SF Query: THE ARTIFACT COMPETITION

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ceiser
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SF Query: THE ARTIFACT COMPETITION

Post by ceiser » April 29th, 2010, 2:35 am

*The Newest Latest Version is currently on page 5*

Hi. I'm really new here. I've been trying to get around and offer feedback (such that it is), but still feel a bit like a cheater posting my query. Anyway any feedback would be greatly appreciated. This is a revamped version of a query that Nathan Bransford rejected and it's been a challenge (as I'm sure it is for everyone!) to boil all the elements down into a compelling, 250ish-word pitch. Thanks in advance to all comers.

-----

Dear Agent,

Jav Holson is one of the Viscain Empire's super-powered, elite Shades. But not for long. His Artifact was never meant to last and it's already showing signs of deterioration--when it goes, so does he.

In five years, a competition will be held to award three new Artifacts. All Jav has to do is make sure he wins one of them. Though an amnesiac, he knows that this is his second second chance and he's very conscious of his obligation to succeed. Besides, if he doesn't succeed, he's got nothing but a very messy death to look forward to.

Per the Emperor's order, Jav enters the Eighteen Heavenly Claws martial arts school. After putting one student into a coma and becoming the target of abuse for another, he eventually manages to settle in. Once he begins learning the advanced Approaching Infinity techniques, though, he excels to such a degree that one of his teachers wants to seduce him, one wants to kill him, and one thinks he's a monster--in a good way.

The latter of the three is, of course, no problem; the enmity of the second is completely lost on him; but Laedra Hol's seduction poses a big problem for Jav since he's already fallen for one of his fellow students.

THE ARTIFACT COMPETITION is a 76,000-word science fiction novel, the first in a planned series of six. This is my first novel. I chose to submit to you because blah blah blah. Thank you for your time and consideration.
Last edited by ceiser on May 26th, 2010, 5:44 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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Re: SF Query: THE ARTIFACT COMPETITION

Post by theWallflower » April 29th, 2010, 11:23 am

Jav Holson is one of the Viscain Empire's super-powered, elite Shades. But not for long. His Artifact was never meant to last and it's already showing signs of deterioration--when it goes, so does he.
-You need to explain what Shades are. Super-powered and elite isn't enough. You should say something like "one of the Viscain Empire's Shades--super-powered elite assassin ninjas" (or whatever they are).
-Along the same lines, you need to explain what Artifacts are. I know they're tied to someone's life force, I guess. But how does one get them? What's the advantage/disadvantage of having one?
In five years, a competition will be held to award three new Artifacts. All Jav has to do is make sure he wins one of them. Though an amnesiac, he knows that this is his second second chance and he's very conscious of his obligation to succeed. Besides, if he doesn't succeed, he's got nothing but a very messy death to look forward to.
-second second?
-use of very = no no
-The tone of this paragraph wavers back and forth. The last sentence is too casual.
-I still don't know what the central conflict is yet. It can't be the competition, because that takes place 5 years from now.
-He's an amnesiac? More about this
-Obligation to succeed? To who?
Per the Emperor's order, Jav enters the Eighteen Heavenly Claws martial arts school. After putting one student into a coma and becoming the target of abuse for another, he eventually manages to settle in. Once he begins learning the advanced Approaching Infinity techniques, though, he excels to such a degree that one of his teachers wants to seduce him, one wants to kill him, and one thinks he's a monster--in a good way.
-There's some passive voice in this paragraph, and throughout
-If these teachers are prominent characters, maybe name them
-Still don't really know the problem the student faces. what does he want? What is his goal? What signal is he going to get that he's ready for the tournament.
-Is Holson a kid or an adult?
-Monster in a good way seems to carry more meaning that you're saying. Say it.
The latter of the three is, of course, no problem; the enmity of the second is completely lost on him; but Laedra Hol's seduction poses a big problem for Jav since he's already fallen for one of his fellow students.
-Repeated information, except for the fallen for one of the students bit, but that seems extraneous to the central plot
-I feel like you threw in a bunch of stuff that shows up in teen novels, but none of it has to do with the plot. Like Harry Potter at ninja school. I have no sense of Holson's character, but I don't really like him. Nothing bad happens to him, and he excels in everything he does. No obstacles, either personal or external. What are the stakes? Is someone going to die? What happens beyond that? Specifically, what does he want? And it seems that subsequent events change what he wants, so include that.
THE ARTIFACT COMPETITION is a 76,000-word science fiction novel, the first in a planned series of six. This is my first novel. I chose to submit to you because blah blah blah. Thank you for your time and consideration.
-Seems more like fantasy than science fiction. Science fiction has more batteries and cords.
-I hate when queries mention that this is the first of a planned eight-part series or that they already have a sequel written. That's not a selling point. It shows you're short-sighted and don't know how the publishing industry works. See if you can sell your first novel before you write six others in the same universe.
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Re: SF Query: THE ARTIFACT COMPETITION

Post by shadow » April 29th, 2010, 11:42 am

Awesome, SF, my fave lol, here goes.

Dear Agent,

Jav Holson is one of the Viscain Empire's super-powered, elite Shades. Ok, so I have the same sort of thing in the query I am writing, my people aren't human and I am forced to describe what the heck they are, cause readers can't read my mind and I can't read yours. Is it a traditional type of fantasy shade or is it some sort of clan, or is it like a shade as in Eragon type shade? I don't know so you have to tell me :)But not for long. His Artifact was never meant to last and it's already showing signs of deterioration--when it goes, so does he. Since I don't really know what type of shade he is, I have no idea how his life can be connected to an artifact.

In five years, a competition will be held to award three new Artifacts. Is this shade world or earth you are talking about? You need more info. All Jav has to do is make sure he wins one of them. Its not always easy to win.Though an amnesiac, he knows that this is his secondsecond, second?? second chance and he's very conscious of his obligation to succeed. and...Besides, if he doesn't succeed, he's got nothing but a very messy death to look forward to. You should chop some of the sentences before, add more info on what that shade is and get to the hook faster. Pretty much Jay is a shade who is going to die a trecherous death if he does not win an artifact to save his life. In a nutshell...

Per the Emperor's order, Jav enters the Eighteen Heavenly Claws martial arts school. I don't follow. Is the emperor a human? Is Jav even a human? After putting one student into a coma and becoming the target of abuse for another, he eventually manages to settle in. What about the artifact he deathly needed. This is starting to seem like a separate story. Once he begins learning the advanced Approaching Infinity techniques, What are those? though, he excels to such a degree that one of his teachers wants to seduce him, one wants to kill him, and one thinks he's a monster--in a good way. Seduce him? Kill him? Any reasoning for that?

The latter of the three is, of course, no problem; the enmity of the second is completely lost on him; but Laedra Hol's didn't meet her until now so the name sort of jumps out at me. seduction poses a big problem for Jav since he's already fallen for one of his fellow students. Is that really his main issue? I thought the issue was that he is going to die!!! if he doesn't get his hands on the artifact...

THE ARTIFACT COMPETITION is a 76,000-word science fiction novel, the first in a planned series of six. Don't mention the series...If the agent is interested then you talk about that but not here. This is my first novel. Isn't usually necessary to say that you are new to writing. I chose to submit to you because blah blah blah. Thank you for your time and consideration.

It sounds like an interesting story but you really need to work on showing your world in the query which is something that tends to be hard for SF & Fantasy writers. Good Luck!! Oh I almost forgot... Thanks for your critique on my query. I will be posting a new one soon :)
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Re: SF Query: THE ARTIFACT COMPETITION

Post by wilderness » April 29th, 2010, 4:51 pm

Hi,

I agree with the others that Shade and Artifact should be given a quick description.
he knows that this is his second second chance and he's very conscious of his obligation to succeed. Besides, if he doesn't succeed, he's got nothing but a very messy death to look forward to.
This didn't quite work for me -- if he is going to die then obviously he has to succeed. You throw in the part about being an amnesiac without anything further about it.

Overall, there is a lack of focus in the query. You describe some sub-plots rather than a single conflict. If the goal of 6 books is to win the competition, you need a far more immediate goal in the first of your series. Also I do think you should present it as a standalone novel rather than a series.

Hope that helps!

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Re: SF Query: THE ARTIFACT COMPETITION

Post by ceiser » April 29th, 2010, 8:19 pm

Thanks for all the great feedback! It's been very helpful.

Below is an older version of the query, but maybe it's a better direction to go in. I think it addresses some of the points brought up, but isn't quite right yet. Thanks in advance for all your help!

------

Dear Agent,

The only thing Jav Holson knows is that whatever cost him his memory would have destroyed him if not for the Viscain Emperor.

The Emperor's gift of an Artifact--the Ritual Mask--made Jav into a Shade, one of the Empire's elite, super-powered soldiers and he gladly fights to further the reach of the planet-snaring Undead Vine that is the Viscain Empire. But the Ritual Mask was never meant to last and the Emperor wants to see a continued return on his investment.

To replace Shades lost in recent planetary acquisitions, and to give Jav a chance to live past the death of the Ritual Mask, the Emperor schedules a martial arts tournament, the Artifact Competition, to be held in five years. Since the Ritual Mask is failing, its power diminishing, Jav must train in the Eighteen Heavenly Claws to meet and beat the challenges posed by the various opponents he'll be up against. First, though, he'll have to survive his training.

With elements of both science fiction and fantasy, THE ARTIFACT COMPETITION is complete at 76,000 words. I chose to submit to you because blah blah blah. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

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Re: SF Query: THE ARTIFACT COMPETITION

Post by shadow » April 29th, 2010, 9:03 pm

Hey again Ceisar! This is a very trecherous time for you with the queries as it is for me, so just letting you know that I know how much it sucks, but don't worry. Here is my critique, sorry if it comes off harsh. Just trying to help, critique is always help.

Dear Agent,

The only thing Jav Holson knows is that whatever cost him his memory would have destroyed him if not for the Viscain Emperor. This opening gives me the idea that the novel starts with him having no memories which is cliche. I don't know if thats that though.

The Emperor's gift of an Artifact--the Ritual Mask--made Jav into a Shade, one of the Empire's elite, super-powered soldiers and he gladly fights to further the reach of the planet-snaring Undead Vine that is the Viscain Empire. Much more clear than before. MUCH. Seriuosly. All I have to say is that ytou can shorten the sentence up for sure. But the Ritual Mask was never meant to last and the Emperor wants to see a continued return on his investment.

To replace Shades lost in recent planetary acquisitions, and to give Jav a chance to live past the death of the Ritual Mask, the Emperor schedules a martial arts tournament, the Artifact Competition, to be held in five years. Since the Ritual Mask is failing, its power diminishing, Jav must train in the Eighteen Heavenly Claws to meet and beat the challenges posed by the various opponents he'll be up against. First, though, he'll have to survive his training. You have a pretty solid hook.

With elements of both science fiction and fantasy, THE ARTIFACT COMPETITION is complete at 76,000 words. I chose to submit to you because blah blah blah. Thank you for your time and consideration. So which is it... Science Fiction or Fantasy?? Also I have to say this is much better than before. You only have minor tidy ups to do and you are off :)

Sincerely,
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Re: SF Query: THE ARTIFACT COMPETITION

Post by Ermo » April 30th, 2010, 12:27 pm

ceiser wrote:Thanks for all the great feedback! It's been very helpful.

Below is an older version of the query, but maybe it's a better direction to go in. I think it addresses some of the points brought up, but isn't quite right yet. Thanks in advance for all your help!

------

Dear Agent,

The only thing Jav Holson knows is that whatever cost him his memory would have destroyed him if not for the Viscain Emperor.

The Emperor's gift of an Artifact--the Ritual Mask--made Jav into a Shade, one of the Empire's elite, super-powered soldiers and he gladly fights to further the reach of the planet-snaring Undead Vine that is the Viscain Empire. But the Ritual Mask was never meant to last and the Emperor wants to see a continued return on his investment.

To replace Shades lost in recent planetary acquisitions, and to give Jav a chance to live past the death of the Ritual Mask, the Emperor schedules a martial arts tournament, the Artifact Competition, to be held in five years. Since the Ritual Mask is failing, its power diminishing, Jav must train in the Eighteen Heavenly Claws to meet and beat the challenges posed by the various opponents he'll be up against. First, though, he'll have to survive his training.

With elements of both science fiction and fantasy, THE ARTIFACT COMPETITION is complete at 76,000 words. I chose to submit to you because blah blah blah. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,
This is much better than your first one. I'd get rid of the "to be held in five years." I'm sure that has some relevance to the story but I don't think it belongs in the query. It just makes me think that the real action is five years away. All that matters is that he's training for a tournament.

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Re: SF Query: THE ARTIFACT COMPETITION

Post by rainbowsheeps » April 30th, 2010, 12:49 pm

ceiser wrote:Thanks for all the great feedback! It's been very helpful.

Below is an older version of the query, but maybe it's a better direction to go in. I think it addresses some of the points brought up, but isn't quite right yet. Thanks in advance for all your help!

------

Dear Agent,

The only thing Jav Holson knows is that whatever cost him his memory ("cost" is a weak verb here, reads as passive. I'd suggest something punchier) would have destroyed him if not for the Viscain Emperor.

The Emperor's gift of an Artifact--the Ritual Mask--made Jav into a Shade (This is passive writing. You've made the artifact/mask the subject of the sentence. It's doing the verb, in this case, is "making Jav into a Shade. Make Jav the subject of this sentence), one of the Empire's elite, super-powered soldiers, (Missing comma) and he gladly fights to further the reach of the planet-snaring Undead Vine that is the Viscain Empire. (You can say he becomes a loyal soldier fighting for the glory of the empire that saved his life. You can say that, but the metaphor there reads as clumsy) But the Ritual Mask was never meant to last, (Missing comma) and the Emperor wants to see a continued return on his investment. (The last sentence is pretty good.)

To replace Shades lost in recent planetary acquisitions, and to give Jav a chance to live past the death of the Ritual Mask, the Emperor schedules a martial arts tournament, the Artifact Competition, to be held in five years (This could probably be shortened and tightened). Since the Ritual Mask is failing, its power diminishing, Jav must train in the Eighteen Heavenly Claws to meet and beat the challenges posed by the various opponents he'll be up against. First, though, he'll have to survive his training.

With elements of both science fiction and fantasy, THE ARTIFACT COMPETITION is complete at 76,000 words. I chose to submit to you because blah blah blah. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,
Aside from the passive voice, I think the biggest problem is the lack of personality in the query. Jav is a drone to me. He has no memory and becomes a loyal soldier to an Emperor that doesn't seem very charismatic, either. I don't have any reason to want to read about what happens to him. Your plot here is setting up the fact his life is in jeopardy because his ritual mask is withering away, but I don't really care about what he dies. Why should I? If he has some sort of relationship, if he loves anything, or there's any reason at all a reader might want to see him succeed, you definitely need to get that in.

I think that's the biggest problem at this point. The passive writing is a problem, the missing commas are too, but the lack of voice is the biggest issue I'd worry about. It's missing any elements to give it some resonance. Even if this is scifi/fantasy and it doesn't have romantic entanglements and such, you need to have a character people want to root for.

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Re: SF Query: THE ARTIFACT COMPETITION

Post by wilderness » April 30th, 2010, 1:25 pm

ceiser wrote: The only thing Jav Holson knows is that whatever cost him his memory would have destroyed him if not for the Viscain Emperor. I like that he has a personal debt to the Emperor, but it reads a bit awkwardly.

The Emperor's gift of an Artifact--the Ritual Mask--made Jav into a Shade, one of the Empire's elite, super-powered soldiers. He gladly fights to further the reach of the planet-snaring Undead Vine that is the Viscain Empire. But the Ritual Mask was never meant to last and the Emperor wants to see a continued return on his investment.

To replace Shades lost in recent planetary acquisitions, and to give Jav a chance to live past the death of the Ritual Mask, the Emperor schedules a martial arts tournament, the Artifact Competition, to be held in five years. Since the Ritual Mask's power is diminishing, Jav must train in the Eighteen Heavenly Claws to meet andbeat the challenges posed by the various opponents he'll be up against. But first he'll have to survive his training.

With elements of both science fiction and fantasy, THE ARTIFACT COMPETITION is complete at 76,000 words. I chose to submit to you because blah blah blah. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,
I think this version is much more focused and clear than the other one. I think it would be nice, as rainbowsheeps suggested, to give some indication of Jav's personality. Good luck!

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Re: SF Query: THE ARTIFACT COMPETITION

Post by ceiser » May 1st, 2010, 9:24 am

Many thanks to shadow, Ermo, rainbowsheeps, and wilderness! The second sentence is still passive, but I've tried to incorporate everyone's advice where I could for now. Still not there, but working on it. Here's version 3!
-----
Dear Agent,

The only thing Jav Holson knows is that whatever robbed him of his memory would have destroyed him if not for the Viscain Emperor.

The Emperor's gift of an Artifact--the Ritual Mask--made Jav into a Shade, one of the Empire's elite, super-powered soldiers, the vanguard fighters who further the reach of the planet-snaring Undead Vine that is the Viscain Empire. But the Ritual Mask was never meant to last, and the Emperor wants to see a continued return on his investment.

To replace Shades lost in recent planetary acquisitions, and to give Jav a chance to live past the death of the Ritual Mask, the Emperor schedules a martial arts tournament, the Artifact Competition. Since the Ritual Mask is deteriorating, Jav must train in the Eighteen Heavenly Claws to beat the opponents he'll face. First, though, he'll have to survive his training.

With the Ritual Mask sealed away to conserve its power, Jav is an easy target for his fellow students who resent what they see as his privileged status. Senior student Mei Pardine in particular can't abide his presence, even after learning he hasn't taken her place in the competition. But rather than bemoan his lot, Jav uses her abuse at every opportunity to push himself and improve. Besides, he's starting to fall for Mei's half sister, Mai, and complaining is the last thing on his mind.

THE ARTIFACT COMPETITION is a 76,000-word science fiction novel. I chose to submit to you because blah blah blah. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

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Re: SF Query: THE ARTIFACT COMPETITION

Post by Quill » May 1st, 2010, 11:22 am

I don't get much of a feel for your main character. Very plot-heavy and non character-developed query. Is that intentional?

Otherwise it sounds like an interesting story.

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Re: SF Query: THE ARTIFACT COMPETITION

Post by rainbowsheeps » May 1st, 2010, 2:25 pm

ceiser wrote:Many thanks to shadow, Ermo, rainbowsheeps, and wilderness! The second sentence is still passive, but I've tried to incorporate everyone's advice where I could for now. Still not there, but working on it. Here's version 3!
-----
Dear Agent,

The only thing Jav Holson knows is that whatever robbed him of his memory would have destroyed him if not for the Viscain Emperor.

The Emperor's gift of an Artifact--the Ritual Mask--made Jav into a Shade, one of the Empire's elite, super-powered soldiers, the vanguard fighters who further the reach of the planet-snaring Undead Vine that is the Viscain Empire. But the Ritual Mask was never meant to last, and the Emperor wants to see a continued return on his investment.

To replace Shades lost in recent planetary acquisitions, and to give Jav a chance to live past the death of the Ritual Mask, the Emperor schedules a martial arts tournament, the Artifact Competition. Since the Ritual Mask is deteriorating, Jav must train in the Eighteen Heavenly Claws to beat the opponents he'll face. First, though, he'll have to survive his training.

With the Ritual Mask sealed away to conserve its power, Jav is an easy target for his fellow students who resent what they see as his privileged status. Senior student Mei Pardine in particular can't abide his presence, even after learning he hasn't taken her place in the competition. But rather than bemoan his lot, Jav uses her abuse at every opportunity to push himself and improve. Besides, he's starting to fall for Mei's half sister, Mai, and complaining is the last thing on his mind.

THE ARTIFACT COMPETITION is a 76,000-word science fiction novel. I chose to submit to you because blah blah blah. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,
I won't go line by line, but I had a thought while reading this version.

Is your story centered mainly around the tournament that Jav is in? I mean, is that most of the story, where he enters a tournament to win a new ritual for his life? Because if that's true, I think you should probably cut out all of the paragraphs before the tournament as backstory, and instead use a single sentence to briefly give an idea of why he really needs this, but significantly more concise. Something like: Jav steps into the ring (or whatever) of the Eighteen Heavenly Claws tournament. He's not just fighting for the prize, an artifact that will save his life, but also for the affection of the Emperor who took him in. But, you know, with your own style and using the truth from your story.

The fact we don't feel anything for Jav is still the biggest problem. I think I'm realizing now the backstory is bogging it down when you can be using the space to make us really care about him. You might need to tell us a little more about what he's thinking, why he likes that half sister, how nervous he is about winning (if he is), things that we can relate to.

I'd suggest maybe trying a wholly new version of the query. The worst that can happen with that is that it proves to be a waste of time, but then you can always go back to this one if it doesn't work. If you do try though, I'd say try to boil down that backstory into a line or two, and don't look at it as if you're just explaining the important plot points, but try to use the opportunity to show us Jav as a character nervous for his life and trying to be loyal and do the right thing. Or something that will make us feel for him.

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Re: SF Query: THE ARTIFACT COMPETITION

Post by lunerunit » May 1st, 2010, 3:58 pm

Hi Ceiser!

I saw that you commented on my mess of a query, and appreciated your comments, so I thought I'd return the favor. Hopefully you find my feedback helpful.

I have to agree with rainbowsheeps, though. I feel I need to know just a little more to fully understand your plot. I really like her suggestion to dropping the back story. Here are a couple of places I had trouble:
The only thing Jav Holson knows is that whatever robbed him of his memory would have destroyed him if not for the Viscain Emperor.
As far as I can tell, you have not mentioned the loss of his memory anywhere else. What does this have to do with the plot?

What is the Undead Vine? I'm kind of lost.

What return does the Emperor want to see on his investment?

Does Jav die when the mask dies?
and complaining is the last thing on his mind.
I can't see what relevance this statement has to do with anything.

I feel you need a little more, it feels a little weak in the end. Does Jav end up battling the Emperor? What is his main struggle?

Good luck! Keep it up!

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Re: SF Query: THE ARTIFACT COMPETITION

Post by ceiser » May 2nd, 2010, 7:40 am

Okay, I freely admit to drowning in the dark here. I am struggling. But everyone's feedback is really helping (though it may not be showing in my revisions). Here is a new take and I really have no idea if it's good or bad. I think I need to take a break from the darned thing, but I'm on vacation and don't usually have this kind of time to spend on writing. Anyway, here goes!

Latest Version


Dear Agent,

Jav Holson was both blessed and cursed with an Artifact from the Viscain Emperor. The Ritual Mask gives Jav immense power, but it was never meant to last. When Artifacts fail, they take their hosts with them, and it's never pretty. But Jav has a chance. The Emperor has scheduled a martial arts competition to award three new Artifacts. All Jav has to do is win one of them.

That means starting over. Per the Emperor's order, Jav enters the Eighteen Heavenly Claws martial arts school on Planet 1287. When he arrives, the cold stares of the other students--all of them female--make him feel like an intruder. Accidently putting one of them into a coma on his first day doesn't improve his standing, either.

Being a complete novice, and with the Ritual Mask sealed away to conserve its power, Jav is an easy target for abuse. Senior student Mei Pardine, in particular, can't abide his presence, even after learning that he hasn't taken her place at the competition. Though forced to show respect, Jav recognizes her pettiness for what it is, and he actually appreciates it: everything she does pushes him to work harder and improve. Though Jav finds a friend--and perhaps more--in Mei's half-sister Mai, Mei never softens, and she is just the first of the hazards that await him during his training leading up to the competition.

THE ARTIFACT COMPETITION is a 76,000-word science fiction novel. I chose to submit to you because blah blah blah. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

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Re: SF Query: THE ARTIFACT COMPETITION

Post by rainbowsheeps » May 2nd, 2010, 12:10 pm

ceiser wrote:Okay, I freely admit to drowning in the dark here. I am struggling. But everyone's feedback is really helping (though it may not be showing in my revisions). Here is a new take and I really have no idea if it's good or bad. I think I need to take a break from the darned thing, but I'm on vacation and don't usually have this kind of time to spend on writing. Anyway, here goes!

Latest Version


Dear Agent,

Jav Holson was both blessed and cursed with an Artifact from the Viscain Emperor. The Ritual Mask gives Jav immense power, but it was never meant to last. When Artifacts fail, they take their hosts with them, and it's never pretty. But Jav has a chance. The Emperor has scheduled a martial arts competition to award three new Artifacts. All Jav has to do is win one of them. (I don't think you want to say "All he has to do" when that's his main goal. You want to show that it's going to be difficult to amp up the tension. That said, I honestly still think this is too wordy for the backstory. The query should probably start at an active point, such as him in the middle of a fight in the tournament, or something like that.)

That means starting over. Per the Emperor's order, Jav enters the Eighteen Heavenly Claws martial arts school on Planet 1287. When he arrives, the cold stares of the other students--all of them female--make him feel like an intruder. Accidently putting one of them into a coma on his first day doesn't improve his standing, either. (This is a little better. We're getting a little clearer picture of what he's facing in this tournament. I still think there's too much mention of the Emperor, when he should probably only be mentioned briefly.)

Being a complete novice, and with the Ritual Mask sealed away to conserve its power, Jav is an easy target for abuse. Senior student Mei Pardine, in particular, can't abide his presence ("can't abide his presence" is a little passive), even after learning that he hasn't taken her place at the competition (This also would need explanation as to why she thought he would be. You'll need to either explain it, or take that part out.). Though forced to show respect, Jav recognizes her pettiness for what it is, and he actually appreciates it: everything she does pushes him to work harder and improve. (This is going in the right direction, but I think we need to be shown this to make it more effective.) Though Jav finds a friend--and perhaps more--in Mei's half-sister Mai, Mei never softens, and she is just the first of the hazards that await him during his training leading up to the competition. (Again, saying he kind of likes her sister doesn't mean very much still. We don't know why, and she doesn't have a personality in the letter. The focus is on the, ahem, angry sister, which is alright, but if you could show this somehow, it would read much better I think.)

THE ARTIFACT COMPETITION is a 76,000-word science fiction novel ("fiction novel" here. I know that at least Janet Reid would eat you for lunch for that one.) I chose to submit to you because blah blah blah. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,
I see the attempts to make Jav into a fuller character. Unfortunately, I have to say he's still not deep enough for my tastes. I advocate showing a hook of some sort in the first paragraph. Cut the backstory even more, into a sentence or two. Funnel every detail through Jav's perspective. That means don't start any of the sentences with "The Emperor", "The Empire" or "Mei." Focus on the essential query questions:

1) Who is Jav?
2) What is the conflict?
3) What does he want?
4) What does he do to reach his goal?
5) What's at stake?

If you literally answer these questions in a separate document and use them to write your query, you should see how much backstory you've put in that isn't necessarily needed. As far as explaining who Jav is, I think you need to briefly explain his debt/loyalty to the Empire/Emperor, or at least allude to it, but you also need to show us he's a good or interesting person somehow. We're told a lot of things about him in the query right now, but I'd like to see specific examples and figure it out myself.

I think it's progressing in the right direction. I know I've written my query at least a hundred times and it's still not perfect. It gets stressing. It tries you. It takes a long time and a lot of work, but I think you'll get this.

You might want to wait for a few more comments before you make changes, too, to see what others think. It will give you some time for a break and a better perspective, probably.

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