Sunday, March 22, 2015

Become an Agent 2015 Post #1

Title: Skeleton Key
Genre: Mystery
Word Count: 80,100

Query:

Locksmith and security consultant Foley Munion’s life starts spinning out of control when her felon father breaks out of prison with a plan. But is the plan to protect Foley – or pull off one last heist?


As the one who installed the security cameras at a recently robbed bank, Foley is questioned by the police and FBI. The daughter of a safecracker and B&E man, Foley is used to police scrutiny, but is dismayed to discover she’s the cops’ main suspect. Stolen security schematics, an antique pearl ring and a woman’s charred skeleton are a few of the pieces in a three-year-old crime which appear tied to a current rash of bank robberies. While the police scrutinize Foley’s life, she looks for the real perpetrator.

The more Foley digs, the more she questions what she’s being told – even by her father. When she can’t get the answers she needs, Foley breaks into a local business, hoping she’s not becoming too much like her old man. Worried about her father’s possible involvement in the robberies, Foley follows him – straight into the sights of a killer.

First 250: 



Foley stared at the name painted on the shop window: Manley and Munion Lock and Key. God how she wished she could scrape off Allison’s name. But the way business was going, the point could be moot by the end of the month. Allison had made a mess of Foley’s life, but her death still brought in customers. And Foley needed all the business she could get. No matter how hard she scrambled, the shop barely broke even. She should’ve stayed put in her lock and key kiosk. So much for dreaming big.


She stepped inside the small lobby and shivered. Metal shavings from the key grinder dotted the floor. Sweeping the place could wait until Darrell clocked in.

Darrell. Her bank balance said she needed to let the kid go. She shook her head then lifted the walk-through section of the counter and entered the workshop.

Something felt wrong.

Her work area looked fine, the bins of wire and alarm system components sat undisturbed. Nothing was out of place. She hurried to the safe, crouched and spun the dial. The lock clicked. She yanked the handle. Heart racing, she pawed through the contents. Most important, her cash still lay bundled inside. Her chest loosened and breathing became simple again. Foley settled back onto her heels, staring into the safe’s dark interior.

Money untouched. Schematics secure. She leaned forward to sniff the locking mechanism. No tell-tale odor of oil or graphite. So why the heebie-jeebies?

Query:

Locksmith and security consultant Foley Munion’s life starts spinning out of control when her felon father breaks out of prison with a plan. But is the plan to protect Foley from being framed – or to pull off one last heist?

A bank heist brings the police and FBI calling. As the daughter of a safecracker and B&E man, she’s used to police scrutiny, but this time she’s their main suspect. Since Foley installed the bank’s security cameras three years earlier, they are convinced she’s in league with the robbers. To make matters worse, the current crime seems to mimic another bank robbery where Foley installed the cameras. During that crime, Foley’s business partner was taken hostage and her charred body later found in the desert. While the police try to link Foley to both crimes, she hunts for the real perpetrator. 

The more Foley digs, the more she questions what she’s being told – by the police, FBI, and her father. An antique pearl ring may prove the body found in the desert wasn’t that of Foley’s business partner. When Foley can’t get the answers she needs from a local jeweler, she breaks into the shop, hoping she’s not becoming too much like her old man.

Her father continues to help her, but always seems to know more than he should about the crimes and their perpetrators. Worried he might be involved in the robberies, Foley follows her father – straight into the sights of a killer.

Complete at 80,000 words, Skeleton Key is a standalone mystery with series potential which will appeal to fans of Harlan Coben and Steve Hamilton.

First 250:

Foley stared at the name painted on the shop window: Manley and Munion Lock and Key. God how she wished she could scrape off Allison’s name. But the way business was going, the point could be moot by the end of the month. Allison had made a mess of Foley’s life, but her death still brought in some customers.

Inside, the small lobby felt colder than the parking lot. Foley shivered and nudged up the thermostat. Metal shavings from the key grinder dotted the floor. Sweeping the place could wait. She lifted the walk-through section of the counter and entered the workshop.

Something felt wrong.

Her work area looked fine, the bins of wire and alarm system components sat undisturbed. Nothing was out of place. She hurried to the safe, crouched and spun the dial. The lock clicked. She yanked the handle. Heart racing, she pawed through the contents. Most important, her cash still lay bundled inside. Her chest loosened and breathing became simple again. Foley settled back onto her heels, staring into the safe’s dark interior.

Money untouched. Schematics secure. She leaned forward to sniff the locking mechanism. No tell-tale odor of oil or graphite. So why the heebie-jeebies? Foley stood and took a slow turn. Everything looked normal. But something was off. What? She closed her eyes and breathed deep.

Oh no. That smell. Soft, but with a slight edge. Partagas. Her dad’s favorite cigar.

27 comments:

  1. I adore your hook. Absolutely love it. The rest of the query is fine - it's tough, because I like it, I don't love it. Part of the problem is that you've got a lot of really long sentences. Breaking it up, for me, would really help with the flow. Too many long sentences, and my eyes just glaze over, no matter how interesting they are otherwise. Also, the meat of the query is only 187 words, so I think you can tell us more about Foley as a character, rather than just what's happening with her father.

    The first paragraph is primarily backstory, and I'm much more interested in what's wrong with the shop at this moment than what happened to someone who's dead before the story begins. Look for a more organic place to tell us about Allison later. I'm not sure about the mention of Darell, either, although maybe Foley could be looking for him in the shop? Mostly, I want to feel what Foley feels. Don't tell me the shop feels wrong - show me WHY. And I want to fast forward until Foley finds whatever it is is giving her the bad feeling (or cut off at the safe opening, if you can get enough atmosphere added).

    With a little work, this could be really amazing, but I'd say no to this version.

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  2. No.

    I spent too long trying to figure out your first query paragraph. Why would her father breaking out of prison protect Foley? Wouldn't it be obvious he's trying to pull off a heist if he's, ya know, looking to pull off a heist? What does a killer have to do with all the rest of it? It just almost seems tacked on at the end.

    The 250 isn't bad, but it doesn't really pull me in like it would have to for me to overlook the query problems. There's not really one big thing happening, just a lot of little "traveling" things, so I'm giving this a no.

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  3. There's lots of elements of your premise I love. The father-daughter relationship reminds me of the one in How to Steal a Million. And there needs to be more great, fresh mysteries!! That said, I sadly have to say no. The 250 has a little too much backstory. I don't mind slower 250s, but too much backstory can be a turn off. However, I liked the voice. So this is a sad no on my part. But I think with some polishing you'll go far!

    #16

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  4. No.

    While I do like the sound of the overall premise, my primary reason for passing is that I had a bit trouble following the logic of the story as currently laid out in the query. It mentions a "three-year-old crime" and a "current rash of bank robberies," but how do either connect to Foley? I ask this because earlier it said that the police suspect her for one particular robbery because she installed the security system there. Did she install the system in the other banks as well then? If so, this is probably something that should be mentioned. If not, how then is she connected to the other banks? And if the police can somehow connect her to some three-year-old crime, what do the bank robberies have to do with anything (and "crime" is probably too general a term here; does it mean another bank robbery, or something else? the mention of human remains would suggest a murder or something)?

    Also not sure what "break[ing] into a local business" has to do with these bank robberies (that is, in the context of the query it feels random). Same with the final line "straight into the sights of a killer," which, while it has the potential to be an awesome hook, seemingly comes out of nowhere in the context of the query as it now stands. The hook, to be effective, typically combines and builds upon elements already introduced in the rest of the query. A random killer unconnected to anything else mentioned thus far has little meaning.

    It could just be me being dense, but even if all the points are there I'm not sure the dots are being connected in the way they need to be. Everything should be laid out to flow as smoothly and cleanly as possible.

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  5. Yes!

    I thought this was a really good query. It worked for me. I like the angle of the main character in a mystery being something as unglamorous but fundamentally appropriate as a locksmith. Why haven’t we seen more of this? Why don’t main characters ever seem to have jobs anymore? I do end up wondering how the child of a B&E specialist ends up as a locksmith, and then wondering if working in the answer to that question might make for an even more enticing query. I think that’s biggest issue facing this query: it needs to stand out more. Reading it I have confidence in the author’s writing ability, but I worry about what makes this book marketable (i.e. what makes this story unique in a competitive market). Agents and publishers need to be able to sell the book, so what’s the marketing pitch? Also, and possibly connected, was Allison just a business partner and how did she die?

    I do agree with one of the other commenters that I don’t like Foley just having a “a feeling”. If it’s something instinctual that Foley needs to act on, tell me about the actual physical sensation. It would work especially well if that physical sensation ties back in to what’s ultimately wrong in workshop. For example, a sudden chill makes her shiver and it later turns out to be because the back window is open a crack. I would even be okay with a sentence or two of backstory about why she would be that sensitive to small changes in her environment, but then get the real evidence of the break in to the reader quickly.

    #2

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  6. I have to vote No on this one.

    The first paragraph of your query confused me. Why would her father breaking out of jail be to protect her? Protect her from what? I'd also like know how a three-year-old crime connects to the recent robbery, and how the killer mentioned in the last sentence fits into the rest of the story. I think you've got all the right pieces there, they're just not pieced together in quite the right away.

    The 250 has a little too much backstory and telling vs. showing for me. I want to feel why Foley is creeped out in her shop, and I'd much rather hear more about what's wrong there than about her possible need to let Darrel go and Allison's death. A little tweaking in both the query and 250 and this could work really well.

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  7. Owner of this entry, you're killing me. I only have one yes left and two great entries to choose from. Very sadly, this would be a no for me. It came down between you and #20. I picked #20 because there query letter gave me a better understanding of what to expect from the novel. Your query doesn't state what the intended age range is and with that word count on a mystery, it's very important to know. If this were an adult/new adult novel the count is fine, it's a bit high if this were an YA, and preposterous if this were a MG. Also, I didn't get a real sense of a dire stake from this query. I would suggest highlighting the elements that make your story different from the other mysteries, and upping the suspense within the query letter.

    I liked the writing style in the 250, but it just didn't pull me in enough to overlook the problems in the query letter. Sorry, but this was a very reluctant no if that helps.

    Critiqued by #7

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  8. #3 Commenting

    I like this locksmith daughter/criminal father pairing. Nice.

    "spinning out of control" in the 1st p isn't fresh enough for me - more grabbing way to say this?

    2nd p - you lose me in the 3rd sentence.

    3rd p - "a local business" be more specific and relate it to this case?! And what does this have to do with the next sentence - does she break in when she's following her father?

    250:
    The query makes no mention of Allison so I'm surprised to see a name mentioned with such importance in the first paragraph. And this doesn't feel like your starting spot - I agree with other commenters who suggest weaving in this backstory elsewhere. Right now I'm intrigued by the query and know I will be more so with a little tightening but I'm just not drawn in by the 250.

    This is a no for me.


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  9. ARGH! A very reluctant no, and simply because I voted yes on two others.

    Until the last paragraph, a really great query. The last paragraph falls into the too-common pitfalls of trying to write a great closing paragraph (always happens!). It drops a new plot line - a killer - with very little buildup. (Maybe say 'the' killer instead so we know it's 'the' killer instead of a new random killer?). This part: "When she can’t get the answers she needs, Foley breaks into a local business, hoping she’s not becoming too much like her old man. Worried about her father’s possible involvement in the robberies," is too passive. The 'hoping she's not' clause is too slow for a closing sentence. And I think you can completely cut the 'worried about' clause.

    The 250 is good. I'm fine with slow 250s as long as it starts at the right place, and I think this does. The first paragraph is a bit of name-overload, and it took me two reads to get it. Agents might not be up for that. After that, it was smooth sailing.

    Post #8

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  10. No. I *do* really like the premise and parts of this query and 250 though. For the query, is the father a suspect of the robbery mentioned in paragraph two? If so, I'd end the first paragraph with a period after prison. It's interesting and makes us want to know more. And it leads right into the next paragraph. If her father isn't a suspect in that robbery, then I think you need to work more on integrating the father into the rest of the query and how it's relevant to her quandry. Or, leave him out, because right now I'm having a hard time figuring out exactly how her father plays into this.

    The 250 is a little slow. Not sure we need to know about Allison and Darrell so soon. It's a tiny bit confusing when I'm really trying to follow what she's doing and get invested in her.

    Despite the no, I do want to emphasize that I love this idea, and I think there's good bones here. Just a few tweaks are needed. Good luck!

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  11. #5 here - as an agent, I probably would not request pages.

    I like how your logline begins, it grounds well with characters and conflict. If you could rephrase the end of it by bringing in more stakes for Foley and making it a statement rather than a question, I think it would be stronger.

    You do a nice job of setting up the plot with the older crime perhaps being tied to the current burglaries. I get why the police are interested in her. I'd like to see it presented with more tension, though - this is a mystery, after all. The tone of the query should reflect that, maybe feel a little more ominous. I'd also like it made more clear at what point her father shows up in the story. Overall, I need more clarity on the father's plotlines. I think it would bring a lot to this query if you could triangulate Foley's situation between the police and her father, drawing a contrast with how she's being squeezed by the police and by her father. And there has to be some personal part of this story between father and daughter and their relationship - I'd like that highlighted as well, Foley's internal conflict about her father.

    Moving on to the 250, I really like your character immediately. You have good voice and a clean writing style that suits this genre well.

    The first paragraph feels a bit disjointed. The reader has no idea who Allison is or her relationship to Foley or why her name brings in business. Unfortunately, the paragraph ends and then we just move on with no clarity on Allison.

    Nice imagery with the metal shavings on the floor. Perhaps you can add more details and then tie those details to Foley suddenly feeling like something is amiss. Maybe it's some minor detail that reminds her of something - maybe she's been reading the paper, or heard her father escaped, or even hears a sound that suddenly makes her feel paranoid. Unfortunately, the way it's reading now is - something feels wrong... because reasons. Use the opportunity of something feeling wrong to give us insight into Foley's personality or her current circumstances. And related to this, when she doesn't find anything wrong immediately, her response isn't to laugh at herself or berate herself for being paranoid, or some other way that could make the reader relate and connect to her. Instead, she seems to wonder what it is that's *actually* wrong, like she just hasn't figured out yet? Something may actually be wrong, but it would be nice to see her doubt herself, since everything seems fine. Who hasn't let their imagination run away with them a time or two and gotten the chills that something's wrong - but how many of us can genuinely walk into a room and sense something being wrong for non-specifc reasons - and be right about it?

    I love a good mystery, and I love a good father-daughter relationship plotline (obviously)! This one has a lot of potential! Good luck!

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  12. Sadly, I have to vote no on this one.
    It was a close call though because I love mysteries and this one sounds like a lot of fun - you have a well crafted premise and with some work I think it can be great.
    My ultimate decision rested on the query though, on the premise that some agents require only a query letter for submission - and will only ask for pages based on that. And based on your query, I just don't know enough about your novel to request pages.
    My suggestion would be to combine your first two paragraphs - the first line is a little out of place. I know it's intended to be a logline, but it didn't work for me there. Why would Foley need protecting? And why is she a main suspect just because she installed the security cameras? The reference to the three-year-old crime is confusing too. I realize all this is part of your story, but you need to help us tie enough of it together (without revealing too much) to want more.
    First 250: I love the way you describe her store, but I had a hard time connecting with Foley. You spend a lot of time on her dead partner (lover?) and the kid she needs to fire. Maybe those things can come later -- what's really interesting is that even though nothing is wrong, she stll has the heebie jeebies. Why?
    Good luck!!

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  13. I'm also voting NO, and for pretty much all the same reasons listed above.

    I don't want to beat a dead horse, because that isn't what this is about. There are some real glimmers of greatness here, the premises, the voice, it's there! But the first 250 felt like info dump and telling. The query read like a synopsis, rather than into to the character.

    Also, and this might just be me, but a huge reason I was turned off from almost the very beginning is that Foley is the name of the most common kind of medical catheter ( a rubber tube inserted into the bladder to aid in elimination) It's commonly referred to as just a "Foley" and they use the word in just about every episode of every medical drama ever made. I don't know if I could get past a MC sharing a name with something like that without a really strong reason up front.

    Tobias Eaton (4)

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  14. I'm #6.

    This is a no for me, but regretfully because I feel like there's a lot of good stuff here and the premise is intriguing. For me the stakes don't feel urgent yet, and the idea of Foley in danger from a murderer (in the query) feels a little out of left field. Also I'm having trouble connecting your first and second paragraphs, I'm not following Foley's motivations for installing cameras or how that plays into what comes before it. Can you tie the paragraphs together more?

    There are a few spots that could be tightened as well for instance : which appear tied to a current rash of bank robberies, maybe cut the 'which appear' and just say 'are tied'. It's stronger that way. Or also here : are a few of the pieces. Replace with some like 'are pieces of three-year-old crime'. Cutting away some of the flab / unnecessary words can tighten the query. And don't be afraid to add specifics in the third paragraph as well. I'm not sure why Foley needs to break into a business so it left me confused.

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  15. You need to the dead partner in the query somehow I think. That sounds like it could be an integral part of the plot or at least give some insight into Foley's mindset.

    I love your query, but I do feel the murderer is kind of just tacked on there without much more information and I need more about that. Is this the killer who killed her partner for instance?

    As for the 250...you have a great voice. I can see that store in detail and wasn't bored with the descriptions. I may need a bit more action in the 250. But for me this, is a yes because your writing is so very solid!

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  16. Revision critique:

    Hey! Post #8 here. And you might hate me. I think this is an improvement in some areas, but not an improvement in others.

    The easy stuff: the 250 I like, as I did before. Just cut out the 'Heart racing' and 'chest' part because your action describes that so much better than the cliches.

    The query, though, I felt was too long and loose. It dragged at the end, and although it was a bit better conclusion than before, it still doesn't have that BAM. Maybe the main thing is that we know little about the killer? The antagonist? We don't need to know WHO the antagonist is, but we have to be aware of their personality/action/obstacle they bring to the story. We have to know the antagonist, but not literally know them. Does that make sense? I felt that the pearl bit could also be cut. The book is the place where the story exists, not the query. The query is what GETS the reader to the book.

    But I'd say yes, this is an improvement, mainly because in my personal experience, I need to write more in order to cut down and edit from there. This is still a reluctant No from me, though. But you're so close!

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  17. Revision critique from #17
    That last line in the 250! Phew! I wanted to read more right there.
    Your query has improved a lot, but there is still some things that are a little muddled. I agree to cut the pearl part. I do like that you got the dead partner in there. That was completely necessary. The query is getting there, but it just needs to be streamlined a bit.

    In particular - I would try to par this portion down: To make matter worse, the current crime seems to mimic another bank robbery where Foley installed the cameras. During that crime, Foley’s business partner was taken hostage and her charred body later found in the desert. While the police try to link Foley to both crimes, she hunts for the real perpetrator.

    You are on your way to a great query here. Your 250 still reads very well. Even better this time around!

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  18. Hello # 5 here.

    Your revised query has a lot more info in it and it's much easier for me to tie together the pieces of the plot.

    I the first paragraph, I like that you are more specific about what her father is back to protect her from.

    In the second paragraph, I like that it's spelled out more clearly why the police are interested in her, how the crimes link to her, etc. I wonder if it would be more effective if you switched around the order. Like, Foley thought she had managed to move on since it's been three years since her partner was killed in a robbery ... etc. But when another robbery mimics that one ... etc. Idk. Just a thought. It's a more logical flow to the chain of events.

    The third paragraph maybe goes into too much detail (we're never happy!!). I think the key points are that she's not getting the answers she wants and so when she takes matters into her hands, she starts to wonder if she's more like her dad than she realized. I really like you drawing that contrast between them. In fact, I'd like it even more if you set it up better in the earlier paragraph by really painting as Foley as someone who has wanted to walk the straight and narrow, not like her dad.

    Unfortunately, it's not until the last paragraph that you really bring the dad back into it. But from reading your 250, seems like he's in the novel from the beginning. I would love it if you would weave him into the query more, from the start. It seems to me that this novel is just about the relationship between a father and a daughter as it is figuring out his mystery. If that's the case, give it more weight in this query!

    I think your 250 is really improved. The only real issue I still see is that the first paragraph i still confusing and not effective. My advice would be to forget trying to explain Allison through exposition and bring her situation in through dialogue. Maybe she has a conversation with her dad about it or a customer comes in and asks some question... something. Backstory reveals through dialogue are super effective and more interesting. But back to your first paragraph, if you can just keep the focus on Foley, I think it will work a lot better.

    There are so many things that are great about the 250! I love her shivering and turning up the thermostat. I thought it moved along quite well and built suspense. And I love when she closes her eyes and smells her father's cigar. That's very effective. Maybe that was always there and just didn't make the 250 cut the first time, but I was so glad to read it!

    I definitely think you're on the right track!! Still a great premise! As it is now, I probably would not request pages, because the query does still need some work. Keep going, though, it's all very promising! Good luck!

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  19. Hi,
    I like your query, though it was a bit on the longish side. The part about the father 'continuing to help her' confused me, since I wasn't sure how he'd helped her earlier. I think you could go without that (to avoid raising more questions) and just go on with her suspecting he knew more about the robberies. Also, I'm not sure why she doesn't question his breaking out of prison, especially if that coincides with the timing of the heists. I like the mystery re: the charred body. I'd vote yes since I want to read more pages.

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  20. #16 here with revision crit :D

    wow! So much better on the 250! It made me want to read more!

    Your query is good but leans on the synopsis side. But while that's a turn off for me, usually, I like your 250 enough that'd I'd request for pages!

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  21. Hi from #15!

    I remember critiquing this in round 1, but I can't find it. Weird! I think I hit log out instead of publish, or something!

    I really like the 250 here! It's got the makings of some really good suspense, with extra sensory stuff to boot.

    My only questions seems to stem from part of the QL. You mention her father continuing to help her. I looked back to see if I missed something, but I couldn't find anything that clearly said her father was helping her in the first place. I think if you want to include that part, maybe mention something about how her father teams up with her early on, or something. Also, I need to know more about the pearl ring. Maybe give us a clue as to its importance. What is so special about it? Maybe where it was found?

    I think an agent would love the 250, but if the agent didn't ask for pages to be sent with the QL, only the letter, I don't know if the QL would be compelling enough.

    You are very close! Your writing in the 250 is very good, and even from the get-go, you have tension, which is paramount. Keep at it. While this is a no from me at this point, my decision is solely based upon the clarity of the QL.

    Good luck!

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  22. I know there's still more time for folks to comment, but I want to thank everyone who has given feedback thus far. It has been enormously helpful. I know everyone says they struggle with queries, but I always feel like I'm flailing around in quicksand when I put my hand to one. Your 'fresh eyes' have helped laser in on problem areas and you've given me some terrific suggestions for making this better. Thanks so much!

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  23. This is reeaaallly close for me. A few suggestions to push it solidly into the Yes pile:

    I stumbled over the repetition of the word ‘heist’ between the first and second paragraphs of the query. It’s also a bit unclear. I thought it had something to do with the dad. You could easily rephrase to something like: “As the daughter of a safecracker and B&E man, Foley’s used to police scrutiny, but after a bank robbery, she’s their main suspect. The crime scene mimics the stage of a robbery three years ago, at another bank where Foley happened to install cameras...ext...ext...”

    The third paragraph starts off great, “the more Foley digs...” but then becomes a little too synopsis like, “When Foley can’t get answers.” We only need the set-up in the query. Remember: character, conflict, stakes. I got a great sense of character from the opening paragraph. The conflict is clear in the second (Foley’s being framed!). Now all we need is what happens if Foley fails.

    I really enjoyed the suspense in the 250. One small quibble, I’m not sure where the name Allison comes from? I thought the sign said “Manley and Minion Lock and Key”?

    LOVE the second paragraph. Great sensory and visual details (want to take it above and beyond?—include what the place smells like, I bet it’s suuuper metallic :D)

    You’re definitely on the right track. Make sure you reign in the query so it isn’t too synopsis like and I’m sure you’ll find many yeses with this premise :D

    #20

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  24. Hi Peggy, #19 here for a revision crit. Thanks for your comments on mine.

    I didn't get a chance to take a look at this the first time around, so I read your first entry and then your revisions.

    Query:

    Ugh, I'm so torn. I really like your premise and how your main character is a locksmith--how cool is that?--but the query read too long and detailed for me. If there was some way to take the pacing of the original query and add in some of the clarity of your revised submission, I think you could craft something very compelling.

    The first paragraph has a lot of information in it and a few places of alliteration that caused me to reread a few times. I read it out loud as well and it didn't really roll off the tongue. I think it may be the case of trying to do too much in one sentence. I totally get that because it's something I struggle with as well. I like the ending sentence though. It provides a nice transition into the next paragraph.

    250:

    I really like your prose. It's simple, concise and it suits the genre, I think. I get good sense of who Foley is by her actions. It reads smooth and natural too. Great job.

    I think if you tighten up the query like you have in the 250, you'll have a winner. Best of luck!

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  25. Query: I think this is a little long and that we're missing a clear progression of stakes and goals from the MC. How does the killer she runs into in the last paragraph relate to the bank heists? These two almost feel separate and I'm sure they're actually related somehow. Also, I love this question: "But is the plan to protect Foley from being framed – or to pull off one last heist?" but feel like it would be stronger later in the query when it's more clear what's going on. What I really wanted was some sort of "Now Foley must choose: believe her father or turn him in to clear her own name" or something like that to show us what the real crux of the story is...

    Some small nitpicks: tighten things like "starts spinning out of control" to just "spins out of control" and "wasn't that of Foley’s business partner" to "wasn't Foley's partner"

    First 250: Oh, I love this. It totally makes me want to read more and I don't even read mysteries! A couple of nitpicks, but I think overall this is great. First, I'm not sure how "but her death still brought in some customers" fits--it sort of makes Foley seem shallow and knowing what I know from the query, I can't figure out how her partner dying as part of a bank heist would bring more customers into a lock shop (that obviously failed if the bank was robbed, right?). Second, it wasn't clear to me that she was outside looking in when she stared at the sign on the door, so on first read, I was confused when it said the shop was colder than the parking lot. And finally, if she's about to go bankrupt and close up shop, how does she have a wad of cash in the safe? Give us a detail (this is the last of her life savings or only enough to pay for one month's rent or ???) that makes this fit with what she's just said about her business going under, or else put something else valuable only to her in the safe. Otherwise, I love the sensory details here and the scent of the cigar telling her Dad's back in town. Best of luck from entry #13.

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  26. Query: I think this is a little long and that we're missing a clear progression of stakes and goals from the MC. How does the killer she runs into in the last paragraph relate to the bank heists? These two almost feel separate and I'm sure they're actually related somehow. Also, I love this question: "But is the plan to protect Foley from being framed – or to pull off one last heist?" but feel like it would be stronger later in the query when it's more clear what's going on. What I really wanted was some sort of "Now Foley must choose: believe her father or turn him in to clear her own name" or something like that to show us what the real crux of the story is...

    Some small nitpicks: tighten things like "starts spinning out of control" to just "spins out of control" and "wasn't that of Foley’s business partner" to "wasn't Foley's partner"

    First 250: Oh, I love this. It totally makes me want to read more and I don't even read mysteries! A couple of nitpicks, but I think overall this is great. First, I'm not sure how "but her death still brought in some customers" fits--it sort of makes Foley seem shallow and knowing what I know from the query, I can't figure out how her partner dying as part of a bank heist would bring more customers into a lock shop (that obviously failed if the bank was robbed, right?). Second, it wasn't clear to me that she was outside looking in when she stared at the sign on the door, so on first read, I was confused when it said the shop was colder than the parking lot. And finally, if she's about to go bankrupt and close up shop, how does she have a wad of cash in the safe? Give us a detail (this is the last of her life savings or only enough to pay for one month's rent or ???) that makes this fit with what she's just said about her business going under, or else put something else valuable only to her in the safe. Otherwise, I love the sensory details here and the scent of the cigar telling her Dad's back in town. Best of luck from entry #13.

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  27. #2 - I liked this the first time around and I like it even more now. The revised query gives a more complete view of the stakes Foley's facing. I'd work on streamlining the language a little bit (comments above suggested that too). I'd also combine the third and fourth paragraphs of the query and removing the sentence "Her father continues to help her, but always seems to know more than he should about the crimes and their perpetrators." It leaves out some of her father's role, but makes the query flow better.

    I like the texture and sensations you've added to the revised 250.

    Yes before. Yes now.

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