Born to Bondage query II

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wilderness
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Re: Born to Bondage query II

Post by wilderness » February 20th, 2011, 3:56 pm

GaoYuQing wrote:As I say elsewhere, bitching is the sparks thrown up by the friction of progress. ;)
LOL! Not a problem. :)

I see what you're saying, but IMO, if you include too many plot points, you run the risk of sounding like a synopsis. If you want to focus on Paul's time after he joins the sorceress, perhaps start with Paul as a slave of the Banshee and immediately go into the plot with the sorceress. Tell us what adventures they get into and what is the crux of the story. What is the main conflict? Hope that helps!

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Dankrubis
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Re: Born to Bondage query II

Post by Dankrubis » February 20th, 2011, 3:59 pm

I wanted to mention something regarding the diverse critiques you've been getting. I've been in a ton of writers' workshops and I have a pretty good method to weeding through critiques. If one person tells you a particular thing is wrong with your novel/query, feel free to ignore it (unless of course you agree, then by all means, pay attention). If two people take issue with something, then you've got a problem that needs to be addressed, no matter how much you disagree.

Also, check out The Elements of Style by Strunk and White. It's basically the bible for all types of writers, and it may help quite a bit in paring down that monstrous 250K word count.

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GaoYuQing
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Re: Born to Bondage query II

Post by GaoYuQing » February 20th, 2011, 6:36 pm

Wild:
I hear you, but that's where the whole K Nelson method for queries come in. According to her <insert my paraphrase> you include info and hook about the opening part of your book and just do a teaser about what follows after, being deliberately vague. And I had thought I was doing this. But there's truth to what you say. Grr, have too many possibilities floating in my head now and no time to write >.<

Dank:
Wow, I think I still have that book from high school sitting on a shelf somewhere.

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SariBelle
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Re: Born to Bondage query II

Post by SariBelle » February 21st, 2011, 4:42 am

Hey GaoYuQing,

I won't do a line by line because others have already done a good job of that and it sounds like this isn't your current version anyway.

I just thought I'd point out this quote from Query Shark (from this post, near the bottom):
...start over with the query template I've described in several other places, but bears repeating:

What does the protagonist want?
What's keeping him from getting it?
What choice/decision does he face?
What terrible thing will happen if he chooses A; what terrible thing will happen if he doesn't.


Here's another form of the same thing:
The main character must decide whether to ________. If s/he decides to do (this), the consequences/outcome/peril s/he faces are______. If s/he decides NOT to do this: the consequences/outcome/peril s/he faces are________.


Obviously you don't just fill in the blanks, or just answer the questions. You use this template to get the important information in the right order. You build on to this skeleton. But, you start here, and work up.
I think because your book is so large it might work better with this query format rather than the first 50 pages format, because in a shorter novel the first 50 pages represents a greater proportion of the story.

Also, I know it's really tough to think about breaking your story up (I've been in the same position), but you greatly increase your chances of publication if you break it into two or three books. Here's a post from Colleen Lindsay on word count. It's the best source of word count info I've been able to find.

I've split my WIP into two. At first I didn't think I'd be able to do it either but I realised I did had a secondary plot which resolved around halfway through, which made a farely decent ending to the first book. I'd definitely encourage you to see if you can do this.

I'd also suggest getting a critique partner to read your WIP before submitting it to any more agents. Having a second pair of well trained eyes read your WIP is invaluable. I know you've mentioned you're looking for a CP here. Have you tried posting in the Critique Partner Board? You might have more luck there.

Good luck!

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GaoYuQing
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Re: Born to Bondage query II

Post by GaoYuQing » February 21st, 2011, 6:18 am

Thanks Sari. Actually yeah, I posted my latest version to the board last night having changed things up to address some of the issues that have been brought up.
I remember reading that query shark post I think. I wrote a version of my query with that kind of thing in mind, it just ended up sounding too boring so I discarded it.
Thanks for that link re: word count, though it really made me squirm. I'll have to have another look at the book, but I just really don't think I can split it up without ruining the flow and structure. I'd have to invent new conclusions and beginings as well as new plots to create an end for one and a start of another, and I don't know that the story can handle it v.v
I have posted a request for a CP on that board and contacted a few other seekers as well. In the course of writing this I've had 1 person read all the way through but there was little to no feedback so that didn't help me. Another friend read through first 4 chapters and that feedback was invaluable, but then she got busy with her own work and stopped, much to my dissapointment. I'm dying for more feedback, but so far haven't had any luck.
Last edited by GaoYuQing on February 21st, 2011, 11:04 am, edited 1 time in total.

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GaoYuQing
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Re: Born to Bondage query II

Post by GaoYuQing » February 21st, 2011, 11:04 am

Ok, after listening to and pondering over the great feedback I've recieved from the wonderful people on here, I have worked through version after version of my query. If I wasn't already bald, I would be now. How is it that trying to write a 300-word tidbit can be so much harder than writing the book it's trying to describe?! Anyways I've got 3 different versions I'm considering (and I got them all to under 300 words!). One is a revised version of what I've already posted, with issues (hopefully) addressed and smoothed out, another trying a different tack, focusing more on my MC's inner journey and struggle--but I find it too boring. The third version, which I'd like to hang from the dartboard of this thread, is a different beast entirely, written from a different point of the story with a new perspective. Fire away.

Paul Neilsson is at the end of his rope quite literally. He has been hung from a post by the Banshee—a demonic being who had snatched him from death’s door for purposes of her own. His body was to labor in her mines, his soul was for her to drink dry of every scrap of fear that could be wrung from it. Now he is being sentenced for acting upon the last ounce of defiance he had been able to muster, a fate that would make all that had come before—a life filled with failure followed by slavery on an alien world—pale in comparison. Helplessly awaiting his fate, everything is changed by the sudden arrival of a giant sorceress driving a monster-drawn wagon. Her name is Dawn and she will save him, but her price is that he will serve as her slave instead.

So begins Paul’s sojourn through a kaleidoscope of worlds, sought after and claimed by monsters both human and alien, as well as powers that approach the divine. Along the way he becomes servant, traitor, victim and savior each in turn. Helped by the magic of his new Mistress—a being of immense power and compassion, but even greater mystery--even his body remakes itself to fit the changes taking place in his soul.

As Paul strives to answer the questions posed by this fresh chance at life, he finds himself thrust unknowingly into struggles that will affect the fate of millions and the future of worlds. But the greatest enemy he faces during his travels comes not from outside, but from within. And in the end he learns that it is only when you surrender your life that you find it.


PS I'm not too concerned about the address and personal info sections (well that's not entirely true about the latter since I have no meaningful publishments to my name) so I've only posted the part of the query that's giving me the most grief. My biggest worry about this version is that it pretty much glosses right over the first two chapters, especially the first one, but it solves other problems that have come up over the course of these reviews. Credit to Wilderness for suggesting this solution.

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wilderness
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Re: Born to Bondage query II

Post by wilderness » February 22nd, 2011, 12:13 am

GaoYuQing wrote:
Paul Neilsson is at the end of his rope quite literally. He has been hung from a post by the Banshee—a demonic being who had snatched him from death’s door for purposes of her own. His body was to labor in her mines, his soul was for her to drink dry of every scrap of fear that could be wrung from it. Now he is being sentenced for acting upon the last ounce of defiance he had been able to muster, a fate that would make all that had come before—a life filled with failure followed by slavery on an alien world—pale in comparison. This is a lot of information in one sentence. I'd break it up. Also, what was his last act of defiance? Helplessly awaiting his fate, everything is changed by the sudden arrival of a giant sorceress driving a monster-drawn wagon. Her name is Dawn and she will save him, but her price is that he will serve as her slave instead.

So begins Paul’s sojourn through a kaleidoscope of worlds, sought after and claimed by monsters both human and alien, as well as powers that approach the divine. Along the way he becomes servant, traitor, victim and savior each in turn. Helped by the magic of his new Mistress—a being of immense power and compassion, but even greater mystery--even his body remakes itself to fit the changes taking place in his soul. I thought you did a great job in the first paragraph with being specific about the Banshee. Can you do the same here? What are some very specific problems he faces?

As Paul strives to answer the questions posed by this fresh chance at life, he finds himself thrust unknowingly into struggles that will affect the fate of millions and the future of worlds. But the greatest enemy he faces during his travels comes not from outside, but from within. And in the end he learns that it is only when you surrender your life that you find it. This is a lot of summary. Be specific about what events led him to what conclusions he came to. What choices must he make?
I think starting later helps. The truth is a single query formula doesn't work for every novel. If the opening chapters don't represent enough of the book, it's best to focus elsewhere. Find the part that is most unique and intriguing.

Still, the part with the sorceress is lacking in specifics. Here are some great a posts by Nathan that might help:

http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2010/03 ... eries.html
http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2009/09 ... lling.html
Good luck!

glj
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Re: Born to Bondage query II

Post by glj » February 22nd, 2011, 12:54 am

Hello Gao,

I still feel that you are focusing too much on the beginning of your story. If the sorceress appears in chapter 4, then it doesn't seem like Paul's interaction with her is really the main conflict. The problem with a query template that says "discuss events up through chapter 4" is when you have 80 chapters. It doesn't begin to tell us the heart of the story.

Paul Neilsson is at the end of his rope quite literally. He has been hung from a post by the Banshee—a demonic being who hadsnatched him from death’s door cliche for purposes of her own. His body was to "was to" is passive wording. labor in her mines, his soul was for her to drink dry "for her to drink dry" is also awkward and passive of every scrap of fear that could be wrung from it. Now he is being sentenced for acting upon the last ounce of defiance he had been able to muster, a fate that would make all that had come before—a life filled with failure followed by slavery on an alien world—pale in comparison. Vague and doesn't give a sense of the action Helplesslyawaiting his fate, everything is changed by the suddenarrival of a giant sorceress driving a monster-drawn wagon. Her name is Dawn Maybe this is just me, but the name "Dawn" doesn't really inspire fear or respect. Seems more like a name for a cheerleader. and she will save him, but her price is that he will serve as her slave instead. Again, this seems to be more like a report of past events, and doesn't make me feel like I am "seeing" the story unfold. Yes, it is hard to write a query that feels active, that makes the reader feel as if he/she is there, experiencing events. But this reads like an author summarizing a story. And there is no excitement in that.

So begins Paul’s sojourn through a kaleidoscope of worlds, sought after and claimed by monsters both human and alien, as well as powers that approach the divine. Along the way he becomes servant, traitor, victim and savior each in turn. Helped by the magic of his new Mistress—a being of immense power and compassion, but even greater mystery--even his body remakes itself to fit the changes taking place in his soul. This is you the author talking about what you think of your book. It has little to do with your plot. It gives me no sense of the conflict. The changes to Paul are far more interesting. What changes does he experience? Surely these changes allow him to sieze control over his own destiny, right? THIS is your main conflict, right here. And I have no idea what it is.

As Paul strives to answer the questions posed by this fresh chance at life, he finds himself thrust unknowingly into struggles that will affect the fate of millions and the future of worlds. But the greatest enemy he faces during his travels comes not from outside, but from within. And in the end he learns that it is only when you surrender your life that you find it. This hints at some dramatic conflict, but doesn't do more than hint. How does he surrender his life? How does he then find it?

No, you don't need to reveal the ending. But you do need to show us the main conflict. This feels like a couple of minor conflicts Paul experiences before arriving at the main conflict. To summarize: Paul has a shitty life, tries to kill himself, is pulled into another world by evil banshee, then is saved by sorceress who also abuses him, but also heals him and maybe gives him some powers. Then you stop. You stop just as you are starting to get into interesting stuff. How does Paul escape the sorceress? Does he go back and stomp the banshee out of existence?

Am I feeling compelled to read on? No. I am beginning to wonder if there is any big conflict. Maybe Paul just wanders around, going from scene to scene, until the book ends. I hope not. But you have not convinced me otherwise. And I so want there to be a grand, epic conflict between a new and powerful Paul and the people/creatures who have treated him so poorly. You have created some empathy for Paul. Give us a hint, a promise, that he is going to make good with his new powers.

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GaoYuQing
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Re: Born to Bondage query II

Post by GaoYuQing » February 22nd, 2011, 9:42 am

I want to thank all the feedback I've gotten from the people here. I think I may put a hold on the query for now. After some of these talks I think I need to go back and do some more work. The first chapter now isn't. I'm convinced it's prologue and I may even break it up and divvy it up as flashback throughout the rest of the book. I'm also reasonably convinced, though its killing me, that I might have to see if I can find a way to split it in two. I'm reading the chronicles of Amber by Zelazny right now, so that actually reassures me that I may not have to create too much of an extra plot and ending. His whole series ends every book on cliffhangers pretty much, and considering he wrote like 10 of them, it must not have bothered people so much.
With less ground to cover, the query may not be as rushed and I can flesh out more detail without going over a reasonable word count. Plus I may be able to avoid some of the misunderstandings that seem to take place when people have read my query.
I think right now my first duty is to find beta readers for my MS rather than query reviewers. Haven't had too much luck with the board on here, anyone make any suggestions on where I might find some?

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