SF Query: THE ARTIFACT COMPETITION

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rainbowsheeps
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Re: SF Query: THE ARTIFACT COMPETITION

Post by rainbowsheeps » May 5th, 2010, 12:10 am

lunerunit wrote:I like the new hook. It's improving but I still want to know more about Jav and what's at stake. There's no urgency, infact just the opposite. He's got five years to train and it seems the worst of his problems is a pissed off chick in his martial arts school, and oh yeah, he might die if he doesn't do good in training. Now if she becomes a real threat and he has to fight her in the end, I want to hear about it. Otherwise, I don't really want to know much about her. Consider taking out "But Jav doesn't mind." I want to hear about what Jav cares about.

When does the action start? Write your pitch around that. I get that he's got this gift from the emperor and it makes him a bad ass fighter and without it he'll die. But is there a twist to the story? Has he sold his soul to the emperor for this artifact? If so, does he find a way out of the deal?

I'm just shooting from the hip here, and my brain is toast from working on my own query. But this is just what I thought when I read it.
Lunerunit totally stole my comments here. I agree whole-heartedly. I like the new hook about him needing to do well to have a future at all, but the illustration of the character needs work. What I said in another critique applies here too: the world isn't hanging in the balance here. The life of Jav is. Basically, you need to make the reader really care about the life of Jav, because that's the only thing at risk.

To do that, lunerunit has it exactly right by telling us what he does care about, not what he doesn't mind.

A lot of queries for genre fiction that I see don't really show the emotions of the characters very often. Usually, it's allll about the plot. I sometimes feel like I might be leading fellow writers astray at my insistence that you really show us a character we can care about (because of my literary tastes), but I honestly believe that's the issue here when the main conflict revolves around the life of one individual, whether it be literary or fantasy or whatever. If you try subtly infusing a spectrum of emotions Jav feels in the story, like the loyalty he has to the Emperor for saving his life, or the loneliness he feels as the outcast at school. If you could show us his specific reaction/feeling to these things (with a few words), it might do wonders. Take the sentence where he accidentally puts another student in a coma, for instance. You say it pretty dryly here to explain that his situation kind of sucks. But his situation kind of sucking isn't what's going to make us read on. So maybe use the same incident to tell us something more important, like something about his character: does he feel some kind of regret for putting the student in a coma? Does he learn he's more powerful, even without the mask, than he originally thought?

You did make some improvements with the girl he likes, Mai. But instead of vaguely alluding to the fact she was nice to him when no one else was, show us the specific incident where she helped him for the first time. Make us see her the way he saw her then, and we'll start to really care about both of them. The specifics is here is what matters, because it helps us picture it in our heads, and it's what we readers can relate to. If you can show us Jav being more passionate about these things that are happening to him, it will make us care, too. Passion is contagious.

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Re: SF Query: THE ARTIFACT COMPETITION

Post by ceiser » May 11th, 2010, 6:11 pm

Okay. First, let me just thank you all again for your feedback. I've tried to let it sink in and work passive, background magic and hopefully that will show.

All feedback welcome and appreciated!

Newest Latest Version

Dear Agent,

Jav Holson is one of the Viscain Empire's elite soldiers, given immense power by the Emperor's gift of an Artifact. But his Artifact, the Ritual Mask, was never meant to last, and when it fails, Jav is a dead man. Unless, that is, he can win a new, permanent Artifact in a competition to be held in five years.

To have any chance of success in the competition, Jav must train in the Eighteen Heavenly Claws. With the Ritual Mask sealed away to conserve its power, Jav practices long past dark every day, enduring senior student Mei Pardine's abuse and outright attacks. His only distraction is carving stone flowers for Lili Farina, still in a coma by his hand. But, when Mei's half-sister, Mai, takes over Jav's training, her beautiful performance of the Eighteen Heavenly Claws overwhelms him, and he feels for a moment as if he's known her forever. He can't help but start to have feelings for her.

Together they have a lot of work to do. Besides first raising Jav to Mei's level, they have to survive a vacation turned deadly and be ready for the qualifying preliminary match. Jav unwittingly earns the hatred of one of his teachers and stumbles onto a nest of alien pirates all on his own. Every step forward is a hazard, but Jav has to make it to the competition. He has to master the Eighteen Heavenly Claws if he's to have any future at all.

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.

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Re: SF Query: THE ARTIFACT COMPETITION

Post by Quill » May 11th, 2010, 7:54 pm

ceiser wrote:
Jav Holson is one of the Viscain Empire's elite soldiers, given immense power by the Emperor's gift of an Artifact.
Cool, but omit "Viscain", a name which slows us down and we don't need to know it.
But his Artifact, the Ritual Mask, was never meant to last, and when it fails, Jav is a dead man. Unless, that is, he can win a new, permanent Artifact in a competition to be held in five years.
Some gift. Why was he given a faulty Artifact with a seeming death sentence attached? Seems we should know lest we feel this is a plot contrivance. So we can care about the outcome.
To have any chance of success in the competition, Jav must train in the Eighteen Heavenly Claws. With the Ritual Mask sealed away to conserve its power, Jav practices long past dark every day,
In a query we don't need to know until what time of day he practices. How about "long and hard" or some such?
enduring senior student Mei Pardine's abuse and outright attacks.
Outright attacks seems redundant to abuse. How about one or the other, or something else for both? Of the two, probably abuse is stronger.
His only distraction is carving stone flowers
Huh? If he is practicing until dark every day, when does he have time to learn or do stone carving -- a time consuming pastime, I would imagine!
for Lili Farina, still in a coma by his hand.
Whoa, new character out of left field. Probably the student you once told us he accidentally maimed on his first day of classes, but who knows this now??
But, when Mei's half-sister, Mai, takes over Jav's training,
Starting to be character pileup here. Starting to think you better delete the subplot about Lili and the stone lilies.
her beautiful performance of the Eighteen Heavenly Claws
Masterful? Beautiful is weak.
overwhelms him, and he feels for a moment as if he's known her forever. He can't help but start to have feelings for her.
"feels for a moment" and "can't help but start to have feelings" are very weak.
Together they have a lot of work to do.
Weak and vague.
Besides first raising Jav to Mei's level, they have to survive a vacation turned deadly and be ready for the qualifying preliminary match.Jav unwittingly earns the hatred of one of his teachers and stumbles onto a nest of alien pirates all on his own.
Too much plot detail for a query. Sounding more like a synopsis here. Whatever is the main conflict of the story should be your emphasis.
Every step forward is a hazard, but Jav has to make it to the competition.
These are author asides and telling instead of showing. Show a hazard or two if they are salient to the main conflict.
He has to master the Eighteen Heavenly Claws if he's to have any future at all.
Omit, as you have already stated this.
THE ARTIFACT COMPETITION is a 76,000-word science fiction novel.
This comes across as more fantasy than sci-fi. How is it sci-fi?

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Re: SF Query: THE ARTIFACT COMPETITION

Post by rainbowsheeps » May 12th, 2010, 12:35 am

ceiser wrote:Okay. First, let me just thank you all again for your feedback. I've tried to let it sink in and work passive, background magic and hopefully that will show.

All feedback welcome and appreciated!

Newest Latest Version

Dear Agent,

Jav Holson is one of the Viscain Empire's elite soldiers, given immense power by the Emperor's gift of an Artifact. (that second clause isn't very powerful.) But his Artifact, the Ritual Mask, was never meant to last, and when it fails, Jav is a dead man. Unless, that is, he can win a new, permanent Artifact in a competition to be held in five years. (I would probably reorganize the opening slightly to something like: Jav Holson is one of the Viscain Empire's elite soldiers, but he's dying. His ritual mask was a gift from the Emperor, and it gave Jav tremendous power, but it was never meant to last. Etc... That's just an example. You did a good job so far of slimming down this backstory into a single, short paragraph. I think it can be punchier: he's a powerful soldier. He's dying because his mask is losing power. He needs this competition. Same information, mostly, but snappier.)

To have any chance of success in the competition, (I'm not sure you need that part. His life literally depends on it, and it seems a little... melodramatic?) Jav must train in the Eighteen Heavenly Claws. With the Ritual Mask sealed away to conserve its power, Jav practices long past dark every day, enduring senior student Mei Pardine's abuse and outright attacks. (This is a little passive. I'd probably put this in a new sentence, and change "outright attacks") His only distraction is carving stone flowers for Lili Farina, still in a coma by his hand. (I like this. He fights hard every day to save himself, but still does this for this girl. The queries before pointed out the selfish nature of Jav's goals, and this adds depth. Is the character Lili important to the central conflict? Probably not (in terms of the query anyway), but it helps give us a full picture of who Jav is in a few words. Also, carving stone flowers is unique, and sounds pretty. It's imaginative. All around, excellent!) But, when Mei's half-sister, Mai, takes over Jav's training, her beautiful performance of the Eighteen Heavenly Claws (say something else here, we already know they're all training/part of the tournament) overwhelms him, and he feels for a moment as if like he's known her forever. (Mixed response. I don't like "But, when Mei's half-sister, Mai, takes over Jav's training"... there's a lot of needless words and breaks here. Plus, it does feel like character overload with the way you've written it. I don't have an example to give, but try a shorter sentence with less breaks. But, I wanted to say that I like this part: "her beautiful performance [...] overwhelms him, and he feels for a moment like he's known her forever." The first part about her taking over the training needs tightening. That second part is fine.) He can't help but start to have feelings for her. (If you want to say he falls in love, I'd say that, but I'm not sure the sentence is needed at all. You showed this connection forming, you don't really need to tell us after.)

Together they have a lot of work to do. Besides first raising Jav to Mei's level, they have to survive a vacation turned deadly and be ready for the qualifying preliminary match. Jav unwittingly earns the hatred of one of his teachers and stumbles onto a nest of alien pirates all on his own. Every step forward is a hazard, but Jav has to make it to the competition. He has to master the Eighteen Heavenly Claws if he's to have any future at all. (This is too much plot. You do need to end the query with a sense of conflict. You have that already with Jav's life hanging in the balance of this tournament. Isn't Mai also competing in this tournament, presumably against him? Is there conflict there, since she wants to win, but winning would mean he dies? Also, Mei's attacks get sort of lost behind in the last paragraph. What happens when she finds out he likes her sister? And just how serious are her attacks against Jav? You don't need to explain everything, but this paragraph was too long and filled with things we don't need to know. You have the right idea of saying his life hangs in the balance, but maybe just try to focus on the waves that are created with the plots you've already told us about. Don't spring new things on us like this.)

THE ARTIFACT COMPETITION is a 76,000-word science fiction novel (I know I pointed this out before, and you may be right that "science fiction novel" is okay, but at the very least fiction and novel together are redundant, and it still opens up the possibility that agents (like Janet Reid) will say no just because of it. She might even have a filter for "fiction novel." You can say the exact same thing as: THE ARTIFACT COMPETITION is a work of science fiction of 76,000 words. No risk there, right?). I chose to submit to you because blah blah blah. Thank you for your time and consideration.
First, I want to say I have to disagree with some of Quill's remarks. I point these out in case you, ceiser, may get something out of hearing the two sides of criticism. Nothing against Quill, of course, and no disrespect to other writers here. I hope everyone calls me out on my advice when they disagree with me :P

I think telling us Jav practices until dark is perfectly fine. It shows us that he's practicing hard. It sounds more interesting than "he practices hard."

Secondly, I like the subplot of carving stone for her. It shows us the character in a way I honestly didn't think this query ever would. It might not be necessary down the road in further revisions, but I think it's absolutely a step in the right direction in that it's integrating the soul of this character into the query. He is very much not a shell anymore, and I think kudos is absolutely warranted. I say that it might not be necessary to have the subplot later in case you find other ways of showing this amount of character wrapped tighter into the main conflict. As mentioned above, however, I do think the phrase "by his hand" without a description could be problematic. I read the last incarnations of your query, so I know what you're referring to. It distorts my ability to see if the fact that's mysterious in a good way, or a bad way here.

"Beautiful" is more feminine and seems more natural to me. I like it for that line.

I agree with everything else he (or she?) said.

Now, about my own reaction...

I feel like this has improved a lot. I'm thoroughly impressed at the way you've managed to flesh out this character and make me sympathize with him so much in one revision, whereas I felt absolutely nothing at all about him before. Not only that, it's not done in an awkward way... saying he's carving stone flowers, for instance, is both pretty imagery, but it's also strange and sounds like it belongs in the realm of science fiction/fantasy. The introduction of Mai doesn't feel like a tacky setup to romance. It's an exceptional improvement.

I don't think you've found your killer ending for the query yet. That's usually a tough one, but I'd say amp up the tension with the stories you've already told us about in the preceding paragraphs and let us know not only what's at stake (which will be helped now that Jav is more sympathetic, by the way), but how difficult his challenges will be.

Excellent work. Honestly. You really, really are getting closer.

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Re: SF Query: THE ARTIFACT COMPETITION

Post by wilderness » May 14th, 2010, 2:43 pm

ceiser wrote:Okay. First, let me just thank you all again for your feedback. I've tried to let it sink in and work passive, background magic and hopefully that will show.

All feedback welcome and appreciated!

Newest Latest Version

Dear Agent,

Jav Holson is one of the Viscain Empire's elite soldiers, given immense power by the Emperor's gift of an Artifact. But his Artifact, the Ritual Mask, was never meant to last, and when it fails, Jav is a dead man. Unless, that is, he can win a new, permanent Artifact in a competition to be held in five years.

To have any chance of success in the competition, Jav must train in the Eighteen Heavenly Claws. With the Ritual Mask sealed away to conserve its power, Jav practices long past dark every day, enduring senior student Mei Pardine's abuse and outright attacks. His only distraction is carving stone flowers for Lili Farina, still in a coma by his hand. But, when Mei's half-sister, Mai, takes over Jav's training, her beautiful performance of the Eighteen Heavenly Claws overwhelms him, and he feels for a moment as if he's known her forever. He can't help but start to have feelings for her. You're painting a really good picture of the characters here. I like it.

Together they have a lot of work to do. Besides first raising Jav to Mei's level, they have to survive a vacation turned deadly and be ready for the qualifying preliminary match. Jav unwittingly earns the hatred of one of his teachers and stumbles onto a nest of alien pirates all on his own. This is feeling a bit episodic. I think you should focus on one main conflict. Which one represents the climax? Every step forward is a hazard, but Jav has to make it to the competition. He has to master the Eighteen Heavenly Claws if he's to have any future at all.

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.
Much improved from the last time. Still could use more focus at the end there. Sounds like a great world though - you've really filled it in with good details (I esp. liked the carving stone flowers bit). I agree with most of rainbowsheeps comments. You're close. Good luck!

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Re: SF Query: THE ARTIFACT COMPETITION

Post by Nomad0404 » May 14th, 2010, 8:44 pm

ceiser wrote:Jav Holson is one of the Viscain Empire's elite soldiers, given immense power by the Emperor's gift of an Artifact. But his Artifact, the Ritual Mask, was never meant to last, and when it fails, Jav is a dead man. Unless, that is, he can win a new, permanent Artifact in a competition to be held in five years.
What type of gift is it? Benevolent, Generous?

I'd have written.....and when it dies, Jav dies with it.

What sort of competition is it? again I agree that unless your book covers five years leave the time frame out. Surely though it's actually 'a tournament, the biggest of its kind, the ultimate test of mind, body and skill' or something like that. I'd give it a name as well.
ceiser wrote:To have any chance of success in the competition, Jav must train in the Eighteen Heavenly Claws. With the Ritual Mask sealed away to conserve its power, Jav practices long past dark every day, enduring senior student Mei Pardine's abuse and outright attacks. His only distraction is carving stone flowers for Lili Farina, still in a coma by his hand. But, when Mei's half-sister, Mai, takes over Jav's training, her beautiful performance of the Eighteen Heavenly Claws overwhelms him, and he feels for a moment as if he's known her forever. He can't help but start to have feelings for her.
Again I think it's a tournament not a competition.

What are the Eighteen Heavenly Claws? I thought it was a school, this makes it sound more like Eighteen disciplines. Also why are they the only thing that can help him win the tournament are they the single best martial arts disciplines?

I'd re-write the following to something like:

With the Ritual Mask sealed away to conserve its power, Jav, now a mere mortal again, practices long past dark every day. Suffering the endless abuse metted out by senior student Mei Pardine without compaint.

Again I'd rewrite the next line:

His only distraction from his daily grind is carving stone flowers late at night. A gift for Lili Farina, a fellow novice, who lies unwaking in a coma put there by his hand.

However is better than but so i'd change the sentence to:

However, when Mei's half-sister, Mai, takes over Jav's training, her beautiful performance of the Eighteen Heavenly Claws overwhelms him and in that moment he feels like he has known her forever. Smitten by her prowess he can't help himself and his feelings for her grow.
ceiser wrote:Together they have a lot of work to do. He has to master the Eighteen Heavenly Claws if he's to have any future at all. Besides first raising Jav to Mei's level, they have to survive a vacation turned deadly and be ready for the qualifying preliminary match. Jav unwittingly earns the hatred of one of his teachers and stumbles onto a nest of alien pirates all on his own. Every step forward is a hazard, but Jav has to make it 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.
I don't know the book but I'd put something like

With Mai's tuition Jav slowly improves his technique.


Why in the middle of the most important training of his life - training to save his life in fact - have they gone on vacation!?

Would it not be better to write something like:


Every step forward in his training, to master the Heavenly Claws, becomes a hazard. On route to the tournament, and the fight of his life, he must survive a deadly vacation, qualify for the main event, deal with a nest of alien pirates and endure the wrath of one of his teachers. And he must do so all on his own and all to save his own life.


If you put all my changes together you'd have:

Dear Agent,

Jav Holson is one of the Viscain Empire's elite soldiers, given immense power by the Emperor's benevolent gift of an Artifact. But his Artifact, the Ritual Mask, was never meant to last, and when it dies, Jav dies with it. Unless, that is, he can win a new, permanent Artifact in a tournament. Known simply as 'The Competition' it is the biggest of its kind, the ultimate test of mind, body and skill.

To have any chance of success in the competition, Jav must train in the Eighteen Heavenly Claws. With the Ritual Mask sealed away to conserve its power, Jav, now a mere mortal again, practices long past dark every day. Suffering the endless abuse metted out by senior student Mei Pardine without compaint. His only distraction from his daily grind is carving stone flowers late at night. A gift for Lili Farina, a fellow novice, who lies unwaking in a coma put there by his hand. However, when Mei's half-sister, Mai, takes over Jav's training, her beautiful performance of the Eighteen Heavenly Claws overwhelms him and in that moment he feels like he has known her forever. Smitten by her prowess he can't help himself and his feelings for her grow.

Every step forward in his training, to master the Heavenly Claws, becomes a hazard. On route to the tournament, and the fight of his life, he must survive a deadly vacation, qualify for the main event, deal with a nest of alien pirates and endure the wrath of one of his teachers. And he must do so all on his own and all to save his own life.

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.


Sorry if that's a bit all over the place it's the first time I've tried to help someone like this.

The only thing I think this misses is a reason why he can simply up sticks leave the service of the Emporer, put the mask away and train to be martial artist. Also if he can put the mask away why doesn't he just leave it way so that it conserves his life for as long as possible?

Maybe change:

To have any chance of success in the competition, Jav must train in the Eighteen Heavenly Claws.

To:

To have any chance of success in the competition, Jav begs the leave of the emperor so that he may train in the Eighteen Heavenly Claws at the WHATEVER ITS CALLED MONASTRY PLACE.

That might work.
Phil

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Re: SF Query: THE ARTIFACT COMPETITION

Post by ceiser » May 15th, 2010, 3:18 am

First, thanks for the detailed feedback, quill and rainbowsheeps! I feel like I'm getting closer, and rainbosheeps your encouraging words are like a balm, but that last paragraph is going to kill me yet. The problem is that the story is all about the 5 years leading up to the competition and then the competition itself. So it is episodic to some degree (Wilderness, your comments are much appreciated as well!).

In the five years leading up to the competition, which, again, is what the book is about, he overcomes problems and and finds himself in new ones while training. Coming up with a compelling and succinct way to say that is proving to be my undoing. If the five years is a turn off to a prospective agent--or any of you, for that matter--if that seems contradictory somehow to the threat of slow, creeping, but imminent death, well I guess I can't help that.

Nomad0404, I didn't mean to leave you out. I appreciate your comments, too, and please don't take offense, but I think in many cases your suggestions would end up creating a query for a book I didn't write.

In any case, still lots more work to do. Thanks to everyone who's been helping. I hope the comments I've made to others have been helpful. With the assumption that they have been (fingers crossed!) I'll try to give some more feedback this weekend.

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Re: SF Query: THE ARTIFACT COMPETITION

Post by rainbowsheeps » May 15th, 2010, 2:03 pm

ceiser wrote:First, thanks for the detailed feedback, quill and rainbowsheeps! I feel like I'm getting closer, and rainbosheeps your encouraging words are like a balm, but that last paragraph is going to kill me yet. The problem is that the story is all about the 5 years leading up to the competition and then the competition itself. So it is episodic to some degree (Wilderness, your comments are much appreciated as well!).

In the five years leading up to the competition, which, again, is what the book is about, he overcomes problems and and finds himself in new ones while training. Coming up with a compelling and succinct way to say that is proving to be my undoing. If the five years is a turn off to a prospective agent--or any of you, for that matter--if that seems contradictory somehow to the threat of slow, creeping, but imminent death, well I guess I can't help that.
The end is a struggle. I'm there myself with my own query.

I'd say don't fret too much, though. You've already set up a number of conflicts in the preceding paragraphs. You have:

(1) A skilled student, Mei, who has a vendetta against him;
(2) A love interest who's competing in the same tournament as him...
(3) and oh by the way, he NEEDS to win that tournament or he drops dead;

And, honestly, you connected all three with the introduction of the character Mai. Mai is Mei's sister, which should piss Mei off more than before, right? Mai herself breeds conflict because Jav is selfishly pursuing the artifact that Mai is also after. And, so, he must be conflicted between disappointing Mai and his drive to save his own life. All of those are connected in a way. Mai seems like more than a love interest, but a catalyst to an interesting hook.

Maybe attack it with that in mind?

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Re: SF Query: THE ARTIFACT COMPETITION

Post by ceiser » May 15th, 2010, 6:00 pm

Hi, rainbowsheeps! Thanks for your reply. Actually, Mai isn't competing in the contest. Only Jav and Mei are (from the 18 Heavenly Claws school, anyway). There are 62 other participants, (mostly) top students from other schools, who we see through the qualifying match and the final competition. There are other things going on that complicate their relationship, though, like their teacher starting to fall for Jav halfway through the book. Sigh.
rainbowsheeps wrote: The end is a struggle. I'm there myself with my own query.

I'd say don't fret too much, though. You've already set up a number of conflicts in the preceding paragraphs. You have:

(1) A skilled student, Mei, who has a vendetta against him;
(2) A love interest who's competing in the same tournament as him...
(3) and oh by the way, he NEEDS to win that tournament or he drops dead;

And, honestly, you connected all three with the introduction of the character Mai. Mai is Mei's sister, which should piss Mei off more than before, right? Mai herself breeds conflict because Jav is selfishly pursuing the artifact that Mai is also after. And, so, he must be conflicted between disappointing Mai and his drive to save his own life. All of those are connected in a way. Mai seems like more than a love interest, but a catalyst to an interesting hook.

Maybe attack it with that in mind?

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Re: SF Query: THE ARTIFACT COMPETITION

Post by rainbowsheeps » May 15th, 2010, 6:18 pm

ceiser wrote:Hi, rainbowsheeps! Thanks for your reply. Actually, Mai isn't competing in the contest. Only Jav and Mei are (from the 18 Heavenly Claws school, anyway). There are 62 other participants, (mostly) top students from other schools, who we see through the qualifying match and the final competition. There are other things going on that complicate their relationship, though, like their teacher starting to fall for Jav halfway through the book. Sigh.
Oh, oops.

I think the sentence that confused me there was, "her beautiful performance in the Eighteen Heavenly Claws'... I think I assumed that that was part of the competition, and her "turn" was somehow up before Jav's. I see my mistake there though.

I'm not sure mentioning the teacher will be a good idea for the query. I think, no matter what, your best bet at tying the loose ends together will have something to do with the Mei character. She seems the closest thing to an antagonist, and his biggest obstacle in the tournament, which makes her the biggest threat to Jav's life. If her sister, Mai, knows Jav's depends on the competition, might that increase tension between the sisters? Does Mei ever find out that Jav's life depends on winning? For instance, if she keeps trying to win even though Jav's life depends on it and it would break her sister's heart, that would make her more antagonistic, and possibly threatening, and might strengthen the hook at the end. That might not be true to your story, but it's something to think about maybe. Right now, she doesn't read as much of a significant threat, she just seems a little mean.

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Re: SF Query: THE ARTIFACT COMPETITION

Post by ceiser » May 15th, 2010, 6:46 pm

No worries, rainbowsheeps. Hmmm. Yeah, everyone knows that Jav is going to die if he doesn't win the competition. Mei is his first main threat, but over the course of 5 years he surpasses her. Jav's relationship with Mai is against the rules and Mei does out them in the end which has some nasty consequences, but it's all involved and not so cut and dry, connecting again with the teacher's feelings for Jav. Maybe I can focus on that somehow, about Mei as a threat inside and outside of the ring... Argh!

Thanks, though! I have very few people I can talk to about stuff like this and your continued feedback is really helping a lot.
rainbowsheeps wrote: Oh, oops.

I think the sentence that confused me there was, "her beautiful performance in the Eighteen Heavenly Claws'... I think I assumed that that was part of the competition, and her "turn" was somehow up before Jav's. I see my mistake there though.

I'm not sure mentioning the teacher will be a good idea for the query. I think, no matter what, your best bet at tying the loose ends together will have something to do with the Mei character. She seems the closest thing to an antagonist, and his biggest obstacle in the tournament, which makes her the biggest threat to Jav's life. If her sister, Mai, knows Jav's depends on the competition, might that increase tension between the sisters? Does Mei ever find out that Jav's life depends on winning? For instance, if she keeps trying to win even though Jav's life depends on it and it would break her sister's heart, that would make her more antagonistic, and possibly threatening, and might strengthen the hook at the end. That might not be true to your story, but it's something to think about maybe. Right now, she doesn't read as much of a significant threat, she just seems a little mean.

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Re: SF Query: THE ARTIFACT COMPETITION

Post by Sleeping Beauty » May 21st, 2010, 3:04 am

I just wanted to add that I love this premise. I too tripped over the names 'Mai' and 'Mei' - the fact that they're twins won't help me keep them separate in my head. Hopefully the characters in the actual book at totally different people, otherwise I think I'd get frustrated.

I'm most curious about the girl in the coma. What exactly happened to her, if I may ask?

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Re: SF Query: THE ARTIFACT COMPETITION

Post by ceiser » May 21st, 2010, 10:35 am

First, thanks Sleeping Beauty. It's really nice to hear that someone (besides me, of course) thinks I might have something good here. As for Mai and Mei, they are very different and not twins, but half-sisters, two facts which hopefully lower your frustration level. (As for poor Lili, she got in the way of the Ritual Mask before it was sealed.)

Okay. A new direction. Let's see how this one goes. Any and all feedback, as always, is most welcome and appreciated! Quill and rainbowsheeps, I'm not ignoring your suggestions for the first paragraph, but am really trying to focus on the second one for the time being.

Newest Latest Version

Dear Agent,

Jav Holson is one of the Viscain Empire's elite soldiers, given immense power by the Emperor's gift of an Artifact. But his Artifact, the Ritual Mask, was never meant to last, and when it fails, Jav is a dead man. Unless, that is, he can win a new, permanent Artifact in a competition to be held in five years.

With the Ritual Mask sealed away to conserve its power, Jav trains in the Eighteen Heavenly Claws on Planet 1287. He practices long past dark every day, taking time only to carve stone flowers for Lili Farina, the girl he accidentally put into a coma on his first day there. Amid punishing training conditions and with the competition still ahead, Jav struggles for control, balancing his raw ability against the latent power of the Mask, which is always there, just outside the reach of his senses. If the seal is broken, he runs the risk of exhausting the Mask completely, but also of losing himself to its insatiable thirst for blood, and that he just can't have. Especially not when fellow student Mai Pardine has started to remind him of a lover he's never met.

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

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Re: SF Query: THE ARTIFACT COMPETITION

Post by Sleeping Beauty » May 21st, 2010, 11:16 am

ceiser wrote: Amid punishing training conditions and with the competition still ahead, Jav struggles for control, balancing his raw ability against the latent power of the Mask, which is always there, just outside the reach of his senses. If the seal is broken, he runs the risk of exhausting the Mask completely, but also of losing himself to its insatiable thirst for blood, and that he just can't have.
Now there's your hook! Congratulations!
Jav's got so much more personality now - tortured soldier, burdoned by his own immense talent, influenced by some crazy evil superpower...

I am now going to add that I would completely buy and read this book. ^__^

I will leave the nitty-gritty of taking your new query apart to the pros of this forum. :)

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Re: SF Query: THE ARTIFACT COMPETITION

Post by Kirril » May 21st, 2010, 11:48 am

Jav Holson is one of the Viscain Empire's elite soldiers, given immense power by the Emperor's gift of an Artifact. But his Artifact, the Ritual Mask, was never meant to last, and when it fails, Jav is a dead man. Unless, that is, he can win a new, permanent Artifact in a competition to be held in five years.

With the Ritual Mask sealed away to conserve its power, Jav trains in the Eighteen Heavenly Claws on Planet 1287. He practices long past dark every day, taking time only to carve stone flowers for Lili Farina, the girl he accidentally put into a coma on his first day there. Amid punishing training conditions and with the competition still ahead, Jav struggles for control, balancing his raw ability against the latent power of the Mask, which is always there, just outside the reach of his senses. If the seal is broken, he runs the risk of exhausting the Mask completely, but also of losing himself to its insatiable thirst for blood, and that he just can't have. Especially not when fellow student Mai Pardine has started to remind him of a lover he's never met.

THE ARTIFACT COMPETITION is a work of science fiction, complete at 76,000 words. I chose to submit to you because blah blah blah. Thank you for your time and consideration.
I read through several other versions of your query, trying to get a feel for the MC but so far he feels a little 2D to me. This is the tough part of SF sometimes, escaping the technical stuff and digging into the heart of the MC.

I suggest you leave out most of the info about the ritual mask, etc. and boil it down to the essentials:
Jav Holson is a dead man unless he can win the artifact competition. But things get off to a rough start when he puts a girl into a coma his first day there.

From there, you have to put in his main obstacle. It sounds like he has an internal struggle with the power of the ritual mask wanting him to kill, kill, kill in addition to the usual external obstacles like the other fighters.

Go back to the 1 sentence that describes the entire novel, something like: Jav Holson is a dead man unless he can win a gladiator-style competition and claim a life-saving artifact as his own.

Flesh out the query from there.

Hope this helps!

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