Ask Daphne! About My Query LIX

June 11th, 2010 • Kate

60667109Jessica Biel wore these sparkly, shiny shoes at the MTV Movie Awards, and so I kind of love her right now. (Also, I have a sinking suspicion that she kisses Face in the new A-Team movie, and thus, my inner 12-year-old thinks she’s seven kinds of awesome. Did I mention the shiny?) Moving on, today’s About My Query comes from G.W., who was the first to respond to last week’s call for queries. Let’s see what we have, shall we?

Dear Ms. Unfeasible,

When allegations of gold digging reduce a couple’s romance into a payoff settlement, a young woman must figure out how to live her life with the baggage of unwanted money, devastating secrets and a man she can’t forget.

All nineteen-year-old Gemma Allen has to show for her affair with Aaron Dullis is an expensive necklace, the awful memory of the night of her miscarriage and the payoff from his trust fund. Two years after Aaron leaves, Gemma – now a senior at the University of Texas – meets Kyle Johnson. She doesn’t expect to fall for the odd man who gives her weird gifts (An ant farm? Seriously?), but she does. His good looks don’t hurt, either. Just as Gemma rebuilds her life and marries Kyle, Aaron returns and tries to reunite with her.
When Kyle begins taking secretive business trips, Gemma wonders about the man she married and struggles with her unresolved feelings for Aaron. She must decide between her love for Kyle and her passion for Aaron. Once Gemma discovers Kyle secret, her decisions unfurl a chain of events that land her in a hospital bed, Aaron in handcuffs and a dead stranger in her house. Now she’s the one with the secret.

Somewhere in Between is a work of women’s fiction, which is complete at 94,000 words.

I have an English Degree from The University of Texas, and I’m member of the DFW Writer’s Workshop.

Thank you for your time and for considering my novel.

Sincerely,
G. W.

First of all, I think that the hook line you’ve opened with is less about the action of the book than the set-up. Because you then jump two years ahead, to the pay-offer (Aaron) re-entering Gemma’s life with Kyle… and actually, now that I think about it, it’s more than two years, unless Gemma moves quickly from thinking Kyle is funny but weird, to regarding him as marriage material and then her husband.

If I were you, I would start with Gemma already married to Kyle, worrying about his secretive business trips, and being wooed by the man who paid her to go away. That gets the reader into the midst of the drama right away. It’s not the world’s most uncommon plot, so you need to be sure to tell the agent reading your query what makes Gemma’s story different and compelling.

Technical stuff: there’s a typo in the sentence right as we get to the super intriguing stuff — “Once Gemma discovers Kyle secret” should be “Once Gemma discovers Kyle’s secret” — and I’m also not sure if you would actually unfurl a chain. Something about the wording of that seems off to me.

Also, “Now she’s the one with the secret” is a little weak in terms of a killer closing line, especially coming after Aaron in handcuffs, with it left uncertain if that’s a police or a bedroom matter. (Yes, I have a dirty mind, so what?) Also, didn’t you intimate in the first line that Gemma already has some “devastating secrets” of her own?

Finally, as a title, I think “Somewhere in Between” is also a little generic. We’re not going to get into a titling workshop here, but I think something to bear in mind when you’re working on a title for your novel is whether or not your title is unique to your story. If it’s targeted. If it’s specific. Consider the specificity in Matthew Cody’s forthcoming novel’s title The Dead Gentleman. That MEANS something, even if you don’t know what yet. If you do a search for your novel on Amazon, do a dozen other books come up with the same title?

What do you think, readers?

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11 Responses to “Ask Daphne! About My Query LIX”

  1. Rissa Watkins Says:

    Aside from the points Kate mentions, I stumbled over "baggage of unwanted money". I think of baggage as something you are stuck with like a millstone around your neck – unwanted money is a pretty easy thing to get rid of.

    If you take out the baggage part I think that sentence sounds better.

  2. Mandy Says:

    I had to read the first sentence twice to get an idea of what it was really saying – and it made me think the entire book was going to be about that. The next paragraph was something of a surprise – so I agree that the query should start with Gemma already married to Kyle.

    However on the positive side, I'm very curious as to how finding out her husband's secret leads to a hospital visit, an arrest, and a dead body! That part has definitely got me intrigued.

  3. Rebecca Says:

    I also had problems with the first sentence. I read it twice to get its meaning. It was really packed with information, and I think breaking it up could help. But I agree with Daphne that it shouldn't be your hook at all.

    Maybe it's the recession, but there are very few situations in which I can imagine not wanting money. It's really nitpicky and it's probably just me, but I got hung up on it. Maybe it says something about the character's personality?

  4. Genny Wilson Says:

    I realize this is going to come off all mushy and junk, but thank you, thank you, thank you to Kate for the critique and to the commenters for your input. When I got the email that my query was going up I couldn't believe how lucky I'd gotten. That lasted about a second. Then I thought: "What have I done?" You guys have been helpful and spot-on. It's funny how you can be so close to your story that you think you're saying one thing in the query but it reads as something completely different.

    Anyway, I've revised it based on the critique and comments, and I think I'm almost there. Thanks again, and I promise not to stalk any of you… except for Kate. I stalk her on twitter.

  5. jen a Says:

    This might be coming after the fact but hopefully it helps. I completely agree with title comment. Personally, I am horrible because I always judge a book by it's cover and title. How about "Hand-cuffed in Texas" or "Two many men and a bag of money to burn". I don't know. Best of luck!

  6. Sue Ford Says:

    I won't belabor what others said.

    This made me laugh: She doesn’t expect to fall for the odd man who gives her weird gifts (An ant farm? Seriously?), but she does. If you can include some humor in your rewrite, that would be great.

  7. Laura Pauling Says:

    Not looking at the writing of the query but the story idea presented, I like it. The ending really stuck out to me. With her landing in the hospital bed, a dead body – I'd read pages.

  8. Shannon Says:

    I had to read the first sentence/paragraph mulitple times to figure out what it was saying.

    Maybe just take the first sentence/paragraph out. The rest of the query works for me.

    The story itself sounds very interesting. I would read it – and I'm a picky reader.

  9. Genny Wilson Says:

    Update: I got my first request for pages from my new and improved query. Thank you!

  10. Laura Pauling Says:

    Congrats Genny!

  11. Amanda Says:

    The on issue I had immediately when reading it was with the sentence "Two years after Aaron leaves, Gemma – now a senior at the University of Texas – meets Kyle Johnson." I think it could be worded better. It is necessary to say how old she is when she meets Kyle but the dashes are a little strange to me. That was the only think I saw that I did not already see mentioned in the comments or by Ms Daphne. It was an interesting idea, just make sure to stress how it is different than others with similar broad plot concepts.