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  1. #1
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    Once more: Query for St. Johns

    Gentle readers it has been a while. I put this query under my pillow, wadded it up and put it in the toe of my boot and other such troubling things. I also read a whole mess of other queries. Since things seem quiet here I will post up another. Thanks in advance for any comments or critique

    Expecting someone else, he answered the phone without looking at the screen. The other end was occupied by SAC Jones of the FBI’s Jacksonville office. Justin Thomas had a long history with Jones and none of it was good. Jones blamed Justin for his scarred face and his favored hobby was to call and inform him about the length of his FBI File.

    Justin Thomas was primarily an inventor. He had started an environmental company because he saw a use for it and the right person to run it. The two contracts that brought him and his employee to Putnam County had already slid from solid ground to the slippery slope.

    Taking water samples on his first day here he had pulled a body from the St. Johns River. Two days later he rescued his employee after she had been abducted from an old, possibly military, facility behind the landfill. He now knew who had done it but couldn’t prove it.

    Justin acknowledged that he would be leading the Sheriff to where he had found his employee. Jones told Justin that it looked like time until whatever the master plan was would be short. Killing boaters for their boats and turning runaways into slave girls was only a prelude for the main event. Justin wondered what the FBI Agent wasn’t telling him because he knew he wasn’t being warned out of friendship.


    ST. JOHNS is a completed 73000 word novel.
    Thank you for your time and consideration.



  2. #2
    Rogue Mutt
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    What are you expecting anyone to tell you that they haven't already told you? When you don't make any improvements it's just going to get the same response. I'm sure in prior threads people described the concept of a hook and how to lay out a query letter. Try actually using that advice before you post again.

    Last edited by Rogue Mutt; 07-18-2013 at 01:44 PM.

  3. #3
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    Craig,

    This query is all kind of wrong. I mean every single thing about it is wrong, other than the fact that you included the title and the word count. Furthermore, the writing in the query makes me think that there may be major problems with the writing in the manuscript. So for that reason I'm not going to give you feedback on how to improve the query, because there's no point in querying if your manuscript isn't ready to be submitted. But if you post the first page from your novel, I'll give you feedback on that.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Gilfindel's Avatar
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    The intent of a query is to interest an agent in representing your story. To that end, you need to convey some sense of who your main character is, what situation the character finds himself in (and perhaps why), and what are the consequences if the situation is not successfully resolved. I'm afraid your latest query accomplishes none of these. If you were talking to a friend, trying to get him interested in reading your story, is this what you would say?

    Try starting from scratch, and simply write three sentences:
    - Identify your main character and define his role in the story.
    - Describe the situation or crisis he finds himself involved in.
    - Explain why he needs to be the one to resolve it.
    If you can do that succinctly and clearly, then you can work on expanding that into a full-blown query.

    You might also have a look at the successful queries at AgentQuery.com to see if any of those align with the general sense of your story. Someone (possibly someone here) made the suggestion of taking someone else's query and substituting your own character names and places to get a sense of what might work.

  5. #5
    Rogue Mutt
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    He posted pages from the book a long time ago. http://www.writers.net/forum/showthr...OHNS-pages-1-5

    Quote Originally Posted by Simon Says View Post
    Craig,

    This query is all kind of wrong. I mean every single thing about it is wrong, other than the fact that you included the title and the word count. Furthermore, the writing in the query makes me think that there may be major problems with the writing in the manuscript. So for that reason I'm not going to give you feedback on how to improve the query, because there's no point in querying if your manuscript isn't ready to be submitted. But if you post the first page from your novel, I'll give you feedback on that.

  6. #6
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    I agree with what the others said, but since I wasn't involved the last time this rolled around, I'll give this a go:

    Expecting someone else, he answered the phone without looking at the screen. The other end was occupied by SAC Jones of the FBI’s Jacksonville office. Justin Thomas had a long history with Jones and none of it was good. Jones blamed Justin for his scarred face and his favored hobby was to call and inform him about the length of his FBI File. This really isn't a strong way to introduce the hero. This paragraph seems to be more about the FBI agent Jones than Justin. I'd also recommend you use Jones's first name in this. Two "J" names is confusing when you don't know the people yet. I found myself having to re-read paragraphs multiple times to keep them straight. I also presume this is set slightly in the future, since he can answer a video call without looking to see who is calling.

    Right off the bat, I'm confused by the relationship between Jones and Justin. Is Justin a criminal? The fact he runs an environmental company and an FBI agent has made him a pet case makes me think eco-terrorist. If he is, that could quickly make the reader pull away from him, so you'll have to find a way to endear the MC to the reader (agent/editor). If he's not, and is struggling under the suspicion, then make that clear here.


    Justin Thomas was primarily an inventor. He had started an environmental company because he saw a use for it and the right person to run it. The two contracts that brought him and his employee to Putnam County had already slid from solid ground to the slippery slope.I'm unsure what one has to do with the other. Is there a reason why being an inventor is critical to the plot? If not, leave it out. If so, it needs to move to a point in the query where it applies.

    Taking water samples on his first day here he had pulled a body from the St. Johns River. Two days later he rescued his employee after she had been abducted from an old, possibly military, facility behind the landfill. He now knew who had done it but couldn’t prove it.Wow, here's your lead, buried down in paragraph three. Two deaths and an abduction, but it sounds here like "Ho hum . . . another day at the office." If it IS normal that deaths seem to happen around him, and that's why the FBI hounds him, then tell us so--that it's just a series of coincidences and he's innocent. That's always endearing to readers.

    Justin acknowledged that he would be leading the Sheriff to where he had found his employee. This is sort of a "Duh." for me. Of course he'll lead the cops to the location. Is there a reason why he wouldn't cooperate? Jones told Justin that it looked like time until whatever the master plan was would be short. Now, why in the world would an FBI agent reveal any information to anyone who isn't a cop about an ongoing investigation? Especially when that person is someone the FBI has an extensive file on. This feels like a major plot hole brewing. If there is a good reason, it needs to be in the query. Killing boaters for their boats and turning runaways into slave girls was only a prelude for the main event. Okay, so we've got pirates. How do the MC's unique skills make him the person to solve this plot? Right now, he's a found two bodies. That makes him a witness, but doesn't give us any reason why he's part of this plot. Justin wondered what the FBI Agent wasn’t telling him because he knew he wasn’t being warned out of friendship. Wait, they're friends? When did that happen? If they have a complicated relationship . . . more frenemies then give us this up front.
    I'd rather see this query closer to 3rd person limited than omniscient. Then the agent/editor would get more of Justin's emotions, his reasons for wanting to solve this mystery. I think, as others have said, that you need to start over. Don't try to salvage wording you particularily like, because in a 3rd limited query, the words won't fit. Give it another go. You can always come back to this one if you don't like how the other sounds.

  7. #7
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    I wish to to thank all of you who have responded so far. Should I yank up a climax and start with something like this?

    At first we thought we were lucky that they had forgotten to train the guys that drove the boats from the first wave of the attack. They had turned into the canal too fast and hit the bridge. Now that the second wave was coming in overland we weren't sure. The volunteer patriots had become disenchanted and gone home. Thirty National Guard, eight Deputies, an FDLE Agent and Justin Thomas could not hold two fronts when a landfill held those fronts apart.

    The Sheriff finally gave in and Justin took the helm of his boat. Two snipers, two M-4 shooters and the cargo they wanted to keep away from those who had bought it. If they couldn't get to Jacksonville they would throw the cargo overboard an someone could get it later.

    Thanks again for any response.

  8. #8
    Rogue Mutt
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    Any response? Like you're utterly clueless and should stop wasting people's time?

    Quote Originally Posted by Craig View Post
    I wish to to thank all of you who have responded so far. Should I yank up a climax and start with something like this?

    At first we thought we were lucky that they had forgotten to train the guys that drove the boats from the first wave of the attack. They had turned into the canal too fast and hit the bridge. Now that the second wave was coming in overland we weren't sure. The volunteer patriots had become disenchanted and gone home. Thirty National Guard, eight Deputies, an FDLE Agent and Justin Thomas could not hold two fronts when a landfill held those fronts apart.

    The Sheriff finally gave in and Justin took the helm of his boat. Two snipers, two M-4 shooters and the cargo they wanted to keep away from those who had bought it. If they couldn't get to Jacksonville they would throw the cargo overboard an someone could get it later.

    Thanks again for any response.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Gilfindel's Avatar
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    Craig, you're just shooting in the dark. We've given you a number of suggestions for starting fresh, but you don't seem to be applying them to your updates.

    A query is not a movie voiceover, nor is it the blurb on the back of the book. It's a brief introduction to the story that is supposed to get an agent excited about your novel, with enough information to identify the main character and the essence of the plot. It's an elevator pitch, where you have just 250 words to sell your story (and your writing ability) to someone who will represent you to the publishers.

    I seriously suggest you go to www.agentquery.com and other related sites to see what writing an effective query is all about. We don't seem to be able to help you.

  10. #10
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    I went back and read some of the other queries you've written on this. I think the biggest problem is you've got an ensemble cast and no one person actually has a lead role. There are other books/series where this is the case. Tom Clancy's RAINBOW SIX is a good example of a book where no one particular character stands out as the main protagonist. I think it would have been difficult, as a debut query, to decide whether to write it from the POV of Jack Ryan or John Clark.

    The best I can say is you DO need to pick one and stick with it. Whether it's the sheriff, Justin, Vicky, Jones, or someone else entirely---even if they all solve the story together, you need to pick the most sympathetic character---the one that people are going to root for. After reading all three prior queries (that I found), I like Daphne Flowers' story the best. It seems like she's the one most actively investigating the murder(s). They're what start the story and start to give the hints of the other, larger problems. The Sheriff is on the ropes, trying to clear his name. Justin is involved, but not actively. He's sort of in the wrong place at the wrong time. Vicky is more victim than lead player. I'd say either the Sheriff or Daphne, but I do like Daphne. Just make sure you mention in the final paragraph that it's an ensemble book. That will tell the agent/editor that they're only seeing one story of multiple ones.

    My best advice is to take the ONE character who is most active in solving the murders at the opening and telling the story from his/her POV. Don't pick a particular scene. Step back and give a general overview, as if you were telling someone the story in an elevator in the five minutes it takes from the ground floor to the top. The "elevator pitch" is a good method to write the initial query. If you tell the story of a character that someone can identify with, it doesn't matter how many POVs are in the cast.

    nor is it the blurb on the back of the book.
    Actually, it sort of IS. The best queries I've seen, the ones that sell well and quickly, are the ones that can reduce the plot to a couple of brief paragraphs in the query. The initial agent/editor is a reader and they're looking for a book that they want to pick up and read. The book THEY want to pick up and read is one they can sell. Look at some of the selling queries on AgentQuery and then go find the final book on Amazon. You'll be surprised how similar they are.

    Here's one that was in the successful YA query list on AgentQuery that got the author an agent and a publisher:

    Pia lives in the middle of the Amazonian rainforest, surrounded by glass walls and a team of brilliant scientists. She is the result of centuries of experimentation, selective breeding, and, most importantly, the influence of a rare flower whose nectar holds the key to immortality. If sipped from the flower itself, the nectar is deadly. But the scientists have discovered the one way it may be safely taken...

    Everything changes the day she turns seventeen, when Pia sneaks out of the compound and stumbles into the village of the Ai’oans. She begins to fall in love with the small, peaceful people—and a half-Ai’oan, half-Spanish boy named Eio. When Pia discovers that her existence is possible only because of the *EDITED TO DELETE IMPORTANT PLOT SPOILERS*, she must make a choice: live forever as a goddess among mortals, or make the ultimate sacrifice to set things right.
    Now the Amazon version after publication:

    Pia has grown up in a secret laboratory hidden deep in the Amazon rain forest. She was raised by a team of scientists who have created her to be the start of a new immortal race. But on the night of her seventeenth birthday, Pia discovers a hole in the electric fence that surrounds her sterile home--and sneaks outside the compound for the first time in her life.

    Free in the jungle, Pia meets Eio, a boy from a nearby village. Together, they embark on a race against time to discover the truth about Pia's origin--a truth with deadly consequences that will change their lives forever.
    I like short, snappy queries, rather than full-blown synopses. Grab the reader with the hook, give them some indication of what's at stake in the plot and then finish up.
    Last edited by Cathy C; 07-20-2013 at 08:14 PM. Reason: typos

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