Thursday, October 27, 2011

A name change, and a new query


The query below is something I wrote this afternoon. It represents, I believe, the fourth or fifth iteration of the query for my second novel, previously titled, EMPTY SPACES, and now retitled, RUNNING ON EMPTY.

At least, it will be titled that until I change my mind again. I'm fickle. What can I say?

Anyhoo.... The query is rough and not yet polished. But I thought I would toss it up here to get some early feedback. Let me know what you think, although as always please try to be nice. And if you can't be nice, at least be specific.

And also, as always, thank you!


Here goes:


Dear agent,

Grant Bachman is an ordinary junior college teacher, the kind of guy who says “excuse me” when he sneezes alone. When an armed student opens fire on an otherwise gorgeous New England morning, Grant is forced to use a fellow teacher’s desk-drawer pistol to stop him.

Once the smoke clears, Grant assumes the worst is over. He’s wrong.

Over the next five days Grant encounters an assortment of characters, all of whom will alter his life’s trajectory. Among them are a beguiling lost girl with the morals of a feral cat, a therapist offering the sweet hope of a restored life, his own self-absorbed wife whose affair with a roguish young cop is reaching critical mass, a pack of reporters hungry for a hero to tear apart, and a straight-arrow police sergeant hell-bent on solving an unspeakable crime.

When Grant’s estranged wife finds the school shooter’s cell phone hidden in her husband’s car and turns it over to her crazy boyfriend, the finger of blame turns toward Grant Bachman. With his lost girl tagging along, Grant finds himself on the run from the police, his wife, his therapist, and his old life. Now he must find the truth before his pursuers find him.

My novel, RUNNING ON EMPTY, is a fast-paced suspense/thriller complete at 91,000 words.

As a newspaper reporter, columnist, and editor, I’ve received more than a dozen national, regional, and state awards from the Associated Press and the Illinois Press Association for writing and reporting.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

9 comments:

  1. Yay! Terry's still alive :-P

    This is definitely a better query than the last one, but (<--- you had to know there'd be one, right?) there are a couple of things worth noting.

    I think the first line reads fine, but I've seen numerous agents say not to start with XXX is a normal YYY.

    The line that pulled me up short was the one about the desk drawer pistol. Even in Texas, firearms are a no-go on college campuses, so that had me making faces. It probably makes sense in the novel, but I don't think it'll help you to mention it in the query.

    and, FWIW, I think the new title's FAR better than the old one.

    GOOD LUCK!

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  2. I think I liked the other one better. Just my opinion.

    And I'd check on Amazon to see if this title has been used recently.

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  3. i prefer this title, it feels more in line with fast paced. when you have your query more polished, feel free to email it to me at ca5well at aol dot com and i'll pick it apart piece for piece. :)
    mwha ha ha ha haaaaaa!!!!

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  4. It's not too bad. The two things that stood out for me:

    - There would really be a gun sitting in a teacher's drawer? That just sounds insane.

    - When you mention his tag along I knew you meant the girl with the messed up morals, but you hadn't given us quite enough about her, so that sticks out as a bit too vague for me.

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  5. I still don't know exactly what the story conflict is. Why is Grant on the run? What do they think he's done? I think you're dancing around the plot.

    Lose all the supporting cast. Focus on Grant. Remember all a query needs to do is intrigue an agt/ed into wanting to see pages.

    Just my opinion. Hope it helps.

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  6. I wouldn't worry about anyone's opinion. It's all perspective.

    For what it's worth, I liked it. A lot.

    Do what your heart tells you.

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  7. This is very strong. As is, I think you would get requests for pages. So what I’m about to offer is nitpicking. Ready?

    Grant Bachman is an ordinary junior college teacher, the kind of guy who says “excuse me” when he sneezes alone. When an armed student opens fire on an otherwise gorgeous New England morning, Grant is forced to use a fellow teacher’s desk-drawer pistol to stop him.

    I like all the details in the first paragraph, but I would rewrite the sentences for better flow. Starting with the shooting instead of the mild-mannered college teacher would be more striking. Something like, “When an armed student opens fire at (Name?) junior college, (subject?) teacher Grant Bachman stuns himself and the rest of tiny (name of New England town) by digging out the pistol hidden in his office mates desk to stop the mayhem. My grammar checker is flagging the use of “says” in the first sentence, so definitely change that.

    Once the smoke clears, Grant assumes the worst is over. He’s wrong.

    Awesome.

    Over the next five days Grant encounters an assortment of characters posed to alter his life’s trajectory. Among them are a beguiling lost girl with the morals of a feral cat, a therapist offering the sweet hope of a restored life, his own self-absorbed wife whose affair with a roguish young cop is reaching critical mass, a pack of reporters hungry for a hero to tear apart, and a straight-arrow police sergeant hell-bent on solving an unspeakable crime.

    My grammar checker flagged your use of “whom” in the first sentence, so I changed it to “. . . posed to alter . . .” instead. I like the descriptions, especially the “lost girl with the morals of a feral cat”, but there are too many different people mentioned. One or two of these characters should be cut. My vote is to drop the reporters and the police sergeant. I realize the police sergeant is a high profile character from the last query, but the first three character’s descriptions do a great job of showing how Grant’s life is like an out-of-control rollercoaster.

    When Grant’s estranged wife finds the school shooter’s cell phone hidden in her husband’s car and turns it over to her crazy boyfriend, the finger of blame turns toward Grant Bachman. With his lost girl tagging along, Grant finds himself on the run from the police, his wife, his therapist, and his old life. Now he must find the truth before his pursuers find him.

    The first sentence has too much information, which makes it awkward to read. I love that the shooter’s cell phone shows up in Grant’s car. That alone is so strong, you don’t need the other details. (That was my favorite part of your last query as well—it screams conspiracy.) How about: After the shooter’s cell turns up in Grant’s car, the reporters become hell bent on transforming the hero into criminal—an idea the police are all too happy to lap up. With his ‘lost girl’ tagging along, . . .”

    I think adding quotes around lost girl helps the reader realize you are referring to someone from the previous paragraph.

    My novel, RUNNING ON EMPTY, is a fast-paced suspense/thriller complete at 91,000 words.

    I would delete “fast-paced” because your query has done a fantastic job of showing this already.

    Good luck!

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  8. Wow! I love this :) As far as the query itself goes, I think its fantastic. I'm sort of dying to read it already. My recommendation is just to remember to get specific with each agent, like with their name, and if you can give specific reasons why you're submit to them, like a book they've repped that you liked, even better. So far so good, though. Love it!

    Sarah Allen
    (my creative writing blog)

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  9. I'm intrigued by this query, when's the novel coming out? And I am liking the renamed title much better than the first. I can see how it relates to the story much better. Excellent. Keep us posted or updated, and inform us when this book comes out, I want to buy it! Later.....

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