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-fiancé 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?