Query -- Platinum Donkeys

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Remus Shepherd
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Query -- Platinum Donkeys

Post by Remus Shepherd » February 10th, 2010, 11:06 am

All right, after various events I feel better about asking here for some advice. :)

If you don't mind, tell me what you think of this:
Dear (Agent):

They are mad geniuses; ugly but adaptable, stubborn but strong. They are the Platinum Donkeys, and Maggie -- a sexy TV host turned serial-killer -- is their latest recruit. While Maggie tries to recover her sanity in a world where nothing creative can be trusted, the Platinum Donkeys force her to make a choice: Either save the world, or destroy it and rule as their queen.

Platinum Donkeys is a fast-paced, 87,000 word science fiction novel set in a surreal future Earth. With your permission, I'd like to send you an excerpt and synopsis of the novel.

I am a physicist who works with remote sensing satellites, and I am a graduate of the 2007 Viable Paradise writer's workshop. I have had short fiction published in the semi-pro magazines Futures Mystery Anthology and Inquest, and I have had a successful sci-fi webcomic.

This is my third full-length novel, although none have yet been published. I am at the beginning of what I hope will be a lengthy second career writing science fiction novels, and at this stage I am seeking long-term representation.

I'm looking forward to hearing from you. Thank you for your time.
The story blurb is short and to the point. The rest is introducing myself to the agent. Not sure that the balance is right, but I think it's a valid strategy. There'll be many novels in our working relationship, but there's only one me.

I know the main problem with the story blurb; my protagonist does not, at first glance, appear sympathetic. But those are the kind of stories I write, I just need an agent for whom that kind of story appeals.

Anyway, your opinions are greatly appreciated. Thanks!

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Re: Query -- Platinum Donkeys

Post by Josin » February 10th, 2010, 11:57 am

Hopefully this helps, but I'll warn you -- I usually crit in a place called Query Letter Hell with a red pencil of DOOM (Dooooooooooooom!!!!!) full of blood.... These are only my opinions, but they're blunt.
Remus Shepherd wrote:All right, after various events I feel better about asking here for some advice. :)

If you don't mind, tell me what you think of this:
Dear (Agent):

They are mad geniuses; ugly but adaptable, stubborn but strong. They are the Platinum Donkeys, and Maggie -- a sexy TV host turned serial-killer -- is their latest recruit. While Maggie tries to recover her sanity in a world where nothing creative can be trusted, the Platinum Donkeys force her to make a choice: Either save the world, or destroy it and rule as their queen.

Aside from "serial killers" there's no real sense of your plot here. What happens in the story? Is Maggie nuts at the beginning or is that part of the plot? Does she actually kill anyone herself?

The way you've got this worded, they could be real donkeys for all the reader knows.



Platinum Donkeys is a fast-paced,<---- Don't tell this. Show it. The reader has no reason to believe you. 87,000 word science fiction novel set in a surreal<---- SHOW this future Earth. With your permission, I'd like to send you an excerpt and synopsis of the novel.Ditch the timidity. Expect them to want to read your novel and don't grovel. "I have enclosed the first pages (either in the envelope or pasted into the email depending on the deliver system.). Additional chapters, a synopsis, and the full manuscript are available upon request.

I am a physicist who works with remote sensing satellites,And this matters in query because.... (Unless those satellites are beaming your stories into your head from an alternate dimension/the future, you don't really need to mention the day job.) and I am a graduate of the 2007 Viable Paradise writer's workshop. I have had short fiction published in the semi-pro magazines Futures Mystery Anthology and Inquest, and I have had a successful sci-fi webcomic.(Title? Depending on your definition of successful - and you should mean "really" successful - give a reference point.)

This is my third full-length novel, although none have yet been published. I am at the beginning of what I hope will be a lengthy second career writing science fiction novels, and at this stage I am seeking long-term representation.All this is going to do is make it sound like you couldn't get the first 2 published. Don't sandbag yourself.
I'm looking forward to hearing from you. Thank you for your time.

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Re: Query -- Platinum Donkeys

Post by taylormillgirl » February 10th, 2010, 12:13 pm

Remus Shepherd wrote:All right, after various events I feel better about asking here for some advice. :)

If you don't mind, tell me what you think of this:
Dear (Agent):

They are mad geniuses; ugly but adaptable, stubborn but strong. They are the Platinum Donkeys, and Maggie -- a sexy TV host turned serial-killer -- is their latest recruit. While Maggie tries to recover her sanity in a world where nothing creative can be trusted, the Platinum Donkeys force her to make a choice: Either save the world, or destroy it and rule as their queen.

I'm all for concise hooks, but this is too concise. Like the previous poster said, it gives us no real idea of the plot.

Platinum Donkeys is a fast-paced, 87,000 word science fiction novel set in a surreal future Earth. With your permission, I'd like to send you an excerpt and synopsis of the novel.

I am a physicist who works with remote sensing satellites, and I am a graduate of the 2007 Viable Paradise writer's workshop. I have had short fiction published in the semi-pro magazines Futures Mystery Anthology and Inquest, and I have had a successful sci-fi webcomic.

Make sure you tie in your occupation to the novel. It's set in futuristic Earth...are satellites involved?

This is my third full-length novel, although none have yet been published. I am at the beginning of what I hope will be a lengthy second career writing science fiction novels, and at this stage I am seeking long-term representation.

No need to mention that the others haven't been published. I'd just state that this is your third completed novel.

I'm looking forward to hearing from you. Thank you for your time.
The story blurb is short and to the point. The rest is introducing myself to the agent. Not sure that the balance is right, but I think it's a valid strategy. There'll be many novels in our working relationship, but there's only one me.

I know the main problem with the story blurb; my protagonist does not, at first glance, appear sympathetic. But those are the kind of stories I write, I just need an agent for whom that kind of story appeals.

Anyway, your opinions are greatly appreciated. Thanks!
I look forward to reading a more detailed hook. Sounds cool to me...I'm a sci-fi lover myself.
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Holly
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Re: Query -- Platinum Donkeys

Post by Holly » February 10th, 2010, 12:29 pm

You need to tell us more about the plot. Your letter is like ordering dinner and getting one green bean on the plate.

I would cut the stuff about the third completed unpublished novel. Cut it entirely.

Good luck. I love the title.

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Remus Shepherd
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Re: Query -- Platinum Donkeys

Post by Remus Shepherd » February 10th, 2010, 12:44 pm

Josin wrote:Hopefully this helps, but I'll warn you -- I usually crit in a place called Query Letter Hell with a red pencil of DOOM (Dooooooooooooom!!!!!) full of blood.... These are only my opinions, but they're blunt.
Oh, please. I've been writing for so long that critiques don't hurt me at all anymore. :) Viciousness is encouraged!
Aside from "serial killers" there's no real sense of your plot here. What happens in the story? Is Maggie nuts at the beginning or is that part of the plot? Does she actually kill anyone herself?


Yes, that's what I sacrificed to be concise. There are three parts to a query, IMHO: The hook, the character arc, and the plot. I left in the first two but I should expand the third just a little.

<---- Don't tell this. Show it. The reader has no reason to believe you. 87,000 word science fiction novel set in a surreal<---- SHOW this future Earth.
I *think* the 'show, don't tell' rule applies to the writing, not to an informational query. But I could be wrong. I could mention some of the surreal elements, but do you have any suggestions on how to communicate 'fast paced' in one or two sentences? I don't see that it's possible.
With your permission, I'd like to send you an excerpt and synopsis of the novel.Ditch the timidity. Expect them to want to read your novel and don't grovel. "I have enclosed the first pages (either in the envelope or pasted into the email depending on the deliver system.). Additional chapters, a synopsis, and the full manuscript are available upon request.
I alter that paragraph according to what is actually sent with the query, following the agent's submission guidelines. But thanks for your suggested change in wording.
This is my third full-length novel, although none have yet been published. I am at the beginning of what I hope will be a lengthy second career writing science fiction novels, and at this stage I am seeking long-term representation.All this is going to do is make it sound like you couldn't get the first 2 published. Don't sandbag yourself.
What I *want* to write here is:

I WRITE LOTS OF FINE NOVELS. I AM A NOVEL-WRITING MACHINE. I WILL WRITE MANY GOOD NOVELS FOR YOU. ME NOVEL YOU LONG TIME.

But an agent might look askance at that. ;)

Okay, here's the dilemma. It's a good idea (so I hear) to let an agent know that you've written more than one novel, because first novels tend to suck and they want to know you're a hard working writer. But it's not a good idea (so I hear) to mention a novel without telling where it's been published. To get out of this Catch-22 I say that I've written other unpublished novels.

You suggest just representing myself as a first-time author. I'm wondering if there's another solution to that dilemma. Hmn.

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Re: Query -- Platinum Donkeys

Post by aspiring_x » February 10th, 2010, 12:52 pm

Remus,
I'm not a professional by a long shot, but I tried to give the best advice I could. I've been researching this stuff alot, and you're right that short and sweet are good, but you can't skip the telling what the story is about part. I'm really looking forward to seeing your next attempt, because I'm sure that your story is really interesting. Please, just tell us about it.
-vic
Remus Shepherd wrote:
Dear (Agent):

They are mad geniuses; ugly but adaptable, stubborn but strong. I like the way you describe them, but maybe if you started... The Platinum Donkeys are an organization of mad geniuses...They are the Platinum Donkeys, because here I did wonder if they were real donkeys... sorry, I'm easily confused.and Maggie -- a sexy make sure that you don't come off as a mysoginist. Why does every heroine have to be beautiful or sexy, is that all they are? Just meat, tasty meat.TV host turned serial-killervery interesting... hmm... i could see seacrest turning into a serial killer...he he he... -- is their latest recruit. While Maggie tries to recover her sanity in a world where nothing creative can be trustedthis confuses me... I didn't realize she was crazy, I mean twisted and evil (like seacrest could be) yes, but crazy? Why can nothing creative be trusted? This hints at something very unique, but since you aren't telling me what is happening, it's really annoying, the Platinum Donkeys force her to make a choice: Either save the world, or destroy it and rule as their queen.I'm betting your story is really interesting, but you don't tell me WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENS. Agents get a LOT of queries, you need to actually tell them the best parts of your story, not just hint about them.

Platinum Donkeys is a fast-pacedI agree with the others, cut this. Your writing should speak for itself, 87,000 word science fiction novel set in a surreal future Earth. With your permission, I'd like to send you an excerpt and synopsis of the novel.Something more like what Josin wrote would be much better.
AND HERE IS THE BIGGEST PROBLEM
I am a physicist who works with remote sensing satellites, and I am a graduate of the 2007 Viable Paradise writer's workshop. Cut. I love physicists... my grandpa's one, BUT it's not important here. And I'm probably just ignorant, but I'm not sure that the other thing should be mentioned. I have had short fiction published in the semi-pro magazines Futures Mystery Anthology and Inquest, and I have had a successful sci-fi webcomic.

This is my third full-length novel, although none have yet been published. I am at the beginning of what I hope will be a lengthy second career writing science fiction novels, and at this stage I am seeking long-term representation.This makes it sound like there is something wrong with your writing. I know that you want to be a career writer... I think most of us do, but this being your third unpublished novel, sounds like the other two were bad.

I'm looking forward to hearing from you. Thank you for your time.
The story blurb is short and to the point. The story is the MOST important thing about a query letter.The rest is introducing myself to the agent. Not sure that the balance is rightIt is not. You come across as egotistical, and do not give us a good idea about the actual story, but I think it's a valid strategyIn all the query writing blurbs I've read, they say to only mention real writing credits, besides that they are judging your story idea and your writing. Not you. Check out this simple post by Nathan... http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2008/03 ... d-lib.html. There'll be many novels in our working relationship, but there's only one me.

I know the main problem with the story blurb; my protagonist does not, at first glance, appear sympathetic.I don't have a problem with that. I like different characters. My problem was that I really didn't get a sense of the story. But those are the kind of stories I write, I just need an agent for whom that kind of story appeals.

Anyway, your opinions are greatly appreciated. Thanks!

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Re: Query -- Platinum Donkeys

Post by Josin » February 10th, 2010, 12:52 pm

Remus Shepherd wrote:
I *think* the 'show, don't tell' rule applies to the writing, not to an informational query. But I could be wrong. I could mention some of the surreal elements, but do you have any suggestions on how to communicate 'fast paced' in one or two sentences? I don't see that it's possible.
The query IS part of the writing. It's the only thing you have to introduce an agent to your voice and style, so both should be reflected in the query itself. A comedy should make the agent laugh in the query. A thriller should have them on the edge of their seat waiting for pages.


ME NOVEL YOU LONG TIME.
ROFL :-D
Okay, here's the dilemma. It's a good idea (so I hear) to let an agent know that you've written more than one novel, because first novels tend to suck and they want to know you're a hard working writer. But it's not a good idea (so I hear) to mention a novel without telling where it's been published. To get out of this Catch-22 I say that I've written other unpublished novels.

You suggest just representing myself as a first-time author. I'm wondering if there's another solution to that dilemma. Hmn.

You ARE a first time author. You've never been published.

It doesn't matter how many books you've written the first one to the finish line is the only one that counts. It doesn't matter how many you've written, because they could all stink, or they could all be better than the one you're pitching -- the agent has no way of knowing.

All an agent wants to know is if you write something they can sell. It doesn't matter how many books it took to get you there.

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Re: Query -- Platinum Donkeys

Post by Remus Shepherd » February 10th, 2010, 1:13 pm

Okay, fair enough.

(And yes, aspiring_x, I am using Nathan's checklist for what to include in a query.)

Let's try this iteration then:
They are mad geniuses; ugly but adaptable, stubborn but strong. They are a secret cabal called the Platinum Donkeys, and Maggie -- a sexy TV host turned serial-killer -- is their latest recruit.

When Maggie murders an important guest on the orbital station where she grew up, she escapes to Earth to find it a world of omnipresent, shapeshifting electronics and frightening social control. Hunted by the police, Maggie tries to discover the cause of and cure for her insanity. But the Platinum Donkeys want her insane, and they give her a choice: Either save the world, or destroy it and rule as their queen.

Platinum Donkeys is a fast-paced, 87,000 word science fiction novel. An excerpt, a synopsis, and the full manuscript are available at your request.

I am a satellite physicist, and I am a graduate of the 2007 Viable Paradise writer's workshop. I have had short fiction published in the semi-pro magazines Futures Mystery Anthology and Inquest, and I have had a sci-fi webcomic with over 1000 readers.

Platinum Donkeys will be my first published novel. I am at the beginning of what I hope will be a lengthy second career writing science fiction, and at this stage I am seeking long-term representation.

I'm looking forward to hearing from you. Thank you for your time.
Some give, some take. Some improvement?

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Re: Query -- Platinum Donkeys

Post by Holly » February 10th, 2010, 1:28 pm

Remus Shepherd wrote:Okay, fair enough.

(And yes, aspiring_x, I am using Nathan's checklist for what to include in a query.)

Let's try this iteration then:
They are mad geniuses; ugly but adaptable, stubborn but strong. They are a secret cabal called the Platinum Donkeys, and Maggie -- a sexy TV host turned serial-killer -- is their latest recruit.

When Maggie murders an important guest on the orbital station where she grew up, she escapes to Earth to find it a world of omnipresent, shapeshifting electronics and frightening social control [control for what reason?]. Hunted by the police, Maggie tries to discover the cause of and cure for her insanity. But the Platinum Donkeys want her insane, and they give her a choice: Either save the world [how? tell us], or destroy it and rule as their queen [sorry, but this makes no sense. Why would this group want to both save the world or destroy it? You need to explain.].

Platinum Donkeys [put the title in ALL CAPS] is a fast-paced, 87,000 word science fiction novel. An excerpt, a synopsis, and the full manuscript are available at your request.

I am a satellite physicist, and I am a graduate of the 2007 Viable Paradise writer's workshop. I have had short fiction published in the semi-pro magazines Futures Mystery Anthology and Inquest [put the magazine titles in italics], and I have had a sci-fi webcomic with over 1000 readers.

Platinum Donkeys will be my first published novel [NO, this is presumptuous. Don't say this.] I am at the beginning of what I hope will be a lengthy second career writing science fiction, and at this stage I am seeking long-term representation [Cut this, too. All writers want this, and all agents know it, so cut and use the space to tell more about your storyline].

I'm looking forward to hearing from you. Thank you for your time.
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Last edited by Holly on February 10th, 2010, 1:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Query -- Platinum Donkeys

Post by maybegenius » February 10th, 2010, 1:29 pm

Note: I was writing this as you posted your update, so anything you've changed accordingly from below, just disregard! I do have a new question now, though - does killing one person make her a serial killer? Does she commit more premeditated murder (as opposed to murder for self-preservation)?

I'm personally interested in knowing something more about the namesake of this organization. The phrasing of the first sentence is awkward. Maybe rework the blurb about how they got their name into something more like: "A group of mad geniuses who refer to themselves as the Platinum Donkeys - so named for their stubborn and adaptable ways - are about to make Maggie an offer she can't refuse." Obviously avoid the cliche, but just to give you an idea of what I'm thinking.

I agree that there's not enough of a story description here to give me an accurate idea of what is going to happen. It's too vague. Saying that she's a "TV host turned serial killer" is a very "wait, what?" moment. Can you give some hint as to how in the world she went from being a television host to a serial murderer? Did the mad scientists make her that way, and now they're going to use her for their diabolical plans? Why is this group willing to let this woman be "their queen" after the world has been destroyed? Isn't she just a pawn in their game?

Right now, as brief and vague as the description is, it's bordering on the nonsensical. As far as I can tell, there's a group of crazy geniuses who call name themselves something off-the-wall, there's a woman who has become a serial killer for no discernible reason (and is apparently also insane?), and the two come together and try to either save or take over the world. We need more than that. Why are the Platinum Donkeys trying to destroy the world? Why is Maggie a killer? Why do they need her to forward their plan? How is she going to save everyone?
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Re: Query -- Platinum Donkeys

Post by Josin » February 10th, 2010, 1:47 pm

Remus Shepherd wrote:Okay, fair enough.

(And yes, aspiring_x, I am using Nathan's checklist for what to include in a query.)

Let's try this iteration then:
They are mad geniuses; ugly but adaptable, stubborn but strong. They are a secret cabal called The Platinum Donkeys,a secret cabal of mad geniuses has just recruited TV host turned serial-killer andMaggie-- a sexy TV host turned serial-killer -- is their latest recruit.

When Maggie murders an important guest on the orbital station where she grew up, she escapes to Earth to find it a world of omnipresent, shapeshifting electronics and frightening social control. Hunted by the police, Maggie tries to discover the cause of and cure for her insanity.<--- The only problem I see with this is that truly insane people don't recognize their own insanity. If she's only insane part of the time, you might mention it's in a moment of clarity. But the Platinum Donkeys want her insane, and they give<--- feels like the wrong word. Are they giving her this choice or leaving her with this choice as a result of their actions? her a choice: Either save the world, or destroy it and rule as their queen.

It's not a bad pitch, but you still have room to expand on the plot a bit. Queries are generally around 250-300 words.

Platinum Donkeys is a fast-paced, 87,000 word science fiction novel. An excerpt, a synopsis, and the full manuscript are available at your request.
I am a satellite physicist, andI am a graduate of the 2007 Viable Paradise writer's workshop. I have had short fiction published in the semi-pro magazines Futures Mystery Anthology and Inquest, and I have had a sci-fi webcomic with over 1000 readers.
Platinum Donkeys will be my first published novel. I am at the beginning of what I hope will be a lengthy second career writing science fiction, and at this stage I am seeking long-term representation.No need to waste space with what they can infer from the fact that you're querying. You query to see representation, and since you didn't list a previous novel credit, they know this is your 1st one. Also saying it's your "published novel" could make an agent wonder if it's already been published (as in vanity published) because several vanity authors think sending an already published book will help them with the agent. Just cut the whole thing.

I'm looking forward to hearing from you. Thank you for your time.
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Re: Query -- Platinum Donkeys

Post by Remus Shepherd » February 10th, 2010, 3:24 pm

maybegenius wrote:Saying that she's a "TV host turned serial killer" is a very "wait, what?" moment. Can you give some hint as to how in the world she went from being a television host to a serial murderer?
At the beginning of the novel, Maggie has already murdered four innocent people. I know -- unsympathetic protagonist. :( But I like these kind of stories, I love watching how a monster finds redemption. This is my big challenge, to find an agent who likes the same kinds of stories that I do.

Okay, I think I'm good with the biographical stuff. I'm keeping 'satellite physicist' -- i.e., I want to signal that I have some science credentials and I have a day job. I'm losing the entire 'seeking representation' paragraph -- you all are right, it's redundant.

So it's down to the story blurb. Now, when I see a wall of text my eyes glaze over, and I'm sure agents do the same thing. So I don't want to make it too long. But with just a little tweaking, I get this. It expands and clarifies a few things, I think:
They are mad geniuses; ugly but adaptable, stubborn but strong. They are a secret cabal called the Platinum Donkeys, and Maggie -- a sexy TV host turned serial-killer -- is their latest recruit.

When Maggie murders an important guest on the orbital station where she grew up, she escapes to Earth to find it a world of omnipresent, shapeshifting electronics and frightening social control. Hunted by the police and aided by a multiphobic lawyer, a psychopathic chemist and a precognitive megalomaniac, Maggie fights against corporate intrigue, doomsday machines, and her own traumatic past to discover the cause of and cure for her insanity.

But the Platinum Donkeys only recruit the insane, and they force her to make a choice: Either defeat them to save the world, or destroy it and rule as their queen.
I think this will be the last iteration I post. I'll just add in the best suggestions that people have from here.

(Oh, and I don't want to lose the 'ugly but adaptable' line. It's my favorite part of the blurb. :) )

Thanks for all your help!

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Re: Query -- Platinum Donkeys

Post by Josin » February 10th, 2010, 3:34 pm

Murder your darlings.

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Re: Query -- Platinum Donkeys

Post by KappaP » February 10th, 2010, 4:31 pm

A few things to note: first, it is not an informational query, it's a sales query. Showing and not telling is crucial in a query because if all you do is tell in your query then an agent is going to have absolutely no reason to believe you can show in your narration. Also, this is always a huge critique I see from agents on queries. Second, you are correct in saying there are 3 parts to a query but those don't have to be one sentence each. They shouldn't be.

They are mad geniuses; ugly but adaptable, stubborn but strong. They are a secret cabal called the Platinum Donkeys, and Maggie -- a sexy TV host turned serial-killer -- is their latest recruit. like someone else said, I am still basically under the impression they are actual donkeys. Since it's sci-fi, I have really no reason to suspect that's not true. Also, I just have absolutely no frame of reference about annnnny of this. A secret cabal for what? Why are they recruiting? And recruiting for what? I mean, I honestly could read this and understand it to mean a group of smart donkeys is recruiting Maggie to sell lollipops at the corner store. You're trying to sell sci-fi-- you have to understand that I am reading this under the assumption that my assumptions about reality and the world are incorrect and, as a result, I need you to fill in details. I don't get any details here.

When Maggie murders an important guest on the orbital station where she grew up, she escapes to Earth to find it a world of omnipresent, shapeshifting electronics and frightening social control by what/who? this is realllll ambiguous and in no way illuminating.. Hunted by the police and aided by a multiphobic lawyer, a psychopathic chemist and a precognitive megalomaniac, Maggie fights against corporate intrigue, doomsday machines, and her own traumatic past to discover the cause of and cure for her insanity. A key component of being insane is an unawareness that you are-- by social definitions-- insane. That's what makes insane people insane: they aren't aware of the contextual inappropriateness of their actions and don't consider the consequences. An insane person would never try to find the cause/cure for their insanity because they wouldn't acknowledge that there is a cause/cure for a condition they don't believe they have.

But the Platinum Donkeys only recruit the insane, and they force her to make a choice: Either defeat them to save the world, or destroy it and rule as their queen. About 0% of this makes sense to me. First of all, I still have no idea who these people (I'm assuming people, you still haven't given me a reason to NOT think they're donkeys) are in this world besides a "secret cabal." Why do they have power? What type of control do they exert? Why are they at all a viable threat? You mention them once at the beginning of the query and again at the bottom but you don't in any way tie them into the WORLD, only to the character. So I have no context to understand this conflict and the stakes. Second, if she's destroying the world.... aren't they included in the world? How is she planning on ruling as queen in a world that doesn't exist and why would she be interested in that? This choice is so vague and confusing that it rings meaningless to me. You need specificity here BIG time. Also, why do they only recruit the insane? This sentence provided absolutely no clarity for me, only a lot of "huh??"


The problem here for me is that I get snippets of character arc and plot but no actual substance. I'm given a lot of details that would be intriguing if fleshed out but just make me go "whaaaa.....?" when dropped into the query without much explanation. Right now the "this is my book" part of the query is 105 words long. Nathan has said, and I've seen this reiterated other places, that most solid queries bank between 250-350. Use those extra words-- shorter is not better if it's not illuminating on the work. So far, this query reads as a lot of weird details and no way for me to cohere them together into a story.
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Re: Query -- Platinum Donkeys

Post by Remus Shepherd » February 10th, 2010, 6:22 pm

I am still paying attention and listening to your suggestions. I just disagree with a lot of them. Maybe I'm wrong -- I know I'm pigheaded -- but I trust my instincts and what I've learned from other sources, and I have to weigh them against the advice I've gotten here.

A lot of your advice has been good. I don't like it when people push back at criticism, but I feel the need to explain to you why I didn't take all the advice offered.
KappaP wrote:like someone else said, I am still basically under the impression they are actual donkeys. Since it's sci-fi, I have really no reason to suspect that's not true. Also, I just have absolutely no frame of reference about annnnny of this. A secret cabal for what? Why are they recruiting? And recruiting for what? I mean, I honestly could read this and understand it to mean a group of smart donkeys is recruiting Maggie to sell lollipops at the corner store. You're trying to sell sci-fi-- you have to understand that I am reading this under the assumption that my assumptions about reality and the world are incorrect and, as a result, I need you to fill in details. I don't get any details here.
I have a hard time understanding this. After labeling them as a cabal, explaining that they are mad geniuses, and giving examples of three of them in the next paragraph, I don't see how any reasonable person would leap to the assumption that actual donkeys were being presented here.

Can I make it clearer without several hundred words of explanation? Hmmn. I'll try:

They are a cabal of insane geniuses who call themselves the Platinum Donkeys, and they are organizing the damaged and deranged rejects from society in an attempt to conquer the world.

That's a clumsy sentence IMHO, and it misrepresents the plot just a little, but does it help in your opinion?

I know your next question: Why? The answer is self evident: They're insane. I don't know how much more that can be emphasized. :)
by what/who? this is realllll ambiguous and in no way illuminating.
Well, that was the 'showing' solution. The 'telling' solution is to label it: Earth is a dystopia. I don't think it's a good idea to come out and say that, however. If you need a rationale and a person to blame for extreme social control, then I don't think we live in the same world. :)
A key component of being insane is an unawareness that you are-- by social definitions-- insane. That's what makes insane people insane: they aren't aware of the contextual inappropriateness of their actions and don't consider the consequences. An insane person would never try to find the cause/cure for their insanity because they wouldn't acknowledge that there is a cause/cure for a condition they don't believe they have.
This is my biggest disagreement. As someone who has been diagnosed with a personality disorder, I know for a fact that one can suffer compulsions that lead them into violent, illogical behavior, after which they are wracked with guilt and knowledge of what kind of monster lives inside them. When you make this advice, I just have to shrug and say that I think I understand insanity better than you, and I'll keep the language as-is.
Why do they have power? What type of control do they exert? Why are they at all a viable threat? You mention them once at the beginning of the query and again at the bottom but you don't in any way tie them into the WORLD, only to the character. So I have no context to understand this conflict and the stakes.
Well, that's why I mentioned the precognitive megalomaniac and the doomsday devices, to give a sense of their powers and threats. I don't know how to make this better. There are a dozen donkeys in the novel, each with their own personality disorder, destructive specialty, and grandiose plan to ruin the world. I can't list them all here.

If I were making a pop-culture elevator pitch, this is "A homocidal Girl Genius stuck in Orwell's 1984 as a double agent within the League of Extraordinary Psychopaths." :)
Second, if she's destroying the world.... aren't they included in the world? How is she planning on ruling as queen in a world that doesn't exist and why would she be interested in that? This choice is so vague and confusing that it rings meaningless to me. You need specificity here BIG time.
You make a good point here. Maybe 'ruin the world' is better. (In the book they only 'destroy' major cities.) But 'destroy' is a much more evocative word, and I think it fits well enough. Maybe 'destroy society'? Meh, that's weak.
Right now the "this is my book" part of the query is 105 words long. Nathan has said, and I've seen this reiterated other places, that most solid queries bank between 250-350. Use those extra words-- shorter is not better if it's not illuminating on the work. So far, this query reads as a lot of weird details and no way for me to cohere them together into a story.
You might be right. But I personally don't like queries that long. I'd rather get the introductions over with as soon as possible, and let them get to reading an excerpt. I've also gotten good advice from other quarters to keep the query short and sweet, and I have a lot of trust for the people who gave me that advice.

I hope this explains why I'm selective in the advice I take, Kappa and Josin and everyone else. I'm not ignoring you, I just disagree in some cases.

But please, don't let that stop you from giving advice/suggestions/insults! :) As I said, criticism cannot hurt me, and I welcome any help that I can get.

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