May 5, 2010

Query Me This...

I'd like to conduct a little exercise / experiment.  Deadline for submissions is Friday, May 28 at 10pm Eastern Time.  Please read on for details...

Send me a query and the first five pages for a novel based on this premise:
(I'll explain why in a second)

Our protagonist has found evidence that the government is being lured into war.  If the country engages in the conflict abroad, its military will not be able to deal with an imminent invasion by a rival nation.  The problem is that the source of the information is a double-agent, and our protagonist is being set up to cause the war he/she is trying to prevent.
I'm curious to see the following results:

- How good the queries are, and if it seems easier to write a good query than a good novel.  I bet we'll see some pretty good queries that don't have a manuscript to back them up.

- The sample pages should shed some light on our fears about a plot/concept being ripped off by another writer.  I think the sample pages will illustrate how different each writer's voice is, and even though all submissions are based on the same premise some will be much better than others. 

- How different each response is in terms of genre.  The premise is vague enough to be fantasy, mystery/thriller, crime, sci-fi, urban fantasy, steampunk, and even YA.  I know there are many talented storytellers out there, show us your chops!

Hopefully three-and-a-half weeks will be enough time for you to craft a submission. 

Email submissions to  

Each entry will have its own post, and posts will be up on Monday, May 31.  Comments and critiques for each post are encouraged, so long as they are polite and professional.

On Friday, June 4, after we have all had several days to read through the submissions, I will post a discussion thread.  

There are no prizes.  I can dig up the clip about "eternal consciousness" from Caddyshack if you feel the need for a fiscal reward for participating. 


Suzan Harden said...

This is such a cool idea, Rick!

And I always have to giggle when people talk about stealing story ideas. A restaurant chef was kind enough to give me the recipe for my favorite dish, which had been taken off the menu. I doubt he'd recognize what I've done to his chicken phyllo.

Rick Daley said...

Thanks Suzan, I'm curious to see how this pans out. I'm hoping for many submissions.

Great example with the recipe, too!

Sarah Ahiers said...

ooh exciting!
I'll see if i can put something together

DG said...

Great idea as an addition to your already great blog Rick!

I can't say yet if I will participate. To be honest, I've read the set-up several times and am not entirely sure if I understand all that double agent stuff. Come to think of it, I could never date more than one woman at a time, either.

Rick Daley said...

DG- thanks. Mull it over, something may come to you. The premise is both specific and could be a double-agent in a James Bond type spy thriller or a double-crossing vampire in an Urban Fantasy. I tried to leave room for some creative spin on the premise.

angelarene said...

Awesome idea! Go you1 Can't wait to see the results!

. said...

Ooohh I'm really excited about this! Hopefully I'll manage to come up with something (decent), although I have to say the premise is a bit muddy in my head.

Matthew MacNish said...

Amazing idea. I'll go try to screw up enough courage to enter.

Anonymous said...

Cool idea. A bit too complicated for me to wrap my head around it (for an exercise) though. Just untangling the idea would take me awhile. But I will read the entrees with much interest and if lightning strikes, I'll play too.

May I suggest, if you do another of these, you take a widely used theme like: boy meets girl-boy loses girl-boy gets girl back
his evil heart is redeemed by love
for those of us who don't have a lot of espionage in us. :-D

Rick Daley said...

There is a little complexity to the prompt, but it's also fairly loose. One of the points for the exercise is to illustrate the variety of approaches to a common plot.

I'd like to see come people get creative.

Here's a more specific example of the plot, if it helps:

A CIA agent has found evidence that the US is being lured into a full-blown war in Iran, but there is also evidence that China is planning to invade the US once our army is tied up in the Middle East.

The problem is that the source of the information is a global arms dealer who wants nothing more than war on all fronts...

Instead of governments like US, China, and Iran, make it planets or galaxies...or make it werewolves, vampires, and humans...or make it earth, heaven, and hell. Think of something other than a global arms dealer setting up the double-cross.

I'll allow artistic license, part of the exercise is to show that a common idea can spawn many uncommon story lines.

Joe G said...

I'm reading a book right now called Nightwatch that totally kind of that premise. It's pretty good!

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

I'm intrigued! Must ponder this... (great idea!)

Anonymous said...

These are double-space pages, correct?

Thanks for posting this. I'm no where near the querying stage yet, but I love writing prompts, and I want to see how everyone tackles this too!

Rick Daley said...


Yes, double-spaced pages. It will be about 1,500 words.

I'll post submissions that are query-only.

Anonymous said...

Hi Rick,

I found out about your experiment from Nathan Bransford's blog. Great idea!

I for one am glad that you selected a very specific premise. Your experiment is to see how different authors will take an identical premise in many different directions. Makes sense to me!

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

How firm are you on the 5pg limit? I'm at about 5 1/2 pages, 1700 words.

Rick Daley said...

Hi Susan,

I'm flexible on the page limit, you're fine at 5 1/2.

Karen A. Chase said...

Well, that was just fun. I submitted a query to you for this experiment and used it as an opportunity to write something out of my typical genre.So, regardless of the feedback, it was an experiment on this end, too. I look forward to seeing the other responses you receive.

Rick Daley said...


I got your submission and I'll be posting the entries on Memorial Day. Thanks for participating, I'm looking forward to the discussions once we have a chance to read through all the entries, they are pretty diverse!

Anonymous said...

I write terrible query's... who knows I perhaps write terrible stories, but I had fun writing it so who cares! I'm looking forward to seeing the other entries.