Friday, July 13, 2012

Writing a book - my defective 8 ball

So many of you have gotten requests from your query letters and even representation! I'm very happy for you, but I wonder what I am doing wrong. It's like my magic Eight Ball only has negative responses! "not at this time" "ask again later" "sources point to no" "quit now"

And so I take this opportunity to use the Magic Eight Ball MeMe bestowed by the awesome YA writer, Jaycee DeLorenzo!

Post a paragraph or excerpt from a current WIP, or maybe a query you just can't nail, and ask your blog readers to be your Magic 8 Balls.  Hopefully, they'll be willing to give you some advice  - something more fulfilling than a "yes" or "no."

In short, here are the rules:

1. Post the button and link to
2.  Share an excerpt from your current WIP, perhaps something you're struggling with, are stuck on, or just can't "get right."
3.  Ask a question about your excerpt.  It can be something easy such as "What do you think?" or something more in-depth, such as "Can you suggest a better way to word such-and-such," or "How can I make the emotions in this scene more realistic?"
4.  Tag 8 people. 

I am asking for help with my query. I have carefully researched agents and gotten lots of helpful advice from several of you and reworked it, but I guess something is still missing. Or maybe there just isn't a big enough market for my book. Well, here you go...

Since pop travel teleportation overtook flying, people are excited about going places again, unaware that some unlucky travelers have turned to dust.

Jameson Cooper is the exception. He avoids pop travel, blaming it for the loss of his wife and successful career. If not for his brother, he’d be wallowing in a gutter downtown.

Searching for a glitch in pop travel at the Atlanta Travelport for a paranoid client, Cooper discovers a video of a disintegrating traveler. As people around him drop dead in "accidents" and he is attacked by a thug, Cooper wants to pass off the video. But when his brother shows symptoms similar to the victims and Cooper is warned to quit the case or his brother will be zapped, he sucks it up, determined to put a stop to it all.

With webcams everywhere and the Q-net filtered by the government, Cooper must bypass conventional avenues to confront the Creator of pop travel, young genius Hasan Rakhi, and convince him to admit the truth to the world. No problem. All Cooper has to do is face his pop anxiety to crash a party at Hasan’s plantation compound and use his old lawyer powers of persuasion. What he doesn’t account for is being helplessly distracted by Southern Comfort in a purple dress, Geri Harper (an Agent sent to retrieve the drive and protect Hasan). Since Cooper can’t shake her, Geri tags along and they sneak in to persuade Hasan who surprises them by asking for help to escape his luxurious corporate prison. Cooper and his new accomplices concoct a plan as they lead a chase across the world to reveal and end pop travel’s deadly flaw before they disappear.

POP TRAVEL, a thriller, is complete at 81,000 words. 

Thanks for reading my query! And here are some lovely writers I'm sending this meme to!

Candilynn Fite
Jemi Fraser
J. A. Bennett
M Pax
M. S. Hatch
Emily R. King
Hope Roberson
Sheena-kay Graham

Will they do it? "Wait and see."


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I'm not very good at critiquing queries. Have you asked Matthew at the QQQE to critique it? He always has great suggestions.

Jemi Fraser said...

Sounds like you have a great story! I'd definitely read it.

I wonder if you actually are telling too much in the query. I think you could eliminate some of the plot twists in order to streamline it a bit. Maybe... :)

The good folks over at Agent Query Connect are always good at helping out too. :)

And thank you! I'll have to figure out what to post... :)

Miranda Hardy said...

Sounds like a great story, but I agree there is too much information and too many characters for the query.

I'd also put the word count towards the beginning and, perhaps, add a comparison to similar books/authors to give the agent an idea of the type of book you feel you've written.

It just needs tightening up a bit, really. Alex made a good suggestion about contacting Matthew. He's great!

Tyrean Martinson said...

I haven't critiqued many query letters, but I think shorter is better.

Your story sounds awesome and I want to read it after the first three paragraphs.

I think you could cut that large last one and leave them hanging for more, but again, am I an agent? No, so I may not know what I'm talking about.

And if I've said too much, feel free to kick me across the web . . .

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

The story sounds intriguing! I'm with the others in that it's maybe too long and gives too much information. From what I gather, shorter and snappier is better. Also, and maybe this is just me, but this reads more like sci fi or sci fi thriller than just straight thriller.

Have you checked out Query Shark? Even if you don't want to sub your query, just reading all the others - successful and not so successful - might help. Good luck! :)

Deana said...

I have always thought your book sounds fantastic! I know just from having written a time travel that over and over I would get the response that time travel is hard to sell. Maybe it is the same with time pop. I would say keep trying because you never know when you will hit on that agent that has been waiting on what you have to offer. I say your magic ball says your rock Tara and keep going for it girl!

Tara Tyler said...

alex, thanks for the suggestion? i mentioned it to Matthew and didnt hear back, he prob has a waiting list!

Jemi, thanks! didnt know about AQ connect!

Miranda, thank you. i have been told both ways, not enough info, too much info... i guess i just need to rework it...

Tyrean, hey, thanks! any advice or opinion is worthy!

Madeline, read tons of query shark. i think my opening is better for it =) even submitted one last year, but no response...and i have gone with sci fi, techno thriller, etc. so hard to nail a genre!

Tara Tyler said...

Deana, you are full of positivity! thanks, girl!!

Emily R. King said...

Your story sounds exciting! Get to the heart of the story faster. That would shorten your word count. And check out Elana Johnson's query tips. She says to focus on the first 50 pages of your book. This might help you shorten it as well.

Emily R. King said...

Oh, and I just saw my name. Thank you!!!!

Rena said...

I'm pretty sure that you already know that I totally love the idea of your book, but you've asked for insight, and I can't keep my trap shut (fingers tied?).

For me, this is all very competent. You've laid out the query well, you have conflict, characters, you have everything. In fact, you have everything except tone of voice.

From your query letter I would expect a very dry story with little emotional deviation because you've written the query letter at arm's length. It's dry, very hard boiled (do they still use that in mystery). If it's the black and white voice over mystery, give us that. If it's the clinical procedural, give us that. If there's humor in the book, it'd be nice to see it in the query letter. Without it, I'm afraid that you're relying on an agent to see that a query letter is a boiled down version of your story. Put some frosting back on it and let your voice come out through the query.

I know it's hard advice, but if you shake the eight ball again, it might have a different answer.

Christine Rains said...

I LOVE the premise of your story. It's original and intriguing. I think you need to tighten and shorten the summary, though. I agree with Rena. You're lacking the voice, Cooper's voice.

VikLit said...

I would tighten and shorten as people have said, and sell more.

The opening line needs to grab more I think, along the lines of Going to the shops shouldn't mean turning to dust!

Also this a cat and mouse sci fi thriller, to me. It's not just about Cooper, it's about the guys out to STOP him.

Cooper is determined to reveal the truth about Pop Travel and Pop Travel are equally determined to stop him. With the FBI behind them, Cooper sets out to outwit them using his smarts... etc. I think you need to bring out the conflict between the two sides more.

I also think Coop has some wry moments, he's intelligent and agree this needs to come over more.

M Pax said...

Turn over novels similar to yours. Read the backs. The back is what your query should sound like. I agree, streamline. Less. Stick to one character. Imitate what's selling. You're 3rd paragraph where he's searching for a glitch, that's what I think is the meat. Center around that.

Thanks for tagging me. Will probably do that next Friday.

Tara Tyler said...

Emily, thanks so much! i will check her out.

Rena, you are full of voice! i will try...great advice!

Christine, thanks! we'll see what i can do

Vikki, you are awesome!

Mary, always great advice to think of it as a back cover. effective! thanks!

Rachel Schieffelbein said...

I agree with the others about there being too much going on. (I also agree that it sounds really interesting, though!)
You could almost start at the point where he goes off to Hasan's plantation. He goes there to accomplish X, meets Y and they must Z.
Just a thought. I'm certainly no expert at this. :)

Carrie Butler said...

I love the phrase "Southern Comfort in a purple dress". Very nice!

The only suggestion I would make is to get to the heart of the story sooner. Start with Cooper and go from there. :)

dolorah said...

You've received lots of excellent advice Tara, and the only concrete suggestion I'd make is to remove the line "unaware that some unlucky travelers have turned to dust."

You do an excellent job of "showing" the dangers through Jameson's perspective

Tara Tyler said...

Rachel, thanks, i see what you mean

Carrie, yay! thank you!

Donna, i get that and thanks!

everyone did a fabulous job critiquing! constructive, pointing out what was needed to change with some psitives too! love it! thanks! and i can use pieces from everyone! said...

How does this sound for the opening?

Pop travel teleportation is the new way to fly. Everyone is excited, unaware that many others before them have never actually reached their destinations alive.
Searching for a glitch in pop travel at the Atlanta Travelport for a paranoid client, Jameson Cooper discovers a video of a disintegrating traveler. When people around him start dropping dead in "accidents", his own wife included, the pressure is on after he is attacked. When he tries to launch the video evidence, his kid brother mysteriously develops Teleportitis and Cooper is warned to quit the case or his brother will die. Determined to put a stop to it all, Cooper must decide his next move carefully.

Morgan said...

Sounds like you have a fun story here! Yes, I'd get the knife out and start chopping. Also, I think the hook is really important... It's really got to grab. And while I see the potential with the travelers turning to dust, it's not quite "punchy" enough... rephrase?

"Pop travel teleportation may be all the rage, until bodies start disintegrating to dust. And Jameson Cooper is next."

IDK, just throwing that out there. Really got to grab intrigue right off the bat! ;)

Jennie Bennett said...

Query Letters are so hard. I feel like mine is lacking is well, and it's so hard to see past what has already been done. I think I read your query before and I kind-of thought it has a sci-fi edge to it. Maybe you should query more agents interested in sci-fi and see if you don't get a bite, because I think your query is awesome!

Thanks for tagging me. I'm not sure I'll do anything, but I'll consider maybe posting something. Just know I think you're awesome anyway :)

Tara Tyler said...

madeline, great suggestion, thanks!

morgan, also great suggestion! thanks for the advice!

JA, i actually started with more sci fi, but there are lots more out there! your encouragement really helps! thanks for the boost!

Weaver said...

I read your query before and I love the premise. I agree that you're taking too long to get to the point. Tighten things up and stick to one plot even if your book may have many.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

It takes an awful lot to write a book. More than I realized. Wouldn't it be great to one day see " Pop Travel" as a movie? Keep going, Tara, you're doing a wonderful job.

E. Arroyo said...

Nothing much to add. I think you have a great story here. =) Good luck!

Heather M. Gardner said...

You are getting lots of good advice here. I do love your story premise but I don't know if its really sci-fi unless everything is very different and futuristic. I'm working on mine too. Crossing my fingers for both of us!

Kim said...

I am right there with you, sister :) I've just barely started to query my novel, and have received nothing but form rejections, and it is more than a little demoralizing. The other night I was up just thinking how to improve my query - dang queries!!!

I agree with most of the comments here - your story sounds interesting and original, but the query is a little long. Tighten it up and then treat us to the revision...

Good luck!!!

Samantha May said...

I'm going to have to say that all of the posts before mine have pretty much said everything I had in mind, particularly about the length.

Let me just say that the premise is really interesting! I most definitely want to read the completed work :)

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

I'm no expert when it comes to queries, but I do agree with the majority of what's been said already. I love your premise, though. Sounds like a fun read.

Tara Tyler said...

thanks again, for the encoragement! i'm off to chop it up!

Unknown said...

Ugh, not sure how I missed this, and I see my name in there!!! This is my second 8ball thingy. I'll give it a go on my blog either next week or the following week!!

You have gotten some fab advice, Tara. If you're still working on it, here's my tidbits. Fascinating premise and sounds like a fun read!! There's a bunch going on in the query. I'd concentrate on WHO the MC is, what he wants most / goal / conflict and thing that stands in his way. :) Then sprinkle one or two plot points, but I'd cut the extra characters in the query. There's not enough time in 3 short graphs to intro all of them, and it can become confusing to the reader.

Probably more than you were asking for!!

There's a fabulous group called Query Critique 2.0(?) on She Writes. They're an awesome bunch. Join, it's free. :)

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