Non-Standard Query Structure - pt. 2

Friday, December 31, 2010


Convinced that I was insane with my crazy query thing I wrote for Premeditated, I posted it to Query Letter Hell over at Absolute Write (which helped me shape it into the version I put here a few days ago). AW is awesome for helping knock the kinks out of things when they need a bit of an adjustment.

Then, still convinced I might be slightly less than mentally sound, I decided to send the query to Query Shark to see if the unusual structure was attention-grabbing for an agent or off-putting. I was half-expecting to end up as chum, but apparently the sharkly one liked it.

[ * insert embarrassing dance of joy * ]

She posted it on the blog today, but that's not why I've made another post out of the query. One of the comments she made was. QS said that before you do the "rule-breaking" query, you write one that doesn't break the rules.

I did that - seriously. The first attempt at a query for Premeditated was the standard couple of paragraphs following the plot and introducing the characters, but I didn't think it served the book as well as something a bit more sinister. So, for the sake of having something to talk about, I thought I'd show you the other kind of query for the same book.

Brooks Walden committed suicide the day he drove Claire's cousin to kill herself... he just doesn't know it yet.

^ This was my original "hook". It put the focus on the guy and girl and less on the cousin. In the new version, the dynamic is reversed. Dinah (the cousin) is the driving force, Claire is the one in motion, and the guy isn't a real person to her. She only uses his name because she has to.

When Claire agrees to attend the prestigious Lowry School, it has nothing to do with college prep, and everything to do with revenge. That's where she'll find Brooks Walden and his perfect life, and that's where she'll tear it apart one layer at a time - from his friends to his future. Sure, it would be easier just to kill him for his part in her cousin's suicide, but Claire's way will hurt more.

The Golden Boy's facade of perfection is shockingly thin, and easy to crack. A failed drug test here, a few not-quite-authentic photos posted to the right pages there, and the inescapable fact that rumors are powerful things. All the while, Claire plays the part of classmate and friend.

Just because she smiles, doesn't mean she's happy. Just because she laughs doesn't mean he's charming. Just because her stomach plummets when he worries over how well her plans are working doesn't mean she pities him. And just because her heart speeds up every time he comes close doesn't mean she's falling for his act the way Dinah did.

Yeah, right.

^ And this is how the rest of the "standard" query version would look.

True, the shorter version loses some of the story threads, like the fact that Claire's not evil and starts to regret the things she's doing, and the fact that she actually starts to play her part a little too well. It also cuts out some details, like Claire's transformation from Goth princess of darkness to Preppie pretty - all in the name of deception.

But, what the shorter version does, a lot better than this one, IMO, is get someone's interest. It's the core of the story, while the longer query is more set dressing. Hopefully, those who like the short query will see the extra story threads as embellishments to the core story when they read it.

(However, I think I'm flip-flopping the names. Dinah's the avenging angel now and Claire's the ill-fated cousin. Claire has a more ethereal sound to it, and Dinah's a bit harder. It fits better that way.)

I'll stop rambling now, and get back to editing so I can actually send the MS out...


10 Chiming In:

Nicole said...

Well done!! You appealed to the shark - not an easy thing to do :) And get stuck into the editing!! Happy New Year - looks like a very good start for you :)

The Arrival,available on Amazon NOW!

Angelica R. Jackson said...

I submitted one to the sharkie one a year or so ago, and she didn't post it, let alone praise it to high heaven! What a coup--great job!

Jen said...

I tried to comment when you posted the query here first, but I must have stuffed something up. It's a great query. To get a win from the Shark is awesome! I hope this all works out for you!

Terry Towery said...

So what's the protocol now? Do you actually send the ms to Janet? Or do you resend the query to her in her official capacity as literary agent and hope she asks for the full in real life?

Me? I'd ship that baby out to her as soon as possible! :)

Jaimie Teekell said...

Grats about Janet Reid, dude! (Seen you around the blogosphere a lot, don't think I've ever commented...)

I had reservations about your query, and I commented such, but Janet Reid deleted it. Sadly. Essentially I said: This query says little about the writer's writing itself, so I don't think I'd request a full. A partial, yeah.

But now that I know it's YOU, I really think you have a great chance! I haven't read your prose, but you're way too smart to NOT be a solid writer, from what I've read of your comments.

BEST OF LUCK. And congrats on taking a risk and succeeding wildly.

Literaticat said...

I think this sounds HOT, and I hope that you query me when you are ready! :)

Gigi Vernon said...

Congrats! Brilliant non-traditional query, but I also thought the traditional query you posted was brilliant. Very happy for you and looking forward to reading the upcoming episodes of your success story.

Kathleen Ortiz said...

Andddddddd Jen (Literaticat) beat me to the punch... :) Seriously -- sounds amazing. Hope you'll think of me when you query!

L.C. Gant said...

Hello there! I saw your query posted at QS and was so impressed that I just had to find out more about the brilliant writer who wrote it.

I'm happy to see that your blog is just as witty and refreshing as your query was. Consider me a fan, and I can't wait to read your work once it's published :)

Anonymous said...

Well done! You are brilliant and I'm am insanely jealous.

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