Sep 1, 2010

Query - Tainted Legacy (1st Revision)

Click here to read the original query.

Dear (named agent)

It’s 1912 and Lizzy Parker’s first day as a scullery maid at the Cheshire home of the Creswell Family is suitably inauspicious: before she even sets foot in the house she manages to make an enemy of ambitious kitchen maid, Ruth. And, as time will show, Ruth is a dangerous enemy to have.

Lizzy’s talent for minor trouble soon overtakes her ability to control it, and in a frightening step into deeper waters she finds herself in the dock for a crime she did not commit: the theft of a priceless diamond necklace belonging to the Creswells.

With Ruth only too keen to see her sent down, Lizzy’s only alibi hangs on the word of Creswell family friend, Jack Buchanan, and the below-stairs rumours about him are frightening to say the least – one such story declares him to have killed his best friend during their tour of duty in Africa.

But for his own shadowy reasons, Jack has disappeared and Lizzy is convicted of the theft and sentenced to five years in Holloway Prison.

Shortly after her release her sister is kidnapped – the kidnappers believing Lizzy to be in possession of the diamond and demanding its return. Having no other option, she tracks down Jack and calls in the debt, and he agrees to help her find Emily and the diamond.

Then she finds out those stories about Jack are true. The death of his friend in Africa was no accident; Jack admits he’d pulled the trigger himself.

Already in love with him, Lizzy has to make a choice: trust her instincts, or assume he knows more about the theft of the diamond, and the kidnap, than he is giving away. Either way, she and Emily are now in the hands of an extremely dangerous man.

Following your guidelines in the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook, I am pleased to enclose the synopsis and first three chapters of my 98,000 word historical novel TAINTED LEGACY, for your consideration.

Many thanks for your time and consideration.


Anonymous Author said...

This is much, much better. Now we can tell what the story is about!

So this gives rise to more questions.

If you're submitting only to an agency or publisher that wants an enclosed synopsis, then the mini-synopsis in your query letter may be too long. There are a lot of phrases you could cut to make this shorter, such as "as time will show". And

"Lizzy’s talent for minor trouble soon overtakes her ability to control it, and in a frightening step into deeper waters she finds herself in the dock for a crime she did not commit"

will work better as

"Lizzy finds herself in the dock for a crime she did not commit."

And so forth.

I asked you before where the story actually started, and it looks from your revision like it actually starts with Lizzie getting the job. Okay. Then she is arrested, is on trial, is relying on this guy Jack, but he bugs off and Lizzie is sent to the big house for five years.

(What happens to her in prison?)

Then she gets out and her sister is kidnapped, she "calls in the debt" --what debt?-- with Jack. Then she has to decide whether she loves him or not when she finds out he killed his best friend?

Really, you haven't given us any reason she should do anything other than call the cops on him.

What's the absolute center of this story? What's it really all about, in one sentence?

Mesmerix said...

This is better. You've done a great job of summarizing the book. I only have 2 concerns:

1) Where does it start? Is it about Lizzy going down for the crime? Or is it about her sister getting kidnapped? Which is backstory and which is the main plot? Start there.

2) Pare down. You need to go through sentence by sentence and cut excess words. Get to the bare minimum now that you have the story there.

Otherwise, I think this is great. After you do 1&2, you may want to go back in and add more voice/style that matches your novel, now that you'll have some more words to play with once you pare down.

The premise sounds fantastic. I'm intrigued. Keep going!

Dominique said...

I didn't read your original query, so I only know what I saw in this draft.

I feel as though you've effectively summarized the book. Unfortunately, a query needs a little something different. I'd strongly suggest that you pare this down to the essentials. If the reader is supposed to be focusing on the romance between Lizzy and Jack, for example, then I'm not sure you need Ruth. She appears in the beginning of the query, but her influence over later events is unclear and/or absent. You might delete her and use those words for other aspects of the tale.