Workshop Wednesday

  • By: Jessica Faust | Date: Feb 22 2012

Thanks to all of your contributions, Workshop Wednesday has been a success. We’re going to continue on with it for as long as we have entries and the energy to comment on them. If you haven’t yet submitted but are still interested, 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 Ms. Ruth,

I have read your interview with Monica B.W. and your reply to question number five leads me to feel that you would be a good agent for me. I see that you represent mysteries and was wondering if my completed 70,000-word manuscript, Led By Lies, would interest you.

I think think is a great opening. Professional, personal and gives details. Perfect. Nothing fancy, but still good.

Imagine finding out someone close to you is linked to the murders you’re investigating, or worse yet, involved in the death of your sister.

To me this sounds like a rhetorical question without the question mark. I’m not a fan of this sort of plot introduction. It falls a little short for me. I’d rather you get right into the issues Lily has.

That is what second-generation detective Lily Blanchette endures when she is assigned her first case as lead in a double-homicide. After arresting the man she believes is responsible, another body surfaces and family secrets are unearthed. Left with no other alternative, Lily kidnaps her suspect hoping he’ll reveal who else is involved. In the shocking revelation more of her family’s deception is exposed.

I’d rather we start the entire description with Lily. Make it all about her and give it some oomph. Honestly, this entire blurb falls a little flat for me. The biggest problem is that there’s nothing here that hooks me or makes this book feel like it’s going to stand out from the many other similar books on the market.

In 2007, I worked at the State Public Defender’s Office where I did Intake for the Milwaukee Police Department. In 2009, I won honorable mention for my screenplay, [redacted], in the 78th Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition.

Good bio.

If you would like to see the manuscript, I can send it via e-mail or regular mail. I look forward to hearing from you.

You wrote a very professional letter, but I question whether you’ll get many bites since the hook falls short for me.


10 responses to “Workshop Wednesday”

  1. Avatar Cindy Dwyer says:

    I suggest removing "If you would like to see the manuscript, I can send it via e-mail or regular mail." Just leave the "I look forward to hearing from you" part.

    Of COURSE you would be willing to send requested material! And you would send it via email, regular mail, written in calligraphy on a napkin – whatever the agent requested, right?

    I really like your opening, it shows you took the time to check out the agent without coming across as kissing up.

  2. Avatar Anonymous says:

    I would remove "After arresting the man she believes is responsible, another body surfaces and family secrets are unearthed."

    Not all agents are going to notice the error in that sentence, but those that do will be put off by it.

  3. Perhaps to give your query more of a hook, you could reveal what some of the family secrets and deception are.

  4. Avatar Elissa M says:

    Rachel Menard has hit it on the head. Specific details about the secrets and how they impact the MC should give this query the oomph it needs.

  5. Avatar Eileen says:

    For a detective to kidnap a suspect is a big deal. It would mean the end of her career and possible jail time. Any info she gathers would be thrown out by the court. (the police aren't allowed to kidnap and interrogate people) Assuming that your character is willing to risk all of that tells me that there must be something REALLY on the line, but your query doesn't tell me anything. What family secret would be worth this? Can you hint at it?

    I think you can stress this more: Willing to risk her career and the possible outcome of the case, Lily kidnaps the suspect because……..

  6. Avatar Meg E Dobson says:

    Especially helpful for me were the comments on the 3rd paragraph needing more oomph.

    Personally, I felt the first paragraph could be tightened, and I agree with Cindy Dwyer on the last line.

    Best wishes on your query.

  7. I found myself wanting more specifics when reading this query. "Family secrets", "the man responsible", etc.–these are all general descriptions. Making them all a bit more specific could add more intrigue and really elevate this query.

    On the plus side, you've got a pretty good grip on grammar and all of your sentences are well-formed. That is a big advantage!

  8. Avatar newmancht says:

    As others have postulated, this query, while well written, was a bit of a snoozer. beef it up with something enticing and you'll have a winner. The family secrets seem to be the key…but maybe not. Show us the conflict here and you will get where you want to be.

  9. Avatar Laura W. says:

    Why would a detective — even an inexperienced, first-time detective — kidnap a suspect? That would make any evidence she gathered be unable to be used for trial, if indeed this man is even guilty. And how is she going to get the information out of him — torture, starvation, sleep deprivation, seduction? Why doesn't she have another choice other than to kidnap and interrogate a suspect? This query went to a very dark place all of a sudden with almost no explanation why.

    The really interesting part is the bit about the sister's death and the family issues. The only way I can see Lily kidnapping this guy and risking her career, legal justice, and everything is if it becomes so personal that she doesn't give a s*ht about all that stuff anymore — she just wants answers and revenge. That makes her seem much more interesting, and gives the story an edge.

  10. The Query Shark recommends that the first paragraph of your query hook answer these questions:

    (1) Who is the hero
    (2) What choice does she face
    (3) What are the risks and consequences either way.

    Here is my (perhaps feeble) attempt at this:

    Lily Blanchette, a second-generation homicide detective, is assigned to a double murder. It is her first case as lead investigator. Then another corpse is discovered with similar clues. Clues she finds implicate her own relatives. If she continues, she may be sending family member away for life or worse. If she doesn’t, she must abandon her career as a police detective.

    This leaves you 190 words to further entice the agent to read your first pages. So, who are the family members? Why are they implicated? What are some of the clues.