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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Ms A. Nonymous's Query

Yay! Seems someone thought I make sense when I'm critting queries. Such a relief, really.

This lady wants to publish the story under a pseudonym, so she doesn't want me to use her name or the manuscript's. Which is perfectly fine by me, by the way.

So...  here's the query:

Tara Stevens is a smart, successful lawyer with a pocketful of humor and a mouth full of sass. But when she finds her husband in their bed with his hands on another woman’s breasts, she is rendered speechless (not an easy task). Her sanity needs a vacation. More like a month long sabbatical. She settles instead for a two-week excursion deep in the Canadian Rockies.

Her handsome rancher turned tour guide, Brooks Buchanan, is as annoying as he is adventurous. But his free lifestyle and love of the outdoors speaks volumes about her own life as an overworked and under appreciated attorney. It is while Tara hangs precariously inside a 50 foot glacial crevasse that she realizes how much she trusts Brooks. Which is more than she can say for her own lyin’, cheatin’ husband.

When unexpected events force Brooks to end the tour early, Tara travels with him to his hometown of Whitefish, Montana. It is out on the Montana range where Tara realizes the steamy attraction she feels for the sexy cowboy and his lopsided grin. She finds real meaning in the phrase, “save a horse, ride a cowboy.”

When Tara’s husband shows up in Montana with a pleading heart and a profuse apology, Tara has a choice to make. Will the love and freedom she feels under the Montana sun be enough to release her from her old life? Or will the invisible threads of loyalty to her job and her husband pull her home?


Okay, so some of you might recognize this query. Ms. A sent it in for Carol to crit last time. I commented that the "pocketful of humor" phrase should be left out if there voice coming over in the query sounds angry and bitter. So... Ms. A mailed me to ask if I could get some of Tara's humor come across more. 

So that's what I tried to do, along with cleaning up the query in general. So... here's my thought process on the query, so you can see where my final version comes from. Sadly, inserting humor is a rewrite sort of thing in a query. 

Just note two things: 

1) I had a sample chapter to work with so that I could get a sense of Tara's voice. 
2) All of my suggestions are merely as to how I'd write the query. I made clear to Ms. A that she'll probably end up being much better than me at bringing voice across, especially if she uses my advice as guidelines. 

Okay. 

Tara Stevens is a smart, successful lawyer with a pocketful of humor and a mouth full of sass. Right. Let's start on the humor. You want to keep this line, so we need to back this up with proof. So in the query, she needs to be funny, or sassy. Without sounding like an embittered cow. Also, I don't think the query's voice matches Tara's voice. Because she is funny in that first chapter, by being right to the point and thinking about it in funny (exaggerated) ways. So that's what I'll try to do here. But when she finds her husband in their bed [with his hands on another woman’s breasts]<--- not to the point, she is rendered speechless (not an easy task). Her sanity needs a vacation. More like a month long sabbatical. She settles [instead] <--- Last word of the sentence. It's a rhythm thing. Alternatively, leave out completely. for a two-week excursion deep in the Canadian Rockies.

Her handsome rancher turned tour guide, Brooks Buchanan, is as annoying as he is adventurous. But his free lifestyle and love of the outdoors speaks volumes about her own life as an overworked and under appreciated attorney. It is while Tara hangs precariously inside a 50 foot glacial crevasse that she realizes how much she trusts Brooks. Which is more than she can say for her own lyin’, cheatin’ husband. Okay... but we can get to the point faster (with voice). And fast is good in queries. 

When [unexpected events force]<-- We don't need a motivation here. Suffice it to say that he goes home, and she follows him/goes with him.  Brooks to end the tour early, Tara travels with him to his hometown of Whitefish, Montana. It is out on the Montana range where Tara realizes the steamy attraction she feels for the sexy cowboy and his lopsided grin. She finds real meaning in the phrase, “save a horse, ride a cowboy.” I love this phrase, really I do, but as part of the query, it creates problems. See, now it looks like her relationship with Brooks is turning into buddies with benefits sort of package. Which is problematic because it turns Tara's dilemma in the final paragraph into a non-choice. Cheating husband aside, no intelligent woman will give up her career for just sex. Because let's face it, if she landed Mr. Sexy Cowboy here, she could just go find another man back home. 

When Tara’s husband shows up in Montana with a pleading heart and a profuse apology, Tara has a choice to make. So about this choice... I now know that she doesn't like her job, and she's got a cheating ass for a husband... so if it's not just about the sex, why wouldn't she stay? Or why wouldn't she and Brooks just talk things out and find a way to make both both choices possible? Because this is the dilemma. The part where we want the agent to reach for sample pages or to request a full manuscript to see what she picks in the end. So we need to make it clear that this decision is hard. Will the love and freedom she feels under the Montana sun be enough to release her from her old life? Or will the invisible threads of loyalty to her job and her husband pull her home? Beware the answer-less questions. They feel like hackneyed attempts at generating fake excitement, when the story should just speak for itself. 

 Still with me lovely people? Awesome. Here's my version of the query, taking into account my comments above. 

Tara Stevens is a smart, successful lawyer with a pocketful of humor and a mouth full of sass, but finding her husband at it with another woman does the impossible: It renders her speechless. Her sanity needs a vacation. More like a month long sabbatical. She settles for a two-week excursion deep in the Canadian Rockies.
Her tour guide, Brooks Buchanan, is gorgeous and adventurous enough to make her forget all about her cheating husband. If only Brooks wasn’t as annoying as hell. 

But hey, nothing makes a girl take stock as fast as hanging on for dear life over a 50 foot glacial crevasse. Brooks definitely can be trusted. Maybe even liked.

Oh, and being a lawyer sucks.

When Brooks has to end the tour early, Tara impulsively travels with him to his hometown of Whitefish, Montana. It’s soon obvious there’s much more to the sexy cowboy than his lopsided grin. In fact, he's giving her every reason to stay forever.

But then Tara’s husband shows up with a pleading heart and a profuse apology, making a mess of everything. Now she’ll have to choose between reality back home and the dream she’d been living in Montana. Because the thing is that everyone has to wake up at some point, and falling for Brooks might be the second biggest mistake she made in her life.

Hope you found this useful, Ms A! 

Thoughts, lovely reader?

5 comments:

Robin said...

Very good Misha. I really like how you took (basically) everything Anonymous did... but wrote it in a way that brings the conflict to the forefront.

Misha Gericke said...

Thanks Robin. That's exactly what I tried to do. I try to improve on what's there already, instead of just creating another version of the exact same thing. If that makes sense. :-D

Patchi said...

Great crit! I like how you pulled out all the details that detracted from the point. It's so hard to figure out what's important and what isn't.

Misha Gericke said...

Yeah it's a lot easier to have someone else spot those details than for the person who writes them in. I know, because I struggle with it as well.

Huntress, aka CD Coffelt said...

excellent crit.
The more eyes see your words, Ms. Nonymous, the better. More viewpoints, more opines equals better writing.

I cannot stress that enough.