Author Topic: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks  (Read 31145 times)

Offline Swampfox one

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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 secretsóstarting 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. Parkerís 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.

« Last Edit: April 17, 2009, 11:19:38 AM by JHMull »

Offline Alice, a Country Gal

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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
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Offline Swampfox one

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Thanks Alice. ;D

Offline marilyn

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Yes, I like this it does not waffle. You are clear and precise. Great
Marilyn

Wolfe

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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 clichť)óstarting (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. Parkerís 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
« Last Edit: March 17, 2009, 04:48:49 PM by Wolfe »

Offline Swampfox one

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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

Offline Swampfox one

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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 moneyóstarting 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. Parkerís 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.

Wolfe

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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)óstarting (-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. Parkerís 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
« Last Edit: March 18, 2009, 06:59:58 PM by Wolfe »

Offline Swampfox one

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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. Parkerís 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.

Wolfe

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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. Parkerís 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
« Last Edit: March 20, 2009, 12:37:24 AM by Wolfe »

Offline Swampfox one

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No,No I need to review active and passive voice. ;D
Hit me with it all.  ;)

What you did is eye opening., thanks
« Last Edit: March 19, 2009, 06:29:37 PM by JHMull »

Offline eric

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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. 
« Last Edit: March 19, 2009, 06:55:59 PM by eric »

Offline Swampfox one

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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.

Offline eric

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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.

Offline Swampfox one

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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. Parkerís 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.