Dec 8, 2009


Thanks you all for taking the time and looking this over. I've been toiling with this thing for a few weeks now, and would love to get some feedback. I very much appreciate it. So, here is my query:

I am seeking representation for my novel entitled MEND.

He attacks. He springs upon his victims with hatred and blind fury, slashing their bodies and shredding the peace of The City Too Busy to Hate. He kills. With no evidence left behind, four families have fallen in his wake, and he is not finished.

Enter Jacob Santos, a man prodded toward the killer by the ghost of a forgotten childhood friend. Plagued by hallucinations and incoherent memories, Jacob reluctantly follows the cryptic messages, knowing that he must unmask the killer and decipher the mysterious link between them in time to save another family from being slaughtered.

However, unveiling the secret could push Jacob into the chasm that lies at its heart and bring about the complete unraveling of his mind. He cannot fail. Doing so will turn him from the best hope to stop the killer, and into the catalyst of an unprecedented murderous rampage. Jacob must stop it.

At 70,000 words, MEND is a complete Crime Fiction. It is story that to my knowledge has not been told in such a way as I present it. Please find the first chapter attached for your review. My manuscript is ready to be sent at your request.

I thank you for your time and look forward to hearing from you.


J.m. Diaz


Rick Daley said...

The voice is taught and I think it would work for a crime novel / thriller, but I would like to know more about Jacob. Is he a cop, or just a regular guy?

I think you should strike this line:
It is story that to my knowledge has not been told in such a way as I present it.

You should also strike and look forward to hearing from you and change it to:

"Thank you for your time and consideration."

Good luck!

Jm Diaz said...

Thanks Rick! Jacob's identity is center to the plot. i need to find a way to tell that without giving away the pie.

Again, thanks for the input.

Rick Daley said...

I'd consider giving away the pie. For an agent to take on the novel, knowing the centerpiece of the story is important.

I'm sure you'll get some additional feedback in the near future...

Jm Diaz said...

So, its okay to give away a surprise ending in a query? The best examples if surprise Endings in movies I can think of are "Basic", "the 6th Sense" and "Fight Club".

I wonder if those stories gave away their secret in the query?

Rick Daley said...

It's OK to give a twist away in a query, whether or not it's necessary to do so depends on the story itself. You definitely need to give it all up in a synopsis, but thankfully synposes are not always required.

Make sure your query clearly shows:

- who the protagonist is
- who the antagonist is
- what the protagonists goal is
- how / why the antagonist is preventing that goal

If the twist answers any of these questions, you should probably reveal it.

KatieGrrr said...

The begining is strong,but the end is waaay to vague. In particular, this paragraph, way to abstract...

"However, unveiling the secret could push Jacob into the chasm that lies at its heart and bring about the complete unraveling of his mind."


"He cannot fail. Doing so will turn him from the best hope to stop the killer, and into the catalyst of an unprecedented murderous rampage. Jacob must stop it."

So he wants to stop a killer, other than that I have no idea what you said here.

What is at stake? Not the random families dying, I mean for Jacob. What is at stake for him?

Amber Murphy said...

This is really good advice from Rick. I have been rolling this around for awhile -- and I do think that you should give away the "pie" in your query. Though, it would be awesome to suprise the agent with it, you first have to get him or her to read the ms.

(Just don't give away the ending to me -- I want to read the rest of it not knowing what is going to happen.

gj said...

Queries are all about the details -- what makes THIS story different from all the other thrillers already on the shelves? They succeed when there's a uniqueness to them, something that makes the reader think, "hmm, that sounds different and interesting."

If you've identified it as a thriller, then I'm going to assume there's a serial killer, that someone's trying to identify the serial killer, and that the protagonist is somehow personally connected to the killer. Those are all the standard tropes of a thriller.

So, what's different about your thriller? All I've got from the query is that there's a serial killer, a person trying to find him, and a connection between the two people.

There's also a potential for confusion, insofar as you start with the antagonist. Generally, a reader (i.e., agent) will assume that the first person mentioned in a query is the protagonist, and if you're going to do otherwise, you need to make that clear ASAP. As it reads now, it's not until the second paragraph that you indicate the protagonist is someone other than the serial killer. There's also a problem in that the fictional world is swimming in serial killers, so if you're going to hang your query on the serial killer, you need him to be different in some way, and you need to convey that difference right away. He needs to be INTERESTING, not merely a competent killer. All you show is that he kills and he's good at it. How many books/movies/tv-shows can you name that feature serial killers? Now, how many of them would you pitch based upon the killer primarily, rather than the person hunting the killer? It's not my genre, but there are two obvious examples: Hannibal Lechter and Dexter. For both of them, though, the serial killer is really, really interesting. It's not so much that they kill, but, for instance, the fact that Dexter is also a forensics expert with the city's police department.

Is your serial killer that interesting? If so, tell the reader that unique feature that makes him different from other serial killers, the feature that will make a reader think, "wow!" If not, then you need to show how your killer-hunter is different and interesting.

Let's say you cut the first paragraph (or work it in elswhere) and start with Jacob. What is interesting about him? All we know is that he's been "prodded toward the killer by the ghost of a forgotten childhood friend." I suspect there's good stuff hidden behind those words, but at the moment, it's just too vague to really create a picture. If the ghost and the friend matter, then make them stand out: the ghost of a friend who was murdered twenty years ago, appears and tells Jacob he must stop the killer, or else there'll be some consequences to Jacob and/or people he cares about.

For the rest, find some concrete details of the story that would appeal to someone who hasn't already read the book, and be specific about them. Saying that there are hallucinations, cryptic messages, and "the mysterious link between them" doesn't paint a picture for the reader. You're doing a form of "telling" instead of "showing" -- telling that there are cryptic messages and secrets and chasms, etc., when you should be showing, by describing his receipt of a message that says [whatever it says], and he is afraid of [or whatever the emotion is] revealing the [whatever the secret is] and if [someone] finds out the secret, Jacob will [suffer in a specific way], but if he's not careful [in specific ways], he will be responsible for [whatever the murderous rampage is, in specific terms].

Watch out for vagueness and pretty phrases, and replace them with concrete examples of what Jacob (or the killer) thinks and does.

Rick Daley said...

Just for the record: gj always gives good advice.

Jm Diaz said...

Indeed. Gj's advice is very good, and has certainly given me ideas for the Query V5.o.

I'd still like to hear more thoughts on this query, though I am rewording it so show the link between the two.

Thank you all for your input.

@Amber: I'll send you the rest of the MS, as it appears, that my query will in fact divulge my dirty little literary secret.

Holly said...

I really like the tense emotion you put in the letter. I agree with everybody else that it needs more details, but I also want to compliment and encourage you.

Ditto these comments:

(1) Give away the pie. If you've come up with an original plot twist, that's a selling point, so highlight it in the query. DON'T say that nobody else has ever had the idea, though -- don't say anything at all about that.

(2) I'd also like one or two words that paint a picture of the main character -- he's a cop, a journalist, a rich guy, etc.

(3) I would name the city where this takes place... as in, Salt Lake City, the City Too Busy to Hate, or Los Angeles, the City Too Busy to Hate, etc.

(4) Put crime fiction in lowercase letters.

(5) I agree with Rick Daley, strike out "It is story that to my knowledge has not been told in such a way as I present it." Plus, with the space you save, you can say a word or two about the main character and mention the name of the real city.

Good luck!

Joshua McCune said...

On quick perusal through the comments, I agree w/ what everybody else is saying. The voice is nice (which is probably the hardest thing, so kudos on that), but the details are critical (now, figuring out what the critical details are can be a nuisance).

I'd also be careful about the 'this story hasn't been told this way before' angle -- it could very well be true, but if you're gonna go down that road, I think you need to show the unique angle vs. telling us.

As always, TWAGOS.

Pen said...

Oh, scary. Great query. Only one comment really. The last sentence:
Jacob must stop it.

Stop "it"? This seemed a bit of an anticlimax to me. Perhaps think about changing "it" to something stronger like "the serial-killer."

Also, perhaps it would help to say why. Jacob must stop the serial killer or ...

I wondered to about the "chasm in his heart" this seemed a bit random. What chasm? Is there another why you could put this or simply leave it out as you have already said he will lose his mind.

Just my 2 cents. Hope it helped. Great query.