Friday, November 14, 2014

Face-Lift 1237


Guess the Plot

Kingdom of Fire

1. Charcoal for dinner. Bromide to drink. Asbestos unitards. It’s hard living in a . . . Kingdom of Fire.

2. Fire demon, Aryna, falls for an ice demon, Terp, from the rival kingdom on a spy mission. When Aryna learns that Terp's neighborhood is the target of the next fire-bombing offensive, she has to decide whether to warn him, and risk being executed for treason, or let him die.
 

3. Preppy H, along with his trusted medicated sidekick Tuck, wandered into the kingdom of fire by mistake – and it looked like their goose was cooked. But that was before the mutant robot Hemor Drhoid moseyed into town. Now it was the Kingdom’s turn to squirm in discomfort. There’d be no sitting down on the job as long as Hemor was around.


4. The lottery winning Edgemont family can finally buy the boat of their dreams, 80 foot maxi yacht Kingdom of Fire, and set off on their dream round-the-world voyage. But the engines and communications mysteriously fail when becalmed in the middle of the Pacific, and one by one their crew start dying unexplained deaths.

5. Prince Ahaz of Azaria would make a good king, but can he outdo his two older brothers in the bickering contest that traditionally decides who gets the throne? And does it matter, since their father the king isn't dead anyway?

6. Some days, it is good to be the king. To have subjects kneel at your feet, to vanquish your enemies, to have an army ready for your every command. Other days, not so much. To have your butt blistered by the red-hot throne, your hair singed by the crown, and not a single person in the land who knows how to fix the damned air conditioning.

7. King Fred rules a kingdom at the base of a volcano. The people are proud of their "fire mountain" because it protects them from invasion. But one year, the people fail to offer the volcano god a human sacrifice, and . . . let's just say the volcano god is not happy.

8. Savage dragons, screaming harpies, devastating wars, horror in the cities. Well, that's how progressive-feminist ideologue Teeny sees the new congress, anyway. She's got her father's old rifle, some ammo, and a map of DC. In a couple of days, her vote will be the only one that counts.


Original Version

Dear Mr ******,

I read your interview on writer's digest [in Writer's Digest] and am impressed. [Thanks.] You also said you were searching fr [for] a story that introduces you to new worlds[,] so you might like my book KINGDOM OF FIRE. My name is **** and I have written a fiction book before about the war on terror in the past. It has found a weak publisher. My aim is to reach traditional publishers with my new book and to attain that goal I am well-aware that I need a literary agent. [This is already the longest paragraph in the query, and all you've told us is the title.] You are looking for fantasy too so allow me to introduce my novel. KINGDOM OF FIRE is an epic fantasy novel of around eighty eight thousand words. It is set in a fictional world called Emelion and is the first in a series of novels. It is for a target market over 16 years of age. [Condense this paragraph into one sentence (KINGDOM OF FIRE is an 88,000-word epic fantasy and the first in a series) and put it at the end.] 

Prince Ahaz wants one thing. To be allowed to serve the Azarian nation unhindered and to support the King, [That's two things.] whoever is rightfully ruling whether it be his father or his elder brother. [Which is it?] He is noble, he is chivalrous, he is merciful and has every quality which epitomizes a good Prince. But he has two elder brothers both of them not only bickering for power and influence but also the throne.

The world of Emelion [That name makes me think of Emilio Estevez.] is full of higher Avatars (not Gods) each leading at least a nation and each having power over some element or aspect of human life. It is usually their traditions, whims and desires that influence Kingdoms. The Kingdom of Azaria's avatar is named Azar who has mastery over fire and is eager for conquest. The Kingdom of Azaria is run [ruled] by a King named Ballus, father of Ahaz. [Ahaz and Azar are too similar. Get rid of one of them preferably Azar, as the kingdom of Azaria just makes me think of actor Hank Azaria, best-known for doing the voices of more than 15 recurring Simpsons characters, including Apu, Chief Wiggum and Moe.]

Fanatics of Azar, eager to persecute the unorthodox and in their eyes heretical, besiege King Ballus in the capital punishing him for his closeness to another Avatar, Erdinari, lord of the sun. [Anyone can claim to be an avatar with mastery over the sun if that just entails declaring that you make the sun rise and set.]

Ahaz finds himself in a tenuous position. He must save the King [Why is it Ahaz who must save the king? Doesn't Ballus have an army at his disposal?] but will help arrive from the most unlikely of places? A territory conquered by Azaria a hundred years ago but which follows a separate avatar rather than Azar? Will Ahaz [Suddenly I can't  get the song "Ahab the Arab" out of my head.] manage to save his father, the King? Will he be able to deal with his brothers [brothers'] jealousy and quest for power? Subsequently will he be able to forge Azaria into an empire?

Read KINGDOM OF FIRE to find out.

KINGDOM OF FIRE is unique in that it has a secondary hierarchy after the God or Gods which are avatars. Each nation can have one or many avatars. Their culture hinges upon the type of avatar they follow. For example Azarians as followers of a fire avatar have the custom of lighting candles, dancing around fires and cremating their dead. [In other words, they're like most cultures on the world of Earth.]


Notes

This could use some additional commas, but even with them, the sentence composition and word choice aren't up to snuff. The reader will assume the book has the same problems.

Much of the query is focused on avatars even though you don't show the avatars having any effect on anything. Get rid of the avatars and tell us what Ahaz's goal is, what his plan is, what his problem is, what happens if he fails. Make us care whether he succeeds.

In other words, we're looking for a summary of the story. What we have is a paragraph about Ahaz, a paragraph about Emelion's avatar system, a couple sentences setting up Ahaz's situation, five questions that can be answered only by reading 88,000 words because you're not talking, and another paragraph  about Emelion's avatar system.

Ballus is the king. Unless he's dying, I don't see the point of his eldest sons bickering over the throne. Surely there's a system for determining who gets the throne after Ballus?

World, nation, kingdom, territory, empire. Can you write this query using no more than three of those terms?


32 comments:

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

That was my reaction as well: The writing in the query is not of publishable quality. If that's the level of writing in the manuscript, work on it. Particularly, work on your sentence structure and rhythm. Try reading the manuscritp aloud.

If you've already done that, try reading the query letter aloud.

Julie Weathers said...

I try to find something positive to hang comments on. In this case it would be the book is not too long.

Cut the entire first paragraph and start with who the MC is and what he wants. The info about why you're contacting an agents, word length, personal bio, etc., go at the end for most agents.

"I have written a fiction book before about the war on terror in the past. It has found a weak publisher."

This is kind of scarey. I'd replace "fiction book" with "novel".

Intro mc and what he wants. Then show us the inciting incident and what's keeping him from getting what he wants. What happens if he fails?

You focus on the avatars, but they don't do anything. Pay attention to your writing in the query because it's going to be an indication of your other writing. This is all over and not in a good way.

"but will help arrive from the most unlikely of places? A territory conquered by Azaria a hundred years ago but which follows a separate avatar rather than Azar? Will Ahaz [Suddenly I can't get the song "Ahab the Arab" out of my head.] manage to save his father, the King? Will he be able to deal with his brothers [brothers'] jealousy and quest for power? Subsequently will he be able to forge Azaria into an empire?"

I don't think all these questions are a good idea.

Also, thanks EE for putting Ahab the Arab in my head now.

Personally, I'd read the archives here, at Miss Snark's, and Janet Reid's query shark. You can get a good idea from going through these libraries about what to do and what works.

Good luck on your writing and query. Don't give up.

Julie

Havi Sultan said...

I am the author of this book. Please help me improve the book. Is the query really that bad. How on a scale of 1-10 would you rate it?

I thought by keeping back things and with the questions I was establishing suspense so that people would read my book rather than just getting bored with the query.

I have written another query letter, please read it EE and correct this one too. I want the query to be perfect.

InkAndPixelClub said...

Most of the first paragraph is unnecessary. All you really need is the title of your book, word count, and category, and as EE said, those should usually go at the end of the query.

Agents don't generally need to know where you heard about them and it doesn't help you unless you met the agent in person and made an impression on him or her.

Obviously you realize that you need an agent, or you wouldn't be sending queries to one.

Your previously published book could be worth mentioning, but not if you're going to say it ended up with "a weak publisher." It's a weird term and it could mean anything from "my book wasn't in very many stores" to "I got suckered into paying a vanity press to publish my book" to "I'm upset that the publisher didn't promote my book heavily and make it a bestseller." Whatever you mean, complaining about the publisher of your last book isn't helping.

Ideally, your book is a standalone novel with "series potential." Whether it is or not, you want to suggest that a series is a possibility, but not a requirement. Some agents and editors see "first book in a series" as code for "a lot of setup for all the interesting stuff, which doesn't happen until a later book."

There's both too much and not enough going on in the story as you present it. We have the problem of the prince's two brothers bickering over who inherits the throne (which doesn't seem like much of a problem for Ahaz if all he wants to do is support whoever is on the throne) and the seemingly unrelated attack on the king for being a partial heretic, I think? Pick one main problem to focus on and connect the other issue to it. For example, are his brothers so fixated on positioning themselves as the next king that they dont care about what happens to the king, leaving it up to Ahaz to save his father?

Either the avatars are very powerful and present in the story - in which case we need to know why what the human characters do matters, or they are very distant and all that matters is which people follow which avatar - in which case we don't need to know nearly so much about them.

Information about what Ahaz does and what choices he faces is going to be more interesting and sell your story better than questions about what might happen in your story.

Cut the last paragraph. You want to show potential agents how your story is unique by including that info in the summary of your story, not tell them that it's unique. And there are plenty of stories featuring demigods who influence the cultures of different regions. Saying that this is unique to your book will kill your credibility with an agent.

Proofread your query carefully. Try reading it out loud like ARC suggested. Same goes for the book. Agents and editors steer clear of books that look like they'll require a bunch of editing prior to publication and a query full of typos and awkward sentences suggests that the book will be equally problematic.

khazarkhum said...

Living king, three bickering sons...is this based on The Lion in Winter?

Author said...

Revision:


Zuhavir is the third son of King Ballus. He wants two things. To be allowed to serve the Azarian nation unhindered and to support the King, whoever is rightfully ruling whether it be his father or his elder brother. He is noble, he is gallant, he is merciful and has every quality which epitomizes a good Prince. His goal is to forge Azaria into an empire and he dreams of a day when Azaria is united and strong.

King Ballus, Zuhavir's father rules a precarious Kingdom. It is beset with enemies seeking to take Azarian land. These enemies are the Tercron to the north, the Kartan's to the west and Liga'Artus to the north-west. To make things worse the two elder prince's, Ghoril and Frajor both want the throne and are recklessly eager for it to the point they do not even care even if their father dies. Only Ghoril, as eldest son has the right and is the heir.

Then King Ballus is trapped within his castle with a small number of soldiers by the cult of Azar which blockades the castle, making it impossible for the King to contact and lead more troops. Zuhavir decides to march out with soldiers from a city named Katraden. A lot is at stake. If he succeeds he will be known as a hero who saved the Kingdom. If he fails his father will die.

With the support of Katraden soldiers he defeats the cultists. But the augmented, newfound strength and glory of Azaria is short-lived.

Ballus is poisoned by Frajor's men while Frajor also tries to kill Ghoril and Zuhavir. Frajor wants the throne, and hopes that this will win it for him but both Ghoril and Zuhavir survive. As a hunt begins to find him Frajor retreats to a city named Dielica where he has loyalists.

Ghoril the new King, and Zuhavir must find their brother just as nobles to the north west of Azaria grow more assertive, rebel and sign an alliance with Frajor. The reasons behind their rebellion is the imposition of one religion and one avatar over the nobles who are secular. But the nobles are murderous and blood thirsty and destroy many villages in their quest for power.

Zuhavir defeats Frajor and the north western nobles but Ghoril is increasingly becoming jealous of Zuhavir because it was Ghoril's intention to defeat the nobles personally and gain all the glory. He sends Zuhavir on a series of impossible missions, with only a few soldiers, one of which is against the Tercron and another against Katraden, so that he either dies or is forced to call for help from Ghoril's army.

Zuhavir defeats both, even forces from Katraden, a people he has grown to respect because they formed an army to save King Ballus.

But as Ghoril's rule grows oppressive with his incessant taxation and his extravagant tastes Zuhavir is torn between two choices. Whether he should serve the King as is his duty or whether he should serve the people who rally behind him, a prince who has won their nation many victories.

KINGDOM OF FIRE is an epic fantasy novel of around eighty eight thousand words. It is set in a fictional world called Zervaidion and is the first in a series of novels. Thank you for your time and patience.

JRMosher said...

As in the previous version, the sentence structure is still too long and awkward in many places.

For example, instead of: "He wants two things. To be allowed to serve the Azarian nation unhindered and to support the king, whoever is rightfully ruling whether it be his father or his elder brother."

Maybe this: "All he desires is to serve and support the rightful king, whether that be his father or his elder brother."

So for step 1 I would suggest trying to simplify where possible. Someone (can't recall who; I think it was here or on Miss Snark's blog) told me once to write the query as if explaining the story to an 8-year old. Keep it simple, and make it interesting / exciting. It's good advice, in my opinion.

Some other things that tripped me up. In the first paragraph you say he only wants to serve and support the king, then say his goal is to forge Azaria into an empire. Seems like the kind of thing the king would do, not the humble servant prince. (Note - the words king and price don't need to be capitalized in most cases in this query, Kartan's and prince's don't need apostrophes, etc. Take care with punctuation and grammer; little mistakes add up in a short query.)

You don't need to tell us Ballus is Zuhavir's father at the start of the second paragraph since you told us the relationship at the start of the first. If Ghoril and Frajor both want the throne so badly then they care very much whether their father dies; they want him dead. And I would assume Frajor wants Ghoril dead as well, else he'll never take the throne.

The first sentence of paragraph 3 says the same thing 3 ways. Simplify. Starting with paragraph 3 you have a ton of details that either don't need to be in the query, or can be vastly shortened. Just touch on the high points: Frajor attempts to kill his entire family but succeeds in killing only the king. Ghoril takes the throne and becomes a tyrant, while Zuhavir does all the work of hunting his murderous brother and fending off enemies who see a kingdom weakened by turmoil. Finally, what we all saw coming from the first paragraph: Zuhavir turns out to be not a servant of the king but king himself, servant of the people.

Chicory said...

As synopsis go, this is not bad, but I thought it was meant to be a re-write of your query letter. I am confused.

Evil Editor said...

Your plot summary in the revision is too long. It's 9 paragraphs; it should be more like 9 sentences. A summary of this length would be about right as a synopsis. You already sent a synopsis, which I hadn't posted yet, but it felt more like an outline than a summary, and I much prefer the summary in your query revision as a synopsis {though it still suffers from some awkward word choice and sentence structure).

As for the shorter synopsis you need for the query letter, don't tell us about the politics and military battles. More interesting is to focus on Zuhavir's main storyline, the situation with his brothers.

There's no standard format of a query letter, but one common format is a brief setup in which you introduce your main character and his situation and his goal. For instance:

Prince Zuhavir longs to one day forge the fragile kingdom of Azaria into an empire ruled with mercy and benevolence. But that day may never come, for his power-hungry older brothers Ghoril and Frajor are next in line for the throne of their father, King Ballus.

Now we need a paragraph about what happens. Something like:

Unwilling to wait for the deaths of his father and older brother, Frajor has Ballus poisoned and attempts to kill Ghoril as well. Ghoril survives, however, and Frajor flees. Zuhavir dutifully accepts Ghoril's rule, and leads Azaria's armies to several victories.

Next you can wrap it up with the conflict Zuhavir faces, and the stakes:

As Ghoril's rule grows oppressive with his incessant taxation and extravagant tastes, Zuhavir is torn between loyally serving the rightful King and serving the Azarian people who rally behind the prince who has won their nation many victories.


You could add to that what is likely to happen if Ghoril remains king,; perhaps the kingdom is more vulnerable to attack because no one wants to fight for Ghoril and the military budget all went to Ghoril's new castle.


It seems to me that oppressed people would rather rally behind someone who provides them with food, shelter and universal health care than victories on the battlefield. Often it's the king who gets the most credit for military victories anyway, even he never sets foot on the battlefield. There are exceptions, of course, but it doesn't necessarily follow that the guy who led you to military victories will be any less oppressive a king than his brother. Also, in some kingdoms, when people rally behind the heir to the throne, it doesn't go well for the people or the heir.

Julie.M.Weathers said...

Wow, OK, first off, EE is pretty much spot on. This is a synopsis.

Next, whether it's a query for a synopsis, keep proper names to a minimum. When you toss out an alphabet soup of unusual names, it becomes overwhelming.

I'm battling this in my synopsis efforts now. One person wants me to name the aunt and another wants me to keep the aunt reference and leave the name out and she's a fairly important character. You name sons and other kingdoms and cultists and everything else.

We just need to know the king is beset by other kingdoms, you don't need to name them all.

What happened to the girl? I thought that was one of the main plot lines.

There's no written in stone rules for query letters, but simple still rules the day. Introduce your MC and what he wants. What's keeping him from it? What happens if he fails?

Even if you keep this for a synopsis, you should clean it up.

Good luck.

Julie

InkAndPixelClub said...

This is still not publishable quality writing. There are too many awkward, overly long sentences and too many punctuation errors. One of the goals of a query is to demonstrate your writing and proofreading abilities. In its current state, this query is not doing a good job of advertising you as a professional writer.

Editors and agents receive many queries on a daily basis and often don't have time to read all of them thoroughly. Often, they're trying to quickly determine which ones get a form rejection letter and which ones get a more thorough read through. That means you have a very limited number of words in which to grab your reader's attention, possibly just the first sentence. The first sentence you have now is not attention grabbing. You want an opening that immediately grabs your readers and makes them want to read more by putting them in the middle of the action or making them feel invested in the main character. Everything before Ballus is besieged by the cultists is setup, so you want to get to the seize and what Zuhavir does about it as soon as possible.

You need to pare down. There'so too much information in this query and it's not all presented in a logical order. Try to see how much you can take out - be it words, sentences, or entire paragraphs - and still have it make sense. You might also want to try summing up you story in a single sentence. This can be very helpful in determining what your story is about in its simplest possible form. That will tell you what absolutely needs to be in the query and what does not.

Don't rush to revise. Hasty revisions lead to errors like "prince's" for the plural of "prince." Take some time to read over the comments you get. Think about them for a while. Then revise your query. Put it aside for a while, then read it over again. Look for anything else you can cut, clarify, or improve. Give it one more look for any spelling, grammar, or punctuation errors. Then post it.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

InkAndPixelClub said...

This is still not publishable quality writing.


Yes. That is the alpha and omega, and why I haven't commented further.

It doesn't matter how accurately the story is described in the query if the writing's not of publishable quality. The writer needs to hone his or her skills first, then query.

IMHO said...

My problem is that I'm just not interested in Zuhavir. He's noble and gallant and sounds like a bore. Where's the tension and surprise if he always does the right thing? Every obstacle he faces is external.

Consider Song of Ice and Fire (aka, Game of Thrones). Ned Stark was arguably the most noble character. He was quickly killed off. But even he had family tension (bastard son, wife who disagreed w/ him, etc).

Make me care about Zuhavir as a person.

Julie.M.Weathers said...

IMHO

And there you have it. People have to care about the characters.

As others have said, the spelling, grammar and writing really need to shine in the query.

If the author is writing this book for a NaNo project, why are you even stressing a query letter right now? I know some people who claim they love writing query letters. I don't. It's work to me. Even so, I wouldn't even attempt one until the book was done. Characters come to life and upset that neat little applecart of what you think the book is going to be.

What happens if you write the book and it's far different than what you first anticipated? It doesn't matter how polished the query is then, it won't fit.

Just my two cents.

Julie

Author said...

Prince Zuhair is fourteen when he first killed. It was a blood wolf on a hunting trip. Some years later he is the warrior prince of Azaria-trained in the art of swordsmanship and archery.

All Zuhair desires is to serve the Azarian Kingdom unhindered and to support the King, whoever is rightfully ruling. He has every quality of a good prince. But both elder brothers, Ghoril and Frajor want the throne. They are so eager for it they wish their father dead, even though each prince has pieces of land provided by their father.

The King who rules is Ballus, Zuhair's father. Then cultists of Azar, the fire Avatar, rise in a rebellion. The cultists besiege Ballus in his Royal Castle. With only a small number of troops and the gates blockaded by the cult, the King cannot call for help from additional soldiers.

From Katraden, a western city of Azaria, Zuhair leads a force to save the King. Defeating the cult, coupled with his noble policies of providing justice and helping the poor in his fief, transform him into a popular hero.

When Frajors loyalists murder the King and attempt to kill Ghoril and Zuhair, the new King is Ghoril. Zuhair submissively accepts Ghorils rule, and leads Azarian armies to a series of victories, one which brings Frajor, who has fled, back in chains. This endears him with the people further.

But to allow for his overspending and extravagance, Ghoril imposes an enormous tax on nobles and peasants alike. His rule becomes increasingly oppressive. Zuhair is now torn between serving the rightful King, or serving the Azarian people, who rally behind the prince who has won them many victories.

If Ghoril continues to rule the nation will be vulnerable to an impending Kartan attack. No one wants to fight for Ghoril because he treats peasant soldiers badly and recklessly spends military funds on himself, rather than his armies. If he is removed however Zuhair would be King and he can undo Ghoril's deleterious policies. As King he can even forge Azaria into an Empire.

Kingdom of Fire is an epic fantasy novel complete at 88,000 words.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

That is the query. Please tell me how it is.

The earlier version of my query which you said was too long, I have turned into a synopsis. But I have a question. There are events after King Zuhair (or ahaz as he was called previously) becomes king. The Azarians invade 3 belligerent nations. Should I work that somewhere in the synopsis?

Thank you for your time and patience.

Evil Editor said...

I suggested you cut the plot summary down to three paragraphs totaling nine sentences. You've given us seven paragraphs totaling 23 sentences.

Let's start by writing the topic sentence of your three paragraphs.

Topic sentence 1: Who's the main character and what's his situation when the book begins.

Topic sentence 2: What's he planning to do to improve the situation?

Topic sentence 3: What could possibly go wrong with his plan, and what effect would that have on his world?

Once you've come up with those three sentences, add two more sentences to each of the three paragraphs, building on the topic sentences. Each sentence in each paragraph should follow logically from the previous sentence.

Havi Sultan said...

I am trying to improve my query EE. I will follow your guidelines for the 3 paragraphs to create a new query letter.

You have spent a lot of time teaching me to write the query letter properly. I thank you for this.

I thought I had got it this time. I am having difficulty following the guidelines and posting 3 paragraphs which still explain everything but will have my query ready soon

Evil Editor said...

You don't need to explain everything. You can do that in the synopsis. You just need to convince the reader you have an intriguing, well-written story that large numbers of people will want to read.

Havi Sultan said...

But I am afraid it won't make sense and be vague EE. For example if I do not explain King Ballus is trapped within the castle by the cult and can't get additional soldiers it will be vague, like in the first query.

I am trying to fit it to 3 paragraphs though.

EE, I really appreciate you helping me out like this. You don't know how much things here hinge on the success of this book.

Evil Editor said...

It would almost certainly be a mistake to let anything of importance hinge on the success of a book. Even if the book is brilliant, finding a reputable literary agent who believes she can sell it to a publisher can take a long time. You might never find one. Then it can take a long time for the agent to find the publisher. She might never find one. If she does find one, it can take the publisher more than a year to get the book in print. Once it's in print, there's no guarantee anyone will buy it.

Most books don't sell even 500 copies. Most authors can't survive on their writing income alone. Sorry, but that's the reality. It takes talent, luck, and timing to hit it big. It's better than banking your future on winning the lottery, but I recommend having a Plan B in place when you start out.

JRMosher said...

Before I comment on the query, a comment on your comment: "You don't know how much things here hinge on the success of this book." I hope that's an overstatement, because the reality is that the book won't find the kind of success you're hoping for. Especially if it is your first book, which I suspect might be the case. Writing is hard, publishing is harder, and making any money from it is practically impossible. Get a day job. Or two. I didn't know this when I started writing; I thought I was the next Stephen King. Twenty years later, I've written several books that I'm proud of (and several that are just crap) and none of them are published. I have a full-time job and do consulting gigs on the side. I know someone in the area who has made his living solely from writing for several years and has a number of published novels. He makes 1/3 of what I make in the software industry, and he doesn't have health insurance.

On to the query. I won't pick it apart much because EE already gave you a great formula to rewrite it. But take your time with it. Write, wait, and re-read and edit. The first sentence of the new query has a tense problem ("Prince Zuhair is fourteen" is present tense, "when he first killed" is past.) Some agents will stop right there. You will only get a few sentences to hook an agent (far less than the number in this query, I think) and they have to be clean. Spelling counts, grammar counts, tense, etc.

EE already noted it is too long. In your reply, you mention that the book goes on longer, after Zuhair is made king. Sounds like there are a lot of parts to this story, but the query needs to zero in on just the main story. Is that the family battle between Zuhair's brothers? If so, then spend only a few words on anything else. I wouldn't even mention the old king's name, just state that Zuhair is loyal to the throne but knows it will never be his by virtue of having two older brothers. Inlcude the treachery of one brother and the poor management of the other, but don't get too bogged down in detail.

For example, look at the first paragraph again. The only important parts of it are Zuhair's name and that he is a prince. No need to mention something that happened long ago, or what he has been trained in. If you say "warrior prince" we will assume he has been given training in all forms of combat for his environment / time period.

Third and fourth paragrpahs are not needed. You need only mention the king in the context of having been murdered by Zuhair's brother, and you have a place later to say that Zuhair becomes popular with the people for his battles. No need to list all the battles both before and after the father's death. They are important in the book (probably) but not in the query.

You can tell from the length of this comment that I suffer from a bit of over-explain-itis myself. But I've learned (and am still learning, always learning) that editing is the key. It's like sculpting; slap on the clay and then cut and cut until all that's left is the art that was hidden underneath.

Havi Sultan said...

Thank you everybody for your wonderful advice.

EE, you are right. I should have a backup plan but I should have thought of that earlier. Now I have a book which-well has a query letter I just can't perfect no matter how hard I try.

I thought highly of my writing skills but now I'm just realizing I need to be even better.

EE I have made the 3 sentences but they look boring and dull.

JrMosher, thats some good advice. I guess before I knew about the publishing industry I was relying way too much on the book and thats why my hopes are still on it. I expected that suddenly things would be better once I had a book out.

I didn't know it would be so hard. I learned that later.

Thanks for the tons of advice everybody.

Evil Editor said...

Your boring sentences may come to life when you add a couple sentences ofd interesting elaboration to each of them. Right now they are on islands, waiting for you to connect them with bridges.

Havi Sultan said...

EE, I am holding my breathe. How does this look:

Version 1:

Prince Zuhair is in Katraden, a western city when news arrives that his father is trapped in his castle by the cult of Azar. With only a small number of soldiers while the cultists outside number thousands King Ballus cannot call for help. Zuhair must rescue the King.

Zuhair plans to lead an army into a confrontation with the cult. He wants the Kingdom to be safe and secure, internally and externally and wants to support the King, whoever is rightfully ruling. That means defeating the cult.

But Zuhair might already be too late. The cultists might have killed the King by the time he arrives. If this happens then Ghoril, Zuhair's extravagant brother will take the throne. Ghoril is conceited and treats peasants badly.

Version 2:

Prince Zuhair has two elder brothers, Ghoril and Frajor both seeking the throne. Both are arrogant and unwilling to let anyone take the throne from them. They want to rule even if that means the King dies.

Zuhair's plan to deal with his brothers lust for power, is to make them talk to each other rather than just glare at each other as they pass, on the way to their rooms.

But the brothers might refuse to talk and if they do talk they might only become painfully aware how the other is in the way of him gaining the throne.

Evil Editor said...

Version 2 is just the setup, the situation. It can be combined into one paragraph:

Prince Zuhair's arrogant elder brothers, Ghoril and Frajor, covet the Azarian throne, even if it means their father, the King must die. Each is painfully aware that the other stands between him and the crown just as Zuhair is aware that neither of his brothers would make a righteous king.

That would leave plenty of room to tell us what happens.


Version 1 is also mostly setup.

Prince Zuhair is in Katraden, a western city when news arrives that his father is trapped in his castle by the cult of Azar. Zuhair raises an army, but by the time he reaches the castle, his father, King Ballus has been killed. And Zuhair's arrogant brother Ghoril takes the throne.


Again, plenty of room to tell us what happens next.
Not sure in V2 why the cult kills Ballus but not the brothers. Seems like they'd be rising up against the entire ruling family. I guess one of the brothers is behind the cult attack.

JRMosher said...

You chose to describe two completely different stories in the 2 versions of your "3 sentences" exercise. I wonder if maybe your book should be split into 2?

How much of the book is taken up by the seige of the castle and the effort to save King Ballus? How much revolves around the murder of the king and the aftermath with strife between the brothers?

Think about the very beginning of your book, and the very end. What are the main differences? How did the main characters grow and change, what did they learn or suffer. What is the biggest event in the book, the conflict that incites everyone to act and the resolution of which concludes the story?

The seige and fight for King Ballus are events in the story, but they are not the main story if they are resolved early on. What is the main story you are telling? That's the story you need to tell, briefly but with passion and flair, in the query.

InkAndPixelClub said...

Add my name to the list of people who are seriously concerned by the idea that so much hinges on the success of this book. If it's much more than your future as a writer, that could be a problem. If it's your future well being and your health and security are in jeopardy if this book does not become a huge success, then you do not need to be working on fixing the query letter. You need to be working out a way to pay the bils that doesn't involve getting you book published.

This is doubly true because, looking at your rewrites of the query, I don't think your book is ready. If you can write and then read the sentence "Prince Zuhair is fourteen when he first killed." and not know what's wrong with it without someone else telling you, then you don't yet have the command of the English language necessary to write a novel. Like JRMosher told you, some - possibly most - agents would stop reading your query after that sentence.

We can keep helping you work on the query, but if it's four drafts in and not ready, chances are the book is not ready either.

Make sure your entire future does not hinge on this book getting published. After that, I think you're going to need more practice and study to get your writing where it needs to be.

Havi Sultan said...

I am such a klutz. Can't get anything right. Actually EE the father Ballus doesn't die at the hands of the cult. I said by the time Zuhair reaches he might be dead. I followed this formula:


Topic sentence 1: Who's the main character and what's his situation when the book begins.

Topic sentence 2: What's he planning to do to improve the situation?

Topic sentence 3: What could possibly go wrong with his plan, and what effect would that have on his world?

But apparently I am so dumb I just followed it to the letter and had trouble making the rest of the 2 sentences for the paragraphs.

Also the cult traps both Ghoril and Ballus (the father and king) in the castle. Frajor is in an allies place, plotting already to poison the King and Zuhair is in another city named Katraden.

JrMosher, the main story is the fight between brothers and the invasion of enemy nations. The cult besieges King Ballus fairly early in the book

InkandPixeclub, you are right. I will try and improve my book then even though in my last read it looked pretty polished.

Its also rude of me asking so much time of Evil Editor who has been wonderful and has still helped me out. Thank you so much Evil Editor.

Evil Editor said...

The problem isn't that you're a klutz, it's that Ihaven't read the book. Just change By the time he gets there the cult has killed him to whatever happens in the book. The king does die, does he die before Zuhair's army gets there?

Havi Sultan said...

EE, the King dies but after the conclusion of the cult battle. He dies at the hands of Frajor (second brother of Zuhair) and is poisoned. He doesn't die at the hands of the cult. In fact with Zuhair's support he defeats the cult.

JRMosher said...

Havi, nobody here is calling you dumb and I'd recommend not calling yourself that, either. What you are is inexperienced, which is where everyone starts from, in any undertaking. So far it appears you take criticism well, and you keep trying; those are good traits for a writer. What you need is practice. Read a lot, and write a lot. Have fun and make mistakes (we all do) and learn from them. It's the best way I know to spend the time before or after work, lunch breaks, etc.

Havi Sultan said...

Thanks JRMmosher for improving my mood, I am indeed inexperienced and have a lot to learn-not just writing but about the publishing industry as well. I will take another look at the book, then work on the query.

Thank you for your wonderful advice, everyone.