Calling All Critiques: Query Letter Entry #5

Welcome to our Query Letter/Blurb critique week, and thank you, Peggy Rothschild, for submitting your query letter! I hope that the comments you receive will help you nail the task!

Critiques are welcome from anyone and everyone. Just remember our rules: Be nice. Be constructive. Be specific. Be polite. In this case, we would appreciate comments from writers who have gone through the process, or at least have looked into the art of writing a successful query letter. If you’re not familiar with how query letters work, you can still comment on the blurb!

For anyone just joining us, check out a previous post about the this week’s event.

If you comment with your critique, please feel free to enter this week’s Rafflecopter giveaway. One lucky person will win a $10 Amazon gift card, an eCopy of It Ain’t Easy Being Jazzy by Quanie Miller, and an eCopy of Guarding Angel by S. L. Saboviec.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Entry #5

Name: Peggy Rothschild
Title: Erasing Ramona
Genre: Adult, Thriller


Dear Fabulous Agent:

Twenty-seven-year-old Miranda Burgess wants to stop running from her past. She hasn’t been back to Mill Valley since the day she awoke inside a strange house and discovered six dead bodies, including that of her boyfriend, Billy. With no idea who committed the murders, Miranda ran, winding up in L.A. where she changed her name and made a fresh start. Ten years later, her father’s death draws her home, even though the journey may jeopardize her freedom.

The day after the funeral, a strange man tries to force her into a van. Miranda manages to escape, but from what her would-be abductor says, she suspects the attempt is linked to the long ago murders known as the Orwell Massacre. Her new identity compromised, Miranda refuses to start over again. Going to the police isn’t an option either. She begins investigating the killings, hoping to spark some memory from that blacked-out night. But, old newspaper stories only get her so far. To dig deeper, Miranda will need to return to the risk-taking and law-breaking that once ruled her life.

During her search for answers, Miranda discovers old friends have become enemies and new enemies potential allies. Only after unmasking the killer is Miranda able to envision a future that is no longer bound by the past.

A thriller, ERASING RAMONA (70,000 words) delves into a flawed central character’s growth as she triumphs over her personal history while facing down an outside adversary.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


My Critique

First of all, the title is fantastic! Great branding and the -RA- alliteration is a plus. Also, the story is enticing. It has the makings of a great thriller. Now, as query letters go, my main concern is that this one does not contain a paragraph about yourself. What are your writing credentials? If this is your first manuscript, is it a stand-alone, will there be a sequel? Also, have you set up an author platform? Could your academic or professional background support your writing in this genre? It’s important that the agent get an idea about who you are as well. This paragraph should be added after the blurb.

I suggest you open your letter with the last paragraph which is a wonderful introduction presenting the title, the genre and the word count. Then follow with the blurb.

My suggestions about the blurb: omit the boyfriend’s name. He’s been dead for ten years, so why mention him? Also, I’d like to know why Miranda felt she had to flee the crime scene; was she afraid she would be a suspect? If this is the case, maybe you should start the second sentence with something like: “Having lived on the fringes of the law for most of her teens, Miranda panicked and ran, winding up in L.A….” Also, the second paragraph starts with very specific details that could be condensed. My suggestion:

Ten years later, her father’s funeral draws her home, but after an attempted abduction, which turns out to be linked to the long ago murders now known as the Orwell Massacre, Miranda realizes that she’s in mortal danger. Not willing to start over again and ruling out turning to the police, she begins investigating the killings, hoping to spark some memory from that blacked-out night. But, old newspaper stories only get her so far. To dig deeper, Miranda will need to return to the risk-taking and law-breaking that once ruled her life.

In fact, that would be a great way to end your blurb. I feel that your third paragraph does not offer much. The friends turned enemies twist is not highly original as is the conclusion that Miranda will have to unmask the killer to have a future—-that is stating the obvious. In my opinion this paragraph could be omitted.

A little shifting around, the addition of a short paragraph about yourself, and you’ve got a query letter with great prospects!




4 thoughts on “Calling All Critiques: Query Letter Entry #5

  1. This query lays out the general storyline well but could be strengthened with a stronger hook. The MC’s past IS compelling and might be the best place to start, along with some meaty details: What makes Ramona/Miranda different from anyone else running from their past? (E.g., Lots of girls wake up to find their boyfriends gone, but 17-year-old Ramona woke up to find hers dead.) Love that bad-girl-shocked-good angle, too. Work it! (And, again, put such character issues up front—don’t bury the lead.)
    More specifics would similarly strengthen the entire query. For example, “old friends have become enemies and new enemies potential allies.” Hmm…extending that logic, old friends become new friends become potential allies? Giving an example of how an old friend betrays her might work better than such a blanket statement. The last line is so generic as to apply to any number of protagonists in a host of stories. Make it your own.
    Tighten sentences as much as possible. Since the massacre was mentioned a couple of sentences before, this line can probably be deleted: “but from what her would-be abductor says, she suspects the attempt is linked to the long ago murders known as the Orwell Massacre.”
    Orwell makes me think of the author, so this reference is confusing. Consider only using names as necessary (and then use at first reference and explain their import: e.g, the murders occur in 1984) or due to multiple references in the query (e.g., since “Billy” is only mentioned once, his name could also be deleted). Speaking of which, it was jarring not to know your eponymous MC Ramona’s name until the last paragraph. It makes the most sense to name her in the first paragraph as a reader will naturally be more sympathetic towards and interested in someone with a name. It also dramatizes her transformation to Miranda, a whole ‘nother person.
    Make the stakes clear. You write that “the journey may jeopardize her freedom.” Why her freedom? Is she a suspect in the murders? If so, this is important to know. Is that why she can’t go to the police for help? Even if she’s a suspect, isn’t her life still at risk since the killer/s is/are at large? Identifying possible villains/threats sets up conflict and adds to, rather than detracts from, the suspense.
    You write eloquently and provide a very cogent synopsis of your story. Since it is a thriller, make sure to also thrill us with your pitch.

    1. Thank you so much for the feedback. Again, all good suggestions. This has been so helpful — I find myself ‘query blind’ when I look at my own work. More trimming and honing ahead! – Peggy

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