3rd SR Crapometer #36

Dear Miss Snark,

I would like to submit to your Crapometer my novel, SG, with the hope you will find it suitable for representation. The story fits within the paranormal genre, totals some 100,000 words in length (is 100,000 words) and tells the story of Samuel Watson, a librarian with an ambition to retire wealthy, and of Professor Romulus Crowe, an arrogant, self-centered, skeptical parapsychologist who is forced to confront his own psychic abilities. (can you say all that out loud without taking a breath? Run on sentences are malodorous) Romulus is pressed into engineering the disposal of a demon the unfortunate Samuel has released, and in whose existence the Professor does not, initially, believe.

I have previously had a number of short stories published, both online and in print, and have written the ‘Horror’ articles for XYZ as ‘nom de plume’ since November 2003. This is my first full-length novel, although another novel, ‘Norman’s House’, also featuring Romulus Crowe is complete as a first draft. Another, firmly in the Horror genre, entitled ‘Victor’s Will’ is nearing first-draft completion; a collaborative SF story entitled ‘IO’ is currently in final revision, and a novella entitled ‘JT’ has been submitted elsewhere for consideration.

I make no secret of the fact that I consider myself more ‘mercenary’ than ‘artiste’. I intend to make a success of writing, and will promote my work as far as is required to achieve this.

I add, below, the opening paragraphs of ‘Samuel’s Girl’. I hope you find it worthy of further consideration.


The query letter pretty much sux.

Chapter 1

Samuel Watson's fingers twisted, interlocked and separated. He wiped his palms on the sides of his trousers and glanced across the main room of Marchway Library towards the unoccupied issues desk. Not for the first time this evening, he wondered what kind of brain-fit had induced him to agree to have this party here.

“Hey, Mr. Watson, have some more wine.” The junior assistant, Robert Moran, grinned at him, his eyes showing the beginnings of an alcohol glaze. He held out a glass of white wine, which Samuel accepted with muttered thanks.

The little party had started when the library closed for the evening, and was due to finish by nine o’clock. Samuel glanced at his watch. Ten more minutes. He noted with relief that nothing had been spilled. After tonight, the library became his responsibility. He would rather not have it smelling of stale booze.

Samuel sipped at the glass of wine in his hand; it was cheap plonk at room temperature. He shuddered and moved to a table where he could put the glass down and pretend he had forgotten it. The red wine had been passable, but it had run out, and Samuel had more important things on his mind than drink.

Donna Parfitt, one of the long-serving staff, intercepted him as he approached the table. Samuel instinctively took a deep breath before she reached him, hoping to avoid inhaling too much of the overpowering perfume she wore. He sometimes wondered if she bathed in the stuff. She stopped in front of him, swayed a little, and smiled a lopsided smile. Samuel responded with a tight, rapid twitch of his lips.

“It’s time to give Mr. Attlee his present, Sammy.” Donna poked her finger into his waist. “It's okay if I call you Sammy, isn't it? We're not working now.” She blinked, her blue eyes slightly askew.

“We're not working, but we're at work.” Samuel sighed and put his glass on the table. “Well, I suppose, just this once. It is a special occasion. I'd prefer Samuel to Sammy though—and it's back to Mr. Watson on Monday.” He gave her a mock-fierce glare, which made her shriek with laughter. Samuel watched the wine in her glass with growing alarm as it swirled ever closer to the rim, and resolved not to make Donna laugh again this evening. This would be the last party in the library as long as he was in charge. His nerves would never stand another one.

Samuel turned his gaze to where John Legg and Nathaniel Attlee stood talking. Robert leaned on the nearby table where the drinks and snacks had been arranged. His red hair drooped into his eyes. There was probably more alcohol in Robert's bloodstream than was left on the table. Samuel hoped Robert wasn't going to throw up.

The five of them constituted Nathaniel Attlee's retirement party. Donna, John and Robert planned to continue in a pub, probably more than one, but Samuel had already made it clear he would not be joining them.

Well, here it is, the crappy queries and the good writing.
I don't see much to grab my attention, but if this showed up here, I'd read on.


Anonymous said...

Yeah, I guess, even with the 'towards' instead of toward.

Anonymous said...

"The query letter pretty much sux."

As does your feedback, MS!

Pixel Faerie said...

If you don't appreciate it, don't submit and don't read. Plain and simple.

I saw Romulus and instantly thought Star Trek. :) Am I a geek or what?

Maria said...

I think her feedback was pretty clear on the query:

1. The writer spent far too many words on "I'm a serious writer, just look at all these other unpublished works I'm working on."

2. The words spent on this particular book are all in one long sentence.

Look to the other query letters and you'll see that unless the writer is listing published works or works that WON awards, she isn't interested.

Read through the blog. She has said numerous times: I expect you are a serious writer--don't waste time telling me, SHOW me the writing. Give her plot, excitement and a nice tight query.

None of these are my queries but I'm learning a ton anyway.

Can it be said too much? Thanks Miss Snark. This is very valuable--it's raw, rare and free.

Bernita said...

This keeps coming up.
My dictionary gives both "toward" or "towards" as correct.
Always thought it was editor's choice.

Anonymous said...

"The query letter pretty much sux."

I choked on my cereal. Minimalism at its best.

Romulus Crowe said...

Author says:


After reading the comments on the query letters that came up previously, I already knew I'd made the same mistakes.

So the query letter goes to the shredder. No biggie.

I saw the magic words 'I'd read on' - that's the important thing!

So I don't have to ditch the book :)

Anonymous said...

"Samuel sipped at the glass of wine in his hand"

I'm so glad it's not in some other person's hand or he's hoisting it with his toes, though a contortionist would make this fun.

Keep at it, make sure I know who is the protag and is he someone with whom I can identify and cheer forward.

Thomma Lyn said...

LOL, just yesterday I said to my husband, wouldn't it be a hoot if somebody wrote a novel about a skeptical psychic?

And today, lo and behold...

golfpoor said...

Sorry, Ms Snark, pretty boring stuff here.

overdog said...

I agree with maria. Miss Snark has been clear all along, and her feedback has been invaluable. I haven't submitted either, but boy am I learning. I appreciate the opportunity to read everyone else's feedback, too, and to add my two cents.

This one's a case of writing good enough to keep me reading. I don't need something big to happen in the first paragraph, but I need to know something's *going* to happen. Somehow there's an underlying feeling of that here, and a promise of a journey with interesting characters.

Kim said...

MS - your comments on the letters themselves should come with a beverage alert icon - I almost lost another keyboard to coffee! Not pretty... not pretty at all.

Virginia Miss said...

Anonymous said...
"Yeah, I guess, even with the 'towards' instead of toward"

Anonymous #1: my understanding is that "toward" is the preferred usage in the USA, but that the Brits use towards.

Any UK citizens care to clarify?

Anonymous said...

This didn't grab me. We learn a lot about the main character via showing, which is good, but I'm wondering when something other than sipping wine is going to happen. Yes, the main character has something on his mind. I'd like to know what it is sometime soon, thanks.

angieg said...

I'd keep reading because I like these characters and it held my interest. Made me smile too when he watched the wine swirl toward the edge of the glass.

Jeb said...

Interesting... the writing in the query letter can really colour expectations of the novel. After that verbose opening paragraph, I anticipated that the novel would benefit by an approximate 40% tightening. But the writing in the opening wasn't nearly that wordy; 20% would do it, and I consider a 20% reduction about par for any good revision.

Not an absorbing opening though - give me some way to identify with Samuel before I'll care that the red wine has run out, or that he's being a boor to this drunken librarian whose boss he'll be come Monday.

Sarah said...

"I make no secret of the fact that I consider myself more ‘mercenary’ than ‘artiste’."

You're all heart. I'm sure this book's going to move me to the core. Not.

Anonymous said...

my understanding is that "toward" is the preferred usage in the USA, but that the Brits use towards.

Any UK citizens care to clarify?

I'm in Ireland, not the UK, but I've done a lot of freelance editing for good publishing houses, and all of them preferred 'towards'.

class-factotum said...

But this is funny: "Samuel Watson, a librarian with an ambition to retire wealthy."

Romulus Crowe said...

Author says:

Well, the dust has settled on this one, I think. I have to agree with all the comments on the query letter. It was pretty bad. Still, I'd rather hear that now, before I send copies out to a whole load of agents and editors.

Anonymous #2 above: MS's feedback on earlier queries in this list covered the errors I'd made. So her comment was to the point: no need to repeat the criticisms. I was already suitably chastised before this one came up.

Okay, so I'm off to fix the query letter first. If I hadn't wasted all those words you'd have seen what Samuel was so tense about. My fault. :(

A big thanks to Miss Snark for running this. You've saved me a load of wasted postage with that one comment on the query.

And, of course, thanks for the snarky comments from the snarklings. Your time is appreciated.

The word verification for this one is 'balxz'. One last comment on that query, perhaps? :)

Loriba said...

Anonymous said...

"my understanding is that "toward" is the preferred usage in the USA, but that the Brits use towards.

Any UK citizens care to clarify?

I'm in Ireland, not the UK, but I've done a lot of freelance editing for good publishing houses, and all of them preferred 'towards'."

I am in the UK (Cambridge) and I would always use 'towards' rather than 'toward'.

To my ear 'toward' just sounds plain wrong. Although I've heard it often enough from American and Canadian friends that I'm getting more used to it.