Posted On March 5, 2012 by Print This Post

C.J. Redwine Tackles This Month’s Query Letter

Good morning, RU! Welcome to this month’s edition of C.J. Redwine‘s query letter critique. A big thank you to Susan Taylor for providing her query letter. We really appreciate it.

Dear (Salutation and agent’s name),

I am seeking representation for a single title contemporary romance manuscript completed at 103,200 words set in Washington D.C. (You need to look up acceptable word counts in your genre. This is too high and may immediately stop an agent from requesting.)

A woman who cannot trust. A man who seeks her love. A desire stronger than tempered steel.

Lieutenant Brenda Piedra exerts a rigid control (On what?) to level the playing field of life and love. Working beside Marc Gallini, Brenda is aware of the physical attraction developing between herself and the gorgeous CEO. She falls but just for one night of unstoppable passion. . (Delete extra period) She won’t be swayed (Need a sentence before this to show what he wants that she refuses to give.) by sweet words, (Delete comma and use “or”) pretty trinkets, never mind about (“Never mind about” doesn’t quite match the rest of the sentence. Maybe “never mind the promises of”? Otherwise, you’re essentially saying she won’t be swayed by sweet words, pretty trinkets, or an egotistic playboy, but most readers wouldn’t equate egotistic playboy as something that would sway a woman.) an egotistic playboy. Brenda safeguards her heart and flees rather than trust a man with a rule-breaking lifestyle. (For this to really work, we need to understand that Marc is a rule breaker and that this terrifies Brenda. You can accomplish this when you introduce him.)

Dangerously attractive military subcontractor, Marc is infamous for getting the job done at any expense. Avoiding love and commitment, he builds an international tech business through willpower and grit. Having sacrificed for most of his life, he succumbs to Brenda Piedra at first sight. Unable to think about anything else, he’ll have what he desires and will stop at nothing until Brenda is by his side.

Brenda and Marc are haunted by a passion that posses (possesses) their body and soul. Brenda tries to forget what her heart desires and agrees to marry a man who would rather seek fulfillment elsewhere. (Why would Brenda do this? You haven’t established a reason for Brenda’s trust issues and why Marc really rings those trust issue bells. That needs to be established early on or this choice will look like a plot device instead of a natural outcome of a character’s inner motivation.) Only when Brenda is threatened with scandal and blackmail, are her eyes opened to true love.

I am a member of Romance Writers of America. I currently write environmental reports and blog about yoga for writers.

Would you be interested in reading my work? I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you for your time.
You’re pretty close to a final draft! Just a few more layers and you’ll be there. Best of luck to you with this! 🙂

Susan Taylor


Thanks, C.J.! Susan, thanks again and please keep us posted on your submission process.

Please stop back on Wednesday to hear Allie Pleiter’s journey to becoming a branded author.


C.J. Redwine is an author of young adult novels and an experienced teacher. After teaching high school for several years, she turned her love of using innovative teaching strategies to the publishing field and began creating materials designed to equip writers with the skills necessary to succeed. Her book QUERY: How to get started, get noticed, and get signed is available now for Kindle and Nook. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee with her husband, four kids, two cats, and one long-suffering dog. To learn more about C.J., visit her website:

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12 Responses to “C.J. Redwine Tackles This Month’s Query Letter”

  1. I don’t think 103K is too high for a single-title romance. Sara Megibow listed 100K as the target in her post on Romance University.

    Posted by Amber | March 5, 2012, 12:50 am
  2. Thanks for another great query C.J. And thank you to Susan for submitting her letter!

    Posted by Adrienne Giordano | March 5, 2012, 7:34 am
  3. Thanks to both CJ and Susan for this month’s query letter critique!


    Posted by Kelsey Browning | March 5, 2012, 9:03 am
  4. Thanks, C.J.!

    I love reading queries! Every time I read a critique of a query I see new ways to tighten up my own. Why is it always easier to see the problems when someone else points them out?

    Posted by Becke Martin/Davis | March 5, 2012, 9:21 am
  5. Morning C.J. and Susan!

    Great query! I’m really hoping the new updates work out for you Susan! =) And C.J., great stuff as always! =)


    Posted by Carrie Spencer | March 5, 2012, 9:45 am
  6. Thanks for the post, Susan and C.J.

    I don’t know if my opinion is worth anything, but here goes. If I were an agent—and thank goodness I’m not—I’d have a problem with the paragraph that starts out “Dangerously attractive”. All four sentences open with the same subordinate-clause structure. It reads pretty awkwardly. Can this paragraph be
    rewritten with more structural variety?

    C.J. indicated the query doesn’t establish why Brenda can’t trust anyone in general and Marc in particular. Frankly, I have a problem seeing why these two would go for each other in the first place. Obviously a brief pitch isn’t the place to delve deeply into motivation. But can we get at least an inkling of what draws the focal characters together?

    The first sentence in the synopsis section states that Brenda is a lieutenant. In the DC police force? The military? Which branch? I can’t help but wonder about these specifics, as they’re bound to influence the character and therefore the plot.

    Also, when I query an agent, I try to include information about myself that’s relevant to my work as a writer, especially (if possible) concerning the particular manuscript I’m submitting and the genre I’m working in. The agent who receives this query might appreciate some information like this.

    For example, do you, Susan, have any experience in Brenda’s line of work? Have you worked in a company like Marc’s? Have you written published nonfiction about the characters’ professions, or other matters covered in the novel? In addition to your membership in the RWA, what are your activities in the field of romance fiction?

    Hope this helps! Good luck!

    Posted by Mary Anne Landers | March 5, 2012, 9:46 am
  7. Thank you all for the instructive feedback. Yes this was the first touch (draft) of the query which changed more so that our winter weather this year. The evolution so far ended in the query below.

    ———————-Query Draft
    I’m seeking representation for a completed single title erotica romance manuscript, Untold Truth, with a word count of 101,275.

    Brenda Piedra always has her eye on the ball. “Lose focus for an instant, get ready for damage control.” Her motto is the mantra she dreams, eats, and swears under her breath.

    Lieutenant Piedra’s navy training should have screamed take cover when CEO Marc Gallini entered the room. Brenda is drawn to a firecracker chemistry developing with this mysterious businessman. Her attraction is unstoppable on an overseas mission where she falls for one night of unforgettable, unspeakable passion.

    Marc Gallini is definitely the cock on the walk for ruthless practices. The price of side-stepping love and commitment equal a company positioned at the top of the tech world. Yet for all his skill, Marc was unprepared for what lie in wait during a business meeting at the Pentagon. At first sight, he fell hard in a hit-your-teeth-type-of-fall for Brenda. Marc refuses to let her go after one night in his bed and will do whatever it takes to win her love.

    Brenda flees temptation rather than trust her heart a rule-breaking man. She forges ahead with a plan to forget their reckless desire once and for all when she elected to Congress. Blinded by long hours and her dream of climbing to top, Brenda sets the date for her marriage to D.C. attorney, Alex Bernard. Amid secrets, scandal, and greed, Marc learns the truth unlocking Brenda’s heart to true love while the stopping a vengeance seeking blackmailer.

    Currently, I write environmental reports for a Tennessee engineering firm and blog about yoga for writers. Professional memberships include RWA, Music City Romance Writers, and Yoga Alliance as an RYT-200.

    I appreciate your time and look forward to hearing from you.

    At this moment, Theresa Stevens is helping me rewrite this version as well as my synopsis.
    Again, much appreciation for all feedback.

    Posted by Susan Taylor | March 5, 2012, 10:52 am
  8. Susan: Yes, this latest version of your query would be more likely to appeal to an agent. But, if I might nitpick:

    “. . . she elected to Congress.” You mean ” . . . she is elected to Congress”, right? And this bit blindsided me. Before this there’s no hint in either version of the query that Brenda has political aspirations, let alone that she’s acting on them.

    There are a few grammatical errors and stylistic awkwardnesses I could line-edit. For example, describing the hero as “the cock on the walk”. If this epithet appeared in a Facebook post, I’d comment “LOL!” and “like” it. But it’s out of place in a business communication, such as a query letter.

    Anyhow, my biggest concern is the fact that I still can’t see why Brenda and Marc fall for each other. Or for that matter, why she’d agree to marry another man, one she doesn’t love, when she can’t even sustain an affair with one she does.

    To tell the truth, I have a hard time seeing why lots of romance-fiction heroes and heroines are attracted to each other. But that’s another rant.

    Good luck!

    Posted by Mary Anne Landers | March 5, 2012, 11:17 am
  9. Susan,

    I really like this…Her motto is the mantra she dreams, eats, and swears under her breath.

    Thanks for being our guinea pig today! We always learn something from C.J.’s tips.

    Best of luck with your querying process!

    Posted by Jennifer Tanner | March 5, 2012, 3:26 pm

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