Thursday, June 30, 2016

Query Critique #14: ALLEY 187 WEST

My thoughts are added in redEvery comment is my own opinion. Readers, feel free to leave your own comments below and help a fellow writer out!

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Original Version (with comments):

Whitney Lee
The Fielding Agency (Unless you’re snail-mailing this query letter, you don’t need to have this information or the address you listed in your signature line, which I removed for anonymity.)


Dear __________,

My 114,000-word novel (Red flags go up here. This is a pretty hefty word count for a debut novel as well as a typical adult novel. A fantasy you might be able to get away with this, but a Romance/Thriller I’m not so sure. You could still get requests as is, but I want to warn you that agents might be wary.), Alley 187 West ALLEY 187 WEST (Titles get all CAPS.), is an Adult Romance/Thriller (You might want to pick one. Romance and thriller are very different genres. After reading your query and coming back to this section, you may want to say something like, “is an Adult Thriller with romantic undertones” or something like that.) about the struggles of two lost souls in search of freedom and redemption (Not sure you need this summary, but it’s up to you!).


Successful, yet jaded homicide cop (Stellar! I already have a feel for this O’Donnel!), Detective Daniel O’Donnell is tired (I’m hooked. But you might want to add a few more words saying what he’s tired of.). The only thing preventing Danny from quitting the force and moving into the private security sector is the one unsolved case he cannot let go offorget—the brutal torture and murder of an innocent young girl. Danny’s inability to pass relinquish the case on to another cop springs from his overwhelming need for redemption for a failing which led to the deaths of his true love and their unborn daughters (This sentence is a lot to digest at once. Consider shortening the sentence and making it punchier. This is a big reveal and a huge motivation for Danny. Something like, “Danny’s inability to relinquish the case stems from the deaths of his family. Deaths he is responsible for.” You could think of something better. That’s just an example.). Danny’s quest to find redemption and thus shed the crushing guilt demands that he bring justice to young Shawna Browne.


His search for the killer brings a beautiful, young woman into Danny’s life (Why? How does she become involved with him?). Cecelia, a magnetic soul from the projects, is trapped by circumstances and a love-struck and powerful mob boss in the ugly world of high-end Escorts (This sentence is another mouthful. Try to prune it down to the necessities.). Danny’s further quest for redemption leads him to help CC escape her horrid life, but something unexpected complicates his mission (Queries focus on one main plot point. You have to decide if it’s Danny solving the murder or freeing CC.). An unlikely and unwanted love blossoms between the two.


Like Danny, CC has her own dark secrets (Is your story dual POV? Because that’s what I’m getting from this query letter.). She has the ability to bring down one of the most powerful men in Washington and the ultra-violent mob boss she is beholden to. It is only after she disappears into her new life that her benefactor/handler Mob boss, Anthony DeMarco becomes aware of the enormous danger CC poses to their very freedom. While Danny and CC struggle to make their complex relationship work, the mob has set to tracking her down and destroying the vital evidence she possesses (This paragraph is pretty confusing to me. I thought the book was focusing on Danny’s solving a case that would give him redemption for the loss of his family. Why is CC bringing down a mob boss the focus point? You might want to show how these two plot points tie together.).


The final, deadly struggle for CC’s safety leads the two worlds (What two worlds?) to collide head on with lethal consequences (Which are?). Will Danny be able to save CC before the mob takes away his love? His life-saving salvation (Big no, no! Never end with a question! You want the agents to be asking the questions, not you :) )?


Several chapters of my unpublished  (If it’s on a website, it’s technically published.) nonfiction work have appeared on various websites devoted to furthering investigations into, and the understanding of, unsolved homicides (I think you need a few words describing how you were able to write these essays, as in your experience. Which then should also tie in to your knowledge to write this book.). These chapters have been reworked to function as stand-alone essays.


In keeping with your submission policies, I’m attaching the first 10 pages from this work.


Thank you for your time and consideration. I hope to hear from you soon.

Best regards,

Okay! And here we are at the end. Let me make a nice little list for you. It makes things easier to read!

1. When I pasted your query letter into MS word, it totaled at approximately 371 words. The sweet spot for a query is 250 – 300 words. You definitely need to do some pruning. Analyze your query to see what’s essential and what isn’t. There are places where words can be removed to make the writing punchier, as well as lower your word count!

2. CC is throwing a wrench in things. As I stated above, there should be one main plot point throughout your query letter. You have two. You’re going to need to decide which plot takes preeminence. The other is a subplot. Furthermore, this might be a warning sign for you. Usually writing a query letter is a good way to test the weak spots in a manuscript. The vibe I’m getting from your query is that you have two major plots competing for dominance which might be a problem, coupled with your very big word count. Make sure you have a beta reader check out your MS before querying. It helps so much (which I can say from experience!).

3. Your second paragraph where the summary began was great. Start there and see if you can’t tighten the rest of your query letter.

Don’t get discouraged with all the red. It’s a good thing! It means you’ve got a piece of coal that, with a little bit of pressure and time, will turn into a valuable diamond. If you are satisfied with my critique and want me to take another look after a round of edits, feel free to send it my way again.

Good luck with this! You’ve got an intriguing thriller on your hands!




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