Book of the Watchers-revised

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bookwatcher
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Book of the Watchers-revised

Post by bookwatcher » March 31st, 2010, 5:08 pm

This is try number three. It's been quite awhile since I updated because I've re-edited my story. I'm now ready to dive head first (ouch) into the query pool again. Thanks in advance for all of you who rip it apart. I want it good and my thin skin has put on a few more layers. So bring it on! :)

Dear Agent,

Seventeen year-old Sara Charles lives in a small town with her parents and her younger sister. Her life is less than ordinary. She's clumsy, shy to the point of passing out and has carefully avoided people her entire life. She's in the middle of her junior year of high school when she discovers the reason for her void life--she's cursed.

David is also seventeen living in the same small town. He's tall and rib poking skinny and avoids others, too. He has a secret, though. One he's kept since he was a child. David has the power to calm others' minds with the touch of his hand.

Sara and David meet in real life, but what brought them together was a dream. A dream where they came face to face with a Native American who tells Sara he's come for her soul, and David can't save her.

Because of David's gift, they are pulled together into the Dream Realm where Sara's will to live is tested and broken. When she wakes up with real injuries they work together to hide their secret life from her parents.

Her nightmare continues as she discovers her sister is called into the dreams as a Watcher; called to keep a record of everything that happens to Sara in a book called the Book of Watchers.

This ancient book carries a record of all the cursed souls from the time the curse was placed. In it, they learn their fates have already been determined: They both will die. One must sacrifice life, the other will lose their soul, forever trapped in the Dream Realm.

BOOK OF THE WATCHERS is a 79,000 word YA/Teen Fantasy that takes place in modern day Southwest New Mexico.



This was my first attempt:

When an ancient Native American curse that trapped a soulless sorceress in the Dream Realm resurfaces in modern-day small town Silver City, NM, 17 year-old SARA CHARLES finds her hollow life condemned to torturous dreams and a conscious existence incapable of happiness.


That is until she meets DAVID. David's unique power temporarily gives Sara the ability to feel and act like other people. Together they attempt to uncover the truth about the curse and fight to defeat it. 


Even though she is desperate to avoid the torture that awaits her in her dreams, Sara is equally desperate to avoid hurting the one person willing to stand by her. 

David is determined that she will live. Sara is determined that she will not allow the curse to take David with her. Her decision causes her to make a self-sacrificing decision that will separate her from the cursed souls of the past.

THE BOOK OF WATCHERS is a fast-paced 98,000 word YA/Urban Fantasy novel set in modern day southwest New Mexico.

Thank you for your consideration on my behalf.
Last edited by bookwatcher on July 22nd, 2010, 12:59 am, edited 4 times in total.

CoachMT
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Re: Book of the Watchers-query

Post by CoachMT » March 31st, 2010, 5:38 pm

I'll have a go, but these are just my opinions : )
When an ancient Native American curse that trapped a soulless sorceress in the Dream Realm resurfaces in modern-day small town Silver City, NM, 17 year-old SARA CHARLES finds her hollow life condemned to torturous dreams and a conscious existence incapable of happiness.
Holy cow, that's a lung drainer! First a couple of technical corrections/suggestions: Spell out New Mexico and seventeen. Also, don't put character names in all caps. Just the title of your book as you did in your closing paragraph. So, let's boil this baby down and see what we have: Native American curse, a sorceress who is trapped in a Dream Realm, setting of modern day small town, seventeen-year-old Sara, bad dreams. We're going to want to break that up somehow, but in addition, here's some questions I'd ask: How does Sara get this curse? Why was her life hollow before? (implied in the way you've worded this) and How does the curse make her incapable of happiness?
David's unique power temporarily gives Sara the ability to feel and act like other people.
How does this help her? It's pretty vague to me and needs to be expanded.
Even though she is desperate to avoid the torture that awaits her in her dreams, Sara is equally desperate to avoid hurting the one person willing to stand by her. 

David is determined that she will live. Sara is determined that she will not allow the curse to take David with her. Her decision causes her to make a self-sacrificing decision that will separate her from the cursed souls of the past.
How can her dreams hurt David? The fact that they are life-threatening to Sara needs to be expanded, how can her dreams kill her? Then you have some repetition in the last sentence: Her decision causes her to make a decision... again, how? If it's just a decision that can get rid of the dreams/curse, it seems too simple.

Lastly, you already stated it was set in modern day New Mexico in the first sentence... you also didn't hyphenate "modern day" the second time. Agents will pounce on mistakes/inconsistencies like that. They look at it that if you can't proofread a query, then probably your MS will be a mess. Right or wrong, little stuff like that can make it sink or swim.

Your query doesn't need to give the whole plot of the book, but you do need to outline the conflicts and show some of the characters' emotions. Hope this gives you a start anyway. : )

kenpochick
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Re: Book of the Watchers-query

Post by kenpochick » March 31st, 2010, 5:39 pm

bookwatcher wrote:Okay, as I'm trying to understand what a query consists of by reading the queries and the feedback, I am hoping to gain a little insight in to my own rejected query. Thanks in advance for any and all comments. So far from what I've read there are quite a few people who have great comments and suggestions.
Here goes:

Dear agent,

When an ancient Native American curse that trapped a soulless sorceress in the Dream Realm resurfaces in modern-day small town Silver City, NM, 17 year-old SARA CHARLES finds her hollow life condemned to torturous dreams and a conscious existence incapable of happiness.  Since I don't know details of the story I'm going to make up some details to make the paragraph flow a little better. You can change it to what really happens. :-) Sara Charles lives the ordinary existance of a 17 year old in small town America until she unwittingly draws the attention of an evil sorceress trapped in the dream realm. Now as the sorceress struggles to re-emerge in the real world, even Sara's waking world is a nightmare.


That is until she meets DAVID.  David's unique power temporarily gives Sara the ability to feel and act like other people.allowing Sara a mental escape from her torment and time toTogether theyattempt to uncover the truth about the curse which trapped the sorceress and find a way to defeatit. her. 


Even though she is desperate to avoid the torture that awaits her in her dreams, Sara is equally desperate to avoid hurting the one person willing to stand by her.  

David is determined that she will live. Sara is determined that she will not allow the curse to take David with her. Her decision causes her to make a self-sacrificing decision that will separate her from the cursed souls of the past. Why is Sara worried about hurting David? Why does David think she won't live? What decision does she have to make?

THE BOOK OF WATCHERS is a fast-paced 98,000 word YA/Urban Fantasy novel set in modern day southwest New Mexico.

Thank you for your consideration on my behalf.

I'm kind of confused by the query so I think you need more detail about your plot. In the opening paragraph you say that the sorceress is trapped in the dream world but also re-emerged in the real world. Which is it? Why is she targetting Sara? How does David know about any of this?

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Re: Book of the Watchers-query

Post by Emily J » March 31st, 2010, 5:42 pm

Okay, writing queries are hard, that being said I think you can make this better.

The first sentence is unpalatable. It is too long and uppercuts the reader with too much information. Why is she cursed? Who is the soulless sorceress? And PLEASE don't capitalize the character names. Title yes, names, no. We have no background on Sara aside from age, and none on David but that he has a "unique power." And his power gives Sara the power to feel and act like other people? I don't understand this. Try rephrasing it.

Don't say torture since you have already used the adjective torturous. But how are her dreams torturous? Is she beaten with sticks? Is she given paper cuts then has lemon juice squeezed into them? Is she forced to watch reruns of Full House?

This sentence needs to change: "Her decision causes her to make a self-sacrificing decision..." aside from being vague you use decision twice.

Generally I don't like "fast-paced" since it's used in so many query letters, but that's just my own taste. Aside from that, 98,000 is a bit long for YA. I don't think it would be a deal breaker, but I'm not sure.

Take a red pen to this, because I think you could make some vast improvements. I like the title but I don't have a good sense of the plot or the characters yet.

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gonzo2802
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Re: Book of the Watchers-query

Post by gonzo2802 » March 31st, 2010, 5:43 pm

Some of my thoughts -- and please take them with a grain of salt, because I am by no means a query expert. I think your problem is like most of us... our explanation makes perfect sense to us, but sounds pretty vague to someone who doesn't know the story. (the agent) Hope some of it helps!
bookwatcher wrote:
Dear agent,

When an ancient Native American curse that trapped a soulless sorceress in the Dream Realm resurfaces in modern-day small town Silver City, NM, 17 year-old SARA CHARLES finds her hollow life condemned to torturous dreams and a conscious existence incapable of happiness. The concern I have with your hook is 1) it sounds as though her life was hollow before the bad stuff even begins. 2) I don't really get a feel for what torturous dreams and a conscious existence incapable of happiness really means. Does she suffer from raging nightmares and a perpetual bad mood? If so, that paints a clearer picture 3) I would drop the part about the soulless sorceress and the Dream Realm. I'm sure it makes sense in the story, but for the query you'll get the point across by just stating that it is an ancient Native American curse.


That is until she meets DAVID. David shouldn't be in all caps David's unique power temporarily gives Sara the ability to feel and act like other people. What does that mean exactly? Why does David have this power and what does it mean to feel and act like other people? Like up in the hook above, if you clarify what Sara's problems are, then it will clarify how David helps make her better when he's around... ie, getting rid of nightmares or whatnot. Together they attempt to uncover the truth about the curse and fight to defeat it. 
What type of truth are they trying to uncover? I think maybe you're meaning to say they attempt to learn the origin of the curse so they can defeat it?

Even though she is desperate to avoid the torture that awaits her in her dreams, Sara is equally desperate to avoid hurting the one person willing to stand by her. 

David is determined that she will live. Sara is determined that she will not allow the curse to take David with her. Her decision causes her to make a self-sacrificing decision that will separate her from the cursed souls of the past. This is where it gets tricky for all of us, figuring out how to frame the main conflict. We get that Sara and David are special to each other, but why is she in danger of dying? This is the first time we're learning that the curse may be fatal. And how is David going to get hurt by the curse? I'd also avoid labeling it as a self-sacrificing decision only because, most all stories we read require the MC to make, or we believe they'll have to make, a self-sacrificing decision. To state it makes it sound a little redundant.

THE BOOK OF WATCHERS is a fast-paced 98,000 word YA/Urban Fantasy novel set in modern day southwest New Mexico.

Thank you for your consideration on my behalf.

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bookwatcher
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Re: Book of the Watchers-query

Post by bookwatcher » March 31st, 2010, 5:59 pm

Wow, I'm floored at the responses. Thank you so much. I knew it was bad, but at least now I have a direction to take it in. I was so worried about posting for people to see, but all of your advice was constructive and positive. I'm going back to the drawing board and with your advice in mind hopefully "take 2" will be a step in the right direction!

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Re: Book of the Watchers-query

Post by Quill » March 31st, 2010, 11:37 pm

THE BOOK OF WATCHERS is a fast-paced 98,000 word YA/Urban Fantasy novel set in modern day southwest New Mexico.
I'm far from a genre expert, but I'm wondering if Urban (Fantasy) is a term that can be properly applied to southwest New Mexico. I didn't think there were any urban areas there at all.

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bookwatcher
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Re: Book of the Watchers-query

Post by bookwatcher » April 1st, 2010, 9:43 am

Thanks for pointing that out, Quill. I looked it up and it doesn't mean what I thought it meant. It's some kind of fantasy, though. Teen Fantasy, maybe?

kenpochick
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Re: Book of the Watchers-query

Post by kenpochick » April 1st, 2010, 9:53 am

"Urban fantasy is a subset of fantasy defined by place; the fantastic narrative has an urban setting. Many urban fantasies are set in contemporary times or contain supernatural elements. However, this is not the primary definition of urban fantasy.[1] Urban fantasy can be set in historical times, modern times, or futuristic times. The prerequisite is that it must be primarily set in a city, rather than in a suburban or country setting, which have their own genre subsets.[2]"

If you just label it Young Adult that's all that is needed. All Young Adult are placed in the same section of the book store. The agent will know it's fantasy based on your query.

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Re: Book of the Watchers-query take 2

Post by mrpluckey » April 5th, 2010, 4:04 pm

First of all, have you read a query that wasn't boring? This query gives a lot more information than the last, which is good. It answers a lot of questions some of us had. I say, good job on the revise.

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