Monday, November 25, 2013

Face-Lift 1171


Guess the Plot

The Price of Creation

1. Strapped for cash, God comes up with a way to make a fast buck: let people design plants and animals--for a hefty fee. But when the were-T-Rex gets loose, God wonders if He's made His first mistake.

2. He was born in a small village, son of a simple blacksmith. But he's the one who will end centuries of war. Yes it's that story, but completely different because someone pays a price for creating something.

3. Lana gives birth to the world's first talking baby. When the infant describes what life before life is like, he skyrockets to fame as Earth's favorite guru. And when he starts growing horns, Lana realizes his father, a one night stand who claimed to be Satan, wasn't lying.

4. Peek behind the curtains when things go wrong at the God Store, where the deities purchase the tools of their trade, from miracles to something from nothing.

5. When Captain Peril left the Mars Spaceport he didn’t count on finding a stowaway in the form of Dr. Susannah Sagan. Or on being shot at by Icarians, a race of mercenary insectoids. Dr. Sue’s engineered a terra-bomb, and there’s a price on her head big enough for Peril to buy a planetoid of his own and retire. But when he discovers the Icarians want the bomb to terraform Earth for themselves, Peril has to decide if seeing Earth overrun by giant cockroaches makes the price of creation a little too high.

6. Billionaire playboy Rip McCord has never been into the 'Dom scene' and longs for one chaste woman with whom to start a family. If giving up his Friday nights to work at a soup kitchen will help him find the future Mrs. McCord, then that's . . . the Price of Creation.


Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Life's greatest lessons cannot be understood through words alone. [Extremely vague, and as no specific example is ever given, not worth saying.] The Price of Creation, a young adult fantasy novel, follows a young man as he discovers these lessons while struggling with his own dark destiny.

The nameless Historian chances upon Surac, a village where people's talents are defined and enhanced by powerful Stones. When the blacksmith's son is born with a Stone [Whattaya mean, "born with a Stone"? Literally? Or is it like being born under a bad sign?] that marks him for violence and destruction, they find themselves hunted by friend and foe alike. When the boy is finally banished, [If I want to banish someone from my village and I can't even find him without organizing a massive manhunt, I'm thinking, until proven wrong, that he's already long gone and my problem is solved.] however, he discovers secrets far darker than the villagers' petty prejudices. Can a young man who is crafted only for violence end centuries of war? [He can, but it would take some some pretty big stones.]

The Price of Creation is the first book in a series, called the Historian’s Tales. Each book is a stand-alone story, narrated by the Historian, an unwilling immortal without a name or a past who wanders through worlds and times to witness great stories. In each book, the reader gets small glimpses of what it means to be a Historian as he shares in the lives and struggles of those he observes. [How can he not have a past if he shares in the lives of those he observes? Aren't all of his "adventures" part of his past?]

The author is an eccentric marketer who read way too many Louis L'Amour books as a kid. This left him with an enduring faith in the power of books to shape the way kids see the world. He writes under the pen name Lance Conrad. [Wait, who are you? The author's agent?] [Lance Conrad was the name I was given by the Porn Star Name Generator.] This book would be aimed at the young adult/middle grade market and is complete and polished at 64,000 words. I am grateful for your time in reading this query, I hope to hear from you soon.


Notes

There's not enough here about the story. Who's been at war for centuries? What are these great life lessons the kid learns? Are the stones accurate in predicting people's proclivities, or is it all superstition? What are the dark secrets he discovers? What's his name? Was he a baby when banished?

It seems the main plot is what happens after the banishment, and there's nothing here about where he ends up or what he does there.

This Historian wanders here and then until he chances upon a great story. But what he chances upon in this case is a village where they want to banish the blacksmith's kid. I assume this isn't a "great story" until years after the kid is banished, but how did the Historian know the banishment would lead to a great story years later? Why didn't he think, There's nothing of interest in this dump, guess I'll go somewhere cool instead of hanging around in case the kid turned out to be a rock star? If he knows the kid is a future superstar, it seems there's more involved than wandering and chancing upon. It seems he's targeting the stories he observes. Which reminds me of the historian from the future in Star Trek, the Next Generation, season 5, episode 9. He would travel back in time to observe historical events, one of which was about to take place on the Enterprise. You can watch the whole episode here. Or you can watch this 5-minute excerpt on YouTube. Or you can just move on.

Focus the query on this book. Who's the main character, what does he want, what's standing in his way, what happens if he doesn't get it, what's his plan? We need to know what happens.



13 comments:

SB said...

Aside from the query itself, I see a fundamental problem with the idea for this series. It sounds like the Historian is not an active character in the story, just a narrator who happens to be around. I would say that in kids' books especially, if there's a single character who ties a series of otherwise unconnected books together, that character had better be central to all of the stories. He's the one the reader is going to want to connect with and root for, so he's the one whose stories we should be seeing. If the reader gets invested in this first story, if this blacksmith's son is the main character, if he's the one the reader gets attached to, then no one's likely to care when the next book comes out and the only familiar character is some nameless narrator who, oh yeah, was also there.

That's my take on it, anyway.

150 said...

This book has been previously self-published. You cannot exclude your book's publication history in the query letter.

Anonymous said...

The query starts out as YA and ends up as YA/MG. These are very different audiences, and there is no YA/MG market. If you're not sure which you're aiming for, you haven't finished revising yet.

Author said...

Ok, I am including my updated query for The Price of Creation, not to take any more of your time, but just to show you that your input was listened to and appreciated. I still don't know if I included enough about the story, but I'm a bit uncertain how much to include in a query, which I understand to be more of a quick teaser to see if they're interested. Anyway, here is the updated query, and thank you so much for your time.

Dear Evil Editor,
Sometimes, we are faced with hard decisions simply because there is no one else to make them. In the young adult fantasy novel, The Price of Creation, a young man must make decisions that influence his whole race as he struggles with his own dark destiny.
The nameless Historian chances upon Surac, a land where people's destinies are defined by powerful pendants they have from birth, called Stones. Those whose Stones give them useful skills call themselves Creators, and isolate themselves from all others with a wall that splits the entire continent. When Aric, a Creator blacksmith, has a son born with a Stone that marks him for violence and destruction, they find themselves in danger from those they called their friends.
When the boy, Sadavir, is ultimately banished, he discovers secrets far darker than the villagers' petty prejudices. On the far side of the wall, he learns the origin of the Stones' magic and a war that dates back centuries. As he uncovers the true power locked in the Stones, he must find a way to unite ancient enemies in order to save his family. To stop a genocide, Sadavir must face his own destiny of violence.
The Price of Creation is the first book in a series, called the Historian’s Tales. Each book is a stand-alone story, narrated by the Historian, an unwilling immortal who wanders through worlds and times to witness great stories, guided by a force he cannot understand or control. In each book, the reader gets small glimpses of what it means to be a Historian as he shares in the lives and struggles of those he observes.
As for the author, I am an eccentric marketer who read entirely too many books as a kid. This left me with an enduring faith in the power of books to shape the way kids see the world. I write under the pen name Lance Conrad. This book would be aimed at the young adult/middle grade market and is complete and polished at 64,000 words. I am grateful for your time in reading this query, I hope to hear from you soon.

Anonymous said...

You seem to have ignored most of the comments, despite appreciating them.

Down Girl said...

It's all a bit ponderous. "Life's greatest lessons cannot be understood through words alone." Got it, book-learning is no substitute for experience. But I hope your reason for hitting the keyboard was to tell a swell story and not to make this point.

Our hero "discovers these lessons." Is that more important in summarizing your story than giving us a glimpse of what he actually goes through? His deeds in battle and his excellent adventures?

"Can a young man who is crafted only for violence end centuries of war?" That's not a question I much concern myself with. However, if I got into our hero I would be interested in watching him overcome the limitations of his character to achieve a goal he was actually born to thwart.

IN OTHER WORDS, please make this more about your story and less about your intellectual preoccupations. I'm sure they're worthy and they elevate your story, but I'll never encounter them if I'm not drawn in by your intriguing characters and ingenious plot.

150 said...

I have removed the unimportant stuff from your query.

[In] Surac, people's destinies are defined by powerful pendants they have from birth, called Stones. Those whose Stones give them useful skills call themselves Creators, and isolate themselves from all others with a wall that splits the entire continent. When Aric, a Creator blacksmith, has a son born with a Stone that marks him for violence and destruction, they find themselves in danger from those they called their friends.

When the boy, Sadavir, is ultimately banished, he discovers secrets far darker than the villagers' petty prejudices. On the far side of the wall, he learns the origin of the Stones' magic and a war that dates back centuries. As he uncovers the true power locked in the Stones, he must find a way to unite ancient enemies in order to save his family. To stop a genocide, Sadavir must face his own destiny of violence.

This young adult/middle grade [PICK ONE] is complete at 64,000 words. [This book was self-published and is currently not available for sale.] I am grateful for your time.


Now you gotta replace the fantasy-novel boilerplate with something that sounds interesting, but it's a start.

AA said...

"I'm a bit uncertain how much to include in a query, which I understand to be more of a quick teaser to see if they're interested."

Yeah, it kind of is. What you need in a query is a main character and very important supporting characters, but not too many. We need to know why the MC is important. You've shown that in your revised query. We also need to know what important choice your character has to make. That's the drama in the story.

You put "...he must find a way to unite ancient enemies in order to save his family. To stop a genocide, Sadavir must face his own destiny of violence."

This is vague. You don't really explain exactly why he must stop the war or how this will save his family. You don't have to tell the secret of the stones, but you need to explain a little more about why it falls one "young man" (how old is he?) to stop a war by himself, and what specifically happens if he doesn't succeed.

You should also explain HOW he can do this. It seems impossible to me for one teen to stop a war, so it's hard to get excited about it.

CavalierdeNuit said...

Haha the God Store.

I want to know more about this Historian. Why is he immortal? Why does he care about watching people? Is he just a creep? Is he attempting to redeem himself, or, like NBC's Dracula (my current favorite TV show), find his true love he lost?

How does his destiny coincide with those he observes?

150 said...

I have to disagree with Cav about including more information on the Historian. At best, he's a Lemony Snicket, whose narration makes the story more interesting but who plays no role, or a Rod Serling or Cryptkeeper who's just around as a framing device and affects nothing. At worst, he's a deus ex machina or a distraction. I don't think any of these roles will make agents more eager to read your pages. Talk about the actual story.

Down Girl said...

Slow down there, Author. Wait until a little more feedback accumulates before you go posting (or even doing) rewrites.

Evil Editor said...

There's a lot more info about the story in the new version, which is good, but ...

There's no need to mention the Historian in the plot description. Mentioning him when describing the series is okay (although no one's going to care about the series until they've seen the first book). Just start: In the land called Surac, people's destinies are defined by powerful pendants they have from birth, called Stones.

Still not clear whether they're born wearing these pendants or given them at birth.

Also not clear is whether "face his own destiny of violence" means he must use violence or resist using it.

We don't need anything about your occupation, childhood, or philosophy. We don't need a vague opening sentence about making decisions. A good way to end the query is by telling us the big decision he must make, and from that we will glean that making tough decisions is a major theme.

A shorter setup leaves more room to tell the story:

Destined from birth for a life of violence, Sadavir is ultimately banished to the far side of the wall (Does this wall have a name?) to live with his own kind. There he discovers war/genocide/whatever. Now tell us why/how he effects change, and what this has to do with his family. (What family? Is there someone besides his father?)

Veronica Rundell said...

Agreed to cut all mention of the Historian. Agreed you need to choose either YA or Middle Grade.
Agreed you need to mention if this has been previously published.

If it has, you would be remiss to not mention your sales. If your sales are not good, you need to stop querying this book. The ship has sailed the second you published it. So, write the second book in this series and query that. If it's good, then people will go back for the first one.

Sorry if that isn't advice you want to hear, but that's the truth. No agent is going to pick up a previously published non-selling book and submit it to editors.

If your self-pub sales are REALLY good, then querying may work. It has for others--all of whom were Amazon best sellers before they got a book contract.

Right now, even the revised query isn't interesting. Too vague and the plot seems one-note. It's a classic "the One" tale. Not sure how the Historian plays out, or in, the story.