QUERY - TRIAL OF THE HEART - Which one?

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Erin
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QUERY - TRIAL OF THE HEART - Which one?

Post by Erin » November 4th, 2010, 4:25 pm

Hello! I am new to the forum and grateful I found it. I revised my query (after 9 rejections) and posted it below. Feedback would be greatly apprecaited. Thank you!!! : )


** Newest Revision is on page 2 **


Dear (Specific Agent),


Emily Hennas has the power to ease a man’s suffering--the man responsible for murdering her family.

After her husband, son and daughter are killed by a drunk driver, Emily is left alone to raise her youngest son. She moves to New York, to be near her brother, and faces the most difficult decision of her life: keep fighting for the justice her children deserve, or forgive the driver, Conway Duke, for causing their deaths.

Driven by anger and survivor’s guilt, shadowed by the memory of her emotionally abusive husband, Emily engages the legal fight. Forging an unlikely friendship with her neighbor, complications ensue when an unwanted attraction develops. But Emily has "rules" for their friendship. And friendship is all it must be.

The legal battle ignites and the emotionally charged case changes course in one explosive moment. Conway Duke is seriously ill and might never stand trial.

My 87,000 word women's fiction novel, TRIAL OF THE HEART, explores a mother’s love, a woman’s heart and the obsession for justice.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Sincerely,

(Name & Contact Info)
Last edited by Erin on November 9th, 2010, 9:28 am, edited 8 times in total.

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Re: QUERY - TRIAL OF THE HEART

Post by Fenris » November 5th, 2010, 11:21 am

Hi Erin,

Okay, a couple things here.

"Dear (Specific Agent),

Emily Hennas has the power to ease a man’s suffering--the man responsible for murdering her family. (good hook, but can it be even tighter?)

After her husband, (perhaps insert ‘eldest’ here, since she has two sons and the younger is the one who survives. As is, I had to look back here when you said her son had survived) son and daughter are killed by a drunk driver, Emily is left alone to raise her youngest son. She moves to New York, (no comma there) to be near her brother, and faces the most difficult decision of her life: keep fighting for the justice her children deserve, or forgive the driver, Conway Duke, for causing their deaths.

Driven by anger and survivor’s guilt, shadowed by the memory of her emotionally abusive husband (further adding to the reason she should forgive Conway and therefore heightening conflict. Good), Emily engages in the legal fight. Forging an unlikely friendship with her neighbor, complications ensue when an unwanted attraction develops. But Emily has "rules" for their friendship. And friendship is all it must be. Is this bit about her neighbor important? Does the attraction affect the main plot and conflict? If not, I’d leave this bit out of the query.

The legal battle ignites and the emotionally charged case changes course in one explosive moment. Conway Duke is seriously ill and might never stand trial. Is this really ‘explosive?’ Perhaps ‘frustrating,’ as I know I would be if the big trial were suddenly postponed. Also, kind of an abrupt ending here.

My 87,000 word women's fiction novel, TRIAL OF THE HEART, explores a mother’s love, a woman’s heart and the obsession for justice. Obsession…maybe. Is it an obsession, or simple determination?

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Sincerely,

???"

Overall, good query. The plot seems well-rounded as does the MC, and it's presented nicely. I would go into at least a little more detail about Conway's mysterious illness, though, as this ending seems a little sudden.

Good luck! Never give up!

Fenris
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Re: QUERY - TRIAL OF THE HEART

Post by Erin » November 5th, 2010, 11:52 am

Fenris wrote:Hi Erin,

Okay, a couple things here.

"Dear (Specific Agent),

Emily Hennas has the power to ease a man’s suffering--the man responsible for murdering her family. (good hook, but can it be even tighter?)

After her husband, (perhaps insert ‘eldest’ here, since she has two sons and the younger is the one who survives. As is, I had to look back here when you said her son had survived) son and daughter are killed by a drunk driver, Emily is left alone to raise her youngest son. She moves to New York to be near her brother, and faces the most difficult decision of her life: keep fighting for the justice her children deserve, or forgive the driver, Conway Duke, for causing their deaths.

Driven by anger and survivor’s guilt, shadowed by the memory of her emotionally abusive husband (further adding to the reason she should forgive Conway and therefore heightening conflict. Good), Emily engages in the legal fight. Forging an unlikely friendship with her neighbor, complications ensue when an unwanted attraction develops. But Emily has "rules" for their friendship. And friendship is all it must be. Is this bit about her neighbor important? Does the attraction affect the main plot and conflict? If not, I’d leave this bit out of the query. The relationship/attraction is important and adds to the conflict.

The legal battle ignites and the emotionally charged case changes course in one explosive moment. Conway Duke is seriously ill and might never stand trial. Is this really ‘explosive?’ Perhaps ‘frustrating,’ as I know I would be if the big trial were suddenly postponed. Also, kind of an abrupt ending here.

The trial has been postponed - repeatedly - for eighteen months. Emily is long past frustrated and the explosive revelation compounds her obsession.

My 87,000 word women's fiction novel, TRIAL OF THE HEART, explores a mother’s love, a woman’s heart and the obsession for justice. Obsession…maybe. Is it an obsession, or simple determination?

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Sincerely,

???"

Overall, good query. The plot seems well-rounded as does the MC, and it's presented nicely. I would go into at least a little more detail about Conway's mysterious illness, though, as this ending seems a little sudden.

Good luck! Never give up!

Fenris

Fenris, Thank you! Your comments are excellent.I added a little explanation to some of your points. I really apprecaite your feedback.

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Re: QUERY - TRIAL OF THE HEART

Post by Fenris » November 5th, 2010, 12:46 pm

Hi Erin,

Explanations understood and appreciated. I know I would certainly be past frustrated if a trial I was involved in dragged on that long! Good luck with querying! I know it feels rigged, but don't give up! :)

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Re: QUERY - TRIAL OF THE HEART

Post by cheekychook » November 5th, 2010, 2:29 pm

Erin wrote:Hello! I am new to the forum and grateful I found it. I revised my query (after 9 rejections) and posted the new version below. Feedback would be greatly apprecaited. Thank you!!! : )



Dear (Specific Agent),

Emily Hennas has the power to ease a man’s suffering--the man responsible for murdering her family.

After her husband, son and daughter are killed by a drunk driver, Emily is left alone to raise her youngest son. She moves to New York, to be near her brother, and faces the most difficult decision of her life: keep fighting for the justice her children deserve, or forgive the driver, Conway Duke, for causing their deaths.

Driven by anger and survivor’s guilt, shadowed by the memory of her emotionally abusive husband, Emily engages the legal fight. Forging an unlikely friendship with her neighbor, complications ensue when an unwanted attraction develops. But Emily has "rules" for their friendship. And friendship is all it must be.

The legal battle ignites and the emotionally charged case changes course in one explosive moment. Conway Duke is seriously ill and might never stand trial.

My 87,000 word women's fiction novel, TRIAL OF THE HEART, explores a mother’s love, a woman’s heart and the obsession for justice.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Sincerely,
Hi and welcome to the forums!

First off, 9 rejections may seem like a lot, but really it's not that many. Your query letter is short and hits the major points (which is great), but you may want to flesh it out a little bit to add to the tension (which I'm certain is present in the book, based on your query).

Your log line (opening sentence) is a good hook.

Your overall wordcount (including greeting and closing) is only 181, and queries should ideally be anywhere from 250-350 words, so you have lots of space to add some good details.

I think this might be a good place to add a little more tension/oomph:

Forging an unlikely friendship with her neighbor, complications ensue when an unwanted attraction develops. But Emily has "rules" for their friendship. And friendship is all it must be.

Questions:
Why is it an unlikely friendship?
Is there a more alluring way you can say complications ensue?
Is this a friendship/attraction that both keeps her going and causes her stress?
Is the attraction mutual and, if so, why is she resisting? Fear? Not ready? Done with men?

The sentence "And friendship is all it must be." sounds so final it leaves no room for speculation about what may be going on with these two. It's better to make things open-ended and enticing in a query---you're trying to lure the reader into wanting to know what happens.

The two sentences about the trial---explosive moment and seriously ill---are much more telling than showing, which again doesn't make full use of the tension-potential. Can you get the emotion across rather than just stating what happens? Try to be specific to draw the reader into your character's feelings and how high-powered this moment is. What's at stake? Her desire for revenge? Her tenuous grasp on sanity? Show us.

You might consider rewording your word count sentence---it's a pet peeve of many agents to hear the word "fiction" and "novel" used together as the two words are redundant. I know "women's fiction" is the title of the genre, so that makes it a gray area, but I'd still avoid the fiction novel combo. You could say

TRIAL OF THE HEART is an 87,000 word work of women's fiction.... or

TRIAL OF THE HEART is women's fiction and is complete at 87,000 words...

Also, (and you may already be doing this) many agents like to know that you have queried him/her in particular and why---you have plenty of room to add a sentence or two about why you think a certain might want to represent your novel (rep similar books, you've read his/her blog and the preferences seem to match up with your writing, actively seeking women's fiction....whatever).

With a few minor tweaks I think your already good query letter can be even better. Best of luck to you in the query process!
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Re: QUERY - TRIAL OF THE HEART * REVISED*

Post by karenbb » November 5th, 2010, 5:08 pm

Erin, I've made comments below. I'm one of the other women's fiction writers on the board, so hopefully this will be of some use to you. The main thing I would stress is there is a lot of toughness to this query. Let us see both sides of the story...let us see Emily as both an angry mother eager for justice and a vulnerable woman trying to come to terms with tragedy. I hope none of this comes across as overly critical. Believe me, I have 37 different versions of my query and those are just the versions I have saved. It is incredibly difficult and I feel your pain. Keep working at it. The great news is that this is super short, so you have some space to let it breathe a little. Best of luck--I look forward to reading future revisions.
Erin wrote:
Dear (Specific Agent),

Emily Hennas has the power to ease a man’s suffering--the man responsible for murdering her family. Very good opening line, but I had to read it twice before I understood what you meant. I'm wondering if you say "one man's suffering", if that will make it more clear. Otherwise, "a man's suffering" sounds global--as if she can ease all men's suffering--and what a talent that would be...

After a drunk driver kills her husband, eldest son and daughter, Emily is left alone to raise her youngest son. I think you need to say something about her emotional state here--it's probably obvious how someone would feel, but so much of your query seems to focus on words like anger, murder, abusive, etc..I think we would like to see the softer side of Emily, know how much this is destroying her inside. To be near her only family, she moves to New York and faces the most difficult decision of her life: keep fighting for the justice her children deserve, or forgive the driver, Conway Duke, for causing their deaths. I would tweak this sentence a bit. To have the support of her only family, she moves to New York and faces the most difficult decision of her life: fight for the justice her children deserve or forgive the driver, Conway Duke, for causing their deaths. (I'm just assuming she moved to have the support of her family, that tells us that she needs support, she wants it. This is a heavy story. We need to feel more than pity for your main character...we have to be standing with her, make it relatable to everyone. Everybody has needed the support of family at some point in their life.)

Driven by anger and survivor’s guilt, shadowed by the memory of her emotionally abusive husband, Emily engages in the legal fight. Again, I feel like you need to soften the edges, it's hard to feel sympathy for someone who's only motivated by anger and guilt--you should try to bring the full range of emotions into it...her internal conflict, her feelings as a mother. How does her remaining son play into this? Surely the impact on him must be part of her decision making process. Maybe add that in, how she's concerned about him. All in an effort to create empathy for her. Also, I'm not sure what you mean when you say that she's shadowed by the memory of her emotionally abusive husband. How does that play into her decision to get into the legal fight? Is that part of the reason she's torn? Is that something that made the final decision for her? Forging an unlikely friendship with her neighbor, complications ensue when an unwanted attraction develops. But Emily has "rules" for their friendship. And friendship is all it must be. She doesn’t want or need anything more. I think this part is a problem. You give us a tiny hint of romance and then you kill it. Is that what happens in the book? If not, create tension, the attraction develops but she's so overcome by the emotion of the trial that she can't possibly become involved with someone...but he's so hot or handsome or whatever...you know what I mean. Entice us, tease us.

After multiple postponements this sounds like housekeeping--I would say something about how she feels about the postponements--are they frustrating to her? are they prolonging her agony? is it because the legal system is messed up? make use of this if you feel that marking the passing of time is important the legal battle ignites and the emotionally charged case changes course in one explosive moment. Conway Duke is seriously ill and may never face the justice for which Emily fights. I think the ignites, charged, explosive thing is a little heavy-handed. It sounds more like a John Grisham book than women's fiction. Also, I'm wondering if you need to tell us that Conway Duke is ill. Maybe it's better to leave us hanging...the course of the case changes in a single explosive moment and Emily is left wondering if she will ever have the justice she has sought...or something along those lines.

TRIAL OF THE HEART explores the depth of a mother’s love, a woman’s heart this is what I was hinting at above--show us the mother's love and a woman's heart above, because right now it feels like you're hiding it and the obsession for justice. The work of women’s fiction is complete at 87,000 words.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Sincerely,

(Name & Contact Info)


See Fenris' comments below to the original version.

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Re: QUERY - TRIAL OF THE HEART * REVISED*

Post by Erin » November 5th, 2010, 6:17 pm

Wow ...I really LOVE this forum!!! Thank you all for your comments and suggestions. I am revising and will post the new version tomorrow. THANK YOU!!!!!

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Re: QUERY - TRIAL OF THE HEART * REVISED*

Post by Quill » November 6th, 2010, 10:57 am

Looking forward to it!

Would you mind posting it in line in the thread rather than changing the opening post, so we can follow the progression?

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Re: QUERY - TRIAL OF THE HEART * REVISED*

Post by Erin » November 6th, 2010, 11:24 am

Okay, I've taken all your great comments and revised ... again! Please let me know what you think.


Dear (Specific Agent),

Emily Hennas has the power to ease one man’s painful suffering--the man responsible for murdering her family.

After a drunk driver kills her husband, eldest son and daughter, Emily is left to raise her youngest son, devastated and alone. Retreating to the support of her only family, she moves to New York and faces the most difficult decision of her life: fight for the justice her children deserve, or forgive the driver, Conway Duke, for causing their deaths.

Driven by grief and survivor’s guilt, shadowed by the intimidating memory of her emotionally abusive husband and fears for her surviving son, Emily engages in the legal fight. As she begins pulling together the fragments of her life, she forges an unlikely friendship with her neighbor. As their connection deepens, so does an attraction. But Emily has "rules" for their friendship. Even when she’s tempted to break them.

After eighteen agonizing months of postponements, the trial date is set. But when Conway Duke staggers into the room, pale and drawn, the case changes course in one explosive moment, leaving Emily to wonder if she will ever find the justice for which she fights.

TRIAL OF THE HEART explores the depth of a mother’s love, a woman’s heart and the obsession for justice. The work of women’s fiction is complete at 87,000 words. I am querying you because (insert reason).

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Sincerely,

(Name & Contact Info)

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Re: QUERY - TRIAL OF THE HEART * REVISED*

Post by fishfood » November 6th, 2010, 3:03 pm

This is SO something I would love to read!! I think you have the query nailed. I just made a few tweaking suggestions. :)
Erin wrote:Okay, I've taken all your great comments and revised ... again! Please let me know what you think.


Dear (Specific Agent),

Emily Hennas has the power to ease one man’s painful suffering--the man responsible for murdering her family.

After a drunk driver kills her husband, eldest son and daughter, Emily is left to raise her youngest son. Devastated and alone, she moves to New York in seek of help from her only family. Retreating to the support of her only family, she moves to New York and faces the most difficult decision of her life: fight for the justice her children deserve, or forgive the driver, Conway Duke, for causing their deaths. I think this sentence belongs as the close to your query since it's the choice she must make.

Driven by grief and survivor’s guilt, shadowed by the intimidating memory of her emotionally abusive husband and fears for her surviving son, Emily engages in the legal fight. [This sentece is good, but a bit on the long side, I'd try to break it up.]As she begins pulling together the fragments of her life, she forges aan unlikely friendship with her neighbor. As their connection deepens, so does an attraction. But Emilyhas "rules" for their friendship. I don't think its wise in a query to put things in quotations. I'd just say: But Emily refuses to complicate her life with a new relationship. Even though she's tempted to do so. when she’s tempted to break them.

After eighteen agonizing months of postponements, the trial date is set. But when Conway Duke staggers into the room, pale and drawn, the case changes course in one explosive moment, leaving Emily with most difficult decision of her life: fighting for the justice her murdered family deserves, or forgiving the man responsible. if she will ever find the justice for which she fights.
TRIAL OF THE HEART explores the depth of a mother’s love, a woman’s heart and the obsession for justice. The work of women’s fiction is complete at 87,000 words. I am querying you because (insert reason).

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Sincerely,

(Name & Contact Info)

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Re: QUERY - TRIAL OF THE HEART * REVISION #3*

Post by Erin » November 7th, 2010, 1:17 pm

Let's give this one a go!


Dear (Specific Agent),

Emily Hennas has the power to ease one man’s painful suffering--the man responsible for murdering her family.

After a drunk driver kills her husband, eldest son and daughter, Emily is left alone to raise her youngest child. Shadowed by the intimidating memory of her abusive husband, she retreats to New York in seek of solace from her only family.

Driven by grief, survivor’s guilt, and fears for her surviving son, Emily engages in the legal fight. As she begins pulling together the fragments of her life, she forges an unlikely friendship with her neighbor. As their connection deepens, so does an attraction. But Emily still grapples with the past, and doesn’t want any more complications in her life. She declares "rules" for their friendship. Even though she’s tempted to break them.

After eighteen agonizing months of postponements, the trial date is set. But when Conway Duke staggers into the room, pale and drawn, the case changes course in one explosive moment, leaving Emily with the most difficult decision of her life: continue fighting for the justice her children deserve, or forgive the man responsible for causing their deaths.

TRIAL OF THE HEART explores the depth of a mother’s love, a woman’s heart and the obsession for justice. The work of women’s fiction is complete at 87,000 words. I am querying you because (insert reason).

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Sincerely,

(Name & Contact Info)

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Re: QUERY - TRIAL OF THE HEART * REVISION #4*

Post by thewhipslip » November 7th, 2010, 1:44 pm

In my opinion, the problem is that the query tries to create sympathy for this woman for losing her family, but then reveals that the husband tormented her. Though it may seem cold, but as I read this, I'm wondering if the woman doesn't feel relieved that her husband is gone. Obviously the death of her children is a tragedy, but don't marry grief over her kids with the grief over her husband - they're not the same thing. Perhaps the grief over her husband is more about the guilt that she wanted him gone and her wish was granted. Be sure to separate the two: guilt over wanting her husband gone, grief that her wish was fulfilled but her kids died in the process. Deal-with-the-devil type of situation.

The query also needs to provide the motivating details. If it details the woman's guilt, it would explain why she doesn't want to get into another relationship. But to really create intrigue, tell us what the "explosive moment" is. That's vital. It's where your conflict lies, and that's what the agent wants to read. What your MC stands against. What is going to make it harder for her to come to that final decision?
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Re: QUERY - TRIAL OF THE HEART * REVISION #4*

Post by Fenris » November 7th, 2010, 4:08 pm

This is getting much better, Erin. Still a few things, though:
Erin wrote:Dear (Specific Agent),

Emily Hennas has the power to ease one man’s painful suffering (this is slightly redundant, seeing as suffering is by definition painful)--the man responsible for murdering her family.

After a drunk driver kills her husband, eldest son and daughter, Emily is left alone to raise her youngest child. Shadowed by the intimidating (Do you need this modifier? What other kind of memory would an abusive husband leave behind?) memory of her abusive husband, she retreats to New York in seek of solace from her only family.

Driven by grief, survivor’s guilt, and fears for her surviving son, Emily engages in the legal fight. As she begins pulling together the fragments of her life, she forges an unlikely friendship with her neighbor. As their connection deepens, so does an attraction (This sentence seems to connote that there was already a previous attraction, which is now deepening. Is that the case?). But Emily still grapples with the past, and doesn’t want any more complications in her life. She declares "rules" for their friendship. Even though she’s tempted to break them (Could these last two sentences be combined? They present a related idea).

After eighteen agonizing months of postponements, the trial date is set. But when Conway Duke staggers into the room, pale and drawn, the case changes course in one explosive moment, leaving Emily with the most difficult decision of her life: continue fighting for the justice her children deserve, or forgive the man responsible for causing their deaths.

TRIAL OF THE HEART explores the depth of a mother’s love, a woman’s heart and the obsession for justice. The work of women’s fiction is complete at 87,000 words. I am querying you because (insert reason) (Haha just be sure to fill this in before you query!).

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Sincerely,

(Name & Contact Info)
Again, this is getting better. Keep at it, and it'll be perfect in no time! Good luck with your work!

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Re: QUERY - TRIAL OF THE HEART * REVISION #4*

Post by karenbb » November 7th, 2010, 5:28 pm

Erin,

I think you did an excellent job bringing in more emotion, making Emily softer and more likable. I also like the way you give us the image of him walking into the courtroom--very dramatic. I would take the previous comments on your most recent revision into consideration, a few minor tweaks to improve things even more. You should be able to re-enter the hell of querying much more confident. Best of luck!

Karen

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Re: QUERY - TRIAL OF THE HEART * REVISION #?*

Post by Erin » November 8th, 2010, 8:59 am

And ... one more time ...


Dear (Specific Agent),

Emily Hennas has the power to ease one man’s suffering--the man responsible for murdering her family.

After a drunk driver kills her husband, eldest son and daughter, Emily is left alone to raise her youngest son. Shadowed by the memory of her abusive husband, she retreats to New York in seek of solace from her only family.

Driven by grief, survivor’s guilt, and fears for her surviving child, Emily engages in the legal fight. As she begins pulling together the fragments of her life, she forges an unlikely friendship with her neighbor. As their connection deepens, an attraction develops. But Emily still struggles with the past, and doesn’t want any more complications in her life. She declares "rules" for their friendship--even though she’s tempted to break them.

After eighteen agonizing months of postponements, the trial date is set. But when Conway Duke staggers into the room, pale and drawn, the case changes course in one explosive moment, leaving Emily with the most difficult decision of her life: continue fighting for the justice her children deserve, or forgive the man responsible for causing their deaths.

TRIAL OF THE HEART explores the depth of a mother’s love, a woman’s heart and the obsession for justice. The work of women’s fiction is complete at 87,000 words. I am querying you because (insert reason).

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Sincerely,

(Name & Contact Info)

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