MG: Pirate of Vallenta - REVISED AGAIN - FEEDBACK WELCOME

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jaktt12
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MG: Pirate of Vallenta - REVISED AGAIN - FEEDBACK WELCOME

Post by jaktt12 » April 1st, 2012, 2:09 pm

Hi,

Just joined and looking forward to providing and receiving some query feedback. This query has gotten me some, but not a ton, of interest from agents. Anyone care to give some honest feedback? I appreciate it.

J

Dear [Agent]:

When fourteen-year-old pirate Lesath’s first mission gets her locked in the castle dungeon by royal assistant Sir Reginald, she starts to seriously consider a career change. First, of course, she’ll have to escape. Before old Reggie has her executed.

Lesath convinces castle resident and bumbling wizard intern Nembus to break her out of the cell. Suspicious of Sir Reginald, they sneak into his chambers and discover he’s attempting to fulfill an ancient prophecy – some cryptic spiel about “aligning the three stars” – so he can seize power over Vallenta. And he's manufacturing a war between the warriors and wizards to cover his tracks.

Before Lesath can begin plotting how to stop Sir Reginald, her impatient fish-breathed-pirate-captain Argh shows up, looking for the castle treasure she failed to steal for him. But Vallenta’s on the verge of civil war and Sir Reginald has just kidnapped the king, so Argh will just have to take a number. When Lesath recruits Nembus and irritating young warrior Izar to help her thwart Argh and defeat the ever-more-powerful Sir Reginald, she discovers that her disagreeable companions are actually her disagreeable relatives – and that THEY are the three stars that will fulfill the prophecy.
Last edited by jaktt12 on May 23rd, 2012, 9:44 am, edited 2 times in total.

KyleS
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Re: MG: Pirate of Vallenta

Post by KyleS » April 5th, 2012, 12:33 pm

I'm by now means a pro a queries, but I thought I'd give you my two cents. It's apparant you have a good story going on, but I think you need to just work on presenting it in a more-clear manner. My comments are in the brackets. Good luck!

Dear [Agent]:

When fourteen-year-old pirate Lesath’s first mission gets her locked in the castle dungeon by royal assistant Sir Reginald, she starts to seriously consider a career change. First, of course, she’ll have to escape. Before old Reggie has her executed. [This last sentence is a fragment sentence and shows bad grammar. Maybe the last two sentences should read something like “But first, of course, she’ll have to escape before old Reggie has her executed.” Lesath is also an unusual main character name. I don’t know much about pirate names, though, so maybe it fits - especially since it seems to go well with the other names you have.]

Lesath convinces castle resident and bumbling wizard intern Nembus to break her out of the cell. Suspicious of Sir Reginald, they sneak into his chambers and discover he’s attempting to fulfill an ancient prophecy – some cryptic spiel about “aligning the three stars” – so he can seize power over Vallenta. [Should “spiel” read “spell?” And who’s Vallenta?] And he's manufacturing a war between the warriors and wizards to cover his tracks. [Who are the warriors? There’s now a reference to pirates, wizards, and warriors, and the plot or relationship between these three groups is unclear to me.]

Before Lesath can begin plotting how to stop Sir Reginald, her impatient fish-breathed-pirate-captain Argh shows up, looking for the castle treasure she failed to steal for him. [The fish-breathed-pirate-captin analogy is kind of confusing to me, though I like you decision to provide some description of what sounds like an unusual character.] But Vallenta’s on the verge of civil war and Sir Reginald has just kidnapped the king, so Argh will just have to take a number. [There’s alot going on in this sentence.] When Lesath recruits Nembus and irritating young warrior Izar to help her thwart Argh and defeat the ever-more-powerful Sir Reginald, she discovers that her disagreeable companions are actually her disagreeable relatives – and that THEY are the three stars that will fulfill the prophecy. [There’s also alot going on this sentence as well. Also, maybe italicize “they” instead of capitalize.]

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midenianscholar
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Re: MG: Pirate of Vallenta

Post by midenianscholar » April 10th, 2012, 1:10 pm

Hello! I'm not a query expert, but here are some things I noticed reading through:

Dear [Agent]:

When fourteen-year-old pirate Lesath’s first mission gets her locked in the castle dungeon by royal assistant Sir Reginald, she starts to seriously consider a career change. First, of course, she’ll have to escape. Before old Reggie has her executed.

I'd delete "royal assistant" before Sir Reginald. This doesn't seem to be absolutely necessary information, and we can tell from the "sir" that he's someone important. The first sentence feels clunky to me, I think because 14 year old and "career change" seem like an oxymoron. It's also a little disappointing to have a slight cliche at the end of that sentence. I think it's recommended to get a full novel summary in the first sentence or two, which might help clear up some of my points below. At the end of the paragraph, I'd say this is about a pirate girl having to escape from some villain, which I don't think is the correct impression. I like what KyleS said about the sentence fragments.

Lesath convinces castle resident and bumbling wizard intern Nembus to break her out of the cell. Suspicious of Sir Reginald, they sneak into his chambers and discover he’s attempting to fulfill an ancient prophecy – some cryptic spiel about “aligning the three stars” – so he can seize power over Vallenta. And he's manufacturing a war between the warriors and wizards to cover his tracks.

In this paragraph the thing that is most confusing is Lesath's apparently sudden decision not to escape, but to sneak into Sir Reginald's chambers. Bringing her suspicion of Sir Reginald into the paragraph pulls in unnecessary questions that you probably don't have room to answer (What made her suspicious? Why snoop instead of escape? Is Nembus in on it? etc). Perhaps change to something simpler, like: "On her way out, she discovers that Sir Reginald is attempting to fulfill..." At this point, I'd say the story is about unlikely heroes (Lesath and Nembus) having to defeat a villain and save the country.

Before Lesath can begin plotting how to stop Sir Reginald, her impatient fish-breathed-pirate-captain Argh shows up, looking for the castle treasure she failed to steal for him. But Vallenta’s on the verge of civil war and Sir Reginald has just kidnapped the king, so Argh will just have to take a number. When Lesath recruits Nembus and irritating young warrior Izar to help her thwart Argh and defeat the ever-more-powerful Sir Reginald, she discovers that her disagreeable companions are actually her disagreeable relatives – and that THEY are the three stars that will fulfill the prophecy.

This paragraph is the most sticky to me. Several new plot elements and characters are introduced all in a rush. The passage of time is confusing, too, since it seems like we just left Reginald plotting in his room but now the prince is gone and the civil war's about to start. In the very last bit, the conflict of Lesath's family comes up. My gut tells me this has more to do with the heart of the novel than the rest. Is the novel about underdogs and politics, or is it about family?

A simplified paragraph might look something like this:
Now Vallenta's on the verge of civil war and Sir Reginald has just kidnapped the king. To top it off, Lesath's impatient fish-breathed-pirate-captain Argh has caught up with her, looking for the castle treasure she failed to steal for him. When Lesath recruits... etc


I hope that helps! It looks like a fun story, and I lovehow your voice comes through in the query. Best of luck!

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Re: MG: Pirate of Vallenta

Post by jaktt12 » April 10th, 2012, 8:58 pm

Wow, thank you both very much for your helpful suggestions. It's nice to have fresh eyes read your work. Off to edit...

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Re: MG: Pirate of Vallenta

Post by jaktt12 » April 12th, 2012, 9:05 am

Okay, I took a stab at rewriting. I think this is much clearer and more direct, so thanks again very much for your help, KyleS and midenianscholar. Any additional feedback (from anyone and everyone) is appreciated. Here's what I have now...

Dear [Agent]:

When fourteen-year-old pirate Lesath gets locked in the castle dungeon by Sir Reginald, her first-ever mission could become her last. But if she can escape, she might come away with something more valuable than the treasure she was trying to steal.

Lesath convinces castle resident and bumbling wizard intern Nembus to break her out of the cell. He warns her that Sir Reginald's planning to fulfill a cryptic prophecy to seize power over Vallenta – and manufacturing a war between Vallenta’s bickering warriors and wizards to cover his tracks.

With the country on the verge of civil war, Sir Reginald kidnaps the king. To top it off, Lesath's fish-breathed pirate captain Argh has caught up with her, demanding the treasure she has yet to steal. When Lesath recruits Nembus and irritating young warrior Izar to help her thwart Argh and defeat Sir Reginald, she discovers that her disagreeable companions are actually her disagreeable relatives – and that they are the keys to the prophecy.

The Pirate of Vallenta is a middle grade fantasy complete at 66,000 words. Thanks for your time and consideration.

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Re: MG: Pirate of Vallenta - REVISED

Post by GaoYuQing » May 10th, 2012, 9:59 am

Ok, read both versions and I think you lost some of the humor and whimsy you had in the first draft. Clunky sentences aside, it made me smile, which is always a good thing if you want someone to read your book. Perhaps a middle ground between the two versions. Inject some of the humor of the first version into the clarity of the second. Especially at the start and end since that will hook the attention at the start and leave a nice taste in the mind of the reader when they finish. The phrasing that came to my mind on version 1 for instance was"
"First, of course, she’ll have to escape. Preferably before old Reggie has her executed."
But then I love sarcasm and irony.
I do ask you get rid of "fish-breathed" though...every time I read that my mind goes "fish...breathed," as in taking a breath, not smelling like fish. That just forced me to pause and puzzle out when I read it, which stopped the flow. I like the humor that seems to be implicit in your writing though. Very Robert Asprin. And definately good for middle-schoolers :)

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Re: MG: Pirate of Vallenta - REVISED

Post by jaktt12 » May 23rd, 2012, 9:43 am

GaoYuQing - thanks for the feedback. It was very helpful. I've revised again, taking your comments into consideration.

I would love to hear what you all think. Thanks!

When fourteen-year-old pirate Lesath gets locked in the castle dungeon by Sir Reginald, her first-ever mission could become her last, especially if he’s serious about that whole execution thing. But if she can escape, she might come away with something more valuable than the treasure she was trying to steal.

Lesath convinces castle resident and bumbling wizard intern Nembus to break her out of her cell. He warns her that Sir Reginald's planning to fulfill a cryptic prophecy – some spiel about “aligning the three stars” – to seize power over Vallenta. And to cover his tracks, old Reggie’s manufacturing a war between Vallenta’s bickering warriors and wizards.

With the country on the verge of civil war, Sir Reginald kidnaps the king. To top it off, Lesath's cantankerous pirate captain Argh has caught up with her, demanding the treasure she has yet to steal. When Lesath recruits Nembus and irritating young warrior Izar to help her thwart Argh and defeat Sir Reginald, she discovers that her disagreeable companions are actually her disagreeable relatives – and that they are the keys to the prophecy.

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Re: MG: Pirate of Vallenta - REVISED AGAIN - FEEDBACK WELCOME

Post by jaktt12 » July 3rd, 2012, 12:30 pm

Revised once more. Anyone care to offer some more feedback? Thanks!

Dear [Agent]:

Teenage pirate Lesath's first-ever mission is about to become her last, especially if Sir Reginald is serious about that whole execution thing. Still, she doesn't regret trying to steal the treasure from Castle Vallenta; just the getting caught part.

Lesath convinces bumbling wizard-in-training Nembus to spring her from her cell. Nembus says Sir Reginald wants to fulfill a cryptic prophecy to seize power over Vallenta, and that he's manufacturing a war between Vallenta’s warriors and wizards to cover his tracks. Lesath's first plan - run away - is foiled when her cantankerous pirate captain Argh shows up demanding the treasure she didn’t steal.

Now, with the warriors and wizards on the verge of war, Sir Reginald kidnaps the king. Lesath hatches a plot to end the war, save the king, and maybe even get away with some of that treasure, but she'll need help from a reluctant Nembus and another one of old Reggie's prisoners, an irritating young warrior named Izar. When Lesath discovers that her disagreeable companions are actually her disagreeable relatives – and that they are the keys to the prophecy - her plan goes to pieces. But with a little luck, she may still be able to save Vallenta - and her brothers, if they don't kill each other first.

The Pirate of Vallenta is a middle grade fantasy complete at 66,000 words.

Sally Garfield
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Re: MG: Pirate of Vallenta - REVISED AGAIN - FEEDBACK WELCOME

Post by Sally Garfield » July 3rd, 2012, 5:33 pm

I've been following with interest the critiques on your query. I have to say that your first query favorably struck me with its humor and tone. I knew immediately the reader is in for some crazy fun. As you continued to revise, I felt I was reading a well-presented, kind of dry academic presentation. I missed that sense of spontaneity and energy found in your first query, especially your first paragraph. And the fragment sentence "Before he executes her" can easily be included in that last sentence.

I think the suggestions offered and your re-working the third paragraph work well.
I'm curious as to what you end up with. Sounds like a fun story! sg

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Re: MG: Pirate of Vallenta - REVISED AGAIN - FEEDBACK WELCOME

Post by jaktt12 » July 5th, 2012, 12:07 pm

Thanks for the kind words and advice Sally.

I've incorporated some revisions. Please let me know what you think!

Fourteen-year-old pirate Lesath doesn't regret trying to steal the treasure from the castle; it’s getting caught that has her considering a career change – preferably before her execution.

Lesath convinces bumbling wizard-in-training Nembus to spring her from her cell. Now, he needs her help: Sir Reginald’s going to seize power over the kingdom by manufacturing a war between the warriors and wizards. Worse, Lesath’s fishy pirate captain Argh has just arrived demanding the treasure she didn’t steal.

Lesath hatches a plot to end the war, save the country, and maybe even get away with some treasure. She recruits Nembus and her fellow prisoner, an irritating young warrior, to help. When Lesath discovers that her disagreeable companions are actually her disagreeable relatives – and that they are the keys to Sir Reginald’s scheme – her plan goes from daring to downright dangerous.

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Re: MG: Pirate of Vallenta - REVISED AGAIN - FEEDBACK WELCOME

Post by LurkingVirologist » July 10th, 2012, 2:06 am

You've got a fun voice going here. Here are some line by line comments.

"Fourteen-year-old pirate Lesath doesn't regret trying to steal the treasure from the castle; it’s getting caught that has her considering a career change – preferably before her execution." Great!

"Lesath convinces bumbling wizard-in-training Nembus to spring her from her cell [redundant]. Now, he needs her help: Sir Reginald’s going to seize power over the kingdom by manufacturing a war between the warriors and wizards [is it critical to mention warriors vs. wizards, or could you shorten to civil war?]. Worse, Lesath’s fishy pirate captain Argh has just arrived demanding the treasure she didn’t steal." Last line is good too.

"Lesath hatches a plot to end the war, save the country, and maybe even get away with some treasure. She recruits Nembus and her fellow prisoner, an irritating young warrior, to help. When Lesath discovers that her disagreeable companions are actually her disagreeable relatives – and that they are the keys to Sir Reginald’s scheme – her plan goes from daring to downright dangerous."
First and last lines are great. The middle sentence (about the recruitment) feels a little flat compared to the snarky, irreverent tone of the rest of the paragraph, but I'm not quite sure how to perk it up without risking overkill. Also, paragraph 1 implies that Nembus recruited her to help, but paragraph 2 makes it sound like she recruited him. Are they co-conspirators, or is one of them the driving force and the other getting caught up in the shenanigans?
jaktt12 wrote:
Fourteen-year-old pirate Lesath doesn't regret trying to steal the treasure from the castle; it’s getting caught that has her considering a career change – preferably before her execution.

Lesath convinces bumbling wizard-in-training Nembus to spring her from her cell. Now, he needs her help: Sir Reginald’s going to seize power over the kingdom by manufacturing a war between the warriors and wizards. Worse, Lesath’s fishy pirate captain Argh has just arrived demanding the treasure she didn’t steal.

Lesath hatches a plot to end the war, save the country, and maybe even get away with some treasure. She recruits Nembus and her fellow prisoner, an irritating young warrior, to help. When Lesath discovers that her disagreeable companions are actually her disagreeable relatives – and that they are the keys to Sir Reginald’s scheme – her plan goes from daring to downright dangerous.
"Books break the shackles of time, proof that humans can work magic." -Carl Sagan

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Re: MG: Pirate of Vallenta - REVISED AGAIN - FEEDBACK WELCOME

Post by jaktt12 » July 10th, 2012, 9:39 am

Lurking V - thanks for the feedback! I think I may have solved the issue with the flat middle line in the last paragraph. I tweaked the wording and moved it up to the bottom of the second paragraph. I think it works better. Interested to know what you think. Thanks!

J


Fourteen-year-old pirate Lesath doesn't regret trying to steal the treasure from the castle; it’s getting caught that has her considering a career change – especially if Sir Reginald is serious about that whole execution thing.

From a hole in her cell wall, Lesath convinces bumbling wizard-in-training Nembus to spring her. Now, he needs her help: Sir Reginald’s going to seize power over the kingdom by manufacturing a civil war. Worse, Lesath’s fishy pirate captain Argh has just arrived demanding the treasure she didn’t steal. The only help available is Lesath’s fellow prisoner, an irritating young warrior.

Lesath contrives a plot to end the war, save the kingdom, and maybe even get away with the treasure. But when she discovers that her disagreeable companions are actually her disagreeable relatives – and that they are the keys to Sir Reginald’s scheme – her plan goes from daring to downright dangerous.

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Re: MG: Pirate of Vallenta - REVISED AGAIN - FEEDBACK WELCOME

Post by LurkingVirologist » July 10th, 2012, 11:07 pm

I like the new arrangement, flows nicely. Marked one bit in red that could probably be trimmed.

"Fourteen-year-old pirate Lesath doesn't regret trying to steal the treasure from the castle; it’s getting caught that has her considering a career change – especially if Sir Reginald is serious about that whole execution thing.

From a hole in her cell wall, Lesath convinces bumbling wizard-in-training Nembus to spring her. Now, he needs her help: Sir Reginald’s going to seize power over the kingdom by manufacturing a civil war. Worse, Lesath’s fishy pirate captain Argh has just arrived demanding the treasure she didn’t steal. The only help available is Lesath’s fellow prisoner, an irritating young warrior.

Lesath contrives a plot to end the war, save the kingdom, and maybe even get away with the treasure. But when she discovers that her disagreeable companions are actually her disagreeable relatives – and that they are the keys to Sir Reginald’s scheme – her plan goes from daring to downright dangerous."
"Books break the shackles of time, proof that humans can work magic." -Carl Sagan

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Re: MG: Pirate of Vallenta - REVISED AGAIN - FEEDBACK WELCOME

Post by niklee90 » July 14th, 2012, 4:37 am

I think, if you'd like to improve the flow of the query, perhaps you should look at all the names you've dropped on the agent in only a few paragraphs. Mentioning all of these names brings me out of the MC's head/world, and I want to get to him/her/it first. And that's not just me--I've seen many posts seconding such comments.

BUT other than too many names (which is very fixable) I think this is a winning query :)

Nik

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