Friday, October 1, 2010

Final Query

My sincerest heartfelt thanks go out to Rick here because he commented on my struggles and I got up the nerve to email him (because we are friends from another dimension) and he just basically wrote my query the way HE thought it should have been written. I took his template and tweaked it and here it is. And sometimes that's just all it takes.

This is my final query and what I will be sending out shortly.

When Genna goes home to Rhode Island to spend a long-awaited vacation, she finds that her family is falling apart and she has only twenty-one days to put them back together.

Her new promotion as Executive Chef at the posh Littlefield Country Club in Delaware is a dream job. It’s more than the pay and benefits, she has the chance to achieve what she’s always wanted – her own kitchen – and Genna can’t wait to get started when she returns after her Fourth of July holiday.

However, her vacation is far from relaxing. Two men are vying for her attention, an ex-fiancĂ© who wants to fix the mistakes of the past, and an old school chum who finds her irresistible…and inspires mutual feelings in Genna. Her aunt is also clearly showing signs of mental illness. The family is in denial; her cousins are unable to cope with their mother’s changing behavior and her beloved uncle, dealing with all the stress, has a heart attack.

Genna steps in to keep his diner open and the family together while he recuperates and she questions what’s more important – breaking the glass ceiling or her family. The clock runs out and Genna finds she is needed at her new job, she is needed by her family, and she is needed by lovers old and new. Now Genna must search her soul to find out what she needs.

My Hook -- We know who (Genna), where (Rhode Island), what is happening (vacation and her family falling apart) and what she faces (twenty-one days to put them back together). I liked that "21 days" line from the last query and so stuck it in here. Truthfully I still liked my "hell in a handbasket" line better but I couldn't justify it.

First Paragraph -- This is the set-up for the main conflict Genna faces. Her job or her family.

Second Paragraph -- This is what happens to Genna on her vacation. These are all the external and internal conflicts without the fat. Two men, her aunt, her cousins and her uncle. Oh my. Notice I didn't use any names. Also notice I didn't use Alzheimer's. I don't know why I changed that, but it seems to flow better, also makes you ask the question -- which mental illness, could it be alzheimer's, could it be dementia, could it be she's just crazy?

Final Paragraph -- And this is what Genna does when all that stuff happens to her. She keeps the diner open and the family together. And yes, I do have the one cliche -- break the glass ceiling -- because it says so much to what she's feeling and what she's been through to get there. It's not ambiguous. We also have a question but in the form of a sentence (Thanks Rick!) And hopefully this will do the trick in allowing the agent to ask "Oh, what does Genna do about all this, I need to know."

Did you notice I used conflict in both my first and second paragraphs?
Did you notice I combined the
motivation and goal in the last paragraph?
With only 250 words (more or less -- this version is 238) to lure an agent to request, sometimes you must combine the four -- Hook Conflict Motivation Goal -- to get the killer query.

I also want to say this. Don't ever be afraid to ask for help. The Slushpile is great to get you going but ultimately what you want with the final draft is to get one or two people to look at it, preferably someone who doesn't know anything about your book. They'll have an unbiased opinion, (like Rick did for me) and just basically tell the story they think needs to be told.

So there we go, an anatomy lesson in my query process. I hope this has helped you, at least a little bit.

Next week, I'll do a post about the rest of the letter, the author bio -- as an answer to a question in the comments.

Any questions, comments, let me know what you think. If you were an agent would you want to read this book?


Hold my hand: a social worker's blog said...

Interesting. What caught my attention was the aunt's "mental illness." I immediately wondered "what kind of mental illness?". I figured that if it was the aunt, possibly an older lady, might have been "dementia." Alzheimer's is one type of dementia. Mental illness is most commonly referred to psychiatric disorders such as Schizophrenia, Bipolar disorder, etc. Did I make any sense? :-D

By the way, thanks for stopping by, and commenting on my story.

Liza said...

It's been great to watch the transformation. Well done.

Bish Denham said...

Oh now THIS is SO much better! In your earlier examples it was like I was reading letters for a completely different book. I have only one small suggestion to make.

"Genna steps in to keep his diner open and the family together while he recuperates and she questions what’s more important – breaking the glass ceiling or her family." I know what you mean to say here, but I stumbled and had to read it twice. "- breaking the glass ceiling or her family." I kept thinking...breaking her family? I think if you added two words it would make things easily clear. "-breaking the glass ceiling or staying with her family."

Stina Lindenblatt said...

This version is great. Love the hook. Good luck with querying. :D

j.m. neeb said...

If Bish Denham hadn't caught it, I was going to mention that I had to read the "breaking the glass ceiling or her family" part a couple of times. I'd definitely take her advice.

Other than that, it sounds like a great hook. I love the 21 day time constraint you put in the opening paragraph. That really gets my curiousity piqued.

Piedmont Writer said...

Doris -- I originally had Alzheimer's then changed it at the last second to mental illness. I should probably change it back then huh?

Liza -- Thanks so much for being here this week. Means a lot.

Bish -- Thanks for that. You're absolutely right, it makes more sense to say "staying with" her family. You're a love bunny.

Stina -- Thanks so much for keeping up with me this week.

j.m. -- Thanks, I think it will work out a lot better with Bish's advice. I like the 21 days too.

Tara said...

This is so much more clear and concise than the previous attempts. Best of luck with querying, Anne :)
Tara (who is too lazy to sign out of her email and into her blog.)

T. Anne said...

I like this. I want to read this! The 21 days seems ambiguous and I want to know more.

Piedmont Writer said...

Tara -- Thanks. You're going to have to teach me that signing in trick.

T. Anne -- Thanks. Let's hope we can say it will be sooner rather than later that you will be able to read it.

Anonymous said...

Overall I like it very much. I would lose the "glass ceiling" cliche just the same. I think you have enough conflcit that you don't need to use it. Cliches are like gnarlt speed bumps you hit doing ten miles over the speed limit. Everyone is thrown around a bit, spills coffee, and their train of though is broken.

Stephen Tremp

Piedmont Writer said...

Stephen -- But I like it. It says so much about Genna without me trying to figure out how to say it. I know what you mean, I really don't like to use cliche's. I made it a point in this exercise to NOT use cliche's. But I like that one. I'll make you a deal, when I send out the first 10 queries, if I get no requests, I'll dump the line.

Falen (Sarah Ahiers) said...

oooh yes. this one is by far the strongest. The end especially. I actually don't mind the cliche because it's not so literal and says exactly what you needed to say

Jennifer Shirk said...

Oh, sounds great to me!! I love how you ended it too.
Best of luck to you!!!

Piedmont Writer said...

Sarah -- Thanks, I'm so glad you liked it. I was kind of worried you wouldn't. Yeah, I liked my cliche too.

Jennifer -- Thanks for coming by and the luck. I need all I can get.

Mac said...

You say, "Final?"

Nothing's e v e r final :O)

I suggest losing the "also clearly"

I'm ready to read the ms. -- Mac

Matthew Rush said...

This is so close Anne! Maybe not quite perfect, but such an improvement on the others. My guess is that as long as you are allowed to include your first five pages this will get you some requests based on the strength of your writing.

Nicely done!

Today's guest blogger in Christina Lee!

lotusgirl said...

Nice. The first line really pulls you in, and I love the line: "breaking the glass ceiling or her family." I'd try and limit the references to the vacation down to one time. It's in the first 3 paragraphs. It took me reading back through to realize it was all the same vacation. I also don't think you need to mention that it is the 4th of July in the query. That pulled me out of it for some reason.

Donna Hole said...

Writing a query is harder for me than writing the novel. Takes a lot of work to get it right.

Good luck with it.


Terry Towery said...

Excellent query, Anne. If I were an agent, I'd ask for pages.

May I get a bit picky? This sentence needs either a period or a semicolon, in my opinion: "It’s more than the pay and benefits, she has the chance to achieve what she’s always wanted – her own kitchen – and Genna can’t wait to get started when she returns after her Fourth of July holiday."

I think it might be better like this: "It's more than the pay and benefits. She also has the chance to ...."

Or this: "It's more than the pay and benefits; she has the chance ..."

It just seems ponderous with the comma.

Dominique said...

I concur that the Slushpile is a great place to go for advice. It can be very helpful to have people read the query who haven't seen the story, because the query-readers won't know the book, yet.

Good luck with the queries. :)

coffeelvnmom said...


Thanks for sharing this. It takes a lot of guts to post a query for all to see, and we both know how hard these things are to write! I wish you TONS of good luck when you start querying! :)


Anonymous said...

Sounds like a great query letter to me. Of course you can always still tweak a few small things, but mostly that is just preference. After all, you never known what the agent will prefer: 4th of July, or Fourth of July. In the end it is up to you. When you are happy, or can not stand the pressure any more, just send it. :) I am sure you will be successful. Perseverance is more important than anything. I will try to take my own advice to heart and yours. Thank you so very much for all the encouragement. I really needed it. I will not forget to mention it in my Nobel prize speach. :)

Deniz Bevan said...

Thanks so much for taking us through your process Anne! It's great to see how much got fixed and tweaked and moved, and your final result is a crisp clean query with no rhetorical questions. Sigh, I'm dreading getting mine out for another overhaul...

Shelley Sly said...

Much better, Anne! Bravo! :) I agree that the Slushpile is a valuable resource, and I plan on posting my second draft of my latest query on there in the next few days. I'll let 'em rip it to shreds -- better that than having an agent pass on it because it's poorly written.

Hope you're having a good weekend!

Hannah Kincade said...

When I'm ready to query I'm going to be asking so many questions I'm probably going to annoy people. LOL! Good job!

The Words Crafter said...

I have to say, I really liked this! If I were at B & N, and read this on the back of a book, or inside flap, I would have enough info to know what kind of book it was, a little of what it was about, and enough left unsaid that would cause me to wonder what would happen-to the aunt, the family, the lovers, her jobs, her choices.

I think it's a winner!

Anonymous said...

Ofcourse I'd like to read this book! Great work Anne. And helpful advise to remember to not be afraid to ask for help.

Wendy Marcus said...

I must admit I didn't read the others, but your final query looks great. Like another commenter above, I'd lose the 'also clearly' in regard to the aunt.

Eric W. Trant said...

I don't know if this is the entire query, but I would also include word count, genre, target audience, working and proposed titles and rating at the very, very top.

That said, note how few edit requests you got in the comments. The only hangups are nitpicks, and in fact I deleted my nitpick because it was just that -- a nitpick... DELETE!

So I hope you are reading what is not written.

Good job!

- Eric

Patti said...

I like the 21 days, it gives you more conflict. Great letter.

notesfromnadir said...

This is an excellent query letter. No filler at all. It really gets me interested in wanting to read the book.