3rd SR Crapometer #48-partial for sure

Dear Miss Snark,
I've recently completed a suspense novel, “Title” (95,000 words), set in Cambridge, England.
Polly trades one small world for another. She leaves an unchallenging, semi-rural New Hampshire town for the formal, eccentric, ancient city of Cambridge. It's a good change, until a newly close friend disappears—and it becomes clear that the real reason she's run so far from her old life will have to come out.

I wrote for “Such-and-Such” magazine for six years, and now freelance for “This-and-So” magazine. I'm an American living in Cambridge, and my intimacy with this amazing city is evident on the page.

SASE enclosed. Thank you for your time.

ok, that's succinct!! I love it.
I'll read on for sure.

“Come on,” Nick said, tugging my hand. He dragged me past the Plesiosaur and Iguanodon skeletons, and unlocked a stairwell. He prodded the elevator button within. When the thing came it had one of those old iron grilles, which he shoved aside for entry. He pressed me against the back wall of the box and kissed me furiously.

He has lovely hands. Later, when the people making “missing” posters asked for a detailed description of him, I uselessly went on about his perfect hands. Right here you've got me. You're 84 words into this and you've got me. Good.

When the lift went ding at the top floor, he stalked out without a word down a long, dingy hallway. I trotted after him; it's not like he was forcing himself on me or anything. I'd forgotten he has an office up here in Earth Sciences—but of course he does. It's a tiny space, nothing more than books and a coffee maker and a desk and a lock on the door, which is enough of course. We perched on the desk, our bodies facing forward and our heads to each other, like two kids sharing a soda-fountain float, knees touching. He pulled my face to his.

I don't think he meant for much more than petting—he doesn't seem like someone who would rush anything. But when he unbuttoned my shirt I said no. I'm certain I did, but it was kind of muffled in his cheek. So he undid the next button. I shoved his shoulder, hard, and said no again. He was surprised, I think. I was too. I mean, it's fine to say no to anything, but this was abrupt. He leaned in to kiss me again. I don't think he was deliberately ignoring me, I think he was just on a roll. So was I frankly. I kissed him back, which was disorienting—he had a right to be even more confused. It was all so—there was this line. I wanted to be on one side of it. I tried to stay there, and haul him back there. But he couldn't see the line. All he knew was that I was still leaning into him. He kissed me all down my neck, and then lower, down into where my shirt was open from the first two buttons. It made me crazy, in a good way, and it made me angry, which was strange. I shoved him so hard he was suddenly standing; I had pushed him off the desk onto his feet. I leaned over the other side of the desk and vomited into his rubbish bin. It had papers in it, not crumpled, just all smooth and rounded, clinging to the side of the basket. I vomited in it, and then over it onto the floor. I kept throwing up for three or four minutes. It was horrible. I was embarrassed and I'm sure he was.

When I was done I wiped my mouth on my sleeve and pushed past him. In the elevator I buttoned my shirt. Back at Peterhouse I changed my clothes.

If Nick had disappeared the next day, I might have blamed myself, imagining him hiding himself out of tact or embarrassment or disgust. But it was days later. I had no reason to think it had anything to do with me. I was worried, of course, but not ashamed, and certainly not fearful of being found out in any way. I was worried for him, not for me. It turns out that I should have been worried for both of us.

ok, I'm in. Send more.
And why isn't KY back from the bodega yet??


Virginia Miss said...

Nice job, I really want to read more.

Anonymous said...

I'm a big fan of mysteries - I'd read this one!

Anonymous said...

Are you serious? That's a good query? I know succinct is a good thing, but where's the plot in "a close friend dissapears"? Some secret has to come out, but that could be anything from she's in witness protection to she's a vampire. I'm not getting how this is a good clear query.

Not to bash the writing. The writing is good, but the query doesn't make much sense.

Anonymous said...

oh, my. I like this one. I want to know what happens next.

Sarah said...

I like it. Apart from "kissing furiously" and "trotting after". Shows a lot of promise.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous "are you serious"--The writer here. I agree with you--I thought my query would get bashed. I felt stuck because the whole structure of the book is cascading revelations, and I couldn't figure out a way to tell more plot without giving away secrets that would ruin it. I settled for premise rather than plot in the query. That said, I'm glad Miss Snark found it acceptable in spite of what it lacks.
Miss Snark, I'm delighted and flustered by your praise. I've learned a lot from you. You're the BEST. Thanks for what you do.

lizzie26 said...

I dunno. I like the term "trotting after." Sets her up as a follower.

Good writing. I'd read more.

Michele said...

What a hook! I want to read more!!

Anonymous said...

"...uselessly went on..." and "rubbish bin" - is this gal really an American?

This is your opportunity to let your main character's voice shine and deepen her believability. It's okay for the other people - the British people - to use these terms, but since it's in first person, they only get to use them in dialogue. So, if she's indeed an American, she's saying "garbage can." Unless she's a poser.

Otherwise, looks great and good luck!

Anonymous said...

Change the name pf "Peterhouse," as it threw me out of the narrative. Even if there IS a place with that name, change it.

After all the horny action bringing in any word with "peter" in it is makes for an unintentional snicker.

I liked the barfing. Gave me a nostalgic pang about my first necking session. He'd been chewing on liver and onions.

Don't like her "following" either, but I like HER, I like what you're doing.

overdog said...

Excellent first page, excellent! Thank you, author, for submitting it. I learn from your work.

By the way, my word verification is downright offensive this time. :)

Sherry Decker said...

I'd definitely keep reading. But I agree with sarah; 'kissing furiously' is sort of, eh. I'd prefer 'furious kisses.'

caren1701 said...

If I read this much in the bookstore, I'd definitely buy it.
Break a leg!

Anonymous said...

This is one of the ones where I wish I knew the title or the writer's name, so I could keep an eye out for the book on shelves in a year or two. I want to read the rest.

BuffySquirrel said...

Oh, I dunno. I've only visited America a few times, but I chat a lot with Americans and read American stuff on the net and buy American books and watch American movies, and I find myself picking up and using American terminology. I often say "garbage" altho' the usual British term is "rubbish". I even use "trash" sometimes. I've been known to talk about ballparks and left field. It's natural to start to fit in with those around you.

Cambridge, eccentric and amazing? Okay, if you say so. Dirty and cold was MY impression.

Lovely writing.

Feisty said...

That was lovely writing. It made my day, writer. I hope you sell that book so I can read it.

I don't know if I can wait that long.

Julie said...

Evocative writing. I'd buy it.

McKoala said...

I like the pages a lot; her indecision comes over well. I'm reading on.

Anonymous said...

Love the writing and the premise. I think the query needs the first page to set the context. Her throwing up is a great hint at what she's hiding. But I loved the extract and the way it moved. I agree with the second anon that trotted works because it shows her as a follower. Have a problem with him "stalking," as it comes across cliched.

Anonymous said...

Writer here again. Yes, really an American. Originally, the book started with her arrival in Cambridge, and this scene happened well in. The use of "rubbish bin" and other Britishisms were added in as time passed to show her gradual adaption to the culture. But now that this is the first scene (Thank goodness for Miss Snark and the brave souls who made the first Crapometer happen--I learned so much!), the Britishisms well may be distracting--I'll have to think about that.
PS--I like kissing furiously *smile*
PPS--Cambridge *is* fantastic--come back for another visit, Buffysquirrel!

If I had only known said...

I like this, but I've always been told not to use the "if I had only known" gag in order to create suspense at the beginning of a book, and you do it twice.

If this floats people's boats, maybe I'll revise my first chapter to do that too.

Talia Mana said...

I liked the writing. At first I thought it was YA. It gave the impression of a lecturer and a student, but I could be off on that.

I found the query confusing so I was surprised MS found it so intoxicating. or maybe she was already? but yes the story is intriguing. The very first words put me off a little - the setting sounded a snooze and not at all conducive to snogging. But yes by teh end of the second para I am definitely intrigued and wanting to read on

writtenwyrdd said...

Terriffic stuff. And I don't like mysteries.

Not sure about the query,though. Miss Snark,why is this bare bones letter a good query?

Alison S in England said...

I loved this too. The Americans reading this were distracted by the narrator saying "rubbish bin": the fact that she talks about the "elevator" in the first paragraph showed me the narrator was American, since I'm not... So I think it does come across as ambiguous about her nationality, which may be a good thing.
Novels set in Oxbridge, of which of course there are many, can either use the name of a real college (Oxford and Cambridge both comprise lots of separate colleges which together make a university, more or less, for those who don't know) or follow the longstanding literary tradition of making one up. Peterhouse is a real college. I'm a Cambridge graduate, and knowing that the narrator is at Peterhouse tells me all sorts of things about the microcosm she's in, because I know the real Cambridge colleges. Presumably the author is well aware of this, since she's really at Cambridge, and is using this intentionally. Someone who didn't know the background so well would be better off making one up, so as not to get bogged down in inaccuracies. But for the commentator who said "Peterhouse jarred them out of the story" - every real setting is familiar to somebody, and if an author is changing things that are real, they'd better have a reason, surely, because otherwise those that do know the setting will be even more jarred!
I'd buy this, too. Well done!

Anonymous said...

Nice work, author. Based on the opener, I'd buy it in hardback.

River Falls said...

Excellent writing. The needle in the haystack, the gem in the slushpile.

Catja (green_knight) said...

From the query letter it could be anything - yet another boring relationship story or a gripping mystery. I am surprised Miss Snark liked it so much.

That aside, the narrator sounds very confused - obviously turned on by the snogging session but not wanting it to cross a certain line, and then - she gets angry and vomits? Huh? And where's the _friendship_ between them? She obviously can't talk to him, can't say 'enough', he doesn't take notice of her reactions, the scene cuts off before he can react to the go away - kiss some more - go away thing...

For me, that would have been a form rejection.

LaborDayWeekend said...

Well done. This is probably the best one I've read.

Good luck.

Natalia said...

Oh author, I adore you, whoever you are. Great hook, wonderful capture of the confused jumble of emotions that your character is going through. Pure fun on the surface, and a much darker underbelly looming underneath (or so my gut tells me).

I use first person a lot myself, and struggle with it. I see that I can learn a lot from you.

Manic Mom said...

Yes, yes, yes! Now that's the way to throw the reader into it!

I also want to read more! Author, if you have a web site, please drop me a note at my blog--would love to read/know more, as another writer.

Really, really good. I even love the description of the papers curling in the garbage can, and not being crumpled. WHo thinks this shit up? That's good.

Anonymous said...

Not that it matters much, but I think it is great also. I would read this book. -JTC

Kristen King said...

Wasn't feeling the query, but since it was so short I would have gotten through it and on to the fantastic first pages. Loved it! Would love to know who the author is, so if he or she reads this, please drop me a line.


Anonymous said...

Author here again. I've added more plot to my query letter and would like opinions. What do you think of this? (Just the two plot paragraphs):

Polly trades one small world for another. She leaves an unchallenging, semi-rural New Hampshire town for the formal, eccentric, ancient city of Cambridge. It's a good change, until a newly close friend, Nick, disappears—and it becomes clear that the real reason she's run so far from her old life will have to come out.

When Polly's mother, Miranda, is arrested in connection with Nick's disappearance, Polly is ready to let her fend for herself. But a professor, Dr. Gretchen Paul, takes a strangely intense interest. As Dr. Paul's confusion and fixation increase, Polly and Miranda must overcome their shared tragic past and escape being drawn into Dr. Paul's obsession.

Better? Suggestions?

Anonymous said...

Okay, second query letter is leaving me more confused than the first. Try this:
Expatriate American (professor?), Polly X leaves an unchallenging, semi-rural New Hampshire town for the formal, eccentric, ancient city of Cambridge. It's a good change, until a newly close friend, Nick, disappears. When her estranged mother, Miranda, is arrested in connection with his disappearance, it becomes clear that the real reason Polly has fled her old life will have to come out.

A couple of questions that you need to clarify before taking the query letter any further:
1) If Polly is willing to put a whole ocean between her and her troubles, then why is she moving to the same city as her mother--a mother that she would let rot in jail (at least according to your query)? It wouldn't hurt to give us some idea of why they don't get along.
2) What is Gretchen Paul's relationship to Nick? Co-worker? Boss? Lover? Ex-wife? Mother?
You don't need to reveal everybody's secrets, but you do need to give us some clues as to your characters' relationships with each other. Answering those questions might give you a query letter more like this:
Ex-patriate American (professor?), Polly X leaves an unchallenging, semi-rural New Hampshire town for the formal, eccentric, ancient city of Cambridge. Apart from living in the same city as her estranged mother, Miranda, it's a good change, until a newly close friend, Nick, disappears. When Miranda is arrested in connection with Nick's disappearance, Polly is ready to let the old harridan fend for herself. But when a co-worker of Nick's, Dr. Gretchen Paul, takes a strangely intense interest in the case, Polly and Miranda must overcome their shared tragic past to escape Gretchen's obsession and find Nick.