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Author Topic: Query Shark: #186-Revised 4x  (Read 6413 times)

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Query Shark: #186-Revised 4x
« on: June 14, 2011, 02:04:15 PM »

#186-Revised 4x

Dear QueryShark:<br /><br />Politicians, prostitutes, and cops have one thing in common: they need to remain emotionally detached to work their trade. Chief Detective Michael Joseph is losing that detachment, and he knows that's dangerous.<br /><br />Public outrage over the death of a 13-year-old girl shoves him into the spotlight as one of the best investigators in the country. He uncovers the girl's secret life, as a prostitute, and finds the public attitude changes quickly. When all clues point towards the largest television ministry on the East Coast the change becomes dramatic. The fear of what secrets might be uncovered within the flock spurs religious leaders and several high-ranking politicians to obstruct his investigation.<br /><br />Through the course of his investigation, Joseph befriends a 16 year old who calls herself Dizzy Lizzy, a young runaway selling herself in order to provide for the social misfits that inhabit her world. Amid accusations that he is losing his objectivity, he becomes a pariah amongst his fellow officers while Lizzy becomes suspect on the street for her cooperation with the enemy: the police.<br /><br />Lizzy and Joseph come to rely on each other for moral support until the night she is assaulted and disappears. Joseph charges headlong into a clumsy campaign to "rescue" other girls who might also be in danger. He quickly realizes that some people don't want to be "rescued" and that he must change his attitude--and perception of people--if he is going to affect some change in their lives. His search for Lizzy and others, like her, pushes him to become that better man.<br /><div style="color: blue;"><br /></div><span style="color: blue;">Rescue should not be in quotes since that's exactly what he's trying to do. </span><br /><br />"What Little Girls Are Made Of" is 90,000 words, my first novel<strike>, and based on real incidents I observed working with several police agencies.</strike><br /><br />Thank you ahead of time for your consideration or any comments.<br /><br /><br /><div style="color: blue;">I debated about whether to post this because I think&nbsp;&nbsp; you're flailing here. Time to get out of the water, dry yourself off, have a martini and think about diving in again when you've had time to get some perspective.</div><div style="color: blue;"><br /><br /></div><div style="color: blue;">Focus on the formula I've mentioned before: What does the main character want? What's keeping him from getting it?&nbsp;&nbsp;</div><div style="color: blue;"><br /></div><div style="color: blue;">You're still making some fundamental mistakes (like mentioning this is based on events you've seen).&nbsp; And we're back to the first title? Does that make it 0-5 or does it only count as one strike if you use the same one again.</div><div style="color: blue;"><br />You might consider junking the entire query and starting again.&nbsp; It's sometimes better to start fresh instead of trying to fix what's not working.<br /><br /></div><span style="color: blue;">Let this sit for a while.&nbsp; Rethink what you're trying to tell me about.</span><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />-----------------------<br />Dear QueryShark:<br /><br /><strike>It is sometimes said</strike> soldiers, prostitutes, and cops have one thing in common: they need to remain emotionally detached to work their trade. Chief Detective Michael Joseph is losing that detachment, <strike>and he knows that's dangerous.</strike><br /><strike><br /></strike><br /><strike>Public outrage over the death of a 13-year-old girl shoves him into the spotlight as one of the best investigators in the country. When he uncovers the girl's secret life, a prostitute catering to pedophiles through the internet, he finds the public attitude changes quickly. When all clues point towards the largest television ministry on the East Coast the change becomes dramatic. The fear of what secrets might be uncovered within the flock spurs religious leaders and several high-ranking politicians to obstruct his investigation.</strike><br /><br />Through his <i><span style="color: blue;">high profile </span></i>investigation <i style="color: blue;">of the death of a 13-year-old girl</i>, Joseph befriends a 16 year old who calls herself Dizzy Lizzy, a young runaway who sells herself in order to provide for the social misfits that inhabit her world. Amid accusations that he is losing his objectivity, he becomes a pariah amongst his fellow officers while Lizzy becomes suspect on the street for her cooperation with the enemy: the police.<br /><br /><br /><div style="color: blue;">What we're missing here is what he does that makes people think he's losing his objectivity. If you're using that as the hinge for the plot, you need to be very very specific about what he does and why it's dangerous. </div><br />Lizzy and Joseph come to rely on each other for moral support until the night she is assaulted and disappears. Joseph leaps headlong into a clumsy campaign to protect other girls who might be in danger until he stumbles into the one field that might actually help others before the police arrive: social worker.<br /><br /><div style="color: blue;">I don't understand what is happening here.&nbsp; What does <i>until he stumbles into the one field that might actually help others before the police arrive: social worker.</i> mean?</div><br />"Angel With The Barb Wire Tattoo" is 90,000 words, my first novel,<strike> and based on real incidents I observed working with several police agencies as a computer technician.</strike><br /><br /><div style="color: blue;">Oh good, we're 0-4 on the title. I'd hate to actually like one. This is too evocative of the Stieg Larrson books.  </div><br />Thank you ahead of time for your consideration or any comments.<br /><br /><span style="color: blue;">If Joseph is getting too involved with Lizzy, focus on that for the query.&nbsp; Leave out all the other stuff.&nbsp; I think it's a mistake to do that, because I don't think the personal dynamics of a cop are enough to carry a novel, but that's your choice as the author to make.&nbsp; </span><br /><br />&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <br /><br /><br />----------------------------------------------------- <br />Dear QueryShark: <br /><br />It is sometimes said soldiers, prostitutes, and cops have one thing in common: they need to remain emotionally detached to ply their craft. Chief Detective Michael Joseph is losing that detachment, and he know that's dangerous.<br /><br /><span style="color: blue;">"ply their craft" makes them sound like they bake cookies or weave straw hats.&nbsp; "Do their job" is both more accurate and sounds (literally) better. </span><br /><br />Public outrage over the death of a 13-year-old girl shoves him into the spotlight as one of the best investigators in the country. When he uncovers the girl's secret life--a prostitute catering to pedophiles through the internet--he finds the public attitude changes quickly. When all clues point towards the largest television ministry on the East Coast the change becomes dramatic. The fear of what secrets might be uncovered within the flock spurs religious leaders and several high-ranking politicians to obstruct his investigation.<br /><br />Through his investigation, Joseph befriends a 16 year old who calls herself Dizzy Lizzy, a young runaway who sells herself in order to provide for the social misfits that inhabit her world. Amid accusations that he is losing his objectivity, he becomes a pariah amongst his fellow officers. Lizzy becomes suspect on the street for her cooperation with the enemy.<br /><br /><s>Ostracized from their clans Lizzy and Joseph come to rely on each other for moral support. He begins a campaign to protect other girls who might be in danger... but the one girl Joseph cannot protect is Lizzy, and it threatens to break him.</s><br /><br /><div style="color: blue;">Who killed the 13-year old girl, the girl that got the plot going?&nbsp; Does Joseph find the culprit? Is finding the culprit the climax of the book, OR is it the fact he can't find the culprit what leads him to begin a campaign to protect other girls who might be in danger? And how does he know which girls are in danger? And if he can't find the culprit, what's the climax of the book?</div><div style="color: blue;"><br /></div><div style="color: blue;">And why can't he protect Lizzy?&nbsp; Does she resist what he's offering?&nbsp;</div><br /><br /><br />"Who'll Love Dizzy Lizzy" is 90,000 words and is my first novel.<br /><br /><span style="color: blue;">I thought the titles couldn't get worse. I was wrong.</span><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <br /><br /><br />----------------------------------------<br />Dear Query Shark:<br /><br />It is sometimes said <strike>that</strike> soldiers, prostitutes, and cops have one thing in common: they <strike>all </strike>need to remain emotionally detached to ply their craft. Chief Detective Michael Joseph is losing that detachment, and he know that's dangerous.<br /><br />Public outrage over the death of a 13-year-old girl shoves him into the spotlight as one of the best investigators in the country. <strike>But </strike>when he uncovers the girl's secret life--a prostitute catering to pedophiles through the internet--he finds the public attitude changes quickly. When all clues point towards the largest television ministry on the East Coast the change becomes dramatic. The fear of what secrets might be uncovered within the flock spurs religious leaders and several high-ranking politicians to obstruct his investigation.<br /><br />Through his investigation, Joseph befriends a 16 year old who calls herself Dizzy Lizzy, a young runaway who sells herself in order to provide for the social misfits that inhabit her world. Amid accusations that he is losing his objectivity, he becomes a pariah amongst his fellow officers. <br /><br />Ostracized from their clans Lizzy and Joseph come to depend on each other for support. He begins a campaign to protect other girls who might be in danger... but the one girl Joseph cannot protect is Lizzy, and it threatens to break him.<br /><br /><div style="color: blue;">So why is Lizzy ostracized? You'd think if she was paying the bills she'd be pretty much secure in her merry band of misfits.</div><br />"Requiem For Dizzy Lizzy" is 90,000 words and is my first novel.<br /><br /><br /><div style="color: blue;">The problem here is you're focusing on the two protagonists.  That leads me to think Joseph's dependence on Lizzy is the main plot of the book.  If the crime is the focus of the book, you need more about that.</div><div style="color: blue;"><br /></div><div style="color: blue;">The problem with Joseph and Lizzy's relationship being the focus of the query is you don't have enough time to overcome the ick factor.</div><div style="color: blue;"><br /></div><div style="color: blue;">You'll need the length of the novel to do that, where I hope we can come to see Joseph as a sympathetic and flawed protagonist.</div><div style="color: blue;"><br /></div><div style="color: blue;">And we're 0 for 3 on the title.&nbsp; Maybe the comment column can generate some ideas on that. </div><br />--------------- <br />Dear QueryShark,<br /><br />It is sometimes said that soldiers, prostitutes, and cops have one thing in common: they all they need to remain emotionally detached to do their job. Chief Detective Michael Joseph is losing that detachment, and it terrifies him.<br /><br /><div style="color: blue;">This is much better than the first version.  The reason it's better is that we have a sense of what's at stake for the main character.  </div><br />Public outrage over the death of a 13-year-old girl shoves him into the spotlight as the one of best investigators in the country, but when he uncovers her secret life as an online prostitute catering to pedophiles, he finds the public attitude changes quickly. And when all clues point towards someone from the largest television ministry on the East Coast the change becomes dramatic. A general fear of what might come out of this flock spurs politicians and religious leaders to obstruct his investigation at every turn.<br /><br /><div style="color: blue;">The first sentence in the paragraph is very long.  (One way to know how long is too long is to say the sentence out loud. If you need to pause to breathe, it's too long)  I'm also going to quibble with "prostitute" since it's clear she's online, and prostitution requires in-person activity.  I know people use "sex worker" but that's not the right phrase either. </div><div style="color: blue;"><br /></div><div style="color: blue;">Just "someone" is too generic. The clues indicate <i>the killer</i> is someone&nbsp;</div><div style="color: blue;"><br /></div><div style="color: blue;">"a general fear" is also too nebulous.  Polish and sharpen your language and word choice here.</div><br />Joseph befriends a 16 year old who calls herself Dizzy Lizzy, a young runaway who sells herself in order to provide for the social misfits that inhabit her world. Amid accusations that he is losing his objectivity, he becomes a pariah amongst his fellow officers. <s>With only Lizzy fighting on his side, he grows closer to the girl who reawakens humanity in him that he had almost forgotten he had. The dispassion he had exercised for so long had cost him his marriage and the bond he shared with his daughter. Watching Lizzy interact with her clan provides him with a glimmer of hope: how he can best bridge the gaps he had thrown up to separate himself from the vulgar orbit of the criminal element he saw everyday.</s> But the one person he cannot help is Lizzy, and it threatens to break him.<br /><div style="color: blue;"><br /></div><div style="color: blue;">You can cut almost all of this paragraph out and solve a lot of the problems in this query.  Remember you don't need the entire plot, or the entire motivation, you only need enough to entice my interest.  </div><br />"The Absolution of a Fallen Angel" is <s>a</s> 90,000 <span style="color: blue;">words </span><s><span style="color: blue;"> </span>commercial fiction piece </s> and is my first novel.<br /><br /><span style="color: blue;">I really really hate this title too.&nbsp; </span><i style="color: blue;">Fallen Angel </i><span style="color: blue;">is smarmy and a stereotype of prostitutes.<br />I wouldn't stop reading a query based on a bad title --no one really would-- but a good title is better than a bad one for enticing interest.<br /><br />This is a lot LOT better than the original (good work) but it needs some honing and polishing.</span><br /><br />-------------------------------------<br />ORIGINAL <br /><br /><br />Dear Query Shark,<br /><br />Chief Detective MIKE JOSEPH is in over his head and knows it. Investigating the death of a 13-year-old girl uncovers her secret life as an online prostitute catering to pedophiles... and all clues point towards someone from the largest television ministry on the East Coast. This pits JOSEPH against a cabal of politicians and the self righteous terrified of what an investigation into the flock might uncover.<br /><br /><div style="color: blue;"><br /></div><div style="color: blue;">Don't capitalize the names of characters. That's the format for film scripts, not query letters.&nbsp; The only thing in a query that is all caps is the title of the book.</div><div style="color: blue;"><br /></div><div style="color: blue;">"Cabal of politicians and the self-righteous" doesn't actually say anything useful.&nbsp; You're using buzz words to evoke knee-jerk responses (ie politicians = bad, evil) rather than actually creating an interesting villain.&nbsp; Cardboard cutout stereotypes aren't interesting.</div><br /><br />JOSEPH 's single ally is a female runaway, who calls herself DIZZY LIZZY--five years older than his own daughter--also selling herself in order to support her junkie boyfriend and the colorful cast of misfits who inhabit her world.<br /><br /><div style="color: blue;">"colorful cast of misfits" is a pretty light hearted description.&nbsp; Coming after "online prostitutes catering to pedophiles" there's a real disparity of tone. You can be funny about serious topics, but you can't then have the serious topics viewed with any gravitas (examples are Carl Hiassen, Janet Evonovich.) </div><br />As a cop, he tries to insulate himself from horrors of a culture on society's fringe but finds himself drawn to LIZZY and her clan bringing accusations that he is losing his objectivity.<br /><br /><div style="color: blue;">The construction of this sentence makes it look as though "her clan" is the one accusing him of losing his objectivity. That doesn't actually make sense. </div><br />His meticulous nature as a detective has pushed his wife to divorce and daughter to arm's length but he draws strength from the charismatic 16 year old LIZZY. Even JOSEPH fears he might be another of the girl's "projects."<br /><div style="color: blue;"><br /></div><div style="color: blue;">Here's where you lose me.&nbsp; He's meticulous so his wife divorces him and his daughter doesn't much like him so he draws strength from a 16 year old online prostitute?&nbsp; That doesn't feel very real to me, but more than that it makes the protagonist seem weak and frankly, rather icky.</div><br />He needs to solve a case that has becomes a political hot potato, come to grips with his divorce, while he hopes to rescue LIZZY from a dead end life. But he begins to question who most needs to be rescued: LIZZY or himself.<br /><br /><div style="color: blue;">Are you seriously asking if a grown man dealing with a divorce and an alienated child has the same need of help as a 16 year old girl who is making money to support a junkie boyfriend by whoring?<br /><br />At this point I want to hit the protagonist with a 2x4 and shriek "do your damn job" and that's absolutely not the response you want.<br /><br />You'd do better to focus more on plot and less on character in this query.&nbsp; It's very very difficult to reduce complex motivations and situations to enticing descriptions for a query. You need to bat to your strengths, and plot may be better for that here.</div><br /><br />WHAT LITTLE GIRLS ARE MADE OF is a 90,000 word popular-cop fiction and is my first novel.<br /><br /><div style="color: blue;">There's no such category as popular cop fiction.&nbsp; There's <i>commercial fiction</i>; there's <i>police procedural</i>; there are <i>crime novels</i>. If you can't figure out what to call your novel, pick a novel that's close to yours (in this case I would pick one of Ed McBain's 87th Precinct novels.)&nbsp; Go to Amazon. Look at the tags people give their reviews (it's near the bottom of the page.) Generally speaking you'll find what to correctly call your novel there. Pick ONE of the tags, not the top five.</div><div style="color: blue;"><br />I really hate the title.&nbsp; My guess is you are going for a juxtaposition of what the nursery rhyme evokes and the strength of Lizzy (little girls aren't made of sugar and spice; they're made of oak etc.)&nbsp; Coming at the end of the query it doesn't do that.&nbsp; We haven't&nbsp; really seen what Lizzy is made of; we've seen the weakness of Mike Joseph. Since the novel is about pedophilia and prostitution the title has to avoid an "ickiness" risk that other books don't.&nbsp; Obviously, an agent does not stop reading a book based on a bad title, but you want to be very aware of the effect every word in your query, including the title, conveys.</div><div style="color: blue;"><br /><br /></div><div style="color: blue;">This is a form rejection. There's not enough plot to catch my interest.&nbsp; The main character doesn't seem very heroic if he's busy leeching off a 16 year old for emotional strength.</div><div class="blogger-post-footer"><img width='1' height='1' src='https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/tracker/4812909700950069050-1187769220197386767?l=queryshark.blogspot.com' alt='' /></div>
Source: #186-Revised 4x

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