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.
My 89,000 word novel of suspense, FOUR-AND-A-HALF, features a woman addicted to the advice and spurious friendship of psychics plunged into a nightmare of threats, kidnapping and murders with no idea of the reason.
This query lacks any sort of introduction, and while in the grand scheme of things that isn’t a big deal, there is something to be said about easing someone into a letter or email. I like the “Dear XXX” or some other form of introduction. I feel that without an introduction your query sounds abrupt and incomplete.
Believe it or not, this description tells me absolutely nothing about your book. Using phrasing like “plunged into a nightmare of threats, kidnapping . . .” actually makes your book sound like almost any other novel of suspense. It’s always better to keep your descriptions personal to your book. Introduce the character here and slow it down. For example, “Eva Stuart is addicted to psychics. Forever searching for a better life, she’s hoping the psychics will help her find it. What she doesn’t expect is to stumble upon the murdered body of her favorite psychic . . .”
I’ll leave it to you to polish and actually make this true to the book, but I think you can see where I’m going with this.
Computer technician Eva Stuart’s boredom and loneliness drives her to visit psychics in the hope they will lead her to the prince who will rescue her. But when she accidentally overhears talk of a murder while she is working on the four-and-a-half floor of City Hall and visits her personal seer, it is the seer who is murdered. Others around her are killed, and she is threatened and attacked. She flees her home but is unable to escape the danger. When she runs to her ex-lover in San Francico and he agrees to help her, they uncover a high-level conspiracy in the city for which Eva works, but their search leads the killer to target them as the next victims.
What’s interesting is that this paragraph actually reads nothing like your opening. This sounds like a completely different book and that’s a big problem. It makes agents wonder which is actually your story, but the inconsistency makes us wonder if the same holds true of your manuscript.
The first sentence feels like the book is leaning toward chick lit. What I would ask you about this sentence is does it matter that she’s a computer technician or that she was looking for “the prince who will rescue her”? I think mentioning that she’s a computer technician can be good. It does help give us some understanding of who she is. The seeking the prince thing, though, bugs me. It does feel very chick lit and the reset of your description sounds nothing like a romance, so I don’t know how this fits.
The second sentence: Does it matter that she works on the “four-and-a-half floor”? Couldn’t it be just the fourth floor? Does it even matter that it’s City Hall? Couldn’t it just be work? Okay, here’s the biggest problem, though: She is visiting her personal seer at work? or she hears talk of murder while at work and visiting her seer? This sentence makes absolutely no sense. I get that she’s overheard talk of murder and her seer is murdered, but this sentence is all wrong and, obviously, as an agent, my first thought is that your manuscript is equally confusing.
I think you’ve missed a huge part of story building when you simply drop in “others around her are killed, and she is threatened and attacked.” Spend a little more time explaining this. You also say she is “unable to escape the danger” but don’t show us how or give us any indication how. Spend a few more sentences building the world for us.
A conclusion would be good, too. Something to help wrap up the story. Is the manuscript ready to be sent? Do you have any writing credits? That information can be helpful.
Finally, in the end, this book just doesn’t have a hook. There’s nothing special about this that makes it seem like it would stand out to me.