Don't come to the House Tonight - edited

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sarahdee
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Don't come to the House Tonight - edited

Post by sarahdee » July 9th, 2010, 12:24 am

Version 1 is my original - version 2 (in blue) is my much edited down re-write. Fingers crossed this is along the right lines now :)

Dear......

As per your website guidelines, I am attaching the first ten pages of my book ‘Don’t Come to the House Tonight”, and also a one page synopsis.

My story is set in a small fishing town in the North East of England. It is a story of a strong, powerful and, ultimately, fatal friendship between three very different girls: Janie, Candice and Evie. Set in present time, although using flashbacks to their pasts, the novel shows the cementing of their friendship from the age of ten, their coming of age and how, at aged seventeen, two of the girls fall for the same man, a love triangle which eventually leads to his death. I have chosen to write from the viewpoint of Janie, who is the ‘villain’ of the story, to allow the reader to see how she justifies her actions and views the world in her very disturbed way.

‘Don’t come to the House Tonight’ is predominately a crime thriller, although the themes of love, friendship and betrayal also bring it into the realms of women’s literature. It is finished with a word count of 60,000.

This is the first novel I have written. My previous published work to date has been news and entertainment articles in several newspapers and magazines. I originally trained as a journalist (NCTJ Pre-Entry) although I am now a scuba diving instructor in the Philippines.

I hope you enjoy reading the attached.


And the new much revised version which is now under 250 words as per Nathan's suggestions...

Dear

Janie Lloyd is a bitter, sarcastic woman in her early thirties. She enjoys tormenting the people she manages at work, she only bothers being nice to people when she can wants something, and on the few occasions when she enters into friendships she sees the secret of a good relationship as being the one in control.

Since primary school, Janie had two best friends, Candice and Evie. Aged seventeen, Evie and Janie fell for the same man, Mark, and Janie’s jealousy gets out of control. She torments Evie with lies and accusations, using Candice as an unwitting messenger. A drink fuelled argument leads to a sad accident and Candice pushes Mark down a flight of stairs. Candice and Janie hide his death from the police and from Evie by covering up his death. Evie, heartbroken by his disappearance commits suicide.

Seventeen years later, Mark’s body has been uncovered and it is not long before the police seek out Janie and Candice for questioning. Janie is keeping another secret. She carries on letting Candice believe she killed Mark but in fact, Candice’s push had left him concussed but alive. Janie killed him later in cold blood but she is determined that Candice will take the blame.

DON’T COME TO THE HOUSE TONIGHT is a psychological thriller. Told from Janie’s point of view the voice can be both humorous, yet chilling. It would appeal to the readers of Minette Walters or Nicci French.
Last edited by sarahdee on July 14th, 2010, 1:37 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Don't come to the House Tonight

Post by Meredith » July 9th, 2010, 7:59 am

sarahdee wrote:As I have had mostly rejections from batch 1, I have revised my query. Would love any feedback before I send to Batch 2. After some feedback from this site on my synopsis, I have added much more detail here and removed it from my query as I didn't want to repeat myself. I'm not sure if I should leave the bit about journalism in. On one hand I thought it might help my case to say I am published, on the other hand I have not worked as a journalist for ten years and the articles are generally junior reporter articles in small local papers or student magazine so nothing particularly impressive. I also write a travel blog but I've left that out.

Dear......

As per your website guidelines, I am attaching the first ten pages of my book ‘Don’t Come to the House Tonight”, and also a one page synopsis.

This is not the most interesting thing about your book. Don't start with it. This belongs down below with the title and word count.

My story is set in a small fishing town in the North East of England. It is a story of a strong, powerful and, ultimately, fatal friendship between three very different girls: Janie, Candice and Evie. Set in present time, although using flashbacks to their pasts, the novel shows the cementing of their friendship from the age of ten, their coming of age and how, at aged seventeen, two of the girls fall for the same man, a love triangle which eventually leads to his death. I have chosen to write from the viewpoint of Janie, who is the ‘villain’ of the story, to allow the reader to see how she justifies her actions and views the world in her very disturbed way.

This is all TELLING. Just as with your novel, you should be trying to SHOW the story.
I'm assuming that the characters are more interesting than the setting, so start with them. In particular, start with Janie and show the others as they relate to her.

So, Paragraph One: What makes Janie's world view so twisted? How important are these friendships to her?

Paragraph Two: The conflict, both Janie and one of her friends fall for the same guy. What are Janie's choices? What are the stakes? If the man's death is the end, don't tell that, here.


‘Don’t come to the House Tonight’ is predominately a crime thriller, although the themes of love, friendship and betrayal also bring it into the realms of women’s literature. It is finished with a word count of 60,000.

There's no crime thriller/ women's lit shelf at the bookstore. It has to be one or the other. Frankly, from what's here, I see women's lit a lot more than crime thriller, but neither is really my genre. Leave the themes out.

The title should be in all caps, not in single quotes.


This is the first novel I have written. My previous published work to date has been news and entertainment articles in several newspapers and magazines. I originally trained as a journalist (NCTJ Pre-Entry) although I am now a scuba diving instructor in the Philippines.

Definitely, definitely DO NOT say that it's your first novel. I would only include the journalism credits if one of the women is a journalist (and then you have to tell us that above). Scuba diving has nothing to do with the story and it doesn't take place in the Philippines, so leave that out.

I hope you enjoy reading the attached.
Hope this helps.
MeredithMansfield.WordPress.com

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Quill
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Re: Don't come to the House Tonight

Post by Quill » July 9th, 2010, 10:45 am

In general the problems of your query are with formatting. Telling vs. showing. Capitalization of title. Bio. As the previous poster pointed out.

Recommend reading many queries to compare. To get a better idea of the standard. Spend some time in our Feedback forum, and in the query thread in Town Hall. And on sites like Query Shark.

Same with your synopsis. Check Nathan's blog and other agent blogs for articles on synopsis and query formatting. No doubt part of your 'rejection' history can be traced to formatting.

Good luck!

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Re: Don't come to the House Tonight

Post by fivecats » July 9th, 2010, 10:55 am

Dear......

As per your website guidelines, I am attaching the first ten pages of my book ‘Don’t Come to the House Tonight”, and also a one page synopsis.
You have only seconds to engage an agent (or their assistant) with your query. They're wading through hundreds of them at a time with the goal of getting through the huge pile, preferably, as quickly as possible. You want to start off with a strong hook -- something that grabs their attention. Your query is your sales pitch for your book and you need to start off in an engaging way. I agree with Meredith -- move this to the bottom with your word count, genre and your Reason For Querying This Particular Agent.
My story is set in a small fishing town in the North East of England. It is a story of a strong, powerful and, ultimately, fatal friendship between three very different girls: Janie, Candice and Evie.
Agents use a query to get a feel for your writing style, to see if you understand the basics of storytelling. If they read Telling instead of Showing, you're not engaging them. Remember, it's nothing personal, but agents (or their assistants) are looking for reasons to reject your query so they can get through the towering stack that comes in the mail every day. Don't give them that reason!

Telling us "It is a story of a strong, powerful and, ultimately, fatal friendship" might be an accurate description, but it's Telling. Your story would be better served here by introducing us to the three characters, giving us just enough about each one to make them 'real' for us and allow us to start caring about them.
Set in present time, although using flashbacks to their pasts,
The narrative structure of your book isn't all that important here. The relationships, the conflicts, the consequences of their actions are what's important.
the novel shows the cementing of their friendship from the age of ten, their coming of age and how, at aged seventeen, two of the girls fall for the same man, a love triangle which eventually leads to his death.
I think this part of the query is where your entire query should be focused. It shows that the three girls have a shared history, that their friendship is jeopardized by feelings towards a guy and that he dies as a result. This is where all the emotion of your query should spring from -- you have some good things here, you just need to focus on this and leave the rest alone.
I have chosen to write from the viewpoint of Janie, who is the ‘villain’ of the story, to allow the reader to see how she justifies her actions and views the world in her very disturbed way.
Again, the narrative structure isn't important in the query. A well-crafted sentence in your query about Janie's character (with dark foreshadowing) would be great.
‘Don’t come to the House Tonight’ is predominately a crime thriller, although the themes of love, friendship and betrayal also bring it into the realms of women’s literature.
Agents need a clear genre. They need to know that you know what genre you're writing in so they can determine if they can sell your book. Pick a genre or combine two but don't be vague. (If you characters are 17, you'll be considered YA, not "women's literature", regardless of your themes)

This would also be a good place to include a similar title or two to demonstrate your knowledge of the genre. ("It would appeal to the readers of _____________ and _______________") Or, you could give your book a mash-up comparison. ("It is "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants" meets "I Know What You Did Last Summer"") You get the idea. (Hopefully!)
It is finished with a word count of 60,000.

This is the first novel I have written. My previous published work to date has been news and entertainment articles in several newspapers and magazines. I originally trained as a journalist (NCTJ Pre-Entry) although I am now a scuba diving instructor in the Philippines.

I hope you enjoy reading the attached.
Since you don't query on incomplete manuscripts, you can leave that part out.

Drop the sentence about this being your first novel. That will be implied from your lack of other book credits in your query. (Besides, it's hard enough for us first-time authors. There's no need to draw attention to our status!)

I'm not sure if any of your experience works strongly in your favor here. Where any of the magazines you wrote for similar to your expected reading audience?

If "NCTJ Pre-Entry" isn't a widely known acronym in writing/publishing circles, you might want to spell it out.

Your scuba diving instructor experience, while interesting, isn't necessary here. (If/when you write a book about scuba divers, definitely include it!)


Best of luck!
______________________________________
Tom M Franklin
Franklin, Ink: Writing about Writing & Reading
http://tommfranklin.blogspot.com/

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Re: Don't come to the House Tonight

Post by sbs_mjc1 » July 9th, 2010, 12:31 pm

You need to get specific to make your query letter compelling. Don't tell the reader that your character is psychologically twisted-- the agent doesn't have time to "take your word for it". Instead, lay out the salient plot points and suchlike.
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Re: Don't come to the House Tonight

Post by wilderness » July 9th, 2010, 1:25 pm

The pitch portion of a query letter should read like a back-of-the-book blurb. This usually includes the inciting incident and the main conflict of your novel. Sprinkle in a few details to give it flavor.

Just pitch the events; no blurb ever starts with "My story...". Read some examples first.

http://pubrants.blogspot.com/ - On the right hand sidebar, Kristin Nelson links to many of her clients' query letters.
http://blog.nathanbransford.com/search/ ... y%20Letter - Nathan's clients' query letters.
http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2010/05 ... d-two.html - Nathan's post on 2 paragraph pitch

Hope that helps.

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Re: Don't come to the House Tonight

Post by sarahdee » July 10th, 2010, 1:14 am

Thanks for all the feedback, I shall make some changes and revise.

As for the genre, I am unsure. I've looked through the forums and thought what bookshelf it would be on in a store as suggested but its tricky.

My book is mostly set in the present time with a body uncovered and two of the girls meeting for the first time in years. Both are called in for questioning by the police, although there is no real evidence to connect them. As they discuss the police, the various events that lead to this etc, and what to do, they reminisce about the past, hence the coming of age parts. Its certainly not written as a YA book and is about women in their 30s not teenagers.

It's about three women, and it does explore a lot into friendships and relationships so that leans toward's women's fiction. But then there is a crime, there is action, Janie's perception of the world is (hopefully) creepy and chilling so that puts it back into thriller.

Perhaps general commercial fiction would be the best genre? Perhaps I need to do an entire rewrite? Argggh!

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Re: Don't come to the House Tonight

Post by sarramaria » July 12th, 2010, 7:42 pm

This sounds like an interesting story, but it's hard to get a more specific idea about what's actually going on in the plot. In your query, you definitely give more of a conversational overview of the structure and themes of the novel, rather than the specifics of the plot.

In your latest post, you sound so discouraged, but don't let the critiques get you down!! Believe in your story! It's so easy to feel like you're doing everything wrong or that you have so much work ahead of you, but don't give up. Once you decide where the focus of your story is - thriller, women's lit, suspense, etc - you can begin to bring those elements out in your query to really sell it. Good luck to you and don't give up!

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Re: Don't come to the House Tonight

Post by sarahdee » July 13th, 2010, 5:04 am

Thanks sarramarie

I'm not discouraged really, all the feedback and comments are really useful...I think like probably every other writer out there, I loved writing my novel. Hate writing the synopsis and query, but its a necessary evil :)

I have finally posted at excerpt anyway, to see what the feedback is on that. The query part I might take a break from for a few weeks and then revise with a bright and chirpy new attitude!

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Re: Don't come to the House Tonight

Post by wilderness » July 13th, 2010, 5:23 pm

Hi Sarahdee,
I read your excerpt and synopsis and now I think I have a good idea of what the book is about. To help you with your query, I would break it up like this:
Paragraph 1 - Introduce Janie. Don't tell us Janie is manipulative, just give a few small details to show that she is (as you did in your excerpt).
Paragraph 2 - Start with "Seventeen years ago..." and tell us the past, about her 2 friends and the love triangle.
Paragraph 3 - Current conflict. The body has been unearthed and Janie is hiding the secret that she let her friend believe she killed Mark, but really she didn't.

Keep the pitch portion of the query in Janie's POV, but in third person, present tense (the convention for queries). I wouldn't worry about repeating yourself from the synopsis. That is fine, and not every agent even asks for a synopsis.

As for the genre, it sounds like a psychological thriller to me.

Hope that helps you get started.

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Re: Don't come to the House Tonight - edited

Post by wilderness » July 14th, 2010, 8:43 pm

sarahdee wrote:
Dear

Janie Lloyd is a bitter, sarcastic woman in her early thirties. She enjoys tormenting the people she manages at work, she only bothers being nice to people when she can wants something, and on the few occasions when she enters into friendships she sees the secret of a good relationship as being the one in control. Be more specific here, e.g. she torments the pudgy copy girl with blah. Try to tell it from Janie's voice, her cold sense of humor.

Since primary school, Janie has had two best friends, Candice and Evie. At age seventeen, Evie and Janie fall for the same man, Mark, and Janie’s jealousy gets out of control. She torments Evie with lies and accusations, using Candice as an unwitting messenger. A drink fuelled argument leads to a sad accident and Candice pushes Mark down a flight of stairs. Candice and Janie hide his death from the police and from Evie by covering up his death. They hide his death by covering up his death? Evie, heartbroken by his disappearance commits suicide. Again, let's inject some of that great voice in there. Right now it's a series of facts. Can you make it more chilling? Also watch the tenses - be consistent.

Seventeen years later, Mark’s body has been uncovered and it is not long before the police seek out Janie and Candice for questioning. Janie is keeping another secret. She carries on letting Candice believe she killed Mark but in fact, Candice’s push had left him concussed but alive. Janie killed him later in cold blood but she is determined that Candice will take the blame. This is a good start; you've got the basic content in here. Now punch up the language, make the query itself compelling.

DON’T COME TO THE HOUSE TONIGHT is a psychological thriller. Told from Janie’s point of view the voice can be both humorous, yet chilling. The voice should be reflected in the query. It would appeal to the readers of Minette Walters or Nicci French.[/color]

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Re: Don't come to the House Tonight - edited

Post by Heather B » July 19th, 2010, 8:22 pm

Dear

Janie Lloyd is a bitter, sarcastic woman in her early thirtiesThis sounds passive. She enjoys tormenting the people she manages at work, she only bothers being nice to people when she can wants something, and on the few occasions when she enters into friendships she sees the secret of a good relationship as being the one in control.Okay, it took me a few rereads to get this last part. I think you can omit the part about friends - we already know she's evil. BUT - I don't think you need this whole paragraph. It isn't a hook, it isn't plot, it's just setting up your character.

Since primary school, Janie had two best friends, Candice and Evie. Aged seventeen, Evie and Janie fell for the same man, Mark, and Janie’s jealousy gets out of control. She torments Evie with lies and accusations, using Candice as an unwitting messenger. A drinkalcohol-fuelled? fuelled argument leads to a sad accident and Candice pushes Mark down a flight of stairs. Candice and Janie hide his death from the police and from Evie by covering up his death. Evie, heartbroken by his disappearance commits suicide.So far, this character is completely unlikeable to me. Even if you're protagonist is a Scarlett O'Hara type, we still have to care about them. Also this paragragh is name-soup.

Seventeen years later, Mark’s body has been uncovered and it is not long before the police seek out Janie and CandiceWhy them? for questioning. Janie is keeping another secret. She carries on letting Candice believe she killed Mark but in fact, Candice’s push had left him concussedKnocked out? Badly injured? Concussed isn't the right word here. but alive. Janie killed him later in cold bloodCold blood? Doesn't she love him? but she is determined that Candice will take the blame.Okay, now I hope the police get her. I hope Mark comes back to haunt her and buries her in a shallow grave. I'm sorry if this sounds harsh, but this is the character you've shown us so far.

DON’T COME TO THE HOUSE TONIGHT is a psychological thriller. Told from Janie’s point of view the voice can be both humorousThis is tell not show. How is murder humorous? Nothing about your query seems humorous in the slightest. , yet chilling. It would appeal to the readers of Minette Walters or Nicci French.

So, IMO, I think there are a few easy-fixed problems here.

1. The main thing is I really couldn't care less what happens to the protagonist. It's your job as a writer to make me care.
2. There is some jumping about with the tense. I think you should just start with the police finding Mark's body and go from there. Don't worry about the character set-up or the back story just focus on plot.
3. The best piece of advice I've heard is to make your antagonist think they are the hero. In this case, it seems like your MC is really the antagonist. I found I wanted to be on Evie's side but I didn't know enough about her. Is it possible to not name Candice, Evie and Mark in this?
4. You say your MS has a humorous yet chilling voice. Why isn't this voice in your query?

I look forward to the rewrite. Queries are hard, hard, work.
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Re: Don't come to the House Tonight - edited

Post by sarahdee » July 31st, 2010, 4:48 am

Gah I hate writing queries. Ok, so I thought I might try something different. If I cut out all the extra stuff, don't even mention Evie and Mark etc and just put the bare bones down...how does this read?

(Heather - she's not a likeable character and yes, she is the antagonist).

Janie Lloyd was having a bad day: the humid summer had given her a migraine and she was so bored with her mundane life that even her usual favourite workplace activity of tormenting the office junior had lost its fun. On top of everything else her mother called to tell her a body had been dug up near Janie’s childhood home; a body Janie killed and buried seventeen years ago.

Now Janie must travel home to confront her ghosts as well as try to stay one step ahead of the police as they get closer and closer to unraveling the mystery of the seventeen-year-old body.

DON’T COME TO THE HOUSE TONIGHT is a psychological thriller of 70,000 words. It would appeal to the readers of Minette Walters or Nicci French.

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Re: Don't come to the House Tonight - edited

Post by Quill » July 31st, 2010, 5:32 am

sarahdee wrote:
Janie Lloyd was having a bad day: the humid summer had given her a migraine
How about "the summer (or, summer's) humidity" instead. It is the humidity, not the summer, which gives her the migraine, right?

Also, I'm tending to think semi-colon instead of colon after "day".
and she was so bored with her mundane life
Omit "mundane" as being redundant to "bored" (bored with her boring life).
that even her usual favourite workplace activity
Omit "usual" as redundant to "favourite". Are you British, btw? (British spelling).
of tormenting the office junior had lost its fun.
Office junior? Is that a British term? Canadian?
On top of everything else
What else? Only the migraine and the boredom so far, which doesn't seem like the boatload that "everything" implies.
her mother called to tell her a body had been dug up near Janie’s childhood home; a body Janie killed and buried seventeen years ago.
Good hook!

"A body Janie killed" doesn't make sense. How about "...dug up near Janie's childhood home, of someone Janie killed..." or some such?
Now Janie must travel home to confront her ghosts
Not enough info. Why must she travel home? What ghosts must she confront? Why? Is this a paranormal story; is the ghost of the person she killed forcing her? What other ghost is involved (making it plural, ghosts)? What do you mean, confront. Are some ghosts threatening her or something?
as well as try to stay one step ahead of the police as they get closer and closer to unraveling the mystery of the seventeen-year-old body.
Omit "of the seventeen-year-old body" as redundant to "a body Janie killed and buried seventeen years ago".
DON’T COME TO THE HOUSE TONIGHT is a psychological thriller of 70,000 words. It would appeal to the readers of Minette Walters or Nicci French.
Generally good in tone, and very succinct. I think we need a bit more info, though, to get what this book is about. Fill us in on her reasons for going home and some detail of her flight from justice, namely the conflict(s) that presumably occupy the greater part of the (psychological) story. Fill us in on the psychology.

I think you're on the right track with this version.

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Re: Don't come to the House Tonight - edited

Post by mfreivald » July 31st, 2010, 11:00 pm

What Quill said.

I think I would omit “her usual favourite workplace of” entirely and just write: “She was so bored with life that even tormenting the office junior had lost its fun.” It really says just as much.

I didn’t take “ghosts” to be figurative for her dark secrets, but in a query the potential for confusion might be enough to warrant avoiding it.

I think the second paragraph could use just a little more punch. What is an immediate threat to her getting caught or what is an involving question that can be raised?

Not bad. FYI, I did not read earlier versions.

Best wishes,
Mark

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