Author Topic: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks  (Read 31116 times)

Wolfe

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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
« Last Edit: March 22, 2009, 06:02:01 PM by Wolfe »

Offline eric

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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.
« Last Edit: March 22, 2009, 04:37:09 PM by eric »

Offline Swampfox one

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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?

Offline eric

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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.
« Last Edit: March 23, 2009, 03:46:28 PM by eric »

Offline Swampfox one

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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. 


Wolfe

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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
« Last Edit: March 23, 2009, 06:05:47 PM by Wolfe »

Offline Swampfox one

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God knows I will try. ;D

Offline Swampfox one

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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.




Offline eric

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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.
« Last Edit: March 23, 2009, 10:45:24 PM by eric »

Offline Swampfox one

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Thanks, Eric.

Offline Swampfox one

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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.


Offline eric

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What did I say about giving away the ending, JH?  You're welcome, by the way.

Offline Swampfox one

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But I didn't say the butler did it.
JH

Offline eric

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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?
« Last Edit: March 24, 2009, 06:35:12 PM by eric »

Wolfe

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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
« Last Edit: March 25, 2009, 01:20:56 AM by Wolfe »