Monday, May 05, 2008

Face-Lift 523


Guess the Plot

Paladin's Pride

1. Paladin Percy loves his job working for the God of Household Appliances. He goes on grand adventures, putting down rogue vacuum cleaners and using his healing hands to fix the broken machines at the dump. But when the Great Stool clogs, he must swallow his pride and go down the pipes. Can he survive a battle with the Gods of Sewege? Or will they all be... flushed?

2. "Pistol Pete Paladin" attracts attention and customers by stacking college professors, their daughters, scholars and Navajo tribal leaders on the back of his horse. But when PETA gets wind of his stunt, hilarity ensues.

3. As civil war approaches, a young woman trains for an elite military unit, little knowing that she will ultimately be the key to victory for her people. Also, a talking sword.

4. It isn't easy being a lion - especially when your mom gave you a really stupid name. But Paladin knows that the only reason he's now the head lion of his pride is because he learned how to fight against the cubs who teased him. Now there's a threat: an up-and-coming rascal named Smoochums. Can Paladin save his pride?

5. Whatever's growing in Rachel's garden, it isn't the pumpkins she planted. These are larger, redder, and...angrier. When Rachel enters the newly-named "Paladin's Pride" at the local fete, she expects to win first prize--not to have the judges eaten, the army called in and an offer to work on a Secret Project from the Ministry of Defense.

6. Mark Daggs, a.k.a. "Paladin," gave up being a gay male prostitute in San Francisco for the simpler life of a Midwestern farming community. But when a teenage boy seeks his guidance on sexual identity issues and Mark outs them both during the July Fourth parade, all Hell breaks loose.


Original Version

Dear Perfect Agent,

I'm seeking representation for my fantasy PALADIN'S PRIDE of 130,000 words. [It's a game. The challenge is to rearrange the words so that they form a sentence.] It is the first in a series.

Gentyl thinks this is no way to become an elite Horse Guard. Assigned to watch a senile wizard botch spells and blow things up, while the king is missing, his personal guard is dead, a civil war and the genocide of Gentyl's people threaten? [That was a question? I was waiting for the predicate that never came.] But the wizard may be less senile than he seems, and when the ambitious young woman's sword begins to talk to her of magic and demons, Gentyl's future begins to seem [The sword talks, her future seems. No need to tell us they "begin" to do these things. If they do them, they obviously began doing them at some point.] much more interesting--and more dangerous. [You talk like her present life is boring and safe after you've brought up botched wizardry, explosions, a conspiracy against the king, civil war and genocide.]

The Horse Guards have defended the Meryn people for hundreds of years, and never has their skill and honor been more needed. An assassin's blade, an attractive healer who isn't what he seems, and a lurking demon caller lie between Gentyl and her heart's desire, but Meryn needs the Horse Guards, and the Horse Guards need Gentyl--whether they know it yet, or not.

I was a staff writer for Speedhorse Racing Report for seventeen years. During that time I wrote weekly stories about Quarter Horse, Paint and Appaloosa racing in Canada, Mexico and the United States. I also wrote several stories about the history of various tracks and articles about equine health. [Thus if Gentyl ever gets her act together to become a Horse Guard, I'll be able to accurately describe any racing she has to do.]

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Notes

We need the plot. We have the situation: as her people are threatened with genocide, Gentyl longs to be a member of the Horse Guards. But we know nothing that actually happens to her. Or to anyone else.

Possibly you should start with: The Horse Guards have defended the Meryn people for hundreds of years, and never has their skill and honor been more needed. Then explain why their skill and honor are needed now. That way we'll know what the Horse Guards do and what the current danger is. That's enough background. Now tell us about Gentyl and how the Horse Guard is her heart's desire and what's standing in her way and who the main enemy is and why the Horse Guards need Gentyl. Make us care about Gentyl.

Too much "seeming." The wizard is less senile than he seems, Gentyl's future seems more interesting, the attractive healer isn't what he seems. I'm usually more interested in what's going on than in what seems to be going on, strange as that may seem.

60 comments:

Julie Weathers said...

Thanks for the comments. On my way out the door and I will respond more completely tonight.

I'm sure I will figure out this query beast one day.

Kiersten said...

Obviously EE did a great job and I don't have much to add to his comments, other than just keep plugging away at it! If you post a revision, I'll comment on that.

Nancy Beck said...

julie,

I have a couple of suggestions (and that's all they are - suggestions; use them or disregard them).

First, the word count. Although fantasy is one of those genre where you can run up the word count and not have an agent bat an eye, from what I've read on different blogs, an agent might bat an eye at 130K.

It seems that publishers like stories in the 100-110K - especially if this is your first try at publishing fiction.

Gentyl thinks this is no way to become an elite Horse Guard.

This was confusing to me, as if I'd missed something. She thinks "what" way is no way to become a Horse Guard?

Assigned to watch a senile wizard botch spells and blow things up, while the king is missing, his personal guard is dead, a civil war and the genocide of Gentyl's people threaten?

What EE said. This is an incomplete/run-on sentence.

I agree - queries are hard. Maybe try what EE has suggested, or go into the Snarkives to get some ideas.

Good luck!

pacatrue said...

EE hit all the substantive points. I just wanted to add that the whole query is funnier if you pronounce her name as "Gentile".

writtenwyrdd said...

I've got to weigh in on the side of adding more plot. No need rehashing what has already been said.

Anonymous said...

Bringing up nonfiction writing job unrelated to the fiction always seems to hijack the letter. I'd skip it and tell more about the book.

Julie Weathers said...

I'm seeking representation for my fantasy PALADIN'S PRIDE of 130,000 words. [It's a game. The challenge is to rearrange the words so that they form a sentence.]~

Sigh. Well, I did have it in a different form and this was suggested.

Assigned to watch a senile wizard botch spells and blow things up, while the king is missing, his personal guard is dead, a civil war and the genocide of Gentyl's people threaten? [That was a question? I was waiting for the predicate that never came.]~

This can be easily fixed.

[You talk like her present life is boring and safe after you've brought up botched wizardry, explosions, a conspiracy against the king, civil war and genocide.]~

Pretty much. Being sidelined babysitting a "senile" wizard takes her out of the action and any chance to join the Horse Guards. However, I will try to fix this so it is more cohesive.

[Thus if Gentyl ever gets her act together to become a Horse Guard, I'll be able to accurately describe any racing she has to do.]~

I've heard this both ways. If you have any published credentials use them. If it isn't fiction, don't use them.

Would it help if I just pare it down to being a staff writer for a magazine? The horse background does come into play, but it might be of no interest to an agent.

Too much "seeming." The wizard is less senile than he seems, Gentyl's future seems more interesting, the attractive healer isn't what he seems. I'm usually more interested in what's going on than in what seems to be going on, strange as that may seem.~

All right, thanks. Time to head back to the drawing board again.

I do appreciate your time and thoughts.

Julie Weathers said...

I've got to weigh in on the side of adding more plot. No need rehashing what has already been said.~

Going to work on it.

Unfortunately, the plot is very convoluted even for a fantasy mystery.

This is what a friend helped me distill the mess down to.

Gentyl wants to join the Horse Guards. Gentyl's family wants her as far from the Guards as they can get her. Wizard watch should be safe and boring even with botched spells and explosions, but supposedly senile wizard is trying to solve a murder and find clues to the king's disappearance to head off a bloody civil war. The sentient sword wants to destroy the demon and the demon wants to possess Gentyl.

I really need to write something simpler. Maybe picture books.

Thanks again, I will get back to work on this.

Evil Editor said...

Would it help if I just pare it down to being a staff writer for a magazine? The horse background does come into play, but it might be of no interest to an agent.


If horse knowledge was critical in writing the book, by all means mention the magazine and its title (which I assume is a horse-related title). Your actual experience with horses is worth mentioning if you can work something into the query that indicates it made the book more authentic. Do the Horse Guards need her because of her knowledge of all things equine?

Evil Editor said...

The distilled version is a decent skeleton for your summary, if you leave off the last sentence. We don't need the sentient sword and demon in the query.

Julie Weathers said...

The Horse Guards are an elite cavalry unit of Meryns. I based them on the Sarmatians, who were nomadic horse people. They dealt some resounding defeats to the Roman armies. Sarmatians also had women warriors who were very skilled horsewomen. The cavalry tactics used later in the story are similar to J.E.B. Stuart's raiders in the Civil War.

Sorry, I know that's boring, but the cavalry aspect does play heavily in the story.

Do the Horse Guards need her because of her knowledge of all things equine?~

No. Her aunt is a famous warrior and the leader of one of the Guard units. They will be the first targets if war breaks out. Her family is doing everything they can to keep her safe and out of the Guards.

*bangs head on desk. Yes, I know it's confusing.

Phoenix said...

What EE said.

Now, I re-read the "Assigned to watch..." sentence a couple of times to get it. Grammatically, the structure requires the deletion of the comma after "up" and the inclusion of "and" before "a civil war." The real problem is that the construct isn't intuitive. The reader doesn't expect it to be a question going in, and the first comma solidifies that it can't possibly be a question. Can it? And once the reader gets tripped up in the middle of it, there's no redemption and the reader falls splat on the question mark.

Aside from nothing in the story being what it seems, the third paragraph has a lot of needing going on. And Meryn needs the Horse Guards just repeats what that first sentence says.

What plot there is in the query seems disjointed. Gentyl doesn't think there's a way for her to achieve her dream, yet she's still described as "ambitious"? That doesn't jive. Then after bringing up a wizard, a king, a civil war and a talking sword, you say it's an assassin's blade, a healer and a demon caller that stand in the way of her becoming a Horse Guard. There's nothing for a reader to latch onto that ties any of that together.

In your rewrite, can you throw out 4 of those 7 things and focus just on the other 3 as you follow EE's advice to make us care about Gentyl?

Also, is there a tie-in to the title? Is Gentyl the paladin?

For the credits 'graph, try:

As a staff writer for the weekly Speedhorse Racing Report, I contributed hundreds of stories about racing, track history and equine health during my 17-year tenure.

And the kicker question (even after reading your other comments): What's different about your story? If it isn't the plot, it needs to be the voice or the character, and neither of those are coming across in the query. I may just be too jaded about fantasy (it's my first love for reading), but I'd need a stronger hook to pick this up.

Dave F. said...

I don't know all of this plot so if something "odd" appears, then It's me merely fitting in placeholder words.

How about something like:
Banished by her overprotective family to the safe haven of Wizard's Gizzard, Gentyl discovers that her new boss, the Senile Wizard, is /hiding/solving/has solution to/is responsible for/ the King's murder/disappearance in an attempt to keep civil war from breaking out. Even stranger, Gentyl's sword begins to tell her of a way to save the Empire and defeat a demon wandering the land and despoiling maidens. It falls upon Gentyl to marshall the Horse Guard, kill the demon and save the land from turning into green cheese.

Now that is only the beginning.Fix it up with the real plot - BUT beware, you can see every tree and you need to step back, way back, no back some more and see the forest.
What does Gentyl do after she discovers the King is dead? I presume that she joins the Horse Guard and saves the Kingdom by a series of military battles.

What does Gentyl do after she discovers the wizard isn't just senile? How does she save the kingdom, the Horse Guard and her family?

To borrow a horsie metaphor - you've taken the plot to the first turn, now all you have to do is finish the circuit. But first, take a deep breath, put he manuscript on the table and look at the word-world you've built.

I suggest you put the manuscript on the neighbor's table if you still can see all those pesky details.
;)

Dave F. said...

Seeing the forest for the trees.
An apt metaphor.

Let me tell y'all a story.
My last years before I retired, I was the Lead Auditor for the ISO 14000 effort. This was our initial implementation and we had to teach a new quality management system to 1100 people in 70 Divisions.
In the first audit that we did for certification, I planned 340 audits with 70 auditors besides myself. The questionnaire was 10 pages long and had 50 questions covering seven major topics. Each employee had an ID card, a Policy card, and was part of a "grouping" that I can't easily explain. There were 75 groupings.
I spent 10 to 12 hours a day for two weeks making sure that the audits went well. I did 30 audits myself just to get the flavor of the response.

So I get back to my office on Monday morning and 340 questionnaires sat on my desk.
Overwhelming huh? Not a chance. Just hard work. You start at #1 and end at #340.

I sat at my desk and computer and tabulated the results for each question. By the end of the week, the results were reduced to 2 major problems, 7 minor and a couple dozen piddly little things.

I got a promotion for doing two more audits that year that got us certified. Other people did too... And all the 1100 coworkers from the Director (appointed by the president) to the janitors (some working with mental handicaps) were the ones who supported the effort.
Do you see the trees and the details?
Can you tell the leaves form the roots?
The forest of certification from the trees of detail?

NO PROBLEM IS TOO COMPLEX TO SUMMARIZE.
NO PLOT IS TOO COMPLEX TO SUMMARIZE.

Take it chapter-by-chapter or page-by-page and then reduce if farther. Keep stepping back out of or away from the forest. That really is a powerful metaphor, all authors are involved in the minute details of a novel and must step back to see the overall plot.
Step out of the novel and take a good look at what you've written.

EE has discussed the components of a good query. Follow his suggestions.
Miss Snark has a three-point plan for writing queries. It is a good plan. Trust it. Use it.
Several others here have good methods.
Pick a method and use it.

When you find a method that works, trust the method.

Julie Weathers said...

Now, I re-read the "Assigned to watch..." sentence a couple of times to get it. Grammatically, the structure requires the deletion of the comma after "up" and the inclusion of "and" before "a civil war." The real problem is that the construct isn't intuitive. The reader doesn't expect it to be a question going in, and the first comma solidifies that it can't possibly be a question. Can it? And once the reader gets tripped up in the middle of it, there's no redemption and the reader falls splat on the question mark.

I suppose it is a question of style as opposed to correctness, but I am reworking it.

What plot there is in the query seems disjointed. Gentyl doesn't think there's a way for her to achieve her dream, yet she's still described as "ambitious"?~

Since this is an elite mature unit and she is 16, it's an ambitious dream.

As a staff writer for the weekly Speedhorse Racing Report, I contributed hundreds of stories about racing, track history and equine health during my 17-year tenure.~

Thousands, actually, but I think I am going to just pare it down to a very simple staff writer for seventeen years.

In your rewrite, can you throw out 4 of those 7 things and focus just on the other 3 as you follow EE's advice to make us care about Gentyl?~

Gentyl's dream is to become a Horse Guard.

She is assigned to a wizard, the missing king's wizard, pretending to be senile. He enlists her aid to help solve the murder of a knight, the last person to see the king, and help find the king.

The demon (holy man) and demon caller are their enemies as they are behind the murder and kidnapping.

I can focus on the mystery aspect of the story and leave out the demon and demon caller, but it isn't a true mystery. Let me see what I can do with it.

Also, is there a tie-in to the title? Is Gentyl the paladin?~

Yep. A pirate has nicknamed her Paladin and tells her pride will be her downfall and it eventually is.

And the kicker question (even after reading your other comments): What's different about your story?~

I'm fairly certain there is nothing new about my story as it's all been done either in history or other stories. As for voice and character, not sure that is unique either.

Julie Weathers said...

NO PLOT IS TOO COMPLEX TO SUMMARIZE.~

I know, I just need to get there.

Thanks for all your suggestions.

Julie Weathers said...

Thank all of you, I really do appreciate it and I will digest this and try again.

Whirlochre said...

It's all been said, but I'll chip in and urge you to look again at that colossal word count.

Julie Weathers said...

Take 59.

Dear Perfect Agent,

One hero in the family is enough and, unlike her famous aunt, Gentyl isn't the heroic type. She's too small, too young and entirely too accident-prone.

She just wants to join an elite cavalry unit known as the Horse Guards. Babysitting the missing king's senile wizard, who has a gift for irritating nobles, botching spells and blowing things up, isn't getting her any closer to her dream. She soon realizes his senility is an act, when he enlists her aid to solve a knight's murder and find the king before a civil war erupts.

The king's return is the last thing the demon caller, who masterminded the plot, and her demon want, however.

Gentyl isn't the heroic type, but sometimes all God needs is a willing heart. Or, maybe, He just has a very odd sense of humor.

PALADIN'S PRIDE is a 130,000-word fantasy with an offbeat humor.

I was a staff writer for Speedhorse Racing Report for seventeen years and I've also raised and trained horses for several years. This lends authenticity to a story with strong equine elements.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Julie Weathers


Am I getting closer?

Renee Collins said...

This is better, but it still feels like there is a whole lot going on. Maybe too much.

I think you could shave off some by cutting out the senile wizard part, since you reveal in the same paragraph that it is an act. Cut to her helping the wizard solve the murder mystery, and the civil war. That's more interesting anyway.

Evil Editor said...

It's way better than it started out. If this is the information you're going with, here it is with a few comments:

One hero in the family is enough and, unlike her famous aunt, Gentyl isn't the heroic type. She's too small, too young and entirely too accident-prone.

She just wants to join an elite cavalry unit known as the Horse Guards. [I'd remove "just" and start this sentence "Nonetheless..." If she's too young, small and accidentprone to be heroic, joining the Horse Guards is the last thing she should be doing. while "just" makes it sound like she's settling for something less heroic.]

Babysitting the missing king's senile wizard, who has a gift for irritating nobles, botching spells and blowing things up, isn't getting her any closer to her dream. [If there's a wizard who's blowing things up, why have they put a sixteen-year-old in charge of watching over him?] She soon realizes his senility is an act, when he enlists her aid to solve a knight's murder and find the king before a civil war erupts.

The king's return is the last thing the demon caller, who masterminded the plot, and her demon want, however. [Delete "and her demon."]

Gentyl isn't the heroic type, [Said in the first paragraph. If you're intentionally repeating it, it would be more obvious if you tacked "No," onto the front of the sentence.] but sometimes all God needs is a willing heart. Or, maybe, He just has a very odd sense of humor.

PALADIN'S PRIDE is a 130,000-word fantasy with an offbeat humor. [delete "an."]

I was a staff writer for Speedhorse Racing Report for seventeen years and I've also raised and trained horses for several years. This lends authenticity to a story with strong equine elements.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

writtenwyrdd said...

On the new effort: First para is good, second para opening loses me with "She just wants to join an elite cavalry unit known as the Horse Guards." You also need to define what Gentyl’s dream is, and I’d put that up front and the things in the way of her dream up front. Then clarify and streamline the conflict of the book, leaving behind the set up.

Perhaps you can streamline the plot elements further for the next part of the letter, the part that tells us what the story is. Here’s what I gather is going on:
1. King is missing, but the kingdom sounds like it’s going on somewhat normally (which sounds odd) unless the worry about civil war is due to the king’s being missing rather than the demon caller?
2. Gentyl has ambitions related to being a Horse Guard. She gets a dull job (because she doesn’t want to be a hero)
3. A knight is murdered, the hunt is on for the king. Apparently the wizard is the one who holds the key to what happened to him, and it turns out Gentyl is guarding a pivotal player in a suddenly revealed quest to save the kingdom from civil war.
4. Gentyl is called upon by circumstances to emulate her heroic aunt.
5. Other plot elements lead to a conclusion. I have no idea what happens after the situational set up except
6. A demon caller has masterminded a plot that revolves around the king staying missing.

How about something a bit more informative that also has a logical connection to the current political situation. That way you keep Gentyl’s actions tied in with the situation, and when we discover the book’s plot elements, there is no need for more setup. (I hope that made sense.)

You could try: "One hero in the family is enough and, unlike her famous aunt, Gentyl isn’t the heroic type. She’s too small, too young and entirely too accident prone. But she’s horse mad (or whatever makes being a horse guard so enticing) and joins an elite cavalry to (whatever the dream is?). What she gets isn’t (whatever she expects) but, due to (family influence), a safe and boring job guarding the missing king’s senile wizard.”

But instead I think you need to tell us something along the lines of:
“Amidst the chaos surrounding the disappearance of the king, Gentyl joins the elite Horse Guard. Her family’s influence stymies her dreams of adventure (or whatever they are). Instead, she is assigned to guard a senile mage who has a gift for irritating nobles, botching spells and blowing things up. Soon, however, she realizes his senility is an act when he enlists her aid to find the king before civil war erupts. (I don’t think you need to mention the knight here.)

“On top of that problem in the way of reaching her dream (whatever that is) Gentyl and the mage find their efforts complicated by a demon caller who masterminded the king’s disappearance.”

“Gentyl isn’t the heroic type, but sometimes all God needs is a willing heart.”
(I don’t like the mention of god, but that’s me personally.)

As a further comment that doesn’t really relate to the query itself, I think the name Gentyl is all wrong for a kick-ass heroine in a military role. Unless her having a wimpy/girly name is relevant to her personality (a la A Boy Named Sue) you might want to change it. And you had better have some extraordinary writing to sell a book that lengthy for a first sale.

Julie Weathers said...

I think you could shave off some by cutting out the senile wizard part, since you reveal in the same paragraph that it is an act. Cut to her helping the wizard solve the murder mystery, and the civil war. That's more interesting anyway.

The senile act is what keeps people from paying attention to what he is doing so it's fairly important. Staying under the radar means staying alive.

However, I'll take a look at it.

Thanks for reading and commenting.

Julie

Evil Editor said...

The senile act is what keeps people from paying attention to what he is doing so it's fairly important.

In the book, no doubt, this is obvious. In the query, it isn't.

Julie Weathers said...

I'd remove "just" and start this sentence "Nonetheless..." If she's too young, small and accidentprone to be heroic, joining the Horse Guards is the last thing she should be doing. while "just" makes it sound like she's settling for something less heroic.]

Hmmm. Good point. The intent is that's all she desires.

[If there's a wizard who's blowing things up, why have they put a sixteen-year-old in charge of watching over him?]

He has a fascination with fireworks so most of the "accidental" explosions are him lighting up someone with fireworks. Usually, people he thinks are spying on him.

Blowing up his wife's hen house was a bit more spectacular, but it also involved a massive fireworks display.

Wizard Walk is set apart from the keep proper so his minor explosions are more of an annoyance than a danger.

Thank you again for your time. I'll make the suggested changes.

Julie Weathers said...

You also need to define what Gentyl’s dream is, and I’d put that up front and the things in the way of her dream up front.

Her dream is to join the Horse Guards. Being put on wizard watch is keeping her from training that will actually get her noticed enough to advance. Helping him solve the murder so he can find clues to the missing king, completely sidelines her dreams, but she feels this is more important than her own desires.

1. King is missing, but the kingdom sounds like it’s going on somewhat normally (which sounds odd) unless the worry about civil war is due to the king’s being missing rather than the demon caller?

The demon caller masterminded the king's kidnapping and left one survivor, a Meryn knight who was his personal guard. Rumors are then circulated he betrayed the king, which is why he was alive. This sets up the beginning of a wedge that will destroy the Meryn who live in the kingdom. The alliance of the Meryn is what helped win the demon wars 30 years previously. With the Meryn gone, she has an open path to power.

So, it's kind of a combination of both.

2. Gentyl has ambitions related to being a Horse Guard. She gets a dull job (because she doesn’t want to be a hero)

She gets a dull job because her parents tried to put her in a sisterhood where she would be safe and she still wormed her way into a military unit. They compromise by pulling some strings and getting her put on wizard watch, which they think will keep her out of danger to an extent.

3. A knight is murdered, the hunt is on for the king. Apparently the wizard is the one who holds the key to what happened to him, and it turns out Gentyl is guarding a pivotal player in a suddenly revealed quest to save the kingdom from civil war.

The knight was the king's Meryn bodyguard and the wizard thinks if they can find some clues to what happened to him, they might discover at least a direction to look for the king.

The wizard keeps up his senile act so no one really knows what he's up to and he's so obnoxious, the court is just glad he's gone from time to time.

"One hero in the family is enough and, unlike her famous aunt, Gentyl isn’t the heroic type. She’s too small, too young and entirely too accident prone. But she’s horse mad (or whatever makes being a horse guard so enticing) and joins an elite cavalry to (whatever the dream is?).

She has been raised around the Horse Guards since her aunt is one of the leaders. It's all she's ever wanted. She never joins the Guards. It takes a long time to qualify, but she knows she has to work her way up. It's like a special forces unit.

(I don’t think you need to mention the knight here.)

Trying to solve the murder is the thread that runs from beginning to end, but let me take a look at it.

“Gentyl isn’t the heroic type, but sometimes all God needs is a willing heart.” (I don’t like the mention of god, but that’s me personally.)

Gen's very spiritual and has a habit of trading answered prayers for daily good deeds. It just sort of fits with her personality.

I think the name Gentyl is all wrong for a kick-ass heroine in a military role.

She really isn't kick ass. She's clumsy and accident-prone, but she tries hard to do the right thing and she doesn't give up.

Her parents named her a word that means gentle spirit because they hoped she would never have to go through wars like they did. Plus, she does have a rather sweet, innocent personality, with occasional burts of temper, but she learns to fight and make the hard decisions in spite of it.

However, nothing is written in stone and it could be changed if needed.

I really appreciate you making so many thoughtful comments.

I'm going to do some more fiddling and see what shakes out.

Thanks.

Beth said...

Hi Julie,

A pirate has nicknamed her Paladin and tells her pride will be her downfall and it eventually is.

I'm thinking that should be in the query somewhere. It sounds like the heart of story, the personal side.

Dave F. said...

Julie, your explanation of the Wizard and fireworks is OK but it won't answer the question that the query puts in the reader's mind.

Why do they put a 16 year old in charge of a senile wizard?

I suggest that's not what you mean. I think you mean that they put a 16 year old in charge of setting off fireworks for the senile wizard to make sure that he doesn't blow other people apart.

She's there to distract him, to stop him from being a royal pain in the ass to everyone else. She's there to isolate him from the rest of the court. She's not his guard. She's not his babysitter. She's there to keep him away from everyone else. She's there to keep him from investigating the death and kidnapping.

Whether or not this is intentional on her parents part, is unimportant.

There is a dual purpose to her being sent away from the Horse Guards.

You need to find words that fit that into the query. Unfortunately, I don't see the words because I'm deep into political primary results. Sorry, emotionally, I want my WEASEL to win and the OTHER WEASEL is worse than a toothaches or Hemi's...

Julie Weathers said...

I'm thinking that should be in the query somewhere. It sounds like the heart of story, the personal side.

Hey, Beth.

Well, him wagering her a kiss in exchange for a fighting lesson does get her exiled, but he flits in and out of the story. Plus, he's working for the demon caller.

Let me think about it. I pulled him out earlier as it felt like too much going on.

Julie Weathers said...

Why do they put a 16 year old in charge of a senile wizard?

Well, I need to work on this. Obviously it makes sense in the book, but agents won't be reading the book if the query leaves too many questions.

It might be easier to just leave out the explosives part as it can't be easily explained and I've been threatened with the wrath of all that is unholy if I go much over eight sentences in the pitch. Ten tops and then I am on thin ice.

I suggest that's not what you mean. I think you mean that they put a 16 year old in charge of setting off fireworks for the senile wizard to make sure that he doesn't blow other people apart.~

Nope. Gen is kind of an accident waiting to happen. She does learn how to make explosives and fireworks while aiding him, but no one who knows her would want her setting off anything explosive. She later blows up the Reverent Mother's prize ram in an experiment.

His fireworks usually just singe people, so most of them stay away from Wizard Walk. Plus his family has a long history with fireworks and explosives, so people are kind of used to it after this many years.

She's there to distract him, to stop him from being a royal pain in the ass to everyone else. She's there to isolate him from the rest of the court. She's not his guard. She's not his babysitter. She's there to keep him away from everyone else. She's there to keep him from investigating the death and kidnapping.

Cadets have been assigned to him for years as aides. Guards technically, but it's more of an assistant type thing, if he likes them. If he doesn't, he just goes out of his way to make life miserable. He's always been eccentric, but now he's taken it a degree beyond.

Most cadets hate wizard watch because he's a curmudgeon, but she gets along well with him.

She has no control over him to keep him away from court. He goes daily just to check on the ailing prince and keep an eye on the nitwit queen. Aside from that, he enjoys making them miserable and Gen isn't going to stop him. All she can do is tag along.

Only his wife and son know he is trying to solve the murder. No one else thinks he can put two coherent thoughts together, much less solve a mystery.

There is a dual purpose to her being sent away from the Horse Guards.

She never got in the Guards and never does.

I'm sorry, I'm pretty sure at this point everyone thinks I am being combative. I really do appreciate all the time everyone spent and the good suggestions. It's made things much smoother, I think.

Glad you're enjoying the politics. Sets my teeth on edge. I'll be listening to a lot of Celtic music in the next few months.

Dave F. said...

As for politics, One {1} county might change the outcome of the election in Indiana. Yes, ONE county... If any of you think your vote doesn't count, think again. Go out and vote for your Candidate.

And Julie, you have all the time you need to finish the query.

Phoenix said...

Not combative, Julie, but you are worrying entirely too much over the veracity of the comments. Study the comments to figure out why people are tripping up.

In your last comment, you're adamant she's not the wizard's guard nor his babysitter. Yet you've told us both those things in your query versions. So find a way to say what she's doing without using too many words or opening it up for questions.

Also, you've repeated the elements in your story enough here to make me feel that the story isn't quite as complicated and unwieldy as you think it is. Sure, you'll -- hopefully, in fact -- have well-fleshed secondary characters and subplots and a few red herrings in the book. Most epic fantasies do. You can, though, boil it down to just a taste of your story and your writing style and uniqueness.

Probably the last thing you want is someone else muddying the water, but here's my go at it:

Gentyl isn’t the heroic type, but sometimes all God needs is a willing heart.

Keeping Gentyl safe is what her family had in mind when they bribed [the royal seneschal] to put the young cadet to work tending the king's senile wizard. Cleaning up after botched spells and forever apologizing to the nobles for his irritating behavior, though, isn't getting her any closer to her dream. Despite being small and entirely too accident-prone, Gentyl obsesses about joining the Horse Guards, the elite cavalry unit that made her aunt famous.

But when the king is kidnapped and a prominent knight murdered, it looks like the demon wars of 30 years ago are about to be resurrected. If the Horse Guards, Gentyl's family and the Meryn themselves are to survive, someone has to face down the demon caller behind the king's kidnapping and stop the caller and her demons from inciting civil war.

No one is as surprised as Gentyl to find she must be that hero. But at what cost -- to her and to the kingdom?

Julie Weathers said...

In your last comment, you're adamant she's not the wizard's guard nor his babysitter. Yet you've told us both those things in your query versions. So find a way to say what she's doing without using too many words or opening it up for questions.

I guess I'm confused. I was trying to say she _is_ his guard and babysitter. Dave is the one who said she is neither. Ah, I didn't attribute that passage to Dave. Sorry. Cadets have always guarded the wizards at Wizard Watch, though it's more of an aide thing than actually guarding. An honor guard, I suppose, though most people hate the duty.

Phoenix that rewrite is actually pretty close to what a friend at Books and Writers suggested.

She has to face the hard decision and that is whether to help the wizard or not since she is already on the verge of being drummed out due to some earlier mistakes.

Kissing a pirate, even if it is to pay off a bet, isn't a good thing. Letting some prisoners go is worse.

Also, you've repeated the elements in your story enough here to make me feel that the story isn't quite as complicated and unwieldy as you think it is.~

Yes, it is, but after being beaten over the head numerous times about too much plot and too many characters I boiled it down to the essentials and stuck to one thought. So, now I have snipped the pirate, the demon/holy man, the sisterhood she was apprenticed to, the queen who is being manipulated, the dying prince, the sentient sword and stuck to the wizard, Gen and a brief mention of the demon caller, the missing king and the murdered knight.

Thanks for the latest suggestion. Mark had suggested something similar so I think we're on the right trail.

She makes the decision to aid the wizard and pretty much says goodbye to her dreams. Aiding the wizard will most likely get them killed, but they have to do it.

writtenwyrdd said...

Julie, you're being a bit defensive. You don't have to answer and explain all comments if they don't see what you are trying to say. Just look at what the comments tell you that people read into your query and adjust as needed.

Dave F. said...

Julie,
First, nothing you've written is wrong. Second, your novel is finished and exists as a manuscript - a pile of paper sitting on your desk. Separate yourself from that manuscript. Third, yes the plot is complicated but it isn't so complex that it cannot be described.

What you are suffering from is a kind of panic. You've written this story for so long that you don't want to give up al the fun and wonder you have for it. Well that is perfectly normal. I do that with my stories, each one. When I finish, I want to plaster it everywhere it's so wonderful. (I've learned to control my enthusiasm). I can't tell you what dread, fear and doubt I feel every time I send a story to a magazine.

Let's go back to the beginning: What you have to do here is to write a letter to send to an agent that describes the basic story and makes that agent want to publish your novel.

And you've almost done that. Your letter is very close to being finished. Forget the maxims of "8 to 10" sentences. Forget the "rules" of everyone else. Take this latest version, listen to the suggestions (Phoenix is really good at this. I only have a learned ability to summarize.) Take that version, make the corrections to it.

This is the hardest act of writing because you have to admit that this novel is done and step back away from all those wonderful characters that you've fallen in love with. It's like throwing your children out of the house at 18 y/o and letting them fend for themselves.

And I know that you can write this letter.

sylvia said...

As someone else with the-query-from-hell-that-everyone-hates let me say I'm impressed with how hard you are working to take in all the different viewpoints and get the query working.

Mine's still broken (the query, not my heart!) but I am definitely finding like you that effectively huge chunks of the story have to be put to the side because they can't be explained quickly. I'm not sure how you narrow it down in such a way to still show the broad scope of the story.

And in the interests of something purely positive:

"One hero in the family is enough and, unlike her famous aunt, Gentyl isn't the heroic type. She's too small, too young and entirely too accident-prone."

I love this and the circling back to the statement at the end of your query.

talpianna said...

The Horse Guards have defended the Meryn people for hundreds of years, and never has their skill and honor been more needed. An assassin's blade, an attractive healer who isn't what he seems, and a lurking demon caller lie between Gentyl and her heart's desire, but Meryn needs the Horse Guards....

Now I'm confused. I thought that Meryn was the name of the country, and "the Meryn" meant all the citizenry; but later in the comment thread you seem to indicate that the Meryn are some sort of special group--with special powers? culturally different group? what? And why do they need guarding more than anyone else?

I'm also bugged by the title, because it reminds me too much of the C.J. Cherryh novel THE PALADIN, which has a slightly similar plot--a young woman wanting to learn to be a warrior:

http://tinyurl.com/59r7ww

Beth said...

Well, him wagering her a kiss in exchange for a fighting lesson does get her exiled, but he flits in and out of the story. Plus, he's working for the demon caller.

Let me think about it. I pulled him out earlier as it felt like too much going on.


No, no -- you missed my point. :) It isn't the pirate who needs to be in the query. Rather, it's Gentyl's struggle with pride. Or whatever she's struggling with internally.

BTW, I thought Phoenix's rewrite was super. I don't know how well it fits your story, but it had everything in the right place and the right order, and there were no puzzling loose ends. Maybe you could use it as a template, if nothing else.

Oh, and when you quote back from other people's messages, they aren't showing up as quotebacks. They look like part of your message. Which makes your messages appear confusing and contradictory. [g] So maybe either put quotebacks in italics, or in quotations marks, or set them off by dashes, or something.

Julie Weathers said...

Thanks, Beth. Yes, my meds have worn off and I am confused lately and apparently confusing others.

Phoenix' rewrite is very nice.

To everyone who helped with this, thanks so much. It really did get things in order for me and I think will make a difference.

Julie Weathers said...

EE,

I would appreciate it if you and the minions could take another crack at this before I submit it to KC at Surrey for the workshop. Also, can anyone tell me if this is anywhere close to what I need for a pitch?

Thanks so much,

Julie


Dear Perfect Agent,

Gentyl dreams of joining her aunt's elite cavalry, but with a bloody civil war and genocide looming, it's a dream that could get her killed.

One hero in the family is enough and, unlike her famous aunt, Gentyl isn't the heroic type. She just wants to join the Horse Guards, but the king is missing and the kingdom is on the verge of civil war. Allies who once joined forces to defeat the demon armies thirty years ago are now poised to destroy each other, just as the demon caller Lucine and the demon lord have planned. Standing between them and the successful destruction of the kingdom and the M'eiryn people are a girl with a dream and a supposedly senile wizard with a penchant for botching spells, irritating nobles and livening things up with fireworks.

Gentyl and the wizard join forces to solve the mystery of the missing king and prevent the collapse of the kingdom in this 110,000 word epic fantasy.

Please find enclosed the first five pages and a synopsis.

I was a staff writer for Speedhorse for seventeen years and I have owned and raised Quarter Horses for several years. This background gives the horse aspects of the novel a firm foundation.

(Personal note about why agent is being approached.)

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Evil Editor said...

I would just say "with civil war looming" in sentence 1.

You might mention why someone who's not heroic wants to join the horse guards with civil war looming.

I'd leave out "and the M'eiryn people," as it's not clear who the M'eiryn people are.

Julie Weathers said...

Thanks, let me adjust that.

Dave F. said...

I would make tiny changes to this line:
She just wants to join the Horse Guards, but the king is missing and the kingdom is on the verge of civil war.

to read:

She just wants to join the Horse Guards, but her family forbids it. However, the king is missing and the kingdom is on the verge of civil war.

That's my suggestion.

Julie Weathers said...

Thanks, Dave.

Phoenix said...

*approaching Julie very gently*

This latest version is serviceable, but not really compelling, IMO. Here's what I felt reading it:

The query lacks soul -- that indefinable element that makes me sit up and take notice. Why? Because in this query, the kingdom's troubles, not Gentyl, take center stage.

Plus, it has a lot of redundancy. You tell us in the hook that civil war is looming. The next 'graph, the kingdom is on the verge of civil war in sentence 2, allies are poised to destroy each other in sentence 3, and the MCs are obstacles in the destruction of the kingdom in sentence 4. And the MCs are to prevent the collapse of the kingdom in the next 'graph. OK, I get it. The kingdom is threatened. Really, though, isn't that the case in the majority of epic fantasies? And while I'm beat over the head that the kingdom is imperiled, there's not a lot here to make me care about the kingdom.

Or care about Gentyl, really. All I know from this query is that she has a dream. You tell me that three times -- she dreams of joining the cavalry, just wants to join the Horse Guards, and is a girl with a dream. And that she isn't heroic. You also tell me she stands between the demons and the destruction of the kingdom, but you don't give me any indication of why she does in that second paragraph.

In fact, the last half of that second 'graph is kind of redundant with the 3rd 'graph. And the 3rd paragraph is a bit ambiguous. Do Gentyl and the wizard have to find the missing king AND prevent the kingdom's collapse? Or do they have to find the king TO prevent the kingdom's collapse?

And then you bring up the elite cavalry that Gentyl WANTS to join but hasn't, but the cavalry doesn't come into play in the query again. So when you talk about your background giving the horsy aspects a firm foundation, I'm left asking WHAT horsy aspects? Did I miss when she does join the cavalry?

Also, I would put the personal note to the agent at the beginning -- butter them up so they have a nice feeling about your professionalism going into the query. Get them in the right frame of mind immediately.

Remember, though, that mine is just one person's opinion. And I'm reading super-critically here. But I think that if you cut some of the redundancy, you'll have room for a few choice words that will make me eager to read those enclosed pages.

150 said...

This is another query I think would benefit from the Snark Formula:

X is the main guy; he wants to do:
Y is the bad guy; he wants to do:
they meet at Z and all L breaks loose.
If they don’t resolve Q, then R starts and if they do it’s L squared.

You throw in a lot of elements but don't mention how they tie in. Who wants Gentyl to be in the horse guard at all? So what if she does or doesn't join? Filling in the formula with the answers can only help.

benwah said...

"One hero in the family is enough and, unlike her famous aunt, Gentyl isn't the heroic type. She just wants to join the Horse Guards, but the king is missing and the kingdom is on the verge of civil war."

If Gentyl is not the heroic type, why does she wish to join the Horse Guards? It sounds like a heroic-type profession to me. I don't see the relationship between the two parts of that second sentence. I read it as the missing king and impending war are prohibiting her from joining the guards.

Julie Weathers said...

Oh, Phoenix, I'm sorry you feel you have to approach me gently. I've made a very poor impression it seems.

I'm taking all these suggestions to heart and I appreciate all your comments.

Julie Weathers said...

150, thanks. I've seen that formula before and it just confuses me. I'll try to figure out what it means and I do appreciate your suggestions.

Julie

Julie Weathers said...

Benwah, thanks for commenting. Horse Guards start out as far riders or messengers, so it's pretty mundane and she's fine with mundane.

I'll see if I can perk this up a bit and simplify it.

Thanks again,

Julie

Julie Weathers said...

All right, not trying to wear out my welcome, but am I getting closer here?

I tagged Mr. Bransford just to personalize the opening.

Dear Mr. Bransford,

I noticed in your book review at Moonrat's blog you enjoyed ELFSTONES OF SHANNARA. I believe the audience for this type of fantasy will enjoy PALADIN'S PRIDE. Also, you have stated on your blog several times to send to you first.

Gentyl longs to join her famous aunt's elite cavalry unit, but with a bloody civil war and genocide looming, it's a dream that could get her killed. Allies who once joined forces to defeat the demon armies thirty years ago are now poised to destroy each other; just as the demon caller Lucine and the demon lord have planned. Standing between them and the destruction of Gentyl's people are a girl who has battled racial and sexual prejudice in the army and a supposedly senile wizard with a penchant for botching spells, irritating nobles and livening things up with fireworks.

Gentyl and the wizard join forces to unravel the mystery of the missing king in this 110,000 word epic fantasy.

Please find enclosed the first five pages and a synopsis.

I was a staff writer for Speedhorse for seventeen years.

150 said...

Your new version was good until the line starting "Standing between" and then it descended into nonsense. You don't point out that Gentyl is the girl, or how she is allied with the wizard, or what they think they can do against a demon caller. The wizard is presented as nothing but a fool, girls in the army are called "women", and the mention of racism comes out of nowhere. Your sentences have to lead logically to one another. That's why the formula is so useful.

Snark formula: Example!

Gentyl is an aspiring cavalrywoman stuck babysitting a senile wizard.

Lucine is a demon caller who wants to destroy the world.

When the wizard begins hunting for the missing king, both he and Gentyl become targets.

If they cannot find the missing king, Lucine's demon armies will be unstoppable, and everything Gentyl loves will disappear.

Apply plot as necessary.

Julie Weathers said...

All right, thanks. I appreciate the feedback. I'll apply the suggestions and shake it out.

Julie Weathers said...

Dear Perfect Agent,

(Personal note about why agent is being approached.)

Gentyl longs to join her aunt's elite cavalry, but with a bloody civil war and genocide looming, it's a dream that could get her killed.

One hero in the family is enough and, unlike her famous aunt, Gentyl isn't the heroic type. She just wants to be a far rider, courier, but even that is a struggle as she fights prejudice and hatred in the military unit she enters against her family's wishes.

Allies who once joined forces to defeat the demon armies thirty years ago are now poised to destroy each other; just as the demon lord and his summoner, Lucine, have planned. Gentyl and a supposedly senile wizard, with a penchant for botching spells, irritating nobles and livening things up with fireworks, stand between them and the destruction of the allies and her people.

Gentyl and the wizard join forces to unravel the mystery of dead guards in hopes of finding the missing king and preventing war in this 120,000-word epic fantasy.

I was a staff writer for Speedhorse magazine seventeen years and I've owned and raised Quarter Horses for years. This gives the horse aspects of the story a firm foundation.

Please find enclosed the first five pages and a synopsis.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,
Julie Weathers

It will probably still undergo a bit of tweaking, but it's closer I think. Good enough for a workshop, anyway.

Thank you all so much for your patience and help.

Julie

Evil Editor said...

It seems unlikely that if she's actually joined the military unit, and civil war is approaching, she would have time to hang out with the wizard.

What do think about dropping your "hook sentence" and starting:


One hero in the family is enough, and unlike her famous aunt, Gentyl isn't the heroic type. She just wants to be a far rider--a courier in her aunt's elite cavalry. But with civil war looming, that's a dream that could get her killed.

Just a thought.

Julie Weathers said...

EE, that looks good. Of course, her "job" is being an aide to the wizard.

As always, I appreciate you all taking time to fool with this.

Not trying to brush you off, just kind of under the weather tonight.

Julie Weathers said...

EE, I keep looking at this and I like it. I'm not a big fan of the YOU HAVE TO HOOK THEM WITH THE FIRST SENTENCE!

As a professional, I'd like your opinion. Can an opening with a tight two or three lead in sentences have as much impact as the fabled "hook?"

Am I even on the right track with this opening? I tried, I hope, to follow the advice given previously. I know people are weary of this. Ignore if you wish.

Evil Editor said...

Can an opening with a tight two or three lead in sentences have as much impact as the fabled "hook?"


Sure it can. Of course that may mean it IS the fabled hook. Or is the fabled hook defined as one sentence?

Julie Weathers said...

I have just finished reading most of Noah Lukeman's query book.

Three paragraph rule and the first paragraph is one sentence, your opening. The hook.

He's not the only one who hammers the one, at most two, sentence opening. Frankly, it just seems like if it's a tight, decent opening the agent or editor shouldn't be sending out the firing squad at dawn for not following this formula.

Maybe I am missing the point entirely.

Thank you again, for your patience.

JW

Julie Weathers said...

Ugh, ignore typos. I am still sick.