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Paul O'Brien
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Post by Paul O'Brien » November 9th, 2011, 3:08 pm

Hello All,

I would appreciate some feedback on my Crime Novel query, please. It had gotten a full request and a few 'this looks strong but not for us,' replies. What do you guys think?

Danno Garland is an honest, but underachieving wrestling promoter living in late sixties/early seventies New York. He is at the bottom of his business and struggling to keep his territory alive.

In the world of professional wrestling the next world champion, and all the money and power that brings, is decided by a small, politically underhanded, national body of owners who have continually dismissed Danno for years.

But an aging Danno has found a once in a lifetime giant wrestler that could be the biggest drawing champion of all time. And for once, he’s not taking ‘no’ for an answer.

Desperation pushes him to make a deal with a morally corrupt and dangerous fellow owner in Proctor King. Both men shake on a secretive, long term plan that promises Danno the belt - but not without conditions that create considerable peril.

Danno, now in above his head, must learn to work smart and fast in precarious and unfamiliar circumstances, to survive a double-crossing turf war with Proctor that could cost him everything. Every decision he is forced to make pushes him, his family, and his loyal crew closer to danger and attack.

Can Danno make it to the top of this notoriously shielded and vicious world while maintaining his 'clean' hands?
Last edited by Paul O'Brien on April 27th, 2012, 4:28 am, edited 1 time in total.

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wilderness
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Re: Query for Blood Red Turns Dollar Green

Post by wilderness » November 10th, 2011, 2:57 pm

Hi Paul,

Sorry if it seems like I ripped this query apart below. They are of course just an opinion, mainly based on things I've noticed on Query Shark. If you haven't previously checked out Query Shark, I highly recommend it! She has great examples of what does and does not work in a query. Hope this helps & good luck!
Paul O'Brien wrote:
Danno Garland is an honest, but underachieving wrestling promoter living in late sixties/early seventies New York. He is at the bottom of his business and struggling to keep his territory alive. There is over-writing here. Why not just choose one of late 60 or early 70s? Better yet, how about just 60s. If he is struggling to keep his business (not sure why you use the word territory) alive, then you don't need to say he is at the bottom of his business. Also the term "underachieving" doesn't seem to go with the rest of the query -- he is trying to make it big right?

In the world of professional wrestling (we already know we're talking about wrestling) the next world champion, and all the money and power that brings,(unnecessary clause that is not telling us anything and making the sentence clunky) is decided by a small, politically underhanded, national (do we need all of these descriptors?) body of owners who have continually dismissed Danno for years.

Cleaner sentence: "The next world champion will be decided by a select few."

The first two paragraphs are all setup and backstory. Your story starts in the next paragraph, when Danno finds a giant wrestler.

But an aging Danno has found a once in a lifetime giant wrestler that could be the biggest drawing champion of all time. And for once, he’s not taking ‘no’ for an answer. Taking no for an answer about what? From who? He can rep anyone he wants so this is confusing.

Desperation pushes him to make a deal with a morally corrupt and dangerous fellow owner in Proctor King. Both men shake on a secretive, long term plan that promises Danno the belt - but not without conditions that create considerable peril. This is pretty vague. Why was he desperate and what deal does he make with Proctor King? Nathan has a great post on the importance of specificity here

Danno, now in above his head, must learn to work smart and fast in precarious and unfamiliar circumstances, to survive a double-crossing turf war with Proctor that could cost him everything. Every decision he is forced to make pushes him, his family, and his loyal crew closer to danger and attack.

Can Danno make it to the top of this notoriously shielded and vicious world while maintaining his 'clean' hands?
I don't have a great sense of the conflict. What does Danno need to do to make a success with his new wrestler?

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Re: Query for Blood Red Turns Dollar Green

Post by Paul O'Brien » November 10th, 2011, 5:50 pm

wilderness wrote:Hi Paul,

Sorry if it seems like I ripped this query apart below. They are of course just an opinion, mainly based on things I've noticed on Query Shark. If you haven't previously checked out Query Shark, I highly recommend it! She has great examples of what does and does not work in a query. Hope this helps & good luck!
Paul O'Brien wrote:
Danno Garland is an honest, but underachieving wrestling promoter living in late sixties/early seventies New York. He is at the bottom of his business and struggling to keep his territory alive. There is over-writing here. Why not just choose one of late 60 or early 70s? Better yet, how about just 60s. If he is struggling to keep his business (not sure why you use the word territory) alive, then you don't need to say he is at the bottom of his business. Also the term "underachieving" doesn't seem to go with the rest of the query -- he is trying to make it big right?

In the world of professional wrestling (we already know we're talking about wrestling) the next world champion, and all the money and power that brings,(unnecessary clause that is not telling us anything and making the sentence clunky) is decided by a small, politically underhanded, national (do we need all of these descriptors?) body of owners who have continually dismissed Danno for years.

Cleaner sentence: "The next world champion will be decided by a select few."

The first two paragraphs are all setup and backstory. Your story starts in the next paragraph, when Danno finds a giant wrestler.

But an aging Danno has found a once in a lifetime giant wrestler that could be the biggest drawing champion of all time. And for once, he’s not taking ‘no’ for an answer. Taking no for an answer about what? From who? He can rep anyone he wants so this is confusing.

Desperation pushes him to make a deal with a morally corrupt and dangerous fellow owner in Proctor King. Both men shake on a secretive, long term plan that promises Danno the belt - but not without conditions that create considerable peril. This is pretty vague. Why was he desperate and what deal does he make with Proctor King? Nathan has a great post on the importance of specificity here

Danno, now in above his head, must learn to work smart and fast in precarious and unfamiliar circumstances, to survive a double-crossing turf war with Proctor that could cost him everything. Every decision he is forced to make pushes him, his family, and his loyal crew closer to danger and attack.

Can Danno make it to the top of this notoriously shielded and vicious world while maintaining his 'clean' hands?
I don't have a great sense of the conflict. What does Danno need to do to make a success with his new wrestler?

Thank you very much. Loads of food for thought. Points well made.

Paul

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Re: Query for Blood Red Turns Dollar Green

Post by bforlenza » November 10th, 2011, 9:00 pm

Paul...Sounds like a great story, but sadly if you can't get an agent to read your query I'm never going to be able to read it.

First let me say that I am a novice, but one thing I have heard a million times is pick out your main character, what his problem is, what it will cost him and what he will do about it. Then you have to do it in a concise, word conscious way that makes the agent want to read more. Much harder than it sounds. As was already mentioned, Queryshark is great. Alot of good examples of bad queries that get better with Janet Reid's guidance. Good luck and as you will see I am also struggling with my query in this forum......Barbara

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Re: Query for Blood Red Turns Dollar Green

Post by Paul O'Brien » November 11th, 2011, 2:22 pm

bforlenza wrote:Paul...Sounds like a great story, but sadly if you can't get an agent to read your query I'm never going to be able to read it.

First let me say that I am a novice, but one thing I have heard a million times is pick out your main character, what his problem is, what it will cost him and what he will do about it. Then you have to do it in a concise, word conscious way that makes the agent want to read more. Much harder than it sounds. As was already mentioned, Queryshark is great. Alot of good examples of bad queries that get better with Janet Reid's guidance. Good luck and as you will see I am also struggling with my query in this forum......Barbara
Thanks for the kind words. Query writing is a whole new discipline that I need to learn.

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Re: Query for Blood Red Turns Dollar Green

Post by Paul O'Brien » January 15th, 2012, 11:47 am

I would appreciate some feedback on take 2.

Thank you.






Dear ,

There is another Mob that never gets spoken about. Their network spans the US where they quietly make millions through an elaborate con. A staged, pompous, painful and murderous kind of con. Their story has never been talked about - until now.

Blood Red Turns Dollar Green is about an honest man who, in desperation, makes a dishonest deal that takes him from the bottom and propels him recklessly to the top of his corrupt industry.

It’s 1969, New York and Danno Garland gets no respect from his small group of cut-throat peers. Ever since he unspectacularly filled his late father’s seat late in his own life, Danno has been dismissed as not having the brains or the stomach that his old man had for making serious money. Being a late comer who didn’t earn his spot at the table has made Danno insignificant and invisible in his fellow partner’s eyes.

Now nearing retirement, Danno wants to instigate the biggest money making event he or any of his doubters have ever seen. He’s even found the once-in-a-generation talent to do it - but, as usual his plans fall on deaf ears.

Danno, sensing his time slipping quietly away, has had enough. After many years and numerous legitimate attempts at becoming an equal, Danno reluctantly accepts a secret deal from a dangerous, sudden ally in Proctor King. Proctor promises Danno he can turn the other skeptics and clear the way for Danno’s big finale. For a price.

Now in way above his head, Danno must learn to work smart and fast in precarious and unfamiliar circumstances. Every decision he is forced to make pushes him, and those around him, closer to danger. All the while putting on the spectacle to end all spectacles.

Blood Red Turns Dollar Green is a crime fiction story, complete at 74,000 words, that combines the historical detail of an actual era in American history with the political, shady backroom dealings reminiscent of Boardwalk Empire.

It is envisioned to be the first of a trilogy of books that would follow the fortunes of the main characters as they grow and clash and grab for power in a rich but largely unspoken about world.

I have been researching this book for over twenty years and although I have been writing professionally for fifteen years, Blood Red Turns Dollar Green is my first novel. Previously, I have written sixteen commissioned and professionally produced plays for Druid Theatre Company, Martin McDonagh, The National Theatre of Ireland and Red Kettle Theatre Company to name a few. I have also written two screenplays for production companies in New York and Dublin.

Thank you for taking the time to consider my query. I look forward to hearing from you,

Paul O’Brien

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Re: Query for Blood Red Turns Dollar Green

Post by inkpen » January 18th, 2012, 3:39 am

Much better here. The first query left me a bit confused about the real conflict, and there were many wording issues as previously pointed out. This version is far stronger and much more engaging. One tiny comment is that the word 'late' appears twice in one sentence and sits wrong to my ears.

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Re: Query for Blood Red Turns Dollar Green

Post by madmcgee » January 18th, 2012, 4:48 am

I think you are starting in the wrong place with this query. The first two paragraphs are gratuitous "telling" rather than showing. The third sentence starts the action.
There is another Mob that never gets spoken about. Their network spans the US where they quietly make millions through an elaborate con. A staged, pompous, painful and murderous kind of con. Their story has never been talked about - until now.

Blood Red Turns Dollar Green is about an honest man who, in desperation, makes a dishonest deal that takes him from the bottom and propels him recklessly to the top of his corrupt industry.
It’s 1969, New York and Danno Garland gets no respect from his small group ofcut-throat peers. Ever since he unspectacularly filled his late father’s seat late in his own life, Danno has been dismissed as not having the brains or the stomach that his old man had for making serious money. Being a late comer who didn’t earn his spot at the table has made Danno insignificant and invisible in his fellow partner’s eyes.

The two uses of 'late' make this sentence awkward and difficult to read. Unless his late father is a main plot point, this feels like a lot of backstory. Try to summarize this down to one sentence. Concentrate on Danno's feelings and motivations, not the exposition. Also, who are Danno's peers? Explain what industry he is in.
Now nearing retirement, Danno wants to instigate the biggest money making event he or any of his doubters have ever seen. He’s even found the once-in-a-generation talent to do it - but, as usual his plans fall on deaf ears.
This is just more telling exposition. It wastes words by repeating what you say in the paragraphs above and below it. Skip to the tension.
Danno, sensing his time slipping quietly away, has had enough. This is a cliche which adds nothing to the drama. After many years and numerous legitimate attempts failed? at becoming an equal, Danno reluctantly accepts a secret deal from a dangerous, sudden ally in Proctor King. Proctor promises Danno he can turn the other skeptics and clear the way for Danno’s big finale. For a price.

Now in way above his head, Danno must learn to work smart and fast in precarious and unfamiliar circumstances. Every decision he is forced to make pushes him, and those around him, closer to danger. All the while putting on the spectacle to end all spectacles.
What makes Proctor so dangerous? What price will Danno pay? How is he being pushed closer to danger? These are cliches which really do not contribute to my understanding of what Danno has at stake. Your writing here is urgent and you're trying to convince us danger is looming, but there is no concrete evidence of this here.
Blood Red Turns Dollar Green is a crime fiction story, complete at 74,000 words, that combinescombining the historical detail of an actual era in American history with the political, shady backroom dealings reminiscent of Boardwalk Empire.
Which era? This is vague. You mention it in the beginning paragraph, so it is also redundant. Conserve on words, decide whether to mention the era here or in the beginning paragraph, and don't repeat yourself.
It is envisioned to be the first of a trilogy of books that would follow the fortunes of the main characters as they grow and clash and grab for power in a rich but largely unspoken about hidden world.
I have been researching this book for over twenty years and although I have been writing professionally for fifteen years, Blood Red Turns Dollar Green is my first novel. Previously, I have written sixteen commissioned and professionally producedplays for Druid Theatre Company, Martin McDonagh, The National Theatre of Ireland and Red Kettle Theatre Company to name a few. I have also written two screenplays for production companies in New York and Dublin.
Several posts by Nathan Bransford and on QueryShark say not to discuss how long you have been researching a book; it does shows commitment, but in a negative light, it may lead agents to think you take a *very* long time to complete a project. Your credentials would be more impressive if they were not bogged down in fluff. I would cut the first sentence. List a few of the plays/screenplays, production dates, and companies for verification. If the agent is familiar with your work, it might lead to a better chance for a request.

This made a lot more sense than the first query to me. I found it easier to follow the threads of the plot. However, there is no specific mention in this query of what the shady business is or what scheme Danno concocts. Also, I'm not sure that the query makes your MC particularly likeable; I pity Danno, but I don't really like him. Is there anything he does that might make him more sympathetic that you can include in the query?

Thank you for making your query available. I find I learn more about this process through others than I do writing queries myself. I hope that this resonates.

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Re: Query for Blood Red Turns Dollar Green

Post by theWallflower » January 19th, 2012, 3:26 pm

There is another Mob that never gets spoken about. Their network spans the US where they quietly make millions through an elaborate con. A staged, pompous, painful and murderous kind of con. Their story has never been talked about - until now.
-Mob is not capitalized
-US should be U.S.
-Mob is singular, so you should be using "its" not "their"
Blood Red Turns Dollar Green is about an honest man who, in desperation, makes a dishonest deal that takes him from the bottom and propels him recklessly to the top of his corrupt industry.
-The book title should be in all caps
-What industry is it? I don't even know if this is fiction or non-fiction at this point.
It’s 1969, New York and Danno Garland gets no respect from his small group of cut-throat peers. Ever since he unspectacularly filled his late father’s seat late in his own life, Danno has been dismissed as not having the brains or the stomach that his old man had for making serious money. Being a late comer who didn’t earn his spot at the table has made Danno insignificant and invisible in his fellow partner’s eyes.
-Avoid the use of "it" when "it" doesn't refer to anything, like in that first sentence.
-"filled his late father’s seat" as what? Was he a thug too? This is ambiguous. And why? Did he have a choice?
-There's a lot of passive voice in this paragraph -- has made, has been. I want to know what Danno does.
Now nearing retirement, Danno wants to instigate the biggest money making event he or any of his doubters have ever seen. He’s even found the once-in-a-generation talent to do it - but, as usual his plans fall on deaf ears.
-What talent? What does he do? What is the racket they're in?!
-I don't even really know if Danno's working for the mob at this point.
Danno, sensing his time slipping quietly away, has had enough. After many years and numerous legitimate attempts at becoming an equal, Danno reluctantly accepts a secret deal from a dangerous, sudden ally in Proctor King. Proctor promises Danno he can turn the other skeptics and clear the way for Danno’s big finale. For a price.
-Why is his time slipping away? Is he dying?
-This query would be a hundred times stronger if you gave details about what Danno is planning to do. There is no reason to hide it.
Now in way above his head, Danno must learn to work smart and fast in precarious and unfamiliar circumstances. Every decision he is forced to make pushes him, and those around him, closer to danger. All the while putting on the spectacle to end all spectacles.
-This paragraphs doesn't say anything about the story. It's all vagaries with punchwords like spectacle and precarious. I want to know the concrete events that happen in the story. I want to know what Danno needs to do, and what the stakes are if he doesn't do that. And what happens if he does.
Blood Red Turns Dollar Green is a crime fiction story, complete at 74,000 words, that combines the historical detail of an actual era in American history with the political, shady backroom dealings reminiscent of Boardwalk Empire.
-Avoid comparisons to modern media.
It is envisioned to be the first of a trilogy of books that would follow the fortunes of the main characters as they grow and clash and grab for power in a rich but largely unspoken about world.
-For one, I'm not seeing this because you haven't mentioned any other characters besides Danno.
-For another, wait until you sell the book before you mention any trilogies. It's not a selling point to tell the agent that they need to commit to three books instead of one.
I have been researching this book for over twenty years and although I have been writing professionally for fifteen years, Blood Red Turns Dollar Green is my first novel. Previously, I have written sixteen commissioned and professionally produced plays for Druid Theatre Company, Martin McDonagh, The National Theatre of Ireland and Red Kettle Theatre Company to name a few. I have also written two screenplays for production companies in New York and Dublin.
-The first sentence isn't necessary, unless you say what research you did. Like, were you in the mob? Did you hang out with them? The plays are good to mention. I don't know about the screenplays unless they were published or produced or something happened that implied they were picked up and sold or optioned or however that works.
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Paul O'Brien
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Re: Query for Blood Red Turns Dollar Green

Post by Paul O'Brien » February 12th, 2012, 2:06 pm

Thank you so much for the replies. I think I'm getting the hang of this.

One more revision:

Dear ,

1969 and Danno Garland gets no respect from within a small backroom syndicate of professional wrestling promoters. Every other man around the guarded table earned or hustled for their own individual territory to run their events in. Danno Garland, middle aged and naive, only inherited his flat-lining territory when there was eventually no one else left in his family to leave it to.

Now after years of struggle and mediocrity, Danno successfully unearths a seven foot, once-in-a-generation wrestler. He decides to pitch the long shot idea of dragging wrestling from the small, smoky bingo halls to the majesty of Shea Stadium, where The Beatles have just set a new attendance record. For the first time since his appointment Danno is taken seriously by his peers - until he is quickly humiliated and shot down by the syndicate chairman, Merv Schiller, whose main interests remain his own interests.

With his business about to close and seemingly no other way forward, Danno reluctantly accepts a furtive deal from the Florida promoter, Proctor King. He confidently promises that he can remove Merv - clearing the way for Danno to become head of the syndicate.

Their wary agreement quickly puts Danno in way above his head when Proctor almost immediately seeks much more than Danno is willing to give. Proctor’s dangerous demands and loose lips pit both he and Danno, Florida and New York, against each other in a bloody back and forth battle that makes the fake world of professional wrestling all too real to those caught in the middle.

BLOOD RED TURNS DOLLAR GREEN is a crime fiction story, at 72,000 words, that takes a realistic behind the curtain look at one of the most protected, clandestine businesses in American history.

I have been writing professionally for fifteen years and BLOOD RED TURNS DOLLAR GREEN is my first novel. Previously, I have written sixteen commissioned and professionally produced plays for Druid Theatre Company, Martin McDonagh, The National Theatre of Ireland and Red Kettle Theatre Company. I have also had two screenplays optioned by production companies in New York and Dublin.

Thank you for taking the time to consider my query. I look forward to hearing from you.


Paul O’Brien

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Re: Query for Blood Red Turns Dollar Green

Post by Paul O'Brien » February 13th, 2012, 12:22 pm

Or something completely different:


1972, New York and a dazed Lenny Lane is carrying someone’s foot in his hand. He’s also trying to find one of the VIP passengers that he just lost in the back of his van - his brand new crashed van. This is the first day of his new promotion and he’s got under twenty minutes to deliver his VIPs or a lot of people are going to get badly hurt.

Danno Garland is standing in Shea Stadium trying to avoid inciting a riot. He’s coming to the end of a wrestling card that just broke The Beatles attendance record. He’s also coming to the realisation that he might not be able to deliver his widely hyped main event. And worst of all, he doesn’t know why. If his champion doesn’t arrive soon what he does know is blood is going to be sought. Especially his.

Proctor King is nervously watching his TV in Florida. He’s waiting to see his beloved fuck-up of a son leave with the world heavyweight championship. Although his reluctant New York associate had tried to back out of the deal at the last minute - the belt coming to Florida had been arranged through four years of attacks, back-room deals and simple straight forward bone breaking.

Lenny, Danno and Proctor. Neither man has the full picture.

Lenny doesn’t know that his unconscious VIP has been purposefully hidden just a few feet away from him. Danno doesn’t know that his main event wrestlers were involved in a crash in a new van just twenty minutes away from the stadium. And Proctor doesn’t know that his footless son is trying to stay alive in a New York alleyway.

When they do find out, the ‘fake’ world of professional wrestling is going to get very real.

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Re: Query for Blood Red Turns Dollar Green

Post by wilderness » February 13th, 2012, 9:11 pm

Wow, both new versions are really good. I think I would go with the second one though, because it really captures the in-the-moment excitement, and shows a complex, interleaved plot between multiple characters. I think the first three paragraphs are a perfectly executed setup. I'm not so sure about the last 3 paragraphs, though. Comments below.
Paul O'Brien wrote:

1972, New York and a dazed Lenny Lane is carrying someone’s foot in his hand. He’s also trying to find one of the VIP passengers that he just lost in the back of his van - his brand new crashed van. This is the first day of his new promotion and he’s got under twenty minutes to deliver his VIPs or a lot of people are going to get badly hurt.

Danno Garland is standing in Shea Stadium trying to avoid inciting a riot. He’s coming to the end of a wrestling card that just broke The Beatles attendance record. He’s also coming to the realisation that he might not be able to deliver his widely hyped main event. And worst of all, he doesn’t know why. If his champion doesn’t arrive soon what he does know is blood is going to be sought. Especially his.

Proctor King is nervously watching his TV in Florida. He’s waiting to see his beloved fuck-up of a son leave with the world heavyweight championship. Although his reluctant New York associate had tried to back out of the deal at the last minute - the belt coming to Florida had been arranged through four years of attacks, back-room deals and simple straight forward bone breaking.

Excellent. The tension is palpable.

Lenny, Danno and Proctor. Neither man has the full picture. We already understand that none have the full picture so this seems unnecessary.

Lenny doesn’t know that his unconscious VIP has been purposefully hidden just a few feet away from him. Danno doesn’t know that his main event wrestlers were involved in a crash in a new van just twenty minutes away from the stadium. And Proctor doesn’t know that his footless son is trying to stay alive in a New York alleyway. I could already tell from the first three paragraphs that their lives were interwoven. I don't feel like this has that much of an impact.

When they do find out, the ‘fake’ world of professional wrestling is going to get very real.

I wonder if you just end with this short sentiment and leave out the previous two paragraphs.


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Re: Query for Blood Red Turns Dollar Green

Post by Paul O'Brien » February 14th, 2012, 3:39 am

Thank you for your response. I think I've done enough to begin querying today. Thank you to everyone who have helped me with this. Here we go......

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