Saturday, July 6, 2013

#245-revised once FTW

 Dear QueryShark,

Daniel and Noah don’t know each other from Adam but they both have lain with Eve
and their similar sins are about to catch up with them.

Daniel fears that he has knocked her up, near the scene of his otherwise perfect crime.  His alibi says that he was in a different city, but his baby says he was there, and he must  devise a way to pin the paternity on another man.

Noah isn’t aware that a narcissistic criminal is pulling the strings when he meets and beds  her less than a week later. Unwittingly, he also screws his way into candidacy for fatherhood of the troublesome embryo.

Noah finds himself trapped by this new responsibility in a town he was trying to leave, a town
that’s actually a bigger problem.  It is a quaint little country community by day, but a raging sex
cult by night. He is already a single parent and his young son is verging on adolescence, the
blossoming age of no return.

As he struggles with the choice between disserving his current child by staying, or abandoning
the baby on the way by leaving, the licentious little scene he lives in starts to show signs of
becoming much more dangerous. The religious faction is rising against the carnal, and everyone’s  long kept secrets are coming to light. Skeletons start marching out of all the closets and in a city  with this many bones, the parade promises to turn deadly.

FINISHING SEASON is a 106,000 word thriller. This is my first novel.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Pardon me while I admire how much better this is.

Obviously you can polish some of the longer sentences, but you've got the bones of this in the right places now:  You've got the stakes, you've got a hold of the descriptions.  It's a little too sex-focused for me but I can see someone else picking this up.

Great revision!

Dear QueryShark,

(1)Fallville, CA is a beautiful little community in the Sunshine State, with tall aged trees, flowing green hills, and a festering gash right down the middle: Rollings Blvd.

Flowing green hills? How fast are those hills flowing? This phrase in the very first paragraph of your query stops me cold for two reasons: hills don't flow, and you didn't catch it when you were revising.   

"Flowing green hills" doesn't actually illuminate something in a new way which is the primary purpose of a metaphor.

And something that makes me totally crazy in books (and in queries) is getting stuff WRONG.  California is The Golden State. FLORIDA is the Sunshine State.  A quick google search elicits this info.

These two red flags: error of fact and opaque metaphor mean I stop reading right here. I've read 28 words and I'm sending a form rejection. This is Not What You Want!

Yes, every word counts. Every phrase, every metaphor, every sentence.

(2) Everyone knows what goes on there, but no one knows who takes part. Anonymity is the heartbeat that keeps the street alive. The city is just brimming with untold, disturbing stories but none quite so significant as those of a certain two men.

This is all filler. It doesn't actually say anything specific enough to catch my attention.

You're warming up here. It's ok to write this, but you must catch it and excise it when you revise. 

(3) They don't know each other from Adam, but they both have lain with Eve, and their similar sins are about to catch up with  them.

Now this, this is interesting. Can you see the what makes paragraph (3) so much stronger than (1) and (2)?  Specifics. An illuminating metaphor. If you STARTED with this sentence, you'd have avoided the instant rejection.

You don't have to be perfect. You must be interesting.

Noah, an abandoned single father, struggles to protect his son from Rollings. If he leaves behind his shady business on the Boulevard, they could go broke. But if he doesn't, his only son may soon disappear into the city's darkness.  

This is still treacley but I get the idea.

Daniel, a man on the run, scrambles to fix a damning mistake. What that will require becomes progressively more heinous,  and he must decide how evil he is willing to become in order to save himself.

Again, too general to be enticing but at least the hills aren't flowing.

In the midst of their desperate personal struggles Daniel and Noah violently collide, creating tremors that rock everyone in the city. The veil over Rollings falls. Everything is revealed. Skeletons start marching out of all the closets and for a city with this many bones, one thing becomes certain:

Judgement is coming.

The collision between Daniel and Noah is probably something you want to mention.  And the sonorous voice-over of "Judgment is coming" is more for film trailers than query letters.

"Skeletons start marching out of all the closets and for a city with this many bones" is a sentence that made me believe once you get rid of the treacle and the fluff, you'll have some good stuff.

FINISHING SEASON is a 106,000 word satirical thriller. This is my first novel, written mostly over the course of several  combat deployments.

[I'm very glad you survived several combat deployments.  A sincere thank you for your service to our country.  Now, back to the chomping that might remind you of all the fun you had at boot camp.]

Satirical thriller is a phrase that sets my teeth on edge. What are you satirizing?  There's no satire in this query letter at all.

Second, there's actually no such thing as a satirical thriller. If it's satire, it's satire. If it's a thriller, it's a thriller, but the two are distinct forms.

As a devoted thriller reader, I'm not very likely to pick up a book that satirizes the form or substance of a thriller.

Satire has a great and noble purpose which is largely to speak truth to power.  It's a mighty tool for hammering at the Visigoths supping at the public trough.

It's not a tool you'd want to use for mere entertainment, like reading (or writing) a thriller.

So, this is either a thriller or something else, but it's not a satire.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Focus on the moment things change for Daniel and Noah. Revise the query to show what's at stake. What's their dilemma?

On the other hand if this really is intended as a satire, start over.  Take a look at how other books of satire are described.

Revise. Resend.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Update on QS #224

In today's Publishers Lunch deal list:

Minerva Koenig's NINE DAYS, featuring a damned good criminal now in the witness protection program, who doesn't have much of a chance to adjust to her new identity in the Lone Star sticks before murder strikes, to Toni Kirkpatrick at Thomas Dunne Books, in a two-book deal, by Jessica Alvarez at BookEnds (World English).

I did read the entire manuscript for NINE DAYS and loved it. I knew I wasn't the right agent though, so regretfully sent her the names of some agents I thought would be a better fit.  Sure enough, Jessica Alvarez was EXACTLY the right  choice.

I can't claim any part of this success because the query didn't need any revisions.  I'll just have to settle for knowing Query Shark and QS readers were the first of soon-to-be-many to recognize this wonderful new writer!

Huzzahs all around!