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Author Topic: Query: Zwerfster Chic - Commercial Fiction  (Read 3146 times)
jcwrites
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« Reply #15 on: November 07, 2017, 12:41:18 PM »


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

Dear [AGENT],

Elise feels like she’s always getting sh** wrong. (At this point we don't know enough about Elise to offset the jolt of seeing a four-letter word right out of the starting gate; this could be a turn-off to some agents.)

She was the mixed-race child of an unmarried white woman in Apartheid South Africa, then the light-skinned stepdaughter of a minority rights activist in Boston. As a federal agent, she was labeled the office quota-filler despite proving her ability. While working undercover, she became close with the people she was investigating — and they tried putting a bullet in her head.

Now she’s out after nine years in federal prison.  (Why was she in prison?)

A private security company wants to hire Elise to connect with Mia, a financial con artist who’s stealing millions from one of their clients. Her gut tells her to have nothing to do with any of this, but the money they offer is her best shot at starting over. Taking the job requires leaving the country — if she goes, it may mean never coming back (Why is this so? and is it a good thing or a bad thing?); if caught (caught doing what?), she’ll be the one thrown back into prison.

She’s done stupider things. Many times. It’s almost her gift.

Mia is beguiling, quickly making Elise believe she’s appreciated. Valued. Wanted. She knows this woman can’t be trusted, but the little girl in Elise finds all the attention intoxicating. (Which leads to?...)

ZWERFSTER CHIC is 91,000-word commercial fiction. Included are the first [X THINGS] of this, my first novel.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Kind regards,
billiek
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billiek
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« Reply #16 on: November 07, 2017, 12:53:11 PM »

jcwrites,

Your questions are great ones, and are unanswered in the query exactly for enticing the agent to read the novel. If she does or not at this point is up to her.

I'm already pushing the 250-word range. Over 200 query examples in QS later, I've learned pare, pare, pare!

You've actually done me a great favor and showed me what questions this query brings up, and those are the ones I want.

Thanks.

(Oh, and I had that she's traveling under a false passport earlier but was told that this wasn't necessary information because having been released from prison, thus paroled (actually early released, but everyone knows it as parole), she's lost her passport and cannot leave the region. So it's implied/inferred/whatever. That made sense.)
« Last Edit: November 07, 2017, 01:06:00 PM by billiek » Logged
paddler
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« Reply #17 on: November 07, 2017, 04:05:56 PM »

Maybe this will give you something to think about.

Dear
Born as a mixed-race child during Apartheid is a curse but Elise got lucky. Her white, South African Mum ends up as a minority rights activist in Boston. Recruited by the FBI she had to fight to prove her ability and that she isn’t just part of a quota system.

An undercover investigation ends badly and she spends nine years in Federal prison. Now a private security contractor sees value in her. One of their clients is being robbed of millions by a con woman named Mia. To take the job would mean breaking parole and jail if she returns to the U.S.

She really needs the money though. Mia, though, turns the powers of her con on Elise and…(what?)


A query is about four things:

Character

Conflict

Choice

Consequence

You have three of them but not the consequence. Get there and you will almost be where you need to be.
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mgmystery
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« Reply #18 on: November 08, 2017, 08:38:22 AM »

I just want to mention that the 250 word count in a query is not a hard set thing. Getting the best description of your story is worth it. Agents don't count words and I've seen tons of successful queries that go up to 400 words.

Other than that, the one thing you might do to add a bit of enticing detail would be to give the reader a hint of the danger Elise is getting into with Mia. It shows the stakes better if we know her choices.
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paddler
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« Reply #19 on: November 08, 2017, 06:49:21 PM »

It might also work to chop it off at the job offer, where Elise faces breaking parole. Then fill out more of the early story.

Remember that a query should only cover approximately the first third of the novel.
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billiek
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« Reply #20 on: November 09, 2017, 07:22:20 AM »

Thank you, everyone, for your kind help. I think I've achieved what I was looking for and now I'm going to let this marinate, stew, waller for a spell.

paddler, the inciting incident I list occurs on page 3, reaches point of no return on page 18. All that background at the top is just the stuff the reader learns about the protagonist as she deals with not only the consequences of that one decision, but of all the decisions that follow.

And I'm somewhat alarmed that people don't think being imprisoned or stateless is a bad thing. Are y'all following this forum from inside a state or federal institution or something? Huh?
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mgmystery
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« Reply #21 on: November 09, 2017, 07:50:31 AM »

The stakes are obviously high, but when the query says MC will be doing something illegal and end up in jail, you could be describing thousands of books that already exist. If you show agents what she's getting into with Mia, it helps your story stand out.
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billiek
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« Reply #22 on: November 09, 2017, 10:17:36 AM »

Crumble. Shove. Flick. Whirrrrrrrr. Clunk! Clunkclunkclunk!

What the…. Bobbi! Something's stuck in the disposal again! Think it's a beer can. What? No, I don't know where that prose came from.


(Newer version below.)

Okay, mgmystery! Okay! You've twisted my arm. Leggo, or I'll tell Mom!

I actually like this ending better, though I refuse to blatantly state things in obvious terms. I'm pretty sure literary agents, out of anyone, know something about subtlety.

And I don't buy into your argument. I mean, when the query says MC is a young-but-brave wizard who's the only one who can save the world/brilliant-but-troubled cop on the hunt for a serial killer/beautiful-but-damaged woman looking for someone who will treat her & her precocious 8-year old kindly, you could be describing thousands of books that already exist.

Still, you got me working. So thank you.

(Matter of fact, I now wonder if you threw in that line specifically for that purpose.)

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

Dear [AGENT],

Elise feels like she’s always getting sh** wrong.

She was the mixed-race child of an unmarried white woman in Apartheid South Africa, then the light-skinned stepdaughter of a minority rights activist in Boston. As a federal agent, she was labeled the office quota-filler despite proving her ability. While working undercover, she became close with the people she was investigating. They tried putting a bullet in her head.

Now she’s out after nine years in federal prison.

A private security company wants to hire Elise to connect with Mia, a financial con artist who’s stealing millions from one of their clients. Her gut tells her to have nothing to do with any of this, but the money they offer is her best shot at starting over.

(I broke this paragraph because I noticed the pattern of one-shot/paragraph/one-shot/paragraph/one-shot/....)

Taking the job requires leaving the country, traveling under a false passport and breaking parole — if she goes, it may mean never coming back; if caught, she’ll be the one thrown back into prison.

She’s done stupider things. Many times. It’s almost her gift.

Mia is beguiling, quickly making Elise believe she’s appreciated. Valued. Wanted. She knows this woman can’t be trusted — Elise can sense she’s being used somehow — but the fragile child in her finds the attention intoxicating, and that little girl is constantly getting underfoot as Elise tries her damnedest to do her job.

ZWERFSTER CHIC is 91,000-word commercial fiction. Included are the first (x) pages of this, my first novel.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Kind regards,
billiek
« Last Edit: November 16, 2017, 08:27:44 AM by billiek » Logged
mgmystery
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« Reply #23 on: November 13, 2017, 07:28:43 AM »

Ha! No, my intent was to explain that we weren't suggesting being imprisoned wasn't bad enough for your MC and let you know the why behind the critiques here. But working isn't a bed thing. I like the additional explanation of breaking parole and the fragile child within Elise. Personally I'd like to know what they're doing outside the country, but I think this query is strong.

As for your other argument-- It's impossible to know how those books were pitched in their original queries, so you never know what tiny detail really interested the agent.  Smiley
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deutschlandchick
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« Reply #24 on: November 15, 2017, 05:56:50 PM »

Hi! I think you have a very interesting story here! I do understand why you are breaking it up into small paragraphs, but for me (not a specialist in queries...lol) it makes it harder to follow along the story line. I feel as if towards the end the query gets a bit crowded and I am getting confused (probably just me). Maybe if you focus on who she is, where she comes from and where she is going in three paragraphs, I could see how your query would gain clarity!

Good luck!
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billiek
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« Reply #25 on: November 15, 2017, 06:03:16 PM »

deutschlandchick,

Truthfully, I was feeling the same way about that last paragraph. It ties with the beginning, which I want, but it needs to do so in a more organic flow.

Thanks for pointing it out. You never know if what you see is what anyone else sees until someone else says they see it too.

You rock!

(Where the hell is the "You rock!" smiley?")
« Last Edit: November 15, 2017, 06:05:14 PM by billiek » Logged
deutschlandchick
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« Reply #26 on: November 15, 2017, 06:22:58 PM »

You are very welcome!!! awww! you are sweet! I know what you mean...I feel as if there is something wrong with my stuff, but I need someone else to actually spell it out to me!
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billiek
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« Reply #27 on: November 16, 2017, 08:15:22 AM »

Slipped in (vague) reason as to why the company would hire protag.

Fixed the POV shift of the first sentence of the last paragraph.

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

Dear [AGENT],

Elise feels like she’s always getting sh** wrong.

She was the mixed-race child of an unmarried white woman in Apartheid South Africa, then the light-skinned stepdaughter of a minority rights activist in Boston. She proved herself a capable federal agent, but was still labeled the office quota-filler. Then while working undercover, she became close with the people she was investigating, and they tried putting a bullet in her head.

Now she’s out after nine years in federal prison.

A private security company wants to hire Elise because of her chance connection with Mia, a financial con artist stealing millions from one of their clients. Her gut tells her to have nothing to do with any of this, but the money they offer is her best shot at starting over.

Taking the job requires leaving the country, traveling under a false passport and breaking early release. If she goes, it may mean never coming back. If caught, she’ll be the one thrown back into prison.

She’s done stupider things. Many times. It’s almost her gift.

Elise finds the woman beguiling, quickly feeling appreciated. Valued. Wanted. She knows Mia can’t be trusted — Elise can sense she’s being used — but for the fragile child in her, the attention is intoxicating and she soon gets underfoot as Elise tries to do her job.

ZWERFSTER CHIC is 91,000-word commercial fiction. Included are the first [X THINGS] of this, my first novel.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Kind regards,
billiek
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mgmystery
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« Reply #28 on: November 16, 2017, 08:29:29 AM »

This is solid and tightly written. I thought the ending was clearer as Mia is beguiling, quickly making Elise feel... But either way, I think it's ready to test. (One tiny thing: Some agents say not to put that it's your first book. Since you haven't listed previous publications they assume it is.)
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billiek
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« Reply #29 on: November 16, 2017, 08:37:46 AM »

mgmystery,

I see your point. My englishment does seem better in the earlier version. I have to think upon this (but I'm a bear of very little brain).

I thought to not include that "my first novel" bit, but then I read an article that said that books sales for well-known, established authors have been going flat (because they're all writing the same thing over and over again, but that's me. I don't read seriesesesi(?).) and that the big interest now is in new, first-time writers. So I think it could now be considered beneficial to make that point clear.

So this is just me, stacking the deck and hoping for the best.

Thank you for your kind & supportive words. They make me glow inside.

(Where the hell is the "glowing inside" smiley?")
« Last Edit: November 16, 2017, 08:49:15 AM by billiek » Logged
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