Friday, November 5, 2010

Writing, Querying and Learning

First off: NaNo word count as of 10:15 am PST on day five is 12,072. Umm… and counting, cuz I am OCD and can’t stop writing (okay, or blogging for that matter).
Secondly: Click here to sign up for my Query Letter BlogFest happening Dec. 12th thru 18th.

Okay so to take a break from all the NaNo discussions out there I thought I would share a little something with you.
The following is a query letter I wrote when I was a young, naive writer. Don’t you dare look at the date on it, that’s embarrassing. Oh, hell, you looked didn’t you.
Yes I sent this to two agents, both asking for a query and the first five. I didn’t really expect anything other than a FORM REJECTION from either one. Which I received from one, who shall remain nameless, within a week of sending it out.

The second one took the full four weeks to respond. And he REQUESTED pages, all that I had written since the project was very clearly stated as a UNFINISHED.  (For all of you historical fiction writers, if you are looking for an agent you can email me for his name but I am redacting it here. He is from a big name agency)
I hadn’t touched the project since I queried. So I went back through and started a quick edit of what I had, like 100 pgs of raw material, and got to about page 50 and gave up. I sent the agent a very humbling email stating I had shelved the project. He responded within minutes with a request that I re-query him when I found faith in my writing and pulled the piece back off the shelf. His response made me think I might have offended him greatly as he did read the first five of the project and still requested material of an incomplete novel…YIKES .
Yes, I learned a great lesson. Now it’s your turn.
I made EVERY MISTAKE possible with this query. Formatting, misused words, content, querying an incomplete manuscript…the list goes on.
Copied and Pasted from my sent box and without further ado…
To:       (Redacted)
From:   Jodi Henry
Date:    February 8, 2010
Re:       A novel idea

The novel I am writing is about the treasures of the copper scroll, one of the scrolls found at The Dead Sea in 1956 so it very loosely rooted in historical events. The events are the finding and dismantling of the copper scroll. The rest of the tale is action/adventure/ and a treasure hunt. The story spans three continents, the US, Europe and Africa and two different time periods, 1956to1980 and the present. The length is negotiable, but will probably be around 300,000 words based on the number of chapter I have outlined and what I already have written.
The tale is told through the lives of three characters each followed separately until their lives finally converge on one another. The first character we are introduced to is Dr. Martin who dismantled the scroll in 1957 and stole a portion of it for himself; he is also Bradley Crosswater’s grandfather. Brad is a shallow, self-serving student at Harvard in his first year of his Master of Archaeology program. Elisa McCab is the daughter of Dr. Martin’s live in housekeeper, who for reasons to lengthy to mention leaves his employment when Elisa is fourteen. Elisa is in her second year at Cornell for her Masters of Linguistics.
The unexpected death of Dr. Martin brings Brad and Elisa together for the reading of the will. Also present are representatives from The Committee, the governing entity over the study of the scrolls. Neither Brad nor Elisa knows who The Committee is or why they are present. The Committee is hoping to recover Dr. Martin’s, formerly known as Howard M., research that he took when he separated from them in 1957. They don’t know that he has actually stolen an entire piece of the scroll and left it to his grandson and Elisa as part of his estate.
Dr. Martin is a man Brad never really knew but as their treasure hunt ensues history seeps through to the present. Brad and Elisa find the bones of Dr. Martin’s long lost colleague buried in the desert. This is one of two murders Dr. Martin is guilty of during his search for the treasure. During the hunt for the treasure The Committee is hot on Elisa and Brad’s heals, always just one step behind them.
Throughout the novel The Committee breaks into the two residences, beats Elisa for information and ultimately kidnaps her as ransom over Brad, who has fallen in love with her throughout the novel. She on the other hand grapples with demons of abusive boyfriends and cannot return his affections though she would like to. 
In the end, Elisa makes an escape, Brad finds the treasure and The Committee loses. Brad and Elisa reunite so she can translate the written material Brad recovers. She discovers what it is and talks Brad out of releasing the information to the public for fear of retaliation from a few different religions.
The idea for this book hit me in the middle of the night, go figure. It occurred to me that the Dead Sea Scrolls are not in any way linked to Christianity and The Copper Scroll has been described as a treasure map. The man John Marco Allegro who dismantled the scroll attempted to find the treasures explained in the scroll but was unsuccessful. So I thought why not make a future generation of his, find the treasure and link it back to Christianity but in a completely unexpected way. And The Committee came about because of Jordan wanting the scrolls back from the United States and Canada, fanatics will do anything for their religion, and every action/adventure story needs an entity with all the finances and ability to hinder the hero and heroine.
I am currently a student of English at Saint Martin’s University in Lacey, Washington. I am also taking two religious studies class, one is The Dead Sea Scrolls taught by a Dead Sea Scrolls scholar and the other is Elementary Biblical Hebrew, also taught by the same professor.
Since I have started writing I have produced one completed novel, though it could use an editor’s touch and half of another one, in the fantasy genre and this is my third. I put the half novel on hold to start this one while the idea was hot in my mind.  The following is the first five pages of my novel, hope you enjoy it.
Jodi Henry
Lesson Learned: Never query an incomplete MS.
Hope you took something from this post.
Happy Reading. Happier Writing.


Lydia Kang said...

Wow! That's great that you got a request from an unfinished MS! Still, it must mean the ideas you have are fabulous enough to garner a request so... hooray for your ideas. They are good ones!

N. R. Williams said...

Your description sounds like a cross between 'The DaVinci Code' and the 'Nicholas Cage Treasures' movies. I bet that is a hot market right now. Good luck.
I posted today about giveaways and contest including my first ever contest. So if you have time come on by.
N. R. Williams, fantasy author

Brenda Drake said...

Wow, that is one loooong query. You should revisit that premise. It's scary to look back on all the mistakes we made querying when we first started. Thanks for sharing! :D

Quinn said...

That's awesome that you got a request off of an unfinished project and (I don't want to offend you or anything so sorry) with that query. The idea sounds great though ... have you ever thought of revisiting it?

Jodi Henry said...

Quinn- No offense taken. I know the query is awful, that's the point of posting it.

I've been reading a lot of posts lately that remark on the abundance of rejections people are getting. I just wanted people to see that there is always hope--even if you screw everything up when you query as long as the premise and pages promise good things someone will request something.

And yes, I have thought about revisiting it and that's pretty much as far as going back to it has gotten. To be honest, the project has lost the magic it once had for me. So on the virtual shelf it sits waiting for me to find inspiration for it again.

DominicSFF said...

What a great boost to confidence! (even if you don't, or didn't I should say, see it like that.) Someone could see a diamond in the rough, in you and in your story. That's quite some kudos!
:D om