Help! Query letter.

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ollinone
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Help! Query letter.

Post by ollinone » September 6th, 2013, 7:29 am

Thanks for reviewing my query letter, waiting for your comments.

Dear Mr. N:

When Charles Radcliffe, the richest man in Silver River, falls for his suspicions and tries to find out why his soon-to-be ex-wife was lying to him, a series of inexplicable events lead to his killing both her and her lover by accident. A Cuckoo by the Window is a story where a life time of secrets are uttered to an almost-stranger, lies are uncovered to the ones they hurt most, old and new betrayals are laid bare and a happy life is bought by an unacknowledged good deed.

Two lovers lie upon one another, the cold embrace of death made their tangled bodies white as they floated in the cooling waters of a bathtub. A husband stumbles out of a dark motel room, his mind reeling with past guilt. A pregnant sheriff passes her last days in the office trying to figure out the unusual crime that had happened in her small town, while even as her own future seems to lie in disarray. Why did a wife who had long been separated from her husband feel the need to hide her lover from him? And are the accidents that kept happening in the small, sleepy town truly what they seem? This story is about the life of a couple of people while one among them is wrenched into an almost impossible circumstance.

In closing, I want to thank you, Mr. N, for your time and consideration. I chose to send you my query because you represent/represented Mrs. J who made me want to write this book in the first place and whom I like to think has influenced my work. The book is a literary fiction of 35,186 words. And, at last, I want to remind you that the full manuscript of my book is available upon request.
Last edited by ollinone on September 9th, 2013, 7:30 am, edited 1 time in total.

Literary Flamingo
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Re: Help! Query letter.

Post by Literary Flamingo » September 6th, 2013, 10:58 am

Okay, I'm going to run through this real quick. What I'm trying to do is simulate a sleep-deprived literary agent surfing through a slush pile at midnight. (Also, I think this might be a copy\paste error, but you have no paragraphs.)

Two lovers lie upon one another, the cold embrace of death making their tangled bodies white as they floated in the cooling waters of a bathtub, while a husband stumbles out of a dark motel room, his mind reeling with past guilt. A Cuckoo by the Window, a dark literary drama of 35,186 words, is a story where a life time of secrets are uttered to an almost-stranger, lies are uncovered to the ones they hurt most, old and new betrayals are laid bare and a happy life is bought by an unacknowledged good deed.

I few things I noticed. The first sentence, while descriptive, has two major errors: it changes tense and it goes on for too long. Just look at the tense of your verbs. Lie: past tense. Making: present. Floated: Past tense. Stumbles: present tense. Reeling: present tense. The last sentence is better but seems a little more show than tell. The word count seems low, but I don't know what's expected of literary dramas so if you've done your homework just disregard that. The big problem here is simple: this is not where the query begins. The first sentence of the second paragraph is where the query begins.

When Charles Radcliffe, the richest man in Silver River, falls for his suspicions and tries to find out why his soon-to-be ex-wife was lying to him, a series of inexplicable events lead to his killing both her and her lover by accident, and with almost no one to witness the deed. Why did a wife who had long been separated from her husband feel the need to hide her lover from him? And are the accidents that kept happening in the small, sleepy town truly what they seem? Or is there some shadow in the darkness pulling all the strings that lead to death? In this book, you will find the answers to these and more questions, when secrets begin to uncover, spilling lives in their wake.

The first sentence is the hook and the inciting incident. That's where you should start. Take out, "and with almost no one to witness the deed" and you may have a solid beginning. I like the idea of accidents that may be more than they seem, but then you vaguely refer to a shadow in the darkness. I also don't think you should tell me that I'll find the answers in the book. I can infer that already. Still, a revised version of this paragraph could ultimately work as the opener for your query.

My name is Osman Welela, and I currently live in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
In closing, I want to thank you, Mr. N, for your time and consideration. I chose to send you my query because you represent/represented Mrs. J who made me want to write this book in the first place and whom I like to think has influenced my work. And, at last, I want to remind you that the full manuscript of my book is available upon request.

This is all good here. If you do the revision, you may want to slip the genre and word count into this paragraph, but comparing your story to a client of the agent is always a positive. Unless you can somehow show that living in Ethiopia helped you write the novel, you could cut or keep that at your discretion.

This looks like a solid first draft of a query, but I think you need one good revision to fix some awkward syntax and really explore the decisions Charles faces while providing a clearer picture of the plot.

P.S.
My query is posted just under yours if you want to see what I've been working on.

ollinone
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Re: Help! Query letter.

Post by ollinone » September 9th, 2013, 7:32 am

Thanks for the advices Literary Flamingo. Hope I followed them to the letter.

Literary Flamingo
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Re: Help! Query letter.

Post by Literary Flamingo » September 9th, 2013, 7:23 pm

This is definitely a big improvement over the first one.

When Charles Radcliffe, the richest man in Silver River, falls for his suspicions and tries to find out why his soon-to-be ex-wife was lying to him, a series of inexplicable events lead to his killing both her and her lover by accident. A Cuckoo by the Window is a story where a life time of secrets are uttered to an almost-stranger, lies are uncovered to the ones they hurt most, old and new betrayals are laid bare and a happy life is bought by an unacknowledged good deed.

This is a mostly solid start because I can see the inciting incident and the protagonist. This goes on a little long, though, and the second sentence is a little awkward. I would actually consider removing that sentence altogether and putting the title in paragraph 3. I would also consider changing the first part to a shorter sentence with active verbs. Instead of a series of inexplicable events leading him to killing his wife and her lover, maybe you just say something along the lines of, "When Charles Radcliffe, the richest man in Silver River, succumbs to his suspicions about his wife, he accidentally kills both her and her lover."

Two lovers lie upon one another, the cold embrace of death made their tangled bodies white as they floated in the cooling waters of a bathtub. A husband stumbles out of a dark motel room, his mind reeling with past guilt. A pregnant sheriff passes her last days in the office trying to figure out the unusual crime that had happened in her small town, while even as her own future seems to lie in disarray. Why did a wife who had long been separated from her husband feel the need to hide her lover from him? And are the accidents that kept happening in the small, sleepy town truly what they seem? This story is about the life of a couple of people while one among them is wrenched into an almost impossible circumstance.

Another tense problem in the first sentence (lie: present; floated: past} could be problematic, but the main thing here is the questioning tone. I know a lot of agents list "queries that ask too many questions" as a pet peeve, so you may want to change those interrogative sentences into declarative ones. The pregnant sheriff is also a little abrupt. If she's important, why not give us her name and her own paragraph. It might help things flow better.

In closing, I want to thank you, Mr. N, for your time and consideration. I chose to send you my query because you represent/represented Mrs. J who made me want to write this book in the first place and whom I like to think has influenced my work. The book is a literary fiction of 35,186 words. And, at last, I want to remind you that the full manuscript of my book is available upon request.

Try: "A Cuckoo by the Window is complete at 35,186 words. I chose to send you my query because you represented Mrs. J, who has greatly influenced my work. Thank you for your consideration."

If you can get some more active verbs in here, the syntax will be much better, and then you can focus on better conveying the plot.

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