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Writing => All the Write Questions => Topic started by: Swampfox one on March 09, 2009, 10:24:56 PM

Title: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Swampfox one on March 09, 2009, 10:24:56 PM
Dear agent,

Frank Lightfoot did not run for sheriff to resolve the money and sex problems of the rich and famous.  But when the semi-nude body of an ex-Miss Georgia, wife of a prominent South Georgia developer, is found on the ninth green of an exclusive golf community, he is plunged into a world of secrets—starting with the seven DNA samples discovered in and on the body.

MURDER ON MARSH ISLAND is an 83,000-word murder mystery.  This is the sequel to TAKEN.  Similar to Robert B. Parker’s Sea Change, it takes place over a four-week period on St. Simons Island, Georgia.

I am a member of the Georgia Association of Writers. 

Thank you for your time.

Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Alice, a Country Gal on March 10, 2009, 10:18:50 PM
JH, I'm not an expert, but to me this reads much better than the original.

It's concise and gets the message across.

Smile,
Alice
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Swampfox one on March 11, 2009, 08:54:48 AM
Thanks Alice. ;D
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: marilyn on March 17, 2009, 03:41:09 AM
Yes, I like this it does not waffle. You are clear and precise. Great
Marilyn
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Wolfe on March 17, 2009, 03:31:31 PM
Remember ... you said you can take it.   ;D

Dear agent, (good)

Frank Lightfoot did not (Beware negative use) run for sheriff to resolve the money and sex problems of (wordy) the rich and famous.  (Opening with telling the agent what Frank didn't do, as opposed to what he will, is a bad move. Also, this doesn't help the plot) But when the semi-nude (Consider an absolute: nude) body of an ex-Miss (Negatives again. Consider: a Miss Georgia or Miss Georgia) Georgia, wife of (wordy) a prominent (telling) South Georgia (There is no such place as 'South' Georgia. Also, you say Georgia four times in your query. This is the second. You get to say it once. Finally, not seeing a reason for having this dependent clause) developer, is found (passive) on the ninth (not needed) green of (wordy) an exclusive (telling) golf community (Not sure this is needed either), he is plunged (passive) into a world of (wordy) secrets (smells like a cliché)—starting (Beware -ing, dependent clauses and gerunds) with the seven DNA samples discovered in and on the body (This sounds promising with its distrubing imagery.  Can you use it as your hook instead?).

MURDER ON MARSH ISLAND (This title sounds like a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Book from the 80s or something involving Nancy Drew. I recommend you change it) is an 83,000-word murder (Redundant. Most mysteries involve murder) mystery.  This is the sequel to TAKEN.  (You only CAPS ALL the title for the work you submit. For other works, from you, only caps the appropriate letters. [e.g., Taken] Also, unless this work saw publication from a mainstream press, you don't get to say this. Finally, this screams series.  And you know the rule about mentioning series in your query letter) Similar to Robert B. Parker’s Sea Change (italics), it takes place over a four-week period on St. Simons Island, Georgia. (repetition)

I am (Consider: I'm) a member of the Georgia (repetition) Association of Writers. (Can you rewrite this into active voice?) 

Thank you for your time. (good)

Brutal, I know...

Wolfe
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Swampfox one on March 17, 2009, 06:42:16 PM
Thanks Marilyn,
I was trying to make it as tight as I could.  I think agents get so many queries that they look at one read a few sentences and move on.  So the smaller the better.  ;D
JH
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Swampfox one on March 18, 2009, 04:25:29 PM
What about this?


Dear agent,

The nude body of a former beauty queen, wife of a prominent Georgia developer, is found on the ninth green of an exclusive coastal golf community.  Recently elected sheriff, Frank Lightfoot, is plunged into a secret world of sex, drugs and money—starting with the seven DNA samples discovered in and on the body.

MURDER ON MARSH ISLAND is a 95,000-word mystery.  Similar to Robert B. Parker’s Sea Change, it takes place over a four-week period on St. Simons Island, Georgia.

I'm a member of the Georgia Association of Writers. 

Thank you for your time.
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Wolfe on March 18, 2009, 06:56:23 PM
Dear agent, (good)

The nude body of (wordy) a former (telling) beauty queen, wife of a prominent Georgia developer, (This isn't needed) is found (passive) on the ninth green of an exclusive coastal golf (you know you just strung five adjectives together with two prepositions, right? Pretty much nails you for rejection) community. (Sorry, this hook didn't work)  Recently (No adverbs) elected (No adverb and adjective combinations) sheriff, (I don't understand why you can't say Sheriff Frank Lightfoot) Frank Lightfoot, is plunged (passive) into a secret (as opposed to not-so-secret? Telling and not needed) world of (wordy) sex, drugs and (rock and roll?) money (same thing)—starting (-ing isn't your friend here) with the seven DNA samples (personally I think semen samples would be more shocking - DNA is so clinical for a murder. Make the ending shock the reader) discovered in and on (much more shocking) the body.

MURDER ON MARSH ISLAND (Sorry, but this title won't cut it) is a 95,000-word mystery.  Similar to Robert B. Parker’s Sea Change (good, current market choice), it takes place (consider: occurs) over a four-week period on St. Simons Island, Georgia (watch the Georgia repetition).

I'm a member of (wordy) the Georgia Association of Writers. (One line isn't going to cut it either. Still passive voice too) 

Thank you for your time. (good)

Sadly, I must say this query doesn't work.  Also, I'm not seeing much difference between this query and the one prior save for some clerical changes.

If I may, can I show you how the hook could read?

When golfers find Miss Georgia's corpse spread eagle at Augusta National, Sheriff Frank Lightfoot knew this case would be anything but a hole-in-one.

Notice how I turned the hook into moving action, with a specific location, and ended it with a twist? Maybe a sadistic, tongue-in-cheek twist, but something that will catch an agent's eye regardless.

Do this. And no ... you can't use my example.  ;)

Wolfe
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Swampfox one on March 19, 2009, 06:07:47 PM
Dear Agent

The nude body of Bree Ballard is discovered sprawled on the ninth green of an exclusive coastal golf course.  Sheriff Frank Lightfoot responds to the call with uneasiness which becomes apprehension after he learns that the victim is a former beauty queen, married to the wealthy developer of Marsh Island.  When the ME finds seven DNA samples on her, the sheriff moves quickly to find the killer before the political time bomb explodes.

MURDER ON MARSH ISLAND is a 95,000-word mystery.  Similar to Robert B. Parker’s Sea Change, it takes place over a four-week period on St. Simons Island.

I am a participating member of the Georgia Association of Writers.  I am retired and live on an island on the coast of Georgia.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

I need to review passive and active voice.
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Wolfe on March 19, 2009, 06:17:48 PM
Just active and passive voice?  Okay. ;)

The nude body of Bree Ballard is discovered (passive) sprawled on the ninth green of an exclusive coastal golf course.  Sheriff Frank Lightfoot responds (active) to the call with uneasiness which becomes apprehension (passive clause) after he learns (active) that the victim is (potential passive) a former beauty queen, married (yes, they connect here as a passive - and is married) to the wealthy developer of Marsh Island.  When the ME finds (active) seven DNA samples on her, the sheriff moves (active) quickly to find the killer before the political time bomb explodes.

MURDER ON MARSH ISLAND is (potential passive) a 95,000-word mystery.  Similar to Robert B. Parker’s Sea Change, it takes place (active) over a four-week period on St. Simons Island.

I am (passive) a participating member of the Georgia Association of Writers.  I am (passive) retired and live (active) on an island on the coast of Georgia.


There you go.  :)

Wolfe
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Swampfox one on March 19, 2009, 06:27:56 PM
No,No I need to review active and passive voice. ;D
Hit me with it all.  ;)

What you did is eye opening., thanks
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: eric on March 19, 2009, 06:46:14 PM
Hi JH, I don't want to get in Wolfe's way here but I thought a few hopefully nonintrusive suggestions might help you start on the road toward where you might want to go.  This has good potential as the plot of a potboiler, and there are some simple things I think you could do to make your task easier.  These are just suggestions from me, if you or Wolfe think I am interfering with your voice just tell me to quit it, I'll happily bug off.

First, look at what Wolfe just said.  Fully half of your current sentences/clauses are passive.  At the same time, 50% of your main paragraph needs to be reduced.  Think there might be a connection?

Let's start at the first sentence.  Who discovers the nude body of Bree Ballard?  Well, as Wolfe implies they are going to be golfers or (more likely) greenskeepers.  But who finds the semen samples on her?  Is it not the authorities who do so?  Now, hold that thought.  Notice how much space is chewed up by the business of the finding of the body, the response to the call, the feelings of the sheriff, and what amounts to backstory?  Nearly all of this is surplusage that should go.  If you make the authorities (i.e. the sheriff) the subject of the first sentence, you can move the DNA samples to the front, get rid of the passive voice, remove a line of currently needless detail, and tighten up the passage by a lot.  Wolfe has already given you an example of a crackerjack opener.  Try to do that with the semen.  You'll note that Wolfe has already suggested this in passing.

I am not sure why you want to name the corpse and the sheriff.  I would remove all four words in the names and refer to the corpse as "a former beauty queen" for now.  I am not sure why you need to say the sheriff moves quickly to find the killer, why there is a political time bomb (no politicians involved so far--and beware of trite expressions), and why it is about to explode.  You do have an interesting stew based on the body evidence, but stay on target and develop what you have in front of you, rather than alluding to things not yet evident.  Or, if you really need them, make them evident.

Thank you for your attention. 
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Swampfox one on March 19, 2009, 07:00:28 PM
Eric, all help is appreciated. 
I used DNA and not semen becouse two of the DNA simples are from women.
You have some good suggestions.  At one point I had the greens keeper discovering the body.
thanks.
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: eric on March 19, 2009, 07:35:16 PM
Yeah, I thought it might be as much -- actually I had not figured out that precise wrinkle but suspected there might be something along those lines.  Still, "semen" packs such a wallop ... I wonder if the samples from the women (and what are they?  if related to sex even more powerful) could be fit in with the others in some terminology ... or perhaps "semen and other samples" ... Wolfe is right that DNA just comes off clinical.

I've been thinking about that body ... and who discovers it when.  If it's in the middle of the day, that adds an extra mystery as to how the hell the killer could have got it there.  Of course, the greenskeepers work each end of the day, so they'd be more likely to find a body killed or dumped at night.  But in that case, making the real discovery the DNA shifts the focus to the more "explosive" find.

Wolfe is the expert at these and he was clearly educating you, so I will do what I can to defer to him when you re-write your query next time.
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Swampfox one on March 20, 2009, 01:23:26 PM
Okay folks have at it! please ;D

Dear Agent

The first foursome finds the nude body of a former beauty queen sprawled on the ninth green.  The Medical Examiner discovers semen and DNA samples from seven different men and women on the corpse.  Sheriff Lightfoot peels back the layers of the exclusive golf community, revealing its secrets, until he finds the killer.

MURDER ON MARSH ISLAND is a 95,000-word mystery.  Similar to Robert B. Parker’s Sea Change, it occurs over a five-week period on St. Simons Island.

I am a participating member of the Georgia Association of Writers.  I am retired and live on an island on the coast.

Thank you for your time.

Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: eric on March 20, 2009, 04:24:51 PM
As I said, I'll wait for Wolfe, and I don't want to mess with your voice by giving you direct suggestions.  Just know, though, that I just went over your first two sentences, made them one, and reduced the words from 34 to 21 while improving the read.  You can do that too.  My guess is that you'll find both Sheriff Lightfoot and the Medical Examiner unneeded at this point, although what they do is important.
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Swampfox one on March 20, 2009, 04:34:45 PM
Thanks for your input - feel free to rewrite it and post it. It's a learning experience for me and anyone else who reads it.
JH
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Alice, a Country Gal on March 20, 2009, 07:46:13 PM
Quote
Dear Agent

The first foursome finds the nude body of a former beauty queen sprawled on the ninth green.  The Medical Examiner discovers semen and DNA samples from seven different men and women on the corpse.  Sheriff Lightfoot peels back the layers of the exclusive golf community, revealing its secrets, until he finds the killer.

MURDER ON MARSH ISLAND is a 95,000-word mystery.  Similar to Robert B. Parker’s Sea Change, it occurs over a five-week period on St. Simons Island.

A female's nude body lay sprawled on the ninth green. DNA evidence from seven different people is found on her body. As layers of evidence are peeled back, family secrets are revealed before the identity of killer is revealed.

MURDER ON MARSH ISLAND is a 95,000-word mystery.  Similar to Robert B. Parker’s Sea Change, it occurs over a five-week period on St. Simons Island.


I'm not an expert at this, but thought I would give it a try.
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: eric on March 20, 2009, 08:01:25 PM
Wolfe will tell you that one of the most important parts of a good query is that it be in your own, very personal voice.  I could easily suggest language for you, and you might well be tempted to use it--but it would be my language, not yours.  I suspect this is why Wolfe did not want you using the sentence he made for you.  The same with Alice's suggestion--nice of her to make it (though it has an unfortunate tense change, several abstractions, surplus words, an unhelpful correlative, and three (3) passive verbs), but it uses her diction, not yours.
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Swampfox one on March 20, 2009, 08:05:16 PM
Thanks Alice. It’s a learning process for us all.  I know I’m like Benny Hill learning all the time.

I use to write query letters that was so long.  Now it’s as if the shorter the better.
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Swampfox one on March 20, 2009, 08:07:05 PM
Eric, if you don't mind show me what your thoughts were.
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: eric on March 20, 2009, 08:32:54 PM
I mentioned my basic approach earlier.  You're right, JH, as Wolfe will eventually show you, pretty much shorter the better.  You have about 25 words to describe nearly the entire plot of your book.  Those words had better sing.  Look at the backs of novels for sale in the bookstores--you'll see "hooks" of a very limited number of words.  You will write that here.  Then will come this sentence, and it needs to be the best sentence you can do.  You're working on the first stages of that now.  This sentence needs to have no (0) passive verbs, no or next to no abstractions (although this can vary due to style), no grammatical inconsistencies, and a compelling plot summary.

I don't have what I worked out the other night, so I can't just give it to you anyway (and if I did, I would tell you not to use it, which would limit your options).  What I was talking about doing, and you can think about doing this yourself, is change the subject of the sentence to (as Alice came up with--good on you, Alice) the beauty queen.  Never call her a female, don't call her nude, she's a naked beauty queen.  At this point, I don't think you need to call her "former."  The important thing is not that she's spread-eagled on the ninth green, it's that she has seven samples on her (semen and otherwise).  Plenty of color in the ninth green business, but be direct.

I really like the first foursome, but don't know if you'll be able to use it.  You could have the corpse show or betray or hide or indicate or etc. the semen etc., thus keeping your active verb while dispensing with the Medical Examiner (he doesn't really need to be there) and the foursome and an extra verb and etc.  You could have either the layers or the secrets, but not both, and probably you'd want to focus on the secrets.  Do not name your sheriff yet, although you might or might not have the sheriff in there, depending on your choices.  But every word has to pull its weight.  You have a great deal of work to do, so best get going on it.  Anyway, see what you can make of that, do another re-write, and really, truly, wait for Wolfe to pick this up.  You'll be glad you did. 

I might come back in later, but only after Wolfe has said his piece. 

Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Th
Post by: BrigidMary on March 20, 2009, 09:21:32 PM
I hope you don't mind if I weigh in here, because I think you might be approaching this from the wrong angle. You're leading off with a dead body (in other words, NOT an active character), and you're not really describing any kind of conflict. Yes, there's conflicting DNA evidence, but I'm not sure that's enough to give a good glimpse of the plot.

Name your characters who matter (I bet the beauty queen isn't one of them, except in passing), and give us a glimpse of the conflict. Are more murders occurring? There are seven DNA samples...so what? Yes, that's intriguing when we discover it during your story, but is it intriguing HERE?

Think of it this way. You're watching CSI, but you turned it on 20 minutes in. They're looking at a slide, and they say, "Oh my god, it's really a man's blood!"

You can't care yet. You don't know who the man is, you don't know what the stakes are.

Show me the people who matter. Show me the stakes.

(Just my two cents. I'm a big picture girl, so I can't pick apart the word-for-word like the big guns can. I hope this helps! ;D)
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: eric on March 20, 2009, 09:27:43 PM
Well, I think that's a very valid perspective, B.  He's not making a movie, he's giving us a lightning flash--but your point about what matters makes a lot of sense.  I am suffering from allergies now, maybe tomorrow things will be clearer.
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Th
Post by: BrigidMary on March 21, 2009, 07:15:19 AM
Further, I went back and read your synopsis. I don't think this story is about the dead girl -- that's just the jumping off point. It's really about lies and conspiracy in a small town. I might focus the query there. But that's just me. This is tough stuff, and I sure don't have all the answers. Good luck!!  :D
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: eric on March 21, 2009, 12:04:28 PM
Well, I am not, not going to spend Saturday on this thread, and all my previous caveats apply, but I think what Brigid is missing is that this query is not about "telling" the real story, or the whole story, or even the story.  It is about capsulizing the plot in a dramatic and intriguing image or two, something that shows or hints or rams home the uniqueness of this tale in a way that grabs readers--and more importantly, editors.  It can come from the corpse spread-eagled on the ninth green just as much (or probably much more) than the gossips of old ladies up in town (even though the latter might be the real story).  That said, I think your perspective is good, B., and JH will do well to keep it in mind.
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Swampfox one on March 21, 2009, 01:01:04 PM
Maybe we need to start with what a query letter is in today’s market.  This is what I think it should be:  three paragraphs with the first having no more than three or four sentences.  One being the hook.  The second and third being the conflict and the last being the resolution.  The second paragraphs being information about the book no more than two or three sentences.  The third paragraph being about you or two or three sentence biography.  Then end it with a thank you.
Now the hard part fit your book into this outline.

What do you guys think?






Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Alice, a Country Gal on March 21, 2009, 01:42:11 PM
The Fiction Writer's Connection give a good outline of what an agent want to see in a query letter.

Check it out:

http://www.fictionwriters.com/tips-query-letters.html
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Swampfox one on March 21, 2009, 01:48:39 PM
Thanks
YRoT :-*
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Swampfox one on March 21, 2009, 04:02:39 PM
Dear Agent

The first foursome stumbles onto a naked, semen-soaked corpse sprawled on the ninth green.  The sheriff peeled back layers of DNA evidence, revealing secrets of Marsh Island, until he identities the killer.

MURDER ON MARSH ISLAND is a 95,000-word mystery.  Similar to Robert B. Parker’s Sea Change, it occurs over a five-week period on St. Simons Island.

I am a participating member of the Georgia Association of Writers.  I am retired and live on an island on the coast.

Thank you for your time.

Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Wolfe on March 22, 2009, 03:56:02 PM
It doesn't work. Your adverb and adjective phrases carry the power the nouns and verbs should. Because the noun and verbs read weak, it fails.

Watch.


The first foursome stumbles (stumbled) onto (on) a naked, semen-soaked corpse sprawled on the ninth green.  The sheriff peeled back layers of DNA evidence, revealing secrets of Marsh Island, until he identities the killer.

MURDER ON MARSH ISLAND is a 95,000-word mystery.  Similar to Robert B. Parker’s Sea Change, it occurs over a five-week period on St. Simons Island.

I am a participating member of the Georgia Association of Writers.  I am retired and live on an island on the coast.

Thank you for your time.


Yes, less is more if what remains shows power.  If not, the weakness shows instead.  Shorter paragraphs and sentences work if the word choices invoke feeling.  Right now, the query lacks this.

Reconsider the word choices. Question every adverb and adjective choice when you rewrite. Ask if a noun or verb will serve better. Question every clause as well. Hell, question every word choice.

Make the agents demand a partial or full because the excitement forces them. The words—powerful words—will do this.

Just my humble opinion.

Wolfe
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: eric on March 22, 2009, 04:31:06 PM
Okay, what Wolfe said and, while doing that, think (along the lines of what I implied earlier) about shifting the subject to the one essential symbol, combining elements of the two sentences, pumping up the verve, and getting rid of even more excess wordage.  Just my suggestion anyways.  As I also said earlier, the first foursome is likeable, but it takes too many words.  Also it makes no sense to a non-golfer (if Wolfe is a guide).  Probably best to let it go.
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Swampfox one on March 22, 2009, 04:51:27 PM
Thanks guys, give me sometime to think about it.  Here's another question I have thought about.  When it comes to query letters is it one size fits all or should you tailor each query to the agent you are sending it to?
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: eric on March 22, 2009, 05:23:20 PM
Wow, you are talking about spending the rest of your life on queries.   :D  Again this is in Wolfe's bailiwick, but I think it's safe for me to say one-size-fits-all should be sufficient.  That's one reason why we work so hard on them--to make them go-anywhere beauties.

Think short and sharp.   Cogitate on everything Wolfe does.  But do not burn incense to his graven image.  He might show up.
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Swampfox one on March 23, 2009, 04:27:08 PM
Dear Agent,

The greens keeper discovers the nude body of Bree Ballard sprawled on the ninth green. The sheriff peels back layer after layer of secrets until the killer is revealed.

BREE’S ISLAND is a 95,000-word murder mystery.  Similar to Robert B. Parker’s Sea Change, it races through a four-week period on Marsh Island.

I participate in the Georgia Association of Writers.

Thank you for your time. 

Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Wolfe on March 23, 2009, 05:57:09 PM
Dear Agent, (good)

The greens keeper (see below comment) discovers the nude body (telling) of (wordy) Bree Ballard (see below comment) sprawled on the ninth green (recommend something more specific). The sheriff (see below comment) peels back (not needed) layer after layer (cliché) of (wordy) secrets until the killer is revealed (passive). (Sorry, but the reads too dry and lacks excitement)

You reference greens keeper, Bree Ballard, and a sheriff, but yet to establish the protagonist. You need to make this clearer.

BREE’S ISLAND (This title makes me think the protagonist is the corpse. Not crazy about this title either) is a 95,000-word murder mystery. Similar to Robert B. Parker’s Sea Change (good, current choice), it races (excellent verb choice here) through a four-week period on Marsh Island (I liked St. Simmon's better).

I participate (this sounds strange and confusing) in the Georgia Association of Writers. (Need more than one line here)

Thank you for your time. (good)

The query sounds too threadbare and terse. It lacks the energy to make agents sit up and take notice.

When an heiress washes ashore in Paradise, it forces Detective Jesse Stone into a case more difficult than it appears. The victim's taste for videotaped sex points the way to her potential killers—her family. They refuse to talk, so Jesse must speak for the dead ... even if it puts him in harm's way.

I cleaned it up a bit, but I know you know where I got it.  ;D Yes, the front and back flap for Sea Change. Like I said before, the query will see use on your book's flap or back.

Notice the example states who, what, where, when, and hints why. How is the mystery that will make agents request partials.

Can you rework your query into this method?

Wolfe
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Swampfox one on March 23, 2009, 06:21:53 PM
God knows I will try. ;D
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Swampfox one on March 23, 2009, 08:52:15 PM
Dear Agent

When the nude body of a beauty queen is discovered sprawled on the ninth green of an exclusive island community, Sheriff Frank Lightfoot charges into a world of scandal.  DNA samples on Bree Ballard from seven different people—male and female—drive Frank to delve into information better left private.  The wealthy and obnoxious husband, Dick, tops the suspect list even before the evidence confirms his guilt.   

MURDER on MARSH ISLAND is a 95,000-word mystery.  Similar to Robert B. Parker’s Sea Change, it races through over a five-week period on St. Simons Island.

I am a member of the Georgia Association of Writers.  I am retired and live on an island on the coast.

Thank you for your time.



Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: eric on March 23, 2009, 09:50:41 PM
Example:

A beauty queen's body, doused with semen and blood, sends the sheriff reeling into a world of deceit.  His quest for the killer ends with the killer chasing him.

This is just to illustrate what I was talking about.  The plot summary is 18 words long.  Don't use it, follow what Wolfe wants you to do. 

I see you are trying for some color and panache, you're trying to comply with Wolfe's latest dictum and it's a worthy attempt, but what you've just put up seems to import most of the correctly rejected too-wordy and not-informative-enough phrases from this thread.  They don't work for me.  When Wolfe said flesh it out a bit, he didn't mean make it longer with excess words. 

"When the nude body of a beauty queen is discovered" is wordy, uses the wrong adjective, uses a passive verb'  "Discovered sprawled" is at least one too many past participles in a row.  "Ninth green of an exclusive island community" is an unintentionally comical nonsequitur and uses excess wordage. 

Sheriff Frank Lightfoot--you can use his name as the protagonist, but I wouldn't here because there's no call for it yet.  This is a police procedural, of course he's the protagonist.  World of scandal is vague and a bit trite.  Bree Ballad--who is this Bree Ballard; the reader really has no clue.  And why is the name Bree Ballard important?  Is this the real name of the beauty queen, and if so do you have permission from the family to use it?  DNA samples ... clinical, abstract, ambiguous.  I think the best way to put it is "blood and semen."  Does that make sense?   It really adds nothing to go back to the abstraction, eve if Wolfe's expressed discontent with your current concretes.

From seven different people ... of course they're different or there wouldn't be seven of them.  "Drive Frank into information better left private" ... wordy, vague, abstract, obtuse (who says it's better left private?), and passive too. 

Wealthy and obnoxious ... telling.  Tops the suspect list ... telling.  Even before the evidence confirms his guilt ... telling, abstract, and never give away the end of a book in a query.  In a synopsis, yes.  Not in a query.

You're doing great.  Work on this awhile offline and see if Wolfe will give you more specifics on what he wants.
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Swampfox one on March 24, 2009, 10:17:43 AM
Thanks, Eric.
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Swampfox one on March 24, 2009, 06:01:52 PM
Dear,

The nude, semen-covered body of a local society queen throws Sheriff Frank Lightfoot into more than a murder case.  He discovers incest, infidelity, drugs and an abundance of suspects.  Despite being an outsider in the exclusive golf community, Frank earns the trust of a few supporters and solves the case.

MURDER on MARSH ISLAND is a 95,000-word mystery.  Similar to Robert B. Parker’s Sea Change, it races through a four-week period on St. Simons Island.

I am a member of the Georgia Association of Writers.  I also am a participant in the Scribblers’ Retreat Writer’s Conference. 

Thank you for your time.

Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: eric on March 24, 2009, 06:11:38 PM
What did I say about giving away the ending, JH?  You're welcome, by the way.
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Swampfox one on March 24, 2009, 06:20:23 PM
But I didn't say the butler did it.
JH
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: eric on March 24, 2009, 06:22:46 PM
Most true, you did not.  But you said the sheriff solved the case--and this is more your major drama in a police procedural than whodunnit.  IMHO, anyway.  In fact, the identity of the criminal is often known from the outset in a pp.  But this brings up the same question, the answer to which I should not have so easily assumed--are you writing a traditional whodunnit, or a pp?  I guess it could go either way from what you've said so far.  What is the primary unknown here, the mystery?  And what is the secondary mystery, if any?  Where are you taking your lucky readers?
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Wolfe on March 25, 2009, 01:15:31 AM
Always remember most literary agents are women. If you open with, "The nude, semen-covered body..." they will reach for the rejection button with a quickness. Yes, shock. But know if it could repulse.

Keep it professional. Your first audience member involves one literary agent.

Let's see another rewrite. ;)

Wolfe
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Swampfox one on March 25, 2009, 12:04:16 PM
Dear agent,

When the nude corpse of the wife of the developer of the exclusive community, Marsh Island, is found sprawled on the golf course, Sheriff Lightfoot knows it’s his case to solve.  As Lightfoot investigates the case, it quickly becomes more than just a murder case but one of incest, adultery, drugs, greed and bankruptcy. 

JUSTICE SERVED is a 95,000-word mystery.  Similar to Robert B. Parker’s Sea Change, it races through a four-week period on St. Simons Island.

I’m a member of the Georgia Association of Writers.  As well as a participant in the Scribblers’ Retreat Writer’s Conference. 

Thank you for your time.

Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Wolfe on March 25, 2009, 12:27:34 PM
Let's try something different.  :)

When the nude corpse of the wife of the developer of the exclusive community, Marsh Island, is found sprawled on the golf course, Sheriff Lightfoot knows it’s his case to solve.

Rewrite this sentence without the word 'of' or any adjectives. Can you show us how it would read, please?

Wolfe
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Swampfox one on March 25, 2009, 02:04:04 PM
Let's try something different.  :)

When the nude corpse of the wife of the developer of the exclusive community, Marsh Island, is found sprawled on the golf course, Sheriff Lightfoot knows it’s his case to solve.

Rewrite this sentence without the word 'of' or any adjectives. Can you show us how it would read, please?

Wolfe

A corpse sprawled on the Marsh Island golf course brings Sheriff Lightfoot into a case he must solve. ;D
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Wolfe on March 25, 2009, 05:02:35 PM
I'll remove the adjective that snuck into the sentence. ;)

A corpse sprawled on the Marsh Island brings Sheriff Lightfoot into a case he must solve.

Next, place your most powerful nouns in the front and end. You can only use the words above, but may use more powerful synonyms if you want.

Wolfe
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Swampfox one on March 25, 2009, 06:49:40 PM
Quote
Next, place your most powerful nouns in the front and end. You can only use the words above, but may use more powerful synonyms if you want.

Wolfe


I am not sure what you are asking?
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Wolfe on March 25, 2009, 07:31:25 PM
No worries. ;)  I want you to place the strongest words in the sentence's front (the first word or the one after a pronoun) and the same at the sentence's end.

Like this. My apologies to Ma100. :)

Original: Eyes closed, she tried to prolong the rapturous tingle when she fused with the stone and mortar.

Now, I'll highlight the nouns: Eyes closed, she tried to prolong the rapturous tingle when she fused with the stone and mortar.

Check: Eyes and mortar start and end the sentence. But, tingle and rapturous display the power. Let's make that them start or end words.

Edit #1: Tingles prolonged her eyes closed when the stone and mortar fused in rapture.

Sounds strange. So, let's choose synonyms. Tingles hint desire. Let's choose that.

Edit #2: Desire prolonged her eyes closed when the stone and mortar fused in rapture.

The verb sounds odd, so let's pick another.  Forced?  Let's try that.

Edit #3: Desire forced her eyes closed when the stone and mortar fused in rapture.

Uh-oh! That adjective invaded! Closed must go.  Let's make it the verb.

Edit #4: Desire closed her eyes when the stone and mortar fused in rapture.

Closed sounds weak.  Let's edit that.

Edit #5: Desire sealed her eyes when the stone and mortar fused in rapture.

Close, but let's go all out with sexual metaphors.

Edit #6: Desire sealed her eyes when the stone and mortar embraced in rapture.

Almost...

Edit #7: Darkness kissed her eyes when the stone and mortar embraced in rapture.

One more clean-up.

Darkness kissed her eyes when stone and mortar embraced in rapture.

Now, the power words darkness and rapture start and end the sentence. The power verbs, kissed and embraced, enhance the middle.  That was the next lesson, but what the heck.  ;D

Your turn. :)

Wolfe
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Swampfox one on March 25, 2009, 09:02:15 PM
A corpse sprawled on the Marsh Island brings Sheriff Lightfoot into a case he must solve.

A corpse drags sheriff Lightfoot into a homicide he must solve when it is found sprawled on Marsh Island.

Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Wolfe on March 25, 2009, 09:06:33 PM
Corpse does show power.  But, Island? I think homicide does it better.  Can you work those two? :)

Wolfe
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Swampfox one on March 25, 2009, 09:21:11 PM
 A corpse sprawled on Marsh Island drags Sheriff Lightfoot into a homicide.
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: eric on March 25, 2009, 09:27:16 PM
I am sorry, that evokes images you cannot have intended.  The verb may be at fault, but follow Wolfe to a "tee."  Not sure you have yet.
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Swampfox one on March 25, 2009, 09:41:03 PM
It was a lively corpse. ;D

It’s late time for two fingers of Knob Creek or gentlemen Jack your choice. 8)
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: eric on March 25, 2009, 10:51:14 PM
The sinful never rest.  I had worked up another example for you, JH, but either a worldwide failure of the global internet system or a loose plug in my kitchen made me lose it.  I guess something is trying to tell me something.

But one last comment--you might find it necessary to replace homicide with another noun, just as strong.  Think that over while you bend your elbow.
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Swampfox one on March 26, 2009, 08:10:45 PM
 A corpse sprawled on Marsh Island draws Sheriff Lightfoot into a homicide.
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: eric on March 26, 2009, 08:19:16 PM
This is deja vu all over again.   :)  Like #53, it evokes images you cannot have intended.  Am I getting in Wolfe's way, though?  I will step aside and go burn incense.
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Wolfe on March 27, 2009, 03:19:46 AM
A corpse sprawled on Marsh Island draws Sheriff Lightfoot into a homicide.

Yes, you said the corpse dragged Sheriff Lightfoot off and killed him. Best rewrite it.

Wolfe
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Writewayze on March 27, 2009, 04:21:25 AM
Remember ... you said you can take it.   ;D

Dear agent, (good)

Frank Lightfoot did not (Beware negative use) run for sheriff to resolve the money and sex problems of (wordy) the rich and famous.  (Opening with telling the agent what Frank didn't do, as opposed to what he will, is a bad move. Also, this doesn't help the plot) But when the semi-nude (Consider an absolute: nude) body of an ex-Miss (Negatives again. Consider: a Miss Georgia or Miss Georgia) Georgia, wife of (wordy) a prominent (telling) South Georgia (There is no such place as 'South' Georgia. Also, you say Georgia four times in your query. This is the second. You get to say it once. Finally, not seeing a reason for having this dependent clause) developer, is found (passive) on the ninth (not needed) green of (wordy) an exclusive (telling) golf community (Not sure this is needed either), he is plunged (passive) into a world of (wordy) secrets (smells like a cliché)—starting (Beware -ing, dependent clauses and gerunds) with the seven DNA samples discovered in and on the body (This sounds promising with its distrubing imagery.  Can you use it as your hook instead?).

MURDER ON MARSH ISLAND (This title sounds like a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Book from the 80s or something involving Nancy Drew. I recommend you change it) is an 83,000-word murder (Redundant. Most mysteries involve murder) mystery.  This is the sequel to TAKEN.  (You only CAPS ALL the title for the work you submit. For other works, from you, only caps the appropriate letters. [e.g., Taken] Also, unless this work saw publication from a mainstream press, you don't get to say this. Finally, this screams series.  And you know the rule about mentioning series in your query letter) Similar to Robert B. Parker’s Sea Change (italics), it takes place over a four-week period on St. Simons Island, Georgia. (repetition)

I am (Consider: I'm) a member of the Georgia (repetition) Association of Writers. (Can you rewrite this into active voice?) 

Thank you for your time. (good)

Brutal, I know...

Wolfe
I hate this 'Rule'...
It confuses tense with passive voice and negatives.

When Frank Lightfoot ran for Sherrif, his motives had nothing to do with  solving the problems etc... ' Probably correct, but it sounds clumsy and might get picked up as passive writing because of the 'had'. Hence, I turned off the 'style manager' feature of my 'Word' package.  ;D

I am not suggesting this as a replacement, but trying to explain why I don't like the harsh application of the Passive Voice rule. It means something entirely different to me. I don't see how the original poster could tell the agent which organisation he/she belongs to, without using the word 'Georgia' again, repetetive though it might be. As to passive voice here, I am reading up on that particular point right now!  ;)

John  ;)
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: eric on March 27, 2009, 10:20:58 AM
I have really no idea what you're getting at, John.  Are you suggesting that everything that's been done in the last 60 posts is unworthwhile?  Or am I just not understanding?
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Swampfox one on March 27, 2009, 12:28:54 PM
Thanks John, you echo much of what was said about my original post.  I would appreciate it if you would look at the later post and let me know what your thoughts are.
Thanks.
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Writewayze on March 27, 2009, 03:04:11 PM
Hi Eric.

I wasn’t aware I had suggested (Passive voice?) any previous posts were worthless.
If it seems I did, that wasn't my intention.

I wanted to point out that 'Passive Voice' is a 'so-called Rule' that is not graven in stone. It isn’t even a grammatical rule, because it is concerned with style and not grammar. So I merely said I hate this ‘Rule’. (One that isn’t a rule at all.)

For the purposes of style, I agree it is best not to use passive voice, but there are times when it is acceptable and even unavoidable.
 
Strunk and White’s “Elements of Style” is one of the better authorities for our craft. In my copy it says on p 18:

‘The active voice is USUALLY (my capitals) more direct and vigorous than the passive. It also says "The habitual use of active voice produces ‘forcible writing’ ". To me then  forcible writing is considered, at times, as undesirable.

I don’t apologise for quoting Strunk and White. Stephen King virtually swears by this manual so that is good enough for me.

I normally write in MS Word, with grammar and style 'checkers' switched off and with ‘Strunk and White’ firmly closed and on my bookshelf. 

When I have my first draft finished, I switch the checkers on again and go through the Ms. paying attention to anything highlighted. I correct where I think is necessary and if needed I check with Strunk and White for clarity.

So, should I wish to comment on ‘Fred Bloggs’s ability as a shoemaker, then in normal narrative I might write:

Fred Bloggs was an expert shoemaker. He lived... etc.
 
In this case, when I say “Fred Bloggs was”, I am NOT saying that Fred is a deceased cobbler of fine repute!  I am merely informing the reader that Fred makes great shoes. (NB 'That' is another redundant word, most of the time.)

There are other ways to express Fred's expertise, but usually at the expense of excessive wordage.

So I had no intent to dismiss or belittle previous posts when I said 'I hate  'Passive Voice'. Passive voice is often picked up and sometimes unneccessarily so.

Regards

John  :)
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: eric on March 27, 2009, 03:09:44 PM
Yes, I understand your argument John, though some of us will differ in application.  S & W is great, isn't it?  Cheers
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Wolfe on March 27, 2009, 03:54:20 PM
(laugh) Okay, rather than get into a debate about it, I'll step aside from query letters and allow John to demonstrate this with his experience in queries.

Yes, a time and place does come when you will and must use passive voice. But, in the modern query letter? Well ... please prove when passive form does a better job in a query than an active form.

Being intrigued, I'll step aside now.  :) Please do demonstrate.

Wolfe
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Writewayze on March 27, 2009, 07:03:18 PM
Hi Wolfie,

To paraphrase:
Is this a gauntlet which I see before me,
The cuff toward my hand? Come, let me don thee… 

Or art thou but a gauntlet of the mind, a false creation,
Proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain?
I see thee yet, in form as palpable…
;) By the way, my style checker had a field day with Shakespeare's original words!

Now:

My post was not concerned with the rights and wrongs of query letters. I was pointing out my view of the passive voice. Nothing more.
 
I repeat, passive voice is NOT a grammatical rule. It is an issue of style. If you think otherwise that's your prerogative. In my view, inclusion or omission of passive voice, is no more or less important with query letters than with any other piece of writing.
We should get the message across, unafraid of using passive voice if it sounds more natural. Writing within certain rigid ‘rules’, can result in stultified work. That's my belief.

Most agents are sharp cookies, but I know of one or two that wouldn’t know passive voice from a dangling participle.

At the same time, when writing a formal letter, I would be chary of using the contraction "I’m", as you suggested, but then I am old-fashioned. I feel the same way about the split-infinitive, which these days, seems, overwhelmingly, to be in use.  ;)   But maybe that is pedantry up with which you need not put.  ;)

Regards and Stay Lucky


John
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Wolfe on March 27, 2009, 09:06:36 PM
Not to be fresh, but I'd be more inclined to hear your words if you didn't posture, post and then purge your account. If you cannot offer proof in practice, don't preach the profession.

JH, please repost your newest query and we'll continue.  :)

Wolfe
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Swampfox one on March 27, 2009, 09:19:38 PM
Yes, you said the corpse dragged Sheriff Lightfoot off and killed him. Best rewrite it.
Wolfe

Now to continue:
And never again:

A corpse discovered sprawled on Marsh Island jolts Sheriff Lightfoot into anything but the run of the mill homicide.
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Wolfe on March 27, 2009, 09:46:05 PM
A corpse discovered sprawled on Marsh Island jolts Sheriff Lightfoot into anything but the run of the mill homicide.

It lacks excitement still.  You want something catchy with your opening lines...

Let's say your corpse was a former movie actress? You want the hook to show a potential twist (tagline) that draws attention.

Her blockbuster tanked, but her corpse drew headlines.

Since your victim was Miss Georgia, can you play with the runway or Miss America theme?  Feel free to add more powerful nouns and verbs, but lose the adverbs and adjectives.

Let's see your tagline. :)

Wolfe

Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Th
Post by: ma100 on March 28, 2009, 06:12:46 AM
Can I please remind members that this is JH Mulls query thread not a debate on the use of passive voice. If that is what
you wish to discuss John, please start your own thread.


Back to you JH.
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Swampfox one on March 28, 2009, 05:16:37 PM
Thanks Ma.  Let’s not forget this is a site to learn the craft of writing.  Personal attitudes should be checked at the door.  Now on with the craft.


Her naked body sprawled on the golf course drew more stares than she ever did as Miss Georgia.

Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: eric on March 28, 2009, 05:24:24 PM
Thank you, Ma.  You'll note that John has stomped off into the ozone.

I think your new tack is promising, JH, but consider--she probably drew plenty of stares as Miss Georgia; the audience on the golf course and at the coroner's is going to be quite a bit more limited in number.  So there is something of a practical does-not-compute thing about your current effort.  Can you go further along that track?  What about the kind of stares?
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Wolfe on March 28, 2009, 05:29:35 PM
A corpse discovered sprawled on Marsh Island jolts Sheriff Lightfoot into anything but the run of the mill homicide.

Since John declined to demonstrate, I will put my money where my mouth is.  Yes, passive voice will work if you know the technique.  Death is the third passive voice exception. I discussed the other two exceptions in another thread, prior.

I'll provide an example that uses the death exception and passive voice. Tread carefully with this technique—especially in a query letter.

Fair warning.

This query opener below uses the five-line technique. I cheated though.  :D I used four.

The Mermaid. That’s what the paparazzi called the corpse found on Marsh Island, but Sheriff Lightfoot thought it just another homicide. He was wrong. And the events afterwards would forever mark him in infamy. She was the mermaid, but he was THE MARINER.

THE MARINER is an 80,000-word mystery.


In this way, yes, you can use passive voice.  I still suggest you use active voice in almost all cases. Yes, style has its place, but know when, where, and why you use passive voice.

Again, just an example when you use the third exception.

Perhaps, you would like to use this technique instead JH?

Let us know. :)

Wolfe
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Swampfox one on March 28, 2009, 05:37:51 PM
No I would not.  I know as I told you the responce from Active voice is better, higher. 8)  It's learning how to write a great active voice query everytime is what I am after.  ;D
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Wolfe on March 28, 2009, 05:42:17 PM
Okay. :)

Give me a few hours to return.  Real life and all.  :D

Her (consider: The) naked body (consider: corpse) sprawled on the golf course (consider: green or something specific) drew more stares than she (consider: it) ever (wordy) did as Miss Georgia.

Oh yes.  I like that.  Consider the changes for a more slamming effect.  I do believe you have it, Dr. Watson. ;)

Wolfe
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: eric on March 28, 2009, 05:48:45 PM
Heh, okay, never mind then.  But what about this?
 
The corpse sprawled on the golf course green drew more stares than she (consider: it) ever (wordy) did as Miss Georgia.
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Swampfox one on March 28, 2009, 06:01:09 PM
Give me a few hours to return.  Real life and all.  
Yes Saturday nights are for steaks, baked potatoes and of course champagne. And the night that belongs to one’s wife. With that I am off to have two fingers of GJ.
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Wolfe on March 29, 2009, 03:19:31 AM
Teachers call the power words lesson, used above, the "2-3-1" technique.  This means, literally, the writer places the second most powerful noun first, the least powerful nouns midway, and the most powerful noun last in the sentence.

Add power verbs in the "3" section, and you'll write stunning sentences for your query every time.

JH, use the technique again for your query's second sentence please.

Wolfe
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Swampfox one on March 29, 2009, 08:55:34 PM
I have never heard of the 2-3-1 technique before!
The corpse sprawled on the ninth green drew more stares than it did as Miss Georgia.

She calls to sheriff Lightfoot for help covered in semen and blood.
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: eric on March 29, 2009, 09:00:11 PM
Oh JH, really?  I guess I should just leave this for Wolfe.  So I'll just leave the thread.
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Wolfe on March 30, 2009, 12:45:00 AM
She calls to sheriff Lightfoot for help covered in semen and blood.

Is this your second sentence choice? The sentence says, "The corpse, covered in body fluid, telephones the sheriff." Unintended imagery, I hope. Best clarify.  ;)

Wolfe 
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Hack on March 30, 2009, 08:14:11 AM
Give me a few hours to return.  Real life and all.  
Yes Saturday nights are for steaks, baked potatoes and of course champagne. And the night that belongs to one’s wife. With that I am off to have two fingers of GJ.


Hey JH,

Forgive an ignorant Limey, but what is a GJ please? I thought about Gordon's Jin, but that spelling isn't correct of course!

Whatever it is, I hope you enjoyed.  :)

I like some of the edits and suggestions you had. I like the 'power-words' suggestion especially.

I fiddled around with this too, and I came up with:

Ageing beauty queen, Amelia Smith, loved making news. Right now, sprawled on the ninth green at Augusta National, her headless corpse made it big-time.


Maybe I didn't get the power words in the right order though.
 
MH
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Swampfox one on March 30, 2009, 11:21:14 AM
 Hi MH

GJ is Gentlemen Jack.  The best that Jack Daniels has to offer. I am afraid I do enjoy it just a bit to much.

You seem to have a better grasp on the power noun 2-3-1 technique than I.

I think you are talking about what Wolfe as said not I.

Thanks for your input and stay with the thread. ;)
JH

Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: LinRobinson on March 30, 2009, 01:15:01 PM
Your first one was better.  Stick with it instead of this one.
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Swampfox one on March 30, 2009, 01:18:02 PM
Thanks Lin.
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Swampfox one on March 30, 2009, 01:44:14 PM
Is this your second sentence choice? The sentence says, "The corpse, covered in body fluid, telephones the sheriff." Unintended imagery, I hope. Best clarify.  ;)

Wolfe 

No, :( maybe ???

Sheriff Lightfoot soon learns there is more to this homicide than Miss Georgia.

Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Wolfe on March 30, 2009, 06:14:05 PM
Sheriff Lightfoot soon learns (consider: discovers) there is more to this (consider: the) homicide (repetition from first line - consider: murder) than Miss Georgia (repetition from first line - consider: beauty queen, dead beauty, or something more poetic or lyrical).

Wolfe
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Swampfox one on March 30, 2009, 09:00:11 PM
Okay again into the valley. :o

The corpse sprawled on the ninth green drew more stares than it did as Miss Georgia.


Sheriff Lightfoot discovers there is more to the murder than a dead beauty queen.

JH
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Wolfe on March 30, 2009, 09:06:21 PM
(Consider adding a conjunction to link the sentence ideas. Consider: Yet, But) Sheriff Lightfoot discovers there is (you can remove this phrase and a linking verb without damage to the sentence) more to the murder than a dead beauty (Hmmm. Not liking the double adjective - can you write a better noun?) queen.

Wolfe
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: eric on March 30, 2009, 09:36:39 PM
Please note that the corpse was never Miss Georgia.  The corpse did not get to be a corpse until Miss Georgia was murdered.  Merely for your consideration.
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Swampfox one on March 30, 2009, 09:41:31 PM
The corpse sprawled on the ninth green drew more stares than it ever did as Miss Georgia, yet
Sheriff Lightfoot discovers more to the murder than a dead viva.


Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Wolfe on March 30, 2009, 09:48:37 PM
The corpse sprawled on the ninth green drew more stares than it ever did as Miss Georgia, yet
Sheriff Lightfoot discovers more to the murder than a dead viva.

Sorry, I meant like this. :)

The corpse sprawled on the ninth green drew more stares than it ever did as Miss Georgia. Yet,
Sheriff Lightfoot discovers (discovered) more to the murder than a dead viva. (What's a viva? You mean diva? Oh, I like that)

Clarify please. ;)

Wolfe
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Swampfox one on March 30, 2009, 09:57:17 PM
Once more.

The corpse sprawled on the ninth green drew more stares than it ever did as Miss Georgia.  Yet, sheriff Lightfoot discovered more to the murder than a dead diva.
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Wolfe on March 30, 2009, 10:13:30 PM
The corpse sprawled on the ninth green drew more stares than it ever (qualifier) did as Miss Georgia.  Yet, sheriff (Sheriff - remember to caps titles) Lightfoot discovered (good alliteration start with Ds here) more to the murder (good alliteration with the Ms here) than a dead diva (good alliteration continued with Ds here).

Starting to come together. ;)

Wolfe
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: eric on March 30, 2009, 10:15:52 PM
Well, here's a thought which fixes the logical conundrum I mentioned and the stylistic curiosity posed by "Yet" joining these two particular sentences, which are not opposed.  Just for your consideration:

The corpse sprawled on the ninth green drew more stares than Miss Georgia did.  And Sheriff Lightfoot found more in this murder than a dead diva.
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Swampfox one on March 31, 2009, 07:45:22 PM
Good Evening,

Dear Agent,

The corpse sprawled on the ninth green drew more stares than it did as Miss Georgia.  Yet, Sheriff Lightfoot discovered more to the murder than a dead diva - incest, infidelity and, finally, the killer.

JUSTICE SERVED is a 95,000-word mystery.  Similar to Robert B. Parker’s Sea Change, it races through a five-week period on St. Simons Island.

I’m a member of the Georgia Association of Writers, as well as a participant in the Scribblers’ Retreat Writer’s Conference. 

Thank you for your time.
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: eric on April 01, 2009, 09:21:28 AM
Your third sentence (actually a sentence fragment) no doubt has some fine qualities which I miss.  It, however, tells, it is full of abstractions and generic words, it is poorly formatted (commas), and grammatically lacks a conjunction as well as a verb, it is redundant, it has two needless adverbs, and it gives the game away.  I am not sure what it adds that's good.  Sorry.  Maybe it's just me.
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Cathy C on April 01, 2009, 08:51:51 PM
JH, I really like the way your query letter is evolving and I especially love the first seven words of your new opening - (Go Wolfe ;D)

Quote
The corpse sprawled on the ninth green.

Fantastic! (And yes, for all those of you who hate exclamation marks, this one was necessary - Right! :P)

But I'm not sure about the rest of the sentence - does it contain one, or two comma's? :-\

Quote
The corpse sprawled on the ninth green drew more stares than it did as Miss Georgia.


I read this two ways:

The corpse, sprawled on the ninth green, drew more stares than it did as Miss Georgia.

Or

The corpse sprawled on the ninth green, drawing more stares than it had as Miss Georgia.

Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: DebBuckingham on April 01, 2009, 09:11:12 PM
JH,

Not a bad start, but if I may, I'd like to recommend a few things as I've just gone through this process with many author friends of mine... Here goes...

I would recommend that you break this down into a 5 paragraphs: 1,2,and 3 will tell the story. You want this to read much like the backcover would. Paragraph 4 needs to include word count, title, the fact that you have it available for submission, your target audience. This is also a great paragraph to insert any similarities to the "house" you're submittting to. Paragraph 5 will include all your credentials: writers groups, any kind of anything that you've published. Have you ever been a regular contributor to anything? That gives you credibility as well... And of course, your Thank you for taking the time. I look forward to hearing back from you. (shows them you are waiting and anxious) ;)

Good luck, this isn't an easy task. I should know, it took me weeks to perfect it. But remember, you could perfect forever, so when you get it in format, it sounds fabulous... send it off!!!!

Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Cathy C on April 01, 2009, 09:35:34 PM
Sorry JH, I'm hijacking here, a bit, but...

Quote
Good luck, this isn't an easy task. I should know, it took me weeks to perfect it.

Weeks? Deb, you are now officially my hero. :-*



Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Swampfox one on April 01, 2009, 09:41:44 PM
Sorry JH, I'm hijacking here, a bit, but...

Weeks? Deb, you are now officially my hero. :-*

Cathy C. how could you say that! :(
I appreciate your thoughts. 8)

And Deb weeks?  :(   I have been working on how to write a good query for years! ::) ::)
 
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Wolfe on April 01, 2009, 09:42:58 PM
I agree with Cathy C ... as usual. :)

The corpse, sprawled on the ninth green, drew more stares than it did as Miss Georgia. (Agreed with the commas)

Remember, you want your last line to force the agent to demand a partial.  Right now, it lacks this.  Don't forget your structure and power words. :)  Can you end your summary sentence with something more slamming?  We'll work on the rest after we review the opening paragraph.  ;D

On a side note, I must disagree with the, "Eager to hear from you line," because it's a given.  Of course, you're eager to hear a response.  Hopefully, a positive one right?  ;)

Just my humble opinion.

Wolfe
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Cathy C on April 01, 2009, 09:51:50 PM
Quote
Cathy C. how could you say that

Easy. ;D

Quote
I appreciate your thoughts.

 :-*
Can't speak, in a swoon. :o

Quote
I agree with Cathy C ... as usual.



 


Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Swampfox one on April 03, 2009, 09:06:43 AM
Here we are again. 8)

Dear Agent,
The corpse, sprawled on the ninth green, drew more stares than it did as Miss Georgia.  Yet, Sheriff Lightfoot discovered more to the murder than a dead diva.  He opens her safe deposit box and gets the key to catching the killer.
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Wolfe on April 03, 2009, 09:21:52 AM
The corpse, sprawled on the ninth green, drew more stares than it did as Miss Georgia.  Yet, Sheriff Lightfoot discovered more to the murder than a dead diva. He opens her safe deposit box and gets the key to catching the killer.

The last line ends too flat and reads too dry.  Come on now. You know better. ;) This: key to catching the killer - has possibilities though. Can you jazz the first part up and link it to the last?

Wolfe
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Swampfox one on April 03, 2009, 11:24:07 AM
Dear Agent,
The corpse, sprawled on the ninth green, drew more stares than it did as Miss Georgia.  Yet, Sheriff Lightfoot discovered more to the murder than a dead diva.  The multiple DNA found on and in the cadaver presents the key to catching the killer.

 ;D ;D ;D

OR

The key to catching the killer rest within the multiple DNA found on the cadaver.

Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Alice, a Country Gal on April 03, 2009, 11:45:09 AM
Dear Agent,
The corpse, sprawled on the ninth green, drew more stares than it did as Miss Georgia.  Yet, Sheriff Lightfoot discovered more to the murder than a dead diva.  The multiple DNA found on and in the cadaver presents the key to catching the killer.

 ;D ;D ;D

OR

The key to catching the killer rest within the multiple DNA found on the cadaver.



I keep stumbling over the way the DNA is handled.  It may just be me and the fact that I enjoy watching CSI and other forensic shows, but my question is; is it important to say "The multiple DNA found on and in"? 

Couldn't you simply refer to the DNA being key to the case in a more straightforward and direct way?

Sorry to intrude - just something that was bugging me.
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Swampfox one on April 03, 2009, 01:07:34 PM
I keep stumbling over the way the DNA is handled.  It may just be me and the fact that I enjoy watching CSI and other forensic shows, but my question is; is it important to say "The multiple DNA found on and in"? 

Couldn't you simply refer to the DNA being key to the case in a more straightforward and direct way?

Sorry to intrude - just something that was bugging me.

Alice, sweet pea, there now we are close and closer so you cannot possibly intrude any longer.  The reason I say multiple DNA is because seven DNA samples are found in and on the corpse— five male and two female.  The beauty queen once broke turns to sex and black mail for money.  However you make a good point. (I like NCIS myself but I have always been a fan of Mark Harman since St Elsewhere.)

The key to catching the killer rest within the DNA found on the beauty queen.

Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Alice, a Country Gal on April 03, 2009, 01:30:27 PM
Quote
The key to catching the killer rest within the DNA found on the beauty queen.

I understand that point - just wondered if any DNA was located near the body as well. It seems that is the case sometime.

Plus, for the purpose of the Query, if it was necessary to state that it was in or on the body.

JH, I've been following this thread and learning things as it goes along.  :)
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Swampfox one on April 03, 2009, 01:43:41 PM
I understand that point - just wondered if any DNA was located near the body as well. It seems that is the case sometime.

Plus, for the purpose of the Query, if it was necessary to state that it was in or on the body.

JH, I've been following this thread and learning things as it goes along.  :)

Just don't want you to feel you are intruding on anything I’m doing.
DNA does play a big part.  I used ‘in or on’ because of where all the DNA is found: top, front and rear as it were. Later when the corpse’s panties are found DNA is found on them that ties everything together for the sheriff. As well as the DNA found on the killers slacks.
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Wolfe on April 03, 2009, 05:16:41 PM
Alice makes a valid point though.  How important is it to the query? While priceless to the novel, is it a must for the query?  Let's see a final line without it and decide.

After all, the public didn't care about the DNA evidence in the O.J. Simpson scandel.  They care more about the murders and the drama that lead to it.

Remember that. :)

Wolfe
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Swampfox one on April 03, 2009, 05:34:28 PM
Alice makes a valid point though.  How important is it to the query? While priceless to the novel, is it a must for the query?  Let's see a final line without it and decide.

After all, the public didn't care about the DNA evidence in the O.J. Simpson scandel.  They care more about the murders and the drama that lead to it.

Remember that. :)

Wolfe

Happy to.

this beings up a question.  How close does the query letter have to be to the general theme of the book.
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Wolfe on April 03, 2009, 05:40:59 PM
The query letter must reflect the tone, language, and voice within the novel ... if I understand your question.

Wolfe
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Swampfox one on April 03, 2009, 06:22:17 PM
Got it. ;D
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: eric on April 03, 2009, 07:46:56 PM
Wolfe -- I am sorry if this is yet another idiotic question, but why does this query need to be longer than two sentences?  Any more would seem to be redundant at this point.  Not that Mull shouldn't try it -- I just wonder what's left to be accomplished.  So far, the third sentence has just detracted from the other two ... and really, there is no point in simply summarizing the plot.  Isn't the object a query with a few sharp images to give an inference of what the book's about, a teaser, nothing more?
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Swampfox one on April 03, 2009, 08:36:37 PM
here it is.

Dear Agent,
The corpse, sprawled on the ninth green, drew more stares than it did as Miss Georgia.  Yet, Sheriff Lightfoot discovered more to the murder than a dead diva.  He uncovers infidelity and blackmail before cornering the killer.

Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Wolfe on April 03, 2009, 09:05:42 PM
The corpse, sprawled on the ninth green, drew more stares than it did as Miss Georgia.  Yet, Sheriff Lightfoot discovered more to the murder than a dead diva.  He uncovers infidelity and blackmail before cornering the killer.

The goal. Tell us the goal in the novel. :) I'll hint ... To uncover a killer...

Your third sentence must deliver a twist—something that shows your skill and raises the bar. Show the agent why your query and novel stands out. Otherwise, it will fall flat.

Each sentence must raise tension higher and higher.  The last sentence must deliver.

This is from Thomas Harris' The Silence of the Lambs.


A young FBI agent. An evil genius locked away for unspeakable crimes. A plunge into the darkest chambers of a psychopath's mind—in the deadly search for a serial killer...


Note how each sentence grows in length and tension until the last sentences addresses the goal. It's the Golden Triangle. Triple repetition. The Trinity.

Show us. Make us want to read your novel. :)

Edit: Note the brilliant, and intended, alliteration and assonance. The adjectives and adverbs reflect each other.  It looks simple, but those are well-crafted sentences.

Wolfe
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Swampfox one on April 03, 2009, 11:19:31 PM
Illicit passion, forbidden unions, greed and obsession lead the way to the killer.
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Wolfe on April 04, 2009, 05:41:04 AM
Sorry, but I'm not feeling this sentence.  :-[

Remember the positions for your power words and offer a twist in the third sentence. The twist will make your query stand-out from the rest.

Give the agent something a little unexpected.

Wolfe
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Swampfox one on April 04, 2009, 03:45:30 PM
And away we go with Practical English Handbook in hand. 8)

The corpse, sprawled on the ninth green, drew more stares than it did as Miss Georgia.  Yet, Sheriff Lightfoot discovered more to the murder than a dead diva.  Lightfoot wades into the secrets of Marsh Island knowing one holds the key to the killer.

Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Wolfe on April 04, 2009, 04:01:46 PM
Interesting.  :)

Lightfoot wades into the secrets of Marsh Island knowing one holds the key to the killer.

Consider removing the clausal-phrase (-ing) and replacing it with a more powerful verb or infinitive such as uncover or to uncover. It will show continued alliteration with key and killer.

Also, consider replacing Lightfoot with the pronoun (he). Finally, consider the possessive form ('s) for Marsh Island to replace that wordy 'of'. Reorganize the sentence's pattern if you need.

Can we see that?

Wolfe
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Swampfox one on April 04, 2009, 05:07:55 PM

He wades into Marsh Island’s secrets to unlock the one with the key to the killer.


Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Wolfe on April 05, 2009, 04:32:03 PM
He (must?) wades (waded if you want to use past tense - if not, change all verbs to present tense) into Marsh Island's secrets to unlock (I'm iffy on this infinitive. Unlock the one with a key? Unlock a key? Seems strange) the one with the key to the killer.

Almost...

Wolfe
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Swampfox one on April 05, 2009, 07:49:25 PM
     
What about this?     


He must penetrate Marsh Island’s secrets; one will expose the killer.
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Wolfe on April 05, 2009, 08:23:13 PM
Doesn't work for me.

Wolfe
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Swampfox one on April 05, 2009, 08:40:26 PM
how's this? ;D

He must wade into Marsh Island’s secrets to reveal the key to the killer.

Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Wolfe on April 05, 2009, 09:01:42 PM
It lacks something... (  :D ... typo)

Wolfe
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Swampfox one on April 05, 2009, 09:53:24 PM
What What! :o :o
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Wolfe on April 05, 2009, 10:10:48 PM
Sorry, typo on my part before editing.

Wolfe
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Wolfe on April 05, 2009, 11:29:59 PM
May I make an observation?  You need to consider every word you offer in your sentence.  Consider the power.  Below, I'll show how I work each phase in a sentence choice.  I do my line editing for each novel this way.

1. He must wade into Marsh Island’s secrets to reveal the key to the killer.

2. He must wade into Marsh Island’s secrets to uncover the key to the killer. (Maybe)

3. To uncover Marsh Island's secrets, he must wade ... no...

4. A killer holds the key to Marsh Island's secret ... hmmm.

5. Secrets hold the key to Marsh Island ... secrets a psychopath will kill to keep. (Maybe)

Analysis: Secrets (repetition to style) hold the key (alliteration) to Marsh Island ... secrets (repetition style) a psychopath (alliteration with secrets) will kill (alliteration with key) to keep (alliteration to key).

6. Secrets control (alliteration update) the key to Marsh Island ... secrets a psychopath will kill to keep. (Better)

7. Secrets control the key to Marsh Island ... secrets a sociopath (better alliteration) will (past tense better?) kill to keep. (improved)

8. Secrets control the key to Marsh Island (needed?) ... secrets a sociopath killed (past tense) to keep. (Maybe)

9. Secrets control the key to Marsh Island ... secrets a sociopath will kill and continue to (overdone) kill to keep. (Revert to prior)

10. Secrets control the key to (Marsh Island - something more specific or stronger?) ... secrets a sociopath will continue to (too much repetition with 'to" - maybe a gerund? killing?) kill to keep. (hmm)

11. Secrets control the key a sociopath will kill to keep. (Hmmm - Rhymth sounds off. Can I work the title here?) (Power word check)

12. A sociopath (sociopaths?) controls (control?) the secrets to Marsh Island (still needed?), ...


See what I'm doing?  I'll stop here before I finish.  You must find the best sentence for your query with your style, skill, and story.  Question every word, its position, and the impact.  Consider each choice before posting. :)

Just my humble opinion.

Wolfe
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Swampfox one on April 06, 2009, 09:21:54 AM
That's good information and I see what you are saying, but I need to educate myself on that techique to use it effectively.  Can you recommend a book that would be helpful for me to read?
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Wolfe on April 06, 2009, 06:28:09 PM
I hesitate to answer this question. But, I cannot recommend a book because I learned this technique from educators, editors, and experience.

Especially experience. It will show the way.

Your word choices and their positions in your writing will forge your style, technique, and voice. No book can teach this.

Follow the example after you write and edit, but choose the words that you feel. Once you do this, your writing will gain that mystical creature editors call voice.

It's something you must teach yourself.

Wolfe
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Swampfox one on April 06, 2009, 09:22:04 PM
I realize what one learns on his own is well learned and retained.  However the written word sometimes can be a big help and cuts the learning curve down.  What you are talking about is point B where I wish to get.  But I am not sure just how far I’ve come from point A. It is a big journey, you have been a big help, and I am grateful.  But tonight I plan to watch NC whup up on Mich. St. for the National Title.  ;D

Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Wolfe on April 06, 2009, 10:58:36 PM
Consider these books then: Bruce Ross-Larson's Stunning Sentences, K.D. Sullivan's The Art of Styling Sentences, and Claire K. Cook's Line by Line.

I recommend checking your local library first before purchasing.

Wolfe
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: LinRobinson on April 08, 2009, 02:16:59 PM
Quote
May I make an observation?  You need to consider every word you offer in your sentence.

Sorry, but this is EXACTLY the kind of advice you get on the internet that no professional would ever suggest.

Think about it... you've got 100.000 in your novel and you're going to be doing heavy consideration of ALL of them?
This is like telling an athlete that he needs to carefully consider the placement of each foot during a game.

In real life, writing flows...it's not lego.   

What you're concerned with is mainly how the thing reads, not violating the narrative voice of the story,  catching obvious gross grammatical errors.

The main value of "crit"  or "feedback" is getting a fresh view of how it reads.
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Th
Post by: reddsh on April 08, 2009, 02:36:05 PM
LinRobinson,

It's my understanding that Wolfe was talking about the query letter, not the novel.  In that case, yes, you do need to consider every word.  Query letters are only one page.  That gives the agent very little to work with, and if the author can't engage them in so few words, chances are their 100,000-word manuscript won't do it, either.

JHMull,

Though I haven't commented on this thread before, I have been watching your progress in hope of learning techniques to use for my own.  I'm still a little stuck on my last line.  Hope you're having an easier time.
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Swampfox one on April 08, 2009, 02:40:05 PM
How about this for my third sentence.

Marsh Island secrets hold the key to justice served.

Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Th
Post by: Swampfox one on April 08, 2009, 02:55:09 PM
LinRobinson,

It's my understanding that Wolfe was talking about the query letter, not the novel.  In that case, yes, you do need to consider every word.  Query letters are only one page.  That gives the agent very little to work with, and if the author can't engage them in so few words, chances are their 100,000-word manuscript won't do it, either.

JHMull,

Though I haven't commented on this thread before, I have been watching your progress in hope of learning techniques to use for my own.  I'm still a little stuck on my last line.  Hope you're having an easier time.


Not really, while I have been doing this I have written almost 30,000 words of Cajun Lust. I can tell you I have bought more books on Writing query letters and I find none of them worth the paper they are written on. But that is just my thoughts.  I have found what Wolfe and others have shared worth far more.
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Swampfox one on April 08, 2009, 02:57:57 PM
Sorry, but this is EXACTLY the kind of advice you get on the internet that no professional would ever suggest.

Think about it... you've got 100.000 in your novel and you're going to be doing heavy consideration of ALL of them?
This is like telling an athlete that he needs to carefully consider the placement of each foot during a game.

In real life, writing flows...it's not lego.   

What you're concerned with is mainly how the thing reads, not violating the narrative voice of the story,  catching obvious gross grammatical errors.

The main value of "crit"  or "feedback" is getting a fresh view of how it reads.


thanks Lin, what is your thoughts on what I have written or tried to write so far?
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Wolfe on April 08, 2009, 07:57:22 PM
Sorry, but this is EXACTLY the kind of advice you get on the internet that no professional would ever suggest.

Think about it... you've got 100.000 in your novel and you're going to be doing heavy consideration of ALL of them?
This is like telling an athlete that he needs to carefully consider the placement of each foot during a game.

In real life, writing flows...it's not lego.   

What you're concerned with is mainly how the thing reads, not violating the narrative voice of the story,  catching obvious gross grammatical errors.

The main value of "crit"  or "feedback" is getting a fresh view of how it reads.

I see you still want to expose me as a hack with your one-upmanship. :) Let me first say this: Better critics than you tried this and worse. They failed. So, please save yourself the continued embarrassment.

Yes, I do mean every single word for every single sentence.  Novel, query letter, whatever. No professional would say this?

Gary Provost of 100 Ways to Improve Your Writing wrote a book on it.  It's titled Make Every Word Count: A Guide to Writing That Works—For Fiction and Nonfiction http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0898790409/the6ferrwritgrou

Legend William Zinsser wrote in his On Writing Well, "Notice the decisions that other writers make in their choice of words and be finicky about the ones you select from the vast supply. The race in writing is not to the swift but to the original." (page 34)

How about Stephen King?  In On Writing, King states, "Use active verbs and choose the right words ... cut and cull to create clean text." (pages 111 - 137 throughout)

Oh you said Internet!  Sorry.

Nicholas Spark says this about cutting, editing, and word choice about The Notebook, "I'll give you one example of the cutting, since many people ask about that. Toward the beginning of the novel, Noah mentions a book of poetry he'd carried with him in the war. In the first draft, I'd described an exciting "war" scene, complete with Noah getting caught behind enemy lines, disobeying orders, and heading back to find the book, only to get caught in a fire-fight, etc. It ran four pages, but after reading through the draft, I knew the scene was too long, since it was tangential to the primary story. I first cut the scene to three pages, then two, and finally got it down to a page. Yet, after additional readings, I still thought it was too long. It went from four paragraphs to three, then to two, and I finally got the scene down to a single paragraph. Pretty good cutting, right? After re-reading again, I still thought it was too long. It went from four sentences to three, three to two, then two to one.

The final sentence read, "It (meaning 'the book of poetry') had once taken a bullet for him."

http://www.nicholassparks.com/Novels/TheNotebook/Notes.html

How about Writer's Digest? Are they professional?  I mean, they only published a couple hundred books and articles right? Consider this article entitled "4 Tips for Choosing the Right Word" http://www.writersdigest.com/article/?p_ArticleId=5208

Legend Amy Tan, author of The Joy Luck Club is quoted to say, "We are the kind of people who obsess over one word ... "

http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/amytan269348.html

Yes word choices, exact word choices, make a difference. Yes, choose each word with care. Yes, choose the best words for your prose.

In publishing, we call this craft 'line-by-line' editing.  You check for all missteps to include watered and weak word choices. You might write a book built from legos, but I will write a book built from the best a writer can be.

I advise my peers to do the same.

Wolfe
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Polycom on April 08, 2009, 08:10:34 PM
Eww.

Perhaps you should go back to scriptwriting Lynn. . Thats just my two cents.
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Wolfe on April 08, 2009, 08:28:04 PM
Marsh Island secrets hold the key to justice served.

Ironically, I considered something similar.  ;D  Yet, I found the last two words awkward.  Also, did you mean Marsh Island's secrets? It shows possibilities.  Maybe a little touch-up?

Wolfe
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Swampfox one on April 09, 2009, 05:00:33 PM

How about this.


Marsh Island's secrets hold the key to justice.
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Wolfe on April 09, 2009, 05:36:20 PM
Marsh Island's secrets hold the key to justice. (hold the key is cliché - I know, I failed to catch this one too ;) ) This also sounds flat and lacks the energy needed for the story's pitch to the agent.

Let's back up a bit.

What's the theme or universal message in your book?

Wolfe
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Swampfox one on April 09, 2009, 08:13:32 PM
Theme ?
It’s about a new sheriff and a couple whose loses their money and turns to crime for more.  Of course there are subplots.
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Wolfe on April 10, 2009, 07:33:56 PM
Sorry for the delay ... deadlines.  :P

Your theme sounds like the quote from Rex versus Sussex Justices, Ex parte McCarthy, "...not only must Justice be done; it must also be seen to be done." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R._v._Sussex_Justices,_Ex_parte_McCarthy

The public wants to see murderers brought to justice especially when they shame the victim.

Why?

It could be them. We call this effect in writing sympathy and identification. You want the last line to tease the agent and draw sympathy. Right now, your victim and sheriff appear as nameless Jane and John Does.  Force your audience to care. A sympathetic audience will always buy your work.

Can change your last line to do this? :)

Wolfe
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Swampfox one on April 10, 2009, 08:58:16 PM
I see what you mean - I need to give some more thought to the best way to present that tightly enough for a query letter.  The real deal is the sheriff is a good guy with little artifice and a laser focus on justice. The dead woman and most of her associates are defined by their wealth and status so when that is gone, they are driven to desperation to continue their normal mode of survival. ::)
 
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Wolfe on April 10, 2009, 10:02:56 PM
I'll be around.  ;)

Wolfe
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Xerika on April 13, 2009, 08:37:06 PM
What's the theme or universal message in your book?

Sorry for butting in here, but I feel compelled to ask: 'Is it strictly necessary to have either a theme or universal message these days?'

When I was a playwright, I peddled themes and messages galore. Nothing seemed to change, so I became despondent and decided to go for 'mildly entertaining but shallow' instead.

In fact, I wouldn't be at all surprised if some readers might well pluck a book off the shelves with a sigh of relief if the blurb on the back loudly announced something like:


The shallowest book you'll read all year!

Jason Myres knows that the CIA are plotting to implode the ozone layer, and he is the only one who can save the world.

Don't be mistaken though. This is not just another book about global warming and conspiracies.

It's a book about a guy like you or I who'd rather party than save the world.

And that's exactly what Jason does with some riproaringly hilarious results.

Let's paaaarty!!!!


P.S. Sorry if I sounded a bit cynical there.
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: eric on April 13, 2009, 08:43:15 PM
X:

Well, I REALLY like that concept for our next Hollywood mealticket, bucko!  Have your person call my person and we'll do lunch.  And who said we've run out of ideas in the old writing world?

(I do think the idea's pretty funny.)

Wolfe, sorry for the hijack.  May I redeem it by saying I think W. is exploring for query language, not being just literal, X.?
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Wolfe on April 13, 2009, 09:19:02 PM
A novel can go without a universal message.  Now, please review all blockbusters on the market. You will find one in them all. So ... if you want to cement your name as a household one, write your novel deeper than your average competition.

The bigger and more universal the message, the more it sells ... even if the writing lacks skill or talent.

And I know we all can pick those blockbusters out, can't we?  Combine this with writing skill and talent, and your name will shine throughout history.

Set the bar high. Set your standards higher. Set your goal highest. Do this, and I promise you will set your place in history. Agents, editors, and publishers seek authors like this.

Ask Sara Gruen ... she sought query and writing advice on another website too. :)

Wolfe
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: eric on April 13, 2009, 09:30:05 PM
I don't know Sarah Gruen, but I think that is valuable and useful advice, Wolfe.  I remember reading an interview with Salman Rushdie where he said he decided at one point to write a book about the entire history of the length and breadth of the Indian subcontinent.  A laughably impossible task that no publisher in their right mind would countenance.  He insisted.  And the book became Midnight's Children.
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Swampfox one on April 14, 2009, 10:29:13 AM
Maybe something like this

Sheriff Lightfoot, repulsed and dismayed by the evidence, digs into Marsh Island’s secrets to solve the crime.

Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: BrigidMary on April 14, 2009, 11:21:53 AM
Literary Agent Janet Reid just posted a link this morning that you might find helpful. It's an exercise about creating compelling log lines, and it seems to be a very valid (and worthwhile) exercise. Check it out. I plan to use it myself:

http://edittorrent.blogspot.com/2009/04/how-to-put-it-together-into-one-neat.html (http://edittorrent.blogspot.com/2009/04/how-to-put-it-together-into-one-neat.html)
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Annmarie on April 14, 2009, 11:28:26 AM
Set the bar high. Set your standards higher. Set your goal highest. Do this, and I promise you will set your place in history. Agents, editors, and publishers seek authors like this.

I'm trying, brother.  :)
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Xerika on April 14, 2009, 12:57:28 PM
Well, I REALLY like that concept for our next Hollywood mealticket, bucko!  Have your person call my person and we'll do lunch.  And who said we've run out of ideas in the old writing world?

eric, I look forward to the collaboration. I understand my person called your person and reversed the charges ('called collect', I believe you colonial types call it), but they couldn't agree on who would buy the lunch. :)

Wolfe. Thank you for your response to my my post about messages and themes. I'll do my best to make my writing less shallow in future. Honest.  :)

JH. Apologies for subverting your thread for a few minutes.  :)
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: eric on April 14, 2009, 01:09:17 PM
Well, my person got that call from your person but she thought it was an obscene phone call.  Apparently the heavy breathing pushed her over the edge.  Anyway, as soon as we can figure out how to use Other People's Money for lunch we're set to go, and I look forward to it too.  Hi to your dogs and your darling, and JH, apologies for the hijack, it's over now.
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Wolfe on April 14, 2009, 08:07:16 PM
Sheriff Lightfoot, repulsed and dismayed (telling) by the evidence (passive phrase), digs into (weak verb and preposition combination) Marsh Island’s secrets to solve the crime.

Remember, you want to write a line the agent, editor, and publishing house will use again and again with promotion. After you write your last line, you need to feel amazed and confident about it. If you doubt it, redo it.

I'll help. Donald, please forgive me if you read this...  ;)

Use one of these words in your last line: love, heart, dream, journey, fortune, or destiny.

You can choose a synonym, but place the word near the sentence's start or end.

Wolfe
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Swampfox one on April 14, 2009, 08:57:53 PM
The corpse, sprawled on the ninth green, draws more stares than it did as Miss Georgia.  Yet, Sheriff Lightfoot discovers more to the murder than a dead diva.

  He came to admire this woman and it was his destiny to deliver justice.
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: eric on April 14, 2009, 09:06:04 PM
There's an unfortunate tense change in the third sentence, an even more unfortunate non-parallel syntax construction in the two parts of the compound sentence, and a wholly unfortunate passive verb as well.  The "came to" phrasing is also passive as well as clunky.  The admiration is telling and it is a plot detail, it does not seem to belong here IMHO.  Sorry, JH.

What you have now contains two abstract nouns as well as an abstract verb (even), all of which is just too much.  You can use the rare abstraction when it serves your purpose ... but I personally would shy away from a crowd of them. 

And last, I wonder if there might also be a way to get your special word closer to the end of the sentence, less telly, and perhaps more snappy.  Just my thoughts.

Briefly, I guess if I were drawing lines I would line out the whole sentence.  Maybe Wolfe can salvage something.
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Wolfe on April 15, 2009, 06:14:54 AM
May we see all three sentences together?

Wolfe
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Swampfox one on April 15, 2009, 09:35:25 AM
The corpse, sprawled on the ninth green, draws more stares than it did as Miss Georgia.  Yet, Sheriff Lightfoot discovers more to the murder than a dead diva.  He came to admire this woman and it was his destiny to deliver justice.

Or

The corpse, sprawled on the ninth green, draws more stares than it did as Miss Georgia.  Yet, Sheriff Lightfoot discovers more to the murder than a dead diva.  He would have liked her in life; he would serve her justice in death.
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Wolfe on April 15, 2009, 10:43:19 AM
I like the second one more, but it needs clean-up.  First, correct the tenses.  Make them all present or past tense. For example, you need to change draws to drew if you use sprawled in the first line.

Wolfe
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: LinRobinson on April 15, 2009, 03:29:18 PM
Hey, I'd read it.

Quote
The shallowest book you'll read all year!

Jason Myres knows that the CIA are plotting to implode the ozone layer, and he is the only one who can save the world.

Don't be mistaken though. This is not just another book about global warming and conspiracies.

It's a book about a guy like you or I who'd rather party than save the world.

And that's exactly what Jason does with some riproaringly hilarious results.

Let's paaaarty!!!!
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Wolfe on April 15, 2009, 07:11:46 PM
Hello?  Tap, tap, tap. This thing on? Let's see the update!

Wolfe
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Swampfox one on April 15, 2009, 07:36:00 PM

The corpse, sprawled on the ninth green, drew more stares than it did as Miss Georgia.  Yet, Sheriff Lightfoot discovers more to the murder than a dead diva.  He would have liked her in life; he will serve up justice for her in death.
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Wolfe on April 15, 2009, 07:48:31 PM
Watch the tenses.  ;) You can switch tenses, but they must flow in language and sound. If in doubt, read them aloud to hear the paragraph's music. If it jars, edit. I will warn you, like a synopsis, most query letters use present tense.

The corpse, sprawled on the ninth green, (consider moving this to the second sentence to avoid splitting the subject and verb) drew more stares than it did as Miss Georgia.  Yet, Sheriff Lightfoot discovers (discovered) more to the murder than a dead diva (sprawled on the ninth green) (consider adding a specific name to ninth green: e.g., Meadowland's).  He would have liked her (consider: failed) her in life; (avoid semicolons - consider a conjunction with a comma) (, but) he will (past tense) (would) serve up (avoid verb and preposition combinations) justice (maybe: destiny? like the title reference though...) for her (understood, but leave this out to create mystery) in death.

Consider the suggestions and re-edit, but a quick question. Does your novel use present tense? If so, re-edit the entire letter to reflect the present tense.

Wolfe
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: eric on April 15, 2009, 08:05:07 PM
This is not my ball game, but as a matter of interest I notice that you had five different tenses in the prior post, JH, when W. asked you to make the tenses uniform ... requiring almost a re-write of your query for you in the response.  Remember that the query has to reflect the tone and style of the manuscript ... if it reflects your editor's tone instead, the editor who reads it will know that.

As a side note, I am uncomfortable with "would" in the last line ... it's future or conditional, and does not sound right.  Or maybe the problem is elsewhere.  Forgive me, but the final prepositional phrase--as you have currently positioned it in the sentence, JH--appears to imply that the now-dead sheriff will serve (up) justice to ... someone, or slave for the abstract notion of justice as one of the living dead.  The first and third inferences are outlandish.  The second inference is almost as if justice were a platter of cold-cuts or a bowl of chips.  Maybe these three things do not bother other people as much as they bother me.  But they are real connotations, especially in the current revision (as follows).  If you keep that version, I would substitute "now" for "in death."  But that's just me.

I agree this is the best we've seen so far, though.  My images are getting wild, so I will have nothing else to say on this thread if I can help it.

Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Swampfox one on April 15, 2009, 08:56:18 PM
The corpse drew more stares than it did as Miss Georgia.  Yet, Sheriff Lightfoot discovered more to the murder than a dead diva sprawled on Marsh Island’s ninth green.  He failed her in life, but he would serve justice in death.
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Wolfe on April 15, 2009, 09:00:16 PM
I like it.  ;D  Let's leave the synopsis portion for now, and let it cool.  Can you show us your second paragraph?

Wolfe
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Wolfe on April 16, 2009, 11:22:55 AM
I will once again remind my fellow posters to avoid scathing judgments about anyone's ability, talent, or writing. Before you hit enter, I ask all posters to review their responses and question if their 'opinion' is simply an opportunity to display their cruelty. If in doubt, reconsider your post and ask if aids the original poster's work or destroys their confidence. If the latter, I recommend you remove it.

These boards are not the place to show your proverbial rears. And believe me when I tell you, the opinions you display might turn into a reflection on you.

Wolfe
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: pb on April 16, 2009, 11:48:32 AM
i reckon that lin robinson's effort completely lacks the wit of JH Mull's.

also one question - about the 'yet'. what connection does it have with the first sentence? it has confused me considerably that wolfe hasn't mentioned it and therefore i assume it does have a connection.

to me it sounds like the corpse drew more stares BUT DESPITE THIS the sheriff discovers more...

which doesn't make sense or at least is superflous.

have I gone bonkers?
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Alice, a Country Gal on April 16, 2009, 12:04:47 PM
pb,

Wolfe and JH have been working on the first paragraph of JH's query recently. Keep an eye on things and when they move on the the rest of the query I'm sure you'll see the connection.

Wolfe has been leading JH, step by step, into creating his own query in his own words and style.  This is not only helpful for this novel, but he will be able to use what he has learned in the future.

I for one have been following the thread and also learning as they progress.



Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: pb on April 16, 2009, 12:10:10 PM
thanks country4gal for the reply.

maybe i shouldn't have jumped in like that...i just thought the 'yet' in the opening part of the query bothered me but i wasn't sure how.

like you say...i'll watch and learn. it's very interesting isn't it.
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: ma100 on April 16, 2009, 12:41:47 PM
I am reminding all posters on this thread that JH is trying to learn here, as is a lot of us following the thread. On his behalf I have edited your comments Lin and apparently another one has already been removed by someone else.

A lot of time and effort has been put in by JH to learn how to get his query correct. He has been helped along all the way by Wolfe. I am proud of his attempts and I won't stand by and watch thoughtless people try and wreck his or would be posters confidence.

If you have something helpful or constructive to say you are more than welcome on this thread. If it is personal and destructive stay away. All posts not directly involved with the threads topic will be removed from now on.

Go for it JH we are rooting for you. Some of us are sweating when it comes to our turn. :)

Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Swampfox one on April 16, 2009, 01:53:48 PM
thanks country4gal for the reply.

maybe i shouldn't have jumped in like that...i just thought the 'yet' in the opening part of the query bothered me but i wasn't sure how.

like you say...i'll watch and learn. it's very interesting isn't it.
PD, don’t feel like you should not join in.  To me this is a classroom unlike any other.  Open to all wishing to learn.  I look at writing like golf.  There are the basics and you cannot get anywhere without them.  On a 375 yard hole you tee off with a driver not a 9 iron.  Yet how you swing that driver is a personal thing.  No two people swing it the same.  I am still learning the craft of writing the basics if you will.  So please jump in and join me.
JH
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Swampfox one on April 16, 2009, 02:16:11 PM
Now where were we?  I have had a number of distractions this week. One being the passing of a close friend. Her funeral was Wednesday.  She was 87 I thought for a long time she was only 82 and she let me.  Talk about a book idea she and her husband were high school sweethearts, married in 1941.  Jim went off to war and became an ace in the army air corp.  He was Gen. Chuck Yeager’s wingman and after the war was a test pilot.  Great golfer. Any way I’m back and here is my query letter.  So what are your thoughts?

 Dear Agent,

The corpse drew more stares than it did as Miss Georgia.  Yet, Sheriff Lightfoot discovered more to the murder than a dead diva sprawled on Marsh Island’s ninth green.  He failed her in life, but he would serve justice in death.

JUSTICE SERVED is a 95,000-word mystery.  Similar to Robert B. Parker’s Sea Change, it races through a five-week period on St. Simons Island.

I’m a member of the Georgia Association of Writers, as well as a participant in the Scribblers’ Retreat Writer’s Conference. 

Thank you for your time.


 
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: pb on April 16, 2009, 02:22:09 PM
cheers JH Mull and well dammit i will then...if i ever think of something to say.

in the meantime pass me the putter and i'll see if i can navigate round this corpse.
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Swampfox one on April 16, 2009, 02:39:06 PM
cheers JH Mull and well dammit i will then...if i ever think of something to say.

in the meantime pass me the putter and i'll see if i can navigate round this corpse.

Alas that was her problem to many putters! ;D
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Wolfe on April 16, 2009, 09:03:59 PM
JUSTICE SERVED is a 95,000-word mystery.  Similar to Robert B. Parker’s Sea Change, it races through a five-week period on St. Simons Island.

I’m a member of the Georgia Association of Writers, as well as a participant in the Scribblers’ Retreat Writer’s Conference. 

Thank you for your time.



First, remove all the linking and passive verbs. Change the language into active or action terms. You'll want to do this because your previous, query remarks show zero passive and linking terms as well. You want to keep this pattern.

Wolfe
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Swampfox one on April 16, 2009, 09:51:48 PM
Is this what you are talking about?  You know you are making me relearn english.  ???

JUSTICE SERVED, a 95,000-word mystery, races through a five-week period on St. Simons Island.  It is similar to Robert B. Parker’s Sea Change.
A member of the Georgia Association of Writers, I participant in the Scribblers’ Retreat Writer’s Conference. 

Thank you for your time.
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Wolfe on April 16, 2009, 11:01:50 PM
It is similar (still passive) to Robert B. Parker’s Sea Change.

Wolfe
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Annmarie on April 17, 2009, 03:07:01 AM
This thread is a big help. My query is also in the works...

But isn't JH's query a bit thin? The examples in my books, Camenson & Cook for instance, have longer summary sections. The average is 2 paragraphs, maybe 3. It's still a 1-page query, still short. But there's more revealed than what I've seen in JH's examples.

Is this an American style versus British style thing?

Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Wolfe on April 17, 2009, 03:17:31 AM
Correct. It's thin ... for now.  We'll get to that.  ;D

Wolfe
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Swampfox one on April 17, 2009, 11:06:20 AM
Just bloody amazing
Lin, I don't understand your comment. Do you mean you see something wrong?  If so please let me know.
Thanks
JH
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Swampfox one on April 17, 2009, 11:18:51 AM
This thread is a big help. My query is also in the works...

But isn't JH's query a bit thin? The examples in my books, Camenson & Cook for instance, have longer summary sections. The average is 2 paragraphs, maybe 3. It's still a 1-page query, still short. But there's more revealed than what I've seen in JH's examples.

Is this an American style versus British style thing?
Annemarie, 
I think I have a good format for a query letter. My problem is writing it. Here is what I think a query letter should be.  Anyone feel free to add.

A query letter is divided into three paragraphs:  Hook, conflict & resolution paragraph (first), plot and book information paragraph (second) and biography paragraph (last).  The last line at the bottom is: the thank you.

This is what I got from Wolfe; the last time he helped me with a query letter.  Look at my first post and you will see how I first used this format.

I have noticed things seem to be different in the mother country.


Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: pb on April 17, 2009, 05:29:31 PM
i think deleting lin's last post was just fascist, actually.

lin was like a boxer who got punched back by the fly-ball, that's all.

dont get me wrong...if wolfe asked me too i'd kill him, but still, you can't just rip his throat out like that

Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Alice, a Country Gal on April 17, 2009, 05:41:34 PM
I replied to pb by PM. Below is what I told him.

If it makes any difference to you, the post was deleted only after he had resigned from the board.

We didn't feel there was any point in leaving it there after he was gone since it distracted from the subject of the thread rather than helped in any way.
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Swampfox one on April 17, 2009, 06:34:21 PM

Try this?

The story moves at a fast pace, similar to Robert B. Parker’s Sea Change.


Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Wolfe on April 17, 2009, 09:16:23 PM
The story moves at a fast pace, similar to Robert B. Parker’s Sea Change.

I liked the 'raced' verb in your previous example. It says in one word what the prepositional phrase 'at a face pace' does in four. Can we see the entire revision for paragraph two please?

Wolfe
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Annmarie on April 18, 2009, 04:34:56 AM
Annemarie, 
I think I have a good format for a query letter. My problem is writing it. Here is what I think a query letter should be.  Anyone feel free to add.

JH, I know you know the format.  :) I just meant that I'd only seen the hook and one sentence about the book and qualifications each, which is less than all my query examples have. But I understand now that you'll flesh everything out. Keep up the good work. This is an enlightening thread, and fiction queries really are death. Nonfiction ones are so much easier...

Annmarie  :)
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Swampfox one on April 20, 2009, 05:45:17 PM
JUSTICE SERVED, a 95,000-word mystery, races through a five-week period on St. Simons Island.  Like Sea Change by Robert B. Parker.
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Wolfe on April 22, 2009, 07:19:25 AM
Sorry for the delay. I'll try to reply when I can, but real life launched in a new direction.

JUSTICE SERVED, a 95,000-word mystery, races through a five-week period on St. Simons Island.  (good) Like Sea Change by Robert B. Parker. This is a fragment with a passive clause: by Robert B. Parker

Show us the entire query with updates please.

Wolfe
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Swampfox one on April 22, 2009, 08:16:15 PM
With all that has happened, I believe this is the last version. :( :-\

Dear Agent,

The corpse drew more stares than it did as Miss Georgia.  Yet, Sheriff Lightfoot discovered more to the murder than a dead diva sprawled on Marsh Island’s ninth green.  He failed her in life, but he would serve justice in death.

JUSTICE SERVED is a 95,000-word mystery.  It races through a five-week period on St. Simons Island like Robert B. Parker’s Sea Change.

I’m a member of the Georgia Association of Writers, as well as a participant in the Scribblers’ Retreat Writer’s Conference. 

Thank you for your time.

Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Wolfe on April 23, 2009, 12:05:04 AM
I think I can look at this with cooler eyes.

Dear Agent, (good)

The corpse drew more stares than it did as Miss Georgia.

Observation: With hooks, ask if you can see it used for a movie poster or first line on the novel's back. The opening line shows power, but lacks the extra power you want for a hook. Consider combining the first and second sentence. Rewrite a new hook. Make the hook five to ten words.

Yet, (combined the sentences) Sheriff Lightfoot discovered (heavy word - links with alliteration though) more to the murder (given and wordy?) than a dead diva (good alliteration) sprawled on Marsh Island’s (contradiction with second paragraph) ninth green.  He failed her in life, but he would serve justice in death (potential confusion in clarity).

JUSTICE SERVED is (linking verb) a 95,000-word mystery.  It races (good verb) through a five-week period (good timetable) on St. Simons Island (good specifics) (Which island is it? This or Marsh Island?) like Robert B. Parker’s Sea Change (remember your italics) (dangling modifier - you said Sea Change raced through St. Simons Island).

I’m (hidden passive) a member of (wordy) the Georgia Association of Writers, as well as (and) a participant (shady word choice) in the Scribblers’ Retreat Writer’s Conference (Conference? If a one-time meeting, remove)

Thank you for your time. (good)

Observation: Needs more in the second and third paragraph.

Wolfe
Title: Re: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Post by: Swampfox one on May 10, 2009, 05:39:00 PM
Dear Agent.

The dead diva on Marsh Island’s ninth green drew more stares than she did as Miss Georgia.
The sheriff discovers each clue leads to a new level of secrecy – incest, adultery, abuse, extortion, blackmail and drug trafficking.  To find the killer, he must solve the related mysteries.

JUSTICE SERVED a 95,000-word mystery races through a five-week period on Marsh Island.  It is similar to Robert B. Parker’s Sea Change. 
I am a member of the Georgia Association of Writers.  After service to my country and Merrill Lynch, I retired and live on an island on the coast of Georgia.

Thank you for your time