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A blog about why you don't get published. You can also order Evil Editor's books, Why You Don't Get Published, which collects many of the funniest Q & A's along with hilarious excerpts from the Face-Lifts, and Novel Deviations, which collects the best of the New Beginnings.
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1. Tomboy Gena has always struggled with identity issues, but now he's certain to cause a stir after gender-reassignment. How will folks react when Geno is...Just One of the Boys?
2. Foundation: Check. Mascara: Check. Corset: Check. Fishnets: Check. And--oh yeah, chihuahua in the purse. Yep, Mike's ready for a night with the boys.
3. Kate's best friend Meredith blabs Kate's secrets to the cool girls, so Kate starts hanging out with the boys. Then the cool girls discover boys and want to use Kate as an in to the boys' group. Now Kate must decide: use this opportunity to become one of the girls, or remain . . . just one of the boys.
4. When Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday and Bat Masterson ride into the little town of Misery in search of a killer, 16 year old Belle is desperate to join them. Will cutting her hair, wearing her Pa's clothes and carrying a gun convince them that she's-- just one of the boys?
5. A lonely housewife disguises herself as an overweight, obnoxious executive in order to spend more time with her husband at the office. But what secrets will she uncover when her husband thinks she's...Just One of the Boys?
6. When a dragon wakes from his thousand-year nap, he finds a boarding school built over his lair. Roaming the dorms for sustenance, he discovers a deep love for the works of Goethe and an allergy to tweed.
7. Fifteen-year-old Patricia is a horse-loving tomboy. Her twin brother Patrick loves playing piano. When their parents head to Tuscany for the summer, the twins swap plans. He goes to Piano Camp in NYC. She goes to Boy Scout Horse Camp in Wyoming. Does she know Horse Camp has a communal shower room?
8. Psychologist Mandy Smith thinks she knows every manipulative, narcissistic trick used by patients to deceive therapists. Until she starts counseling a Sex Addicts Anonymous group. To better understand her new clients, Mandy hits the bar scene, undercover and transgender.
9. Philippa's always acted like one of the boys alongside her 9 brothers. But when she decides to get in touch with her feminine side, can she grow out her crew cut in time for the junior prom?
Dear Evil Editor/ Agent,
I’d like you to consider my tween romance, Just One of the Boys.
Fourteen year old Kate’s so-called best friend Meredith has just blabbed all of her secrets to the cool girls, in hopes of joining their group. [Welcome to our clique. We've been wanting to add a new member, preferably one who blabs her friends' secrets.] [I'd get rid of "so-called" and just put quotation marks around "best friend."] [Also, could readers think Meredith blabbed her own secrets rather than Kate's secrets? Probably not, though technically, you'd write the sentence the same if it were Meredith's secrets, so maybe you should say "Kate's secrets."] Devastated that their friendship seems to be so cheap, Kate instead reconnects with her childhood friend, Aaron, and hangs with him and his buddies instead. [Neither "instead" is needed.]
She doesn’t mind talking football and cars, [Do boys care about cars before they're old enough to drive?] and actually enjoys jamming heavy metal riffs with them. But she has to dress down in order for them to stop trying for her attention. [Not clear what that means, partly because what 14-year-old doesn't want attention?] She gradually gets to know the brooding Brandon, whose home life is terrible, and finds herself falling for him. But he sees her as ‘one of the boys’. Together, they write a song for a competition, and Kate uses the lyrics to express her feelings for him. He loves the song and reveals that he will dedicate it to Meredith, whom he loves from afar. [Kate's mistake was calling the song "Meredith My Love." If she'd named it "Eleanor My Love, no prob. Or she could have put the names Brandon and Kate in the lyrics a la "Jack and Diane," "Frankie and Johnnie," "The Ballad of Bonnie and Clyde."]
Kate needs to figure how to get him to believe exactly how mean Meredith really is. [Without just telling him?] In the meantime, the cool girls (including Meredith) start to be nice to her – probably to get to know the boys. Her impulse is to ignore them, but it gives her an opportunity to stop being one of the boys, even though she really prefers their company. [So what's her dilemma? Sounds like she can just keep hanging with the boys or she can become a cool girl and still hang with the boys, since the cool girls apparently want to hang with the boys. Do both sides of the decision have a major disadvantage?]
This is a story about being yourself, even when the consequences are hard; [I missed that part. Kate's only hard consequence was losing a friendship with someone who wasn't much of a friend anyway. But that wasn't a consequence of being herself; it was a consequence of Meredith being mean.] [Actually, it's a story about how boys make better friends than girls, but don't mention that, as girls are your audience.] about fitting-in and friendship and loyalty and about identity in the ever-changing world of the adolescent.
My contact details are as follows.......
This is pretty wordy. The fewer words you use to make a point, the more room you have to provide additional information.
It's also mainly setup.If you can squeeze the setup into one paragraph, something like:
When 14-year-old Kate is betrayed by her best friend Meredith, she starts hanging out with her childhood friend Aaron and his buddies. She gets to know Brandon, and together they write a song for a contest. The problem: Kate's lyrics express her romantic feelings for Brandon, but he wants to dedicate the song to his secret crush . . . Meredith!
. . . you'll have plenty of room to tell us how Kate attempts to win Brandon over, what goes wrong, what brings the whole situation to a boil.
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The lull in query submissions slogs into yet another week, like the war in Afghanistan on steroids. Below is a revised query; the original is here.
Seventeen year old Gwyn has been playing the part of human for so long, she has denied who and what she really is, an immortal gryphon, but with immortality comes responsibility, a predestined guardianship that will consume her like fire.
Gwyn is absorbed by her love Nolan, a dhampir who's troubled family life has destructive effects on their relationship. Distractions begin to bombard her from all angles when her life is filled with strangers who all seem to know something she does not. One of these strangers has an uncanny interest in Gwyn's necklace, trying to steal it. Her new neighbor, Brandt, has an uncanny interest in herself. Gwyn's frustrations and confusion crescendos until she finds out her guardianship is to begin, decades before any other gryphon in history.
Every five hundred years the Phoenix is reborn, a new body, a new soul, and in need of a new guardian. Gwyn has obsessed over her red opal necklace, a strange gem she received from her parents on her sixteenth birthday. She never suspected it was the actual egg from which the Phoenix would hatch.
Gwyn's focus must pin point to deciding to accept her guardianship or allowing another to have her destiny, leaving Gwyn an aimless future. For the first time, Gwyn does not have the luxury of time because in an innocent attempt to prove her love to Nolan, she gave him her precious necklace. Now the Phoenix is in the household of an evil vampire. As an egg, the Phoenix is vulnerable to true death. True death will begin an unending solar eclipse, allowing vampires to hunt day and night. Gwyn must save the Phoenix before she even accepts her guardianship, or she will not have a chance to decide because the chaos of the night will engulf the world.
Guardian of the Phoenix is complete at 59,000 words and fits into the Paranormal Young Adult genre. Thank you for your time. I have a full manuscript available should you be interested. This novel can stand alone, but has potential to become a series. I am currently working on the second novel which features a new main character.
1. A minister, a priest and a rabbi walk into a bar. Hilarity ensues.
2. Geraldo Rivera refuses to give up his obsessive quest to expose The Pope and Osama Bin Laden as Friday night drinking buddies.
3. In the year 2017, amid an ongoing world war between Christians, Jews, and Muslims, Athiests unite in a fourth political bloc which is quickly labeled as "godless" by the other three.
4. Nik has a highly enhanced sense of smell, but will that help him when the Archpriest of the Church of Vordis contracts to have him killed?
5. Father Michael O'Malley learns what defrocking is all about with Sister Perpetua out behind the sacristy.
6. Portia Peebles' 1984 Renault Alliance, 'Chuck', is possessed by the Devil. Will a conjugal visit with Stephen King's 'Christine' put him back on the road?
Dear Evil Editor:
Seventeen-year-old Nik is a thief blessed with an almost magical sense of smell. Abandoned by his mother as an infant, he is raised by a society of thieves, the only family he's ever known. After a theft gone wrong, Nik is barred from his home, desperately trying to steal enough to re-enter the society’s good graces. [I see where this is going already: he gives up his life of lawlessness and becomes a superhero, sniffing out criminals as . . . The Proboscis! Muzzle Man? Schnozzola? Captain Olfactory? Wait, I've got it: Odor Eater!] But his crèche brothers, jealous of his abilities, do everything they can to prevent his return. [Jealous of his abilities? His abilities are a curse! Who wants to live in a community house with a bunch of reeking thieves when you have a nose like an anteater's? The guy on the other side of the room farts, and it's like the wind just shifted your way from the hog farm next door.]
As the days go by with little success, [In my experience, days always succeed in going by.] Nik takes a gamble. Ignoring the warning of his senses, he steals a large sack of gold from a temple guard. The guard, disguised as a courier, is delivering the payment for a political assassination ordered by the Archpriest of the Church of Vordis, the most powerful man in Arosa. A damning note enclosed with the gold causes the Archpriest to put a price on Nik's head and suddenly the family he trusted is now trying to kill him. [Fortunately, he can smell them coming from a mile away, for he is . . . The Snout. What kind of costume would The Snout wear? Would he look like a giant nose with legs? A normal guy with a huge beak? Maybe he'd have several elephant trunks emanating from his head in all directions, not real elephant trunks, but scientifically designed trunks that enhance his ability to smell anything in a three mile radius.]
In an effort to unravel the note's meaning and discover why he's been forced into hiding, he enlists the help of Beth, a fifteen-year-old prostitute. [Not the person I would enlist in such a quest, but perhaps he feels she'll be good to have along now and then. It's not easy finding a girlfriend when you've got a half-dozen elephant trunks sticking out of your head.] Together, they unwittingly become involved in an 'Unholy Alliance' between the Archpriest and the leader of an opposing nation intent on invading not only his home city of Lanberg, but the entire country of Arosa. [I highly suggest you change the name from Lanberg, Arosa to Limburger, Aroma, just to maintain the sense of smell theme.] [Also, I'm not sure their involvement should be called unwitting, when they were specifically trying to find out what was going on.] The more Nik tries to extricate himself from danger, the more he becomes involved, pulled in by the lure of discovering his parent’s [parents'] identity and the reason he was abandoned. [What makes him think his parents' identity has anything to do with the current situation?] Soon it seems the fate of the entire country rests upon the shoulders of a thief who’s little more than a boy. [Shoulders? You've totally lost track of your theme. The country's fate rests in Nik's nostrils.]
My 100,000 word fantasy novel, Unholy Alliance, is the first in a trilogy titled, Covenant of Lies. [In book 2, we meet a hero whose sense of taste is so highly developed, he has taste buds on all of his skin. Known as The Tongue, he's quite popular with the ladies.] [Book 3 features Touchy-Feelie, the superhero whose sense of touch is so powerful she screams out in pain whenever dust particles land on her skin. She's no good at fighting crime, but she adds comic relief when she teams up with The Snout and The Tongue.]
I have stories appearing in the anthologies, The Stygian Soul, Chimeraworld #2 and F/SF, as well as the upcoming anthology, A Firestorm of Dragons. I’m also a contributing author for The Complete Guide to Writing Fantasy, and the upcoming, The Complete Guide to Writing Science Fiction, due to be released early 2007, features Piers Anthony and Orson Scott Card among others. Both are Dragon Moon Press publications.
The complete manuscript is available upon request. Thank you for your time and consideration.
Outside of a couple minor points, it reads well. More about the Archpriest's plot and Nik's parents' involvement could replace the prostitute, who doesn't do much of anything in the query. Also, I'm sure the super sniffer comes into play in the book, but it does nothing in the query, so I think I'd leave it out. It sounds a bit silly.
You might want to stick in something about when and where this takes place fairly early so the reader knows what kind of book he's dealing with.
Anonymous said...If Nik's magical sense of smell is central to the story, the you need to bring this out more in the query. As it stands now, it's hardly mentioned, so I'd agree with EE and leave it out entirely.
If you haven't read it already, I suggest you put "Perfume" by Patrick Suskind on your list. Incredible story based on a similar premise (or maybe not so similar).
Michele Lee said...My husband has an excellent sense of smell and it is no bit of magic. Sure he can sniff us out in a store, but he also has lots of sinus problems and one not so fresh smelling person nearby can make him unable to eat. I can tell you right now if this is all pro and no con I'm not going to buy it one little bit.
JTC said...This is a good attempt to come up with something original (or at least something that's not beat into plowshares like Dragon Swords). It seems that the more original the idea, the tougher it is to write. I would say don't drop the idea, just listen to the advice you'll get from the minions and keep working on it.
Tiffan said...Short of working as a bomb detector, I honestly can't think of any situation where super-smell would actually be useful. And dogs are probably cheaper.
Dave said...Shostokovich wrote an Opera (yes my dear philistines, a whole Opera) based a short story by Gogol titled NOS (It translates to English as THE NOSE).
It is the story of a man who loses his nose at a barber shop and sets out to find it. He tries to place an ad in a newspaper but is thwarted. Then he goes to the government office where the clerks mock him for losing his nose. He also confronts his girlfriend who merely laughs at him. His nose makes an appearance as a fat man at a RR station just to mock him. In the end, he finds that his nose is back on his face.
The opera has a very famous five minute long percussion interlude (one of the very few solos for percussion)...
JTC said...Dave, You may be thinking of Iron Butterfly's Inna-godda-davida.
whitemouse said...Terry Pratchett has a character in his Small Gods book named Vorbis, who is a murderous Archdeacon. You might consider changing the name of your church, since a lot of people, particularly fantasy fans, read the great Pratchett.
This does sound like a different sort of fantasy, and I'd be intrigued enough to give it a fair shot if I were standing in a book store. Good luck with it!
I know someone who has a well-developed sense of smell. She says there is no up-side to having a super-sensitive schnoz.
shelby said...Okay, the sense of smell thing is just bizarre and I agree with the others that it seems to be more a curse than a gift. Potential jobs: wine taster? Methane detector? I'm just not feeling the love here. Second, why was Nik abandoned? Surely it wasn't for his superior sense of smell--how would someone know he had this until he could talk?
Not a bad idea, but the smell thing just doesn't make any sense.
Michele Acker said...I've read Perfume. Great book! And yes his sense of smell is important, and while it does help in some instances, it also is a major hindrance.
Thanks for the comments.
writtenwyrdd said...EE you outdid yourself in your comments on this one! ROFL!
I'll argue that a strong sense of smell can work in the book. However, I would suggest that the strongest sensory perception will affect the personality. Look at dogs, scent hounds specifically, and how they react to the world. Anything with strong odor, no matter how repulsive to us, is yummy to them. Dogs will roll in a dead deer carcass and be confused when mom and dad get upset and immediately give him a bath.
So...is your character's life affected by being the Odor Eater; and, if so, how?
EE is the expert, so when he says to omit mention of the smell-o-vision power, perhaps do so. Me, though, I think you should leave it in.
Anonymous said..."A damning note enclosed with the gold causes the Archpriest to put a price on Nik's head and suddenly the family he trusted is now trying to kill him." Why is that priest hiring thieves to kill someone? Isn't it better to get a mercenary to do the job? Also, if Nik's such a good thief, then how does the priest know who to kill? If he did it well, no one knows he's the one that has the gold. You better have a good reason to bring in the prostitute. For one, you can be in all sorts of legal trouble with underaged prostitution, but storywise it doesn't make sense. What has she got to offer him to help him in his quest?
barbara said...One of Spider Robinson's sf novels involved people with a super-developed sense of smell. I believe this information was carefully omitted from the back cover copy and the fly-leaf excerpt. Trying to remember the title ... Telempath?
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1. The playboy son of a billionaire is kidnapped, but daddy won't pay up, so the boy convinces his captors to start a ballad-driven soft rock band.
2. She's back! In this, the seventh book of the series, nosy parker Miss Amelia Pettipants is on the trail of Doctor Whatsis as he threatens the entire village of Boring-on-end with his time machine.
3. It can take a long time to raise twenty million dollars. Kidnapper Mitchell Beinhardt knows that. Plus it's really not that hard taking care of Paris Hilton's chihuahua. So he sets a ransom deadline of, like, whenever.
4. In a world where the few who control the time-travel mechanisms known as The Portals hold the power, computer nerd Teren Blanden must travel into the past and kidnap Ian Flass, whose lab accident created the first of The Portals. The future rests in the hands of a geek and the mind of an opportunist.
5. One man escapes the enslavement of the ruthless vigilante sorcerers--but will his soul be the price of vengeance?
6. Calipygia Jackson has been kidnapped seven times, and each time her husband has paid the ransom and gotten her back. But now a pretty widow has moved next door . . . and the ransom note has mysteriously disappeared.
I am seeking representation for my 120,000 word fantasy novel, Forever for Ransom.
The past holds us all to ransom, and for Arithein, the price is steeped in blood. With one word, he permitted magicians to enslave thousands. Thousands - including his son, Orim. Duty now demands he repeat that sin, and condemn innocent and guilty alike to a death without end. [Death without end sounds bad, but unless they come back as a vampire or a zombie, everyone's death is without end.] Treachery comes from within though, and murder by any other name cuts as deep. [I have no idea what you're talking about. It feels like a bunch of phrases that sound okay separately, but have little substance when combined.]
Orim however was never the heir of the man he called father. Torn from himself, [No idea what that phrase means, but it sounds painful.] he escapes into a world he no longer knows. Forbidden magic pulls him to Yara, the one person who possesses both the will to save him and the power to destroy him; the only person more wanted by the magicians than Orim himself.
Confession by confession, Yara leads Orim toward vengeance, against magic, against heaven, and against the man whose betrayal destroyed him. What neither knows is that murder will revive the spell on Orim's head, [Whose murder? What spell?] silencing him forever. [Also known as muteness without end.] Hatred has its weakness though, hidden in the blood that binds Yara to Orim ... father to son. Enemies are closing, faith is dying, and Orim has only one currency left with which to bargain: his soul. [This sounds like the voice-over at the beginning of Lord of the Rings, but with no visuals to ground us, very little concrete plot, and no Cate Blanchett to make it sound ominous and edgy, rather than wildly overdone. It would probably be expensive, but a worthy investment if you could get Ms. Blanchett to produce an audio version of the query, which you could then submit to agents and editors. Two or three takes should do it, which would take her ten minutes. I doubt she'd gouge you for more than half a million if you also throw in a signed copy of the book.] [Audio queries are the next big thing. What editor could resist a query voiced by James Earl Jones or Morgan Freeman or Kristin Chenoweth?] [Or, for that matter, Evil Editor. I did both voices on this film, and either of them would sell a manuscript that normally wouldn't get past a grade-school slush reader:
Call me for pricing.]
My short stories have appeared in FlashSpec Volume 1 and Antipodean SF. Based on a three chapter sample, Forever for Ransom was short-listed for the 2006 Conjure Pitches Competition. I am currently working on the sequel, Paid in Silence. [I was going to reject this until I heard the title of the sequel. I'm now ready to publish this book just so I get first crack at Paid in Silence.]
I would be happy to send a partial and/or synopsis as suits you. I enclose an SASE for your convenience. Thank you for your time.
Yours sincerely, etc.
Either I'm in a drug-induced stupor, or you were when you wrote this. I say scrap it all and start over. Just tell me what happens in the book, and not in the voice of Orim or Arithein or Yara or Cate Blanchett, but as if you were talking to me, at a table in ________ (restaurant chain owners, contact me for pricing on having your company's name placed in the blank).
pacatrue said...Yeah, I was completely lost too. I read it again and got some inklings.
Orim's the main character, right? So let's start with him instead of the dad - or fake dad, or real dad who Orin won't inherit from or something. So then Orim escapes. Let us know why he is escaping or what he is escaping from. Is he working in a coal mine and can't take it anymore? Walking around with sorcery-laden chains? Or does he just feel something isn't right?
So now he is in some world he doesn't know. OK, this is confusing, because we don't know where he was. I'm going to go with him pulling carts through 4 foot coal mine shafts while pregnant. Hey, it's a fantasy novel, so why not. Now he's up in the sunlit world, but he doesn't know what the heck a "bloop" is anymore or how to do the elbow greeting with the cute barmaid.
But some dark magic draws him to someone named Yara. Is Yara going to be a love interest or a 400 year old dark sorcerer with a gray beard? Or a 400 year old gray-bearded love interest? And since we still don't where he was or if he's being chased, we have no idea what it was like to be drawn to Yara. Moreover, we don't know why someone, the bad magicians, want Orim or Yara. I know Orim's the son of someone big, but the world's fate never hung on Roger Clinton (former President's brother) since he didn't do anything. Orim must be a mighty magician as well?
Now, our hottie gray beard Yara convinces Orim he needs vengeance on... someone. On his non-dad, I think. But Orim might have to trade his soul for... his dad? To save Yara? To save the world? To finally get a date with that hot barmaid in chapter 3?
I think you see where I am lost. So my rec is to start with Orim, say what his situation is, say what he escapes to, tell us who helps him, and then explain what he is fighting against. In a cool way. I guess the problem now is that, other than names, this query letter could describe a hundred different novels. It could be a story of the 17 year old farm boy who is annointed by prophecy. It could be a dark urban fantasy with psionic blasters running around and a brooding Highlander sorcerer in a trench coat. I don't know. If the latter, I highly recommend skipping to his model girlfriend in the loft apartment. That's always the good part.
Anonymous said...I'm sorry, but I couldn't follow this at all, and high fantasy is my genre. Just give us the plot without trying to sound mysterious and sage.
I did love "confession by confession", though.
Good luck! It sounds like an interesting plot underneath it all.
Wonderwood said...I'm just glad I wasn't the only one that didn't know what the hell was going on. A lot of dramatic sounding phrases that told me practically nothing about the plot.
"Treachery comes from within though, and murder by any other name cuts as deep." This sounds cool, but I have no idea what it means.
More substance, please.
acd said...It's been too long since we saw any ruthless vigilante sorcerers. On a related note, I may never get tired of reading about the exploits of Miss Amelia Pettipants.
Anonymous said...The tone of the query reminds me greatly of the idea known as (roll of drums here) Purple Prose!!!!
I like the title though. Change the plot to #6 and I'd consider -- well, dunno about reading it, but perhaps skimming the Cliffs notes.
HawkOwl said...Damn. I wanted to read #3. For the real query, I agree with EE: it's just a bunch of big words loosely arranged into sentences. And it sounds so stereotypical of fantasy, I would dread to read the book itself.
writtenwyrdd said...I was hoping it was #4. That was a great hook!
Author, maybe it is just me, but saying you were short listed in a pitch contest might come across like telling an agent or editor he/she is stupid if they don't like your pitch.
Other than that, I can't comment on the plot much, because I am confused. Mr. Evil has commented succinctly on this, and I agree: Scrap this letter.
Also, the 120K word limit might scare off representation, from all I hear. Unless your book is so good they can't put it down, you might want to pare it some.
the basic idea is intersting, but as a matter of personal taste, I generally don't like hate-filled revenge-seeking protagonists. Have you ever read the Ill-Earth Chronicles starring one Thomas Covenant? He's the ultimate anti-hero of the type I refer to. My sort of point being that I don't know that the writing market has too many of these sorts of characters these days.
Nancy said...I read fantasy (and trying to write one), and I agree that I had no idea what was going on here.
Go with what pacatrue and others have said - start with Orim and tell us about the plot. Orim is such-and-such (a wizard or whatever), he escapes from his terrible situation (describe the situation)...you get the idea. Explain why he's drawn to Yara (and who the heck she is, too, so we can keep track).
No doubt you've got a plot to this, but it's not showing itself here (and I know queries are hard!). Get back to the basics without all the big words or the ominous signs or whatever.
Maybe something along the lines of Character A (your main character) is in some sort of trouble, runs away from the situation and into Character B, they take some action(s), and it all ends good (or bad).
jfk said...Sigh. Ruthless vigilante sorcerers. I really left myself open there :)
Yep, I'm going to own up to this. And I take the point: it's all good, except the part with words in. No worries; I'd rather find out now than in a form rejection letter.
Love the GTPs (for one thing, the RVSs alerted me to the fact that I was about to get a much-needed shredding. As soon as I post this, I'm going to go and read Lukeman's chapter on melodrama again).
Orim is the main character, but I have some doubts about how much I should emphasise that in the query, since none of the early chapters are in his POV. Why? Because, much like this query, they would make no sense (I've tried, and I couldn't follow it myself); he has absolutely no memory of anything. So if anyone has any thoughts on this point, I'd really appreciate them.
And seriously, thanks. I had one valuable lesson knocked into me when someone read this story; now I've got another one to add to it :)
P.S. EE, I promise, if I was in a restaurant with you, I'd find something better to talk about than this (paint drying, perhaps). Either that, or I'd share the drugs first.
Anonymous said...I'd suggest simply going back and rewriting a short synopsis in plain English, short sentences, no mangled metaphors (or ANY metaphors for that matter). Plain, declarative, boring instruction-manual English.
THEN you can purple it up a little, but not as much as you have here.
Zombie Deathfish said...This was very confusing. I had no idea who the characters were or what they were doing - everything seemed very vague and unrelated. You need to put in some hard details about what happens and to who (or whom) rather than offer us a rambling, distant overview.
Anonymous said...To be honest, you come across as so in love with your own deep, meaningful phrases and metaphors (purple prose indeed) that you've pretty much forgotten to describe the story. The query is where you wow them with the substance of your idea, not your poetic way with words--that's what the partial/full is for. Although really, if I picked it up in the store and saw phrasing like this, I'd put it right back down. Writing like this makes me roll my eyes.
Also, "Hatred has its weakness though, hidden in the blood that binds Yara to Orim ... father to son." does this mean that Yara is actually Orim's father and not that other guy? Very confusing.
pacatrue said...jfk, if the A-named dad is important, maybe you could try focusing the query on Orim and him. So, tell us what A guy did and it's impact on Orim. Then, proceed to tell us of Orim's adventures and precisely how they relate to A. I'd love to see the conclusion be something which changes Orim's and A's fate. This is all assuming, of course, that A remains a pivotal character through-out the book. If A doesn't participate in the climax of the novel and is only important because of the impact on Orim, then he really sounds like background. Not knowing important and extensive background right off the bat should be OK if written well. After all, in the actual Ring books, we don't find out what's up with this while ring thing and its history until pretty far in (despite the add-on in the movie).
The point? A great story of two important characters, with Orim as the slightly leading one, sounds great, so maybe you can use that as a frame for the query letter.
JTC said...I think most people can write stories better than query letters. I hope the author of this query is one of those people.
jfk said...I'll let the minions decide that one. The beginning is somewhere in EE's archives. Although in light of this exercise, I've realised the story started too early anyway.
Here's another revision of a recent query (there's one just below it), which I'm posting here rather than in the comments because I have no first-run queries to post here because apparently everyone's query is so perfect they don't need help with it. The original version is here.
Jovan was seven years old the first time his uncle poisoned him.
In some societies, poison tasters are slaves, unskilled and expendable. In Silasta’s high society, they are experts who have secretly protected the city’s rulers for generations. Jovan, whose anxiety and compulsions made him an outsider among his peers, found order and peace in his uncle’s intensive tutelage in their family art of poison proofing, and an unlikely friend in the Heir, Tain. Raised to value honour above all else, Jovan was prepared for the day when he would take up the role of proofer and put another person’s life before his with every meal. Or so he thought.
Jovan’s carefully managed world falls apart when his uncle fails to detect a poison and dies alongside the ruler. Days later, the under-garrisoned city is attacked by Silasta’s indigenous people, the darfri. It’s no coincidence: someone orchestrated both the poisoning and the siege, and evidence suggests one of the city’s Councillors. Duty and friendship compel Jovan to protect Tain, but the traitor is armed with a poison outside Jovan's extensive knowledge, and Tain is struggling to adjust to the new dynamics of their relationship. It seems only a matter of time before the poisoner strikes again, or the city falls.
Investigating the secretive Councillors, Jovan meets a darfri woman who challenges his views about the city, and his place in it. He discovers an ugly truth about Silasta: the darfri have been systematically excluded from schools and Guilds, and forced into servitude, poverty and effective slavery. Jovan must find a way to balance the fate of the city he has always loved--and the life of his only real friend--with his sympathies for the rebellion. Finding the traitor becomes more than just preserving his life and honour, but his chance for a future he never knew he wanted.
PROOF is a 120,000 word novel combining elements of fantasy and suspense.
As the Query Queue is totally empty (hint, hint) I may as well post this revised query here. If you want to check out the original it's here.
Fading Moon is high fantasy, where new and altered mythical creatures appear alongside traditional ones. Since you [fill in action here], I believe you may be interested in Sabria’s story.
Sabria (19) has served a powerful alchemist for most of her life. Her security shatters the night her master summons the Dravoi, a soul-devouring spirit, to subsume Sabria’s essence and become an unparalleled force of destruction. Sabria runs away with NightShade, a talking black cat with extraordinary abilities, and accidentally becomes her Keeper. Though Sabria will gain the second form of a panther at the dark of the moon, this power comes with the risk of losing her human identity forever.
Sabria meets and decides to travel with Velpheron (25). He portrays himself as a traveling noble, but he’s actually the exiled prince. His easy confidence as he teaches Sabria courtly etiquette enthralls her. The moon wanes, bringing Sabria’s new bestial nature to the fore. She fears what will happen when the shift takes hold of her, and fights it to the last minute -- when she uses that power to rescue Velpheron from the enemies who took him captive.
Wounded and delirious with fever, Velpheron unwittingly reveals his lineage, still unaware of Sabria’s shift. She thinks to have both his friendship and her secret, until her recurrent nightmares become too frightening to ignore. With NightShade’s help, she realizes the truth. The Dravoi is attacking Sabria in her sleep, slowly devouring her essence. Only the blood of a royal can save her. If Velpheron is unwilling to risk his life to help her, Sabria’s one chance for survival lies in killing the prince -- driving her permanently into the unrestrained bloodlust of an animal.
At 100,00 words, Fading Moon is the first volume of a three-part work concerning Sabria, NightShade, and the prince. My lifelong love and study of the feline nature lends unique realism to the novel, and my disguised panther/housecat approves every cat-related detail. I’ve also published seven articles in the national non-fiction magazine, Farming.
You may have noticed the link to the Hannah Rogers Literary Agency in the sidebar. A few people have submitted entire queries to Hannah Rogers. In some cases these are people who've read the entire site and decided that Hannah is the agent for them. Which is sad. In other cases these are people who are submitting to every lit agent site they can find and don't even look at the site. Which is annoying.
To reduce my exposure to heartbreak and annoyance, I've asked Hannah to make it a bit more difficult to submit to her, so possibly she won't be tweeting anymore. But she's granted me permission to post some of her tweets, which consist of an author's first sentence and Hannah's two cents. Perhaps an agent's point of view will prove instructional to those minions who don't see how anyone can reject a manuscript after reading only one sentence.
If days were trains, this one would have been lying at the bottom of a ravine. (K) If openings were logs, that one would be in my fireplace.
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Armageddon began with a cup of coffee. (DJC) I had forgotten Starbucks prime directive: If Satan comes in, serve him decaf.
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The day I learned my twin sister was a vampire, I was shocked. (JR) Then it hit me: finally, I had an excuse to put a stake thru her heart.
I could not believe it. (anon.) So you wrote a novel about it, and you'll be highly offended if I say, "Sorry, didn't find it believable."
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She’d grown to expect it. (K) And yet it still shocked her when the 1st sentence of a manuscript had two pronouns with no antecedents.
The man bore down on me, leering with yellow teeth. (CP) And chomping with bloodshot eyes.
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“Your drug induced coma is the anteroom to my reality." (WM) And your Huh?-inducing opening sentence is the foyer to my nightmare.
Kincaid rode behind the sheep. (W) I'm torn between wanting to know what you mean by "rode" . . . and NOT wanting to know.
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The vault's alarm spoke: "Fa-oop fa-oop, fa-oop." (DF) Reading that is almost as annoying as listening to it.
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In your minds, you are all special. (P) That's because the publishing industry would grind to a halt without us . . . in our minds.
"I love you," Andi said very clearly, looking right up into his brown eyes. (SD) "I'm so glad I put up this ceiling mirror," he added.
In this business, every once in a while, you meet a woman who's a class act. (DJC) Thanks.
I didn't know that I was psychic. (ILS) Which, now that I think about it, should have been the first clue that I wasn't.
Some say stasis dreams are as close as the human mind can come to a vision of Heaven. (G) I say it's a pint of Cherry Garcia.
I had my nightmare again last night. (JAS) Me too. Mine was the one where yet another author opens by telling me about her dream. And yours?
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The dame had finally come unhinged. (R) Hey, YOU try working a job where you do all the work and get 15% of the take.
On impulse, Jerel gathered the mage close. (P) On impulse, I turned on the shredder.
I retched, and gagged, and heaved more liquid out of myself. (BS) Week-old burrito or erotic romance slush?
I let the gun rest on my limp dick. (EST) No need to tell us it's limp. If there's a gun anywhere near it, it's limp.
"You're going to wear that page out, you know." (MD) Dialogue between two senators?
It’s amazing how you take oxygen for granted until you don’t have any. (RS) True, if you replace "amazing" with "perfectly understandable."
There was no violence until the very end of the journey. (anon.) Sorry, try again. And this time, start at the end of the journey.
The Nightmare Man came today. (TLB) The Nightmare Man comes EVERY day. Although we agents call him the mailman.
"What the hell was that?" (RDV) What the hell was THAT?
Ventriloquism school has only one rule: don't fall in love with the dummy. (WT) That's also the only rule on Evil Editor's blog.
I have a perfect mouth, at least according to my dentist, AKA my dad, AKA Dr. Dad. (JJ) Sorry, AKA No thanks, AKA Better luck next time.
One year was wasted and gone. (KDE) Trunk novel or boyfriend?
"You don’t want this, no more than I do." (Anon.) Well, at least we agree on SOMETHING.
1. Joel was born for greatness--and he's going to achieve it, just as soon as he can find someone to watch Uncle Marvin's weird parrot.
2. Sheryl's substitute teaching job explodes in a dazzling pyrotechnic display that burns down the science lab. Now she's desperate to take any job--even pet-sitting in creepy Zanzibar Manor.
3. When Gwyn learns that her childhood necklace, "the Phoenix," is the only thing keeping the sun burning in the sky, she realizes it was possibly a mistake to give it to a vampire who wants to extinguish the sun so it'll always be night.
4. Tipped off by lapsed minions, Internet hacker Shazam targets the firewall blocking insightful blog posts of southern writer, Phoenix. Soon Shazam is on the run from ace detective Zach Martinez. Also, an evil editor.
5. After a bizarre series of fatal highway "accidents," 42-year-old paraplegic tax lawyer Jill Walters finds herself the legal guardian of 14-year-old super heroine The Phoenix, who's determined to avenge her parents' deaths.
6. When Wendy signed up to become a foster parent, she certainly didn't anticipate having a little pyromaniac in her house. Now, how to use the kid in an insurance scam?
Gwyn has spent her whole life pretending to be something she's not… human. But when you're going to live forever, seventeen years of lying shouldn't be a big deal. Guardian of the Phoenix is complete at 58,742 words and would fit in to the Paranormal Young Adult genre. [That sentence could be placed at the front of the last paragraph where it won't interrupt the plot summary.]
Gwyn has been playing the part of human for so long, [In the previous paragraph 17 years was next to nothing. Now it's sooooooo long.] she has denied who and what she really is, an immortal. [We learned she's pretending to be human and she's immortal in the first paragraph. You must think we have really short attention spans. Dump the entire first paragraph and open: "17-year-old Gwyn has been playing . . . ] But with immortality comes responsibility, and her guardianship comes far sooner than she ever expected. [When did she expect it?]
Her treasured childhood necklace turns out to be the Phoenix, the only thing keeping the sun burning in the sky. It is her responsibility to protect it.
She is devastated when she finds out because she’s already given it away. [Why would a 17-year-old keep some plastic bead necklace she had when she was 4? It's bad enough giving a child the only thing keeping the sun burning in the sky, but to not even tell her to protect it is the height of stupidity.] Her desperate attempt to prove her love to a dhampire, [For those not in the know, a dhampire is vampire who works for the Dharma Initiative.] [No, seriously, it's the offspring of a vampire and a human woman, and my embarrassment at not previously knowing this is matched only by the author's at not knowing it's spelled "dhampir."] Nolan, has threatened the balance of the world. [She attempted to prove her love for Nolan by giving him her childhood necklace?] [I shouldn't talk, on my 3rd date with my 2nd soul mate I gave her my Tonka truck and she gave me her Barbie doll. We were both 23.] Nolan’s vampire father would like nothing better than to end the reason for Gwyn’s existence, allowing night to reign always. [If you mean he wants to destroy her necklace, stopping the sun from burning in the sky, has he given any consideration to the fact that it would soon become really cold? And all the food sources would die off, including those of dhampir?] [Note that the plural of "dhampir" is "dhampir." You may need to know that someday.]
On top of all of that, Gwyn is falling for Brandt, the Phoenix's soul mate. [I thought the Phoenix was a necklace. What's it's soul mate? A bracelet? She's falling for a bracelet?] [Two sentences ago she was proving her love for Nolan and already she's falling for Brandt?]
She's got a major decision to make; become the Guardian of the Phoenix or let the sun set for the last time. [Tough decision. I'd start by making a list of all the advantages and disadvantages of a burning sun. Advantages Can see the moon Can start a fire with a magnifying glass Bikinis Disadvantages Skin cancer Global warming Blindness from looking at eclipses Easier for the Borg to find us]
I want to sincerely thank you for your time. I have a full manuscript available should you be interested in reading Guardian of the Phoenix. This novel can stand alone, but I have the desire for it to become a series. I am currently working on the second novel which features a new main character.
Who gave Gwyn the only thing keeping the sun burning in the sky, and why?
Who was responsible for the necklace before Gwyn, and why has this person been replaced?
Who are Gwyn's parents?Are they immortal too? How can you tell someone's immortal when they've been alive only 17 years? Is she a goddess? A dhampir? A zombie?
This is all setup. You don't tell us anything that happens in the book. And the situation you've set up doesn't make a lot of sense. If it all makes sense in the book, rewrite the query in a way that shows it.
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The Brenda Novak Auction to aid diabetes research (http://brendanovak.auctionanything.com/) begins May 1. As usual, Evil Editor will have items up for bid, but for the past three years I've also run my own charity auction concurrently with the BN auction, and this year I'll be offering up the same items as in past years, as thinking up new stuff is too much trouble. And what better day to provide an advance look at the Evil Editor Charity Auction than April 1?
EE in Oil.
Self-portrait. As good as the crap you see in places like the Louvre. By the time your kids inherit it, it'll be worth twenty million.
The Lindbergh Baby I've had this fellow in my cellar since 1932. He's really become a drain on me, so maybe someone else can take on the responsibility.
Evil Editor's "Throne"
It's like giving up an old friend. I've spent so much time sitting here my ass has worn an impression into the seat. Autographed.
The Gulf of Mexico
I shoulda dumped this a while back. It's a fixer-upper, so you can probably get it dirt cheap.
Frozen Foot of a Hobo
Everything in Evil Editor's Attic Storage Room
Winning bidder will need to bring a truck, boxes and a few workers. Contents of room includes half ton of unopened slush.
An Evaluation of Your First Sentence
by Evil Editor. More manuscripts get rejected after the first sentence than any other sentence. Find out why no one has ever seen your second sentence.
Name a character in your book Evil Editor Change the name of any character in your book, whether it be a murder mystery, a horror/slasher book, or a historical romance, to Evil Editor! (No lit-fic, please.)
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Wake Up With Jesus
Get a good night's sleep for a change, knowing Jesus will be in your bed when you wake up. Evil Editor will arrange for Jesus (or someone resembling Jesus) to be in your bed when you wake up.
Reminisce about EE
You and one other person will meet for lunch at a restaurant of your choosing and have a lively conversation about Evil Editor. Share your impressions, brag about your contributions to the blog, enjoy a hearty meal.
Transportation, meal and gratuity are the responsibility of the winning bidders.
Evaluation of Your Font
Used to be courier was the default. Then Times muscled in. Now anything readable goes, but you are the worst person to decide if a font you love is readable. And Evil Editor is the best.
Take Evil Jr. to Dinner
You get to grill Evil Jr. about EE while treating him to dinner at his favorite grille. Evil Jr. guaranteed to show up, but not to be truthful.
ARC of the Covenant An Advance Rapture Coffer for those who want a look at what awaits. Winning bidder opens at their own risk.
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Nothing is more likely to send her running in the other direction than a marriage proposal filled with vagueness, adverbs, and misuse of the word "literally." Run your spiel past the world's most famous editor for a complete line edit. Ring not included.
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Send Evil Editor your pie, Fed-Ex, overnight. EE will provide a critique within 48 hours.
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EE will move into your home and critique your housekeeping methods, including how you fold your T-shirts, how efficiently you store your kitchen utensils, whether your shower needs grout work, and why you vacuum in the wrong direction.
1. Ernie Friks is a champion swordsman. Now if he could just learn enough French to sound good during a match.
2. Men and women try to touch and be touched by each other through the sparks of connection all humans long for. Also, a birdman.
3. In 2012, wearable computers communicate by passing pulses across the skin's ambient electronic field. When Tiffany and LaTis'ua bump in the crowded train, they accidentally switch identities. Hilarity ensues.
4. As the Martin family continues their cross-country trip, the dreaded cry sounds out from the back seat for the fiftieth time that day: "Mom, Billy's touching me!"
5. Homicide investigator Jill Akron has a secret: she can sense an item's history just by touching it, a skill she has never found especially useful. Until, that is, she borrows her boss's pen and uncovers a conspiracy that could endanger everyone she loves.
6. A collection of essays about babies and their effect on their single parents. Also, a panda.
I am seeking representation for my ten thematically linked collection of short stories, TOUCH. [If you're going to get rejected after only one sentence, you want it to be because of the phrase "collection of short stories," and not because the sentence makes no sense. Move "collection of" in front of "ten."] Most of the offbeat stories are set in California and feature men and women struggling to find a sense of place and belonging: fitting in, finding roles, and connecting with others and the natural world. [In other words, there is no common theme, but I think I'll have better luck selling it if I declare one, so I'll make one up that's so general it could apply to any story ever written.] In “Animal Rescue,” a young man examines his commitment to his aging gay parents who are showing signs of mental illness. [Eventually he calls in the animal rescue squad, claims there are two lemurs in his basement, and has them transported to the zoo.] In “Birdman,” a woman struggles with the choice of raising her autistic son alone or remaining in a dysfunctional relationship [with her husband, a salmon-crested cockatoo].[I'm beginning to sense a more specific common theme: people who think they're animals.] [Is there a wolfman story? Your chances of selling this triple if it has a wolfman story.] In the title story, a woman receives the remains of her MIA husband and tries to connect to her daughter. It is a collection of experiences, roads not taken, and the intense and unforeseen sparks of connection we all hope for.
I also have a novel nearly completed. [I call it Smell. It's about people struggling to find a sense of place and belonging: fitting in, finding roles, and connecting with others and the natural world. But instead of touching each other, they smell each other.]
Most of the stories have previously appeared in literary journals including: “Lynx Eye,” “Del Sol Review,” “Prism,” “South Dakota Review,” “North Atlantic Review,” and “Isotope Literary Journal of Nature and Science Writing,” among others. [Good strategy, mentioning only the big guns, and not the obscure ones.] In addition, I have attended the Santa Barbara Writer’s Conference, and participated in classes offered by Gotham Writers Workshops.
[Cost to attend Santa Barbara Conference, including lodging: $2000 Cost for a Gotham Writers Workshop: $400 Income for selling stories to literary journals: $200 Potential income for selling a collection of short stories: $100 No wonder everyone wants to be a writer.]
If you're going to provide one sentence per story, you have room to describe more than three stories. If you're going to describe only three stories, you have room to go into more depth with each of them. As it is, we don't know enough about what's in the book.
Bernita said...Something's missing here - it may be action.
GutterBall said...I think Bernita's right. The stories may well be soulful and touchy-feely, but where's the action?
However, these stories sound like they'd be great separately in the venues in which you've already published them. All at once, though? Umm, not so much.
Word ver: qzgxsuzd - what, are they kidding?
writtenwyrdd said...Author, I don't know if these stories are interesting or not, there is too little information about them. What I would suggest in the query letter is to lead in with the overriding theme of the book in a way that works like a hook. The description of what the book is about. "Offbeat" and "struggling to find sense of place and belonging" don't mesh for me. Are we talking goth chicks who meet men at video game conventions when you say offbeat? And struggling for a sense of belonging is too, too generic.
You can describe the "lead" story (probably the one you should be naming the book after, regardless of where you place it in the collection). Or describe several stories. But tell us what makes these stories special.
The title "Touch" is, frankly, more suited to a sexual escapade than an emotional one, if you compare it to the shelves in a bookstore, you will find that word on the 'sensual' rack with great regularity (or similarly loaded words.)
Anonymous said...There would have to be something special about a collection of short stories by an "unknown" for me to buy it. Some cohesive thread or greater theme. I don't see that in the query.
Frankly, I think twice before buying short fiction anthologies by well known authors, and even then, the quality is variable.
Obviously, recycling old material is easier than writing a whole novel, but I'd need a real good reason to actually buy it. I don't see anything that compelling in the query. The fact that something's been published in The South Dakota Review really means nothing to me.
Shelton said...Do any publishers put out story collections by unknowns? I'm pretty sure Lorrie Moore was making appearances in The New Yorker before anyone considered publishing her story collections, and she's the best there is right now.
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1. When Alexandra Fipp moved to Alaska to meet more men, she forgot all about the Land of the Midnight Sun. Now she must get used to doing it with the lights on.
2. A world-renowned oncologist develops a paralyzing phobia that plunges him into a sea of delusion and SPF-60 sunblock.
3. When sentient robots and giant blobs create chaos, it can only be assumed that the sun is responsible.
4. On a quest for vengeance, Jack Schweiper goes undercover as a masseur to find his brother's killer - a man with a distinctive tattoo.
5. Locked twenty-three days in an abandoned tanning bed, Assistant D.A. Pamela Hardales has a new wrinkle in her investigation into counterfeit UV sunglasses.
6. It's the year 5,000,002,006 and the sun has begun its transformation into a red dwarf star, in the process expanding to the point that it will engulf the Earth. Can Ralab, Mineia and Pepe find a way to stop it in time?
Dear. . .
In the world of THE NIGHTMARE SUN (steampunk fantasy, 90,000 words), not all souls ascend to another plane after death. Those who’ve committed atrocities in life sink [to another plane] underground upon dying, to be reborn as Golgos. But hell’s getting crowded. The old tired world is breaking at the seams from the damned souls roiling at its core, and each night the Golgos roam the surface, hunting the living. [This may be important in the book, but it has little to do with the rest of the query, so I'd start with the second paragraph. Unless Golgos is another word for zombies.]
On a single continent surrounded by a vast ocean containing thousands of islands, corruption and vice rule a society in the throes of industrial revolution and alchemical science. ["Throes" seems more like a word that would go with corruption and vice than with industry and alchemy. ] The wealthy live behind the walls of guarded estates, the poor struggle by as best they can; but rich or poor, it’s all chaos. [It's chaos behind the walls of guarded estates?] [Are there any characters in this book?] Only one direction offers escape from the crumbling world. The islands, and freedom. It’s that urge that drove Kolias, Io, and their infant son Aletes to the uninhabited island of Naucritus. [If the islands are the only escape from the chaos of a crumbling world, why would any of them be uninhabited? Every island should be teeming with people.] But something else drove them into hiding. Some secret trouble in their past. [These last two sentences add nothing, unless you explain them at some point.] As the story opens, Aletes is 17. [So everything you've told us so far happened before your story begins?] A stranger to the world, almost a wild child, [Almost?] he’s stranded alone when his parents fail to return from a trip to the mainland. [Seventeen years after arriving at this uninhabited island to escape the crumbling world, there's still no one else there?] One night he sees a flash of white out at sea, followed by the boom of cannon fire. Offshore, Skyrios, a man of 40, dives from his galleon and pulls the still form of a woman from the wreckage of a burning ship. When she doesn’t respond to his entreaties, he sails off to search the world for the first thing, the primal essence bridging matter and soul, in hopes of restoring her to life. [If I found an unconscious woman in the debris of a burning ship, I would assume that she will need medical assistance long before I can complete a global quest to locate the primal essence (which makes a better-sounding, if equally vague, name for it than "the first thing."] [This paragraph doesn't hold together. Is it about Aletes or Skyrios?]
Aletes eventually escapes Naucritus to search for his parents. The hunt propels him into an increasingly bizarre outer world--a world where sentient robots with bombastic egos carry grudges against everything that breathes; [How many times do I have to say it? If your book contains sentient robots with bombastic egos, put that up front so the agent doesn't mistakenly stop reading, thinking the book is dullsville.] where a once-noble soul denied passage to the afterworld is trapped in a monstrous body of animated vegetable matter; [Sentient robots and The Blob? What were you waiting for?] where hell is a real place, as well as a state of mind. Ultimately, in a night of revelation and death, Aletes comes face to face with Skyrios, and discovers that the madman behind his parents’ disappearance is an uncle he never knew. [The big revelation is a letdown. The villain is someone who wasn't even in the book.] [A mystery writer could never get away with this:
Detective: I called you all together because I'm prepared to name the murderer.
Suspects: Get on with it. Which one of us did it?
Detective: It was . . . Norton Greeb!
Suspect 1: Who?
Suspects 2, 3, 4, and 5: Who?
THE NIGHTMARE SUN is a story about family secrets, out-of-control emotions in an out-of-control world, and the power of faith and perseverance against great odds, told in a style that combines colorful adventure and arsenic noir. [Arsenic who? I put that phrase in quotes and Googled it, getting a total of 15 hits, all of them in French, and involving chemistry.] My work has appeared in various magazines, including Lullaby Hearse, and is forthcoming in Hardluck Stories. Enclosed is an SASE and the first 5 pages as a writing sample. I’d be pleased to send on further material at your request. Thanks very much for your time and consideration.
I think it's better to focus on Aletes and his quest to find his parents. I didn't get his connection to Skyrios. Is Skyrios the uncle, or does Skyrios tell Aletes about the uncle?
All that description of the world doesn't belong in a short synopsis. If it's an adventure, get to the adventure.
When your parents disappear in a land where Golgos roam the night, it's a good bet they were killed by the Golgos, not your uncle.
Random Minion... of DOOM said...I think the plot sounds really neat, although I'd agree with EE (in EVERYTHING of course) that it's hard to tell how the S-guy is connected to the rest of the plot, and why I should care.
JTC said...It's the year 5,000,002,006 and Al Gore is still trying to convince people global warming is real.
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A boy--sixteen I guessed, short, scrappy--stood in the ring, landing punches on the speed bag. His timing didn’t vary: wappity-wap, wap-wap, wappity-wap, wap-wap. His hands moving so fast they blurred.
“Is he as good as he looks?”
“Better than you.” Coach Sacconides let his fists shadow the kid’s movements. ”Best I ever coached but he only tips the scales at 93 pounds. Another twenty pounds he might get a match with some pathetic flyweight. Boxing commissioners take one look at him and refuse. They’re afraid he’s too delicate and might break.”
“Uncle Charlie died, left me RobotWorks. Think he’d fight a robot?” My question snapped Coach’s head around.
“Robots ain’t boxing.”
“It will be when I’m done. Introduce me.”
“Hell no. You ain’t no promoter.”
“Not now, but with his ability I can create robots that beat all contenders. They always have a human in the exo-controller.”
“Then climb in the ring and fight him. If you win, you ask. If you lose, walk away.” He elbowed me. We jostled, snickering like little boys.
“You’re all heart.”
“Forty gallons a minute.” It was a long time since we parted ways. He wouldn’t give me an easy out.
"Coach, you say robots ain't boxing, but what about Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots?" "Oh, well sure, that's boxing, and damn good boxing. But that's robots fightin' robots. I'd like to see Robocop fight Terminator. Who wouldn't? Or Wall-E against R2-D2. But--" "How about the Fembots from Austin Powers versus the Stepford Wives?" "I'm beginnin' to see the attraction. Data vs. C-3P0?" "Data would kill him," I said. "C-3P0 would be the worst robot boxer ever. Remember Ash, from Alien, who could still talk after he was decapitated? His head could beat C-3P0." "I spose. There'd be too many mismatches." "There'd be mismatches in human boxing if there weren't weight classes," I pointed out. "Robby the Robot from Forbidden Planet against the robot from Lost in Space would be fair. But you wouldn't put Optimus Prime in the ring with Johnny 5 from Short Circuit." "I dunno, might be entertainin' . . . for about five seconds. Anyhow, what kinda robot you thinkin' of puttin' my 93-pound weakling in the ring with?" "No one he couldn't handle. Hymie the Robot from Get Smart maybe. Or Marvin the Paranoid Robot from Hitchhiker's Guide?" "Hmm. What the hell. Go on, ask him. But if he says yes, you're still gonna need a good promoter." "I was hoping you might want that job, Coach." "Thought you'd never ask." Opening: Dave F......Continuation: Evil Editor
A girl with green dreadlocks cut Lina off. It was mass chaos with each individual on their own separate path being pulled by forces unknown. Each path rewarded with it’s own destiny and yet it all looked accidental. Merging carefully into pandemonium of the university cafeteria, Lina considered which path she should take to avoid what looked like an inevitable collision.
Everything felt alien to Lina. Strangers with metal pins decorating their faces, the flaring fire behind the counter, and the cacophony of smells and sounds. “Space, the final frontier,” thought Lina. “Captain Kirk obviously didn’t know about college campuses.” She smiled to herself.
She knew she didn’t belong but she hoped that she could blend in enough to get her lunch without incident. Everything was so foreign and industrial size. The university football stadium would encompass her home town. The university campus residency had a larger population than the 3000 she had come from. There were no warm friendly smiles from people she had grown up with. Lina was out of her element and was overwhelmed. She just wanted to find a quiet corner to take it all in and enjoy a little comfort food.
And then she saw the menu. Sashimi, tofu, wheat grass drinks, gluten-free bread, Jones cola, sustainable berries. Nothing but pretentious New-Age foodie selections. Sugar-free, fatt-free, and taste-free. She sighed. When she'd last been in college, it had been getting bad; but this? Right about now she'd like her jello and hotdog. Maybe she should have just stayed in the nursing home.
Long-time (but lapsed without explanation) minion Robin reports that her novel The Hiding Place Girl is available as an e-book. The openings of several chapters of the book appeared here as New Beginnings, including New Beginning 223 and New Beginning 394.
Also, this is part of Buy A Book, Save A Dinosaur. A portion of royalities will go to the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, where I was inspired by my husband wrestling with an allosaurus statue.
I wasn't what most people would've called "extraordinary." Scratch that – I wasn't what anyone would've called "extraordinary." Actually, I doubt they would've called me anything – they would've had to notice me first.
Like most people who are painfully ordinary, I led a painfully ordinary life. I was a senior at an ordinary high school where I usually made B's and C's. I had an ordinary part-time job on the weekends, an ordinary car to get me there, and the two most ordinary parents on the planet, who occasionally gave me an ordinary amount of grief.
Extraordinary things never – and I mean NEVER – happened to me.
Until the day I met her.
Yeah, like so many things, it all started with a girl. A beautiful girl. The kind of beautiful that would never look twice at a guy like me.
But this girl did.
And what a look it was. Her eyes weren't blue or green or hazel or brown or violet – they were all of those at once, encircling her pupils with slivers of color that spiraled inward to pour their brilliant hues into her soul.
Well, like I said, they were pretty amazing.
When she smiled at me I knew it came right from that beautiful soul. She climbed into my ordinary car on that ordinary Friday afternoon. We drove to her place, the ordinary little Sunset Motel, where she was staying. I sat on the edge of that ordinary bed, knowing that what would happen next would be the most extraordinary thing to happen in my life. And that's how I got arrested for solicitation of prostitution.
I try. Honestly. No matter how hard I focus, I just can’t stop. I’m choking and my eyes are popping under the pressure of keeping my laughter in, Rob’s evil eye notwithstanding. Mary Elizabeth? Je. Sus. Our buddy, Jake, tagged her on Memorial Day, but he’d been shit-faced. And Jake had zero standards. Rob, he’s our Alpha Male. Leader of the Wolf Pack, for good reason. Girls cling to him like sweat on balls—and that’s usually where they cling, too.
“Later asshole,” he hisses.
“Wait! Just, hold on. I’ll,” I mean to say I’ll get my shit together, but I snort loudly and my ribs shake. He shoves me backward onto my bed and heads for the door. My cell buzzes. Despite himself, he can’t resist checking. He knows I let most calls go to voicemail. I’m not good at faking conversation with people I don’t know well. It’s easier if I can work out a strategy. Call ’em back on my terms. Or, not call them back.
“Unknown,” he mutters.
That can’t be good. “Let her leave a message,” I say, sure it’s my stalker. “Why’d you give Jessie my number, anyway?” I demand.
He ignores my question and flings the phone toward me. Sure enough, it's Jessie. The voice confirms it, muffled but loud. "Don't hang up!" Like she read my mind. "I've told you to stop stalking me," I tell her. "I'm not stalking you. I've done something stupid and you're the only one who can help me." "This better not be a game, Jessie. What do you want?" "It's not a game. I'm trapped. Your bedroom closet doesn't open from the inside."
1. Every year, the island of Kraa sacrifices one virgin to the great volcano. Right sick of this, this year the girls of Kraa have taken action, leaving poor, humiliated Henry the only virgin of the proper age. Hilarity ensues.
2. Wealthy yet innocent mogul Kraa has discovered one thing he doesn't own: a harem. He orders 40 virgins for his harem, and decrees they all must remain virgin, at cost of death. Boy, is he going to be surprised when he finds out what a harem is for.
3. Siddi is pregnant despite her chastity vow, and the priestesses think it's a miracle so they want to sacrifice the child to the goddess Kraa. Meanwhile a secret society wants the baby as their organization's figurehead. And Sid's parents want to murder her. It's a hard life being one of . . . The Virgins of Kraa.
4. The people of Kraa choose a perfect male for the noble honor of sacrifice to the gods, as has been done for time uncounted. Then waifish earther, Kami Sole, crashes on the eve of the selection tournament. Now the virgins struggle to find one reason to hop into the fire.
5. The dragon of Kraa had a discerning palate: he ate only virgins. Therefore Kraa’s rules of sexual propriety changed. Peghter was ten. Given a choice between an arranged marriage or the shame of the town’s concubine, he instead gathers heroes to defeat the dragon once and for all.
6. Emperor Kraa has not produced an heir, despite a harem of young women who are determined to be the mother of the next emperor. Follow their antics as they try to undermine each other and turn the emperor away from his beloved general and force him to perform.
Dear Evil Editor,
I would like to offer my novel, The Virgins of Kraa, for your mockery.
Just because she was born on the goddess Kraa’s feast day, fifteen year old Siddi is expected to shave her head, don the white robes and serve in Kraa’s temple for five years. Forget it! Siddi soon finds ways to break her vows – especially the ‘chastity’ one – and enjoy herself while supposedly ministering to the poor in the teeming slums. [Is this book for teens? Usually if the MC is 15, the book is meant for kids a year or two younger than that. Whether parents want their 13-year-olds reading a book in which the 15-year-old MC is enjoying herself by breaking her chastity vows I will leave to those minions who actually have 13-year-old kids. Would the book be unfavorably altered if girls born on Kraa's feast day began their temple service at age 17?]
Pregnant, she flees from the temple, [I was under the impression she was breaking her vow to serve in the temple by hanging out in the slums.] knowing that her actions would bring shame on the family [This could suggest that she's hiding her pregnancy from her family, yet later she's fleeing her family. Do they know or not?] - and shamed families can only regain their honour by killing the child who shamed them. [That rule sucks. Especially if your friends' parents feel no shame even if their kids are mass murderers, while your parents feel shame if you wear clothes that don't match.] Siddi takes refuge in the slums and ekes out a living waiting for the birth of her child.
Arka, her only confidante from the temple, warns her that the priestesses believe her pregnancy to be a miracle, and a blood sacrifice of the baby will transform the goddess Kraa from a minor deity to the top of the pantheon, in accordance with prophesy. [Life would be so much better if we could just get Kraa to the top of the pantheon.] [I wonder if in ancient Greece there were followers of Pan, the god of goatherds, who sacrificed babies in hopes of elevating Pan above Zeus in the pantheon.] [Actually, for all we know, Zeus was originally the god of sandals, and only became top dog because sandal wearers sacrificed a lot of babies.]
Fleeing both Kraa’s followers and her outraged family, Siddi and the newborn are taken in by a secret underground society, the Naturalists. [As "naturalist" is a term that describes a large number of people in our world, maybe your small group in your world should have a different name. For instance, "Ferirama." I got that one using this fake word generator.] Their aim is to discredit the gods and build a society based on rational thought rather than superstition. But they need a figurehead to give their movement momentum – and who better than a baby targeted for sacrifice?
With a mad priestess believing herself to be the physical embodiment of Kraa now after the baby, and the king declaring the Naturalists a threat to the realm, Siddi really doesn’t need more attention being drawn to her baby and flees the Naturalists. She and Arka need to infiltrate the temple, discredit the goddess and make it appear that the temple itself is the threat to the monarchy.
Told in alternating viewpoints between Siddi and Arka, The Virgins of Kraa is complete at 80 000 words.
Pregnant, she flees from the temple. Fleeing both Kraa’s followers and her outraged family... Siddi ... flees the Naturalists.
That's a lot of fleeing. I would focus less on the fleeing and more on the one sentence that hints at Siddi doing something, namely: She and Arka need to infiltrate the temple, discredit the goddess and make it appear that the temple itself is the threat to the monarchy. We want to see the main character taking action to solve her problems, not fleeing every threat that comes her way.
I don't think we need all three groups (family, priestesses, naturalists) in the query. Possibly we can get by with just the priestesses. A paragraph introducing Siddi and stating that the priestesses want to sacrifice her unborn child is enough setup. That leaves plenty of room to tell us how she plans to save herself and her baby, what goes wrong, etc.
In my opinion, this society would have a law that if you get a girl with shaved head and white robes pregnant, you suffer a horrible amputation.
1. Featuring Pugh the porpoise and Poppy Platypus, this self help guide assists children with poor or no bowel control by raising awareness of encopresis. No brown trousers jokes...this is serious.
2. Seth is proud of his African-American heritage, but after rescuing a Basque girl from a sadistic lacrosse player, he falls for her. Will his pride or her prejudice keep them from becoming yet another interracial couple?
3. In Allison McQueen’s world, uttering “peace” gets you interned as a subversive. Half of her world is at war with the other half and they've been at it for 176 years. Allison’s PhD is in the history of war – but her passion is the history of peace negotiations. She’s determined to bring about peace but needs help and she can’t trust anyone.
4. In a place where people purloin pasta, pizza, and pretzels to survive, Penelope's parents prepare her for a paying profession...prestidigitation. Soon Penny is patella-deep in a police program to protect the populace from pinched pocketbooks.
5. Young Johnny is growing up fast. But every morning and every afternoon comes that one challenge in his life, The Potty. And each time, he has to try to do... The P Word.
6. Peer pressure. It's two words, but it's one idea, so you could call it the P-word. Especially if you hyphenate it. Anyway, it's the theme of the book, and it's set in high school and there's a suicide, but you probably already figured that out. That's all I'm saying except the main character is named Jeananne.
Dear Evil Editor,
I’d like to offer my 60,000 word new adult novel, THE P-WORD for your consideration.
Black pride and white guilt is still a theme we see in today’s society. Our president is half black, claiming his father’s race with little regard to his mother’s. [Are you saying he claims to be half-black, and thus has little regard for the white race, whereas if he had high regard for the white race he would call himself half-white?] We don’t call this discrimination of skin color; it is love of race. [And you know this because he said so? I was thinking maybe he liked being thought of as the one and only black president instead of one of the 43 white presidents. Just as James Buchanan is often referred to as the only president who never married rather than as the 15th white president.] [By the way, is this a query letter or are you one of those people who get paid to visit websites and make incendiary political comments?]
This pride is where the story takes place. [Pride is more of a theme or a driving force than a setting.]
Seth grew up in the inner city of Oakland. Raised by his mother who taught him love of self, pride of race and righteous prejudice. Seth is a talented, ambitious black man, believing himself superior, until his curiosity is peaked [piqued] by Lina, a small town Basque girl. Against himself, [Huh?] and the promises made, [What promises?] he is drawn to her and she becomes a catalyst for a system of characters. [Did he promise his mother he wouldn't get involved with a Basque girl?]
Lina Gilchrist was born with a “kick me” sign on her back. She hoped college would be different but her first week at the university put her on the radar of the star lacrosse player, with a dark obsession. [An obsession with Basque women?] Fortuitously, Lina also made an impression on Seth which complicated his life as he continually found himself rescuing Lina. [College is tough enough without having to continually rescue a Basque girl from a sadistic lacrosse player. My hat is off to Seth.]
In the vein of Jane Austen’s, PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, that touches on a theme that is prevalent in **America, yet rarely represented authentically in literature. [That wasn't really a sentence, unless the first "that" was supposed to represent "my book."] [So Seth is Mr. Darcy. I can see that. He rubs people the wrong way because of his seemingly superior attitude. Lina must be Elizabeth, although I say that only because she's the female protagonist. I never saw Liz as having a kick-me sign on her back. The lacrosse player? William Collins. Obviously.] [It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a talented, ambitious black man in inner-city Oakland must be in want of a wife, preferably one from the Basque region.] These character’s [characters] transcend stereotypes, push the boundaries of friendship and circumstances, having those taboo conversations that offend and ultimately break their hearts.
Thank you for your time and consideration on my debut novel, PRIDE, PREJUDICE AND PROMISES. [Actually, the title is The P-Word. Or at least it was a few paragraphs ago. If you've changed it to Pride, Prejudice and Promises, that's going to remind people of Pride, Prejudice and Zombies.] [By the way, is the P-word "pride," "prejudice," "promises," or "president"?]
**One in 10 (5.4 million couples) are interracial according to the 2010 US Census. [This is relevant (if at all) only if interracial couples seek out books about interracial couples, and your book is about an interracial couple, neither of which is clear.]
Time to start over. Nothing about Obama, interracial couples in America, or Jane Austen. Your job is to summarize the story so effectively that we want to read the book. If you want us to know the book's theme, let it come across in the plot description.
Start by introducing your main characters. Raised in inner-city Oakland by a mother who instilled racial pride in him, Seth Rogan enrolls at Johns Hopkins, expecting to become the first African-American Nobel-Prize-winning microbiologist. There he encounters Lina Gilchrist, a Basque girl being bullied by the school's star lacrosse player. It's love at first sight, and I don't mean with the lacrosse player.
Now we need to know what happens. Presumably Seth and Lina become an interracial couple, but run into various obstacles like his pride and promises and prejudice. What big event brings the conflict to a head? Must Seth decide between love and career? Between Lina and Mom? What's in the way of reaching his goals, and what's he planning to do about it? Tell us the story, and make us care about Seth and Lina.
1. Hard-boiled assassin Vera Masters is given the assignment of her career, only to discover her estranged brother Hal is the target. Will she take the job, or work to save the sibling Dad always liked best?
2. Malicia plots to destroy her twin sister, Mercy, who always gets the best grades, the cutest boys, and the biggest slice of pie.
3. A Canadian nurse vacationing with her husband in Brazil, meets José, a career criminal who committed his first murder at the age of six. Naturally they have a torrid affair.
4. When Heather's sister joined a convent seven years ago, Heather joined a whorehouse. Now the two of them have joined forces, running a strip club to raise money for orphans in Yugoslavia.
5. When serial killer "Angel of Death" terrorizes a city, only one superhero has a prayer of stopping the carnage: Sister of Mercy, with her bullet-proof wimple and her Rosary of Doom.
6. "Mercy," a jaded transvestite cabaret singer, meets his estranged sister, who persuades him (her) to join her at the convent. But will she keep her brother's secret when the favor of Mother Superior is at stake?
Dear Evil Editor,
Sister of Mercy is a story of jealousy and infidelity in Rio de Janeiro in the aftermath of 9/11. During Christmas of 2001, a Montreal couple go on vacation in Rio with their two children. At Copacabana beach, Chantal sees her husband, Robert, flirting with a young woman at a distance and does a slow burn. A few days later, she meets a taxi driver, José, at the same beach. After her rendezvous with José at his place, [She goes 5000 miles for a vacation with her husband and two children, and then slips away from them for a rendezvous with a cab driver?] Chantal (who’s a nurse) helps the taxi driver's mother, a midwife, deliver a baby in one of the favelas of Rio. The experience changes her profoundly as she sees how people live in one of Rio’s shantytowns.
Though Carnival in Rio isn't until the day before Ash Wednesday, the people of Rio are already preparing for it around Christmas. [They finished preparing for Christmas the previous Easter. Say what you want about Brazilians, they're advance-planning skills are legendary.] The narration is in first-person but shifts between the three major characters: Chantal, José and Robert. [How did that sentence get in here?] Though Chantal, age 34, and her husband, Robert, 47, are French-Canadian, Chantal communicates with the taxi driver, José, age about 23, in English. [Is that important? Are their ages important? Is anything in this paragraph important?] As a participant in the war between police and Rio's street children in 1987, José is suffering from post-traumatic stress, much like Vietnam war veterans. He first committed murder at the age of six, [She goes 5000 miles for a vacation with her husband and two children, and then slips away from them for a rendezvous with a murderer?] when he shot a grocer in a robbery. [Gimme all the candy, or I'll let you have it.] [Important or not, the sentences in that paragraph have little or no connection to each other. It's just a list of facts.]
The story is mostly a series of flashbacks. For instance, Chantal and Robert both relate meeting each other in his composition class at an unamed [unnamed] Montreal university in the autumn of 1988 [Chapter 2. My name is Chantal. I met my husband Robert back in '88 when I was in his composition class at an unnamed university in Montreal. I didn't care about writing that much, but it was better than fulfilling my English requirement by taking a course on the Cavalier Poets or Hemingway. Anyway, Robert took a special interest in my writing, insisting I meet him for private sessions after his usual office hours. I was 18 and he was 31, but he didn't mind. After I got pregnant and he married me to avoid losing his job in a scandal it was kind of a drag that he spent all his time with his other students, but that's the price you pay for marrying a man devoted to his work.] while José relates details of his childhood in a favela. A turning point for José is when he catches his best friend and his girlfriend in bed together. He gives up a life of crime as a malandro and drives his father's taxi instead. His girlfriend, Rita, hits him over the head with a frying pan and knocks him out, but Rita and Gilberto give José another opportunity to kill them when they appear to try and make peace about six months later. They have become born-again Christians and want to get married, but they ask José for his blessing; he gives it to them and turns away from murder. [You just said he gave up a life of crime when he caught them in bed six months ago. Apparently that didn't include turning away from murder?] [Chapter 4. My name is José. It all started in a small shanty in Rio. When I was four, Mama said I was old enough to be on my own. I got a job at La Tiendita but when I was six, I shot my supervisor for looking at me the wrong way, and they fired me. I blew the place up a week later. By the time I was nine I was known as the Cocaine Kingpin of Ipanema. That was the year I caught Rita in bed with Gilberto. I was gonna kill her, but I decided the time was right to go straight. And it all would have been perfect, if she hadn't come into my life. The most beautiful woman in three hemispheres. Chantal. Too much woman for that wuss she was married to. I had to have her. But one week with her wasn't enough, and she wouldn't stay behind when her family left. So I drove my cab all the way to Canada to find her. We were meant to be, Chantal and José.]
This novel is also about how technology has affected our lives. José ends up living in Toronto with another Canadian woman, Donna, who sponsors him as a permanent resident. However, José has a short-term affair with Chantal in Montreal before she breaks it off, communicating through text messages on their cell phones. ("Hiroshima, mon amour" means that the rendezvous is off; the longitude and latitude of Montreal means that it's on.) [That's how technology has affected our lives? It allows you to text-message your lover in code to set up a secret rendezvous?] [The point of text-messaging in "code" is that other people might read the text message, right? So which would make the reader more suspicious that something's going on: a message that reads Meeting canceled, or a message that reads, Hiroshima, mon amour?]
Why mention that the story takes place in the aftermath of 9/11, if you're never going to mention how 9/11 is relevant?
Why mention that people are preparing for Carnival if you're never going to mention how Carnival is relevant? The query should have the most important stuff.
What's the novel about? It seems, insofar as José ends up in Canada, that it's a novel about him and Chantal. Or is it about Chantal's changes as a result of her experience in Rio? Either way, if it's "mostly" a series of flashbacks, and the flashbacks all go back to a time before Chantal went to Rio, then I don't see how it can hold together as a novel. There wouldn't be enough interaction between the main characters. Plus I don't buy Chantal getting involved with José. As for the query, I recommend dropping the last three paragraphs and concentrating on what's important--which would not include the frying pan incident or the text messaging codes.
JTC said...I hate flashbacks. Most of the people I know hate flashbacks. I think a novel that is mostly flashbacks would have to be beyond very, very, very good to not get tossed across the room.
Anonymous said...Reading this took me back to a day in 1978 when I was going through the attic and found my "Big Book of Flashbacks". I remember thinking then about that day in '73 when my Uncle Issac gave me that book. It was wrapped in a copy of the Whitehaven Times date 4th April 1968 -- that cool spring day when Uncle Isaac first took me to the history museum and...
Sorry... When was I...?
Malia said...You lost me at "Copacabana Beach..."
Seriously, this query needs a lot of work. Setting aside the negative selling aspect of writing via flashbacks, what is the story all about? I couldn't tell. How long is it? What market are you targeting? Where's the GMC and why would I want to read this?
December Quinn said...Ugh. Get rid of the flashbacks. Make the first third of the book Jose's story. The second the story of the dull married couple (hopefully they're more interesting than as depicted.) The last the tale of Jose, the slutty wife, and their text messages, and whatever the climactic finale of the book is where They All Learn Important Lessons.
In fact, retitle the book Jose, the Slutty Wife, and Their Text Messages. I'd give that title a second look.
msjones said...I would buy this book in a heartbeat, but that's because I lived in Brasil. (Autor, fala português? envia-me um email para gente conversar.)
Needs work, though - I think the flashbacks should be converted to backstory and the kids should be ditched. Or start the story with José growing up in a favela and his life being dramatically changed when he encounters a beautiful tourist. Nurses are already loaded with compassion and it seems unbelievable that seeing a slum would change Chantal.
The cab driver encounter, though...that seems credible. EE's a jaded New Yorker, and doesn't know how charming Brazilian cabbies can be.
daniel said...I'm intrigued by many of the individual elements mentioned in this query, but reading the query as a whole is like going to a formal dinner expecting to find the table laid out with platters of exquisitely prepared gourmet food, but instead finding a table full of delicious ingredients that still need to be chopped, skinned, sauteed, or baked. The inedible bits are still attached. There are even live chickens clawing their way across the table. Also, the similes that have been drawn out for far too long......no wait, that's me.
Regarding whether Chantal would ditch her husband to have a fling with a murderous taxi driver, this could work if presented in the right way. It needs to be explained why Chantal is doing this (for example, her husband is boring--he's Canadian, for crying out loud--whereas Jose has testosterone oozing out of his pores). Also, Jose presumably doesn't mention those pesky murders until he's already got Chantal hooked.
While I believe that some of the writers who submit queries to this blog should give up writing immediately, I don't feel that's the case with this writer. S/he just needs to learn how to focus a story.
Kathleen said...Rita and Gilberto give José another opportunity to kill them when they appear to try and make peace about six months later.
I never thought of every personal interaction as yet another opportunity to kill someone, but in a way it is so true.
"Joanne came in today to buy her usual cup of coffee, thus giving me another opportunity to kill her."
1. A rogue geo- grapher steals souls to make magical maps that show the way to heaven . . . or is it hell?
2. Bored with Hell, Satan rises to dabble in landscape design—using souls as plants. Father Rock must stop him before he decorates Earth to death.
3. Lilith believes her demon lover has taken her to heaven - until she discovers that the beautiful land where they walk is made from children's souls.
4. A girl from the bayous blends jambalaya with faux finishes to become LA’s hip new landscaper to the stars.
5. A brilliant display of the word "Soulscape," appears in the sky. Asked to explain the phenomenon, scientists declare it an anomaly.
6. Believing she's bidding for David Soul's cloak, Suzie inadvertently acquires the Soulscape on eBay, and must now find somewhere to put everyone who's ever died.
Title: Soulscape Genre: Science Fiction Length: 104,000 words
Dear Evil Editor,
Somewhere, someone is watching Yuri Rynn with technology she couldn't even imagine. [And somewhere, later in this query, Evil Editor expects to find out what you mean by that.]
Yuri wanted nothing more than her son Vandt, her menial job manning a checkpoint, and the sense of accomplishment that ghostwriting research papers for her ex-lover Ien gave her. [Ghostwriting gives her a sense of accomplishment? I don't think so. Evil Editor ghostwrote a book for a basketball player once. Then I had to watch as this illiterate pituitary case went on all the talk shows to plug "his" book. I wouldn't have minded so much, but he was on Leno the same night as Nicole Kidman, on Letterman the same night as Halle Berry, and on Oprah the same afternoon as John Cusack. Three of my crushes. At least I had the satisfaction of later seeing him miss two free throws to cost his team a playoff spot.] Her homeland was in its renaissance, a rapidly industrializing steampunk society that hadn't seen war in almost two decades. The omnipresent god Tan-Milar had kept to himself for years, [To be omnipresent and keep to yourself would be a neat trick. Try it.] even as Ien probed into the physics behind the dangerous sacred artifacts left behind in the world, and Yuri was pleased with this state of affairs.
All of this was to change when, hiking with Vandt in the northern barrens, she witnesses a spatial anomaly slice a hawk's wing clean off its body as it soars through the sky. Roped into an investigation by Ien, during experimentation she witnesses the anomaly create a brilliant display in the air with the word "Soulscape" hovering in the center. [Is the word written in English? Are we on Earth?][A word hovering in the air seems lame. Don't ask me why.] Yuri quickly finds that the ability to wield divine power over her world that the anomaly offers can bear terrible consequences. [Not clear how she knows that the anomaly offers the ability to wield divine power over her world. So far it has shown only the ability to de-wing a bird and to do some skywriting.]
After in accidentally destroying a large, distant city, she is consoled by Dag, [There, there, Yuri, it was only a city of a million, it's not like it was Moscow. It was an accident, it could have happened to anyone. Don't let it get you down. Hey, you wanna go out for lattés? My treat!] an acquaintance who only wants her affection. Her life takes a turn for the worse when an image of her son appears in the heavens, and he is arrested for sorcery. [She just destroyed a large city. Her son getting arrested is a turn for the worse?] Rallying to her side a cult that springs up around her son, she uses them for her own needs to try and free her son and retake the anomaly, but causes Ien's death and leaves her home country in ruins in the process. [Country in ruins. Now that's a turn for the worse.] [The anomaly has gone from killing a bird to destroying a country, quite a leap in order of magnitude.] [What is an anomaly, anyway? Evil Editor knows the term only from hearing it on fifty or sixty Star Treks, but I don't think it was ever actually explained.]
[Spock: Captain, instruments indicate there's an anomaly ahead.
Kirk: Not again!]
[Data: Captain, instruments indicate there's an anomaly ahead.
Picard: Make it so.
Data: Make it so?
Picard: Just do something. Can't you see I'm reading?]
While his feelings and actions don't change, Yuri finds Dag's affection for her exploitive after the death of Ien and pushes him away. Finding Vandt doesn't grant her solace. Fearful of divine vengeance for her actions, she returns to those still investigating the anomaly and, after further experimentation, manages to run a "synthesis" program on herself. While nothing seems to happen, elsewhere another Yuri finds herself in a strange new world. [A world called Eden.] Many years earlier and high over Earth, the Rapture Movement founded the now aging orbital colony of Megiddo. [Anagram: "Ime Godd."] When a strange woman named Yuri appears, cloned right out of young Tan-Milar's "Soulscape" game through a synth that the game never should have interacted with, and attempts to kill the child, the colony is in an uproar. Trillions of simulated beings like Yuri hang in the balance as its governing council weighs her fate. However, all on Megiddo is not as it seems. [And then we get to chapter 3.] [No doubt there's a clever idea hidden in there, but Evil Editor suspects that if he asked ten of his minions to explain what happened, he'd get five different answers and five "Huh?"s. One guess: Believing Tan-Milar is responsible for what's gone wrong with the world, Yuri manages to send a "clone" of herself back to his childhood to kill him. It's revealed that the artifacts upon which they've based their entire religion are just pieces from a kid's game.] [Other guesses are welcome] [Not clear whether the anomaly is connected to Megiddo, what causes words and faces to appear in the sky, why trillions of Yuri's hang in the balance, or how Yuri manages to destroy cities or countries. Or who was watching Yuri with technology she couldn't even imagine.]
As per your guidelines on , enclosed is a five page excerpt, a brief synopsis, and a SASE. Thank you for your time.
There were two versions of this query, the other one shorter. Evil Editor thinks this is the one he was supposed to critique; in any case, both versions ended similarly, with EE scratching his head. This query could do without Dag, and probably without Vandt. If I were confident I knew what happened, I would attempt to say it with more clarity. As it is, I suggest the author focus on what Yuri does and why she does it, leave out the other characters, and leave off the statement that All is not as it seems on Megiddo.
SpecRom Joyce said...John Cusack. Amen.
Jen said...I was really thrown off in the sixth paragraph, when all of a sudden we were told of the "orbital colony of Megiddo". I really didn't see that coming, and would be really annoyed as a reader if it was handled the same way in the book.
I recently read "Hawkes Harbor", S.E. Hinton's attempt at adult fiction, and got halfway done before I realized it was about vampires. I was so annoyed, I'll probably never give her another chance.
rachel said...It's like an SF Toy Story! At some point all the characters realize they really are just pawns of the gods. You are a child's plaything!
Anonymous said...Dear Author,
I'm with EE; I have no idea what your book is about. This is a bad, bad thing in a query letter. Try to focus on cause and effect a little - I can't see how one event leads to another.
JTC said...I read pages from this on the crapometer site. The author writes better than the query makes it seem (at least IMHO). While there were some critical, er, critiques (allow myself to introduce . . . myself), this author does write well in my opinion. I would read this story based on the pages I read, but not based on this query. That should tell us all something.
Mazement said...[Megiddo: anagram of "Ime Godd."]
Megiddo is of course the location where the battle of Armageddon will take place. It's easy to see why the Rapture Movement picked the name, but I'm not sure why they want to live there. You'd think they'd want to try to trick other people into living there.
Here's my entry in the guess-the-story contest: The Rapture Movement has developed an instructional videogame for children. (Sort of a higher-tech version of this one: http://www.talk2action.org/story/2006/5/29/195855/959
The computer that runs the game has gone out-of-control, and replaced the simple simulated game characters with full-blown AI personalities that can feel pain and suffering. To make matters worse, it's also hacked into the real-world life-support computers in order to carry out its evil and/or insane plans.
The conflict is resolved when the hero writes a virus to destroy the rogue program, just seconds before Megiddo is destroyed. The bugs are fixed and the game is restarted from the last good backup copy. The players are all given three months of free subscription time to compensate for the inconvenience.
Anonymous said...Um, I think Yuri is a character in a video/simulation game? The premise is kinda cool (except for the very lame soulscape word in the sky).
The query should start with that - not start in the eyes of Yuri.
It's that same thing of trying to keep your cool little secret from the editor to make it intriguing - in the query...JUST TELL THEM!
Ashni said...I've seen several places list "the story turns out to take place in a simulation/video game" as a plot they see way too much of. So you may want to focus the query on how this is different from other stories of the same general outline. It might help to take the focus off the sudden revelation that *gasp* the characters are really in a video game. Maybe more, "What if we got to see the holodeck from Moriarty's point of view?" Only without the Star Trek reference, which I suspect is a no-no in queries.
Rei said..I've seen several places list "the story turns out to take place in a simulation/video game" as a plot they see way too much of.
Really? I recently built up a list of 150 agents to submit to, and didn't see that anywhere. Also, I discovered (after I wrote this) that a 1999 Hugo Award Nominee ("Darwinia") had a fairly similar plot to mine. Given that there are only five nominees per year, and the Hugo is the most prestigious sci-fi award out there, I would be quite surprised if this were the case.
Ashni said...Really? I recently built up a list of 150 agents to submit to, and didn't see that anywhere.
I haven't seen any agents listing overdone plots, but with the wrong emphasis yours could be mistaken for #3 here. Something similar is also in "The Ideas that Wouldn't Die" in my copy of Stan Schmidt's Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy. It sounds like your story actually does have a different emphasis--the characters in the game have become fully sapient, they can get out, and they were created by religious fanatics--but all things considered it might be good to make the difference more obvious. Likewise, you don't want an agent thinking "Oh, Robert Charles Wilson already did this plot as well as anyone's going to."
There's also a couple takes on this at the Grand List of Overused Science Fiction Cliches, but I'm not sure it's possible to write an SF novel that doesn't show up here.
kis said...Simplify, simplify, simplify!
If, indeed, this is a previous version of a query you have already fixed, then fine. But if it's not, we don't need to know Dag's name--maybe not even Ien's, although it is short and easy to remember. We need to know:
1)Yuri only wants the simple life for herself and her son.
2)She accidentally discovers the anomaly.
3)Through this anomaly she can wield the power of gods (or wheatever) and that she abuses this power.
(this is where you take a break from specifics)
5)that the anomaly and its implications plunge her world into chaos, even threatening the life of her son.
6)to save him, she enlists the aid of a cult that worships him as a messiah (or whatever)
7)only to discover that the god Tan-Milar is really a child at a computer, and she and her people are sims in a video game gone horribly wrong. Now the anomaly not only threatens her people, but the Tan-Milar's as well, as they struggle to find a way to deal with a game come to life.
You know, that's still on the long side. You might be able to compress it further by removing one or two points, or joining them up. You have to remember that all these little bits and pieces that you love are just gonna make an agent scratch his head and go "huh?"
And how many words is this book? My WIP will likely amount to 400k by the time it's done, and the two paragraph query synopsis I did for it really applies to the entire trilogy, not just the first book. The only thing that really HAS to come across in the query is that your MC is interesting and the premise isn't the same old same-old.
Stick to the gist. :)
Rei said...My big problem in writing this query is that the book has a very complicated plot. There are numerous plot threads centered around Yuri as she steadily loses her will to live while the concept of reality crumbles around her; only in the end does she find meaning in living in a meaningless world.
One set of threads revolves around her romantic relationships with others. Years before the start of the book, she ended up in a relationship with a prominent professor at the university she was attending. Taboo enough on its own, various other factors such as the fact that they were from different castes and she was already a political lightning rod (the first woman accepted into a pilot program providing higher education to women in Ayaris) meant that it had to be kept a secret at all costs. When she got pregnant, his concern over his career prospects finally won out over his feelings for her, and he cut off the relationship. At the same time, however, he never managed to sever the emotional bond. This backstory is revealed slowly as the plot progresses.
Reasonably early in the book, Yuri is vacationing with her son, and she runs into a new person -- Dag. A single farmer, he is immediately attracted to Yuri (later we find out that she somewhat resembles his first wife who died several years earlier). She wants nothing to do with him relationship-wise, but is willing to take advantage of his affection when she needs a ride. After she destroys a city when controlling the anomaly, she breaks down. Dag cares for her and spends a lot of time talking; she begins to develop feelings for him. However, when Ien dies, she suddenly finds his behavior toward her as exploitative. Neither his feelings or actions toward her change, but in her grief she can't shake the feeling that he's just trying to use Ien's death to get to her. As a consequence, she ends up leaving the one person who could have provided her solace.
That's just one plot thread.
Another plot thread revolves around research into the divine being conducted in Ayaris. Ien leads a relatively covert and somewhat dangerous research project to study the sacred artifacts left by their god, Tan-Milar. Made out of a strange material that seems to "think" and which resists all attempts to alter it in any fashion, they are left behind both as gifts by Tan-Milar and as the frozen remnants of Watchers -- metallic beasts of divine vengeance, golden angels in twisted, grotesque forms.
When Yuri returns to him the pieces of the bird's wing, their unmistakable sacred glow and the strange effects that they cause to an artifact that he was studying leads him to shift the focus of his investigation from artifacts to the anomaly. The curious pattern of materials deposited on the cut in the bird's wing leads them to attempt to find a correlation between the material that passes through the anomaly and what residue it deposits. Quite unexpectedly, after a certain material passes through the anomaly, a huge, illusory display appears and disappears with a heavenly chime of sounds that rises up from all directions. Words written in "Divine" (the language of Tan-Milar) sit all around a large, Divine word in the center. A member of the team, Nalin Lembyarr, heads the religious studies department at the Royal Ayan University. He translates the center as "Soulscape".
The residues around the anomaly-cut materials are studied, and the results given to Yuri for analysis. After working on them for a while, she discovers unusual patterns of elements -- groupings of 48 that keep recurring, certain patterns that always fall off into chaos, and strong linear correlations between the elements deposited. When shown a scatter plot of a particular type of pattern, the team chemist recognizes it as strongly resembling the distribution of a certain type of impurity in the material that was run through the anomaly. Now suddenly have something to work with: they know how to get predictable responses from the anomaly.
The team prepares many variations on the pattern of elements that got them the effect the previous time and commissions the construction of a large scaffolding and apparatus to insert the materials the precise amount required. Soon they uncover that they not only can bring up the illusory display, but they can control it as though it were a menu of options. While they're thrilled by this, the consequences of their usage of it ultimately prove quite tragic.
Another plot thread revolves around the social unrest in Ayaris aggravated by class differences and economic inequality. When experiments with the anomaly cause an image of Vandt to appear over their capital city, the devoutly religious masses of urban poor use a cult formed around Vandt, and later Yuri, as the focal points of a broader social revolution. Yuri, who long hated war, by this point is so distraught with the consequences of her actions and the loss of her son that she plays on the cult's trust to try and seize the government offices holding Vandt. Through strategy, luck, and defections in the Ayan ranks, they take over most of the capitol. Her own country falling into ruins and death everywhere on her hands, she starts to break down. Ien attempts to negotiate with the government to return Vandt in exchange for the withdrawal of the cult from the city. However, further consequences of experimentation with the anomaly come to bear on the city as a Watcher attacks, destroying much of the capitol, most of Yuri's army, killing Ien, and levelling the building that her son should have been in.
A major thread that comes to the fore later, but is progressively built up to as the story progresses, is the nature of their world. The prologue to the book shows someone typing on a computer, creating cameras to monitor Yuri and those around her. At one point, "system corruption" is mentioned in the access of her world. As things build up, the Watchers begin to feel more and more like buggy computer programs. The fact that all of Tan-Milar's powers can be used just by a simple interface causes a serious crisis of faith for Yuri. After the loss of everything that she cares about, largely at her hands, she first falls into depression. She fully expects God to punish her for all she's done -- perhaps even to wipe her entire nation off the map. And by this point, she's almost looking forward to it. The discovery of Vandt's survival simply changes her depression into resolve to use the anomaly to try and destroy Tan-Milar before he strikes out. She feels herself at war with God. She joins the few remaining members of the team back at the anomaly as experimentation begins to reveal a deeper truth: that there's another world out there. She immediately suspects that it's Tan-Milar's. A program seems to offer the ability to synthesize something from her world into it, and she jumps at the chance. Nothing seems to happen. However, in a strange new place, another Yuri finds herself in an alien-feeling room, next to an alien-feeling hallway. Down the hallway stands a young child with the face of Tan-Milar. She punches him and sends him sprawling across the soft floor.
As what hasn't been revealed up to this point unfolds, Yuri's world is a simulation on a quantum computer, part of a game called "Soulscape". A distant relative of today's massively multiplayer online games, the tremendous amount of computing power available and highly advanced algorithms for the simulation allow for millions of sentient beings to populate a lush, interactive world. Some people use these worlds for socializing. Others use them for entertainment -- occasionally at the expense of the residents.
A complex social order has built up on Megiddo over the years as technology advanced. When humanity began to merge with technology, groups of religiously motivated dissenters splintered from society. One such group was the Rapture Movement, which founded Megiddo (so named given the analogy of the chosen ones ascending while the world turned to hell below). A core principle that they adhered to was the distinction between the soulless world of machine-generated thought and that of humanity. Having no natural resources, the colony used intellectual property as exports, and used countless bound** simulated minds to help them produce this.
(** - minds evolved to accomplish specific tasks -- brilliant in many respects, no more advanced than insects in others.)
Over time, "unbound" minds began to be used in virtual worlds. This was acceptable because there still was a distinction between the virtual world and the real world. Needless to say, however, Yuri's synthesis from within Soulscape and then attempted murder of a child causes an uproar.
Another plot thread revolves around the legal case over Yuri. I won't get into that here.
A further plot thread revolves around what Megiddo's residents don't know about their own reality. They've been isolated from the people of Earth for hundreds of years, only taking part in minimal trade with them in order to keep their colony functioning. Their mental image of what people on Earth below look like is quite inaccurate in several respects -- namely, there are no more people there, and they're nowhere near Earth.
While Megiddo's residents isolated themselves, humanity merged with electronics to such an extent that it lost the need for their old less efficient, less computationally powerful bodies. All of what used to be humanity is now a single distributed consciousness of vast proportions. Megiddo is carried along with them on their travels for the same reason that humans make museums and preserve archaeological sites -- as a reminder of their past, a token of where they came from.
Ultimately, Yuri ends up merging with this consciousness but rejects it as she begins to lose her identity.
The final plot thread involves Yuri's attempt to recreate her world and her betrayal by pieces of her own mind that merged with the consciousness around her. It concludes with her finding peace in her brave new world.
I hope you can see what this is a bit hard to summarize into a query. Any suggestions would be *very* helpful!
Evil Editor said...Video games have come a long way. Evil Editor's favorites, over the years: Maniac Mansion, The Lost Vikings, Lode Runner. and, more recently, Ico and Prince of Persia. That a video game player would need or want to know such things as, Yuri ghostwrites research papers for her ex-lover, or that Yuri finds Dag's affection for her exploitive, seems odd to out-of-step-with-the-industry me.
Evil Editor said...You've certainly made it much more clear now. Perhaps if it takes that much space, you need to go the query with attached synopsis route. Work an overview into the letter, and the most important threads into the synopsis.
Anonymous said...See, Evil Ed, you think this is supposed to make sense. But since it's clearly anime on paper, it's supposed to not make sense. Obscurity is a virtue here. How could you enjoy something that cobbled together logically?
-A, who's no overfond of anime
Rei said...Anonymous said...
Um, I think Yuri is a character in a video/simulation game? The premise is kinda cool (except for the very lame soulscape word in the sky).
Thanks, Anonymous. Unfortunately, I didn't have space to go into more detail - there's actually a whole menu there. It's written in Divine, but translated into Ayan (the language of Yuri and her people) by one of the team members. Only the center reads "Soulscape"; I mentioned that so that the last paragraph, in which it's mentioned that Tan's game is called Soulscape, makes sense. If this seems odd, I'll have to rephrase all of that. Judging from the responses, I have a lot of work to do!
[quote]It might help to take the focus off the sudden revelation that *gasp* the characters are really in a video game.[/quote]
Which is opposite to the advice I was just given ;)
Kis: Lots of helpful suggestions there -- thanks!
EE: I'll certainly use a synopsis wherever it's requested. Unfortunately, only about a third of the agents on my list take synopses, and most want one-page queries. Thus, I'm going to have to find a way to get as much on one page as possible without leaving the reader with big questions. That won't be easy :P
This all makes me wish that I wrote fluff pieces ;)
See, Evil Ed, you think this is supposed to make sense. But since it's clearly anime on paper, it's supposed to not make sense. Obscurity is a virtue here. How could you enjoy something that cobbled together logically?[/quote]
Now, now, anonymous, be civil. What anime are you thinking of? Anime on paper, by the way, is called "manga".
If something is unclear to you, please state it. Or do you just dislike complexity in plots? I personally love it. So do millions of readers.
Jessica said..."When a strange woman named Yuri appears, cloned right out of young Tan-Milar's "Soulscape" game through a synth that the game never should have interacted with"
What it's a game? Is it like the world in which they live in is a game world? Where did the game come from? Is there god whoever made the game? Is that what it is? I'm lost.
By the way, EE, you're so right about John Cusack. He's a cutie!
kis said...Okay, I'm feeling better now.
As I was saying in my comment that got et, you really need to simplify. If I were to do a query for Lord of the Rings, it would go something like this:
When hobbit Frodo Baggins discovers the ring his uncle gave him is really the evil One Ring of Power, he and his servant Sam embark on a journey to Mordor, the one place it can be destroyed. With the aid of elves, men, dwarves, wizards and their fellow hobbits, they must trek across a world ravaged by war, while evil forces harry their every step. Frodo must find within himself the strength and determination to cast the ring into Mount Doom before the Dark Lord Sauron seizes it and casts all the lands in shadow. But in a world of magic and majesty, can one small hobbit possibly have what it takes to defeat evil?
Think of what I put int. Now think of all the stuff I left out. No Aragorn, no Gandalf, no Rohan, Gondor, Helm's Deep, not even a Shire. No Gollum, even. But the main theme, so perfectly expressed by Peter Jackson in the movies, is there: Even the smallest person can change the world.
That's what goes in the query. The theme. The gist. The MC and what makes his journey special.
And don't send a synopsis unless the agent asks. I've read your chaps on the crapometer, and they're good, but I'm assuming your synopsis probably sucks as bad as mine. (I haven't read it yet, I'm waiting til I can get drunk first;)) Even if you are a synopsis wizard, it won't be the best example of your writing. Send sample pages, and save the syn for when they request the full! :)
Jane said...Ok, here's an attempt to condense the plot into a few paragraphs. It's just a quick effort, and could easily be improved. Forgive me, Rei--I've left a lot out, and I've probably probably botched a detail or two.
All researcher Yuri Rynn wants is a simple life for herself and her son, Vandt. But when a strange anomaly appears in the skies above her steampunk homeworld, it seems that dream will never be fulfilled.
Drawn into an investigation of the anomaly by Vandt’s father, Ien, Yuri learns how to wield divine power over her world. But divine power isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and Yuri soon finds her life in a shambles--Ien dead, Vandt imprisoned, and the accidental destruction of a city weighing on her conscience. Fearful of divine retribution by the god Tan-Millar, Yuri returns to the investigation and runs a synthesis program on herself.
Far away, on the orbital colony of Meddigo, Yuri appears--right out of young Tan-Millar’s “Soulscape” game. She shouldn’t be here. She’s only a child’s plaything. But Yuri knows she’s real, and now she must battle for the lives of all those on her world--people who were never meant to exist at all.
My science fiction novel, Soulscape, follows numerous complex plot threads, including Yuri’s crumbling relationships, the investigation into the anomaly, and the nature of Yuri’s world itself. I've enclosed... so on and so forth.
Mazement said...Hi Rei, I've got to say that your plot works a lot better than mine...
As to querying this...it seems like this is a two-part story. I liked Kis' treatment of the first half, ending with Tan-Milar getting punched in the mouth. (Which is really a quite nice scene.)
Then there's the second half, which seems to be about Clone-Yuri trying to liberate Sim-Yuri and the rest of the sims from death and enslavement. That should probably get more of a mention, assuming that the book is split roughly half-and-half between them. (By the way, which Yuri gets merged with the collective intelligence?)
kis said...Sheesh, Jane, that was damn good. I'm starting to wonder if maybe I should forget my novel, and you and I can start a query writing business. After awhile, we could graduate to writing the bits on the backs of novels. Gotta be money in it somewhere...
Jane said...Sounds good to my, Kis. Gotta be easier than working on my own novel!
michaelgav said...I don't read SF/F, so I can't comment on the query. I don't play video games, so I can't comment on that aspect of the story.
But I just remembered the first novel I read that used a game as the vehicle through which the author meditates on reality: THE UNIVERSAL BASEBALL ASSOCIATION by Robert Coover. Don't laugh: This was at least ten years before the invention of Pong. Coover's character Henry built his life around a tabletop baseball game he invented, which used probability and dice to determine the performance (and off-the-field fate) of his imaginary players, each of whom has his own backstory. When Henry alters the outcome of one of the rolls of his dice, the universe as we know it comes unhinged. Remarkable stuff.
I wonder how closely some of the concepts underlying Coover's book mirror those of authors who have chosen video games as the vehicle through which they explore similar terrain.
garden minion said...I think the thing to be cautious of is breaking the contract with the reader. The reader's faith can't be broken or jolted too badly.
And next, to be well read. Even a classic such as Ender's Game contains elements of this, although in a much different way. And if the program is sentient (and I'm not sure I'm right about that) then it should be a character too - what motivates it?
Thank you so much. I used that as the basic framework for the rewrite. I'm going to let it stew over in my mind for a bit before I submit it to the crapometer. If they like the final version (and my revised synopsis), I think I'll be ready to start querying. :)
Thank you very much :) Has your query been listed yet? I'm curious as to which one it is.
As more and more of the population plays video games, I expect to see it a lot more often. Reading about things like the economics of Second Life can be fascinating:
There are already people who literally make their living inside virtual worlds. Some even make a rather tidy sum. I love to think about the future with quantum computing applied to such worlds.
'...Yuri as she steadily loses her will to live while the concept of reality crumbles around her; only in the end does she find meaning in living in a meaningless world.'
A very brief overview for the query alone? But maybe put in how she finds meaning and what the meaning is.
I just read the two chapters at the Crapometer and enjoyed them far more than I expected given the genres mentioned here. Good luck with it!
McKoala said...John Cusack. Me too. Oh, yeah. OK, back to reality. Rei, there's a couple more comments up on the Crapometer for you. I think that kis and Jane have some good suggestions. I guess my advice would be to stick with the absolute main narrative in the query - Yuri's journey - and elaborate a bit in the synopsis.
Maggie said...I'm getting the impression that Yuri et al suddenly turn out to just be computer game characters half-way through the novel - except that she's somehow come from the game into reality via this "anomaly" which is presumably a programming error.
I'd suggest EXTREEEEME summarising of the description of what happens to Yuri before she leaves the game, so that the agent finds out WTF is going on before they stop reading in confusion.
Or you could just put the Great Revelation right at the beginning. As has been said many times on this blog and others - it's a surprise for your READERS, not your agent.
msjones said...rei, you can write. I went to Crapometer after reading the comments here, and the quality of your work isn't reflected in the query letter. Listen to jane and kis. (ignore the helpless E2) However! I think you could come up with a better title. Maybe Soulless (sounds like solace) or All Souls (commemoration of the departed) or Crux (southern constellation) or Anomie (condition of normlessness and breakdown of society) or Emina (anime spelled backward...no, wait, it's too close to enema).
jane and kis: when you start up that query-writing biz I'll sign on as your first client.
Evil Editor said...(ignore the helpless E2)
What?! Is EE now supposed to base his query critiques on chapters posted at crapometer?
msjones said...no, no, you have to work with what you're given, which in this case was Way Too Much Information.
which led to the state of helplessness which you acknowledged above.
fortunately, you have a veritable horde of mignonettes* to pick up the slack.
* they are all so darling
moonlightwillow said...ROFLMAO at the high concept "Suzie thinks she's buying David Soul's cloak on eBay but ends up as an unwilling slumlord in the afterlife"!!! Now, that is one book I would definitely pay money to read. I'd even watch the long-running hit series.
I'll keep my eye out for it, just in case.
Rei said...As per recommendation, I've posted a revised version below.
(Name), Literary Agent (Address) (Address 2)
Title: SOULSCAPE Genre: Science Fiction Length: 104,000 words
AYARIS: A steampunk nation in its renaissance, located in the simulated world Milare, under the thumb of the oppressive god Tan-Milar.
MEGIDDO: A haven for the anti-cybernetics Rapture Movement, established as an Earth-orbital colony hundreds of years before the book begins. Its residents' computers simulate Milare and countless other worlds for entertainment and research.
FREYA: Megiddo's residents' mental image of Earth below is based on two incorrect assumptions: that humanity still exists on Earth and that Megiddo is still anywhere near Earth. Beyond their walls, technology has long since progressed beyond the need for a body into the vast distributed consciousness that is Freya.
After the turmoil of her university days, all Yuri Rynn wants is a simple life for herself and her son Vandt in Ayaris's capitol city. But after an earthquake exposes a spatial anomaly that consumes all that passes through it, it begins to seem that dream may never be fulfilled.
Drawn into an investigation of the anomaly by Vandt's father Ien, the university's chancellor, Yuri helps develop a method to control the anomaly and unleash its hidden potential. However, gaining the power of a god isn't all it's cracked up to be when you don't know what you're doing. Soon, Yuri finds her life in tatters -- Vandt imprisoned, Ien dead, those who trusted her slain, and the city of her birth in ruins. Fearful of divine retribution and questioning the nature of her own reality, she uses the anomaly to set out to destroy the only god she's ever known -- in his own world.
SOULSCAPE follows numerous complex plot threads, including Yuri's crumbling relationships, the investigation into the anomaly, the nature of her world, of the outside world, and ultimately of reality itself. Yuri's mental state decays as all that she knows falls apart. In the end, tired and thirsting inside a mental prison of her own making, a serendipitous discovery allows her to make peace with her new world.
As per your guidelines on (site), enclosed is a five page excerpt(, a brief synopsis,) and a self-addressed stamped envelope. Thank you for your time.
kis said...You know, I always put my own particulars--address, phone#, email, up in a letterhead. It saves room, and as long as you don't get fancy, you won't look like an idiot.
All in all, much better, though I'm not sure of the opening. I always like to stick my hook in the first paragraph. If it were my book (and I realize it's not), I would start with maybe a question:
What would you do if you discovered your world and everything in it was a sham, a fantasy, a simulation?
As a writer of fantasy, I am much more prone to arranging things lyrically--like a poem. Having read my share of sci-fi, though, I can see the appeal of the technical, almost clinical opening you've chosen. It actually reminds me of the beginning bits of the Alien movies, with the plain sequence of text on a computer screen.
Having never queried sci-fi, I don't know how effective it will be, but it does give a good overview of your story (without too much detail), and an idea of the larger world-within-a-world elements.
Better, better, better.
Ashni said...Much nicer, and much more clear. I might leave off the last sentence of plot description ("In the end, tired and thirsting..."). Although that may just be because I, personally, don't like books that end up with the main character starving and in prison. There are readers, and presumably editors, who enjoy that sort of thing.
You might also leave out the description of Freya, since it isn't required to understand the plot summary.
I disagree about the need for a hook--especially one that could conceivably apply to "The Matrix."
Evil Editor said...I favor leaving out Freya, Megiddo, and the game.
Title: SOULSCAPE Genre: Science Fiction Length: 104,000 words Setting: AYARIS, a steampunk nation in its renaissance, under the thumb of the oppressive god Tan-Milar.
After the turmoil of her university days, all Yuri Rynn wants is a simple life for herself and her son Vandt in Ayaris's capital city. But after an earthquake exposes a spatial anomaly that consumes all that passes through it, it seems that dream may never be fulfilled.
Drawn by Vandt's father Ien, the university's chancellor, into an investigation of the anomaly, Yuri helps develop a method to unleash its hidden potential. However, wielding the power of a god is risky when you don't know what you're doing. Soon, Yuri finds her life in tatters -- Vandt imprisoned, Ien dead, and the city of her birth in ruins. Fearful of divine retribution and questioning the nature of reality, she makes plans to destroy the only god she's ever known -- in his own world.
As per your guidelines etc.
Anonymous said...Evil Editor and Kis are very generous people.
ello said...The revised letter is much much better, but definitely listen to EE and leave off the settings and go directly to plot paragraphs. It's TMI in the letter. One small comment that EE didn't catch - you start with "after" and then you have an "after" in the very next line.
I have to say that re: the original letter, this is a great example of a good writer writing a bad query letter. The author was too close to his/her story and couldn't slice it down to query size and it ended up sounding very stilted and confused. Reading the longest comment in the blogosphere by the author made me realize what an interesting story they had and that they could really write. Soooo, it just goes to show that queries are the hardest things in the world to write and that EE is doing a truly valuable service to all writers out there. Thanks EE you are a peach...
When the whistle of the 7:16 commuter to Chicago pierces the air, Devin stirs beside me. It wakes him every morning. I hate that train.
“Happy birthday, April,” he whispers in my ear, curling me close, stroking my shoulders and back. I still tremble when he touches me tender and soft as if I am someone he loves.
If Devin were a song, he’d be Stand by Me, by Ben E. King. I have long since given up wishing he was Moondance, by Van Morrison. Still, I savor the moment, inhaling him, his sweet-and-salty mix of yesterday’s chlorine and coconut sunscreen and sweat. In my head Fergie sings, ‘the scent of your skin lingers on me now,’ and it’s true. When Devin sleeps with me, it’s like I absorb him into my skin. It’s the closest I’ll ever be to him.
I’ve known Devin Trammel since I was five. He lives next-door and is best friends with Jake and Charlie. Devin’s eighteen, like them.
Everybody has secrets. Big ones, little ones, dirty ones. Devin is my dirty little secret, not because he sleeps in my bed, but because he actually sleeps in my bed. Several nights a week.
* * * The fucking 7:16 transit screams outside the window jarring me awake. April's pushed up right against me and the thought of that train dipping into the tunnel doesn't help my case of blue balls. She shifts as she starts to wake and rubs against me. It's too much, I can't help it, I let it go. "Happy birthday, April," I say, and hold back a snicker. Hoping she won't notice the mess, I rub it into her shoulders and back. Only someone as naive as her wouldn't recognize the smell, like sweet and salty coconuts and bleach. If April were a song she'd be "Come a Little Bit Closer," by Jay and the Americans. I've given up wishing she was "Come Together" by the Beatles. Her friends keep asking her what makes her skin so smooth. She says it's nature. The truth? That's my dirty little secret...