Monday, October 5, 2009

Monday Mania--Query

One of our readers submitted a query letter for critique. Feel free to make comments, but please keep them constructive.

Critique Archive 0026:

Dear XXXX,

It’s 1992, you’re in London in the middle of the night, frightened and alone. Who would you call? If you are a brilliant, desperate 11-year-old girl hiding in the Notting Hill library, you call on your favorite literary characters. Why? Because Jane Eyre, Huck Finn, and Sidney Carton are your friends…

The young English girl’s tale is one of two that converge in Charm Bracelet, the first novel in my City of Roses series. Set in Portland, Oregon in 2009, the second storyline revolves around jaded corporate attorney, Simon Phillips. In an alcohol-induced fog, Simon finds himself atop a conference room table at his law firm boldly taking the entire legal profession to task, spouting off the things lawyers sometimes think about but never say. This gutsy stand, and other bad-boy behavior, land Simon with an enforced leave of absence, volunteer work, and stress management classes.

Hoping to avoid anyone he knows, a sober, disgruntled Simon goes to a crumbling community center in Northwest Portland for help, and there, unexpectedly, meets the love of his life. Simon has only to look at Dr. Kate Spencer, a non-profit pediatrician, to know she will change him forever, Accustomed to women falling at his feet, Simon must work hard to become a better person, one worthy of Kate. Will it be enough for him to win her, or is it his turn to have a broken heart? Can Simon help Kate move beyond the tragic past that haunts her? Will Kate risk emotional security or continue burying herself in a life of service? And just how does a dented, battered charm bracelet tie Simon and Kate’s story to the girl in the library?

These questions are all answered in Charm Bracelet. Comparable to the work of Lolly Winston, the 102,000-word story explores the consequences of loving another, showing that relationships can be harrowing as well as redemptive. It’s a smart love story with humor. And a shiny, gold heart.

I have been a passionate reader and writer since childhood, and now that my six children are older, I have adequate time to devote to my vocation. Over the last two years, I have taken as many classes as I could to learn the craft. I participate in two critique groups, have attended writer’s conferences throughout the state of Utah, and I am a member of The League of Utah Writers. As a regular speaker at a local women’s organization, I feel in tune with what women look for in a good story, and I am now working on the third installment for City of Roses. My former instructor, Sharon Jarvis (The Kaleidoscope Season, The Fairhaven Chronicles, Deseret Book Company) suggested that I begin submitting my work.

I have enclosed the first five pages of Charm Bracelet with this query. I hope to hear from you in order to send more. Thank you for your time and consideration.




Lu Ann Brobst Staheli said...

Sorry to say, this query left me feeling confused. At first, I thought this was a MG novel because the character was 11-years-old, then I discovered the other storylines were targeted at adults. Make it clear from the very beginning who your intended audience will be. I was also confused by each of the stories--how will they weave together and why? Structurally, there were several run-on sentences which weaken your case as a writer ready to be published, so I suggest you repair those. Also, the paragraph about yourself as the author says you are a beginning writer. You want to appear as a professional so editors/agents will take you seriously. Even if you have no previous publication experience, be sure to present yourself in the best possible light. If you have won any writing awards, be sure to mention them here. Good luck!

Mary said...

I'm with LuAnn - feeling confused.

folksinmt said...

You have a good start to your query, but it does still need some work. The first paragraph is essentially one long rhetorical question. And from all that I have read from agents and editors, rhetorical questions are the kiss of death. That entire paragraph needs revised.

And like Lu Ann said, the two different stories are confusing. You say that they tie together, but I think you need to show us how. I see that you are trying to give us a tease, but an editor doesn't have time to read through an entire ms to make sure the two story lines link together and make sense. You need to weave it together in your query.

Also, lines like "love of his life" are cliche and should be avoided.

Most of your last paragraph should be eliminated. All writers are passionate about what they do. And your speaking experience, while that will be helpful once marketing rolls around, really doesn't make your submission any stronger. Simply mention you are a member of... and have attended such and such conferences.

I think your idea is original and has lots of promise. The query just needs some tweaking! Best wishes.

onelowerlight said...

I personally LOVED the hook...but when I got to the second paragraph, I found myself reading about a completely different story. I skipped over the second and third paragraph to see how the girl tied in, and was really disappointed to find that you withheld that information.

The stuff about the other characters doesn't look bad, though you could probably cut it by about half--the paragraphs seemed pretty long.

As for the descriptors at the end ("smart love story with humor"), it made me think "come on, show me your story, don't tell me about it."

Overall, I liked it. You should definitely make sure the hook is connected in a visible, obvious way with what you're trying to sell, but other than that I think you're on the right track.

Then again, what do I know? I'm just another aspiring writer in the same boat. Good luck!

Nathan said...

I like the story idea.

Agreeing with the previous statements regarding correlation, I would say to trust your story to carry itself to agents and publishers. Too many details can dampen its bite.

Try different lengths, from the query's current length to the bare bones, and then compare how they read. That would be my suggestion.

Julie Wright said...

I agree with all comments made previously. I would add to this a note about your word count. Leave it out. That many words on a brand new author is considered too long. Just say completed manuscript so you don't scare off editors and agents with word count before they give the manuscript a chance to be seen.

Also leave out any information about this other author who says you are ready to submit. It makes you sound novice. Unless that other author is JK Rowling, Stephenie Meyer, or Stephen King, it will work against you rather than for you.

Don't mention your kids unless childrearing has some bearing on the manuscript. The idea is to cut anything that doesn't add to your credentials pertaining to writing or to the manuscript in question.

Tell how the story weaves together. The editor or agent will be put off by the teaser rather than intrigued. They need to know that the story does weave together seamlessly. SHOW that.

Good luck!!!!