Monday, February 25, 2013

Query letter #9: Benjamin S

Rift is a 75,000 word thriller novel about the murder of sixteen year old girl in the Victorian coastal town of Wheeler's Cove. The novel is unique [even if it is, don't say this - a lot of authors say their story is unique, so the term has lost its power] as the protagonists simultaneously investigate the murder both before and after it happens. [interesting premise]


Jamie Webster is a struggling writer who moves to Wheeler's Cove to escape the mounting expectations on his second novel. Alice Jackson has returned to her father's house to wait out her husband's death from lung cancer in their home town. Fate brings them together over the washed up body of a sixteen year old school girl. She's been shot twice; once in the head and once in the stomach.


The next day the girl turns up at the local police station, very much alive.


Alice and Jamie figure out that the headland is a place that exists simultaneously three months apart. [Consider putting this information in the opening paragraph - it's a key element and sets the story apart] Jamie is from the past, Alice from the future. Using clues both before and after the murder, they must piece together the mystery before the past catches up to the present, and the girl dies for good.


But old towns have old secrets. As Alice and Jamie delve further into the death, they find that this may not be the first homicide in their quiet town. And, if they're not careful, it may not be the last.


Protect the past. Fear the future. [This line doesn't seem to belong to anything - if you're going to use it, put it first in the letter so it seems like a hook.]


I am an award winning and nationally televised stand-up comedian. I have an English degree and have written for newspapers and comedy festivals in the past. This is my first novel. [Contrary to what many first-time novelists think, saying it's your first novel is not a disincentive for agents or publishers to read it] Other novelists I enjoy reading in this genre are Peter Temple, for his realism, and Stephen King, for his higher concept thrillers.


I also have an Engineering Honours Degree, which I know has no credence with novel writing, but mentioning it makes me feel like I didn't waste five years of my life. [Humour is good!]


Overall feedback: This letter lacks that essential grunt - you haven't give me a reason to want to read it. Yes, you've described the story in enough detail for me to be intrigued, but what I really want to feel is that must-read-it-now sensation. Open with your hook: 'The body of a sixteen-year-old girl is washed up on a beach in Wheeler's Cove, a small Victorian coastal town. She's been shot twice - once in the head, once in the stomach. And the next day she turns up at the police station - very much alive ...' That would get anyone's attention. 




2 comments:

Benjamin Stevenson said...

Thanks so much for your comments Agent Sydney!
I appreciate the time you take to help us all out on here!

Jess McLaren said...

These are very helpful thank you, Agent Sydney. I do wonder though if the comment's a bit harsh here--is the premise of this book not interesting enough that you'd read the pages? Because your comment near the end suggests that it is. I got a bit confused because the hook you suggest seems to be presented in the letter (albeit in not exactly the same way).

Benjamin S - good luck with this! It sounds cool, I would want to read it.