1. The Piper

    The Piper Senior Member

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2016
    Messages:
    420
    Likes Received:
    343
    Location:
    Norfolk

    Hide - Query Critique

    Discussion in 'Query & Cover Letter Critique' started by The Piper, Jul 14, 2019.

    Hi everyone!!

    A few of you have been following the progress of Hide, or at least reading me go on about it for the past six months, and it's finally in that "one-more-edit" sort of stage before I finally feel ready to send it out for the first round of agents/publishers. Firstly a huge thanks to those who have helped me out so, so much - of course a general one to every single person who's ever commented on a workshop post, or anything like that, I can't mention all of you but know that I've really appreciated your help. Special thanks to @Some Guy @Cave Troll and @Maverick_nc , although I'm sure there are plenty of others I should mention.

    I've pasted below my cover letter and synopsis for the story. These are just the versions that I would send to my first agent, A.M. Heath (yes, I'm going alphabetically!). They have a pretty generic-seeming list of what they're looking for, which includes a cover letter (500 words) with details on the story, my writing experience and me as a whole, and a synopsis (1500 words) where I shouldn't be too worried about reaching that wordcount and should definitely not include every twist and turn, just a general outline.

    As far as I understand it, anyway. So, for this agency at least, here's my attempt. Let me know what you think!

    Piper




    Dear NAME,

    Hide, a heartfelt love letter to the classic horror novels of the eighties and nineties, is a thrilling suspense story with a grizzly, dark secret at its heart. Dealing with supernatural horror in a very human way, the novel follows relatable, strong characters that would allow an audience of both male and female adult readers. Hide is set largely on Cain's End, an isolated island off the British mainland, and here Matthew Kramer finds himself thrown into a world where witchcraft exists, men can be separated from their souls, and nightmarish creatures are more than just bad dreams.

    At nineteen, I'm a full-time student, but I spend every spare second writing. Hide is the first in what I hope could be a trilogy, with the second and third novels already plotted and in the early stages of writing. Branching out into a wider universe, I'm currently working on Red Weeping, which has some truly unexpected ties to the novel. In terms of experience, I've self-published twice - my first novel, A Town Called Hope, in 2017, and my second last year. My first horror manuscript, Piper, won first place in the FicFun suspense competition in 2018.

    I grew up in Norfolk, and while I've been tempted to write about city life, in and out of the UK, I find that I'm always drawn to a quiet, isolated setting. I'm currently studying history, with plans to teach, although if I can ever make a break into published writing I'll have to look into balancing two jobs! Writing is something I never hope to give up - my other interests include art, especially comic-style pieces, and music. In terms of history, I'm particularly interested in the Civil Rights movement and the struggle for freedom, and these are things I hope to touch on in my work.

    Hide has been the centre of my world for the past six months, and while I wouldn't hope to claim it's the perfect story I can promise there's more to it than you'd ever expect. Thank you for taking the time to consider my submission, and I hope very much to hear from you.

    Jacob Alexander





    Hide begins in 1993, where a tragic car accident separates a young Edward Drake from his parents, and introduces him to a mysterious figure with a burnt, yellow face. When Eddie moves in with his grandmother, he's dragged into a world of voodoo and witchcraft, and a dark magic that can hurt, heal and even resurrect - but comes at a terrible price. Following young Eddie through a series of interspersed flashbacks, we find out just what he's willing to sacrifice to get his parents back - and what will happen to him if he does.

    Present-day Cain's End is an isolated island off the British mainland, where disgraced detective Matthew Krame is hiding a terrible secret. It isn't the drinking - his daughter already knows about that. But before he gets the chance to come clean, the island is rocked by a gruesome double murder, and it looks for all the world like an animal attack. The only problem there is that an animal wouldn't leave a handwritten, bloody message at the scene. The message? A name. Edward Drake.

    Charlotte Kramer knows her father is hiding something, but she's distracted by nightmares and visions of an old, crooked house in the woods and an elderly woman with a bent finger. As she struggles to piece these shattered images together, she realises her own horrible connection to Drake's past, and what it means for her future.

    Matthew Kramer isn't the only one with a secret. Hidden away on the island, Wormwood House is a sheltered mental asylum, where the adult Edward Drake is incarcerated. A psychopath without a soul, he is feared by the staff of Wormwood House, including Hayley King and Emma Green, a doctor and nurse tasked with looking after him, amongst the other deranged inmates. Things only become more complicated when Hayley sees a yellow-faced man in Eddie's cell...

    Hide follows diverse, flawed characters as they struggle to come to terms with the supernatural threat and the implications of it on their lives. As we get to know these characters, a massive otherworldly danger is revealed in the form of a question. What happens when a soul is removed from its body? Half the answer can be found in the emotionless Edward Drake, but the rest of the answer is much more terrifying, and much, much more dangerous.

    As Kramer draws closer to these answers, he stumbles onto a world beyond our own - discovering a strange doorway in a cave off the beach, and a terrible, monster-filled dimension beyond, he becomes convinced that the creature must have come from within. But when he and his partner confront the creature in an old, abandoned arcade, he finds that the truth could be far worse. Kramer's partner, Debbie Martin, has always been deeply religious, but when the creature comes after her she starts to lose her faith.

    Kramer's daughter is in danger, his sanity is in question, and the population of Cain's End are forced into curfew as the monstrous thing starts to adapt to its surroundings, growing and changing with every encounter. Debbie finally delivers a devastating blow to the thing, but she and Kramer know that it'll only come back stronger. The answer to ending this nightmare for good lies in the asylum, and in the cell of Edward Drake.

    The conclusion of Hide brings all our characters together at Wormwood House, where Hayley finds herself blind and on the run, Kramer must fight his way through a string of escaped inmates to destroy the creature for good, and Edward Drake has to make a decision regarding his soul. Charlotte Kramer is trapped and alone, and the yellow-faced man is coming for her. Wounded and hurt by the creature, Debbie Martin staggers to the police station for help and finds nothing there but an empty office and another message, this time carved into the plaster:

    He is coming.

    Packed with shocking twists and revelations, Hide reaches an ending that is equally horrifying and satisfying as the creature's fate is decided, the asylum is overrun with monsters of a much more human nature, and the yellow-faced man makes one last, damning appearance that will tear the Kramers apart and ensure that Cain's End isn't safe just yet...
     
    Maverick_nc likes this.
  2. Mckk

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2010
    Messages:
    6,196
    Likes Received:
    4,082
    I'm not sure you understand what a query is. The "cover letter" you speak of, I'm pretty sure means query letter. Which means: 200-300 words (1-2 paragraphs) on your story that should outline 1. who are the main character(s), 2. their main goal and 3. stakes (what happens if said goal is not achieved).

    It is not asking for what looks like about 500 words of an About Me section. "Details" about the story means what the book is about, not details of your writing journey regarding the book.

    No agent has that kinda time to be reading about your life story. They may become interested should they decide they're interested in your book - but you need to sell the book, not yourself. Put yourself in the shoes of an agent with 200 emails to read, maybe 10-20 actual manuscripts you need to sell, another 50 or so manuscripts you've requested of potential clients you wanna take on, and in comes your email - this particular one. It's 5pm and you're on your 4th cup of coffee for the day. You're looking out the window and thinking damn it looks like it's gonna rain and you've forgotten your umbrella.

    Ask yourself, what would you be looking for in a "cover letter" for a book? Would you be interested in this letter yourself, if you read it with no knowledge of the author or book? Why would you waste time getting to know this author's life story when you might not even wanna read his book? Bottom line: what's your priority here?

    What's the book about?

    You haven't mentioned that except for this: Hide is set largely on Cain's End, an isolated island off the British mainland, and here Matthew Kramer finds himself thrown into a world where witchcraft exists, men can be separated from their souls, and nightmarish creatures are more than just bad dreams.

    Which means that's the only relevant section in the entire thing. It isn't that what you've written reads badly - it reads well. But my guess is it isn't what the agent is looking for.

    ETA: This line -

    Scrap it. For the following 3 reasons:

    First: 6 months is nothing in the life of novel-writing. Professional authors take a year to publish a book. You're a debut and spent 6 months on it (that's what you're implying).

    That doesn't bode well for you if you're taking the same amount of time on a book as a pro when you're not yet a pro.

    Second: Don't deprecate your own book - you're trying to sell the damn thing! ("wouldn't hope to claim it's the perfect story" - well as the agent about to spend a significant amount of time trying to sell your book in a competitive market, I sure as hell hope it's perfect. You better believe it's as perfect as you'll get it before you send it off. Why would you tell the agent it isn't perfect?)

    Third: And don't big yourself up - let the agent decide if this story is gonna wow him. Self-praise is no praise at all ("I can promise there's more to it than you'd ever expect")
     
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2019
    Maverick_nc, Cave Troll and EFMingo like this.
  3. Selbbin

    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2012
    Messages:
    3,681
    Likes Received:
    2,342
    Location:
    Australia
    Yeah, that's not a query letter. Although you do state it's a cover letter so I'm a bit confused. Way too much about you and way not enough about the story, which is what you're selling. A query is a summary of the work, not your life. Even in a cover letter the stuff about you should be the last paragraph, and then only a small amount such as any training or success.

    As mentioned, don't talk down or over hype your own work.

    And yeah, six months is not much time. My novel has taken over ten years.
     
  4. The Piper

    The Piper Senior Member

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2016
    Messages:
    420
    Likes Received:
    343
    Location:
    Norfolk
    Fair points all round, first time doing this properly and it looks like I've got a lot to learn about the process!
     
    Mckk and Maverick_nc like this.
  5. Selbbin

    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2012
    Messages:
    3,681
    Likes Received:
    2,342
    Location:
    Australia

    It's hard. It's very hard so don't stress about not getting it right quickly.
     
    Mckk likes this.
  6. Mckk

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2010
    Messages:
    6,196
    Likes Received:
    4,082
    I just got round to reading your synopsis - again, it reads very well. I don't question you at all as a writer, but what you've written isn't exactly a synopsis. (I've written a synopsis that reads like a bloody shopping list ok, so I'm not saying I can do any better) Having said that, critiquing is almost always easier than fixing it, woohoo, so here goes... I'm pasting your synopsis below and then adding my own comments in blue:

    -------------

    Hide begins in 1993, where a tragic car accident separates a young Edward Drake from his parents, and introduces him to a mysterious figure with a burnt, yellow face. When Eddie moves in with his grandmother, he's dragged into a world of voodoo and witchcraft, and a dark magic that can hurt, heal and even resurrect - but comes at a terrible price. Following young Eddie through a series of interspersed flashbacks, we find out just what he's willing to sacrifice to get his parents back - and what will happen to him if he does.

    I'm confused as to what "separates" necessarily means. Did his parents die or was he physically removed from his parents by the police or other authority? This is esp confusing because you follow it with "introduces him to a mysterious figure" - logic puts the two together and makes me think the mysterious figure removed him from his parents, which does not necessarily mean his parents are dead.

    "A series of flashbacks" - I'd be careful here. I personally love flashbacks and I have several in my own book, but I understand that flashbacks are usually not preferred and certainly shouldn't be overused. Here you make it sound like the whole book is peppered with flashbacks and that a lot of the story is told through the flashbacks. It may give agents pause. Is it important for us to know these are flashbacks?

    I'm also confused - the story begins in 1993 with the accident, and the book has a series of flashbacks - this makes me think the flashbacks detail events before 1993. This confusion is further compounded in your next paragraph...


    Present-day Cain's End is an isolated island off the British mainland, where disgraced detective Matthew Krame is hiding a terrible secret. It isn't the drinking - his daughter already knows about that. But before he gets the chance to come clean, the island is rocked by a gruesome double murder, and it looks for all the world like an animal attack. The only problem there is that an animal wouldn't leave a handwritten, bloody message at the scene. The message? A name. Edward Drake.

    Why am I reading about Matthew Krame? You have me invested in Edward Drake right now. Of course I understand by the end of the paragraph how they're connected, but really, this should have been your opening paragraph because this is actually where the story begins. "Present day" threw me off - if the story has already begun in 1993, then I read the term "present day", I'm gonna assume the present day is 1993. I didn't get that there was a time lapse. Could be just me being a bit dense, but for clarity's sake and the potential of a busy and half-asleep agent, put the year in there. I just assumed "present day" equals to "where the story begins", which, you told me in the previous paragraph, should have been 1993. Not 10 years down the line.

    What's Matthew' Krame's secret? How is this relevant to the rest of the plot? The problem is you don't seem to mention it again in the rest of your synopsis, in which case, why is it mentioned here?


    Charlotte Kramer knows her father is hiding something, but she's distracted by nightmares and visions of an old, crooked house in the woods and an elderly woman with a bent finger. As she struggles to piece these shattered images together, she realises her own horrible connection to Drake's past, and what it means for her future.

    This reads like a book cover blurb. I'm not sure I'm quite following how everything's linked together. Why's she getting nightmares? How's she connected to Drake? Again, you never mention this again in the rest of the synopsis.

    Matthew Kramer isn't the only one with a secret. Hidden away on the island, Wormwood House is a sheltered mental asylum, where the adult Edward Drake is incarcerated. A psychopath without a soul, he is feared by the staff of Wormwood House, including Hayley King and Emma Green, a doctor and nurse tasked with looking after him, amongst the other deranged inmates. Things only become more complicated when Hayley sees a yellow-faced man in Eddie's cell...

    Without knowing how Matthew's secret is connected to the plot, I don't currently care about his secret, which renders your opening line ineffective. Right now I feel like there are too many characters - we already have 3 named characters: Edward Drake, Matthew Kramer and Charlotte Kramer, plus the unnamed yellow-faced man. Now you're introducing 2 more. It's too many. You should keep your synopsis to as few characters as possible to still keep the plot working.

    As an aside on formatting - characters who are introduced for the first time should be written in all caps, like this: EDWARD DRAKE. Afterwards it can be written normally.


    Hide follows diverse, flawed characters as they struggle to come to terms with the supernatural threat and the implications of it on their lives. As we get to know these characters, a massive otherworldly danger is revealed in the form of a question. What happens when a soul is removed from its body? Half the answer can be found in the emotionless Edward Drake, but the rest of the answer is much more terrifying, and much, much more dangerous.

    This paragraph is a blurb, not part of the story. It tells me nothing about the story.

    As Kramer draws closer to these answers, he stumbles onto a world beyond our own - discovering a strange doorway in a cave off the beach, and a terrible, monster-filled dimension beyond, he becomes convinced that the creature must have come from within. But when he and his partner confront the creature in an old, abandoned arcade, he finds that the truth could be far worse. Kramer's partner, Debbie Martin, has always been deeply religious, but when the creature comes after her she starts to lose her faith.

    I'm confused. What monster? What cave? This came out of left field for me. The truth is, you mentioned some gruesome murder at the beginning but you've honestly not dealt with the murder at all - this is the first time it's been mentioned again and we're halfway through your query. How is Edward connected to the murder? You must make the connection clear, because right now it reads like there're two parallel stories running side by side. There's the story of nightmares and Edward in a asylum, and then there's the murder story. And you introduce yet another character (Debbie). What's her role in the plot? How important can it possibly be if you're only introducing her towards the end of the synopsis?

    Kramer's daughter is in danger, his sanity is in question, and the population of Cain's End are forced into curfew as the monstrous thing starts to adapt to its surroundings, growing and changing with every encounter. Debbie finally delivers a devastating blow to the thing, but she and Kramer know that it'll only come back stronger. The answer to ending this nightmare for good lies in the asylum, and in the cell of Edward Drake.

    It is good you detail a pivotal event (Debbie attacking the monster) but this whole paragraph is vague and largely irrelevant to the plot. There're too many things going on. I'm not seeing the connections between any of this.

    The conclusion of Hide brings all our characters together at Wormwood House, where Hayley finds herself blind and on the run, Kramer must fight his way through a string of escaped inmates to destroy the creature for good, and Edward Drake has to make a decision regarding his soul. Charlotte Kramer is trapped and alone, and the yellow-faced man is coming for her. Wounded and hurt by the creature, Debbie Martin staggers to the police station for help and finds nothing there but an empty office and another message, this time carved into the plaster:

    Why do I care about Hayley? How's she relevant to the plot? Why do I care about Charlotte - how's she relevant to the plot? So what about Debbie in the police station? How's she relevant?

    I can see clearly that the story surrounds Edward Drake and his choice and Matthew is the detective tasked to solve murders that are somehow connected with Edward Drake. I get that. That's good. The rest of the cast? Don't see it, sorry.


    He is coming.

    Packed with shocking twists and revelations, Hide reaches an ending that is equally horrifying and satisfying as the creature's fate is decided, the asylum is overrun with monsters of a much more human nature, and the yellow-faced man makes one last, damning appearance that will tear the Kramers apart and ensure that Cain's End isn't safe just yet...

    Who on earth is this yellow-faced man? You're implying here that he is the monster from the cave, except you've not made that connection in the synopsis at all. So I'm left wondering where did the man come from now, and how is he relevant to the plot, except basically be creepy?

    ---------------------

    Final comments:

    You've got a lot going on but you've not got that little red thread running through the synopsis. That red thread that shows me how everything connects together. A synopsis is an outline of your core plot - not everything that happens in it, and don't bother with subplots and secondary characters. But basically, I shouldn't have to read your book if I've read your synopsis - I should know exactly how your book goes down, who the characters are, their goals, the stakes, and how everything is resolved. You should include your ending and every major twist in the synopsis.

    I believe you're having trouble stripping down your book to its core. Remove everything you don't absolutely need to tell the plot. For example, so what that Charlotte has nightmares? Is this relevant to Edward's choices to bring back his parents, and is it relevant to Matthew trying to solve the murders? I'm guessing the answer is no. Ditch her (from the synopsis, not the book).

    Which reminds me - you never bring back Edward's parents!! That was supposed to be the great hook in your first paragraph but they literally are never mentioned again. That tells me: again, they are irrelevant to the plot. Delete them from the synopsis.

    As an analogy, think of it like a tree. Your synopsis is the trunk. Strip away all the branches and leaves and everything that makes it grand and a full tree. You just want the trunk - you want everything that you cannot possibly omit to tell the story. Everything else, remove. And connect them all - if you can't connect them easily, ask yourself if you need to include that detail.

    Anyway, it reads like it's going to be interesting - but it's all over the place. I'm not seeing a coherent story.
     
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2019
    Maverick_nc likes this.
  7. Lew

    Lew Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2015
    Messages:
    1,568
    Likes Received:
    1,385
    I recommend you read Formatting and Submitting Your Manuscript by Chuck Sambuchino (https://www.amazon.com/Formatting-Submitting-Manuscript-Chuck-Sambuchino/dp/158297571X). The book has a lot of detail on how to craft, among other things, your query, how to format your manuscript, etc. Includes do's and don'ts. I used this to put together a book proposal for my pending non-fiction and it has been invaluable.
     
    Maverick_nc likes this.
  8. Maverick_nc

    Maverick_nc Active Member

    Joined:
    Apr 3, 2019
    Messages:
    594
    Likes Received:
    675
    Hey @The Piper.
    Can't help you with the query but want to wish you all the best on your journey to [hopefully] becoming published. Make sure you've polished that manuscript to within an inch of its life and given yourself the best chance you possibly can.

    All the best
    NC
     

Share This Page