Thursday, March 26, 2009

Face-Lift 616


Guess the Plot

Rawmesh

1. When the Earth becomes unstable thanks to a virus released into Rawmesh, the virtual world housed in the global communications network , it's up to Jack Frost and his friends to save the day by reversing the north and south poles.

2. Loretta Lopez drives to Wyoming with a sleeping bag, a collection of old sci-fi movies, and her laptop computer. She's determined to finish her screenplay about monsters in the wilderness before winter or go bust. But that's exactly the vow made by five other people who live in her campground! And they all think her movie is crap! Even though theirs totally suck! The bitches! This means war!

3. Spaceman Jack wakes up from his 87-year nap on the Andromeda Module and quickly realizes that: 1] the ship's not zooming through space as scheduled; 2] everyone else is sleeping or dead; 3] the planet outside appears to be covered with enormous jelly ferns; and 4] they're actually carnivorous.

4. Stalking the primeval forest, Rawmesh hunts the small creatures while desperately searching for a mate. Most of his kind lie dead, but the urge to reproduce drives him onward. Can he find another T rex, or is it already too late?

5. Fairies and hobgoblins fighting for control of the local park? Janie doesn't believe Rolf's stories, until the fairies conjure up the mythic warrior Rawmesh. Now freed from decades of imprisonment, Rawmesh rampages through the neighborhood, targetting hobgoblins and pets indiscriminately. Can Janie help Rolf and the fairies put Rawmesh back where he belongs?

6. Tilly cooks for a five-star restaurant, and her specialty is braised mesh. When she discovers that her boyfriend is in the mafia, she rats him out. Her restaurant’s freezer of raw mesh doubles its contents overnight, but she’s strangely not there to cook it. And why does some of the mesh taste funny?'


Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

When a coordinated attack against the world's electronic and communication systems threatens to bring civilization to a halt, a group of friends must endure bedlam and violence from all fronts. Rawmesh is an 85,000 word character-driven science fiction novel that is the first in a planned series. I specifically seek your representation as I have a strong appreciation for your work with the ______ as well as the work of several _______ authors.

A militant anti-tech group named Green Forest, successful in designing a computer virus that has torn down global communication networks, [Only computer geeks could pull this off; anti-tech people wouldn't have a clue how to do it, any more than a PETA member would know how to gut a moose.] have now created a way to decimate all electronics [All electronics? No way will the populace get behind any plan that takes away the TV remote control.] by slowly forcing the Earth's magnetic poles to reverse. [Whattaya mean "slowly"? North gradually becomes south? What is it during this gradual change, north east and then east and then southeast? Does the north pole drift down the planet until it gets to Antarctica? Actually, it would be cool if the north pole went through the Sahara Desert on its way south, and suddenly it started snowing. Does Santa Claus now live at the south pole, or does he move down north?] The reversal becomes unstable, creating uncontrollable magnetic fractures that now threaten more than just technology. When Aura and her friends Manolin and Jack Frost are told about the dangers of the fractures by a mysterious Seeker (people who live in both the real and virtual Rawmesh worlds simultaneously), [It would be nice if at least Aura's name had been mentioned earlier; it feels like you expect us to know who she is already. Also, we need to have some idea what the virtual Rawmesh world is.] they leave New York to find Aura's father as well as sanctuary. They become separated and entangled in religious and gang warfare spreading across the country. They meet old and new friends, but also come face to face with the embodiment of evil named Momus, who has re-created the Biblical Sixth Plague with the help of Aura's father. [The sixth plague is boils, right? Is everyone suffering with boils?] The group finds a way to stop the fractures by forcing the poles to reverse completely, however doing so would mean killing the Seekers who have uploaded their minds into Rawmesh. [Also, it would do nothing to get rid of the damn boils.] Despite making the ultimate sacrifice to save humanity, Aura and her friends must continue fighting to survive in a world that has gone insane. [I usually think of the ultimate sacrifice as death. What is their ultimate sacrifice? Wait, is it boils?]

Rawmesh is shaped by my degrees in anthropology and computer science, and my fascination with how our lives and societies are affected by technology. In addition, I have presented peer-reviewed papers concerning virtual realities and cyber-security at several conferences.

I have attached the first three chapters for review, and would be pleased to send you my completed manuscript. Thank you for your time and consideration, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,


(P.S. The word and title Rawmesh is a made up word, that partially came from reading Finnegan's Wake. [Did you read the original book or the English translation?] It comes from the computer networking term 'mesh', and the 'raw' reality of this virtual world)


Notes

This is the Finnegan's Wake of query letters. Take that however you like.

For starters you need to divide the long plot paragraph into three paragraphs. That way when the reader is reading, he thinks, Okay, just a couple more lines and I get a breather, instead of thinking, Christ, there's no way I can stay awake till the end of this paragraph. Think how you would have felt if Finnegan's Wake were all one paragraph. That's how I felt when I saw your second paragraph.

Why are these specific three friends filled in by the Seeker? Is there something special about Aura?

Why is Aura's father helping the embodiment of evil to give everyone boils?

I'm sure boils must be unpleasant, but if I were the embodiment of evil I'd be embarrassed if boils was the worst thing I could come up with.

What is this Momus creature? It seems like it belongs in a fantasy rather than hard science fiction.

The Seekers are actually alive in the virtual world? At the same time they're alive in the real world? Can they take their wives shopping in the virtual world while they're eating pizza and watching football in the real world? And what are they seeking?

Try getting rid of the religious and gang warfare, Momus and the boils, the old and new friends, and Rawmesh. Focus on the main character, the problem, the solution, and what's preventing the solution. That leaves us with: The Earth is in danger of crumbling thanks to a militant group's diabolical plot to reverse the Earth's magnetic poles. The Seeker comes to Aura and says only she can save the planet, by finding her father, the world's greatest scientist. She finds dad, and together they figure out how to save the day: by reversing the Earth's magnetic poles. Hmm. How about this:

An evil entity known as Momus has brought a plague of boils upon the multitudes . . .

41 comments:

Neelloc said...

This sounds like something I'd like to read, but please, have a really good reason for having a character called Jack Frost!
What are 'magnetic fractures'? Sounds interesting, but doesn't really explain what damage is happening.
'Seekers' and suchlike seem to pop up frequently in fantasy and sci-fi, so maybe you should think of another term.
With a bit of revision, I think this story's a goer. : )

_*Rachel*_ said...

I'd also assume boils--you say Biblical plagues and a number, I think Exodus--but that sounds a bit... wimpy. Unless you try it in combination with some of the other plagues, maybe.

I think you may want to give a sentence or so explaining the Rawmesh; there are so many ideas of complicated computer things that we can't just assume one. I can name three totally different things Rawmesh reminds me of, and I'm sure yours is a fourth.

Maybe Green Forest hires computer geeks and kills them off once they're done? I don't know about real life, but in fiction bad guys who are a bit queasy about something usually don't mind hiring/forcing somebody to do the dirty work for them.

And, if Green Forest is the coordinated attacker, how do they communicate? Smoke signals? Or do you have more bad guys, too?

How old is Aura? My first impression--furthered by Jack Frost and Man(d)olin--was a kid, but... what age group are you aiming for?

Is Momus working with Green Forest?

batgirl said...

I guessed that Aura, Manolin, and Jack Frost are their VR nicknames. Am I right?

I was unsure how much of the story took place in the flesh world, and how much in the virtual world. That might be something to clarify in the rewrite.

Adam Heine said...

It seemed to me that Jack Frost (and maybe Aura and Manolin (Mandolin?)) was a handle used in the virtual world. If I'm wrong, then that name needs to change (probably Mandolin too, unless he's Polish).

I like a lot of the elements of this story, but the query raises way too many questions about its believability. Assuming the novel explains everything in a believable fashion, the best way to solve this is to follow EE's advice and cut everything that doesn't have to do directly with the protagonist, her goals, her obstacles, and the stakes.

Anonymous said...

Who cares about believable? That's not a relevant complaint. I was also daunted by that long plot description and couldn't see any reason why the luddites would screw around with a lot of fussy computer viruses instead of just blowing transformers up and bringing the whole electrical-communications system to a great silent halt...

Hadean Dragon said...

I'm the author - I'll try to answer as best as I can! (Sorry for this being so long, eep)

Big Paragraph: I was trying to fit everything on one page, which may have been my first issue!

People's names: Aura is her real name, though Jack Frost (based off Norse myths) and Manolin (based off The Old Man and the Sea) are Rawmesh names. Since those are the names most used in the book, I didn't want to complicate the query with multiple name variations...

Green Forest: As Rachel hinted, Green Forest forces scientists/etc. to do their work, then kills them when done... hence their use of technology (I do mention the irony of using technology to destroy technology). They were originally funded by corporations and governments, and have a stable of gangs to do the heavy lifting.

Magnetic Fractures/Pole Reversal: This is actually based off scientific research. For example, http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2004/09/0927_040927_field_flip.html has a good description of "instabilities" (what I call fractures). Since it's hard to explain in one or two sentences, I didn't want to get into it too much in depth. All electronics would stop working (theoretically) because of massive solar radiation from an unprotected/unshielded Earth.

Rawmesh: A VR world, obviously, that's more interconnected with ours than usual - money/stocks trade between each, business meetings happen, etc. Most of the story is in the real world, though, as being in Rawmesh when a fracture crosses your path would erase your mind.

Seekers: Similar to some other stories and in real life, really. These guys are mostly vagrants in the real world, who spend their time trading information and working on the old geek ethic of "information wants to be free". No families, etc. It's more religious than I'm explaining here, though.

Aura: She's in her late thirties (I don't specify exactly). There's nothing specifically "important" about her or her friends - they simply need to survive what's happening around them (and have to relive past memories - e.g. Aura's ex-Marines).

Audience: The audience would be an adult market mainly (there are six major characters that vary in age from 17 and up).

Momus/Sixth Plague: A character gone insane with power. Her goal is to restart the world in her image (more religion). And yes, technically the sixth plague is boils, but historians believe it was specifically anthrax. The Japanese tried to recreate a more potent version of it during WW2, and Momus is trying to one-up that (with the 'help' of Aura's father). Since her story is more important in any (possible) sequels, I don't mind cutting her out of the query. (Momus was the Greek god of mockery/satire).

EE's Suggestion: Technically, the Seeker's don't come to Aura to help save the day (the bad guys have already one more or less), Aura's not the 'savior' (but the story is mainly from her viewpoint), and the ending isn't very traditional (which includes Aura's father and Momus).

(P.S. There's no fantasy elements, and all technical stuff is explained! ;-p )

_*Rachel*_ said...

Nontraditional ending--Momus and Aura's dad fall in love. Stockholm Syndrome?

You might want to just say something along the lines of juiced-up anthrax instead of boils.

Maybe you could explain a few of the things you cleared up here in the query--more concisely, of course.

Sarah from Hawthorne said...

That's hilarious that pole reversal is actually based in science. Reversing the Polarity is a well-known sci-fi trope, indicating some sort of oversimplified, technobabble Deus Ex Machina solution to a complex engineering problem. http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/ReversePolarity

My biggest question was if Green Forest has already taken down all global communications (as you say at the top of your query), then how does the Rawmesh still exist?

writtenwyrdd said...

Okay, first I found this query letter way too complex. My brains felt scrambled after reading it, which is not a good thing. What I'd suggest is that you distill the story out, and omit 99% of the world you have created. You just want enough of the world to indicate the flavor of the piece, not explain every choice you made. Because such explanations invariably take up too much real estate in a query.

Try coming up with your elevator pitch--a couple of lines that tell us the main plot and what's at stake for your protagonist--and resubmitting a query letter here.

It sounds like you could have an interesting world here.

For the record, though, I don't care for Rawmesh much. It gives me a silly mental picture of a dog eating pantyhose! But that's just me.

BuffySquirrel said...

Believable is important to most readers, as suspension of disbelief is vital to immersion in the story. But believable isn't the same as possible.

If I were looking for an SF novel, I wouldn't pick up one with an embodiment of evil in it. Just doesn't sound SFfy enough. Also, the militant group that forces people to help then kills them is something of a yawn.

Dave F. said...

The geomagnetic field has reversed itself many times in the past. The next flip-flop is predicted for 2012 when the world ends, or that's what "they" prediction.

Hadean Dragon said...

BuffySquirrel: I agree with your yawning of Scifi terrorists killing people after using them (though it's happening right this minute in the real world unfortunately), hence why I didn't mention it in the query and don't have it too deeply in the book (Green Forest plays a fairly background role of being the catalyst to the events).

writtenwyrdd: Dog eating pantyhose? I love it! And it definitely sounds like I added too much (which is unfortunate, since the query is really just a taste - I didn't even mention three other major characters).

Sarah: I know there was a recent movie using pole reversal (came out AFTER I wrote this, grr), but haven't read it anywhere before... This isn't technobabble (and is quite different than what your link refers to). But it's just a catalyst for events (since it happens in the first two pages). Definitely not Deus Ex Machina or anything like that.

Rachel: It sounds like I should just get rid of the Momus aspect. The reason for the Sixth Plague reference was to show that religion (Christian and Pagan mostly) are important to the story...

Anonymous: They do a LOT of blowing stuff up, actually. The virus is actually to destroy cellphones for the most part (Rawmesh is targeted separately).

Xenith said...

Haven't we seen this plot before? Hmm, I think I said that last time I commented on a FaceLift. Still, imagine a slush reader who probably reads hundreds of similar queries a day and wonder what they'd think. Seen it before, bye! So what makes your story about a group of friends trying to save the world from the latest incarnation of evil different to all the others?

I think when the focus is on the global threat/saving the world, then then descriptions also become general. You say it's character driven, so can you focus on the characters more in your query? What do they want (other than to save the world, their very own personal goal/s) and what's stopping them from getting it and what's at stake for them as individuals?

Hadean Dragon said...

Xenith: I guess my query definitely needs work since your summary (group of friends saving the world) is exactly what the story is not. The world is already doomed (they just stop it from driving off the edge). Their survival and sanity are what's at stake... hmmm, definite food for thought.

Evil Editor: I 'read' (and skimmed, I admit) the original Finnegans Wake... The story is based off that a bit (e.g. Joyce wanted it to represent humanity falling and rising again, which is what happens in the book). The original Irish diddy comes into it too. (In case you were so interested ;-p )

All: I loved the fake plots, thanks! (Wondered what would come out of the name)

BuffySquirrel said...

eh, the past flip-flop events are not associated with mass extinctions, so it's highly unlikely a future one would be

might extinguish those pesky mobile phones, i suppose--oh woes

batgirl said...

I'm curious. When did the prepositional phrase become "based off" (or sometimes "based off of") instead of "based on"?
Does it indicate a greater departure from the base material if it's "off" instead of "on"?

Adam Heine said...

Author, I figured (glad to see it was correct) that the magnetic poles and all the other weird stuff had believable explanations in the novel. The problem is it's very difficult to fit all that explanation into the query in a believable way.

Basically, you have to scrap everything that isn't critical to the central plot and/or that raises questions. If you can't scrap it, then you need to support it as best as you can, but in as few words as you can. I hope that makes sense.

The query has to be just as believable as the novel, otherwise the agent/editor will question your credibility as an author.

(Anon 12:15 - I think you're confusing "believable" with some other word like "realistic". Believable means that there is enough reasonable explanation that the reader can buy into it. Lord of the Rings was believable. How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days was not.)

Elissa M said...

I just KNEW Dave F. was going to mention that the poles have flipped many times (because they have).

loiterer said...

To Author: From the high level of detail in your query I'm left in no doubt you have an imaginative story here.

As the others have said, though, you've given us too much of that detail in this query so that all the good ideas seem crammed into the small space you have to hook an agent, and the overriding feeling a reader gets is one of confusion.

To do your story justice, you need to concentrate the query a bit more on the main thrust of the story.

For a start, I found the detail that an anti-tech group called Green Forest wrote a virus that knocked out global communication not only sounded like backstory but was something we did not need to know in the query, particularly as your lead-in line.

I would suggest instead to make sure that the names of your main character/s are in the lead-in sentence, particularly in this very concept-driven query. The complexity of your plot will display better if it's hung off your characters. Character is important for hooking an agent.

As I said, sounds an intriguing story--so hope this helps!

Hadean Dragon said...

Adam: Definitely makes sense. I was being optimistic, and hoping that if the agent/publisher had questions, they could look at the example pages that I submitted (most of the questions asked - except for the boils - are answered in the first few pages of the book). But that's being too optimistic, and so I'll re-edit as you (and others) suggest... Thanks!

(Won't be the last you hear of Rawmesh! Ha!)

Adam Heine said...

Author: I once thought much as you, thinking the query was just a formality and that the agent/editor was always interested in pages anyway. Consequently I put everything in the query hoping something piqued their interest.

Turns out if they don't really like your query, they won't even look at the pages. To that end, focused is better.

Sarah from Hawthorne said...

Sorry, I expressed myself badly. What I meant is that I thought it was funny that science has apparently lapped a decades-old joke. To me "reversing the Earth's poles" immediately equals "Reverse the Polarity!" and I don't know how many others will think the same.

If this is supposed to be character based, you may just want to say "Anti-tech terrorists Green Forest have unleashed magnetic storms upon the Earth, destroying all electronic devices" or something along those lines.

Hadean Dragon said...

Excellent comments all, thanks! I'll definitely try and re-submit an updated query when I get a few minutes to write it up.

Hadean Dragon said...

Upon reflection, this new version of the query definitely sounds a lot better! Not perfect, but what is (other than Evil Editor)?


What would happen to a world of tenuous links and networks if militant environmentalists succeeded in destabilizing civilization itself? Rawmesh is an 85,000 word character-driven science fiction novel that is the first in a planned series.

While mourning the mysterious disappearance of her close friend Selene, Aura Keowne is warned about systematic attacks by an anti-tech group named Green Forest. Moving beyond physical violence, the group has found a means to destroy most of the world’s technology by forcing the Earth’s magnetic poles to flip far earlier than is natural. The reversal becomes unstable, though, and causes havoc across the Earth as natural disasters increase and communication systems collapse. The primary form of business and entertainment, the virtual Rawmesh world, becomes dangerous to use as anyone inside while a magnetic “fracture” hits would have their mind erased. Spurred by the vacuums of power left by failing states and governments, religious and territorial gangs begin rising in power.

Warned by her estranged father about the dangers of staying in New York, Aura and her friends Jack and Manolin escape only to quickly learn that human civilization has already begun to crumble. In their struggle to survive a world going insane, they realize that Rawmesh may be trying to communicate with them, and discover where Aura’s father and her friend Selene have truly been.

Rawmesh is shaped by my degrees in anthropology and computers, along with my fascination with how our lives and societies are affected by technology. In addition, I have presented peer-reviewed papers concerning virtual realities and cyber-security at several conferences.

I have attached the first three chapters for review and would be pleased to send you my completed manuscript. Thank you for your time and consideration, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

D. Lemma said...

Hi Hadean Dragon,

I think the world-building description is much better, and works to explain the setup. But... it's still all setup. There are two paragraphs of world-building and back story, and then a rush through the actual story of Aura and her friends.

I think you need to ask yourself what story are you really trying to tell with this query letter: the story of Rawmesh's destruction, or the story of Aura's struggle to survive in her drastically changing world?

I don't think you can try to tell both in a query letter. There just isn't enough room. Right now you are telling the story of Rawmesh. That's fine if that's the story you are going for, since science fiction can be more about the technology than the characters. My choice would be to go for Aura's story, since character stories are usually more compelling. Either way, though, make sure it's a conscious choice on your part.

_*Rachel*_ said...

My frank opinion is that you need to start over again. I don’t buy character-driven when you spend over half your query describing science and technology. Mention that terrorists are attacking the world’s technology, causing chaos everywhere, and focus on what happens to Aura. All I get from this is that a whole bunch of weird science stuff is making the world go crazy, and Aura and her friends have to survive. Oh, and the way you wrote it makes it sound a bit like Selene ran off with the dad.

Based on these queries, I wonder a bit about your novel. I’d advise you to look through the Turkey City Lexicon, especially Part 5; it sounds like you may have problems with infodumps.

I know there’s a story in there; keep working. Focus on the story, not the background, and you’ll do better. You’ve already improved by getting rid of some extraneous stuff, but can you give a little more of the plot without throwing in the kitchen sink? It’s Aura who matters, not the poles. You can dump all but the fringe of the science if you can make me interested in Aura.

Hadean Dragon said...

Thankfully, the novel isn't full of infodumps (a recently famous book from a popular author angered me so much with his infodumps, I forced myself to never do such a thing)...

I guess I tried to explain everything the previous comments asked me to explain...

How about something like (and this is right off the top of my head now):

While mourning the mysterious disappearance of her close friend Selene, Aura Keowne is warned about an attack against the world's technology that has gone awry. Somehow, the attack has caused havoc across the Earth as natural disasters increase and the primary form of business and entertainment, the virtual Rawmesh world, becomes dangerous to use.

Warned by her estranged father about the dangers of staying in New York, Aura and her friends Jack and Manolin try to escape only to learn that human civilization has already begun to crumble. Aura must come to terms with her violent military past as she becomes indoctrinated into a NYC gang as a means of finding a way out of the chaos. Having lost touch with Aura, Jack and Manolin become embroiled in a powerful Christian organization that forces them to rethink their own beliefs. In their struggles to survive a world going insane, they realize that Rawmesh itself may hold the key to humanity's survival.

D. Lemma said...

This is really starting to move in the right direction. You've left us enough of the world to go by, but made it clear that the story is really about Aura and her friends.

Now work on figuring out which details best support that story.

How important is Selene's disappearance? The event is never mentioned again, or connected to any of the future events. If it's not important, take it out. If it is, connect it to what happens to Aura.

Getting indoctrinated by a gang seems important, but we have no idea why this is something she'd do to keep safe. Give us a bit about Aura's emotional story--what about her made joining the gangs the thing to do when her friends made different choices? What does this do to her, and how does it change her? Where does it lead her? If that's not the pivotal event that changes her, tell us a bit about that instead.

Her friends' choices again need to be tied back into Aura's story. If it can't be done easily because it's peripheral or a subplot, take it out for now and see if you really need it there.

Phoenix said...

Hi HD:

Since the character drive seems a bit elusive now, I thought I'd see how this would sound more plot-focused. Liberites, of course, taken...

When an anti-tech terrorist group brings down the world's communications systems, ex-marine Aura Keowne and her two closest friends, Jack and Manolin, chase separate paths in effort to survive crumbling conditions and chaos in the streets of New York.

Capitalizing on her violent military past, Aura joins one of the numerous gangs now staking claim to the city. Once indoctrinated, however, she discovers the gang has deep ties to Green Forest, the group responsible for bringing Rawmesh -- the foremost virtual network for business and entertainment -- to its knees. And Green Forest has just unleashed another attack that will cripple all forms of electronics across the globe.

Meanwhile, Jack and Manolin seek safety in a new religious order that's determined to reinvent the very nature of technology. Planning to force the rise of a leader-messiah who will use Rawmesh to resurrect civilization in its own image, these religious Seekers are using converts like Jack and Manolin to spread further dissention and unrest in a world already gone mad.

When Aura, Jack and Manolin reunite in the aftermath of Green Forest's latest attack, they discover clear evidence that the disabled Rawmesh may be trying to communicate. Only then do they realize that Rawmesh itself may hold the key to humanity's survival.

Complete at 85K words, RAWMESH is a standalone science fiction novel with series potential. My degrees in anthropology and computers helped shape this look at how people and societies are affected by technology. In addition, I have presented peer-reviewed papers concerning virtual realities and cyber-security at several conferences.

The first three chapters are attached. I look forward to sending you the rest.

Sincerely,

Hadean Dragon said...

Thanks for all the help again everybody - definite food for thought. I think the example will definite help me, as well! I'll let you all know how it goes when I finally take that plunge...

Hadean Dragon said...

Okay, so it's many months later -- after revising the novel for the last(ish?) time, I'm finally ready to take that proverbial plunge. I've taken all of your advice (I hope), and used Phoenix's comment as a template, and came up with this... I hope the third time's the charm! (Thanks once again for all of your help, it's been wonderful).

Dear [soandso],

When an attack against technology threatens to destabilize the world, a group of friends must confront both rising gangs and their own violent pasts.

Fearing the growing chaos in New York, Aura Keowne and her friends Jack and Manolin follow separate paths in order to survive. Aura attempts to find her estranged father by joining Memex, one of the most brutal Manhattan gangs, but becomes haunted by demons from her military past. Unbeknownst to her, her father and other biologists have been kidnapped by Momus in order to create a new virulent form of anthrax. Meanwhile, Jack and Manolin encounter a growing religious movement whose glossy exterior hides its close ties to the Green Forest terrorist group and its own dark intentions.

In the virtual Rawmesh world, the only surviving means of communication, Aura learns that a troubled teenager named Rain has found the encryption key that will stop Green Forest's assault on technology. When Rain chooses to sacrifice her life to implant the key, Aura feels that the world may have already deteriorated too far to be saved. She and her friends, struggling to find each other in a world gone insane, discover that Rawmesh may be hiding secrets of its own.

Complete at 89,000 words, RAWMESH is a standalone science fiction novel with series potential. My degrees in anthropology and computer science have shaped this vision of how people and societies are affected by technology. Additionally, I have presented papers on virtual realities and cyber-security at several academic conferences. I wish to request representation from you because [other represented authors, etc.].

Thank you for your time and consideration, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Evil Editor said...

Who or what is Momus? You seem to think we know.

She joins Memix, her father's kidnapped by Momus. Can you come up with less-similar-sounding names?

Isn't anthrax deadly enough without spending time developing a new and improved version?

When you say Aura and her friends Jack and Manolin follow separate paths, I assume three separate paths, but apparently Jack and Manolin follow the same path.

Dominique said...

I feel that there has been so much back story left out the the query that there is no context for much of what you say. I felt completely lost for most of it.

_*Rachel*_ said...

You’ve cut out a lot of the background—maybe too much. Try something like: “When environmental terrorists crash the world’s technology, they accidentally trigger worldwide natural disasters and chaos [exterminating three endangered species and countless ecosystems in the process. Oops.].

Aura Keowne, caught between rival New York gangs, picks sides. What she doesn’t know is that the gang she just joined is responsible for her biologist father’s disappearance and plans to use its kidnapped scientists to kick the conflict up a notch.”

After that… uh. The stuff after that isn’t working, but I’m not sure why.

Keep trying; this sounds like something I'd enjoy reading.

Dave F. said...

Anthrax is already virulent but it has to be breathed into the lungs. Aerosolized is the proper term for weaponized anthrax. An amazingly light and fluffy powder that disperses in air. It's like sneezing into face powder or flour but this stuff is smaller and lighter and fluffier.

Now that being said, what the hell kind of weapon is that for a street gang? Or is that part of the Momus/Memex confusion.

Are there two villains? One, a street gang and the other a pharmaceutical company. That would be OK. Are Green Forest and that Religious Faction perhaps the same wolves in different sheep's clothing? IF so, that would make the query easier to read. Eco-terrorists, Green Boom-booms and their religious arm, the Gaia Goons, would be plotting to destroy all technology, including the RAWMESH, the only communication tool left between the (what) war-torn cities (?) crumbling world economies (?) gray, dystopic post-nuclear badlands (?) Drugged and zombified populace (?)...

I am guessing (not good for a query) that RAWMESH is the newest internet virtual reality thing.

This always did sound like a fun story. Good luck.

Matthew said...

Your original post was before my time and I read your new revision before anything else...It left me confused. I didn't understand what was going on until I read the revision posted by Phoenix.

There were too many plot points to keep track of in so few words. Just keep it simple and follow the main characters journey.

It sounds like it has potential.

Hadean Dragon said...

Hmm, even just focusing on the main character was confusing eh? Eep.

The primary "villains" are both their own pasts (immoral military acts, drunk driving murder of a family, etc.) and the world that's falling apart around them -- think Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower minus the hyper-empathy, or possible Cormac McCarthy's The Road -- though, admittedly, not even in the same league as either!

The search for Aura's father is what keeps things tied together, and so I thought it was important to explain that (and why she couldn't find him).

The rest are all bit players in the collapse of society. Memex is one of many gangs that spring up, Momus is the leader of a chaos-craved group (who obviously want to take things all the way), Green Forest are militant environmentalists, and the Protectors of the Lords Will is a government-funded Christian group who've set up "shelters" across the country...

But as before, explaining all of that would be too much (and making 'lists' of things is just plain bad!).

Natural disasters would just bring the big "How?" question (then I'd have to explain how taking down electronics would cause it which only confused everyone in the last query attempt). And really, I don't feel it's important for the novel (the who and why are though).

With literally only a line left before my one page query spills over into a second page, I obviously can't explain things in /more/ detail. But my worry comes, if I simplify it even more (cut Momus and the encryption key), then it just seems like a book about Aura in a gang (which is only about 30% of it).

How I wish I could read McCarthy's and Butler's query letters... *sigh*

(I notice that synopses for The Road and Parable are extremely simplistic with no actual details of any events during their long travels - is that the way I should be going about this? Just say that Aura's looking for her dad during mass chaos and runs into a few spots of trouble?)

Dave F. said...

You are way too close to the story to do this any justice. It's a forest and trees problem. Step back, write a short story about something drastically different.

Writing a query is knowing what not to say about the story.

Let's take your book examples. First Octavia Butler. Wikipedia has a page about it. Their plot synopsis is 99 words long.
I tried reading Cormac McCarthy's "Blood Meridian" and hit a wall. Months later, when I watched "No Country For Old Men" I figured out why I hit a wall (but that's not what we want to talk about). The synopsis takes 124 words.

Right now, if I said to you, your story is about Aura and Jack's personal journey dealing with their past sins while trying to prevent society from crumbling into chaos, you would bring in a whole bunch of anthrax, memex, momus and gang stuff before getting to the RAWMESH.

Do you see how that detail is too much detail?

Now if I said to you, start out from the POV: In the future, civilization is held together by a virtual reality called RAWMESH. Street Gangs fight with corporations for rule of the cities. Then you would tell me about Aura trying to find her father and Jack trying to stop the fanatics.

Again, the details get in the way of the description.

Whatever your query looks like, it has to pick a character or a theme and then present the story from that. You are so close to the story right now that all the details come pouring out.

You have to decide what your novel is about characters or themes and sell one of them in the query. I say that because trying to combine the two hasn't worked. Chances are it won't. Maybe a more limited effort might work better.

There has to be a central theme to this story. McCarthy's was nihilistic existentialism. I suspect your themes are much happier -- forgiveness and redemption. (you're too bright and cheery to write something as bleak as "No Country for Old Men." That's meant as a complement.

As for McCarthy and Butler writing queries, both writer were well established when they wrote the novels you mention. they sent them to their existing agents. I would dare to say that most first novels are not the complex, fantastical works of later novels.

Matthew said...

(I notice that synopses for The Road and Parable are extremely simplistic with no actual details of any events during their long travels - is that the way I should be going about this? Just say that Aura's looking for her dad during mass chaos and runs into a few spots of trouble?)

Exactly. The goal of a good query is to get someone interested in reading the book--That's it. You don't have to explain every twist and turn, just give us enough to make it enticing and logical. Save the details for the synopsis.

I understand the urge to tell everything about your story, but hold back. When I hear,

In a post-apocalyptic world, Aura Keowne is looking for her father...

I'm interested. Take it from there without making it too complicated. Focus on her quest to find her father (even if it's only part of a vast story) and wrap it up with her finally meeting her father but discovering that he is...

That's my opinion. Good luck to you.

Joanna said...

I can't help here, since I haven't figured out how to write decent query letters for my own stories. (Although I do think Momus needs to be explained somehow if he's going to be named.) All I can say is, if I saw this latest revision on the back of a book, I'd pick it up and start reading.

Hadean Dragon said...

Thanks Joanna, that means a lot :)

I'll definitely be taking Matthew's and Dave F's advice, though, when I'm re-editing (never realized how tough a query letter would be!). And Dave's probably right -- maybe it's time to do something different for a little bit and come back to it. Though with another little one on the way, not sure how much free time I'll have left ;-p

Thanks again -- it's such a good feeling to have a website like this!

(Dave, just to note, my story isn't as dark as No Country, but it isn't that happy of a go either -- especially near the end -- but thanks for the compliment!).