- By: Jessica Faust | Date: Aug 24 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.
Before I get into the critique I want to say that I think this is a really good letter. Sure, there’s always something to critique, but for the most part I think this query could go out to agents as is and I do think the author will have some success with it.
Dear Ms. Faust,
I am seeking representation for my 98,000 word mainstream novel, Doubting River.
This is just fine. My only comment is that I think you could come up with a better title. I don’t see how this title ties into the book and I suspect you could come up with something a little more striking.
Former runaway, Charm Freeman, returns to his old life after his sister’s husband is killed in a car accident. Initially planning to fulfill his brotherly obligation and then disappear for another twenty years, Charm reluctantly agrees to stay and help with his sister’s injured son, but they clash over how to best help the ten year old deal with the death of his father.
I have to admit, maybe I read too many romance novels, but my first thought was that Charm was the husband’s brother and that the two were going to fall in love. My second thought was that since it doesn’t come into play in the query at all, do you even need to mention that he’s a former runaway? Honestly, this makes the book sound like it’s about Charm, but later I sense that the book is really about the boy and Charm. I think you could switch the focus and make it more about the boy and what Charm needs to do to help his nephew.
Before the accident, the boy and his father were training a neighbor’s retriever for a field trial. The boy desperately wants to fulfill his father’s dream, but his mother believes anything to do with the dog is a setup for heartache. The past belongs in the past; the way forward is forward. Against his sister’s wishes, Charm and the boy join together to turn an injured retriever into a champion, a journey that forces the family to face the issues that tore them apart only to find salvation in the past they tried to forget.
My only concern with this is it lacks a little voice to me. It feels a little lifeless. If the dog is injured I think you should mention that from the beginning. The first time you mention it you say it’s a neighbor’s retriever. So are they training the same dog or are you talking about two different dogs? I also think you don’t focus on the conflict enough. Since I assume this is women’s fiction and there’s a high level of emotion in this story, I want to get a sense of that emotion in the query since that is what will draw readers to the story.
An excerpt of this novel, Doubting River, won the mainstream category of the 2010 Sandy literary contest. I am a former dog trainer and the author of Click for Joy, the winner of the 2003 “Best Training/Behavior Book” award presented by the Dog Writers of America. I am also the owner of the 7000-member ClickerSolutions (dog training) mailing list, and I have published numerous articles in the magazine “Teaching Dogs.”
This is all good.
My contact information is below. I look forward to hearing from you!