Revised Query... please help...

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Wandaduplooy
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Revised Query... please help...

Post by Wandaduplooy » December 10th, 2009, 9:03 am

I am on the verge to submit my first query letter. I would love your input—I found all of the suggestions given to other authors to be very insightful.
I am scared that my letter is too cryptic—should I write a short synopsis. I am unsure how to condense the storylines in my novel to less than one page…

Echtra means “Adventure or journey by way of magick that often happen accidentally or by change to a hero.”

Connor Riley is a normal sixteen year old who finds out that the father he never knew, was an alien—an alien who feeds of blood but in no way resemble the vampires from earth myths.
This novel depicts his journey to New York to search out his father’s family—motivated not only by his desire to learn all he can about his father but also his need to understand why he came so close to dying in the back of a dark alley.
He enters a world where every answer only leads to more questions—where magick is his birthright and duty his future.
In the end, he realises that stumbling in the dark is sometimes better than facing the light of truth.

With opening and closing paragraphs the whole letter is about 1 page...

Please help
Wanda du Plooy
wandaduplooy.blogspot.com
Last edited by Wandaduplooy on December 15th, 2009, 6:47 am, edited 2 times in total.

Tzalaran
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Re: Query please help...

Post by Tzalaran » December 10th, 2009, 9:51 am

without seeing the opening and closing paragraphs, it is hard to judge your query.

that said, i find the voice of the query to be far too passive. Look to show the actions of your main character instead of telling the agent about them. My gut feeling is that there is much you could trim from the opening and closing to focus more on the action of the story.
Wandaduplooy wrote: Echtra means “Adventure or journey by way of magick that often happen accidentally or by change to a hero.” IMO-this has no business in the query.

Connor Riley is a normal unnecessary word can be deleted sixteen year old who finds out that the father he never knew, was an alien—an alien who feeds off blood, but in no way resemble the vampires from earth myths.
This novel depicts telling here, show us Connor's actions instead. his journey to New York to search out his father’s family—motivated not only by his desire to learn all he can about his father but also his need to understand why he came so close to dying in the back of a dark alley. This section is confusing, doesn't intrigue me, and needs reworked to show Connor's actions instead of telling us about them. Passive voice is prominent to me here...
He enters a world where every answer only leads to more questions—where magick is his birthright and duty his future.
In the end, he realizes spelling error will not help you... that stumbling in the dark is sometimes better than facing the light of truth. Love the closing sentence!

With opening and closing paragraphs the whole letter is about 1 page...

Please help
Wanda du Plooy
wandaduplooy.blogspot.com
Take my suggestions with a grain of salt, as i've not submitted a query for my own work yet (revision stage of first novel). Your premise is very strong, but your query is not highlighting that or making it stand out to me.

Good luck!
I'd rather hate myself for failing, than hate my life for never having tried.
"Success leads to stagnation. Stagnation leads to failure." - Vlad Taltos

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Re: Query please help...

Post by Hillsy » December 10th, 2009, 10:16 am

A lot of what Tzalaran says is spot on.

I kinda like the Echtra means “Adventure or journey by way of magick that often happen accidentally or by change to a hero.” as an opening....but even I can see that if you don't link it in with the plot it may as well say "Muckle: what many a Mickle makes". If it's the crucx of the plot, namely taking an accidentaly magical journey, you gotta tell us. For the rest, Tzalaran's advice is ideal.

I think I can see what you were trying to do, especially with that sligthly deadpan style, kinda reminds me of the blurb of Dean Koontz's "From the corner of his eye". But you really have to up the content. List 5 key events and work them all in just before the cliff hanger (and brilliant) part —where magick is his birthright and duty his future. In the end, he realizes spelling error will not help you... that stumbling in the dark is sometimes better than facing the light of truth. Love the closing sentence!

I'll warn you now - it's going to take minimum half a dozen revisions....hehe....but that goes for all of us

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Re: Query please help...

Post by SmurfHead » December 10th, 2009, 10:45 am

Cool idea. Alien vampires? Sign me up!

Let's hear a little more about what Connor does on his journey, though. Right now, there's a lot of TELL and I'd like to see more SHOW. I know, I know... everyone says that, but here's what I mean:
Wandaduplooy wrote: Echtra means “Adventure or journey by way of magick that often happen accidentally or by change to a hero.” (I don't dislike this sentence, but I wonder if the query might have a stronger start if we just start talking about Connor himself.)

Connor Riley is a normal sixteen year old who finds out that the father he never knew, was an alien—an alien who feeds off blood but in no way resembles the vampires from earth myths. (Not bad, but I'm confused. Feeding off of blood is one resemblance to the vampiric earth myths, so there is at least a passing resemblance. Also, I'd prefer to see something other than "normal" as a descriptor of Connor, though. It's pretty vague. What defining personal characteristics does Connor have?)
This novel depicts his journey to New York to search out his father’s family—motivated not only by his desire to learn all he can about his father but also his need to understand why he came so close to dying in the back of a dark alley. (Now we're cooking. I want to know specific things about what Connor does. As other posters have said, this feels very passive. Try jazzing it up with, "In search of his father's family, Connor journeys to New York." Also, the stuff about dying in the back of a dark alley is very abrupt. When did this happen? Was this the catalyst for Connor learning about his father's alien nature? If so, maybe it might fit nicely into the first paragraph?)
He enters a world where every answer only leads to more questions—where magick is his birthright and duty his future. (Good turn-of-phrase. The bit about "magick" surprised me, though. I thought we were talking about aliens? Maybe something like, "As Connor enters a world where every answer leads only to more questions, he must decide [something]" would add extra tension to the query?)
In the end, he realises that stumbling in the dark is sometimes better than facing the light of truth. (Right now, the last line feels unexplained. It sounds interesting and again, it's a nice turn-of-phrase, but exactly how has Connor been stumbling in the dark? And why is facing the light of truth so difficult that NOT having answers is better?)

With opening and closing paragraphs the whole letter is about 1 page...

Please help
Wanda du Plooy
wandaduplooy.blogspot.com
This sounds like it could be a really fun book. I'd like to see more specificity in the query letter so that this is immediately apparent. At the moment, we have a lot of general statements, but what would really make the letter shine is getting more detail in, IMHO.
"Mind-bottling, isn't it? ...You know, when things are so crazy it gets your thoughts all trapped, like in a bottle?"

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Re: Query please help...

Post by rose » December 10th, 2009, 11:13 am

What talented help is being extended in this forum. I feel like I am like tending a running query course.

WandaD, you write well and have a good handle on your story. Your query seems to be about one revision away from ready. I too, love the last line. Those need to be pithily perfect and yours is.

rose
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Krista G.
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Re: Query please help...

Post by Krista G. » December 10th, 2009, 11:50 am

I agree with the other commenters' line-by-line advice. I'd just add that, in general, sharing some of the smaller details of the story is what will give your query life; this seems to skate over the surface of it a bit, and it loses its individuality.

You mentioned at the outset that you're concerned about a summary, and I just wanted to point out that in addition to the pitch-style summary you use in your query letter, you do need to have another synopsis for those agents who request one. I actually have two, one in the five-page range and another just over one page (both double-spaced). My five-page synopsis is a blow-by-blow account of nearly every plot point; the one-pager just highlights my protagonist, villain, major plot points, climax, and theme.

Synopses are daunting, especially the really short ones. The best explanation I've found for what a one-page synopsis is and how to write one is at Knight Agency agent Nephele Tempest's blog, this post: http://nephele.livejournal.com/2009/06/05/. Check it out for a few pointers.

Good luck!
Author of THE REGENERATED MAN (G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers, Winter 2015)
Represented by Kate Schafer Testerman of kt literary
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Wandaduplooy
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Re: Query please help...

Post by Wandaduplooy » December 10th, 2009, 12:47 pm

Thank you for all the constructive comments. I will consider all and post a revised query for your scrutiny. I have to confess, spelling is my kryptonite… I have a large vocabulary but the spelling…

The reason I mention Echtra is because the name of my novel is Echtra : Blood Magick.

Describing him as normal—maybe I should say he considers himself to be a normal teenage boy.

My vampire do not feed of human blood—Their feeding habits are a large part of the plotline... and none of the other myths( sun, coffins etc etc apply. Only fangs - a vampire must have fangs)

I also have so many storylines intertwined leading to 3 sequals and two paralled storylines, so it's difficult to find a few key elements—If I have to choose 5 words Blood, Magick, Family and Shocking Revelations.

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Re: Query please help...

Post by Dakota388 » December 10th, 2009, 1:25 pm

Cool idea- Alien vampires. I agree with the previous posters. The only thing I can add is when you say "This novel..." One of the things I've learned is that you aren't suppose to say this book or novel but instead describe what it's about. Like Tzaralan said. Also, the aliens are different from vampires would be kind of cool to actually see a detail as to why instead of you just telling us so. If I've learned anything so far, be careful not to let that small detail take over your query like a weed does a flower bed.

I hope this helps a tad. Remember, I'm no expert.
"The Light of Epertase"-A fantasy novel coming August 1st from Rhemalda Publishing

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Re: Query please help...

Post by KappaP » December 10th, 2009, 1:44 pm

Echtra means “Adventure or journey by way of magick that often happen accidentally or by change to a hero.” do NOT start with this. It makes it feel academic and also this is a reallllly convoluted definition that I had to read three times to understand. But this is the biggest problem: I imagine that Connor is on an echtra (is an echtra?) throughout this book-- this definition explains the arc of the book. Don't explain that to me in a definition. Explain it to me by showing it through Connor's actions.

Connor Riley is a normal sixteen year old Nope. I do not care about normal 16 year olds. Brutal, but true. Cut the normal bit out-- Connor Riley has lived his whole life without knowing his father who, he just found out, is an alien. who finds out that the father he never knew, was an alien—an alien who feeds of blood but in no way resemble the vampires from earth myths. Great, if they don't resemble vampires, don't tell me about vampires. It's like telling someone to stop thinking about pink elephants-- they'll think about pink elephants. Instead, tell me some more qualities of these aliens. "His father is a type of alien who drinks bloods, does X and does Y." This way I'm concentrating on the creature YOU created, not the vampires that Stephanie Meyer ruined.

Searching for answers, Connor goes to New York searching for his father’s family—motivated not only by his desire to learn all he can about his father but also his need to understand why he came so close to dying in the back of a dark alley. Okay-- a few thoughts here. 1. Has Connor inherited these traits from his father? Does he need to drink blood? That NEEDS to be explained in the first paragraph. B/c I'm not sure right now if he is going to New York to have an Unsolved Mysteries style reconciliation with Dad or if he's going to figure out why the F he's been craving blood or doing other weird stuff. 2. You say (but shouldn't have) that this is what the novel depicts-- that tells me that these couple sentences are meant to depict the whole plot. I need to know more. Not a plot summary, but MORE. such as (1) and: 3: came so close to dying in the back of a dark alley. This needs some more attention-- maybe even start with this in the beginning. DId this in some way lead to him learning about his father? If not, what connection does it have with the story? I sense it's more interesting and connected than it appears here and you need to draw a clear line between that and why he would go to New York.
He enters a world what world? Of aliens? Or NYC?where every answer only leads to more questions—where magick is his birthright and duty his future. This sentence intrigues me and I want to hear more-- magick is his birthright... can he choose to accept it or does he have to use it? Duty to what is his future? How are the two connected? Also, please explain how an alien that drinks blood = magic and what type of magic we're talking about.
In the end, he realises that stumbling in the dark is sometimes better than facing the light of truth. I do like this line, it just needs more facts and definitive plot pieces. If enough of those are given, this ending line will pack a punch. But, as it stands, Im like "hm. well okay i guess. i mean, i don't really know what truth this is talking about or why he cares."

Give proper attention to: the details of the aliens/magick you are creating. And if Connor has those abilities or is the lone human in a world with those abilities.
What are his conflicts? Learning he has magick? Why is that a conflict-- does he not want this birthright? Is he afraid of his duty? Why?
What are the stakes? What does it matter if he learns the truth? What does it matter if he never mentions again that his dad's a blood drinking alien? What happens if he ignores duty or birthright?

When those things are addressed (and you don't have to write a treatise, you can take what you have and just flesh it out with more specificity) then that last line will make me go "GAHHH!! I want to know!!!"

Good luck! You have some space to build it up-- Nathan pegs good queries between 250-350 words and you've definitely got some space to use. I look forward to a revision!


With opening and closing paragraphs the whole letter is about 1 page...
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Wandaduplooy
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Re: Query please help...

Post by Wandaduplooy » December 10th, 2009, 2:54 pm

KappaP You are brutal but honest—Thank you... Everything you commented on made sence. I will review and rewrite my query, taking all of your comments into consideration.

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Re: Query please help...

Post by KappaP » December 10th, 2009, 5:21 pm

Hey.... yeah, I know I can be a rough editor but I only do it because actual agents are going to be brutal too. I know how tough writing a manuscript is and you deserve to be edited well, even if it's harsh, to get your ms in an agent's hands. I really like your premise and think you can come back with a snappy revision!! And, honestly, I think it's better to have to edit UP (add more information) than edit DOWN (figure out what stuff to take out). So you'll be fine :)
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Wandaduplooy
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Re: Query please help...

Post by Wandaduplooy » December 11th, 2009, 12:06 am

KappaP I am not complaining I love a honest direct assesment that holds merit and yours does. I also agree with you about editing up — I started with a novel of about 50 000 words and after adding on meat to the original skeleton I am now at just over 80 000 words.

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Query - Revised....

Post by Wandaduplooy » December 13th, 2009, 9:06 am

One night Connor Riley finds himself wide-awake, unable to explain what woke him—and then the headaches start. Over the next few days, he tries to remember from where he knows the woman who mysteriously disappeared the same night while trying to deal with the headaches escalating in severity. Violent visions and the excruciating headaches lead him to the back of a dark alley where he narrowly escapes death when his violet-eyed attacker unexpectedly stops its assault, allowing him to flee.

That very night he learns from his mother that the father he never knew was not human. Guided only by the name and address of a company situated in Manhattan, given to his mother before his father disappeared from their lives forever, he flies to New York, determined to learn more about his father and find explanations for the events of the preceding days.

He willingly enters a world of magick and blood where every answer reveals shocking and unexpected truths but ultimately only leads to more questions.

In the end, with the revelation of a truth so horrific, he almost wishes to still be stumbling in the dark rather than having to face the light of truth.

I had to dig deep to change my query this much - I tried to keep the best parts and expand on the bad ones.

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Query - revised....

Post by Wandaduplooy » December 13th, 2009, 3:08 pm

Hi everyone

This is my revised query - I took all of the suggestions into consideration - tried to keep the best parts and build on the others.

The funniest think happened - I posted this earlier and for some strange reason my topic just disappeared... I checked with “View your posts" and nothing. I submitted it and checked it later - very strange... Okay, here we go again...

One night Connor Riley finds himself wide-awake, unable to explain what woke him—and then the headaches start. Over the next few days, he tries to remember from where he knows the woman who mysteriously disappeared the same night while trying to deal with the headaches escalating in severity. Violent visions and the excruciating headaches lead him to the back of a dark alley where he narrowly escapes death when his violet-eyed attacker unexpectedly stops its assault, allowing him to flee.

That very night he learns from his mother that the father he never knew was not human. Guided only by the name and address of a company situated in Manhattan, given to his mother before his father disappeared from their lives forever, he flies to New York, determined to learn more about his father and find explanations for the events of the preceding days.

He willingly enters a world of magick and blood where every answer reveals shocking and unexpected truths but ultimately only leads to more questions.

In the end, with the revelation of a truth so horrific, he almost wishes to still be stumbling in the dark rather than having to face the light of truth.

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Re: Query - revised....

Post by Tzalaran » December 13th, 2009, 10:19 pm

Usual disclaimer about my qualifications...
Wandaduplooy wrote: One night Connor Riley finds himself wide-awake, unable to explain what woke him—and then the headaches start. Over the next few days, he tries to remember from where he knows the woman who mysteriously disappeared the same night while trying to deal with the headaches escalating in severity. There is no connection to this in the rest of the query. imo, the woman needs explaining more or drop the connection. Violent visions and the excruciating headaches lead him to the back of a dark alley where he narrowly escapes death when his violet-eyed attacker unexpectedly stops its assault, allowing him to flee. Why is he attacked if then they let him go? doesn't make sense to me. the rest of the sentence is really good, and i like the vision/headache angle.

That very night he learns from his mother that the father he never knew was not human. Guided only by the name and address of a company situated in Manhattan, given to his mother before his father disappeared from their lives forever, he flies to New York, determined to learn more about his father and find explanations for the events of the preceding days. Gives a good example of the hero's quest.

He willingly enters a world of magick and blood where every answer reveals shocking and unexpected truths but ultimately only leads to more questions. Long sentence. perhaps expand each concept into its own sentence, giving a glimpse of this other world and the how each answer brings new questions in another. This just seems a bit rushed to me, and could use expanding on the setting a bit.

In the end, with the revelation of a truth so horrific, he almost wishes to still be stumbling in the dark rather than having to face the light of truth. Tie this with your previous paragraph. it feels weird to me sitting on its own like this...
Overall, much more streamlined and is close to where you want it to be. i'd suggest rethinking the first paragraph, making sure that everything in the query is connected. Good work!
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