query, you’ll see I’m still talking about the same things, each revision.
Before you revise again, really dig in to the novel and fix what’s wrong there. Then revise the query.
Dear Query Shark:
She-wolf is a nickname twenty-eight-year-old Mina Hearst earned as one of the world's highest paid assassins. She spends her free time adding to her Louboutin shoe collection and relaxing in bubble baths, but lives for the pleasure of the kill. When she's told she'll have a partner on her next assignment, taking out men at the head of a billion-dollar human and drug trafficking operation, a partner sounds like a good idea. Until she meets his ego.
Well, ok, this isn't bad, but it's not all that interesting either because it relies on cliches (shoes and baths) This feels very superficial and that's not good in the first paragraph of a query.
Mina's new partner Cy looks like a Greek god and knows it. He's the world's most elite assassin, and Mina's instincts mean nothing to him. When they're sent to a guarded island to eliminate their final target--a trigger-happy pedophile with kidnapped children and a collection of nuclear missiles--Cy insists they do things his way. Mina isn't sold on his overcomplicated strategy, but she won't be able to fight off the island's guards without his help.
I'd stop reading here. You can have one or the other but not both: pedophiles OR nuclear missiles. Like the first paragraph this feels superficial. You need a bad guy; here's a pedophile. You need to raise the stakes; here's a nuclear missile.
The everlasting irony of fiction and story telling is that what's not true has to feel true. This feels like a cartoon.
When Cy refuses to compromise, and prepares for their mission with whiskey cocktails and a power nap, Mina knows she must rely on her instincts to get the job done. Soon after going in, the whiskey magnifies Cy's ego, and his reckless behavior almost exposes them. If Mina can't convince him to follow her lead, they won't survive, and their target will bomb the first country his finger touches on his spinning globe.
The plot is that Mina has to convince Cy to follow her lead? Well, that does have the ring of real life, but it doesn't really work here.
The villain is utterly abstract.
There's no sense of a plot.
The characters are not fully developed.
KILLER IN HEELS is a 70,000-word suspense novel. It will appeal to fans of Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Peter O'Donnell's Modesty Blaise series, and Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series.
Mr and Mrs Smith is a movie; it's not an ideal comp for that reason, but also because it's old: 2005. Modesty Blaise is worse; it was published in 1965.
To be effective comps must be above-all CURRENT, that is no more than two to three years old.
Stephanie Plum first appeared in One For the Money in 1994. I still remember where I was when I read it.
You don't know what you're writing here.You've got a cartoonish Modesty Blaise paired with a highly competent Mrs. Smith, and some New Jersey flibbertigibbet who blows up cars. In a novel about pedophiles and nuclear bombs.
You're probably closest with the Plum novels; go back and read them and see what the plots are. My guess is (and I haven't read one in 15+ years even though I liked them very much) is they were not ever about pedophiles or nuclear bombs.
What you've done here is the classic over reach of new writers: if one is good, three must be three times as good. Restraint is what you need here. You don't need pedophiles OR nuclear bombs for a taut plot. You don't need to be the world's best assassin to be interesting. You don't need to be a Greek God to be handsome (or a dunderhead.)
Nuance is really important in a well-crafted book.
I don't see any nuance here. Even in the Stephanie Plum books, there's nuance and restraint. Go back and read them all again, this time with your writer's notebook by your side. Take notes on how Janet Evanovich describes her characters. Characters come alive when they seem real; I can remember ever single character in those first few books. That's your goal. And not just here in the query: in the book as well.
When you're reading to study craft, it may help if you treat it like studying. That is, not sitting on your couch with your cat but sitting at your desk. Or better, in the library. The good thing is: this reading is real work. You don't need to feel even slightly guilty for reading ten novels in a row.
Dear Query Shark:
Twenty-eight-year-old Verity Hearst fears being single forever, but solitude isn't so bad, not with a loaded Springfield 1911-A1 pistol and a warm cup of tea to keep her company. She has killed over eighty criminals as one of the world's elite assassins. It's a reputation she has proudly earned alone.
When I see the name Verity, my mind instantly turns to Code Name Verity, a darn good book published a couple years back. Sort of like any character named Ishmael makes me think of that book about the whale. If you want me to think of Code Name Verity, you have. If you don't, you might think about the names you choose.
And any woman who thinks a warm cup of tea is good company sounds like an idiot. If you're trying for light hearted, you've missed the mark. Books, a cat, even a daily soap opera would be less frothy.
Verity's manager Enoch is her only link to the mysterious company she works for. When he tells her she'll have a male partner on the biggest assignment of her life, taking out three men at the head of a billion-dollar human and drug trafficking operation, she wonders if her employer is doubting her abilities. All she knows is she must maintain her reputation, or die trying.
Really? Why? She's earned her reputation (paragraph one) but we have no sense that it's her entire sense of self-worth (die trying.)
This is hyperbole, and it's death in a suspense novel. A suspense novel is a very delicate creation that must hold our attention, suspend our disbelief and make sense. It's a hat trick of a novel, and a writer can't miss a step, or it will all come crashing down.
Verity's new partner Cy thinks he's the world's greatest assassin. He knows more than she does about everything, including how to pour a cup of tea properly. Doing her job with this smartass doubting her every move is going to be a lot harder than she imagined.
This is so jarring I'm sort of dumbfounded. Up until now we've had a lady assassin with a tea fetish who takes her work too seriously, now we have some guy who's a smart ass. The tone went from serious (if over wrought) to smartass. My head is spinning.
And I've stopped reading.
This is where I hit "thanks but no thanks."
For starters there's not a hint of plot. What does Verity want? What does she care about? What's keeping her from getting what she wants?
What does the antagonist want? Who IS the antagonist? What does the antagonist care about? (For an exquisite portrayal of an antagonist look no further than Omar in Season One of the The Wire.)
There's no reason to care about Verity at all. Cy is literally one dimension. No one is enticing.
KILLER IN HEELS is a 70,000-word novel of suspense.
There's no suspense.
I would say I have experience as an assassin, but that might get me in trouble.
This is the best line of the query.
I chose to contact you because you are looking for female-centric thrillers.
A novel of suspense is not a thriller, neither is a comic crime novel. You're telling me I can have a cookie cause I like cake. Both are good, but they're not the same thing.
Thank you for your time and consideration,
I'm not sure if you're writing suspense or a comic crime novel here. It's seems more comic than suspenseful right now.
There's no plot, and the characters seem artificial.
I'm not sure if that's a problem with the query, or the novel.