Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Query Number One

Well, here we go. First I want to say, thank you to Rick Daley and his amazing blog, The Public Query Slushpile. It's where I do all my query try-outs. There is just such amazing feedback there and everyone is so polite and learned. It's a great place so if you're getting ready to write the dreaded query, please go there and try it out. You won't be sorry.

Now, onto my first attempt. As you will see, this query really says nothing.

Ten years is a long time to live in a self-imposed exile and when Genna’s longing for the familiar turn into nightmares about her future, she realizes it’s time to go home.

Once there, the past comes back to haunt her in the form of her ex-fiancĂ© and his dead wife. Genna’s unresolved feelings for him and what he did a decade ago only twist her heart and lead her down a perilous path. He wants her back and Genna wonders if it’s only for her money.

Coming home has also brought her aunt’s Alzheimer’s to light, something the family refuses to face. Her cousin is falling apart under the strain of a too perfect marriage and her best friend is ignoring her. Genna also finds herself encumbered with an inheritance that threatens to destroy her relationship with her uncle.

What’s a girl to do?

Genna needs to makes some tough decisions regarding her future; does she give up the job of a lifetime and come home to work for peanuts or does she go back and live the same lonely life she’s had for the last decade? And will trying to get over her broken heart lead her to find comfort in the arms of a man she once despised? With the help of the only person who has ever put her first, Genna makes the decisions that will change her life forever.

Ambiguous was the resounding response I'd gotten from the Slushpile on this. I was trying to fit in ALL the components that make up Genna's story without "telling" anything about her. You have to "tell" not "show" in a query.

The first sentence, my hook, I thought was pretty good. The second paragraph, although it tells part of the story, my flair for the dramatic was overdone. "Haunt her" "twist her heart" "perilous path". Yeah, reads more like a romance which is what my last book was. Sometimes it's hard to let go of what you've learned.

Third paragraph is about everyone else, and though this is important, as it does pertain to Genna, it's not tight enough. Too much information.

The question -- "What's a girl to do?" not right. It doesn't make any sense. The agent doesn't want to ask the question, she wants the answer.

And the ending paragraph -- ugh, too many questions. Don't ask questions, give the answers. Tell us what Genna will do. And too many cliches. "work for peanuts" "broken heart" "find comfort in the arms of a man" "change her life forever" This screams ROMANCE NOVEL.
Like I said, sometimes it's hard to change formats in your brain.

I wanted to showcase the women's fiction aspect of this book but it's just way overblown and swinging back toward my romance roots. I needed to scale back, cut out the cliches and questions and just tell the story.

Any questions? I hope you'll come back tomorrow for Query Number Two.


Al said...

Interesting, but as you say it doesn't really 'say' anything.
I'll certainly be back to see how you improved on your query.

Anonymous said...

Fascinating post; very useful for me right now as I'm currently thinking about queries and agents and publishers.

CJ xx

Piedmont Writer said...

Al -- Thanks for taking a gander.

Crystal -- I'm here to help.

Bish Denham said...

Oh, so brave of you to post this. I was...yawning half way through. (The letter! Not your post!)

Christine said...

You have to start somewhere. I'd focus on the premise, the hook, give a bit of GMC (cause she still has to have it), and rework the sentences with the questions. And what is her last name? What does she do?

I am in *play* mode. Might have to redo your query for kicks and giggles as a way of avoiding my ongoing revisions :-)

Liza said...

Thank you for putting this out there. It is a help. I'm no where near querying anything...but finally am at a point where I want to learn more. I appreciate the education.

Matthew Rush said...

Well I can see how this needed work, but it's not that bad. You have a pretty good sense of voice, which is great, but as you point out many of the phrases are a little cliche. The biggest problem I see is that this query is really vague about what actually happens - which you basically already point out when you talk about telling, and not leaving the agent guessing.

Can't wait to see the improvements, thanks for sharing Anne!

Christine said...

Knowing nothing about the story and being in complete creative avoidance mode -- here is another start with questions to answer.

Dear Agent:

Intro book paragraph.

After ten years of self-imposed exile, (what does she do?) Genna (last name) returns to her hometown to (do what?). But her unresolved relationships threaten to OR an inheritance threatens to ??? (what is the real conflict?-- What stops her from accomplishing her goal?)

While home she discovers her aunt has Alzheimer’s, which puts her cousin’s seemingly perfect marriage under stress. Meanwhile, her ex-fiance claims he wants her back, her best friend is ignoring her (why?), and her relationship with her uncle unravels. Now Genna is forced to choose between the supporting her family and coming home to stay, or to walk away and embrace the future she deserves.

End with qualifications paragraph.

Justine Dell said...

This is the first version, right? I can't wait to see the next one!

You hit all the right points while discussing the problems with it. It so nice when there are people to help you and you can see things for yourself.

I'm looking forward to numero dos!


Tara said...

I thought this was a pretty good draft, Anne. Gave you something to really work with. Can't wait to see the follow-ups :)

Piedmont Writer said...

Bish -- Well I'm nothing if not brave. Or at least Monster Baby thinks so when I kill the spiders. Here I'm not so sure. Maybe a little crazy.

Christine -- This is just the first draft. There are 3 more to follow.

Liza -- Well stay tuned, more will be revealed over the course of the week and you can see the improvements. Well, at least I think so.
At least I hope so.

Matt -- Thanks for stopping by. We'll see how you feel when all is said and done.

Justine -- Pay it forward. If I can help just one other person avoid my mistakes, it'll all be worth it.

Tara -- Thanks. Yeah, wait til you see the other drafts. *says sarcastically*

Anonymous said...

Anne, I think you're very brave. Thank you so much for sharing this. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of your process and seeing how you improved on this. :)

Julie Wright said...

Awesome that you're putting all the drafts out there so people can see the morphing a query letter makes. Simply awesome. I'll look forward to what follows.

Piedmont Writer said...

Thank you E. Darling, Thank you Julie. Nice of you to say so.

Theresa Milstein said...

Thanks for sharing. I love seeing the progression because it helps me learn.

I set up a second blog where I post beginnings of manuscripts and queries. When the query isn't getting the response from agents I want, I redo it and put it back up. It's helped a lot.

Piedmont Writer said...

Theresa -- You're welcome and I like that idea.

Ariel Swan said...

I'm so excited to see how this progresses.

MB Dabney said...

Anne, I'm going to fall behind on your blog but will try hard tomorrow to catch up.
In the meantime, thanks for all your help and advice.

VR Barkowski said...

I agree this one is a little vague, but it will be fascinating to watch the metamorphoses. Thanks for sharing - you *are* brave.

Piedmont Writer said...

Ariel -- Well, you'll either think I'm brilliant or full of bullshit.

Michael -- I hope you're feeling better.

VR-- It's a fine line between brave and stupid.

Christine said...

I can't wait to see the polished version--they are such a bugger to write!!

Angie Paxton said...
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