Query: WIL DRAKE AND THE WITCHES OF THE WATER

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kmoore_novelist
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Query: WIL DRAKE AND THE WITCHES OF THE WATER

Post by kmoore_novelist » December 25th, 2010, 12:04 am

Dear [Agent Name],

Wil Drake, a discharged U.S. Air Service pilot, has survived the last eight years of the 1920s as a booze smuggler in the American South. It’s a lonely existence, but he likes it that way. Had he known that his decision to attend a weekend dog racing event at a shady hotel in New Orleans would throw him into a partnership bound for the untamed Mexican jungle and then on to the depths of Boston’s criminal underbelly, he might have had sense enough to stay home.

My 123,000-word first novel, Wil Drake and the Witches of the Water, revels in adventure coupled with a twinge of the supernatural, all the while using the Roaring Twenties as a lively and accurate backdrop. Set within the pretext of an old time radio show, the story follows Wil's introduction to his roommate for the weekend, Albert Rittelberg, and their journey from the clutches of the notorious Black Hand of New Orleans to the jungles of the Yucatán, where in a search for riches, they discover an empowered Mayan headdress. In an act of greed and betrayal, the pair’s treasure is ripped from their possession, and they must chase the thieves to Boston before the divine relic is sold in an auction of black market antiquities.

Reading from your biography on the [Agency Name] website, I saw that you consider a broad range of genres including the historical and the paranormal. I hope this is a good fit.

I am currently an assistant editor and freelance writer for Adams Street Publishing in Toledo, Ohio. My debut cover story for Adams’ Toledo City Paper, "Alternative Goes Mainstream," won a Merit of Achievement Award in 2008 for Best Single Feature Story from the Toledo Chapter Association of Women in Communications. I have also published several articles on a variety of topics for Suite101.com.

Per your guidelines, I have pasted a synopsis following this letter, and so you are aware, I'm currently in the process of querying other agencies as well. But I would be more than happy to send you sample chapters or my completed manuscript at your request. Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

------------------------------------

Thanks for any feedback. It's tremendously appreciated!

Kevin

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Quill
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Re: Query: WIL DRAKE AND THE WITCHES OF THE WATER

Post by Quill » December 25th, 2010, 2:34 pm

kmoore_novelist wrote:
Wil Drake, a discharged U.S. Air Service pilot, has survived the last eight years of the 1920s
This seems like an unnecessarily wordy start.

1. I'd eliminate "a discharged U.S. Air Service pilot," as this does not seem to bear directly on the parts of the story featured in this query (and in that it is superfluous and a sort of red herring).

2. I'd consider eliminating "last eight years of the" and simplifying to "has survived the 1920s" implying he out on the other side of them (and has been supporting himself running booze). We don't need to know it has only been for the later 80% of the decade.

3. "Survived" seems like a misleading word, connoting something more dire than you might intend. Indeed you go on to say he enjoys his life: he survived what he enjoyed. A bit odd.
as a booze smuggler in the American South.
Interesting, I first read it as South America. For agents skimming, perhaps you could say "in Georgia and Louisiana" or some such. Just a thought.
It’s a lonely existence, but he likes it that way. Had he known that his decision to attend a weekend dog racing event at a shady hotel in New Orleans would throw him into a partnership bound for the untamed Mexican jungle and then on to the depths of Boston’s criminal underbelly, he might have had sense enough to stay home.
Several issues:

1. Probably should put a paragraph break after the first sentence, since after that the subject and tone change.

2. The second sentence seems too long.

3. The second sentence doesn't quite make sense or is at least awkward:

a. "...his decision would throw him": it is his attendance that throws him, not his decision per se. Any way to eliminate decision and go straight to attendance?

b. "had he known... he might have had sense" implies either that since he didn't know he didn't have sense, which is true but mundane, or that had he known he also might NOT have had sense...You see how complicated the present wording is? How about "had he known, he definitely wouldn't have gone" or some such.

4. You don't allude to any negative quality to the outcome, so we don't know what he berating himself for not having the sense to avoid. By itself the jungle and the underbelly do not have a negative connotation for us. After all, he is a criminal himself, no? Maybe he's running to Mexico for a shipment of booze and selling it for high dollar in Boston. Could be fabulous luck, as far as I can tell.

5. Can a partnership be bound for the jungle? Partners can be bound for the jungle, but a partnership, well, that's just a legal arrangement.

6. I'd consider dropping the qualifiers "shady" and "untamed" the sentence seems stronger without them.
My 123,000-word first novel,
I'd omit "first", as you are selling the work itself, not your track record or lack thereof.

You are probably aware that anything over 120K words (on the outside; 100K is a better top limit) for a debut novel means form rejection for a lot of agents these days. Any way to tighten further?
Wil Drake and the Witches of the Water,
Write title in all-caps: WILL DRAKE AND THE WITCHES OF THE WATER.
revels in adventure coupled with a twinge of the supernatural, all the while using the Roaring Twenties as a lively and accurate backdrop.
Almost always a poor choice to state what the book does (revels, all the while using). These qualities must be shown within the descriptive/pitch paragraph. Better to simply state its genre: fantasy (or whatever)
Set within the pretext of an old time radio show,
This sounds like you've adopted an unusual format. This might be worth expanding on a bit, to make it clearer what you've done.
the story follows
Again, important to eliminate any reference to what the book or story does. Better to simply state what happens.
Wil's introduction to his roommate for the weekend, Albert Rittelberg, and their journey from the clutches of the notorious Black Hand of New Orleans to the jungles of the Yucatán, where in a search for riches, they discover an empowered Mayan headdress. In an act of greed and betrayal, the pair’s treasure is ripped from their possession, and they must chase the thieves to Boston before the divine relic is sold in an auction of black market antiquities.
This alludes to a rollicking and interesting tale, but the writing may need to be revamped. First, it needs to be tied in to the earlier reference to the jungle and Boston; omit or move all the intervening text and weld this together.

Second, best to put as much as possible in active rather than passive form. "The treasure is ripped" makes treasure the sentence subject. Better to say who rips, for greater dramatic power and less convolution.
Reading from your biography on the [Agency Name] website, I saw that you consider a broad range of genres including the historical and the paranormal. I hope this is a good fit.
Good.
I am currently an assistant editor and freelance writer for Adams Street Publishing in Toledo, Ohio. My debut cover story for Adams’ Toledo City Paper, "Alternative Goes Mainstream," won a Merit of Achievement Award in 2008 for Best Single Feature Story from the Toledo Chapter Association of Women in Communications. I have also published several articles on a variety of topics for Suite101.com.
Good enough, I'd say, although none of it seems directly correlating to ability to write long fiction.
Per your guidelines, I have pasted a synopsis following this letter,
Fine.
and so you are aware, I'm currently in the process of querying other agencies as well. But I would be more than happy to send you sample chapters or my completed manuscript at your request.
Omit all of this as a given and a given.
Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,
Good.

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Holly
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Re: Query: WIL DRAKE AND THE WITCHES OF THE WATER

Post by Holly » December 26th, 2010, 4:09 pm

kmoore_novelist wrote:Dear [Agent Name],

Wil Drake, a discharged U.S. Air Service pilot, has survived the last eight years of the 1920s as a booze smuggler in the American South. It’s a lonely existence, but he likes it that way. Had he known that his decision to attend a weekend dog racing event at a shady hotel in New Orleans would throw him into a partnership bound for the untamed Mexican jungle and then on to the depths of Boston’s criminal underbelly, he might have had sense enough to stay home.

My 123,000-word first novel, Wil Drake and the Witches of the Water, revels in adventure coupled with a twinge of the supernatural, all the while using the Roaring Twenties as a lively and accurate backdrop. Set within the pretext of an old time radio show, the story follows Wil's introduction to his roommate for the weekend, Albert Rittelberg, and their journey from the clutches of the notorious Black Hand of New Orleans to the jungles of the Yucatán, where in a search for riches, they discover an empowered Mayan headdress. In an act of greed and betrayal, the pair’s treasure is ripped from their possession, and they must chase the thieves to Boston before the divine relic is sold in an auction of black market antiquities.

Reading from your biography on the [Agency Name] website, I saw that you consider a broad range of genres including the historical and the paranormal. I hope this is a good fit.

I am cut currently an assistant editor and freelance writer for Adams Street Publishing in Toledo, Ohio. My (cut debut) cover story for Adams’ Toledo City Paper, "Alternative Goes Mainstream," won a Merit of Achievement Award in 2008 for Best Single Feature Story from the Toledo Chapter Association of Women in Communications. I have also published (cut several) articles on a variety of topics for Suite101.com.

Per your guidelines, I have pasted a synopsis following this letter cut, and so you are aware, I'm currently in the process of querying other agencies as well. But I would be more than happy to send you sample chapters or my completed manuscript at your request. Thank you for your time and consideration. (cut I look forward to hearing from you).Sincerely,

------------------------------------

Thanks for any feedback. It's tremendously appreciated!

Kevin

Hello, Kevin. I enjoyed your well written query and wish you the best. I would love to read this -- the exotic locales and magical headdress are great touches.

Does the name have to be Wil with one L? My eye wants to see Will.

A few suggestions: it's wordy at 368 words, and you still need to add your contact info (and their address, if you send any queries by snail-mail). I would trim the bio and the last paragraph and get the total word count with all contact info down to 350 or less. Agents expect multiple submissions, so you are wasting valuable words to comment about that. Good luck!

ajcattapan
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Re: Query: WIL DRAKE AND THE WITCHES OF THE WATER

Post by ajcattapan » December 26th, 2010, 4:51 pm

kmoore_novelist wrote:Dear [Agent Name],

Wil Drake, a discharged U.S. Air Service pilot, has survived spent the last eight years of the 1920s as a booze smuggler in the American South. It’s a lonely existence, but he likes it that way. Had he known that his decision to attend a weekend dog racing event at a shady hotel in New Orleans would throw him into a partnership bound for the untamed Mexican jungle and then on to the depths of Boston’s criminal underbelly, he might have had sense enough to stay home.

My 123,000-word first novel, Wil Drake and the Witches of the Water, revels in adventure coupled with a twinge of the supernatural, all the while using the Roaring Twenties as a lively and accurate backdrop. Set within the pretext of an old time radio show, the story follows Wil's introduction to his roommate for the weekend, Albert Rittelberg, and their journey from the clutches of the notorious Black Hand of New Orleans to the jungles of the Yucatán, where in a search for riches, they discover an empowered Mayan headdress. In an act of greed and betrayal, the pair’s treasure is ripped from their possession, and they must chase the thieves to Boston before the divine relic is sold in an auction of black market antiquities.


Now you need to detail the events of your story in the order they happen. I'm going to give it a try based on what is stated above.

During a weekend trip to New Orleans for a dog racing event, Wil meets Albert Rittelberg. Together they journey from the clutches of the notorious Black Hand of New Orleans (side note: I don't know what this is. Can you explain it for your reader?) to the jungles of the Yucatan. Here they search for riches and discover an empowered (enchanted?) Mayan headdress. When the treasure is stolen from them, Wil and Albert must chase the thieves to Boston before the divine relic is sold in a black market auction.

WIL DRAKE AND THE WITCHES OF THE WATER is a (enter genre here--historical fiction? fantasy?), complete at 123,000 words.


Reading from your biography on the [Agency Name] website, I saw that you consider a broad range of genres including the historical and the paranormal. I hope this is a good fit.

I am currently an assistant editor and freelance writer for Adams Street Publishing in Toledo, Ohio. My debut cover story for Adams’ Toledo City Paper, "Alternative Goes Mainstream," won a In 2008, I won the Merit of Achievement Award in 2008 for the Best Single Feature Story from the Toledo Chapter Association of Women in Communications. I have also published several articles on a variety of topics for Suite101.com.

Per your guidelines, I have pasted a synopsis following this letter. and so you are aware, I'm currently in the process of querying other agencies as well. Unlike publishers, agents assume you are submitting to several at the same time. But I would be more than happy to send you sample chapters or my completed manuscript at your request. (Unnecessary) Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

------------------------------------

Thanks for any feedback. It's tremendously appreciated!

Kevin
Kevin, I hope that helps. I love the 1920s as a time period! Your story sounds a little Indiana Jones-ish, which could be really fun.

As far as shortening your manuscript a bit (I know one of the earlier reviewers mentioned anything over 120K is too long), I'd recommend cutting "overused" words. I just posted this on another query page, but here they are again: just, so, such, very, really, even, at all, certainly, definitely, exactly, anyway, some, usually, probably, maybe, rather, fairly, perhaps, sort of, kind of, somewhat, quite, a little, almost, and slightly.

If you cut those words, you could probably get it under 120K.

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Dixon Ticonderoga
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Re: Query: WIL DRAKE AND THE WITCHES OF THE WATER

Post by Dixon Ticonderoga » December 27th, 2010, 11:03 am

I'd change Wil Drake and the Witches of the Water to: Wil Drake and the Water Witches. It's snappier.
"From the moment I picked up your book until I laid it down, I was convulsed with laughter. Someday I intend reading it." —Groucho Marx

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Re: Query: WIL DRAKE AND THE WITCHES OF THE WATER

Post by allegedauthor » January 5th, 2011, 8:48 pm

I think aj's restructuring of your conflict is spot on. From what I've read--I might be wrong--you don't want to have a paragraph of past tense explanation. Agents like to see queries in present tense. I could be wrong though. Good luck!

kmoore_novelist
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Re: Query: WIL DRAKE AND THE WITCHES OF THE WATER

Post by kmoore_novelist » January 20th, 2011, 8:56 pm

Thanks to all of you who responded. Your feedback was very helpful and you gave me a much to consider. I do have a followup question on etiquette for you veteran writers. Is it "appropriate" to requery an agent you've already queried with a revised letter? Or should I revise and move on to other agents?

Thanks,

Kevin

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Re: Query: WIL DRAKE AND THE WITCHES OF THE WATER

Post by jmbrinton » January 21st, 2011, 5:06 pm

From Nathan:

Thursday, May 21, 2009
Re: Re-querying Redux
This is something I have touched on in a previous post, but since it is among the most-asked topics of all, I thought I would revisit it and make it a bit more comprehensive. Here it is. Re: re-querying reimagined, revisited, renovated. Re.

When is it okay to re-query the same agent? When is okay to query someone else at the same agency?

Here's a (hopefully) comprehensive list of scenarios (and please bear in mind that these are just my opinions and others may feel differently):

If the agent passed on your query: Do not re-query with the same project, even if you've revised your query and/or manuscript. The agent has made their decision.

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Re: Query: WIL DRAKE AND THE WITCHES OF THE WATER

Post by clara_w » January 22nd, 2011, 10:52 am

Yes, don't requery the same agent. Query other agents of the same agency, but not the same. All right, on to your query!

Wil Drake, a discharged U.S. Air Service pilot, has survived the last eight years of the 1920s as a booze smuggler in the American South. It’s a lonely existence, but he likes it that way. Had he known that his decision to attend a weekend dog racing event at a shady hotel in New Orleans would throw him into a partnership bound for the untamed Mexican jungle and then on to the depths of Boston’s criminal underbelly, he might have had sense enough to stay homeGood start. A bit confusing, Id omit a few settings (i.e. I personally dont need to know about new orleans, just the shady hotel.

My 123,000-word first novel, Wil Drake and the Witches of the Water, revels in adventure coupled with a twinge of the supernatural, all the while using the Roaring Twenties as a lively and accurate backdrop. Set within the pretext of an old time radio show, the story follows Wil's introduction to his roommate for the weekend, Albert Rittelberg, and their journey from the clutches of the notorious Black Hand of New Orleans to the jungles of the Yucatán, where in a search for riches, they discover an empowered Mayan headdress. In an act of greed and betrayal, the pair’s treasure is ripped from their possession, and they must chase the thieves to Boston before the divine relic is sold in an auction of black market antiquities.
This is all very interesting but its a lot of telling. So in the end, I dont care about Wills adventures. I don't care about him because I dont have a picture of his personality, nor of what's in stake here. Show don't tell, and Im sure you know this rule by heart. There's no character depth in here, you're just telling the plot, and I personally think thats a big mistake in a query. No matter how good your credentials are (and they are great), you have to hook the agent by showing what your story is about, not telling. Good luck!

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