HH Com 169

Adele Junot is a middle-aged, part French Canadian ex-pat who would have started thinking about retirement, were it not for the dual trauma of getting severely burned by a corporate merger and by attempting to divorce her conniving Not Soon Enough To Be Ex-Husband.

Adele must close down her business and find a new job, as well as, an interest in life. She begins to investigate village anomalies, stimulation for her curiosity, and practice for her new profession as a mystery story writer.

Things which started off badly, immediately get worse. The diabolical Not Soon Enough takes steps to block her future. To Adele’s astonishment, becoming a detective is no easier than writing a novel; oddities will not unravel, village toughs do not become friendly, and her village spy, the gorgeous Tessa Merle, shuts off all lines of communication for what look like the worst reasons.

A prominent citizen is murdered in the process of a robbery. The town is shocked out of its complacency, but more horrors follow. Adele pursues the mystery despite its frustrations, venting emotion on a BMW motorcycle, glass sculpture, a local theatre company, and a cast of characters, some endearing and others merely peculiar. Inevitably the pressure mounts and she does some spectacular things, surprising everyone, including herself.

Stop. Stop. Stop. Drop and roll. The Flaming Cliché and Overdone Premise Brigade have consumed you.

You've got way too much description (what the F does being an ex-Pat have to do with anything--UNLESS you mean she used to be a linebacker).

If she's closing down her business, she doesn't need a new interest, she needs a damn job. And "mystery story writer" literally made me spew tea on the keyboard. The critical part of a cozy mystery is that it starts with some sort of reality base. You can have talking cats, but they have to live in a real world. Taking up mystery writing for money is pure fantasy and will be shelved accordingly.

You're as unfocused in this as you can be. Be SPECIFIC. Who is the antagonist? What are the stakes? "Being surprised" is not a consequence I'm prepared to wade through 2oo pages to find.

Start over.


tomdg said...

"Taking up mystery writing for money is pure fantasy". And this from a professional literary agent.

This blog is an absolute gem!

Thank you :)

clarice snarkling said...

"Mystery story writer" who winds up thrown into real-life mysteries = Murder, She Wrote. That show ran for a long, long time. You'll have to make quite an effort to distance yourself from that, author.

Also, I feel like you shift between a lighthearted tone and a more ominous tone, sometimes within the same sentence. The phrase "Not Soon Enough" jumps out at me every time you use it, and I'm reminded that your novel probably has a lot of comedic aspects. But then you pull out the murder and the "more horrors follow" and there's a palpable shift in tone -- too much of a shift for a short hook. If you're trying to hook us on a dark comedy, let us see that more clearly.

Dave said...

Try starting with:

"Downsized, divorced, and out of a job, Adele Junot notices that ..."
and then add a few anomalies.

It's crisper and it gets to the story.

jamiehall said...

Seeing the MC described as looking for something to interest her, and having her interest focus on so many different things, makes a person think that the novel itself will be scattered and unfocused.

Instead of describing each new interest or element in its own sentence, try deciding what the main theme is, and make all the rest into details that are mentioned in passing while you're describing the main plot arc.

angie said...

I'd like to know where this happens - you mentioned she's an ex-pat, but now where she's currently living (Canada? US? Fiji?).

I'm not sure why, but I stumbled over "getting severely burned by a corporate merger." Kept thinking she was a burn victim. Also, either she's divorcing her hubby or not. No need to say "attempting."

My biggest question is what is the focus here? What exactly is the mystery, why is Adele the one to solve it, and what happens to her if she doesn't?

dancinghorse said...

Shorter sentences. Active verbs--get rid of all the passives. Be specific where you're vague. Cliches and been-dones aren't entirely a bad thing in genre--as long as you portray them in a fresh way, with a satisfying denouement. I'd probably read this if it were brightly and crisply written, but if it's written like the hook, I'd pass.

Anonymous said...

I thought this started off well. You lost me at 'village anomalies' mostly because I had no idea what you were talking about. (got it later, of course.)


shannon said...

Oh dear. For a start, this needed some serious editing and proof-reading before being sent off. Your sentence structure and punctuation is all over the place. You've got a lot of extra description in there that makes it clunky and doesn't give me much confidence in your writing style or ability. A query letter is like a job interview, in a way. At the very least, it needs to be well presented.

It's also hard to follow what's going on, and your vocabulary choices are a bit strange - Adele vents "emotion", she begins o investigate "stimulation for her curiosity" - and the commas are in the wrong places, making it like a river full of Beaver dams.

You might like to try starting with paragraph four, which is where the action seems to happen, and skip the biography of Adele. Flesh out the action, since that's why most people read mystery/detective books. (Also, the beginning seemed a bit chick-lit: think about what impression and tone you want to convey.)

Anonymous said...

FWIF, I was intrigued by the premise of this novel, even though I still agree with everything Miss Snark said. It's the style of your writing that's so catchy, and I for one would definintely like to see more of it.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Oh, lord.

Another character who thinks there's money to be made in publishing.

:Editor's head implodes.:

Anonymous said...

I am getting so much out of these! Thank you Miss Snark and everyone who posted. I've just gone back and attacked my query with new vigor!

HawkOwl said...

Yeah, I laughed at "mystery writer" as a new job idea. For a while I thought this was gonna be a pastiche on the mild-mannered crime-solving layman cliché, but it looks like not. If you made it clearer whether this is a mystery or a comedy, I'd have a better idea of whether I like it or not.

gammy singer said...

Pj Parrish mentioned your blog in a MWA Breakout posting. I read through your current blog entries with interest, and learned some things. You are really funny and a talented writer yourself! Made me laugh a lot.

angrylil'asiangirl said...

it's the comma splices that make me blanch.

other than that, i agree with prior posts, even as a non-aspiring writer: these are quite educational in showing what makes for an effective writing style.

Zany Mom said...

What?! I can't quit my job and make a living writing mysteries?! How can that possibly be? But...but...but...!

Dang. Now I have to find a new occupation to pay the bills. Sigh...

batgirl said...

zany mom, you could try solving mysteries. Apparently that's just as easy and lucrative!