query #2: The Suburban Spy, edited

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mommalikabooty
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query #2: The Suburban Spy, edited

Post by mommalikabooty » May 18th, 2010, 6:53 pm

This is the latest edit of my query. Thanks to everybody who helped with the last round. I posted the old query after the comments for the old query so you can see both the changes and where it jumps to new comments.

Dear specific agent,

Liz Murdock is happy with her life in suburbia, her two children, and her minivan. She has a few problems—her mommy friends seem to be going in separate directions, her mom keeps bugging her to “talk to her sister”, and some bimbo spent all evening entertaining her husband with boob-o-vision at the Sellner’s dinner party last week. But overall she’s content. Life is predictable. Plain vanilla.

Until she accidentally nails the bimbo with her car outside the elementary school. And Bill Sooner, international spy and the bimbo’s partner, grabs her by the arm and propels her into an adventure she didn’t know she craved.

But trading in her twinset for a siren-red dress and an undercover gig at a nightclub isn’t all harmless fun and she soon realizes that some people’s idea of excitement can have violent outcomes. Liz will have to decide—risk her family’s safety and stability, or go back to plain vanilla after just a taste of excitement. And is sexy secret agent Bill really on her side, or is he the biggest danger of all?

THE SUBURBAN SPY is a 70k word spy/chick lit mashup. It will appeal to fans of Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series and Lisa Lutz's Spellman books and anyone interested in a strong, female, unlikely hero set in the familiar, yet surprising, American suburbs.
Last edited by mommalikabooty on June 1st, 2010, 7:18 pm, edited 2 times in total.

Emily J
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Re: query: The Suburban Spy

Post by Emily J » May 18th, 2010, 8:09 pm

mommalikabooty wrote:New to this forum, new to writing. I'd love some feedback on this query. I'll be submitting in the next couple of months. I especially don't know what to do about the bio section-- I have no work experience as a spy :)

Dear specific agent,
You think you know Liz Murdock, this struck me as a bit odd, if "you" is the reader then no, I don't know Liz Murdock at all suburban mom of two, wife, and minivan driver. She is predictable. Pedestrian. Plain vanilla. Why are you repeating yourself? this sounds a bit like a person enjoying the sound of their own voice. not sure if saying this 3 (4 implied) times is really necessary But her ice cream cone gains a few sprinkles of excitement when she hits a bimbo with her car outside the elementary school. Could this be the wildest thing to happen to her all year? why is this a question? and wild? she hit someone with her car why does this sound so lighthearted? the tone does not seem to match the content It might be, until Bill Sooner, international spy, grabs her by the arm and propels her into an adventure beyond her cherry-on-top imagination. and this is where you kill the metaphor, and stomp on it

But when she uncovers secrets cliched, esp in queries, what secrets? how do these secrets start to destroy her life? about her friends and the safe suburban neighborhood she’s resided in all her life, Liz’s stable world begins to crumble. Liz will have to decide—risk her family, or go back to plain vanilla after just a taste of excitement. And is sexy secret agent Bill really on her side, or is he the biggest danger of all? not sure i like ending in a question mark, but generally I think this paragraph is stronger than the first

The Suburban Spy all caps for title is a 70k word chick lit/spy adventure thriller, the genre is a bit of a mouthful and it’s my first. consider leaving out that it's your first novel, not sure it will do you any favors
Thank you for your consideration,
me
Now that I have read it through, I get your point of view. You want a cute sassy hook for a chick lit novel about espionage in the suburbs. But I think hitting the "bimbo" with the car being described as "wild" comes across strangely, like Liz takes running people over as lightly as some celebrities. It bothered and it seemed to contradict the light hearted tone of the query. Also, I really think you were forcing the ice cream metaphor and not sure it was working in any case. And finally, while I get your point of view and your tone was consistent, I still think it comes across as a bit cliched, maybe find a way of highlighting what is unique about your novel.

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Quill
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Re: query: The Suburban Spy

Post by Quill » May 18th, 2010, 10:37 pm

mommalikabooty wrote: You think you know Liz Murdock, suburban mom of two, wife, and minivan driver. She is predictable. Pedestrian.
Calling her a minivan driver and then (a) pedestrian creates an unhelpful resonance to the writing. Agents read fast. Don't let them get caught on stupid stuff.
Plain vanilla.
My favorite flavor. It's jump up and down excellent, to me. Especially Breyers. No toppings needed. So, not wholly sure that metaphor works.
But her ice cream cone gains a few sprinkles of excitement when she hits a bimbo
What sort of woman would consider another woman a bimbo? Or gains excitement at another's expense, doesn't make me feel particularly sympathetic to this main character so far.
with her car outside the elementary school. Could this be the wildest thing to happen to her all year?
"Wildest thing" is just not specific enough for a query, hip as it might sound. Wildest could mean a lot of things.
It might be, until Bill Sooner, international spy, grabs her by the arm and propels her
Not sure about the grabbing and propelling. He throws her?
into an adventure beyond her cherry-on-top imagination.
I don't mind this line. Not a bad way to end a paragraph if the preceding sentences can be bolstered.
But when she uncovers secrets about her friends and the safe suburban neighborhood she’s resided in all her life,
Not specific enough of a teaser. Give us more of a clue about what, presumably, most of the book is about.
Liz’s stable world begins to crumble.
Drop "stable" as we get it already (safe, suburban, vanilla, pedestrian, predictable, white bread. Wait, you didn't use the bread).
Liz will have to decide—risk her family, or go back to plain vanilla after just a taste of excitement.
I don't think you can credibly repeat "plain", "vanilla", or "excitement" after using them above. (I'm a stickler for word territory and I think many agents are, too.)

And is sexy secret agent Bill really on her side, or is he the biggest danger of all?
The Suburban Spy is a 70k word chick lit/spy adventure thriller, and it’s my first.
Thank you for your consideration,
me
Agree with previous commenter that the genre is too long (just call it chick lit?) and not of benefit to say it's your first.

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Re: query: The Suburban Spy

Post by mommalikabooty » May 19th, 2010, 7:05 am

Thank you for the feedback!

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wilderness
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Re: query: The Suburban Spy

Post by wilderness » May 19th, 2010, 2:04 pm

mommalikabooty wrote:New to this forum, new to writing. I'd love some feedback on this query. I'll be submitting in the next couple of months. I especially don't know what to do about the bio section-- I have no work experience as a spy :)
Work experience is unnecessary if you have no previous literary credentials.

Dear specific agent,
You think you know Liz Murdock, suburban mom of two, wife, and minivan driver. She is predictable. Pedestrian. Plain vanilla. But her ice cream cone gains a few sprinkles of excitement when she hits a bimbo with her car outside the elementary school. I don't like the use of the word bimbo here because it sounds kinda judgy. Also, it's unclear how a car accident leads to a spy adventure. Could this be the wildest thing to happen to her all year? It might be, until Bill Sooner, international spy, grabs her by the arm and propels her into an adventure beyond her cherry-on-top imagination.

But when she uncovers secrets about her friends and the safe suburban neighborhood she’s resided in all her life, Liz’s stable world begins to crumble. Liz will have to decide—risk her family, or go back to plain vanilla after just a taste of excitement. This is all too general. Give us some specific details from your plot. What secrets does she discover? You mention her family but we don't know anything about them. And tell us more about sexy secret agent Bill. And is sexy secret agent Bill really on her side, or is he the biggest danger of all?

The Suburban Spy is a 70k word chick lit/spy adventure thriller, and it’s my first. Cute title!
Thank you for your consideration,
me
Could be cute, but we need some more details. Right now it sounds like the plot of the TV show "Chuck". Make it your own! Good luck.

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Kirril
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Re: query: The Suburban Spy

Post by Kirril » May 19th, 2010, 3:25 pm

The first sentence made me at first think you were asking a question for some reason. Overall I like the query, but some minor changes might help. I like the Dragnet (just the facts) tone this query puts in my head. How about changing that first sentence like so:

Meet Liz Murdock, suburban mom of two, wife, and minivan driver. She is predictable, pedestrian. Plain vanilla.

I don't so much dig the ice cream cone metaphor that runs through the query, though. Also, hitting the bimbo doesn't seem to connect to the story, although I assume it's the reason for Bill Sooner to propel her into his world.

I'd make the connection between the bimbo and Bill. Are there greater things afoot here or simply a suburban housewife getting a taste of excitement? Is this Desperate Housewives meets James Bond? The plot seems based simply around a woman seeing life from a different perspective, but I assume there's some greater mystery happening too. Perhaps you should expound on that in the query just a bit.

Hope this helps.

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Re: query: The Suburban Spy

Post by J. T. SHEA » May 20th, 2010, 4:22 pm

I quite like rhetorical questions. But take them out if you query Nathan! Likewise word repetition. Not a problem for me, particularly deliberate echoing, but it drives some people crazy. I agree with other commenters that you should spell out more of what happens. The setup reminds me of the movie TRUE LIES, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

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Re: query: The Suburban Spy

Post by Jessica Peter » May 21st, 2010, 2:16 am

mommalikabooty wrote: Dear specific agent,
You think you know Liz Murdock, suburban mom of two, wife, and minivan driver. No I don't, I've never met her. . . You may not want to start with a statement like this, for the same reason you shouldn't start with a hypothetical question: the answer might be no. She is predictable. Pedestrian. Plain vanilla. But her ice cream cone gains a few sprinkles of excitement when she hits a bimbo A bimbo? That sounds kind of harsh. Maybe describe the... er.. bimbo. with her car outside the elementary school. Could this be the wildest thing to happen to her all year?It might be the wildest thing to happen to her all year, until Bill Sooner, international spy, grabs her by the arm and propels her into an adventure beyond her cherry-on-top imagination.Why would he grab a predictable soccer mom? You may want a bit of clarity there[Oh wait, I just inferred the soccer part. I do actually feel that I know about ten of this woman]

But when she uncovers secrets about her friends and the safe suburban neighborhood she’s resided in all her life, I think we need to hear some secrets to raise the tension bar a bitLiz’s stable world begins to crumble. Liz will have to decide—risk her family, what would risk her family? or go back to plain vanilla after just a taste of excitement. And is sexy secret agent Bill really on her side, or is he the biggest danger of all? Wait.. .sexy? Is he also a love interest?

The Suburban Spy is a 70k word chick lit/spy adventure thriller, and it’s my first novel.

Insert things about why you are querying specific agent.
Thank you for your consideration,
me
I definitely feel I know this woman, and I'm kind of delighted by the little ice cream references. I wonder if there's enough of the voice in this query. . . and I also think you could raise the tension by stating more of the conflict in the query, rather than leaving it as a question.

Hello
http://jessdoesstuff.blogspot.com
http://twitter.com/JessicaPeter1
Currently querying HUNT, YA Urban Fantasy & writing a post-apocalyptic romance

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Re: query #1: The Suburban Spy, first version

Post by mommalikabooty » June 1st, 2010, 7:19 pm

New to this forum, new to writing. I'd love some feedback on this query. I'll be submitting in the next couple of months. I especially don't know what to do about the bio section-- I have no work experience as a spy :)

Dear specific agent,
You think you know Liz Murdock, suburban mom of two, wife, and minivan driver. She is predictable. Pedestrian. Plain vanilla. But her ice cream cone gains a few sprinkles of excitement when she hits a bimbo with her car outside the elementary school. Could this be the wildest thing to happen to her all year? It might be, until Bill Sooner, international spy, grabs her by the arm and propels her into an adventure beyond her cherry-on-top imagination.

But when she uncovers secrets about her friends and the safe suburban neighborhood she’s resided in all her life, Liz’s stable world begins to crumble. Liz will have to decide—risk her family, or go back to plain vanilla after just a taste of excitement. And is sexy secret agent Bill really on her side, or is he the biggest danger of all?

The Suburban Spy is a 70k word chick lit/spy adventure thriller, and it’s my first.
Thank you for your consideration,
me

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wilderness
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Re: query #2: The Suburban Spy, edited

Post by wilderness » June 9th, 2010, 7:39 pm

Hmm, you might want to put a big VERSION 2 at the top and VERSION 1 at the bottom just to be clear.
mommalikabooty wrote: Dear specific agent,

Liz Murdock is happy with her life in suburbia, her two children, and her minivan. She has a few problems—her mommy friends seem to be going in separate directions, her mom (repeat of word mom in different context) keeps bugging her to “talk to her sister”, and some bimbo spent all evening entertaining her husband with boob-o-vision at the Sellner’s dinner party last week. The bimbo entertained him with boob-o-vision or he has boob-o-vision? But overall she’s content. Life is predictable. Plain vanilla.

Until she accidentally nails the bimbo with her car outside the elementary school. And Bill Sooner, international spy and the bimbo’s partner, grabs Liz by the arm and propels her into an adventure she didn’t know she craved.

But trading in her twinset for a siren-red dress and an undercover gig at a nightclub isn’t all harmless fun and she soon realizes that some people’s idea of excitement can have violent outcomes. The comparison isn't quite symmetrical, maybe change to "her twinset for a siren-red dress and her knitting club for an undercover gig..." But then it gets a little long, so maybe split into two sentences. Liz will have to decide—risk her family’s safety and stability, or go back to plain vanilla after just a taste of excitement. And is sexy secret agent Bill really on her side, or is he the biggest danger of all?

THE SUBURBAN SPY is a 70k word spy/chick lit mashup. It will appeal to fans of Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series and Lisa Lutz's Spellman books and anyone interested in a strong, female, unlikely hero set in the familiar, yet surprising, American suburbs.
Cute story. I like the details you've added in. Especially the bit about the nightclub; it's so much easier to picture what she's gotten involved in. I'm still wondering why *she* was picked and are there any stakes other than the fact that she's risking her family's safety. Does she have anything to gain besides just a little excitement? Like maybe a more fulfilling purpose in life. Anyway, you don't have to answer all that in the query but maybe just try to raise the tension a bit.

Good luck!

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Re: query #2: The Suburban Spy, edited

Post by sperber » June 10th, 2010, 12:54 pm

Mommalike,

Great job polishing your query. Really, the difference between the first draft and this new one is amazing.

Only one thing really stuck out, in a bad way:
Liz will have to decide—risk her family’s safety and stability, or go back to plain vanilla after just a taste of excitement.
I believe this is what they call a false choice. I was along for the ride for the length of the query, until I got to this. I just can't imagine anyone would pick excitement over their family's safety. I would buy it if she's "in too deep," as they say, and she can't get out without seeing the spy thing through. I.e., she's exposed her family to the Big Bad and the only way to save them is to take down said Big Bad. Or, Bill won't let her walk away.

BTW, someone mentioned this sounds like True Lies. My thought was Scarecrow and Mrs. King. Or, for a less ancient crowd, Chuck meets Desperate Housewives. Sounds like fun!

Good luck!

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