Posted On May 7, 2012 by Print This Post

C.J. Redwine’s Monthly Column

C.J. Redwine is back to critique a reader submitted query. Let’s get right to it!

Dear Ms. “Editor”,

Marc’s Rock is a finished, 70K word, Mystery Romance. Take out the commas and use lower case for the genre. Romantic suspense might be the genre you’re going for here?

Carly James is running from her past and headed in a direct path that collides with her future.  What she has failed to see, is that her future is in the hands of Marc, the lead singer for an up and coming rock band.  We need to care about Carly and feel a connection with her. Give us who she is in a nutshell. “Carly James—__insert three adjectives or nouns that describe her__–is running from her past.” We don’t need “and headed in a direct path…” because no matter who we are, our pasts are bound to collide with our futures so that loses impact. You don’t need a comma after “see.” We need to connect with her, know that she’s running, and we need to understand what her agenda is—one sentence telling us her goal so that we can understand how Marc wasn’t part of the plan.

Marc Sanders has finally achieved his dream and is well on the way to becoming a successful rock band singer.  Suffering from a recent heartbreak; Marc fights with himself to lead his band and struggles with new lyrics. Use a comma instead of a semi colon after heartbreak. Why does the heartbreak cause him to fight with himself and struggle with new lyrics? Go deeper. And once we understand his struggle, tell us his agenda before Carly messes it up. J

After coming along on Carly’s vehicle – which is stranded in the middle of Death Valley – Marc and his band take Carly in while they continue on their tour across North America. Marc is running from a broken heart, while Carly is running from the law. Your last sentence is great!! Way to sum up each character’s reasons for running. Your first sentence needs some trimming. Say this in the simplest way possible. And then give us a sentence letting us know WHY Marc and his band would decide to do something as outlandish as take in a stranded motorist for the remainder of their tour. We need motivation and believable reasons here.

The chemistry between Carly and Marc is almost immediate; however, both have hidden secrets, some larger than the other.  Can they open their hearts to one another? Or will the law finally catch up with them and ruin any chance of a happily ever after? I suggest cutting “some larger than the other.” I think we need to know in paragraph one what Carly did to get the law after her. You don’t have to go into details, but maybe when you give us words to describe her, one of those can be “thief” or “murderer” or whatever it is she did. Good job summarizing the things that stand in the way of their happiness!

I am a member of the Romance Writers of America and the Liberty States Fiction Writers.  I have spent the past twelve years serving in the Air Force and (am) now investigating crimes in the financial world.  Throughout it all, I have been an avid reader and writer, often bringing the stories in my head, (delete comma) to life on paper.

If you are interested, I will gladly send you the entire manuscript.  I hope you will consider me for your list (comma) and I look forward to hearing from you.

Deserie Comfort

Thank you for sharing your query letter! I really love the idea of a girl running from the law and a boy running from a broken heart who are destined to meet. Sounds like so much fun! I think once you bring your characters to life a bit more and get rid of the proofreading/punctuation errors, you’ll have a much stronger query on your hands. Best of luck to you with this!


Readers, what questions do you have for C.J. regarding queries? We’d love to hear from you.

Thank you to Deserie for submitting to Query Writing 101. We appreciate you allowing us to use your work.

Stop by Wednesday when Voice over artist Cris Dukehart will share insider secrets with us – how finding a unique narration voice for each character is critical. She will also give away a CD set of Shiloh Walker’s If You Hear Her, the first in Walker’s romantic suspense Ash Trilogy!


Bio: 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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10 Responses to “C.J. Redwine’s Monthly Column”

  1. Thanks for another great critique C.J.

    And a special thanks to our reader for submitting!

    Posted by AdrienneGiordano | May 7, 2012, 6:29 am
  2. Thank you C.J! I love the suggestions and you’ve helped immensely. The way you broke it down definitely helped with me understanding how query letters are supposed to work.
    Thanks again!

    Posted by Deserie Comfort | May 7, 2012, 7:11 am
  3. Great job C.J.! and Desirie, thanks for posting your work here at RU! We learn great things every time!


    Posted by Carrie Spencer | May 7, 2012, 7:40 am
  4. Deserie – Thanks so much for sharing your query with us!

    C.J. – Thanks for the helpful critique!

    Posted by Becke Martin/Davis | May 7, 2012, 8:15 am
  5. C.J. – Anytime I start to write a new query, I always come back and look at all your query critiques. Thanks so much for being such a fabulous RU columnist!


    Posted by Kelsey Browning | May 7, 2012, 8:35 am
  6. Hi C J,

    How much personal information should be in a query letter? Like Deserie, I included writing groups. I was told by one person I needed permission to use the names of the groups. Is this new?

    Mary Jo

    Deserie, great letter!!

    Posted by Mary Jo Burke | May 7, 2012, 8:37 am
    • You don’t need permission to list the names of the writing groups you have a memebership with. You don’t need a ton of personal information unless you’ve been published before, you’re querying non-fic and need to prove you have a platform and credentials, or unless you have significant contest finals/wins. Remember, no matter how much or how little personal information you include, it is the HOOK that sells an agent on your story. 🙂

      Posted by C.J. Redwine | May 8, 2012, 6:28 am
  7. Mary Jo stole my question!

    But, as always, I’m filing this post away for the future.

    Posted by Robin Covington | May 7, 2012, 11:11 am

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