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Dictionary of the Mother Tongue -- (Literary Mystery) Update Post 44


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#1 dizzywriter

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Posted 04 July 2017 - 06:53 PM

Link to Newest Update.

 

 

With the help of a lot of people here two years ago, I came up with a pretty decent query and received several full requests. But the story had holes and I knew it.  I thought I could get away with it, but couldn't. Now after a substantial rewrite, the holes are closed and I also rewrote the query. Feedback is welcome. Be brutal. I will return all critiques. Thank you.

 

 

***

 

Anonymous messages in an extinct language plunge Cristina Smythe into a 6,000-year-old mystery linking ancient horsemen, mistaken identities, and murder.

 

 

 

In shock after a brutal attack in her Kiev home and terrified her estranged Ukrainian husband wants her dead, American archaeologist Cristina Smythe escapes the traumatic memories by moderating an internet chat room about horses. Her online friend Marija’s archaeological exploits in China offer welcome distraction. But when Marija’s work fuels anti-government protests, she vanishes from the forum and the other users’ virtual panic forces Cristina to investigate.

 

 

 

Dima; the handsome, enigmatic computer hacker she hires to find the real person behind Marija’s online personae; also triggers her fears of being single -- or loving anyone -- again. He’s so much younger and he works for her. But does he really like her? And who let the chick lit narrator into Cristina’s head, anyway?

 

 

Her world shatters once more with the discovery of a prehistoric grave outside Kiev that threatens to challenge Cristina’s research about the origins of horseback riding. Then, cryptic emails appear in her moderator inbox. Written in Proto-Indo-European, the extinct language of the first horsemen and primordial ancestor of English, the messages could be about the grave, or Marija’s fate or even the attack on Cristina – if she can crack their code. 

                                                                                                      

 

Set in contemporary, war-time Ukraine, DICTIONARY OF THE MOTHER TONGUE is an 82,000-word literary mystery. A galloping journey from the Stone Age to the Digital Age, it is a mesmerizing exploration of love and loss, trauma and recovery, identity and language -- set against a backdrop of rigorously researched archaeology and linguistics. This page-turner will please readers of The Clan of the Cave Bear, The Name of the Rose, Everything is Illuminated and Sex Tips for Girls. Horse farts and an ornery cat also play leading roles.

 

 

 

[Insert bio and agent specific text.]



#2 dizzywriter

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Posted 05 July 2017 - 08:59 PM

Having read some other queries here, I realized that my comps are probably too old. I will keep one of them, probably. But I'll look for more recent titles.



#3 bkarperien

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Posted 06 July 2017 - 12:58 PM

Thanks for your feedback on my query.

With the help of a lot of people here two years ago, I came up with a pretty decent query and received several full requests. But the story had holes and I knew it.  I thought I could get away with it, but couldn't. Now after a substantial rewrite, the holes are closed and I also rewrote the query. Feedback is welcome. Be brutal. I will return all critiques. Thank you.

 

***

 

Anonymous messages in an extinct language plunge Cristina Smythe into a 6,000-year-old mystery linking ancient horsemen, mistaken identities, and murder. I don't know how I feel about this hook. It's a little vague, and doesn't pull me in. You could start with the next line.

 

In shock  After a brutal attack (who attacked her, and why? Does it matter that this happened in Kiev?) in her Kiev home and terrified her estranged Ukrainian husband wants her dead (why does he want her dead? Why is this only mentioned once? Doesn't seem to have anything to do with the central conflict, so I think you could leave it out, or clarify how it's connected to the main conflict?), American archaeologist Cristina Smythe escapes the traumatic memories by moderating an internet chat room about horses. Her online friend Marija’s archaeological exploits in China offer welcome distraction. But when Marija’s work fuels anti-government protests, she vanishes from the forum and the other users’ virtual panic forces Cristina to investigate.

 

 

 

Dima, the handsome, enigmatic computer hacker she hires to find the real person behind Marija’s online personae, also triggers her fears of being single -- or loving anyone -- again. He’s so much younger and he works for her. But does he really like her? And who let the chick lit narrator into Cristina’s head, anyway? I found this pulled me out of the query.

 

 

Her world shatters once more with the discovery of a prehistoric grave outside Kiev that threatens to challenge Cristina’s research about the origins of horseback riding. Then, cryptic emails appear in her moderator inbox. Written in Proto-Indo-European, the extinct language of the first horsemen and primordial ancestor of English, the messages could be about the grave, or Marija’s fate or even the attack on Cristina – if she can crack their code. 

                                                                                                      

Okay. So I'm a little lost in all this information. There are too many unrelated conflicts. What is the story about? Finding Marija? Researching the origins of horseback riding? A romance with her hacker? Her husband trying to kill her? I'm not sure. Pick one to focus on. And I also need to know what's at stake for Cristina. What does she stand to lose if she fails to crack the code? 

Set in contemporary, war-time Ukraine, DICTIONARY OF THE MOTHER TONGUE is an 82,000-word literary mystery. A galloping journey from the Stone Age to the Digital Age, it is a mesmerizing exploration of love and loss, trauma and recovery, identity and language -- set against a backdrop of rigorously researched archaeology and linguistics. This page-turner will please readers of The Clan of the Cave Bear, The Name of the Rose, Everything is Illuminated and Sex Tips for Girls. Horse farts and an ornery cat also play leading roles.

 

Sounds like a fabulous story, and I can tell from your query that it's very complex, however, the more complex your novel, the simpler your query has to be. I hope some of this helps. Best of luck with revisions.

 

[Insert bio and agent specific text.]


Check out my query :)

Or, if you're really awesome, check out my synopsis.

 


#4 fernet

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Posted 09 July 2017 - 04:32 PM


Anonymous messages in an extinct language plunge Cristina Smythe into a 6,000-year-old mystery linking ancient horsemen, mistaken identities, and murder.

I agree with poster above--this doesn't do much to draw me in. Possibly it could go, in a modified form, at the end?

 

 

In shock after a brutal attack in her Kiev home and terrified her estranged Ukrainian husband wants her dead, American archaeologist Cristina Smythe escapes the traumatic memories by moderating an internet chat room about horses.

Ok I apologize ahead of time but the first time I read this line I did a little snort-laugh-startle because the second half was so incongruous. It starts out very thriller-y--brutal attack, murderous husband, trauma!-- then internet horses? I actually can imagine this working just fine in the story itself--people hide from their problems in all kinds of ways and the internet is a big one! But the tone doesn't work here. I end up confused. It's too much intense action setup and then a total shift in feeling.

 

Her online friend Marija’s archaeological exploits in China offer welcome distraction. But when Marija’s work fuels anti-government protests, she vanishes from the forum and the other users’ virtual panic forces Cristina to investigate.

This seems more like the meat of the story to me--can you start here, with maybe a pared-down reference to the husband etc.? Friend disappeared by government is high-stakes, a good place to start.

 

 

Dima; the handsome, enigmatic computer hacker she hires to find the real person behind Marija’s online personae [persona? or does she have more than one? unclear; could just say 'presence'] ; also triggers her fears of being single -- or loving anyone -- again. This is kind of vague. She's afraid to be single? But also to be not single? Maybe this is a good place to be more specific about the previous abusive[?] relationship?   He’s so much younger and he works for her. But does he really like her? And who let the chick lit narrator into Cristina’s head, anyway?

Who did let the chick lit narrator into her head? This makes me wonder if the voice in the novel is going to be this back-and-forth, too.

 

Her world shatters once more with the discovery of a prehistoric grave outside Kiev that threatens to challenge Cristina’s research about the origins of horseback riding. Then, cryptic emails appear in her moderator inbox. Written in Proto-Indo-European, the extinct language of the first horsemen and primordial ancestor of English, the messages could be about the grave, or Marija’s fate or even the attack on Cristina – if she can crack their code. 

 

How long does it take to get to this point in the story? Because this also sounds like it has more substance than some of the earlier parts of the query.

 

All the archaeological/linguistic/horse stuff sounds really cool to me but agree again with previous poster -- I'm not sure where I should be looking. I'm sure all the elements interweave nicely in the novel itself (I am having related troubles with my query, ha), but it makes it harder to know what to foreground in your query.

 

Can you start in with the missing friend, maybe quick mention of dangerous husband/potential new love interest (this is backstory), then get to the crazy email and grave stuff faster? If you're calling it a mystery, emphasize the mystery!

 

 

Set in contemporary, war-time Ukraine, DICTIONARY OF THE MOTHER TONGUE is an 82,000-word literary mystery. A galloping journey from the Stone Age to the Digital Age, it is a mesmerizing exploration of love and loss, trauma and recovery, identity and language -- set against a backdrop of rigorously researched archaeology and linguistics. This page-turner will please readers of The Clan of the Cave Bear, The Name of the Rose, Everything is Illuminated and Sex Tips for Girls. Horse farts and an ornery cat also play leading roles.

 

 

[Insert bio and agent specific text.]



#5 dizzywriter

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Posted 09 July 2017 - 09:02 PM

You guys are awesome. I will digest your comments and rewrite after recovering from a yard sale.



#6 TheBest

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Posted 10 July 2017 - 07:26 PM

In shock after a brutal attack in her Kiev home and terrified her estranged Ukrainian husband wants her dead (This first sentence is awesome but also akward. I'd reword it), American archaeologist Cristina Smythe escapes the traumatic memories by moderating an internet chat room about horses. Her online friend Marija’s archaeological exploits in China offer welcome distraction. But when Marija’s work fuels anti-government protests, she vanishes from the forum and the other users’ virtual panic forces Cristina to investigate. (This drew me in)

 

 

 

Dima; the handsome, enigmatic computer hacker she hires to find the real person behind Marija’s online personae; also triggers her fears of being single -- or loving anyone -- again. He’s so much younger and he works for her. But does he really like her? And who let the chick lit narrator into Cristina’s head, anyway? (This last sentence has personality, and a bite to it.)

 

 

Her world shatters once more with the discovery of a prehistoric grave outside Kiev that threatens to challenge Cristina’s research about the origins of horseback riding. Then, cryptic emails appear in her moderator inbox. Written in Proto-Indo-European, the extinct language of the first horsemen and primordial ancestor of English, the messages could be about the grave, or Marija’s fate or even the attack on Cristina – if she can crack their code. 

 

(Your story's main focus is lost in the query, since it is so spread out. Pick on point and hone in on that.)                                                                                        

 

Set in contemporary, war-time Ukraine, DICTIONARY OF THE MOTHER TONGUE is an 82,000-word literary mystery. A galloping journey from the Stone Age to the Digital Age, it is a mesmerizing exploration of love and loss, trauma and recovery, identity and language -- set against a backdrop of rigorously researched archaeology and linguistics. This page-turner will please readers of The Clan of the Cave Bear, The Name of the Rose, Everything is Illuminated and Sex Tips for Girls. Horse farts and an ornery cat also play leading roles. (This sentence feels abrupt, like a shift in tone.)

 

​I love your story's concept, and the voice in your query letter. However, it is a little complex. I would focus on one aspect, and weave the query around that. Good luck!



#7 dizzywriter

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Posted 13 July 2017 - 08:06 PM

Thanks for all the input. Here is my revision, which I hope takes into account most of the comments. The text isn't refined. So, no need for line editing if anyone is so inclined. I'm mostly interested in whether the narrative is focused enough and whether the angle is interesting. I can imagine a dozen other ways of writing it. Be brutal. Will return the favors.

***

After her war-hero, Ukrainian husband dumps her, American archeologist Cristina Smythe escapes the pain – and earns some extra cash – by moderating an internet chat room about horses. Her online friend Marija’s shocking discovery of an ancient horsemen’s grave in China offer welcome distraction until Marija's work fuels anti-government protests and she vanishes from the forum. Though Cristina knows more about show jumping than digital sleuthing, the other users’ online panic forces her to investigate.

 

 

Dima, the handsome, enigmatic computer hacker she hires to find the real person behind Marija’s online persona, triggers Cristina’s fears of being single again. He’s a decade younger and he works for her. But does he really like her? And who let the chick lit narrator into her head, anyway? Was it the blow by that stranger, who tried to kill her with a cinder block? Her husband must have ordered it: With a new girlfriend and a baby, he needs Cristina out of the way.

 

 

 

Then, cryptic emails appear in her moderator inbox. Always anonymous in her online role, Cristina feels invaded again. Whoever sent the messages knows her identity. Written in Proto-Indo-European, the extinct language of the first horsemen and primordial ancestor of English, the messages could be about Marija or they may even be from Cristina's attacker. But first she has to crack their code.   

 

 

Set in contemporary, war-time Ukraine, DICTIONARY OF THE MOTHER TONGUE is an 82,000-word literary mystery. A galloping journey from the Stone Age to the Digital Age, it explores love and loss, trauma and recovery, identity and language -- against a backdrop of rigorously researched archeology and linguistics. Horse farts and an ornery cat also play leading roles.



#8 EMarie

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Posted 15 July 2017 - 07:04 AM

First of all, I really loved this query. I think it does a great job showcasing your writing ability.

 

After her war-hero, (no comma) Ukrainian husband dumps her, American archeologist Cristina Smythe escapes the pain – and earns some extra cash – by moderating an internet chat room about horses. (Wonderful opening sentence. I also happen to love horses and stories about them so I think your premise is intriguing. Her online friend Marija’s shocking (I'm not sure this is the best word choice) discovery of an ancient horsemen’s grave in China offers Cristina a welcome distraction until Marja's work fuels anti-government protests and she vanishes from the forum. Though Cristina knows more about show jumping than digital sleuthing, the other users’ online panic forces her to investigate. (This is great!)

 

 

Dima, the handsome, enigmatic computer hacker she hires to find the real person behind Marija’s online persona, triggers Cristina’s fears of being single again. This seemed a little ambiguous--she was just divorced by her husband, so isn't she still processing that? Maybe she has trouble trusting men now, or believing that there's such a thing as lasting love.) He’s a decade younger, (add comma) and he works for her. But does he really like her? And who let the chick lit narrator into her head, anyway? Was it the blow by that stranger, who tried to kill her with a cinder block? Her husband must have ordered it: (maybe use a dash instead?) With a new girlfriend and a baby, he needs Cristina out of the way.

 

 

 

Then, cryptic emails appear in her (Cristina's) moderator inbox. Always anonymous in her online role, Cristina feels invaded again (cut this word) Or 'Always anonymous in her online role, Cristina searches for answers about who has invaded her privacy'). Whoever sent the messages knows her identity. Written in Proto-Indo-European, the extinct language of the first horsemen and primordial ancestor of English, the messages could be about Marija or they may even be from Cristina's attacker. But first she has to crack their code.   

 

 

Set in contemporary, war-time Ukraine, DICTIONARY OF THE MOTHER TONGUE is an 82,000-word literary mystery. A galloping journey from the Stone Age to the Digital Age, it explores love and loss, trauma and recovery, identity and language -- against a backdrop of rigorously researched archeology and linguistics. Horse farts and an ornery cat also play leading roles. (Strong ending, and overall strong query. I really like your writing. You have a great title and summary. The ending line is funny, and I would keep it, but maybe not make it the very end--add it a little sooner, or place something else after it?)



#9 dizzywriter

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Posted 15 July 2017 - 08:03 PM

Thank you so much EMarie. Is this any better? I'd return the favor if you post a query.

 

After her war-hero Ukrainian husband walks out, American archeologist Cristina Smythe escapes the pain – and earns extra cash -- by moderating an internet chat room about horses. Her online friend Marija’s discovery of a prehistoric horsemen’s grave in China offers welcome distraction until the grave fuels anti-government protests and Marija vanishes from the forum. Though Cristina knows more about show jumping than digital sleuthing, the other users’ virtual panic forces her to investigate.

 

The handsome, enigmatic computer hacker she hires to find the real person behind Marija’s online persona also triggers confusion. [Something stronger but not sure what.] He’s a decade younger, and he works for her. But does he really like her? And who let the chick lit narrator into Cristina’s head, anyway? Was it that stranger, who tried to kill her with a cinder block? Her husband must have ordered it -- with a new girlfriend and a baby, he needs Cristina out of the way fast.

 

Then, cryptic emails appear in Cristina’s moderator inbox. Though she is always anonymous online, whoever sent them knows her identity. Written in Proto-Indo-European, the extinct language of the first horsemen and primordial ancestor of English, the messages could be about Marija’s fate or they may even be from Cristina's attacker. But first she has to crack their code.    

 

Set in contemporary, war-time Ukraine, DICTIONARY OF THE MOTHER TONGUE is an 82,000-word literary mystery. A galloping journey from the Stone Age to the Digital Age, it explores love and loss, trauma and recovery, identity and language -- against a backdrop of rigorously researched archeology and linguistics. Horse farts and an ornery cat also play leading roles in this page-turner sure to please readers of Comp 1, Comp 2 and Comp 3.



#10 TheBest

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Posted 16 July 2017 - 10:24 PM

After her war-hero Ukrainian husband walks out, American archeologist Cristina Smythe escapes the pain – and earns extra cash -- by moderating an internet chat room about horses (This is a great opening sentence, but a little complex. It also bothers me that Christina is not the first character in the query. Try re-wording so she comes before her husband.)Her online friend Marija’s discovery of a prehistoric horsemen’s grave in China offers welcome distraction, (comma insert) until the grave fuels anti-government protests and Marija vanishes from the forum. Though Cristina knows more about show jumping than digital sleuthing, the other users’ virtual panic forces her to investigate. (This sentence somehow seems... dull. Don't know why, but I just don't like it. The idea is so good, and I LOVE reading internet and chat site exerts in books. Maybe something like: A virtual panic spreads through the net like wildfire, forcing Christina to investigate.)

 

The handsome, enigmatic computer hacker she hires to find the real person behind Marija’s online persona also triggers confusion. [Something stronger but not sure what.]He’s a decade younger, and he works for her. But does he really like her? And who let the chick lit narrator into Cristina’s head, anyway? Was it that stranger, who tried to kill her with a cinder block? Her husband must have ordered it -- with a new girlfriend and a baby, he needs Cristina out of the way fast.

 

Then, cryptic emails appear in Cristina’s moderator inbox. Though she is always anonymous online, whoever sent them knows her identity. (DELICIOUS!!) Written in Proto-Indo-European, the extinct language of the first horsemen and primordial ancestor of English, the messages could be about Marija’s fate or they may even be from Cristina's attacker. But first she has to crack their code.    

 

Set in contemporary, war-time Ukraine, DICTIONARY OF THE MOTHER TONGUE is an 82,000-word literary mystery. A galloping journey from the Stone Age to the Digital Age, it explores love and loss, trauma and recovery, identity and language -- against a backdrop of rigorously researched archeology and linguistics. Horse farts and an ornery cat also play leading roles in this page-turner sure to please readers of Comp 1, Comp 2 and Comp 3.

 

 

This query is great!! It's really changed well. I think with just a little language twisting and cutting, you'll have something very, very special on your hands. Good luck!!



#11 dogsbody

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Posted 17 July 2017 - 03:16 AM

Hi again!

 

Okay: I'm pretty sure you won't like my critique. Because the bad news is that, from what I remember, your query contains the same basic issues I commented on previously. 

 

The good news is: yay! You got full requests! That's major, and it means whatever you're doing, it's working for someone. So while I might encourage you to make major changes, maybe that... just isn't what you need. With all that in mind, I'd usually refrain from critique. 

 

But since you asked me to take a look...

 

I think this is kind of a mess. You have a really engaging writing style, which makes it readable and fun. But there are about a thousand ideas and plot points and subplots in here, which is maybe... nine hundred and ninety-five too many. Possibly nine hundred and ninety-seven. 

 

The thing is, all of these could be transferred painlessly to the synopsis. An agent will see them, they just don't have to see them in the query letter, where I would recommend focusing on your main character, central conflict, and what's at stake. And that's it

 

For instance: main character. Who is Christina Smythe? All I know about her as a person is her job, her current hobby, and that she's recently divorced and unhappy about it. But what's intriguing or compelling about her as a person, or the context of her circumstances, that will make a reader want to follow her journey for 80K+? How is she uniquely situated to be the heroine of this particular story, as opposed to someone who just kind of falls into the mystery at hand?

 

Main conflict: what does Christina want, and how does she plan to get it? So far it just seems to be "a distraction from her divorce" or "to check in on her unknown online friend," which... they're circumstantial, they're not inherent to the character or her personal journey. Again, it phrases her story as something that just happened to her but could have, hypothetically, happened to anyone. So I don't feel "grabbed." I don't feel emotionally invested or curious. 

 

Stakes: what are they? What's the worst that could happen, and why will I care? What am I reading for in the hope that it will happen, and again what will make me feel intrigued to see it happen to Christina? What will make me excited to think Christina might "win" this story?

 

So there you have it. I hope this does not read too harshly; it's just my take. And I do wish you the best of luck, and even more full requests in your future. 



#12 dizzywriter

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Posted 17 July 2017 - 03:50 PM

Thank you both for the input. Dogsbody, I expected nothing less -- which is why I asked. I will ponder.



#13 dizzywriter

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Posted 17 July 2017 - 04:26 PM

How is this?

 

Archeologist Cristina Smythe doesn’t want to divorce her war-hero Ukrainian husband. But she also doesn’t want to die -- a terrifying possibility after a stranger bludgeons her with a cinder block. Afraid of leaving her apartment, she escapes her traumas – and earns extra cash -- by moderating a popular chat room about horses.

 

 

Her online friend Marija’s groundbreaking discovery of a prehistoric horsemen’s grave in China offers welcome distraction -- until the grave fuels anti-government protests and Marija vanishes from the forum. When virtual panic spreads among the users, Cristina has to investigate, even though she knows more about show jumping than digital sleuthing.

 

 

After decades of marriage, she knows even less about dating. Besides, the handsome, enigmatic hacker helping her find the real person behind Marija’s online persona is a decade younger, and he works for her. But does he really like her? And who let the chick lit narrator into Cristina’s head, anyway?

 

 

Then, cryptic emails appear in Cristina’s moderator inbox. Though she is always anonymous in that role, the sender knows her identity. Written in Proto-Indo-European, the extinct language of the first horsemen and primordial ancestor of English, the messages could be about Marija’s fate or they may even be clues about Cristina’s attacker. If she can’t crack their code, he could try to kill her again.   

 

 

Set in contemporary, war-time Ukraine, DICTIONARY OF THE MOTHER TONGUE is an 82,000-word literary mystery. A galloping journey from the Stone Age to the Digital Age, it explores love and loss, trauma and recovery, identity and language -- against a backdrop of rigorously researched archeology, cybersecurity and linguistics. Horse farts and an ornery cat also play leading roles in this page-turner sure to please readers of The Sympathizer, Comp 2 and Comp 3.



#14 dogsbody

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Posted 17 July 2017 - 05:45 PM

I definitely think you're headed in the right direction.

 

But. Just my opinion:

 

I'd cut the third and fourth paragraphs entirely.

 

Then I'd take the time to unpack and explore the concepts you (imo) tend to rush through, instead firmly establishing the basic premise of your book and not worrying as much about making sure we know all about the exciting twists and turns to come.

 

For instance:

 

American archeologist Cristina Smythe doesn’t want to divorce her war-hero Ukrainian husband. But she doesn’t want to be dead either -- a distinct possibility after a stranger tries to kill her with a cinder block.

 

What's the connection between her divorce and possible death? Why is the fact her husband is a Ukrainian war hero so important? Why isn't she taking the usual precautions when someone thinks their life is in danger, like going to the police? 

 

Please note: I'm not asking these things for myself, I can make pretty good guesses at this point. But you want to show how well you can set the scene and establish the characters, in a query. All of this can help showcase your ability to put a character in context and establish the stakes of her circumstances. 

 

 

 

Terrified of leaving her apartment, she escapes her traumas online – and earns extra cash -- by moderating a popular chat room about horses.

 

(Side note: is this early internet days? Only "chat rooms" are not a huge part of current internet life, so if it's set in a contemporary but slightly earlier time period, you might want to be specific.) 

 

Why does she need the cash? Why horses? Again, helps establish character and context. And perhaps you can talk about how moderating helps her trauma specifically: perhaps in the new relationships she forms after a toxic marriage. Which leads nicely to...

 

 

Her online friend Marija’s groundbreaking discovery of a prehistoric horsemen’s grave in China offers welcome distraction -- until the grave fuels anti-government protests and Marija vanishes from the forum.

 

Again, this is FOUR new ideas and all in one sentence. So I would urge you to unpack them.

 

1. Christina makes a new friend! That must be great for her. Since the rest of the story is about searching for Marija, maybe you should establish what kind of friendship they have and why Christina would go to such lengths for someone she only knows online. 

 

2. Groundbreaking discovery! Awesome, very unique and specific details. Why is Christina so interested? (Again, I can guess, but maybe "show your work.") Why is it ground-breaking? What does it mean to her on a personal level? 

 

3. The grave site is political? How so?

 

4. Marija vanishes! Again, this is central to the rest of the book, so: how does this affect Christina or alter her stakes?

 

 

When virtual panic spreads among the users, Cristina has to investigate, even though she knows more about show jumping than digital sleuthing.

 

1. Why would the users panic? People come and go on the internet all the time. 

 

2. What about this situation is the tipping point for Christina? She's in full-on self-protective hermit mode, you've established; so what gives her the courage or urgency to break out of her shell and take this risk? This is a BIG MOMENT in your story, akin to a Hero's Journey "the call to adventure," it should be the kind of emotional stakes that makes someone think: wow, what an interesting turn of events. This is where you want to establish why Christina is taking up the quest, as well as what she hopes to achieve or what dire consequences she might face in doing so. (The stakes!)

 

... and that's where I'd leave off! Maybe hint at the romance and discoveries to come in final paragraph, instead of horse farts and ornery cats (not that those don't sound like fun, but: priorities). 

 

Hope this was helpful. I realize this might not be the approach you want at all, but I'm just putting it out there as an option. 



#15 MICRONESIA

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Posted 17 July 2017 - 06:12 PM

How is this?

 

Archeologist Cristina Smythe doesn’t want to divorce her war-hero Ukrainian husband. But she also doesn’t want to die -- a terrifying possibility after a stranger bludgeons her with a cinder block. I'm not making the connection here between the divorce and the cinderblock attack. Afraid of leaving her apartment, she escapes her traumas – and earns extra cash -- by moderating a popular chat room about horses. Comes out of nowhere, but it's neat. I like it.

 

 

Her online friend Marija’s groundbreaking discovery of a prehistoric horsemen’s grave in China offers welcome distraction -- until the grave fuels anti-government protests and Marija vanishes from the forum. When virtual panic spreads among the users, Cristina has to investigate Why does she feel obligated to investigate? What is the significance for HER?, even though she knows more about show jumping than digital sleuthing.

 

 

After decades of marriage, she knows even less about dating. Besides, the handsome, enigmatic hacker helping her find the real person behind Marija’s online persona is a decade younger, and he works for her. But does he really like her? And who let the chick lit narrator into Cristina’s head, anyway? I think there's a better way to convey this information than resorting to the dreaded rhetorical questions.

 

 

Then, cryptic emails appear in Cristina’s moderator inbox. Though she is always anonymous in that role, the sender knows her identity. Written in Proto-Indo-European, the extinct language of the first horsemen and primordial ancestor of English, the messages could be about Marija’s fate or they may even be clues about Cristina’s attacker. If she can’t crack their code, he could try to kill her again. Nice!

 

Set in contemporary, war-time Ukraine, DICTIONARY OF THE MOTHER TONGUE is an 82,000-word literary mystery. A galloping journey from the Stone Age to the Digital Age, it explores love and loss, trauma and recovery, identity and language -- against a backdrop of rigorously researched archeology, cybersecurity and linguistics. Horse farts and an ornery cat also play leading roles in this page-turner sure to please readers of The Sympathizer, Comp 2 and Comp 3.

 

Sweet query! It's quirky, concise and loaded with voice. I also have a good sense of the conflict and stakes. I think you're almost there -- just clarify some of these little confusions.



#16 fernet

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Posted 17 July 2017 - 06:28 PM

I think dogsbody has a lot of good points.

 

The potential hacker romance sounds like a secondary plot thread, something you could just leave out of the query.

 

Marija's disappearance and the crazy extinct language emails sound like the most important incidents that move the story along -- but I could be wrong about that. I'm having trouble sussing out what the connections between events are, though the different pieces all sound compelling to me.

 

How much time passes between the disappearance of her friend and the mysterious emails? I kind of want the emails to come early in the query, because they're cool, but it sounds like they actually come later in the story.

 

Could you do something where you start there, like...

 

- Cristina is doing her hiding-out-at-home horse chat room thing and then she gets creepy emails in extinct language

- she's got to crack the code because maybe

- the emails could help her find her missing friend [brief missing friend backstory]

- or provide a clue about her attacker [brief attack/husband backstory]

(actually now that I think about it this seems implausible from the info you've given us -- if her husband is just trying to get her out of the way because he has a new girlfriend, why on earth would it involve emails in proto-indo-european? but of course I don't know all the details so maybe it makes sense.)

- something something race against time further explanation of stakes?

 

Obviously the above sketch leaves some things (all things) to be desired, but I'm just trying to play around with possible query structures. Will keep thinking about it.



#17 dizzywriter

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Posted 17 July 2017 - 09:25 PM

Thank you all for the awesome input. Here's another version. I didn't edit the details. Wondering more about the story line and being on the right track:

 

Archeologist Cristina Smythe doesn’t want to divorce her war-hero Ukrainian husband, Maxim. But she also doesn’t want to die -- a terrifying possibility after a stranger bludgeons her with a cinder block. Maxim must have ordered it so he could marry his underage slut with that new baby. He’s too powerful in Kiev politics for the police to target and the perpetrator is still out there. Afraid of leaving her apartment, she escapes her traumas – and earns extra cash for divorce detectives -- working as a moderator on an internet forum about horses.

 

 

Her online friend Marija’s groundbreaking discovery of a prehistoric horsemen’s grave in China offers welcome distraction. But when anti-government protesters claim ancient rights to the graves, Marija vanishes from the forum and the other users’ virtual panic forces a skeptical Cristina to investigate, though she knows more about show jumping than cyber sleuthing. But when she uncovers Marija’s claims that could threatens Cristina’s own research on the origins of horseback riding, she must find the real person behind Marija’s online persona.

 

Then, cryptic emails appear in Cristina’s moderator inbox. Though she is always anonymous in that role, the sender knows her identity. Written in Proto-Indo-European, the extinct language of the first horsemen and primordial ancestor of English, the emails could be from Marija or maybe even clues about Cristina’s attacker. If she can’t crack their code, he could try to kill her again. 

   

Set in contemporary, war-time Ukraine, DICTIONARY OF THE MOTHER TONGUE is an 82,000-word literary mystery. A galloping journey from the Stone Age to the Digital Age, it explores love and loss, trauma and recovery, identity and language -- against a backdrop of rigorous scientific and linguistic research. Horse farts and an ornery cat also play leading roles in this page-turner sure to please readers of The Sympathizer, Comp 2 and Comp 3.. 



#18 dizzywriter

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Posted 18 July 2017 - 02:16 PM

I tweaked it some more. I will return critiques if you post the link to yours.

 

Archeologist Cristina Smythe doesn’t want to divorce her war-hero Ukrainian husband, Maxim. But she also doesn’t want to die -- a terrifying prospect after a stranger tries to bludgeons her to death with a cinder block. Maxim must have ordered it. He needs to marry his slut with that new baby. He’s also too powerful for the police to target. Afraid of leaving her apartment, Cristina escapes her traumas – and earns extra cash for divorce detectives -- working as a moderator on an internet forum about horses.

 

Her online friend Marija’s groundbreaking discovery of a prehistoric horsemen’s grave in China offers welcome distraction -- until anti-government protesters claim ancient rights to the graves and Marija vanishes from the forum. The other users’ virtual panic forces a skeptical Cristina to investigate, though she knows more about show jumping than cyber sleuthing. But when she uncovers Marija making claims that challenge Cristina’s own research on the origins of horseback riding, she must find the real person behind Marija’s online persona.

 

Then, cryptic emails appear in Cristina’s moderator inbox. Though she is always anonymous in that role, the sender knows her identity. Written in Proto-Indo-European, the extinct language of the first horsemen and primordial ancestor of English, the emails could be about Marija or maybe even clues about Cristina’s attacker. If she can’t crack their code, he could try to kill her again.    

 

Set in contemporary, war-time Ukraine, DICTIONARY OF THE MOTHER TONGUE is an 82,000-word literary mystery. A galloping journey from the Stone Age to the Digital Age, it explores love and loss, trauma and recovery, identity and language -- against a backdrop of rigorous scientific and linguistic research. Horse farts and an ornery cat also play leading roles in this page-turner sure to please readers of The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen, James Rollins’ The Bone Labyrinth and Elizabeth Peters’ archeology mysteries.



#19 Springfield

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Posted 18 July 2017 - 10:41 PM

I tweaked it some more. I will return critiques if you post the link to yours.

 

Archeologist Cristina Smythe doesn’t want to divorce her war-hero Ukrainian husband, Maxim. If you say war hero I want to know what war and where and when we are. But she also doesn’t want to die -- a terrifying prospect after a stranger tries to bludgeons her to death with a cinder block. Whoa, there's a lot in here two sentences in. Maxim must have ordered it. He needs to marry his slut with that new baby. What is happening? This feels all over the place, and kind of packed with details that seem irrelevant. He’s also too powerful for the police to target. Why? I still don't know where we are, and all of this is beginning to feel like backstory. Afraid of leaving her apartment, Cristina escapes her traumas – and earns extra cash for divorce detectives -- working as a moderator on an internet forum about horses.

 

 

Her online friend Marija’s groundbreaking discovery of a prehistoric horsemen’s grave in China So many details. offers welcome distraction -- until anti-government protesters claim ancient rights to the graves and Marija vanishes from the forum. The other users’ virtual panic forces a skeptical Cristina to investigate, though she knows more about show jumping than cyber sleuthing. But when she uncovers Marija making claims that challenge Cristina’s own research on the origins of horseback riding, she must find the real person behind Marija’s online persona. This whole paragraph feels like it's from a different book than the first. 

 

Then, cryptic emails appear in Cristina’s moderator inbox. Though she is always anonymous in that role, the sender knows her identity. Written in Proto-Indo-European, the extinct language of the first horsemen and primordial ancestor of English, the emails could be about Marija or maybe even clues about Cristina’s attacker. If she can’t crack their code, he could try to kill her again.    I think this is actually where your query starts. 

 

Set in contemporary, war-time Ukraine, That'd have been helpful up top. DICTIONARY OF THE MOTHER TONGUE is an 82,000-word literary mystery. I'm not getting literary from the query at all, fwiw. Is the query reflective of the mss?A galloping journey from the Stone Age to the Digital Age, it explores love and loss, trauma and recovery, identity and language -- against a backdrop of rigorous scientific and linguistic research. Horse farts and an ornery cat also play leading roles in this page-turner sure to please readers of The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen, James Rollins’ The Bone Labyrinth and Elizabeth Peters’ archeology mysteries.

 

As above, I think you've got way too much in here, and most of it seems like backstory. It's tons of details that don't matter.



#20 jaustail

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Posted 19 July 2017 - 03:20 AM

JMO:

 

 

Archeologist Cristina Smythe doesn’t want to divorce her war-hero Ukrainian husband, Maxim. But she also doesn’t want to die -- a terrifying prospect after a stranger tries to bludgeons(bludgeon) her to death with a cinder block. Maxim must have ordered it. He needs to marry his slut(why can't he order goons to kill the girlfriend?) with that new baby. He’s also too powerful for the police(how? is he in mafia now? I'm not sure about Ukraine laws so don't know how celebrated war heroes are) to target. Afraid of leaving her apartment, Cristina escapes her traumas(why does she not want to divorce such a guy?) – and earns extra cash for divorce detectives -- working as a moderator on an internet forum about horses.

 

(I don't think the war-hero part is needed. Just use one sentence to mention the above paragraph. To get extra money Cristina works as a moderator on internet forum about horses.)

 

Her online friend Marija’s groundbreaking discovery of a prehistoric horsemen’s grave in China offers welcome distraction -- until anti-government protesters claim ancient rights to the graves and Marija vanishes from the forum. The other users’ virtual panic forces a skeptical Cristina to investigate, though she knows more about show jumping than cyber sleuthing. But when she uncovers Marija making claims that challenge Cristina’s own research on the origins of horseback riding, she must find the real person behind Marija’s online persona.

 

Then, cryptic emails appear in Cristina’s moderator inbox. Though she is always anonymous in that role, the sender knows her identity(why does she think this? did the sender give proof about her husband's crimes? did the sender give proof about her own secrets?). Written in Proto-Indo-European, the extinct language of the first horsemen and primordial ancestor of English(I don't think this is needed. Describe content of emails more than how the emails are written. JMO), the emails could be about Marija or maybe even clues about Cristina’s attacker. If she can’t crack their code, he could try to kill her again.    

 

Set in contemporary, war-time Ukraine, DICTIONARY OF THE MOTHER TONGUE is an 82,000-word literary mystery. A galloping journey from the Stone Age to the Digital Age, it explores love and loss, trauma and recovery, identity and language -- against a backdrop of rigorous scientific and linguistic research. Horse farts and an ornery cat also play leading roles in this page-turner sure to please readers of The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen, James Rollins’ The Bone Labyrinth and Elizabeth Peters’ archeology mysteries.

 

 

The internet forum is good relevance to modern times but I felt detached. I don't think the stakes are that high.

 

Hope this helps.

The link to my query is in my signature. I'd be grateful  if you went through it. Thanks.


JUPITER'S AMBITION, MIDDLE GRADE

Revised on Post#80

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