Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Feedback Request


The author of Antonov's Diamonds, most recently featured here, would like feedback on the latest version of the query:


Former quixotic FBI consultant turned pawnbroker Flynn Christopher is asked by a friend at the FBI for a favor, Flynn's help in a bureau sting to recover a diamond once owned by Peter the Great.

Then he is asked to just a little further, the Feds need a brick and mortar storefront to lure a ruthless ex Russian Colonel, Alexei Antonov, into a trap, but Flynn is in over his head. Instead of a simple credit card scam in his pawn shops, Antonov tells Flynn his plans to rob a diamond mine deep in the wilderness of the Ural mountains. Antonov wants to use Flynn’s connection to over five thousand members of the American Pawnbrokers Association to sell his stolen diamonds. Who better, thinks Antonov, than pawnbrokers to move stolen goods. The problem is, Antonov is a psychopath. He double crosses then savagely kills everyone he comes into contact with. In a twist of fate, he thinks Flynn double crossed him and has stolen millions of dollars in diamonds from him. Now Flynn is marked for death.


Notes

If you want to convince people that your writing can make them more money than it costs to produce and distribute thousands of copies of your book, you're going to have to do better than this. You need to connect ideas and tell a coherent story.

It seems the whole point of telling us about the Peter the Great diamond is to explain why the FBI requests Flynn's help trapping Antonov, but having told us Flynn is a former FBI consultant, you don't need to further convince us. Especially as you don't even reveal whether the Peter diamond was recovered. Get rid of the Peter the Great sentence.

That brings us to the first sentence of paragraph 2, which is horrible, and not a sentence.

The sentence after that states that Antonov plans to rob a diamond mine, but a few sentences later Antonov thinks Flynn stole the diamonds. You're leaving out important steps. Like how the diamonds got into Flynn's possession so that he could steal them.

I'll take your word that pawnbrokers are the best way to move stolen goods. Out of curiosity, when the members of the American Pawnbrokers Association get together for their conventions, do they have panel discussions on how best to move stolen diamonds?

You can only savagely kill everyone you come in contact with so long before the authorities follow the trail of bodies to your door.

Here's a more cohesive version of what you've provided :

Former FBI consultant-turned-pawnbroker Flynn Christopher is contacted by an old friend at the Bureau. Seems the Feds need a brick and mortar storefront to lure a ruthless Russian ex-colonel, Alexei Antonov, into a trap. Supposedly Antonov wants to use pawn shops to run a simple credit card scam.

Wrong. Turns out the Russian has millions of dollars in stolen diamonds he wants to unload, and he's decided  pawn shops are the way to do it. He gives the stones to Flynn, who is to use his connection to the 5000-member American Pawnbrokers Association to move them. Flynn is in over his head, but you don't say no to a psychopath like Antonov.

Unsure what to do with the diamonds, Flynn turns them over to the FBI. He wants out, but Antonov wants to be paid, and he thinks Flynn has double crossed him and stolen the diamonds. Now Flynn is marked for death. But hey, what pawnbroker hasn't been marked for death a few times?


That wasn't a totally accurate summary, but at least it doesn't trigger more questions than it answers.

5 comments:

Dottie D said...

wow. I had no clue what was going on in your new query until EE revised it. Queries are a bitch, I'll give you that. But you MUST connect the dots better. who is your mc? what does he want? what is standing in his way? what choice does he make to get what he wants? what are the consequences if he does or does not get it? focus on answering those questions and try again. good luck.

khazar-khum said...

Did Antonov lift the diamonds from the Hermitage? That would give a nice connection to Peter the Great. I do think mentioning the Tsar adds a sense of romanticism to what otherwise is a standard stolen diamond story.

I will add that punctuation is your friend. Don't be afraid to use semicolons.

Anonymous said...

You're trying to pack too much information into too few sentences -- and some of the info is unnecessary.

"Former quixotic FBI consultant turned pawnbroker" means that Flynn used to be quixotic, and that he used to be an FBI consultant, but now he's a pawnbroker. Is that what you mean? In any case, I think you could start with "Pawnbroker Flynn Christopher . . ." I can accept for the purposes of the query that he's friends with an FBI agent. (FBI agents must have a few non-agent friends.) And the comma in that sentence should be a colon.

"Then he is asked to just a little further." Are you proofreading this?

"a ruthless ex Russian Colonel" is someone who used to be Russian. You mean a ruthless Russian ex-colonel? (That could also be a ruthless ex-colonel from the Russian military.)

It's not clear who's proposing "a simple credit card scam in his pawn shops." Apparently, the FBI led Antonov to Flynn as part of the setup, but ???? Or does Antonov go to Flynn because he hasn't figured out that Flynn was part of the Peter the Great diamond sting and he thinks Flynn is someone he can get a little more use out of (before slaughtering him)?

"The problem is, Antonov is a psychopath." Is this what you meant by "Flynn is in over his head"? It's not clear. It seems to me there's already a problem, namely that Antonov is suddenly in Flynn's face with a scheme to steal diamonds.

Wait, no! All my conjectures are wrong! It turns out Antonov does NOT trust Flynn, but thinks Flynn double-crossed him. Or does that happen later? It doesn't make sense that Antonov would want to use Flynn in his diamond-moving scheme if he thinks Flynn is a double-crosser.

I'm a techie in my other life, and I'm dying to conduct an informational interview with you and get this down in a flowchart so I can then write a description of the process.

AA said...

Serious run-on sentences here. In general try to write sentences where the subject and object stand out and have an obvious relationship to each other. And don't try to cram too much info into one sentence.

"Former quixotic FBI consultant turned pawnbroker Flynn Christopher is asked by a friend at the FBI for a favor, Flynn's help in a bureau sting to recover a diamond once owned by Peter the Great."

Here I can't tell if your focus is on Flynn, the fact that he's a pawnbroker, or the fact that he used to be an FBI consultant, or something about Peter the Great.

Then you have: "Then he is asked to (help?) just a little further, the Feds need a brick and mortar storefront to lure a ruthless ex Russian Colonel, Alexei Antonov, into a trap, but Flynn is in over his head."
This is a bunch of information strung together with commas. There are at least two sentences here.

I think you have all the information you need, you just need to figure out how to make sense of it.

InkAndPixelClub said...

Author, I am hoping that the writing in your story is in fact of excellent quality and you're just having trouble fitting all of your exciting twists and turns of plot into the query. But when I read a sentence (and I'm using the term loosely) like "Then he is asked to just a little further, the Feds need a brick and mortar storefront to lure a ruthless ex Russian Colonel, Alexei Antonov, into a trap, but Flynn is in over his head.", I start to worry that this not the case. Either you didn't reread your query or you haven't yet developed the command of the English language necessary to write a novel. Whatever the reason, a sentence like that is death for a query. I suspect most editors or agents would stop reading there and send you a form "not what we're looking for" letter.

This is still mostly setup and most of it is not about Flynn. The only thing Flynn actually does in the query is agree to help out the FBI. I still don't know enough about who this guy is and what kind of skills he might have and I can't guess at what the rest of the story looks like. Do Flynn's FBI buddies protect him for. Antonov? If not, why? Does Flynn use his skills as an ex-FBI agent to save himself and bring Antonov in? Does he discover his inner Schwarzenegger and engage in a bunch of adrenaline fueled action scenes battling Antonov and his men? You need to reveal enough of your story so that the query reader can see what most of the book looks like and doesn't have to guess whether your plot is any good or not.

As EE has suggested, you want to start off with this being a relatively simple job for Flynn, something that he'd be comfortable with accepting and the FBI would be okay with involving an ex-agent on. Then something goes wrong and Flynn finds himself in way deeper than he ever intended to be, with a murderous Russian criminal confiding in him about an international diamond fencing scheme. Then Flynn's situation gets even worse, as something (you need to say what) leads the criminal to believe that Flynn has stolen his diamonds. That should leave you ample space to explain what Flynn does after he's marked for death, why the FBI won't be able to protect him, and how Flynn might be able to take down Antonov and save himself.

A well organized query still needs to be well written. As does the actual novel. If the next draft of the query isn't a major improvement in the writing department, chances are you need to spend more time developing your skills and revising your novel before you worry about sending queries.