By repeated request we’ve started Workshop Wednesday. It will definitely play out through 2011, and beyond that we’ll just have to see. We’ve received well over 200 queries at this point, but we are choosing at random, so don’t be afraid to participate as per the guidelines in our original post.
For anyone wanting to comment, we ask that you comment in a polite and respectful manner, and we ask that you be as constructive as possible. If you can be useful to the brave souls who submitted their query and comment on the query, that’s great. Please keep any anonymous tirades on publishing or other snarky comments to yourself. This is and should remain an open and safe forum for people to put themselves and their queries out there so that everyone can learn. I’m leaving comments open and open to anonymous posters, as I always have; don’t make me feel the need to change that policy.
And for those who have never “met” Query Shark, get over there and do that. She’s the originator of the query critique, the queen, if you will.
Dear [Agent’s name]
Considering your client list and book sales, I am writing to seek your representation of my women’s fiction manuscript “All of Us”, complete at 85,000 words.
Dan Wilkins is having an affair – or at least, he thinks he is.
Hmm. I’m listening . . . I love this opening. I can’t wait to find what you’re talking about.
Gini is the spitting image of his wife, and everything he thought that depressed, lifeless Emma was when he married her. He didn’t even know Emma had a twin, and now he’s sleeping with her.
Dan wouldn’t find it incredible that another person looks precisely like his wife? He wouldn’t think it was his wife playing a trick? Have you ever met a person who looks so much like an unrelated person that they could actually be that person? This doesn’t seem plausible, and also, this part feels disconnected from the rest of the query—it’s completely forgotten after the next paragraph.
Then one day Emma shows him a positive pregnancy test – but Dan hasn’t touched her in months. The truth comes out. Gini is Emma – she is one of seven alters in Emma’s mind. Emma has Dissociative Identity Disorder, and Dan had no idea he married a multiple. He has to be the only man in the world to cheat on his wife with his wife.
Now Dan has to learn to accept the separate parts of Emma’s mind or watch his marriage disintegrate. He joins Emma in therapy to meet her alters – none of which had any idea Gini was taking over.
He was cheating on Emma (at least emotionally) and thought she was lifeless and depressing. Seems to me his marriage had already dissolved. Yet he’s willing to go through therapy and the other issues that are often part of DID, such as paranoia, epileptic seizures, phobia, and panic attacks? I’ve missed something . . . I need to know more about Dan’s journey with Emma. Does he realize that he does in fact love her and want to help? Is he sorry or feeling guilty that he cheated? I think the part about Dan sleeping with Gini is not important enough, judging by your query, to be included. It might be best to scrap that part and focus on Emma’s disorder.
Assuming control of the body once again, Gini tries to get an abortion, and Dan feels he has no choice: he lays out an ultimatum. Emma must integrate all of her alters into one whole, or else give up custody of the baby. But is there a way to get rid of Gini so that Dan and Emma can become a family – multiple parts and all?
The element of the baby sort of takes this over the top for me. I think the baby is a great ticking clock to create a deeper sense of urgency to Emma’s healing journey and to up the stakes, but since you’ve started the query with infidelity, continued it with mental illness, and have now arrived at pregnancy and child custody, I feel like I have whiplash. It is probably because you didn’t want to leave anything out in your query, but that’s the thing with queries: to write one, you have to master the art of leaving the right things out. What is the main focus, the larger thread of your book? This is what you’ll want to focus on because a publishing professional will use it as a sales handle. It seems here the main idea is Emma’s mental illness. This is interesting enough without the infidelity and the baby. These bits should be in a synopsis, not a query.
Please find below the first [xx] pages of “All of Us” [+ other submission requests]. I would be happy to provide you with the complete manuscript. Thank you for your consideration, and I look forward to hearing from you.
I would have rejected this because even though I love the intrigue of DID and Dan cheating on his wife with his wife, it seems like you present some misinformation, improbabilities, and contradictions, like Dan not knowing a person identical to his wife would be his wife, or Emma being expected to integrate her personalities during the short span of her pregnancy. Something about the casual way you discuss Dissociative Identity Disorder worries me that you haven’t done enough research to properly depict a character with this controversial disorder.
This query was a little jarring. I felt jerked around because things change abruptly on this page. First Dan’s cheating, but only maybe. Then, he’s cheating with his wife’s long-lost twin. Then, he’s actually not cheating at all because he’s sleeping with two different women within his wife. Then! I don’t like Dan too much in the beginning because he’s cheating on his wife. Then, without much note to this, he’s solidly helping her through her illness. Then we take another hairpin turn when Dan says Emma must integrate all her personalities, but in the next sentence, I’m told they are trying to become a family, personalities and all.