Dec 3, 2009

Query - Everything is Fine, Nothing is Ruined (Revised)

Click here to read the original query.

Dear X-and-so,

The night was gloomy and irritable, or possibly suffering from indigestion. The body, fallen from a seventh story window and covered in blood, refused to remain sprawled and was taken to a hospital. The night-shift nurse with the caustic sense of humor christened him "Seven." Saddled with this strange moniker and released from the doctor, Seven has little recourse but to befriend a philosopher named Tori -- who has a marked tendency to pull physical objects out of his hat -- and open a detective agency. The paint is still drying on their office door when a briefcase stuffed full of counterfeit money, an invitation to a murder, and an overabundance of already murdered corpses all begin clamoring for attention at once.

Desperately keeping busy in order to avoid the painful mysteries of self, Seven accepts all of these cases in stride, some at a run. An FBI agent sorely in need of vacation time, an environmentalist organization of ninjas, and the notorious gang of up-and-coming mob boss Eggbert "Eggy" Thornton seem determined to ensure Seven won't survive long enough to resolve anything, anyway. The absurd, almost ridiculous realities encountered by the ensemble cast ensure that the world they inhabit is never dull -- even the minifridge holds disturbing secrets.

Everything is Fine, Nothing is Ruined is a humorous paranormal mystery clocking in at just over 60,000 words, and is my first novel.

[personalized closing explaining why I am querying this particular agent]

Sincerely, &c.


RC Writer Girl said...

I'll be blunt: this doesn't work.

Starting with the weather is bad cliche and wastes precious space in a query that is supposed to be concise. It's supposed to tell us about your novel. Yet this reads more like an excerpt, not a succinct, scintillating introduction to the exciting book you've written.

Right now, this query, right now is all over the place. Start over and focus. Tell us who the MC is. Telll us what obstacle he has to overcome. Tell us what's at stake if he doesn't overcome it. That's it. That's your query.

You don't need to describe all the stuff about the nurse finding him and naming him seven. All we need to know is this: "Seven is a man with amnesia. To forget that he's forgotten everything else, he takes a job at a detective agency." Then, you can go into what his problem is, what's at stake if he doesn't overcome it.

Also, get rid of the mention that it's your first novel. That's something that detracts, not adds to your qualifications. When querying, you never include detractors.


Unknown said...

This sounds like a really cool project.

However--there's just way to many details in there. It makes it sound like the book is hopelessly cluttered and incomprehensible.
Remember, you're trying to sell the book, not explain it. Just stick to the most important points. Also I'm not sure what the real issue in all this, and what are the choices that Seven must make.

I think with some clean up this should do well.

dolorah said...

I didn't comment on the last submission, but my first thought was that I liked it, but was bothered by some details - or lack of. The cooking thing was quirky, but didn't give a hint to the story plot because it wasn't about cooking.

Softening the blow: Again, I like this query. It is much more detailed and I get a real sense of not only who your characters are, but of the world you are attempting to build as it relates to plot. I am intrigued, drawn in to read more before I make a decision to purchase. (I often skim a few pages within the novel before buying.)

I have to agree though, it doesn't work for me. It is too far out of left field. The other critters here - and from your last one - have given you some good feedback that I agree with.

To confuse the issue more, I think the reason it doesn't work for me is because it IS so far out of the norm for a query letter. Which possibly is why it interests me. Clear as mud so far?

I'd suggest holding off on making any major changes for a while. Sit with your feedback. If you have the time and patience to wait, send this to The Query Shark before you shop it out or get (there is a link on this site). I think it safe to say she would be interested in critiquing it b/c it is so different. You need to have patience because it can take several weeks to get it posted on her site.

I'd be willing to be an author review (when I'm finally published) that the wait is well worth it for honest feedback from a reputable agent.

Whatever you decide, good luck to you.


Mit said...

I want to encourage you - but also agree with what the other comments point out.

You have some misused words and they bump me out of the query and your story.

Going back to the original ... "embroil them like a chef embroils a petulant duck".

"Embroil" means to jumble things up." When you're cooking you "broil" things. Broiling ISN'T jumbling things. It's cooking with a specific kind of heat source.

What is a "petulant" duck? The same goes for "irritable night" in your revision. I have no idea what you're trying to convey.

Throughout there are glimpses of a fun story with a unique angle and great voice...but you keep tripping the reader with incomplete thoughts or logic.

For example, "... Seven has little recourse but to befriend a philosopher named Tori -- who has a marked tendency to pull physical objects out of his hat -- and open a detective agency."

Why does he "have to" befriend Tori AND open a detective agency? Are these two things really linked to each other?

I really want to point out something you've done well - "Desperately keeping busy in order to avoid the painful mysteries of self" this is a nice insight to the character. And I liked this "Saddled with this strange moniker and released from the doctor" ...

I think taking RCWriterGirl's advice and Donna Hole's - about holding off for a while are valuable.

Best of luck!

Gina said...

It sounds very original, but what threw me most in this as well as the previous version is your use of the term ´ensemble cast´. It means, according to Wiki, ´a cast in which the principal performers are assigned roughly equal amounts of importance in a dramatic production´. A good example would be ´Friends´.
It implies that there´s no main protag. Since Seven seems to be your main protag you´d want to revise that phrase.

Otherwise I agree with everyone above. Displaying an original voice is great, and necessary, but we still need to know what´s going on.

Jm Diaz said...

All I'd like to add is on this line "overabundance of already murdered corpses all begin clamoring for attention at once." Remove "murdered corpses". You already used murdered, plus, its a bit redundant.

It certainly does sound original, and piqued my interest.

best of luck.

Rachel Hamm said...

While I like your use of humor and voice here in your query, you need to cut anything that doesn't relate directly to the plot. For example:

"The night was gloomy and irritable, or possibly suffering from indigestion." This is a great line, but it belongs in the book, not the query. It doesn't tell me anything about the plot of the book.

"refused to remain sprawled," I think this is just confusing. If the body was taken to a hospital, it wasn't the body that refused to remain sprawled, and why would a fallen body WANT to remain sprawled?

"Seven has little recourse but to befriend a philosopher... and open a detective agency." That's his only recourse? Why? By using the phrase, "little recourse but..." you open yourself up to so many questions that you don't have time/space to answer in the query. Leaving the agent scratching their head is not the goal you have here. You want them to know what the story is about.

The paragraph describe the cases Seven takes is a little all over the place. None of the cases appear connected and if I were an agent I would wonder what the central theme/plot of the story is when there seem to be so many different things going on. Mention the case that is central to the overall plot, the one that ties everything together, and save the rest for the synopsis.

"even the minifridge holds disturbing secrets." another great line- this is how I know you are a good writer, but I'm just not sure it works in the query unless you tell us what those disturbing secrets are and how they relate to the overall plot. but then again, you have me wanting to know what those disturbing secrets are. So you might want to try a new draft with it and one without it, see if that line leaves people wanting more

I love the title. But I was surprised by the word count. With all the subplots mentioned I'd imagine a much higher word count. Another reason to cut out some of the subplots from your query.

I hope this helps. Your writing is great and I think you'd write one hell of a synopsis. I'd like to see that if you could post it.

Good luck. And querying writing sucks, so take heart. I've written mine 6 times and it still needs a VAST amount of work!