PRINCESS OF SWANS -- YA Fantasy

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Elsinora
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PRINCESS OF SWANS -- YA Fantasy

Post by Elsinora » June 27th, 2012, 1:28 am

I've discovered that I'm great at editing my friends' queries, but godawful at editing my own. Any and all suggestions would be appreciated!

Dear Agent,

Twenty-year-old Feyana Belmaron – the first ever female Prince of Swans, heir to the throne of Amgovar – should be the most powerful woman alive. Instead, she is a prisoner. After a wartime disaster killed the queen and irreparably scarred Feyana’s face, Feyana’s father confined her to an isolated castle to keep her safe until the end of the war. Fifteen years later, the princess doubts that peace will ever arrive.

So when a volkarei foretells Feyana's marriage to the crown prince of her country’s enemy, the princess escapes the castle to find him and end the war for good. To reach him, she'll have to cross hundreds of miles of enemy territory, including pirate-infested waters, the volkarei witches' own forest, and the Halcaia Mountains, home to a legendary monster. Worse, one of her only allies is a traitor, and the other carries a deadly curse. Even the prince himself may be a threat. To save her country, the sheltered Feyana must first learn to save herself...or she’ll lose much more than just her freedom.

PRINCESS OF SWANS is a young adult fantasy complete at 104,000 words. It is my first novel.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,
Myname Lastname

Sleeping Beauty
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Re: PRINCESS OF SWANS -- YA Fantasy

Post by Sleeping Beauty » June 27th, 2012, 5:18 am

Excellent! I love the idea. Princess on a dangerous journey to marry her enemy and end a war. Perhaps indicate that the 'enemy' is an actual neighbouring country (which I assumed) because it's never actually stated for sure.

Personally, I'd drop the allies, in favour of mentioning how Feyana feels about what she's doing, to give her a tad more agency. The line 'even the prince may be a threat' is sort of a given - maybe saying how she feels about marrying him will tell us more about him?

A volkarei seems to be a kind of witch - maybe you could describe her as such? It's a foreign word that's not given context until it's mentioned again.

Over all, these are just suggestions for minor tweaks, because this query is absolutely solid. It has the vibe of a Russian fairytale. I'd read it!

writersink
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Re: PRINCESS OF SWANS -- YA Fantasy

Post by writersink » June 27th, 2012, 6:43 am

Elsinora wrote: Dear Agent,

Twenty-year-old Feyana Belmaron – the first ever female Prince of Swans, heir to the throne of Amgovar – should be the most powerful woman alive. Instead, she is a prisoner. After a wartime disaster killed the queenand irreparably scarred Feyana’s face, Feyana’s father confined her to an isolated castle to keep her safe until the end of the war. Fifteen years later, the princess doubts that peace will ever arrive.

Any details that we don't need in the query shouldn't be there. While it is really interesting that her face is scarred, it won't be the thing that sells the story. The idea of her being a prisoner and her being put into the castle for safety kind of oppose each other.


So when a volkarei foretells Feyana's marriage to the crown prince of her country’s enemy, the princess escapes the castle to find him and end the war for good. To reach him, she'll have to cross hundreds of miles of enemy territory, including pirate-infested waters, the volkarei witches' own forest, and the Halcaia Mountains, home to a legendary monster. Worse,one of her only allies is a traitor, and the other carries a deadly curse. Even the prince himself may be a threat. To save her country, the sheltered Feyana must first learn to save herself...or she’ll lose much more than just her freedom.

Don't put in names unless you really need to. "Volkarei" is a kind of... witch? I think? Maybe just put "witch" instead. How does her escaping the castle to find the crown prince of the enemy mean the war will end for good? I mean, would there have to be an alliance or something? Who exactly is the enemy?

If one of her allies is a traitor (to who) then why's she with him? I'd remove the allies thing altogether. There is enough conflict present.

"Or she'll lose much more than her freedom." What is it that she's lose? Make it clear. Her country? Her life?



PRINCESS OF SWANS is a young adult fantasy complete at 104,000 words. It is my first novel.

I'm not sure, but I think agents tend to assume it is your first novel.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,
Myname Lastname
I think this is a really clean query, and it definitely sounds like something I would read.

Elsinora
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Re: PRINCESS OF SWANS -- YA Fantasy

Post by Elsinora » June 27th, 2012, 10:52 am

Thanks for the feedback! I can't believe I missed the fact I never specified that "the enemy" was another country. D'oh!

First revision:

Dear Agent,

Twenty-year-old Feyana Belmaron--Amgovar's first female Prince of Swans and sole heir to the country's throne--should be the most powerful woman alive. Instead, she is a prisoner. After a wartime disaster killed the queen, Feyana’s father confined her to an isolated castle to keep her safe until the end of the war. Fifteen years later, the princess doubts that peace will ever arrive.

But when a winged volkarei witch foretells Feyana's marriage to the crown prince of the enemy nation, the princess escapes the castle to find him and end the war for good. To reach him, she'll have to cross hundreds of miles of hostile territory, evading the pirates and soldiers who stalk her path. Her only allies, an impish thief and a part-time monster, can't stand each other--and worse, one of them is a traitor. Before she can save her country, the sheltered Feyana must first learn to save herself...or she’ll lose much more than just her freedom.

PRINCESS OF SWANS is a young adult fantasy complete at 104,000 words.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,
Myname Lastname


I intend to change the "...or she'll lose much more" line to something more specific, but I haven't yet come up with a punchy alternative. "...or become Amgovar's highest ranking casualty," maybe? I'm also torn on whether to keep or ditch the word "volkarei." Clearly it's coming across as confusing, but on the other hand, I don't feel like I got much worldbuilding into the query, so I'm hesitant to take more out. Did adding a bit of description solve the problem, or do I need to cut the word entirely?

Sleeping Beauty
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Re: PRINCESS OF SWANS -- YA Fantasy

Post by Sleeping Beauty » June 28th, 2012, 8:54 am

Better! I'm going to disagree with writersink here (sorry!!), because I miss the suggestion of Feyana's scarred face. It may not add to the 'story', per se, but it's evocative. I can name very few novels which feature disfigured main characters. It also serves the purpose of making the king seem less cruel, and possibly explains why Feyana hasn't tried to previously escape (I assume) - she has actually faced death, and the rather extreme measure of confinement doesn't sound so pre-emptive.

Just my two cents!

Elsinora
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Re: PRINCESS OF SWANS -- YA Fantasy

Post by Elsinora » June 29th, 2012, 12:02 am

The latest:

Dear Agent,

Feyana Belmaron, Princess of Swans, is a prisoner in her own realm. After a wartime disaster killed the queen and disfigured Feyana's face, the king confined his only daughter to an isolated castle until the end of the war. Ten years later, the princess doubts that peace will ever arrive--or that she'll ever have a chance to serve her people.

So when a winged volkari witch prophesies that Feyana will marry the enemy nation's own crown prince, the princess escapes the castle to find and woo him. Such a marriage of heirs would not only end Feyana's seclusion from power, but unite the warring countries for good. But her path to the altar runs through hundreds of miles of hostile territory, full of pirates, soldiers, and thieves long since angered by her father's policies--and eager to revenge themselves on his naive, sheltered heir. Unless Feyana can prove herself a worthy leader, she could lose a lot more than just her freedom.

She could lose her life.

PRINCESS OF SWANS is a YA Fantasy complete at 104,000 words.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,
Myname Lastname

mariana
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Re: PRINCESS OF SWANS -- YA Fantasy

Post by mariana » July 3rd, 2012, 11:47 am

You hooked me! I want to read your story.
Scarred face--essential.
Volkarei--explained sufficiently by the context you provide. No need for additional explanation/translation.
Combine first 2 sentences by leaving out "should be the most powerful woman alive. Instead she". Omit last sentence of first pgh.
Second pgh. is fine.
3rd pgh.: Word count may be a little high, although YA word counts vary widely I guess, and your tale is quite an epic. Everything I've read says that you mustn't include "This is my first novel" in a query.
If I were an agent, I'd want to see your ms. But, sorry, I'm not an agent!

elbowpatch
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Re: PRINCESS OF SWANS -- YA Fantasy

Post by elbowpatch » July 3rd, 2012, 12:08 pm

I actually like version two better than version three. It's a pretty solid query, but here are some minor suggestions.

Dear Agent,

Twenty-year-old Feyana Belmaron--Amgovar's first female Prince of Swans and sole heir to the country's throne--should be the most powerful woman alive. Instead, she is a prisoner. After a wartime disaster killed the queenGet the scarred face back in there, it's what makes your character interesting, she has to woo a prince, but she's not a disney princess, Feyana’s father confined her to an isolated castle to keep her safe until the end of the war. Fifteen years later, the princess doubts that peace will ever arrive.

But when a winged volkarei witch foretells Feyana's marriage to the crown prince of the enemy nation, the princess escapes the castle to find the prince hoping she can marry him and thereby end the war for good him and end the war for good. To reach him, she'll have to cross hundreds of miles of hostile territory, evading the pirates and soldiers who stalk her path. Her only allies, an impish thief and a part-time monster, can't stand each other--and worse, one of them is a traitor. Before she can save her country, the sheltered Feyana must first learn to (maybe fend for herself, defend herself, and then end it there.)save herself...or she’ll lose much more than just her freedom.

Elsinora
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Re: PRINCESS OF SWANS -- YA Fantasy

Post by Elsinora » July 3rd, 2012, 2:36 pm

Thanks for the feedback! Scarred face is back in, by general consensus. Here's the latest:

Feyana Belmaron, Princess of Swans, is a prisoner in her own realm. After a wartime disaster killed the queen and disfigured Feyana's face, the king confined his only daughter to an isolated castle until the end of the war. Ten years later, the princess doubts that peace will ever arrive--or that she'll ever have a chance to serve her people.

So when a volkarei witch prophesies that Feyana will marry the enemy nation's own crown prince, the princess escapes the castle to find and woo him. Such a marriage of heirs would not only end Feyana's hated seclusion, but unite the warring countries for good. But her path to the altar runs through hundreds of miles of hostile territory, full of pirates, soldiers, and thieves long since angered by her father's policies--and eager to revenge themselves on his naive, sheltered heir. Unless Feyana can prove herself a worthy leader, she could lose a lot more than just her freedom.

She could lose her life.


I've gotten mixed feedback elsewhere as to whether "She could lose her life." or "She could lose the war." made a stronger final line. I'm leaning toward "life" as a more personal stake for Feyana, but I could be sold either way. Anyone want to weigh in on that?

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LurkingVirologist
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Re: PRINCESS OF SWANS -- YA Fantasy

Post by LurkingVirologist » July 12th, 2012, 6:49 pm

Highlighted some text in blue and then commented in []. Red is stuff I'd suggest taking out.

"Feyana Belmaron, Princess of Swans, is a prisoner in her own realm. After a wartime disaster killed[kills - keep it present tense] the queen and disfigured Feyana's face[Awesome - keep this! Too many pretty pretty princesses], the king confined his only daughter to an isolated castle until the end of the war [This is implied by the next sentence]. Ten years later, the princess doubts that peace will ever arrive--or that she'll ever have a chance to serve her people.

So when a volkarei witch prophesies that Feyana will marry the enemy nation's own crown prince, the princess escapes the castle to find and woo him[I have a pathological distaste for the word woo. To me, it saps the feistiness of the character by making her dependent on getting the boy to like her. YMMV]. Such a marriage of heirs would not only end Feyana's hated seclusion, but unite the warring countries for good. But her path to the altar runs through hundreds of miles of hostile territory, full of pirates, soldiers, and thieves long since angered by her father's policies--and[we assume pirates and thieves are bad guys unless you specify otherwise] eager to revenge themselves on his[the] naive, sheltered heir. Unless Feyana can prove herself a worthy leader, she could lose a lot more than just her freedom.

She could lose her life. [not liking this last line, seems obvious]"

I think you have a pretty interesting query here, and I like most of it. I have one big question about the story though, and this expands on the comment I made about the middle paragraph - is this a story about a girl having to get a boy to like her? On the one hand, you set Feyana up as a scarred prisoner of circumstances who takes a huge risk to save her people - this I like, strong female character FTW. She has a long, nasty journey ahead of her - again, great (I vote for a mention in some way of betrayal from one of her companions). The wooing of boy - meh. Kinda takes the spice out.

Is this a story about a woman making an ugly sacrifice (loveless marriage) to save her people? That's interesting. Does this prince share her sentiments, and is he also trying to find her because he's trying to end the war too? Also interesting. Is she planning on showing up at his doorstep and rescuing him from the metaphorical dragon in a flip of the Disney gender roles? Fun times. If you give us a sense that what she's doing isn't just a cosmetic reboot of the old 'someday my prince will come' trope, I think it'd really help. If you start somewhere interesting, which you certainly have, make sure you let us know that the destination will be just as interesting.

Also, I like the mention of volkarei with no explanation. I think you're allowed one name-drop like that. It adds texture, it sounds kinda creepy, and it makes me want to know more about them. Kudos for exercising restraint, and not over-baiting the trap.
"Books break the shackles of time, proof that humans can work magic." -Carl Sagan

QueenViv
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Re: PRINCESS OF SWANS -- YA Fantasy

Post by QueenViv » July 12th, 2012, 9:40 pm

LurkingVirologist wrote:
Spoiler:
Highlighted some text in blue and then commented in []. Red is stuff I'd suggest taking out.

"Feyana Belmaron, Princess of Swans, is a prisoner in her own realm. After a wartime disaster killed[kills - keep it present tense] the queen and disfigured Feyana's face[Awesome - keep this! Too many pretty pretty princesses], the king confined his only daughter to an isolated castle until the end of the war [This is implied by the next sentence]. Ten years later, the princess doubts that peace will ever arrive--or that she'll ever have a chance to serve her people.

So when a volkarei witch prophesies that Feyana will marry the enemy nation's own crown prince, the princess escapes the castle to find and woo him[I have a pathological distaste for the word woo. To me, it saps the feistiness of the character by making her dependent on getting the boy to like her. YMMV]. Such a marriage of heirs would not only end Feyana's hated seclusion, but unite the warring countries for good. But her path to the altar runs through hundreds of miles of hostile territory, full of pirates, soldiers, and thieves long since angered by her father's policies--and[we assume pirates and thieves are bad guys unless you specify otherwise] eager to revenge themselves on his[the] naive, sheltered heir. Unless Feyana can prove herself a worthy leader, she could lose a lot more than just her freedom.

She could lose her life. [not liking this last line, seems obvious]"
I think you have a pretty interesting query here, and I like most of it. I have one big question about the story though, and this expands on the comment I made about the middle paragraph - is this a story about a girl having to get a boy to like her? On the one hand, you set Feyana up as a scarred prisoner of circumstances who takes a huge risk to save her people - this I like, strong female character FTW. She has a long, nasty journey ahead of her - again, great (I vote for a mention in some way of betrayal from one of her companions). The wooing of boy - meh. Kinda takes the spice out.

Is this a story about a woman making an ugly sacrifice (loveless marriage) to save her people? That's interesting. Does this prince share her sentiments, and is he also trying to find her because he's trying to end the war too? Also interesting. Is she planning on showing up at his doorstep and rescuing him from the metaphorical dragon in a flip of the Disney gender roles? Fun times. If you give us a sense that what she's doing isn't just a cosmetic reboot of the old 'someday my prince will come' trope, I think it'd really help. If you start somewhere interesting, which you certainly have, make sure you let us know that the destination will be just as interesting.

Also, I like the mention of volkarei with no explanation. I think you're allowed one name-drop like that. It adds texture, it sounds kinda creepy, and it makes me want to know more about them. Kudos for exercising restraint, and not over-baiting the trap.
I really liked the second version. I think you can leave volkarei witch if you want to explain what a volkarei is. I had no problem with that.
I really like
Feyana Belmaron, Princess of Swans, is a prisoner in her own realm. After a wartime disaster killed the queen and disfigured Feyana's face, the king confined his only daughter to an isolated castle until the end of the war. Ten years later, the princess doubts that peace will ever arrive--or that she'll ever have a chance to serve her people.
It just jumps into the setting and character!

Regarding the un-spoilered part: My opinion is similar to LurkingVirologist's. I really liked what I read and I wanted to know more... but if the intention is only to make the boy like her, I feel a little disappointed.

I faced similar problems with my query at another forum and I understand how frustrating it is. There are layers to the plot that you simply can't put in a query (after all, it's only supposed to be a page long). Since you're working with the angle that she is going to get tough or die maybe you could rephrase the part about the prince. I don't know how your plot works, but I thought of a couple of things while I was reading the versions: 1. is he looking for her too? 2. is he trapped somewhere and needs to be saved? 3. does she want to find him because she actually needs to feel free for the first time in life - the boy being just an excuse?

What worked for me was hints (as in: choosing my words very carefully) and sticking to the main plot. Maybe you just need to sharpen your word choice... you seem to have the plot part pegged.

Elsinora
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Re: PRINCESS OF SWANS -- YA Fantasy

Post by Elsinora » July 17th, 2012, 3:53 pm

Thanks for the comments. It's hard to hint at the non-"Someday My Prince Will Come" aspects of the prince because they're a major, last-act reveal. (The prince turns out to be a manipulative, cruel man who tortured Feyana's volkari friend, removed both his brothers from the line of succession by cursing one to kill the other, and plotted to abduct and force Feyana into marriage to take her country under his control--all in the name of "bringing peace.") I originally had a penultimate line in there about "Even her prince may be a threat." or some such, but the consensus at AgentQuery was to take it out. Should I put it back?

Here's what I have currently:

Feyana Belmaron, Princess of Swans, is a prisoner in her own realm. After a wartime disaster killed the queen and disfigured Feyana's face, the king confined his only daughter to an isolated castle until the end of the war. Ten years later, the princess doubts that peace will ever arrive--or that she'll ever have a chance to serve her people.

So when a winged volkari witch prophesies that Feyana will marry a prince of the enemy nation, the princess escapes the castle to find and court him. Such a marriage of heirs would not only end Feyana's seclusion, but unite the warring countries for good. But her path to the altar runs through hundreds of miles of hostile territory, full of pirates, soldiers, and thieves angered by her father's policies. To save her country, the sheltered Feyana must first learn to save herself--or she may lose a lot more than just her freedom.

hagenpiper
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Re: PRINCESS OF SWANS -- YA Fantasy

Post by hagenpiper » July 17th, 2012, 4:58 pm

Elsinora wrote:Thanks for the comments. It's hard to hint at the non-"Someday My Prince Will Come" aspects of the prince because they're a major, last-act reveal. (The prince turns out to be a manipulative, cruel man who tortured Feyana's volkari friend, removed both his brothers from the line of succession by cursing one to kill the other, and plotted to abduct and force Feyana into marriage to take her country under his control--all in the name of "bringing peace.") I originally had a penultimate line in there about "Even her prince may be a threat." or some such, but the consensus at AgentQuery was to take it out. Should I put it back?

Here's what I have currently:

Feyana Belmaron, Princess of Swans, is a prisoner in her own realm. (<-- works for me.) After a wartime disaster killed the queen and disfigured Feyana's face, the king confined his only daughter to an isolated castle until the end of the war. Ten years later, the princess doubts that peace will ever arrive--or that she'll ever have a chance to serve her people.

So when a winged volkari witch prophesies that Feyana will marry a prince of the enemy nation, the princess escapes the castle to find and court him. Such a marriage of heirs would not only end Feyana's seclusion, (<--- But that's already happened. You said so two sentences back.) but unite the warring countries for good. (rather than 'for good' (which is a bit flat) is there something else about this war that troubles Feyana? Up to now she seems motivated only to achieve her own freedom. Does she care about the people dying? The farms being burned? The starving children? The orphans along the sides of the road? The bodies... my God the bodies...? If she puts her self at risk to save others... well... that's the definition of a heroine.) But her path to the altar runs through hundreds of miles of hostile territory, full of pirates, soldiers, and thieves angered by her father's policies. To save her country, the sheltered Feyana must first learn to save herself--or she may lose a lot more than just her freedom.
Overall, this reads a bit choppy - like it's been through the meat grinder one time too many. I'm not saying you should scrap it and start over - but what might be a helpful exercise is to set it aside, stare at a blank wall for a minute or two - blank out all that advice from all those different people - then write it from memory as best you can. Not easy, but there might be pieces of the new version that flow better than the old. Then maybe toss that draft aside and try it again. And again, and again, until you've got this thing off by rote - in your head, like a speech you could give to a conference of agents. The idea is that what you'll end up with will sound fresh, not overworked, and a fresh version might do your narrative voice more justice - which so important to an agent's decision.

Just a thought, hope it helps!

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