Suspense Query- The Verge

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inkpen
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Suspense Query- The Verge

Post by inkpen » January 13th, 2012, 6:41 am

Hi everyone- my novel has had good response from my circle of initial readers, and I've been tweaking my query for a while. I sent out an older version, form rejections. I started sending out this one with higher hopes... form rejections again. Can anyone show me the forest in the trees? :? Thanks!



Dear _______:

(small personal blurb if one applies)


I'm looking for a home for my first novel. The Verge, a suspense complete at 86,000 words, centers around a long-buried secret that destroys the lives of two women, leading to a harrowing journey in a quest for redemption.

Disconnection is what Angela Sheppard is all about. Alcohol, stripping, drugs- anything to keep reality at bay. Reality is torturous. And when her only friend Cheryl commits suicide, Angela desperately needs answers- before she follows the same path.

The reason for Cheryl's death is unknown until Angela receives a poignant childhood keepsake revealing that they were both viciously abused by the same man: Cheryl's stepfather. Angela had seen signs of Cheryl's previous suicide attempts and is now tearing herself apart for not doing more to help- and she's consumed by resurfacing rage at the man who destroyed their lives. Wrapped in self-loathing and her own suicidal ideation, Angela decides that release can only come from finding and killing the man responsible. She needs to see him suffer- but he has long since disappeared.

An acquaintance in the nightclub industry connects Angela with a shadowy 'Agency' that can get anything done- for a price. They track her quarry to Barcelona, where he has grown wealthy from human trafficking activities. Angela, fighting her self-destructive compulsions and the devastating loss of her friend, heads to Europe to carry out her vendetta. Her prey is well-connected and well-protected, but with the help of the Agency, Angela might finally have her opportunity for retribution. If the past doesn't kill her first.

I have published a body of poetry in various collections, receiving a 2004 Pushcart Prize nomination for my poem 'bus driver'. I have also very recently offered my new chapbook for sale on Amazon Kindle, a collection of travel poems entitled 'before it runs away'.

I would be pleased to send a partial or full of The Verge at your request. Thank you for your time and consideration.


Kind Regards,

Shill Bakespeare, ready to name my firstborn after you. ;)

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CharleeVale
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Re: Suspense Query- The Verge

Post by CharleeVale » January 14th, 2012, 2:49 pm

inkpen wrote:Hi everyone- my novel has had good response from my circle of initial readers, and I've been tweaking my query for a while. I sent out an older version, form rejections. I started sending out this one with higher hopes... form rejections again. Can anyone show me the forest in the trees? :? Thanks!



Dear _______:

(small personal blurb if one applies) At the bottom


I'm looking for a home for my first novel. The Verge, a suspense complete at 86,000 words, centers around a long-buried secret that destroys the lives of two women, leading to a harrowing journey in a quest for redemption. Always start with the story. You want to hook them right away.

Disconnection What you're talking about isn't disconnection, it's distraction. is what Angela Sheppard is all about. Alcohol, stripping, drugs- anything to keep reality at bay. Reality is torturous.Why? why is everyday life so bad? And when her only friend Cheryl commits suicide, Angela desperately needs answers- before she follows the same path.

The reason for Cheryl's death is unknown until Angela receivesfrom who? a poignant childhood keepsake revealing that they were both viciously abused by the same man: Cheryl's stepfather. Abuse can have a huge effect on people. Is this the reason reaily is so hard for her? Angela had seen signs of Cheryl's previous suicide attempts and is now [tearing herself apart This phrase is a little clichefor not doing more to help- and she's consumed by resurfacing rage at the man who destroyed their lives.Why? did he directly cause he suicide? Wrapped in self-loathing and her own suicidal ideation, WOAH. All of a sudden she's suicidal too?Angela decides that release can only come from finding and killing the man responsible. She needs to see him suffer- but he has long since disappeared.

An acquaintance in the nightclub industry connects Angela with a shadowy 'Agency' that can get anything done- for a price. They track her quarry to Barcelona, where he has grown wealthy from human trafficking activities. Angela, fighting her self-destructive compulsions and the devastating loss of her friend, heads to Europe to carry out her vendetta. Her prey is well-connected and well-protected, but with the help of the Agency, Angela might finally have her opportunity for retribution. If the past doesn't kill her first. This is synopsis, not hook.

The Verge, a suspense complete at 86,000 words

I have published a body of poetry in various collections, receiving a 2004 Pushcart Prize nomination for my poem 'bus driver'. I have also very recently offered my new chapbook for sale on Amazon Kindle, a collection of travel poems entitled 'before it runs away'. Agents generally don't care about self-pubbed work.

I would be pleased to send a partial or full of The Verge at your request.If you're querying them this is assumed. Thank you for your time and consideration.


Kind Regards,

Shill Bakespeare, ready to name my firstborn after you. ;) I'm assuming and praying this is a joke for the forums lol.
I think the biggest thing for me about the query is that I didn't care about Angela. So she's a girl who was has a LOT of issues, and kind of goes vigilante when her friend offs herself...there's not a lot that's likeable about that.

By the end of the query, whoever's reading needs to be up on their feet screaming, 'Yeah, you go get that bastard!' But that's not what's happening now.

I'd say try to focus on more fo a hook. More details from the beginning. What reason does she have to drown her sorrows every day? What does their shared abuse have to do with her friends suicide--Does it matter? Is Angela just looking for someone to kill and picks him? These are things we need to know.

I hope this helps!

CV

inkpen
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Re: Suspense Query- The Verge

Post by inkpen » January 15th, 2012, 5:25 am

hi Charlee-

Thanks for the kind feedback.

The blurb at the top would be some bit regarding the agent (saw your preference for women-themed suspense, etc...) not a bio blurb.

'Why is everyday life so bad'- My thought was that this is explained by the fact that Angela lives with her abused past; it's turned her into a wreck who kind of hates her own life- and then she discovers that the one good thing in her life, her only friend, carried the same secret around until she finally takes her own life. The effect this has on Angela is to cause her to feel incredibly guilty (and worthless, and that she can't live with her pain- so she becomes suicidal; fairly common schema in abuse victims )- and it reawakens her hatred for the man responsible, hence the vendetta.

-I agree about 'tearing herself apart'- I'll take it out.

I put the Amazon self-pub thing thinking that an agent may appreciate that I'm trying to get my name out there; I know most don't care much about self pubs but what the hey...

Yes, naming my first-born was a joke. Second born, maybe.

I really appreciate your notes at the close of the post- food for thought. She's a character caught in a world she hates (stripping), a closet writer, highly intelligent, but lost; hooked to the money and party lifestyle, wishing she could find a way out. Kind of a composite of people from my many years bartending in Vancouver nightclubs. I attempted to structure my query after several successful ones I've seen... I'll try to think of something to make her more likeable.

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CharleeVale
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Re: Suspense Query- The Verge

Post by CharleeVale » January 15th, 2012, 10:28 pm

inkpen wrote:hi Charlee-

Thanks for the kind feedback.

The blurb at the top would be some bit regarding the agent (saw your preference for women-themed suspense, etc...) not a bio blurb.

'Why is everyday life so bad'- My thought was that this is explained by the fact that Angela lives with her abused past; it's turned her into a wreck who kind of hates her own life- and then she discovers that the one good thing in her life, her only friend, carried the same secret around until she finally takes her own life. The effect this has on Angela is to cause her to feel incredibly guilty (and worthless, and that she can't live with her pain- so she becomes suicidal; fairly common schema in abuse victims )- and it reawakens her hatred for the man responsible, hence the vendetta.

-I agree about 'tearing herself apart'- I'll take it out.

I put the Amazon self-pub thing thinking that an agent may appreciate that I'm trying to get my name out there; I know most don't care much about self pubs but what the hey...

Yes, naming my first-born was a joke. Second born, maybe.

I really appreciate your notes at the close of the post- food for thought. She's a character caught in a world she hates (stripping), a closet writer, highly intelligent, but lost; hooked to the money and party lifestyle, wishing she could find a way out. Kind of a composite of people from my many years bartending in Vancouver nightclubs. I attempted to structure my query after several successful ones I've seen... I'll try to think of something to make her more likeable.
Those bits of explanation right there. Make them a part of your query, or the start of a new one. I had NO IDEA she was a stripper, or a closet writer. Those are the kind of details about a character that not only adds depth, but makes people want to read about them.

Good luck!

CV

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Re: Suspense Query- The Verge

Post by madmcgee » January 16th, 2012, 10:54 pm

There are several "jokes" in this query that make it sound really unprofessional. I would definitely take out the parts about naming your first born, finding a home for your work, and your self-published creds. Only include the nomination for the award if you were a finalist, honorable mention, etc. Also, start with the action of the story, and include the book's details at the bottom, not your opening paragraph.

Try to make Angela more likeable. I'm sure she has some redeeming qualities in the novel, but in the query she sounds like someone I would walk *quickly* away from, not spend hours getting to know. Cut out that first paragraph about disconnection. Your attempt to describe your heroine makes her sound neurotic. Start where the action starts: her best friend's death and the loyalty which drives Angela to resolve it. Also, vengeance is a difficult concept to make appealing. Does she have any other drive? Maybe she wants to prevent it from happening to someone else? At this point, Angela sounds like a deeply disturbed antagonist, not a main character.

In your responses to the previous critiques, you made Angela a heck of a lot more appealing than this query does.

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Re: Suspense Query- The Verge

Post by theWallflower » January 19th, 2012, 3:13 pm

I'm looking for a home for my first novel. The Verge, a suspense complete at 86,000 words, centers around a long-buried secret that destroys the lives of two women, leading to a harrowing journey in a quest for redemption.
-Writing a query is a lot like writing a resume or cover letter. You must stay professional at all times. Little jokes like "I'm looking for a home" are just going to make the agent roll his/her eyes.
-You don't need "complete", the agent knows it's complete if you're quering.
-Centers around is redundant.
-I would that it centers on two women
Disconnection is what Angela Sheppard is all about. Alcohol, stripping, drugs- anything to keep reality at bay. Reality is torturous. And when her only friend Cheryl commits suicide, Angela desperately needs answers- before she follows the same path.
-First sentence is passive voice.
-Why is reality torturous
-Why does Angela need answers? Suicide usually comes with a great deal of foreshadowing (that's usually ignored). Is there something about the death that makes her question it?
-Sounds like Angela is a classic escapist.
The reason for Cheryl's death is unknown until Angela receives a poignant childhood keepsake revealing that they were both viciously abused by the same man: Cheryl's stepfather. Angela had seen signs of Cheryl's previous suicide attempts and is now tearing herself apart for not doing more to help- and she's consumed by resurfacing rage at the man who destroyed their lives. Wrapped in self-loathing and her own suicidal ideation, Angela decides that release can only come from finding and killing the man responsible. She needs to see him suffer- but he has long since disappeared.
-Again, first sentence is passive voice
-Was her abuse a mystery? Did she forget about it until now? Abuse victims always know they're abused, but they often repress it, detach from it, or justify it in some way, especially at a young age.
-I think this query can be severely shortened. I would restructure it like this "After Angela's friend Cheryl commits suicide, she decides the only to find release is to kill the man responsible -- Cheryl's stepfather, the man who sexually/physically abused them both for X years." If you take the Thelma & Louise style revenge angle, that would sell more books.
An acquaintance in the nightclub industry connects Angela with a shadowy 'Agency' that can get anything done- for a price. They track her quarry to Barcelona, where he has grown wealthy from human trafficking activities. Angela, fighting her self-destructive compulsions and the devastating loss of her friend, heads to Europe to carry out her vendetta. Her prey is well-connected and well-protected, but with the help of the Agency, Angela might finally have her opportunity for retribution. If the past doesn't kill her first.
-An "agency"? Really? Can't you just say mob?
-I was with you until you brought up human trafficking. This now sounds like an overused cliche where a woman who was brutalized goes back to revenge the wrongs done to her by the EVIL MAN. Many times, child abusers are charismatic, loveable people who no one would ever suspect of doing those horrible things. Case in point: politicians, priests, etc.
-This doesn't really tell me the events of the story either. It sounds like there are no obstacles to Angela getting what she wants. There are no stakes if she loses.
I have published a body of poetry in various collections, receiving a 2004 Pushcart Prize nomination for my poem 'bus driver'. I have also very recently offered my new chapbook for sale on Amazon Kindle, a collection of travel poems entitled 'before it runs away'.
-Definitely include the pushcart prize thing, but leave out everything else. It does not add any value to your writing ability because self-publishing is the same as no-publishing. Unless you've got sales figures to prove it.
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inkpen
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Re: Suspense Query- The Verge

Post by inkpen » January 22nd, 2012, 6:50 am

I've taken some of the proffered advice for this next attempt- is this any better?
__________________________________

In The Verge, a suspense at 86,000 words, Angela Sheppard has one thing on her mind- revenge for the death of her only friend.

Twenty years ago in Boston, a young Angela and her best friend Cheryl were victims of sexual abuse at the hands of Cheryl's stepfather. But the girls hid this from each other out of shame, fear, and threats from the man who preyed upon them. Fast forward two decades and Angela's past has turned her into a woman who hates what she has become. She's a gifted writer, highly intelligent, but lost; she's a caught in a world of exotic dancing, drugs, and alcohol, hooked to the money and party lifestyle but wishing she could find a way out. When she gets a phone call that Cheryl has taken her own life, Angela desperately needs answers- before she follows the same path

The reason for Cheryl's act is unknown until Angela is given a childhood keepsake revealing their shared abuse. Angela had seen signs of Cheryl's previous suicide attempts and is unable to forgive herself for not doing more to help- and she's consumed by resurfacing rage at the man who destroyed their lives. Wrapped in self-loathing and her own suicidal ideation, Angela decides that release can only come from finding and killing the man responsible. She needs to see him suffer- but he has long since disappeared. An acquaintance in the nightclub industry connects Angela with a shadowy 'Agency' that can get anything done- for a price. They track her quarry to Barcelona, where he has a bodyguard and a network of powerful business allies. Angela, fighting her self-destructive compulsions and the devastating loss of her friend, heads to Europe to carry out her vendetta. Her prey is well-connected and well-protected, but with the help of the Agency, Angela might finally have her opportunity for retribution and a fresh start. If the past doesn't kill her first.

Although The Verge is my first novel, I have published a body of poetry in various collections, receiving a 2004 Pushcart Prize nomination for my poem 'bus driver' (Via Dolorosa Press). I would be pleased to send The Verge for consideration.

Thank you for your time.

inkpen
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Re: Suspense Query- The Verge

Post by inkpen » May 16th, 2012, 6:14 am

Hi, everybody! (Dr. Nick Riviera voice...)

I posted a revision based on some of your suggestions. It's in the posting above this one. Any comments?

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Re: Suspense Query- The Verge

Post by GaoYuQing » May 16th, 2012, 10:41 am

Ok, I didn't read the previous versions or the comments, so I'll be doing my best to address this on its own merit.
inkpen wrote:I've taken some of the proffered advice for this next attempt- is this any better?
__________________________________

In The Verge, a suspense at 86,000 words, Angela Sheppard has one thing on her mind- revenge for the death of her only friend.

Twenty years ago in Boston, a young Angela and her best friend Cheryl were victims of sexual abuse at the hands of Cheryl's stepfather. But the girls hid this from each other out of shame, fear, and threats from the man who preyed upon them. Fast forward two decades and Angela's past has turned her into a woman who hates what she has become. She's a gifted writer, highly intelligent, but lost; she's a caught in a world of exotic dancing, drugs, and alcohol, hooked to the money and party lifestyle but wishing she could find a way out. When she gets a phone call that Cheryl has taken her own life, Angela desperately needs answers- before she follows the same path

The reason for Cheryl's act is unknown until Angela is given a childhood keepsake revealing their shared abuse. Angela had seen signs of Cheryl's previous suicide attempts and is unable to forgive herself for not doing more to help- and she's consumed by resurfacing rage at the man who destroyed their lives. Wrapped in self-loathing and her own suicidal ideation, Angela decides that release can only come from finding and killing the man responsible. She needs to see him suffer- but he has long since disappeared. An acquaintance in the nightclub industry connects Angela with a shadowy 'Agency' that can get anything done- for a price. They track her quarry to Barcelona, where he has a bodyguard and a network of powerful business allies. Angela, fighting her self-destructive compulsions and the devastating loss of her friend, heads to Europe to carry out her vendetta. Her prey is well-connected and well-protected, but with the help of the Agency, Angela might finally have her opportunity for retribution and a fresh start. If the past doesn't kill her first.

Although The Verge is my first novel, I have published a body of poetry in various collections, receiving a 2004 Pushcart Prize nomination for my poem 'bus driver' (Via Dolorosa Press). I would be pleased to send The Verge for consideration.

Thank you for your time.
This comes across as a synopsis, not a hook. At this point the only reason we'd read the book was to fill in the details. Curiosity is a fleeting and shy thing. Draw it out too long and it flees. By the end of this long query it's lost in the hills. Leave more to the imagination, especially for a suspense! Think of what you'd find on the back of a book. There's only a little space available to cram the most important details into a package you can use to make them curious and want to read more. I'd make grammatical and punctuation comments but those might be rendered moot by a more condensed version so I won't bother.
Good luck!

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