Partial, Full, or Reject – You Decide

I realized something the other day that I intend to rectify…beginning right now. I don’t talk enough about my writing on this blog. Oh, I quite frequently talk about writing in general, but not about my own writing, or more specifically not about my book. A lot of my followers weren’t even aware I write mysteries. As I draw closer to dipping my toes in the query waters, I can see that I need to transition the content I post to a more brand-centric orientation. It’s yet another step toward becoming a serious writer, and although I might teeter and fumble along with way, it’s a direction I’d like to head in.

So, since I’m poised upon the querying precipice, mustering the courage to put myself out there for real, what better way to introduce all of you to my work but posting my query letter? But I’m going to take it a step further and ask for your help. What I’d like to have happen is that after you’ve read the letter, please post a comment that says either PARTIAL, FULL or REJECT. That’s right; you get to be the agent today. How strongly do you feel about the story? And yes, I’m aware that garnering a FULL directly from a query letter without submitting a partial first is not standard practice, but I’m just trying to gauge your level of interest. One of those three words is all I’m looking for, but if you’d like to offer constructive criticism in addition, I’m all ears (or eyes).

And remember…anything less than 100% honesty would be doing me a disservice. Is this a marketable project? You decide.

Dear Ms. Agent,

I am currently seeking representation for my Mystery/Thriller novel, Fallen Knight, which is complete at 103,000 words.

Dianne Williams, the fiercely independent manager of Greenville’s largest private detective agency, watches helplessly as one by one her staff succumbs to a suspicious illness. She is dealt yet another blow when she discovers her newest rookie investigator beaten and left for dead. Severely under-manned and with nowhere else to turn, Dianne seeks help from an unlikely source -- the Knights Who Say Ni.

Lee Hamilton is a middle-aged newlywed, but he is also one of six tight-knit college friends who refer to themselves as ‘The Knights Who Say Ni’. When he gets the call from Dianne informing him that one of the Knights lay in a coma, he drops everything to rally the rest of the gang. Their quest? Assist in the hunt for their friend’s assailant.

While Dianne struggles with her apprehension about involving the Knights, she and Lee probe for a motive to explain the attacks. Their investigation leads them to the doorstep of an impossible suspect, a dead high school student responsible for a Columbine-style shooting spree six months earlier. Even more mysterious is the warning the young attacker left written on his apparent suicide note; “I’m not finished yet”.

Overcoming efforts by local and federal authorities to hide the truth, the group stumbles across a broader scheme to release a deadly bio-terrorism attack. In over their heads and dodging baleful attempts to prevent them from identifying the elusive foe, the group must cling to their friendship, and Knighthood, to solve the mystery before the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve.

Specific agent customization here. I would be happy to send along the complete manuscript, upon your request. Thank you, Ms. Agent, for your time and consideration.

30 comments

  1. Oooh definitely a full. That 4th paragraph really got me! Good job and my fingers are crossed for you!

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  2. At the very least this should elicit partial requests. It sounds like it's humorous also--?

    one thing you might consider: losing some adverbs. Just b/c you know how everyone is about them and there are several in this query. Might hurt ya. (?)

    GOOD LUCK, DL!!!! Geaux, Tigers~ :o) <3

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  3. I hate to say reject, so I'm going to say re-write. For one it's a bit wordy. But more importantly, it confuses the main character. I presume it is Dianne, but the second paragraph is all about Lee and the Knights Who Say Ni (great name by the way).

    And where in the first paragraph does it say the rookie investigator in a coma is one of the Knights? It doesn't, but apparently, according to the second paragraph, he is.

    This leads me to question Diane's fierce independence. If she is apprehensive toward the Knights, why did she hire one to work for her?

    The bit about federal agents is good, showing these folks are definitely working on their own, but the New Year's Eve deadline appears out of the blue, with no previous setup.

    I could go on, but, it does sound like an intriguing story, that's why I suggest a re-write, rather than a reject. But I'm a reject myself, so don't go by me.

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  4. I'd cut out 'currently' as it is unnecessary. Shouldn't the 'lay' be 'lies'? Four paragraphs is generally considered too much, as everything I have read seems to say either one or two (regardless, I still have three in mine!),

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  5. You're a brave man. I hope you get lots of helpful feedback here :)

    Matt has some great advice, and I agree; there's no tie-in about the rookie investigator being one of the knights. I also agree with Kristen, the fourth paragraph is where you hooked me. I like the mystery of a Columbine-style murderer who's supposed to be dead. Especially since he seemed to know he'd live to strike again.

    I imagine this might get a partial, if the sample pages were strong. Overall you've done a good job (but I, too, am a reject, so what do I know??) but it could be tightened up. Good job!

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  7. It sounds like a great book!! I have a few suggestions for your cover letter to put more punch in it. Put the eerie quote, "I'm not finished yet" at the start of the summary. I read a LOT of articles and if I don't get interested in the first paragraph, I'm not going to proceed (that's what I learned years ago in journalism school). Make them WANT to read your whole letter! Best of luck, and how brave of you to put yourself out there! Good for you. Good luck!

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  8. I've been reading Query Shark lately, and Janet Reid advises you leave that first line in your query to the end - she says the first few lines in your query is precious space, so put your opener in there to catch her eye.

    I think you'd get at least a few partials if not fulls requested - your concept is extremely intriguing. The query does need to be tightened a bit more, prune some of the adverbs. I think you need to expand on the "Knights Who Say Ni" a bit more. But overall, I love your concept. I think if I were reading this as jacket copy, I'd definitely be intrigued enough to give the book a try!

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  10. Ok, I'm not an agent, so take this with a grain of salt. I'm just trying to help, and I'm doing that with what I hope is constructive criticism. For me, there was a lot of action, but I didn't feel anything towards the characters -- perhaps because I didn't know anything about them that would make this mystery different from any others? I need to feel something about the characters for me to want a partial, plus, I was a little confused as to who the main character was, it needed some centering.

    I also noticed that the tense seems inconsistent in the query (because you go from describing who the character is to what happened. You do this multiple times, and though it is technically correct, it just makes it seem kinda off-balanced.

    As it stands now, I'd probably say reject (though that sounds harsh) mostly because I don't know anything that makes it different (namely, the characters don't stand out to me).

    I also didn't get hooked until later on. I think it's because, if she works in a detective agency, she should be used to seeing weird stuff like that. What makes this case different from the regular things? Is it because it's happening to her employees? If so, I might spell it out for people:

    "As the fiercely independent manager of Greenville’s largest private detective agency, Dianne Williams was used to seeing some strange cases. This time though, it was within her own agency, and she was running out of investigators who could help." or something similar.

    I hope that helps! I think it sounds intriguing, it just needs some cleaning up. I hope that if I ever am brave enough to post my own query (kudos to you!) you'll do the same thing and tear mine apart. Sorry for the freakishly long post :)

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  11. Thinking strictly like an agent here, I'd have to say Reject, BUT there are two changes that would make this at least a partial in my eyes.

    First, I was liking the tension you built in the first paragraphs, but then I got to the Knights who say Ni and I went "Huh? Is this a supposed to be comedy?" I love Python, but to me, this confused the genre. IMHO, I'd leave it out of the query and just refer to them as the Knights. Let the pages explain why they are called that. (Saw Matt's comment though...maybe there are some gender lines here. Something to keep in mind depending on who you are querying.)

    And secondly, I think you have too much information in this -- the mention of the terrorism bomb made me feel like you were trying to pack all of the action into the query. Great to have all the plot points in the synopsis, and of course, thrillers need endless action, but I think paring down for the query would be more effective.

    On one final note, I think you could probably lose a few cliches (fiercely independent, nowhere to turn, leads them to the doorstep, over their heads). Your query shows you are a strong writer and I think you can probably come up with some more dynamic/original phrases.

    But I totally agree with Matt. This is worth a rewrite. In answer to your question, DEFINITE marketability.

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  12. The Knights of Ni was the most interesting part to me, demonstrating that humor is going to be part of your writing style. I wouldn't cut it.

    I would rewrite though, and take Matt's advice about ONE main character, not two in the query.

    Looks pretty good though. Best of luck!

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  13. I agree with a lot that's already been said here about tightening up your query. However, I'd look at a PARTIAL - at least to get a sense of your writing style and how you put this all into play. Good luck :)

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  14. Not much I could add now. Needs to me much shorter - one to two paragraphs. And hope there's no legal problems with using the Monty Python title.

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  15. I'd say full but you already know that! :)

    You're a brave soul Don.

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  16. You are a very brave boy! Now, I know absolutely NOTHING about querying because I'm not too that stage yet and I, truthfully, I don't want to think about querying. Scary stuff. But I think it's great, but maybe a little too long. But again, I know nothing about queries. So take it or leave it. :)

    Have a great weekend!

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  17. OMG, I got chills when I read the suicide message "I'm not finished yet."

    Well done! Are you excited or nervous to be at this stage? Or both? ;)

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  18. I agree with bits and pieces from the other commenters here. There were quite a few adverbs, which I love, but it might be a bit much for a query.
    I love the "Knights that say Ni" idea, but agree with someone above that unless you're intending this to be a humorous mystery, you might want to stick to Knights or something more debonair because it really sticks out. You'll either find agents that requests just off of that, or ones that stop reading right there.
    One thing that I bumped on was the phrase "even more mysterious"... I know it's a "mystery" so using "mysterious" to describe part of a "mystery" seemed a bit awkward. I'm sure there is a much cooler word that you could use there.

    I'd probably ask for a partial because it sounds like this is quite a story.

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  19. I'd request a partial based on the second paragraph alone. If I were you I'd just write one little hook sentence to put after that and query with a super short, quirky little letter. I think you'll definitely get requests, regardless of if you change it or not. It's a great premise. Just make sure your first 30 pages are solid!

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  20. I'd be requesting a partial based on the premise - very intriguing. Sounds like you've got lots of twists and turns to look forward to. I agree with the suggestions to tighten up some, but great premise :)

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  21. LOL. Well, that says a lot doesn't it.

    The only thing I would change is the word "novel" after Mystery/Thriller. I'd delete it.

    Let me know what you're going to do. You know how I feel.

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  22. First of all, you need a big reward just for putting your query into the blogosophere. That takes guts.
    Second, I think it sounds like an interesting concept. A dead suspect? Cool. It seemed that the query almost started with "Lee Hamilton..."
    I agree with the other comments here. They're really on the mark. All in all, I'd probably request a partial!

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  23. It sounds interesting, but I agree with the comments above that the query is pretty wordy and a little confusing. Do yep, rewrite for me too.

    Found you via Rach's Crusade, btw! Hi, fellow Crusader! ^.^

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  24. You've gotten some great comments here! When I'm ready to query, I may have to try the same thing. As for your question, I'd go with request for a partial. It sounds funny and intriguing, I love how the suspect is a dead high school student. The query itself seems too long for what agents are generally looking for, but other than that I thought it was quite well done.

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  25. Partial...which I would devour and then ask for a Full. ;-)

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  26. For sure, AT LEAST a partial. It's hard for me to say a Full because i'm the type of agent that only requests a full after i've read a partial.
    ;)

    Otherwise, i think all the advice you got was good and i'd certainly play around with it

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  27. I can't answer this one fairly, since I've read parts of the beginning and been fascinated by it. But your query does have room for improvement. I'm just no good at making any specific suggestions, having never written one myself.

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  28. Hi, I'm a fellow Crusader from the Rach Writes Blog. I've been enjoying reading your last few posts!

    Okay, this is a brutal business, and you did ask for honesty, so here goes (keeping in mind that I've recently been through this pain myself, so I do sympathise)

    With the query as it stands, I would say 'reject'.

    I think you're on the right path though. This query is not without good points, but it needs work, as I don't think it's selling the great book I'm sure you've written as well as it could.

    There have been lots of great points made by other commenters about working on the actual hook/plot summary, but things I'd advise could/should be revised to avoid an automatic rejection:

    *Cut down the length of your hook/plot summary to 200 words or less. As other commenters have said it's a little long at present, and needs to be more punchy. Think of the blurb on the back cover of a book - and aim for that. Rather than trying to squeeze in all the relevant plot details, aim to just outline the major challenge the central character faces and give the flavour of the book.

    *Get a friend who is fussy and accurate about grammar and punctuation to edit your query letter. It's not a long document, and if agents see mistakes in the query it could mean an automatic rejection, and after all your hard work writing the novel, why risk that?

    I spent a ridiculous amount of time revising my query letter through many drafts, each quite different (ie complete overhaul each time). It really was worth it in the end though, and helped me clarify the issues in my book - as well as getting me an agent, which was after all the point of the whole exercise!

    Good luck, and I agree with the commenter who said this idea has definite marketability!

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  29. EDITED with SUGGESTIONS, along with my own, which is BE BRIEF! That agent ain't got all day.

    Plus a couple of grammar and punc corrections.

    The first sentence needs work, I think, but you get the gist. Say it all in the first sentence, because NOBODY can stop mid-sentence. She/He will at least have to read that one sentence. You see the logic, eh, in the run-on structure?

    Love the premise, bro, and I wouldn't have taken the time to edit if I hadn't. I ain't got all day, you know.

    ~~~~~

    I am seeking representation for my Mystery/Thriller novel, Fallen Knight, which is complete at 103,000 words.

    When Dianne Williams, the independent manager of Greenville’s largest private detective agency, discovers her newest investigator -- a boy who belongs to a group of six college students calling themselves The Knights of Ni -- beaten and left for dead, she turns to the Knights for help.

    The Knight's leader rallies the rest of the gang. Their quest? Assist in the hunt for their friend’s assailant.

    Their investigation leads them to an impossible suspect: a dead high school student responsible for a Columbine-style shooting spree six months earlier. Even more mysterious is the warning the young attacker left written on his apparent suicide note: “I’m not finished yet."

    Overcoming efforts by local and federal authorities to hide the truth, the group stumbles across a broader scheme to release a bio-terrorism attack on New Year's Eve, and must cling to their friendship to solve the mystery before the clock strikes midnight.

    ~~Specific agent customization here~~ I would be happy to send along the complete manuscript, upon your request. Thank you, Ms. Agent, for your time and consideration, and if you could please send me a picture of what you are wearing, that would be much appreciated.


    - Eric

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  30. I'm a new visitor to your blog (coming via the Crusaders!) Hope you don't mind me chiming in.

    My problem with your query is the mixture of tone. It sounds really serious and noirish, until you mention the 'Knights Who Say Ni', which to me has overtones of Monty Python's The Knights of Ni. If I were an agent, I'd be wondering if you knew about this connection and if you were trying to be funny.

    And as someone else mentioned, you have a bit of tense mix-up.

    Otherwise it is a strong story and one that I, as a reader, would definitely read.

    ReplyDelete

 

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