Workshop Wednesday

  • By: Jessica Faust | Date: Oct 05 2011

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,

I’ve said this before, but it is always best to address a specific agent in your query letter. Otherwise, it looks like you’ve sent your query out blindly to as many agents as you could, without researching to align yourself with an agent you believe is ideal for you and your books.

Thanks to her grifter mother and nomadic childhood, paranormal investigator Lizzy Lozada has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to bullshit. So when suspected murderer Wade Collins pleads not guilty by reason of demonic possession, Lizzy makes it her own personal mission to blow his devil-made-me-do-it defense all to hell.

This is interesting. I love that Lizzy has a great backstory, and that you’ve incorporated that without going into too much detail (it is backstory, after all). I love the paranormal investigator hook. I even like that you’ve used the word “bullshit”—it adds a certain cynicism to your voice and I’d like to hear more of that. The cynicism, not the swearing, necessarily.

But the paragraph didn’t entirely work for me. Why does Lizzy try to blow Wade’s defense? I don’t have a handle on her motive. Is she commissioned by the police? Did she see the case on TV and become impassioned because it reminds her of something in her past? Is she doing this to prove a point to someone? I need to know that she’s not just an annoying piggy-backer on police investigations, but rather that she has a legitimate reason for horning in on the case.

But debunking the urban legends surrounding Holbrooke House, the now-derelict boarding house where Collins lived as a child, won’t be easy, especially with rival investigator Jesse and his ragtag gang of ghost-hunting ruffians claiming squatter’s rights.

I’m still intrigued. I like this idea—the paranormal investigators working against each other for the same cause, Jesse’s ruffian posse, the boarding house. Everything here is working for me. On a less important note, though, this sentence is distractingly long.

Here’s another sentence that’s distractingly long:

Lizzy and Jesse share a history steeped in attraction, frustration, and self-preservation, the latter of which has Lizzy less than thrilled at the prospect of spending the night with a man who’s as sinfully seductive as the devil himself. Too bad for Lizzy, she doesn’t have a choice. Because she and Jesse aren’t the only ones with unfinished business, and the house they’re in knows something they don’t:

History is about to repeat itself…for the last time.

THE HAUNTING OF HOLBROOKE HOUSE is a paranormal romance complete at 75,000 words. Chapters or a synopsis are available upon request.

Thank you for your time and consideration,


This was a respectable query.


15 responses to “Workshop Wednesday”

  1. Avatar Anonymous says:

    I usually loathe cusswords in query letters, because the writer usually drags them in to add "power" to writing that otherwise lacks it.

    Not the case here, though. This writer has power. This is not my kind of book but the query makes me want to read it anyway.

  2. Avatar Kristan says:

    "This is not my kind of book but the query makes me want to read it anyway."

    Ditto. There's enough voice here for the premise to feel original and for me to think the writer knows how to spin a good story. I like the tough — but not heartless — heroine. As Lauren said, though, all of the sentences are kind of long and/or dense. I wouldn't mind them being broken up a bit, for easier reading and a more natural rhythm.

    But that's a nit. This is a solid query. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Avatar Anonymous says:

    Why did I get deja vu when I read this query?

    Regardless, I do like it.

  4. Avatar Mrs. Dub says:

    I've read this query — and I think response — before. Is this a re-post? I'm so confused.

    Any else?

  5. I would read this story in a heartbeat. The unanswered questions only serve to entice me to find out the answers. Great voice and premise and the romance sounds swoon-worthy, too.

    Sign me up.


  6. Much as I hate leading off with a "me, too," it's appropriate here; I read the first line of the query and asked myself, "where have I heard that before?"

    That said–how much is too much? I already know you're going to answer "it depends," but that's the question that plagues me in any event. I've written a two-page synopsis of the book, and at first I whittled it down to a couple of paragraphs for the query letter. Then, when I read what I had and realized how much it sucked, I revised it into a single paragraph. And then, when I submitted to an agent who required the query letter to be fewer than 250 words, I cut out nearly everything but the information about the novel.

    Bottom line is that it's really tough to figure out how much detail an agent is going to want. Any suggestions, if they exist, are welcome.

  7. Avatar Anonymous says:

    OOOH, this is just my kind of book and I was hooked all the way through. I'd love to read this manuscript.

    I didn't really worry about unanswered questions at all. i thought the query was very intriguing as is, although i do agree that some sentences were a bit too long and should be split.

    But otherwise, i was impressed. I really hope you find an agent and publisher soon so I can read this!


  8. Avatar Robena Grant says:

    This is a confident query, the voice shows that. I didn't even mind the longer sentences because they were followed by shorter ones. If I changed any, it would be the sentence starting with, "But debunking…."
    While I don't read paranormal, it certainly got my interest.
    Best of luck to the author.

  9. Avatar Lori says:

    I'm not a romance reader, but this had me wanting to buy the book

  10. Avatar Danielle says:

    I think this book sounds very interesting. I'm sure with some very minor tweaks this could very well be agented or published 🙂

    I do worry about the flow of the book though with all the the lengthy sentences. But then again, I tend to write long sentences too…so I'll just shut up 🙂

  11. Avatar E. A. Brass says:

    My first response was to swear I'd read this smewhere, too, recently, only I counldn't find where. I remember, because I also remember liking it. Sounds like the book could have a good voice. But I was waiting to see if I was crazy or not before saying anything. I'm glad I'm not the only one!

  12. Avatar Candie Leigh says:

    This sounds really interesting! But – I agree the sentences do run on and on in the end, chop and cut those babies down to fit with the character's no BS attitude.

  13. Avatar Tess Grant says:

    I liked the sound of it!

  14. Avatar Anonymous says:

    Not that names can't be reused, and it's impossible to avoid it, but part of the deja vu aspect could simply be in the name Wade Collins, if the commenters are fans of iCarly, that is. In a frequently-aired episode, an obnoxious character, "Wade Collins," competes against David Archuleta for the crown on "America Sings." Although this is a solid query, when I read it, all I could hear in a British accent was "Wade Collins is leaving the building." I wonder if anyone else was recalling that?

  15. This query was first posted in August 19… *confused*