Friday, January 14, 2011

Face-Lift 859

Guess the Plot

The Land of Endless Night

1. Frustrated bowler and evil-warlock-in-training, Hackasack, has fumbled a spell on the black light lamps at Bowling Land, causing a town-wide eclipse of the sun. Only a perfect game can break the spell. Can bowling wonder Rory save the town?

2. Fifty years ago, the town of Elklarshire reneged on a deal the citizens made with a warlock to save their children from a plague. Now, the children are about to see light for the very first time. Ironically, the light at the end of the tunnel is a train.

3. In a land where volcanic ash has blocked out the sun, an evil overlord with the ability to turn rabbits into bloodthirsty weredingos attempts to gain dominion over the puny people. Can 16-year-old Dara and her ragtag companions thwart Gurodun before he destroys the vessels containing the essences of their abilities? Or is everyone doomed?

4. Doctor Lye tried to convince humanity that the upcoming solar eclipse was a plot by vampires to blot out the sun. He failed and eternal night engulfed the Earth. Now his son leads the underground resistance in adapting an amusement park attraction into a moon-destroying missile.

5. Everyone except Sunny is excited about moving to the planet Nero, which is devoid of shopping malls and eligible boys, and gets no sunlight. Sunny’s wardrobe, love life and sexy tan are doomed. How can Sunny shine in . . . The Land of Endless Night?

6. That opaque dome over Las Vegas was supposed to boost the economy ten-fold by creating an endless night: more night means more drinking, more gambling, more commercial sex. But some fiend blew up the power supply. Now the oxygen is dwindling, the lights are out, and the survival of Lotty Cha-cha and her dancing chorus depends on groping their way to an exit before they suffocate.

Original Version

Dear Evil One,

Dara is not a typical sixteen-year-old. Sure, she never met a chore she didn’t hate, and seeing a cute boy makes her heart beat faster. But she also spends hours a day learning to use lethal weapons, including some she wields with her mind.

She’ll need that training after a power-hungry overseer [Not bad, but I'm not sure "power-hungry overseer" has enough cachet to capture the minions' hearts like such villains as ruthless vigilante sorcerers and brutal eunuchs once did.] named Gurodun attempts to destroy the Light Gems--vessels containing the essence of the unique abilities of all the people of Dara’s world. With powerful dark gems in his possession, Gurodun feels he no longer needs the paltry gift the Light Gems give him. [Do dark gems contain the essence of the unique abilities of the power-hungry overseers of Dara's world? Because if they aren't pretty similar to Light Gems, maybe they should have a name that's not so similar.] Once the Gems are gone, and everyone’s gifts fade, he’ll be well on his way to attaining dominion over them all. [But will he be happy? Wouldn't it be like having dominion over sheep?] [If the dark gems are so powerful, and the Light Gems provide paltry gifts, why can't Gurodun attain dominion now? More importantly, if the dark gems are more powerful, how come only the Light Gems rate capital letters?] Dara’s grandfather thwarts Gurodun’s plans by using telekinesis to scatter the Gems to the far reaches of their world. The effort takes his life.

Her grandfather’s sacrifice is only a temporary fix, however. It’s only a matter of time before Gurodun hunts down the Gems. Dara sets her grief aside and joins forces with a small group bent on stopping him at all costs.

It may cost them everything given that Gurodun’s newfound talents include a potent knack for controlling others with his speech, the ability to mutate innocuous animals into bloodthirsty predators, and the power to revive a long-extinct race of shape-shifters. [This query seems a bit long, and this is the paragraph it can do without.]

A gifted seer provides clues [It's gifted seer vs. power-hungry overseer in Extreme Sage Fighting.] that lead Dara and her companions to a land covered in dormant volcanoes with more than just rock formations hidden in their shadows. The group must put aside their differences, and attractions, as they struggle across perilous terrain to reach the first Gem before Gurodun gets it--or gets them. [The first Gem? Does Gurodun have to find the Gems in a specific order? Couldn't he be going after any of the scattered Gems?]

THE LAND OF ENDLESS NIGHT is a YA fantasy complete at 76,000 words. It can stand alone, but has series potential.

[Note to EE-- the title comes from the name the land (where the first Gem is found) used to be called in ancient times because ash was constantly blocking the sun there.]


If scattering the Gems to the far reaches of the land is gonna be fatal, grandpa should have just put the whole batch at the bottom of the ocean.

How many Light Gems are there? Five? One for every person?

Why was Dara spending hours a day training with lethal weapons even before the Gurodun threat came along?

How is it that grandpa has access to all of the Light Gems in the first place? I mean, if the essence of my unique abilities were in a gem/vessel, I'd want that gem/vessel in Fort Knox or at least somewhere requiring the power-hungry overseer to perform a cavity search to get it. I wouldn't entrust it to Dara's grandfather. Yet apparently gramps has all of the Gems.

How many people live in this world? I mean, if some evil overlord were trying to gain dominion over humans on Earth, there'd be more than a 16-year-old and her band of companions trying to stop him. Where are the armies?

It would be nice if the query didn't prompt so many questions, or if it answered a few of them.


none said...

Unfortunately, this reads more like the blurb for a computer game than one for a book. Scattered objects, check. Two different factions chasing after them, check. World in peril, check.

Plus, if this book only deals with the first gem, then it's hard to see how satisfying the ending can be. This reads more like there's a series but the author knows you don't query a series.

I think what this query needs is more emphasis on the characters. It threw me that we're told Dara isn't a typical sixteen-year-old and then we find she isn't even on our planet. Being from a Fantasy world makes her pretty much atypical from the start.

Make Dara as real a person in the query as she should be in the novel. Make us care about her quest, about the stakes *for her* and the consequences *for her* and people she cares about. The whole 'dark person takes over world' is so commonplace in fiction that I don't think it arouses much response any more, unless it's personalised with its effects on characters we care about.

Anonymous said...

An evil overseer seeks out powerful gems whilst turning woodland creatures into enemies.

Sounds like Sonic the Hedgehog.

Anonymous said...

So the endless night is already over? Might be a good idea to revise the title to refer to something more contemporary with the story, if that's the case.

Have you actually written this? It sounds like you started with the outline of a generic fantasy epic and still need to make certain elements, like the main characters, unique and special to your story.

Anonymous said...

That weredingo ate my baybee!!!

I couldn't resist. I guess I should read the query now...

Dave Fragments said...

I kinda thought of DRAGONBALL Z when I read this and although that type of plot doesn't bother me like it seems to bother other readers, what I"m looking for is an emotional hook into a main character.

That's where the query loses me. I'll read "computer game" plots if I like the characters or if the story has unique characters in it.

Anonymous said...

“She’ll need that training after a power-hungry overseer named Gurodun attempts to destroy the Light Gems--vessels containing the essence of the unique abilities of all the people of Dara’s world.”

-- 31 word sentence is wayyy too long. Your first clue should be having to use “the” 4 times and 3 “of”s.

“Once the Gems are gone, and everyone’s gifts fade, he’ll be well on his way to attaining dominion over them all.”

-- with a name like “power-hungry overseer and all? the gems in his possession, I’d think he was already well on his way….(just realized EE said this in different words)

“The group must put aside their differences, and attractions, as they struggle across perilous terrain to…”

-- this threw up a BIG red flag for me. You’ve not told us much about Dorothy, Toto, and their band…but now throw this in there. It’s a classic case of “telling vs showing” and makes me wonder how much of the book is written that way. Good query writing would embed these conflicts (and attraction can be a conflict) into the synopsis rather than tack it on at the end.

Overall it seems like it could be a cool story, but the query is too long, too wordy, and still leaves far too many questions. What I don’t get is why gramps would scatter the gems only to have the good guys have to then go and find them. It sounds like that game teen warlocks play on their little siblings: “Ever play 52-gem pickup?”

EE said...

Yes, it seems that if Dara gets to the gem before Gurodun, all will be well. So why didn't Gramps just give the gem to Dara in the first place?

Orlando said...

If Dara and her group of friends can stop the power-hungry overseer from finding the Gems, why not keep the Gems, instead of scattering them, and stop him from getting them?

All the pieces of your story need to fit. You can't randomly place situations that do not fit and cause readers, or agents, to question.

The other question from the EE as to why the 16 year old instead of the planets armies is another question you need to answer. If the power-hungry overseer brings darkness to one city, and needs the Gems to do the same to the rest of the… whatever, of this world you've created, and Dara needs to stop him to bring light back, but the people of the other places in the planet fear him and refuse to help, that might work. Might… work.

You may not want to use this considering it's weak, but you may want to edit your story to make the pieces fit.

Anonymous said...

I keep hiccuping at "Gurodun." I go over several possible pronunciations in my mind every time I see it. Goo-roh-DOON? Goo-roh-DUN? GOO-ruh-dun?

Also, the Light Gems are actually vessels, right? They're glorified jelly jars containing essences. What if they broke and the essences spilled? Would that be so bad?

Also, why is Dara even a principal in this fight? Everyone on her planet has unique abilities, right? Isn't there an army? An elite defense force? Why is the opposition to this aspiring totalitarian/lobotomist Gurodun a "small group"? You'd think the whole planet would be in revolt.

Finally, I think this story suffers from kitchen-sink syndrome. Telekinesis, a different planet, good magic gems, bad magic gems, magical behavior control through speech, animal transformation, shape-shifters, seers, and something mysterious hidden in the shadows of dormant volcanoes. (Wouldn't the craters of the dormant volcanoes do?) I'd lose the shape-shifters or seers at least. Let some actual human abilities have a chance to contend.

Sarah from Hawthorne said...


It could just be because I watched too many tv as a child, but the whole "find the magic gems" quest trope to me immediately says late eighties/early nineties Saturday morning cartoon (i.e. Pirates of Dark Water, Sailor Moon, My Little Pony, He-Man, etc.).

If I were you I'd focus less on the world mechanics and more on these mysterious "differences and attractions" you mention in passing. Like Dave said, it's the characters that make you want to read on.

Anonymous said...

Hi Everyone,

Author here. I want to thank all of you for your helpful comments. If I didn't want to hear the (sometimes harsh) truth, I wouldn't have posted here for your ridiculing pleasure.

Holy hell! This is what happens when you try to boil a complex plot, deep (IMHO) characters, and intricately woven subplots down to the "essential elements". It ends up sounding like Every Epic Fantasy Ever Written. (And every fantasy computer game too, apparently). There really are cool, unique elements to my world. Obviously, I am having difficulty fitting them into the “standard query format” of introduce the MC, what does MC want, what’s stopping MC, what’s MC going to do about it.

Before I address any other comments/questions I need to ask EE something. What are your thoughts on changing "power-hungry overseer" to "sadistic douchebag"?

I guess I also need to point out that "light gems" is not the real name of these objects in my MS. I changed it before posting, because I'm weird like that. The real name is something that is more unique. Sorry that my stupid fakey name caused questions to arise that otherwise wouldn't have.

The other thing that seems to have caused confusion is the title. As I said in my note to EE, this is one name for the land Dara and Co. travel to in search of the first "gem". (It has a "real" name too, it would just be a weird title). So it's not as if the whole world is shrouded in darkness or anything. I can see how my choice of "light gems" has made some of you think that is the case. My bad.

Answering all of everyone's questions would require explanations that could make this/these the longest comment(s) of all time. All I can say is a trite, "It all makes perfect sense in my MS." I am a meticulous planner. I don't move ahead with an idea unless I have a 100 percent plausible explanation for anything and everything that happens. I have the 10+ notebooks full of world-building, down to the genealogy of specific characters, to prove it. ;)

Clearly, this query does not show that and I thank you all for pointing out the myriad issues. Prior to this, everyone who has critiqued my query has also read my manuscript. For some weird reason, they didn’t have nearly as many questions as all of you.

I have written MANY versions of this query, some in which your questions were addressed, some in which they did not arise.

I think the best approach may be for me to go over each paragraph and explain what the hell I was thinking when I wrote them. This may clarify ways that you can help me as well as answer a few questions.

Para 1- Introducing Dara, trying to show that she is kick-ass, but there is more to her than that. She's a normal teenager in other ways (training at this level really isn't the norm in her world. The inhabitants are generally peaceful, though they have weapons, etc. as a precaution due to things that happened in the distant past). Because of her grandpa's position as her people's overseer and her father being next in line for that she is atypical in that regard. She trains because she likes to, it gives her something to do, and excelling with weapons is the one thing that makes her father take notice of her.

I have written this "hook" a million different ways and can't seem to get it right. Help!

Anonymous said...

Author continued...

Paragraph 2- Intro to Bad Dude. This is the condensed version that might clarify some of the stuff here:

This world has 6 distinct groups of people who inhabit six different lands (there are many uninhabited lands as well.) Each group has a "gem" therefore six different gifts. They are typical fantasy type gifts- telekinesis, power over the elements, etc- but as they say "there's nothing new under the sun". It's all in how it's executed. The "gems" are all together as part of a scepter that is kept in a chamber to which only the 6 overseers of the various peoples have access . Gurodun is one of these, so is Gramps, hence them both having access to it. Gurodun comes into possession of dark "gems" (Long story, fully and plausibly explained in MS) thinks he's mastered the power they give him well enough that he's ready to destroy "light gems". Gurodun sneaks into the chamber when he thinks everyone else is preoccupied by a celebration that is taking place. Gramps is suspicious, though, and follows him. Struggle ensues. Gramps manages to wrest scepter away but he’s old, Gurodun is young (murdered his Pops to get overseer position) and all Gramps can do to get the “gems” beyond Gurodun’s reach is scatter them using telekinesis. The problem is, with the scepter in hand his gift was a bazillion (yes, a BAZILLION) times stronger than normal and the “gems” went farther than expected. It all happened in a split second, Gramps didn’t have time to think about directing them to some specific place such as the bottom of the ocean. Using their gifts always comes with a price. The greater the task, the greater the toll it takes on them. This task was so great that, coupled with the force of all the “gems” being torn from the scepter, it killed Gramps.

What follows this is too long/difficult to explain in depth. Long story short, the “gems” being torn from the scepter causes a worldwide calamity. Earthquakes, whole villages being swallowed by the ocean etc. Widespread panic ensues as this is all reminiscent of horrible past events.

Anonymous said...

Still going...

The remaining overseers are the only government (minus Gurodun, of course- there’s a good explanation as to how the others know what he’s done). The populace of this world is relatively small and peaceful, there are no standing armies (hard for us to imagine, I know.) And only a select group know the truth about the “gems” being scattered, Gurodun’s treachery, etc. They also don’t know who they can trust and don’t want to create further panic. They’re handling the sitch on a need to know basis. If/when it becomes a necessity they’ll let the general populace in on the whole thing. As it is everyone is being cautious because of the aforementioned past events. The main objective of those in the know is to recover the gems/stop Gurodun from getting them, preferably by killing him.

Why Dara when she’s only sixteen? In her world, a sixteen-year-old is considered an adult. Also, the adults--as we would consider them--who are involved are all “known” by Gurodun, but Dara and those who end up going with her aren’t. The “adults” are keeping G and his minions occupado while Dara and co. follow the clues (How these clues come to be, the whole seer thing is another way-too-complex element to explain here. Yet again, you’ll have to take my word for it that it all makes sense.) and recover the “gems”. In relation to this, Gurodun doesn’t know where the “gems” are. The dark “gems” he has give him powers, but as I said, he has only mastered some of them. Dara and Co. have no idea when he will master the power to locate the gems, however, so time is of the essence. Arhooley asked if there is some kind of elite defense force in this world. Well, Dara would be considered elite among her people, she is exceptional in her use of their weaponry, her level of intelligence, her lineage etc. That, among other things, is why she’s included in this group.

Was that enough of a “short” explanation for you- lol. Believe me, it could have been longer.

Anonymous said...

Holy crap, still the author.

Para 3- I guess this is okay, though some of you may want to tell me otherwise. I don’t know if I need to emphasize Dara’s grief to a greater degree. She loves her grandfather more than anyone and his death is devastating. When she finds out Gurodun was responsible she’s pissed as hell and wants revenge. (I had a version of the query that highlighted this and a couple of people told me it made Dara sound like a psychotic misfit…so I decided not to play up that element.)

Para 4- Thrown in totally because I was trying to show how G was different from all other Bad Dudes. It didn’t work. It shall be duly deleted.

Para 5- LMAO about Extreme Sage Fighting. Here’s where things got tricky. Buffy hit the nail on the head with the series thing. This is a planned series. Na├»ve little old me got an idea that could no way, no how be written in just one book. Somehow, maybe because I have read and enjoyed many a series, I did not see how this would be a problem. Don’t get me wrong, this first book can absolutely stand alone in the sense that it has it’s own build-up, climax, and satisfying resolution. I don’t leave readers hanging mid-sentence with, “You want to know how this ends? Buy the next book, Suckas!” The storyline of this book is wrapped up completely, but there are lingering questions (relating to the characters) and , I hope, enough emotional investment in my characters and their situation that people will want to read more about them. My beta-readers have all hounded me about when I’m going to write the next manuscript, for what that’s worth. I have the entire series outlined (again with the meticulous planning) from beginning to end, but am currently working on a completely different project until I see what happens with this MS.

The series element has caused query problems. At one point I had it written in an open-ended way that didn’t specify a search for the first “gem”. I decided that an agent might view this as duplicitous, so I felt I had to make it clear that this just covers the first search. I know what you’re thinking. Six gems…six books? This person is delusional! It would be possible for me to combine subsequent searches into the same book as necessary. (A good bit of this MS is world-building). Of course, the ideal would be for my first book to be wildly successful and for this to be a non-issue. Alas, though my MS is set in a different world, I live in reality, so I know the odds of this happening are not good.

So…I’m thinking I stick with the search for the first one and the whole stand alone with series potential thing, Thoughts?

Anonymous said...

Just one more, I promise.
There are a few other things someone might be able to help me with. My MS is high fantasy, but doesn’t have a formal, stilted, high fantasy voice. I am very sarcastic by nature (which is why I loves me some EE) and thus, Dara is as well. (She is a lot like me, I didn’t do it on purpose, but, hey, it happens.) The voice of my manuscript reflects a more standard YA sarcastic teenager tone. Not that Dara says things like, “OMG! Gurodun is, like, such a tool!” or anything so ridiculous. Still, it’s hard to write the query in a teenage-y voice without making the serious aspects sound flippant. I need help with that.

The other thing is that my characters and their relationships, romantic and otherwise, are a HUGE part of my MS. In fact, Dara has three possible love interests (one that has more potential than the others, for the time being). I just can’t figure out how to work that into the query in an organic way. “Dara is in mortal peril. Will she make out with XX or possibly XX before Gurodun wastes her?”. Somehow, that just doesn’t work. But I know romance is a big sell in the YA market- and love triangles (or squares, in my case) are all the rage so I think it needs to be in there somewhere. I agree just throwing this out there at the end is stupid. BTW this isn’t an idiotic “I am super in love with you, but I want to make you jealous so I will act like I’m super in love with him, or maybe him,” thing. There are good and bad points to each of these guys and Dara isn’t sure who she wants to be with, if any of them. The other thing I want to make clear here and in the query is Dara DOES NOT need a boyfriend to make it through life, nor does she need one to save her. Rather than cower behind some guy she’d tell him to get his ass out of the way so she can get on with killing things. (Pardon my tirade, I just hate the slew of YA books out there with shallow, ineffectual female characters.)

I clearly need help. Maybe I should just thrown in a couple of strange, angelic men and I’ll be good.

Sorry if this rambled or is way TMI. I had so many thoughts rolling around in my head after reading the comments (as well as numerous expletives) I didn’t know where to start.

P.S. DAMN YOU Anon @ 10:32! You guessed my biggest bombshell. Dara is a hedgehog

Matt said...

After J.R.R Tolkien wrote The Hobbit he wrote the Silmarillion -- his publisher rejected it.

The Silmarillion was an entire novel of backstory and world building. Some like it, but if it had been released before Lord of the Rings, no one would have cared.

If most of your first novel is world building, that's a fatal problem. Think about the Hobbit: How much world building did it have? Only as much as was relevant to the plot. We didn't learn the Ring's history, Golem's backstory, etc.

So cut back on the world building in the query and in the book. Allow your readers to use their imaginations.

Anonymous said...

Author again.

The majority of the book is NOT world-building. I just meant that subsequent books would not require as much world-building as this one, therefore those pages could be taken up with other things. Unlike Tolkien, (who I admire greatly, BTW) I don't spend pages describing the scenerey in every direction.

Intro to characters, the various peoples, and "how the world works" does require some space in a fantasy MS. And all that is woven throughout the story, not given in an info-dump.

Also, the vast majority of the world-building I have written in my notebooks was for my benefit and is not in the actual MS.

I am a person who cannot write about something unless I know EVERYTHING. That's just how I roll.

I am perfectly capable of determining how much the reader needs to know and leaving the rest out. If I weren't my MS would be more like 130,000 words instead of 76,000.

Thank you for reading all of my comments, though.

Dave Fragments said...

Wow, I guess that you discovered (like I did) that BLOGGER hates long messages.

The reason people fear a six part story like this is that parts 2 thru 5 are repetitive and part 6 becomes the hero/villain thrashing about with five stones just to get the sixth and defeat the villain.

Lots of high fantasy stories run into this problem.
FULL METAL ALCHEMIST did because the Elric Brothers kept searching for the stone that should not be created by sane men. It's not the philosopher's stone that matters. It's the Elric Brothers and some lesser characters that matter.
THE LAST AIRBENDER (animated) went tediously into air, water, earth and fire bending before the final confrontation. It's not the elemental bending we care about, it's Aang, Katara, Sokka and Zuko we watch...
I've been talking to some friends about BABYLON 5 as writing and in that series, each of the major and many of the minor characters grows or matures or changes significantly during the story arc from year 1 through 5.
And there is my point.

What the reader sees in each of those is the what happens to the characters -- how they adapt, how they mature, how they change their attitudes. After all the author has said, I still don't know much about Dara or her companions or her enemy Gurodun. Whatever the length of the story or the number of novels, it is Dara who will hold them together.

Focus on her.

Phoenix Sullivan said...

Author, sounds like you know the three basic issues with the query and the story but you're hoping that 300 words will gloss over them.

1) Standard plot - Yes, execution is all. That means voice, rich world, and great characters are needed to overcome a standard quest plot with no surprises. It also means maybe figuring out if you do have a surprise in there after all and putting that surprise forefront in your query. Failing that, I'm not seeing much in your query or your comments to assure me this is a rich world with great characters. So voice may be the thing you need to cultivate here.

2) Kitchen sink - Every story should be rich and complex. But look, it's only 76,000 words. If you're determined to put every trope into the book -- from a quest journey to a 4-way love affair to dealing with death and revenge to six races each with their own unique magical ability to shapeshifters and end-of-the-world cataclysm -- then the reason the query may be so difficult is that, no matter how well planned, the book is overstuffed. To the point of straining credulity.

3) Ending the First - Our astute Buffy will not be the only one who notices that even if the kids are successful in fending off the bad guy and recovering the first gem, there are 5 others out there and the world ain't safe till they're all recovered. You may try to rationalize that as being "stand-alone" but I doubt smoke and mirrors will fool too many agents. That said, series are hot and someone may take a chance on selling it as such. But my bet is that you're vastly limiting the number of folk who might be willing to read pages to begin with. And even if you fudge that bit in the query, anyone who reads to the end (or reads a synopsis) will quickly realize what a tough sell it will be.

Anyway, for what it's worth, I offer up a rewrite (next comment).

Marissa Doyle said...

Whatever the length of the story or the number of novels, it is Dara who will hold them together.

Focus on her.

This. What Dave said. You don't have to do more than hint at the Gems, etc. in the query letter...but you need to make your MC come alive and make the agent or editor reading you letter want to know what happens to her.

Phoenix Sullivan said...

In the eyes of Magiclandian law, 16-year-old Dara, heir to the office of overseer, is already considered an adult. That's not stopping her from shirking chores or flirting in class, though -- even if being distracted by a cute boy while wielding lethal weapons with her mind might be a bit risky.

The training is just for fun. Magicland is a peaceful world with a handful of overseers to keep it that way. Until one of the overseers, Gurodun, betrays them all and tries to destroy the vessels that hold the essences of each race's magical abilities. Dara's grandfather unexpectedly happens upon Gurodun and, in the moment before he dies, uses his gift of telekinesis to scatter the vessels to the far reaches of the world before Gurodun can annihilate them forever.

It falls to the overseers to deal with Gurodon and to their heirs to track the vessels down and reunite them before the magic fades and the harmony that holds the very world together tears it apart. Setting her grief aside, Dara joins the other heirs on a perilous trek to recover the first of the vessels. But wakening volcanoes and wakening hormones among the six teens are just the beginnings of their troubles. For Gurodun has also uncovered powerful dark magic to counter the gifts bestowed by those vessels. Magic that helps him slip the grasp of the overseers and locate Dara and her companions. Against such dark power, Dara's instinct, training and innate ability may well not be enough.

THE LAND OF ENDLESS NIGHT is a YA fantasy with romantic elements, complete at 76,000 words. It can stand alone, but has series potential.

Anonymous said...


I think part of the trouble is that you're trying to be too accurate. When you're condensing your story into such a small number of words, you generally have to sacrifice some accuracy to avoid sounding over-complicated or confusing. E.g., obviously there isn't room in the query to explain why Dara's grandfather scattered the "gems", so you'd be better off simply saying he died trying to stop Gurodun. For all the reader knows, the gems were already scattered, so you don't need an explanation for why Dara needs to travel to find them.

It might feel wrong, because you know you're leaving things out... But that's how a successful query works--by leaving everything out except the core of the story.

Also, people are saying you need more sense of Dara's character, and cutting down the plot details will give you room to do this. It's interesting that Dara trained in weapons to try to get her father's attention. It'd be interesting to know what *internally* makes her quest to get the "gems" difficult. Yes, there are obstacles in the enemy and the landscape, but if you look at the blurbs for other YA fantasy novels, you'll see they focus on what's happening personally and emotionally for the characters more than the grand external conflict (though clearly the two are related). See the book descriptions for GRACELING, MISTWOOD, and BRIGHTLY WOVEN for examples, all recent YA high fantasy, all well received.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Author here. Thanks to Dave, Phoenix, Marissa, and Anon@9:21 for reading my comments and posting your thoughts. They are helpful and much appreciated.

I can "defend" my MS- that the characters are the main focus, cultures well-developed, it is not overstuffed, etc.- until the cows come home. It won't mean a damn thing if my query doesn't reflect that. I get it. ;)

I already said in a previous comment that I *know* I am having a problem with voice in my query. It's exasperating that I can write a whole MS in that voice but lose it when it's query-writing time. I think Anon9:21 is spot-on that I'm trying to be too specific. I am too close to this, and I am a perfectionist by nature which doesn't help, either.

Between this site and many others on the web I have probably looked at thousands of queries/crits over the past few years. I think I'm getting too caught up in the "rules" of the whole thing and that coupled with perfectionism has caused me to write and rewrite this with nary a rejection under my belt.

Rest assured, the message to focus on Dara has been received. :)

Special thanks to Phoenix for the query rewrite. I like it. Some of the details are off a bit, of course, but you only had what I've told you to work with. I will be using this as a base for my own rewrite. You rock!

Regarding the series issue- please know that what follows is sincere and no snark is intended.

Look at the Harry Potter series. I am NOT comparing myself to the great JKR in any way. This is just the example I can think of at the moment.

In HP and the SS, Harry's task is to keep Voldy from getting the Sorceror's Stone. Mission accomplished, however, Voldy has not been vanquished and the threat he poses still exists.

In my MS, Dara and Co's allotted task, for *this* book, is to recover the first gem. Mission accomplished, however, Gurodun has not been vanquished and the threat he poses still exists. But the characters are one step closer to making that happen.

Maybe I'm daft, but I don't see the difference. And people consider the first HP book a stand alone, no? I would think that as long as characters accomplish what they set out to do in that particular book, it can stand alone.

I am open-minded about this, though. If the consensus is that there is no way any sane person would consider this a stand alone book, I can accept that.

Thanks for bearing with me.

Evil Editor said...

In the time it takes Dara to hunt down the first three stones, what's keeping Gurodun from hunting down the other three, and thus destroying the gifts of half the people in the world?

none said...

Heck, I don't remember the first HP book all that well, but I think that by the end of it the immediate threat had been dealt with. I can't see that being the case here, as each of the gems is an immediate threat in itself. Gordy won't have to fall back and think up some other Evil Plan; he'll just need to go on to the next gem.

Further, Rowling sold her book in Britain, where queries aren't used, so the analogy really isn't relevant.

Phoenix Sullivan said...

We really don't know what finding Gem 1 accomplishes - neither from your query or your comments. Can a Gem on its own do anything, or does the full complement have to be reassembled into the sceptre?

By setting up a specific number of goals that must be accomplished for the story arc, you've pretty much doomed book one from being standalone.

Take the 12 labors of Hercules. In the beginning, the labors weren't connected except that Herc did them. That made each of them a standalone. No problem. Herc was making the world a better place through a series of standalone adventures.

But then someone thought it would be cool to tie the labors together through a narrative arc and adding extra volumes by having two labors "not count". Ah, so now we have Herc performing the labors as penance for killing his kids. He wouldn't be atoned nor would he come to embody the pathos ideal unless he completed all ten labors. Book 1 would have him being driven mad by Hera, doing in his family, learning he'd have to perform 10 labors, and then completing one of them. Is that standalone? Is it enough to know he's only 10% on his way to atonement if you decide to drop the series after that first book?

In the first Star Wars movie, the battle is won even if the war isn't. The characters set out to accomplish the destruction of the Death Star. But if they had set themselves up to win the entire war, that first movie wouldn't have been standalone.

See the difference?

Phoenix Sullivan said...

, Rowling sold her book in Britain, where queries aren't used

Buffy, I might amend that to aren't traditionally used (and yes, undoubtedly JKR didn't use one to sell HP). But I've submitted US-style queries to UK agents and wound up with requests for fulls. I've even seen a few UK agents specifically asking for US-style queries. So times they are a-changin'...

none said...

Thanks Phoenix :). I knew all these visits here would pay off eventually! lol

Phoenix Sullivan said...

Now if we could just teach you Brits the proper use of the letter "z". It's on the keyboard for a reason, you know.

Dave Fragments said...

I really think you are being too defensive.

I also think that you are too close to your novel and I think that you are anxious, eager and really, really, really, really want to get a query out to any publisher.

We all go through those feelings.

Listen to Phoenix. She gives excellent advice.

A query is a letter that sells a novel to an agent or editor. It's nothing more than a letter.

The Rowling example is excellent. HP and the Sorceror's Stone (or Philosopher's Stone) was sold as a single book. JKR has told the story. She had a chapter of the final book written at that time but told no one in publishing about it until the first book was sold and published. At that time, no one knew or even suspected that the invisibility cloak was part of the Deathly Hallows. No one knew or suspected that Dumbledore's wand was anything more than a wand.

Philosopher's Stone sold as a standalone and reads like standalone. I think that your first book better do the same. At the end the reader should stand victorious with Dara and feel success of obtaining the first stone.

Now back to the query... Do yourself a favor. Set the query and the novel aside for a few days and write EE"s writing exercise three times. Research EA Poe's style and write three tiny 300 word stories. focus only on that. Clear your story and the query out of your mind and then come back to it on Thursday.

I also think you are standing so deep in the jungle, you can't see the rainforest for the mossy details.

Anonymous said...

At 11, Harry Potter didn't know he had to defeat Voldemort. He didn't know how to defeat Voldemort, he didn't know that only he could do it. He only thought he had to stop Snape from getting the Philosopher's Stone because no grown-up would listen to him.

Your book doesn't sound like a standalone because Dara knows darn well she needs all six [gems] and only finds one of them. It would be a standalone if she didn't even know there was more than one.

I agree with everyone else that more on Dara would help very much. Perhaps don't try and hook the agent on the story of trying to collect six [gems], but on Dara's story of trying to find a [gem] to please her dad.

Joe G said...

Wasn't Harry Potter bought by an American publishing agency first?

I totally disagree about Full Metal Alchemist, Dave. The true nature of the philosopher's stone is uncovered pretty early on in the story and from there it goes in a totally different direction. There are enough subplots to keep things interesting as well. Those characters are so strong I would read about them drinking lemonade. I think it's one of the best written recent fantasies out there.

Author, it sounds like you've created a well thought out story, but you have a fundamental problem of construction here that has been pointed out to you many times. When you have a quest story, the reader knows that one way or another, the story isn't over until said quest is won or lost. The quest in question is a search for six items before someone else can get them, which is, you realize, the plot of hundreds of video games.

Therefore, you've set a formula on your novel from which it's apparent you do not plan to deviate (which may suit your evidently highly meticulous nature). I make the immediate assumption that at first, the series will deal formulaically with a search for the light jewels. I am hoping there are plot twists along the way.

Compare to Harry Potter, where every single book has a different story, even if there is an overall formula (Harry goes to a magic school and Harry has to defeat Voldemort). Or The Wheel of Time. Rand Vs. Shaitan is the plot, but boy, does a lot happen in between (and happen, and happen...)

Actually, the Wheel of Time is a good example because the first book is inventive and lively, but in the proceeding books the hero is completely subjugated by the prophecy put on his head. His dilemma is very interesting though because he may go mad unless he can find a way around his curse/prophesied destiny. Perhaps similar to Lord of the Rings, but what isn't? Ultimately, I don't find WoT formulaic.

Rowling solved that problem by hiding the prophecy for five books, then constantly evolving the prophecy on Harry's head, and then rendering it irrelevant, placing the outcome of the story entirely in Harry's hands.

Anyway, you may have dozens of notebooks filled with details and world building but your essential conflict isn't compelling. You should be careful about being truly inventive and not simply lifting details from other stories and twisting them a little to the left. Your heroine sounds castrated by the task given to her. I don't know if the book is like this, although it sounds kind of short to get all of that plot in while still letting it breathe with life.

So take Dave and Phoenix's excellent advice. I would say it might be wise to unveil the gems plot slowly because giving it away up front kind of drains the life out of the rest of the query. Or at least imply that there is more to the book than such a standard plot. And please, please, don't make it sound like you're intending to write a series where every book details the search for but one jewel. It sounds tedious.

Of course, I could be completely wrong. You're essentially rewriting Inu Yasha here, and look at how popular that was!