Query Feedback: The Watchman

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Query for The Watchman by Micki B.


Original:

Dear XX,

Never one to run from a fight, off-duty Santa Barbara Police Officer Claire Hartman joins the fray when she spots an officer in a roadside tussle. When the officer flees the scene in his undercover car, she realizes the real crook is not the terrified woman in cuffs.

Investigating outside her jurisdiction, Claire becomes convinced that a police impersonator is assaulting women unlikely to trust police. Confounded by bureaucratic obstacles, she uncovers one man’s crusade as the Watchman, a vigilante with a twisted sense of justice and a growing infatuation for her.

The Watchman’s goal is simple: Safeguard the community from the illegal immigrants who are crippling the government with their demands on society. His intentions don’t mesh with his actions, however, and his focus on pretty Latinas points to a more personal motivation.

Claire’s goal is equally clear: Find the Watchman, throw his ass in jail. This is complicated by the other men in her life: the repentant father who deserted her as a child, the fiancé who wants to protect her from danger, and the partner who understands her drive to solve the case but has his own agenda.

As Claire closes in on the Watchman’s identity, he starts murdering the witnesses to his crimes, making Claire wonder if her investigation precipitated their deaths. Racing to save the woman she once helped arrest, Claire finds herself the Watchman’s newest target.

What’s it mean that the only man she feels capable of dealing with is the guy who wants her dead?

THE WATCHMAN, is complete at 87,000 words. Claire will appeal to readers who like Lisa Gardner’s Detective D.D.Warren, another heroine with grit, gumption and an unwavering sense of justice.

I was a police officer for 22 years and rose through the ranks to Captain. I am a member of the Florida Writers’ Association and Sisters in Crime.

Thank you for your time and attention.

Personal Contact Info


Lorin's Feedback:

Dear XX,

Never one to run from a fight, off-duty Santa Barbara Police Officer Claire Hartman joins dives into the fray when she spots an officer in a roadside tussle. When the officer flees the scene in his undercover car, she realizes the real crook is not the terrified woman in cuffs. [Great. Might reword this sentence to avoid repetition of “when she spots/When the officer” phrasing.]

Investigating outside her jurisdiction, Claire becomes convinced that a police impersonator is assaulting women unlikely to trust police. [This feels a little vague and paradoxical, though I get its meaning. Might you sharpen the focus to something to do with ethnicity or something to do with the particular region in which these assaults are taking place?] Confounded Hampered by bureaucratic obstacles, she uncovers manages to uncover one man’s crusade as the Watchman, a vigilante with a twisted sense of justice and a growing infatuation for with her.


The Watchman’s goal is simple becomes clear: Safeguard the community from the illegal immigrants who are crippling the government with their demands on society. His intentions don’t mesh with his actions, however, and his focus on pretty Latinas points to a more personal motivation.

Claire’s goal is equally clear: Find the Watchman, throw his ass in jail. This is complicated by the other men in her life: the repentant father who deserted her as a child, the fiancé who wants to protect her from danger, and the partner who understands her drive to solve the case but has his own agenda. [Really nicely summarized; sharp writing throughout.]

As Claire closes in on the Watchman’s identity, he starts murdering the witnesses to his crimes, making Claire wonder if her investigation precipitated their deaths. [I wonder about this. If he has assaulted these women and left them alive, wouldn’t they all have gotten a look at his face? Even without Claire’s investigating, don’t they all represent a possible threat of exposure?] Racing to save the woman she once helped arrest, Claire finds herself the Watchman’s newest target.

What’s it mean that the only man she feels capable of dealing with is the guy who wants her dead? [Really great]

THE WATCHMAN, is complete at 87,000 words. Claire will appeal to readers who like Lisa Gardner’s Detective D.D.Warren, another heroine with grit, gumption and an unwavering sense of justice. [Perfectly expressed market comparison.]

I was a police officer for 22 twenty-two years and rose through the ranks to Captain. I am a member of the Florida Writers’ Association and Sisters in Crime. [Great]

Thank you for your time and attention.

Personal Contact Info


Thanks so much for sharing your query, Micki!  

All in all, this is really solid! The story is expressed lucidly and with a potent sense of the novel’s voice—something that can be tough to do. You’ve hit all of the major query touchstones, moving us deftly through the story’s setting and genre, giving us a sense of your protagonist’s and antagonist’s agendas, raising the stakes, and weaving in a pinch of subplot, as well. A tall order, and you’ve handled it masterfully.

This is probably an issue for the novel more than for the query (though it would be reflected here), but I wonder if there’s some potential for greater escalation in the story.

Obviously, the personal stakes have grown in depth/intensity, but could the public stakes as well? Is it possible the Watchman might plan some larger, more public action as an extension of his “philosophy” and growing obsession? Feels as though we could use the promise of a potent setpiece scene to really add a kick here at the end.

My concern is that without that promise, these elements may feel a bit too familiar and may cast your novel into the ranks of standard police procedural. So, it possible to offer something larger and more surprising to wake up the oversaturated psyches of the agents or editors reviewing this piece?

Lastly, I wonder if you could thread in a line that helps us understand how this investigation pushes Claire past her usual psychological and emotional limits. Clearly, becoming the intended victim of the murderer would tend to do that, but presumably she’s been in some kind of mortal danger before. So, how does THIS case test her emotional reserve? How does it ask her to go to places in her psyche she’s been unwilling to go? What does this case ask of her that she’s not sure she CAN ask of herself?

Explore that just a bit and then, of course, relate it in a pithy line somewhere. Another tall order, I know.

Really, really great, though, Micki. I don’t doubt that as-is you’d likely find some interest in the novel. As always, though, I want that to be PASSIONATE interest so that your work finds the champion it deserves.

All best, and thanks again!

-- Lorin