Author Topic: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks  (Read 31144 times)

Offline eric

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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.
« Last Edit: March 20, 2009, 04:27:56 PM by eric »

Offline Swampfox one

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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

Offline Alice, a Country Gal

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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. Parkerís 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. Parkerís 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.
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Offline eric

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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.
« Last Edit: March 20, 2009, 08:06:43 PM by eric »

Offline Swampfox one

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Thanks Alice. Itís a learning process for us all.  I know Iím like Benny Hill learning all the time.

I use to write query letters that was so long.  Now itís as if the shorter the better.

Offline Swampfox one

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Eric, if you don't mind show me what your thoughts were.

Offline eric

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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. 

« Last Edit: March 20, 2009, 08:39:41 PM by eric »

Offline BrigidMary

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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)
Brigid Kemmerer
Author of <b><i>Storm: The Elemental Series</i></b>, coming April 24, 2012 from K Teen (Kensington Books)

Offline eric

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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.
« Last Edit: March 20, 2009, 09:57:37 PM by eric »

Offline BrigidMary

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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
Brigid Kemmerer
Author of <b><i>Storm: The Elemental Series</i></b>, coming April 24, 2012 from K Teen (Kensington Books)

Offline eric

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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.

Offline Swampfox one

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Maybe we need to start with what a query letter is in todayís 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?







Offline Alice, a Country Gal

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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
MWC Charity Publications.
http://www.lulu.com/spotlight>
The universe is made of stories, not of atoms. -Muriel Rukeyser, poet and activist (15 Dec 1913-1980)

R. L. Copple's: http://www.rlcopple.com/

I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.
-Mohandas K. Gandhi

Offline Swampfox one

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Thanks
YRoT :-*

Offline Swampfox one

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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. 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.