Thursday, June 15, 2017

Abhinav Bhat's Current Query Revised 2 - Critiqued

Ugh, work has been so nuts. It took me three days just to get back to this. Sorry, Abhinav! But hey, let's get right to work, right? My feedback, as usual, will be in blue.

The letter:

Dear [Agent Name]

Twenty-year-old Ah, I see you've changed this. Interesting. Should work. Indira Ramsay has studied her entire life for the day she would be recruited to the Reverend Council—the elite corps I still get caught up on this. Corps is a military term, which means a division of an armed force. I get the feeling that's not what you mean here, but I'm not sure. That said, you've stuck with it through three revisions, so clearly you're committed to it. It should probably be fine. that runs the Ever Empire. Instead, it is her grandfather, Eldritch, who is inexplicably chosen, leaving Indira broken and dejected.

The very next day, Eldritch has gone missing and the city is under attack. The exiled heroes of a hundred subjugated races have returned, and they will see the Empire burn. And Indira is among their first targets.

Marked for death as Eldritch's blood, Is this because he's a member of the council? If so, just say "Marked for death as the granddaughter of a councilman." she manages to survive her assailants and learn the truth of the enemy's schemes. How does she learn this? They plan to have Eldritch use his newfound power Which is? Do you mean more than just political power? and status to find the Empire's own hero, the man who defeated them Defeated who? Not the empire, since the empire is clearly still around. centuries ago and disappeared after; they plan to have Eldritch kill him. And for some reason, Eldritch is willing.

The Empire. Above humanity. Above justice. Above all else. This is what Eldritch has taught her. She will live by it.

As the heroes incite riots in the city and stir the underclass to rebellion, Indira will prove herself worthy of the Empire and the validation she was denied. She will find and stop Eldritch from carrying out the enemy's plan, she will save the Empire at any cost, even if it be Eldritch himself.

Then what if the cost be Eldritch himself?

THE BURNT STATE is a dual-POV adult fantasy novel about a girl and her grandfather, and the Empire that tilts on their decisions. It is complete at 113,000 words.

I have had a short story titled "The Warrior Boy Who Would Not Suffer" published in Apex Magazine in 2016. I am a member of the Codex Writers' Group, an online community of neo-pro speculative fiction writers.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Abhinav Bhat

This is getting very close! Definite improvements over previous versions. You still need to clarify a few sections of vague wording, but otherwise this is pretty darn good.

That's it!

Please thank Abhinav for sharing, and provide your feedback in the comments.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Abhinav Bhat's Current Query Revised 2

We first saw Abhinav's query, here, and then critiqued it, here. We saw Abhinav's revision, here, and then critiqued it, here. Now Abhinav is back with a new revision, so let's get right to it.

The letter:

Dear [Agent Name]

Twenty-year-old Indira Ramsay has studied her entire life for the day she would be recruited to the Reverend Council—the elite corps that runs the Ever Empire. Instead, it is her grandfather, Eldritch, who is inexplicably chosen, leaving Indira broken and dejected.

The very next day, Eldritch has gone missing and the city is under attack. The exiled heroes of a hundred subjugated races have returned, and they will see the Empire burn. And Indira is among their first targets.

Marked for death as Eldritch's blood, she manages to survive her assailants and learn the truth of the enemy's schemes. They plan to have Eldritch use his newfound power and status to find the Empire's own hero, the man who defeated them centuries ago and disappeared after; they plan to have Eldritch kill him. And for some reason, Eldritch is willing.

The Empire. Above humanity. Above justice. Above all else. This is what Eldritch has taught her. She will live by it.

As the heroes incite riots in the city and stir the underclass to rebellion, Indira will prove herself worthy of the Empire and the validation she was denied. She will find and stop Eldritch from carrying out the enemy's plan, she will save the Empire at any cost.

Then what if the cost be Eldritch himself?

THE BURNT STATE is a dual-POV adult fantasy novel about a girl and her grandfather, and the Empire that tilts on their decisions. It is complete at 113,000 words.

I have had a short story titled "The Warrior Boy Who Would Not Suffer" published in Apex Magazine in 2016. I am a member of the Codex Writers' Group, an online community of neo-pro speculative fiction writers.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Abhinav Bhat

That's it!

Please thank Abhinav for sharing, and save your feedback until I have time to put the critique up.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Todd Noker's Current Query Revised - Critiqued

Sorry, Todd! Yesterday was nuts at work, so I didn't get to this. But here it is today! Here is Todd's revised query for TERMS OF THE INNOCENTS, this time with my feedback, in blue.

The letter:

Dear (Agent),

Preston Taylor is wise-ass seventeen-year-old who thinks he is smarter than the homeless-teens why is this hyphenated? he encounters in Salt Lake City, because his problems aren’t permanent—but he eventually learns that he is just like them. He’s looking for his adult brother who moved out years ago to flee from their mother’s heroin addiction. When she disappears after another binge, Preston is on his own. The street-kids also this? he meets abuse drugs, eat whatever they can find, and sell their bodies to survive. He doesn’t give a damn about their problems at first, because he is above their plight—he knows that his brother will take him in. I would probably cut this. It probably works fine in the manuscript, as Preston's character arc has more time to develop there, but in the query this just makes him sound like an asshole. When he befriends Zack Ellison, a young street-wise prostitute, Hmm. Is Zack truly a professional sex worker? Or does he turn the occasional trick out of desperation? I suppose it depends on the story, but if he's underage, I'd be careful about how you label him. Preston starts to feel like a big brother himself. Cut this too. You're just bogging down the conflict at this point. Preston makes it to his brother’s last known address only to find that he has moved, leaving him permanently homeless. When Zack begs him to accompany him as a lookout on a date with a notorious John, Preston reluctantly agrees. Zack emerges from the trick broken and bleeding, and despite Preston’s attempt to save him, he disappears into the night and is never seen again.

The biggest problem I have with this, honestly, at least at first glance, is that this is one giant chunk of text. This one paragraph is 188 words long. Can you break it up anywhere? Maybe after "... his brother will take him in?"

Otherwise, this is certainly an improvement, but you might want to re-arrange things here and there, and try to tighten it up a bit. Maybe something like:

"Seventeen-year-old wise-ass Preston Taylor assumes he's smarter than the homeless teens that choke the alleys and gutters of downtown Salt Lake, because his personal housing crisis isn't permanent, but when he can't find his adult brother after their mother disappears on another black tar heroin binge, he quickly discovers exactly how much they have in common."

It's kind of a long sentence, I know, and you can probably do better, and make it in your own voice, but the point I'm trying to make here is that you can convey much more specificity in far fewer words, if you think about how to present and order the information. Also, avoid state-of-being verbs if you can. Avoid them in all your writing wherever possible. They're just boring.

People look away from desperate teens in this beautiful city with its the pristine Mormon temple at the center its heart, and it pisses Preston off. He must even the score with this John even if it jeopardizes his survival risks/endangers his life?. He arranges a date and, while fighting to not be violently assaulted defending himself from a violent assault like Zack's, accidentally kills him the man. Preston’s tragedy is the evidence that he feels everyone in this city must see, even if it means sacrificing his life.

Why is it sacrificing his life? Didn't he just defend his own life? If you mean turning himself in, he might not be charged, and even if he was, that would only cost him his freedom, not his life.

TERMS OF THE INNOCENTS is a 61,000 word YA manuscript. An earlier version of this story won second place in the Utah Arts Council Creative Writing Competition.

I have two other titles published on iUniverse, and one title published by their Star imprint. I write commercial and radio copy, and am a well-known radio personality in Salt Lake City under the name Todd Nuke ‘Em. I have done presentations for the Utah Library Association and the Salt Lake City Library for my previous books.

The first five pages are below, and the entire manuscript is available upon request. Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Todd Noker

In summary, this is definitely an improvement. You've got a better sense of Preston as a character, and the conflict he finds himself caught up in is much clearer here. Mainly, what I see this query needing at this point is mostly just a copy editor's eye. You've got some extraneous information that isn't really necessary, and the sentences are sometimes a little bloated or unclear. But all in all I think this is pretty good, and it's much more obvious now that you have a compelling premise on your hands.

That's it!

Please thank Todd for sharing this with us, and let us know what you think in the comments.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Todd Noker's Current Query Revised

Today we have Todd's query for TERMS OF THE INNOCENTS again, which you first saw here, and I critiqued, here, this time with Todd's revisions.

The letter:

Dear (Agent),

Preston Taylor is wise-ass seventeen-year-old who thinks he is smarter than the homeless-teens he encounters in Salt Lake City, because his problems aren’t permanent—but he eventually learns that he is just like them. He’s looking for his adult brother who moved out years ago to flee from their mother’s heroin addiction. When she disappears after another binge, Preston is on his own. The street-kids he meets abuse drugs, eat whatever they can find, and sell their bodies to survive. He doesn’t give a damn about their problems at first, because he is above their plight—he knows that his brother will take him in. When he befriends Zack Ellison, a young street-wise prostitute, Preston starts to feel like a big brother himself. Preston makes it to his brother’s last known address only to find that he has moved, leaving him permanently homeless. When Zack begs him to accompany him as a lookout on a date with a notorious John, Preston reluctantly agrees. Zack emerges from the trick broken and bleeding, and despite Preston’s attempt to save him, he disappears into the night and is never seen again.

People look away from desperate teens in this beautiful city with its pristine Mormon temple at the center, and it pisses Preston off. He must even the score with this John even if it jeopardizes his survival. He arranges a date and, while fighting to not be violently assaulted like Zack, kills him. Preston’s tragedy is the evidence that he feels everyone in this city must see, even if it means sacrificing his life.

TERMS OF THE INNOCENTS is a 61,000 word YA manuscript. An earlier version of this story won second place in the Utah Arts Council Creative Writing Competition.

I have two other titles published on iUniverse, and one title published by their Star imprint. I write commercial and radio copy, and am a well-known radio personality in Salt Lake City under the name Todd Nuke ‘Em. I have done presentations for the Utah Library Association and the Salt Lake City Library for my previous books.

The first five pages are below, and the entire manuscript is available upon request. Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Todd Noker

That's it!

Please thank Todd for sharing again, and save your feedback for tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Abhinav Bhat's Current Query Revised - Critiqued

Okay, today we have Abhinav's revised letter again, and questions, and I'm actually going to answer the questions first:

Questions, with my replies in blue:

I have been told on quite a few forums that the POV shift from Indy to Eldritch to Indy is jarring and unrequired and that I should be writing in one POV only. And that it should be Indy only. Does the shift work given that this is a dual POV novel?

I think the query should be written from only one POV. You can always mention the alternating POVs in your housekeeping section. There are, of course, probably queries out there that break this "rule" and break it well and make it work, but it's difficult, and non-standard, and queries are hard enough to get right already. As for whether the query should focus on Indy or Eldritch, well... that would depend on the manuscript, but it seems to work pretty well focusing, or at least starting with, Indy.

Many people are getting confused at the entire family being murdered and grandson left over, thinking that Indy's dead. I've added a clarification in brackets. Does it work?

Yeah it's definitely a little confusing as it's written. I will try to cover this in the critique below.

Is my novel YA or Adult? The tone of my novel is distinctly adult I feel. But others say that if the protagonist is teenage, then it's YA, even though I've two protagonists, but then if I have two protagonists, it can't be YA others say. I've been advised to up the age from teenage to twenty to make it adult. I'm confused. Please advise.

This is hard to say for certain without having read the manuscript, but don't let anyone tell you that just because your manuscript has one protagonist and/or narrator that is a teenager that automatically makes it a YA book. That's entirely inaccurate. Read All the Pretty Horses, by Cormac McCarthy, or The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss if you want to see two excellent examples of books with teenaged protagonists which are definitely not YA novels. The Rothfuss book is something you should almost certainly read, if you haven't, since it is also fantasy.

Again, I can't say for certain without having read your manuscript, but this sounds like Adult Epic Fantasy to me.

Anyway, let's move on to the revised letter, with my feedback in blue.

The query:

Dear Agent

Indy Ramsay has studied her entire teenage life for the day she would be recruited to the Reverend Council—the elite civil corps that runs the Ever Empire. Instead, it is her grandfather, Eldritch, who is inexplicably chosen and then promptly sent away on a mission, leaving behind a shattered and dejected Indy.

I won't rehash what I said the last time I critiqued this, but as far as I can tell, only one word in this opening paragraph has changed. You added "civil" to "elite corps." I don't think that was the biggest problem with this opening before. The problem, as I see it, is that you jump right into what starts happening to and around Indy, without taking the time to properly introduce her first. How old is she? What kind of person is she? Why should we care whether she succeeds?

The very next day, the city is under attack. The exiled heroes of a hundred subjugated races have returned, and they will see the Empire burn. And the Ramsay household is among their first targets.

This is much better than before. Could still use a bit more info about these heroes, but this is a big improvement.

Eldritch returns home to find his entire family murdered, all except his grandson, who has been taken prisoner. (Indy is presumed dead.) He presumes Indy has been killed along with the others. He will get his grandson back, he is told, if he betrays the Empire—a simple act . . . Millions of lives weighed against his grandson. Eldritch wants to not care . . . The Empire has heroes and patriots and omniscient deities enough. Let them save whoever they can.

This is ... too many ... ellipses for a query--avoid em-dashes too, if you can. They don't format well in email. Otherwise, this is good, but the prose kind of drags on. See if you can tighten it up. Short, clear, specific sentences, if you can.

Unbeknownst to Eldritch, Indy is also alive. This is somewhat redundant. You already said he presumes she's dead. Maybe something like "Yet Indy was not among the victims." Targeted for death as Eldritch's blood, she instead manages to defeat her assailants and learn of the enemy's plan for Eldritch to betray the Empire.

The Empire. Above humanity. Above her brother. Above all else. This is what Eldritch has taught her.

She will live by it.

The rest of this is pretty good.

As the heroes incite riots in the city and the underclass rises up in rebellion against the Council, Indy will prove herself worthy of the Empire and the validation she was denied. She will find and stop Eldritch, she will save the Empire at any cost.

Even if the cost be Eldritch himself. I don't think you need this. It's pretty clearly implied.

THE BURNT STATE is an adult fantasy novel about a girl and her grandfather as seen narrated from their alternating points of view. It is complete at 113,000 words.

So, in summary, this is a marked improvement. The conflict in the middle is still a bit muddied, but it's much clearer than it was. The biggest thing you should still work on is introducing Indy earlier and better, so that readers know more about her character, and can sympathize with her more easily.

That's it!

Please share your thoughts below.