Monday, May 17, 2010

Monday Mania--Query Letter

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

Critique Archive 0038:

Dear Ms. ______________________

He’s not in heaven, she’s no angel . . . and he’s her punishment.

Where Paradise Lies, a 98,000-word paranormal adventure, tells the story of two brothers: selfish and charismatic David Jenner, and good-hearted but easily manipulated Will Jenner. While being robbed, one is killed and the other mortally wounded. The surviving Jenner wakes on an uninhabited island with no idea how he got there or who he is. Unable to escape, Jenner’s prayers seem answered when a beautiful woman washes ashore. Then she says she knows him and he’s evil. She explains that they’re both in comas and the island is Purgatory. Fears, prejudices and growing attraction surface as they search for the purpose of their conjoined asylum. Then Jenner wakes up in his body. His memory is back and that makes all the difference. The clock is ticking. A comatose woman lies waiting. And drastic measures must be taken. The worst part is—the happily-ever-after involves dying.

I have two published novels, am a member of the League of Utah Writers, and have led a critique group since 1999. I am also a professional artist and have spent the last eleven years drawing portraits of deceased people in the arms of Jesus. I’ve interacted with the dying and bereaved, and see their innate cravings for peace. I’ve heard more than a few tragic stories, some with miraculous bitter-sweet endings. After years of reflection on the questions of life and death, the result is Where Paradise Lies.

May I send sample chapters and a synopsis, or the full manuscript? Thank you for your consideration.



Encl.: SASE


Josi said...

Great premise, it definitely captured my attention. I do have some suggestions. The first line, the ... should come after 'and' not before.

In the description I got confused when it said the story was about two brothers, but then it only seemed to be about one of them and calling him 'Jenner' had me reading back to see which brother it meant. I wonder if it's worth saying anything about two brothers since it's a confusing detail. I also got confused when it said they were in purgatory, but then he wakes from the coma. I suggest changing "Then Jenner wakes up in his body. His memory is back and that makes all the difference." to "When Jenner wakes up from his coma he realizes he has the chance to change everything."

When you mention having published two novels I think you need a bit more info, are they self-published? Faith based opposed to this one you're taking to the national market? A different genre than this one? I also don't think we need quite so much description about your artwork, just a mention, perhaps something like "I am also a professional artist and draw portraits of deceased people in the arms of Jesus. Where Paradise Lies is the result of years of reflection on the questions of life and death I have explored both internally and through the stories of those I have worked with." I just want to make sure the focus remains the book rather than your art.

The final line also seemed a bit too casual. I wonder if you could change it to say "I would be pleased to send additional portions of Where Paradise Lies upon your request."

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

I agree with Josi. Very interesting premise. When you mention your publications, you might want to state the publisher, the target market for your books, and sales.

Annette Lyon said...

Intriguing idea for sure!

I would suggest cutting down the description to the bones so we get to the point quicker: who are the main characters (like Josi said, the other brother doesn't really matter at this point), what is the major conflict, and what's at stake? Everything else is window dressing.

I think you have most of those elements, but there's enough other stuff that gets in the way of really showcasing them and hooking the reader.

Good luck!