Query Workshop R-4: DRIVEN

Day two, lovelies! Such great comments and involvement yesterday – I love it! Please keep it going! And don’t forget to check out the queries on the blogs of Brenda, Marieke and Sarah!

And now, without further ado:

Full Query:

Dear Agent,

Jimmy Rickliefs income can provide for his family, but one misplaced strobe light could trigger a seizure and he could be a vegetable.

In the wake of a near-fatal accident, Jimmy suffers from seizures and his shattered body might not be able to keep up with his career as a drummer. Once known for his turquoise hair and outgoing personality, he turns sullen and withdrawn on the cusp of major depression. When the band decides to start writing their new record, Jimmy isn’t sure he wants to go back. The thought of getting back on stage, knowing he could have a seizure, doesn’t help his lack of confidence. He isn’t comfortable with the fans seeing a broken drummer.

Through his recovery Jimmy takes some comfort from his pregnant wife’s survival. But when the baby is born twelve weeks early, his world rearranges itself; now, he has a baby to consider and she’s just as broken as her dad. He’s struggling with his recovery as she’s struggling to live; now he’s at a crossroads in his life and he isn’t sure which path to take.

With hospital bills mounting, Jimmy has a decision to make: return to the band despite his injuries, or lose everything. The physical problems alone make touring seem impossible; and being away from home for months at a time is also unappealing. He knows the risks if he returns to the band but he isn’t sure he’s willing to take them.

Driven is commercial fiction, complete at 86,000 words. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Once More with Comments:

Dear Agent,

Jimmy Rickliefs income can provide for his family, but one misplaced strobe light could trigger a seizure and he could be a vegetable. (This opening line is almost a good hook, but it’s a little overwritten. I kind of want to cut the part about providing for the family and just go – bam! strobe light!)

In the wake of a near-fatal accident, Jimmy suffers from seizures and his shattered body might not be able to keep up with his career as a drummer. Once known for his turquoise hair and outgoing personality, he turns sullen and withdrawn on the cusp of major depression. (I like these sentence – good language, good juxtapositions.) When the band decides to start writing their new record, Jimmy isn’t sure he wants to go back. The thought of getting back on stage, knowing he could have a seizure, doesn’t help his lack of confidence. He isn’t comfortable with the fans seeing a broken drummer.

Through his recovery Jimmy takes some comfort from his pregnant wife’s survival. But when the baby is born twelve weeks early, his world rearranges itself; now, he has a baby to consider and she’s just as broken as her dad. He’s struggling with his recovery as she’s struggling to live; now he’s at a crossroads in his life and he isn’t sure which path to take. (This ramps things up well and really gets to me, which is probably because I had friends who had a baby about that premature last year. This is a great example of how subjective queries can be (I know, I know…subjectivity sigh) because – due to this personal experience – you have me, and I’m visualizing things and empathizing with Jimmy liek woah. Other people may have different opinions in the comments, but me? I’m in. Let’s go, Jimmy.)

With hospital bills mounting, Jimmy has a decision to make: return to the band despite his injuries, or lose everything. The physical problems alone make touring seem impossible; and being away from home for months at a time is also unappealing. He knows the risks if he returns to the band but he isn’t sure he’s willing to take them. (So here’s where I waver a bit because I’m wondering why Jimmy’s only two choices are to lose everything or go back to the stage where he’s likely to have seizures and possibly slip into a coma and therefore be of no use to his premature daughter. Why is finding some other job not an option? Or why are the dangers of the stage a better option than finding some other job? I feel like this info might be beneficial in order to sell the concept.)

DRIVEN is commercial fiction, complete at 86,000 words. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Overall: I feel like you’ve got a handle on language, and overall, this query is pretty solid at the outset. Play with that first line – trim it down to make it a hook that really demands attention. And then work on that last paragraph a bit to make sure you really sell, sell, sell the concept.

Okay, people, take it to the comments! Do you agree with me? Disagree? Want to punch me in the face? Now’s your chance!

Remember: Every critique you do gets you an entry into a first chapter critique from Brenda!

11 thoughts on “Query Workshop R-4: DRIVEN

  1. I agree with what Becca said about the query losing me in the final paragraph, and I even think there are some superfluous words that you could take out of the third paragraph. As for her suggestion about the hook, this would be my revision: “A single misplaced strobe light can trigger a seizure that turns Jimmy Rickliefs into a vegetable.” This isn’t usually the type of novel I go for, but the query’s well written and I feel for your character. Good job!

  2. I agree: “For Jimmy Ricklief, one misplaced strobe light can trigger a seizure, and possibly become a vegetable.”

    Since we already know that he has seizures, condense the next paragraph: “In the wake of a near-fatal accident, Jimmy’s shattered body can barely keep up with his career as a drummer.”

    Becca is right: When the wife is involved, our hearts automatically become invested. However, for me, I am taken out of the query because of the sentence structure. Here is my advice: “Jimmy takes some comfort from his pregnant wife’s survival, but when their baby is born twelve weeks early, his priorities rearrange themselves and isn’t sure which path to take.” I feel that we know that they both have their own recovery, and this (to me) gets to the heart of the story more quickly.

    This sounds like a great read!

  3. This sounds like a unique story, so good luck to you finding an agent/publisher for it. I was only confused at the end about what his choices were. There are other ways a person can make a living: that would both pay hospital bills and not be so insurmountable for a person with a disability. I have a feeling there is an element of inner turmoil with him, and that’s what’s missing at the end… make us feel his true desire more, rather than listing how he rationalizes his choices. Easier said than done, but you can do it! I really like your style of writing.

  4. For some reason, I want to read “he could become a vegetable” as “he’d become a vegetable.” I like the “one misplaced strobe light,” since it raises the stakes, but the rest of the sentence isn’t really grabbing my attention.

    The fact that he’s a drummer does intrigue me, since it make me think of concert and makes me wonder how much harder this is for him. I’d wonder if maybe you could place that earlier, along with the one misplaced strobe light comment.

    I didn’t really get into the rest of the query, but I don’t think it’s really the genre I prefer to read, so that could be part of the problem. I do think if you focus on the complications between his being/have been a drummer and the potential for seizures, that you could have a really strong conflict there.

    Good luck with your query. 🙂

  5. I really enjoyed how real and heartfelt this query is. Seizures seem like a terrifying thing, and you captured that well in this.

    My main concern is the query seems bit consumed with depression, downers, and low times. There doesn’t seem like much happiness or light-hearted-ness to hold onto. I would maybe state something to draw the reader in, to show them the MC is strong, and will persevere.

  6. Opening line offers an intriguing potential dilemma, but you start right away with a punctuation error. Ricklief’s (Rickliefs’s?) should be possessive. (Unless this is a copy/paste error, in which case disregard.)

    “He isn’t comfortable with fans seeing a broken drummer.” This line I think could provide so much more umph if reworded/reworked. Comfortable isn’t a strong enough world to compete with the tragic image of a broken drummer.

    The premature baby strikes at my heart and I love the tragic comparison of broken baby/broken father. But what crossroads? What paths? Is this referring to his depression? Is he considering suicide? The next paragraph talks about going back to the band to pay for everything, risking his seizures but the previous paragraph implies a more emotional type of decision.

    The last paragraph seems to lose the punch the opening had, plus there’s another punctuation error with the semicolon.

    I have to agree with Becks here about the job front. Why can’t he do something else? Also, hospitals are pretty willing to work with families on bills, especially involving premature babies. There are national charities and funds for this. (Personal note: I have coworkers who had twins way premature, who stayed in NICU for almost a year. It’s possible. Not saying for everyone, but something to keep in mind.)

    Overall, you have me; I’d want to read but I think with some tweaking, you’d have something even stronger. Good luck!

  7. I agree that the first line should be punchier, all those cans and coulds dilute the urgency. And maybe there could be more emphasis on how high the medical bills are, which would explain why he’d need to risk the crippling seziures in the dangerous but high paying drumming job. (quick aside, if he was that successful prior to the accident, why doesn’t he have an emergency fund?)

  8. Oh, boy. I can tell this book is heavy. And I love heavy books, so you have me with the premise. I’d defintely read more, based on this.

    I actually think the query is really strong. My one critique would be that the first paragraph could be stronger and punchier. If you can revise this paragraph, you’ll have something great. Good luck!

  9. I agree with Becca on all counts, especially about the last paragraph. I think I just need more to make me say, “I gotta read this.” I really want to know why he can’t choose another career, rather than risk becoming a vegetable.

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