QUERY: "I Just Need Some Space" (version 2)

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JohnDurvin
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QUERY: "I Just Need Some Space" (version 2)

Post by JohnDurvin » April 5th, 2011, 10:11 pm

I've been submitting drafts of this for a while now, and no takers. After browsing some of the other queries on here, I realize that the advice on length I got from someplace were way off--what should get cut?

Near-omnipotent aliens are considering donating their advanced technology to the people of Earth…if the randomly-selected test crews can prove the species worthy. Recently divorced cost-management banned word Shapiro Townsend has his work cut out for him when charismatic but inscrutable entrepreneur J. Lourdes Mastromonico taps him to be the vice-president of the interstellar wholesale business that he thinks is going to do the trick. But when Captain Mastromonico disappears, it’s up to Shapiro to rally the eclectic crew and track down their fearless leader before the Captain’s unbalanced ex-wife and a cabal of bombastic, egomaniac aliens shuts the business down—permanently.
This is “I Just Need Some Space”, my sci-fi novel of 118,800 words. I avoid the tropes and memes of most of my melodramatic future shelf-mates in favor of a lighter, more whimsical approach somewhere between Douglas Adams and Neil Gaiman with just a hint of Christopher Moore—the fabric of the universe is not threatened, nor is galactic peace, and my aliens range from child-like creatures liable to break into Busby Berkely musical numbers, to grotesquely decrepit cyborg roaches so imperious they refuse to speak to anyone that addresses them without strings of honorifics and supplications. My cast of Earthlings is closer to that of a Carl Hiaasen novel than a Star Trek franchise: Shapiro, shocked to learn he’s as boring as he is bored; Captain Mastromonico, possessed of an unearthly charm, a brilliant business sense, and the attention span of a six-year-old; Wallace “Darth Beardo” Haverbrook, a genre-savvy sci-fi nerd a little irked that life in space is nothing like TV; two chattering orphans, a talking cat, a retired drag queen, a mute piano savant, a schizophrenic socialite convinced her body is home to an empire of microscopic aliens—the list goes on. Stars and planets lacking pronounceable native names, our heroes’ translators tap into a “Name a Star” agency back home, leaving Shapiro and friends battling Bartlebians and Wilsonians in orbit around MacGillicudy 6. This is not your progenitor’s science fiction.
As for my qualifications to write this book, I regret to say that I am neither divorced nor an astronaut; I do, however, enjoy creative science fiction and fantasy in all media, and I am eager to make my mark. I spent the first twenty-two years of my life in Richmond, Virginia, including earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Art from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2005. After this, I moved to Florida, where I utilize my knowledge of postmodern art theory and critical content analysis to work at an office supply store. I have been writing for most of my life, but this marks my first assay at being published.
Last edited by JohnDurvin on April 14th, 2011, 12:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Quill
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Re: QUERY: "I Just Need Some Space"

Post by Quill » April 5th, 2011, 10:29 pm

JohnDurvin wrote: Near-omnipotent aliens are considering donating their advanced technology to the people of Earth…if the randomly-selected test crews can prove the species worthy. Recently divorced cost-management banned word Shapiro Townsend has his work cut out for him when charismatic but inscrutable entrepreneur J. Lourdes Mastromonico taps him to be the vice-president of the interstellar wholesale business that he thinks is going to do the trick. But when Captain Mastromonico disappears, it’s up to Shapiro to rally the eclectic crew and track down their fearless leader before the Captain’s unbalanced ex-wife and a cabal of bombastic, egomaniac aliens shuts the business down—permanently.
Not bad.
This is “I Just Need Some Space”, my sci-fi novel of 118,800 words.
Write the title in ALL CAPS and without quote marks. Round your word count to the nearest thousand.

You do know that you're near the upper end of what is feasibly acceptable in today's market for a debut novel. So your query and manuscript are going to have to be stellar.

I avoid the tropes and memes of most of my melodramatic future shelf-mates in favor of a lighter, more whimsical approach somewhere between Douglas Adams and Neil Gaiman with just a hint of Christopher Moore—the fabric of the universe is not threatened, nor is galactic peace, and my aliens range from child-like creatures liable to break into Busby Berkely musical numbers, to grotesquely decrepit cyborg roaches so imperious they refuse to speak to anyone that addresses them without strings of honorifics and supplications. My cast of Earthlings is closer to that of a Carl Hiaasen novel than a Star Trek franchise: Shapiro, shocked to learn he’s as boring as he is bored; Captain Mastromonico, possessed of an unearthly charm, a brilliant business sense, and the attention span of a six-year-old; Wallace “Darth Beardo” Haverbrook, a genre-savvy sci-fi nerd a little irked that life in space is nothing like TV; two chattering orphans, a talking cat, a retired drag queen, a mute piano savant, a schizophrenic socialite convinced her body is home to an empire of microscopic aliens—the list goes on. Stars and planets lacking pronounceable native names, our heroes’ translators tap into a “Name a Star” agency back home, leaving Shapiro and friends battling Bartlebians and Wilsonians in orbit around MacGillicudy 6. This is not your progenitor’s science fiction.
Scrap this, as it is telling ABOUT the book, rather than showing what is in the book.
As for my qualifications to write this book, I regret to say that I am neither divorced nor an astronaut; I do, however, enjoy creative science fiction and fantasy in all media, and I am eager to make my mark. I spent the first twenty-two years of my life in Richmond, Virginia, including earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Art from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2005. After this, I moved to Florida, where I utilize my knowledge of postmodern art theory and critical content analysis to work at an office supply store. I have been writing for most of my life, but this marks my first assay at being published.
Scrap this, as it is too chatty for a business letter, and has little to do with your qualifications for writing the book. If you do not have pertinent credentials best to let the writing speak for itself.

Generally you need to break up the query into smallish paragraphs rather than a monolith of text. Work into it the setting, the main characters, the hook, and the crux. The hook is the twist that makes your book fresh, memorable, and unique. The crux is the major decision or dilemma that your protagonist faces. Leave out the rest. Think of it as a 250-350-word enticement to prompt an agent to request more.

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Re: QUERY: "I Just Need Some Space"

Post by Bron » April 6th, 2011, 7:54 am

Quill gave some good advice, so I won't repeat what he said, but there's a few extra things I wanted to add. Also, if you're looking for places to get advice, Queryshark is a great start. Agent Janet Reid rips into queries. She also gives people the chance to revise, and it can be very instructive watching the evolution of a query from rubbish to winning. Find it at: http://queryshark.blogspot.com/
JohnDurvin wrote:I've been submitting drafts of this for a while now, and no takers. After browsing some of the other queries on here, I realize that the advice on length I got from someplace were way off--what should get cut?

Near-omnipotent aliens are considering donating their advanced technology to the people of Earth…if the randomly-selected test crews can prove the species worthy. Conventional query advice says to start with your main character, but I think this works. It caught my attention and sets up the stakes nicely. Recently divorced cost-management banned word Shapiro Townsend has his work cut out for him when charismatic but inscrutable entrepreneur J. Lourdes Mastromonico taps him to be the vice-president of the interstellar wholesale business that he thinks is going to do the trick. This is a long sentence and there's a lot of adjectives. Can you say this more simply, eg. Recently divorced cost-management banned word Shaprio Townsend is tapped to be the vice-president of the interstallar wholesale business that could do the trick. But when Captain Mastromonicothe Captain disappears, it’s up to Shapiro to rally the eclectic crew and track down their fearless leader before the Captain’s unbalanced ex-wife and a cabal of bombastic, egomaniac aliens shuts the business down—permanently. If you take Quill's advice to cut the next two paragraphs - and you should - you'll have room to go into more detail about your story. Tell us a bit more about what happens, and make sure your voice shines through. I didn't realise this was supposed to be funny until I read the paragraphs below. You have some good lines in those paragraphs, but they are all telling and agents keep emphasising that you need to show your book is funny through your description, not just tell them it's funny. Your humour needs to come out in your story pitch. Easier said than done of course.
This is “I Just Need Some Space”, my sci-fi novel of 118,800 words. I avoid the tropes and memes of most of my melodramatic future shelf-mates in favor of a lighter, more whimsical approach somewhere between Douglas Adams and Neil Gaiman with just a hint of Christopher Moore—the fabric of the universe is not threatened, nor is galactic peace, and my aliens range from child-like creatures liable to break into Busby Berkely musical numbers, to grotesquely decrepit cyborg roaches so imperious they refuse to speak to anyone that addresses them without strings of honorifics and supplications. My cast of Earthlings is closer to that of a Carl Hiaasen novel than a Star Trek franchise: Shapiro, shocked to learn he’s as boring as he is bored; Captain Mastromonico, possessed of an unearthly charm, a brilliant business sense, and the attention span of a six-year-old; Wallace “Darth Beardo” Haverbrook, a genre-savvy sci-fi nerd a little irked that life in space is nothing like TV; two chattering orphans, a talking cat, a retired drag queen, a mute piano savant, a schizophrenic socialite convinced her body is home to an empire of microscopic aliens—the list goes on. Stars and planets lacking pronounceable native names, our heroes’ translators tap into a “Name a Star” agency back home, leaving Shapiro and friends battling Bartlebians and Wilsonians in orbit around MacGillicudy 6. This is not your progenitor’s science fiction.
As for my qualifications to write this book, I regret to say that I am neither divorced nor an astronaut; I do, however, enjoy creative science fiction and fantasy in all media, and I am eager to make my mark. I spent the first twenty-two years of my life in Richmond, Virginia, including earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Art from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2005. After this, I moved to Florida, where I utilize my knowledge of postmodern art theory and critical content analysis to work at an office supply store. I have been writing for most of my life, but this marks my first assay at being published.
I quite liked a lot of this paragraph, though I would leave out the line about being your first attempt at publishing. The office supply store line made me laugh. If you trim it down a bit it could work as a tongue-in-cheek bio paragraph.

Good luck!

JohnDurvin
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Re: QUERY: "I Just Need Some Space"

Post by JohnDurvin » April 14th, 2011, 11:51 am

All right, see, I think the advice I'd been getting about query letters might have been leftover from the snail-mail-and-typewriter era; they all said for it to be a page long and include a biography paragraph. The more I look through this forum, the more I think every damn word I'd heard was wrong. I'm working on a new query for the ADHD world of agent e-mail, and hopefully it'll be up soon.
Everybody loves using things as other things, right? Check out my blog at the Cromulent Bricoleur and see one hipster's approach to recycling, upcycling, and alterna-cycling (which is a word I just made up).

JohnDurvin
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Re: QUERY: "I Just Need Some Space" (version 2)

Post by JohnDurvin » April 14th, 2011, 12:53 pm

Near-omnipotent aliens are considering donating their advanced technology to the people of Earth…if the randomly-selected test crews, abducted randomly from around the world, can prove the species worthy. Recently divorced cost-management banned word Shapiro Townsend is tapped to be the vice-president of an interstellar wholesale business that Captain Mastromonico thinks might do the trick. But when the Captain disappears, it’s up to Shapiro to rally the eclectic crew—a retired drag queen, a mute savant pianist, two six-year-olds, a misanthropic farmer, and the ship’s cat—and track down their fearless leader before the Captain’s unbalanced ex-wife and a cabal of bombastic aliens shuts the business down—permanently.
Adding to the confusion, those all-powerful aliens are no stoic, toga-wearing bunch. Helpful and child-like, they are liable to break into Busby Berkley musical numbers. But beneath this bubbly exterior, they harbor a secret: their infinite talents are powered a device that saps their negative emotions. What happens when Shapiro makes a split-second command decision that pulls one of them away from the device?
This is I JUST NEED SOME SPACE, my sci-fi novel of 115,000 words. As for my qualifications to write this book, I regret to say that I am neither divorced nor an astronaut; I do, however, enjoy creative science fiction and fantasy in all media, and I am eager to make my mark. I was born in Richmond, Virginia, earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Art from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2005. I currently reside in Florida, where I utilize my knowledge of postmodern art theory and critical content analysis to work at an office supply store.
Everybody loves using things as other things, right? Check out my blog at the Cromulent Bricoleur and see one hipster's approach to recycling, upcycling, and alterna-cycling (which is a word I just made up).

akila
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Re: QUERY: "I Just Need Some Space" (version 2)

Post by akila » April 14th, 2011, 1:40 pm

John - I personally love SciFi and saw your note on the other forum about the worry that people don't like SciFi. So, I'm approaching this query from the perspective of a SciFi reader/enthusiast:
]Near-omnipotent aliens are considering donating their advanced technology to the people of Earth…if the randomly-selected test crews, abducted randomly from around the world, can prove the species worthy.
I really like this concept --- very clever --- but I found this sentence difficult to read. The problem, I think, is in the structure and the lack of detail. For example, I find "aliens" to be quite vague --- almost every scifi novel includes aliens so it's important to define from where the aliens are located --- are they Martians, Venetians, etc? Here's an alternative. "In ---- (year - only because I think scifi readers like to know when things are happening), near-omnipotent [name of aliens] consider donating their advanced technology to the citizens of Earth [out of charity? why are they donating the technology?], but only if randomly abducted citizens can prove the species worthy."
Recently divorced cost-management banned word Shapiro Townsend is tapped to be the vice-president of an interstellar wholesale business that Captain Mastromonico thinks might do the trick. But when the Captain disappears, it’s up to Shapiro to rally the eclectic crew—a retired drag queen, a mute savant pianist, two six-year-olds, a misanthropic farmer, and the ship’s cat—and track down their fearless leader before the Captain’s unbalanced ex-wife and a cabal of bombastic aliens shuts the business down—permanently.
If the test crews are randomly abducted, why does the Captain think that this wholesale business might "do the trick"? I like the description of the crew = nice details.
Adding to the confusion, those all-powerful aliens are no stoic, toga-wearing bunch. Helpful and child-like, they are liable to break into Busby Berkley musical numbers. But beneath this bubbly exterior, they harbor a secret: their infinite talents are powered a device that saps their negative emotions.
Love the description of the aliens - definitely get a sense of your humor here. But the device saps whose negative emotions? The device saps the aliens' negative emotions?
What happens when Shapiro makes a split-second command decision that pulls one of them away from the device?
I am not a fan of this question at the end. I think it would read better if it said something like, "When Shapiro makes a split-second command decision that pulls one of the aliens away from the device, the . . . . . [give a hint of what's going to happen next.]

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