Friday, August 07, 2015

Feedback Request

The author of the book featured in Face-Lift 1270 (See the post directly beneath this one) has submitted a revision and requests your input. 

Dear Evil Editor,

Abandoned by her mother as an infant, [?-year-old] Skye Bryar grows up in the small town of Deep Cove, struggling to hide the differences in herself that even she does not understand. It is not until she meets Holt, a mysterious out-of-towner, [What's mysterious about him?] that she finally discovers who- and what- she really is.

When Holt whisks Skye away to the island of the NATURAE, she learns the humans are not alone on this earth [Earth]. [There are also . . . animals!] There are another type of people- those who can control the pure elements- earth, air, fire or water. They are ruled over by none other than Mother Nature, the Queen of the Earth. Skye is shocked to learn that this woman is her own birth mother- making Skye the Elemental Princess, an individual with immense power over all four elements. 

While Skye anticipates a happy family reunion, what she gets is anything but. Mother Nature has become as sick as the Earth, and has brought Skye to the island with a single dark and sinister purpose. She plans to harness the strength of her daughters’ [daughter's] powers to put an end to the humans’ destruction of the planet- even if it means putting Skyes [Skye's] life- and the life of every human in the world- in danger. Held hostage on the island, Skye struggles to understand what she must do, while Mother Nature remains cold and guarded. And when Skye gets too close to Holt, Mother Nature sends him away, leaving her to find solace in another… but can he, or anyone on the island, really be trusted? An elite group of humans [What's elite about them?] who call themselves the Avarice- those who profit the most from the devastation of nature- have a traitor on the inside, and they will stop at nothing to prevent her from getting in their way. [There's no way the Avarice is going to actually call themselves the Avarice. It would be like the Republican party changing their name to the Racist, Sexist Propagandists. It's just bad PR. The Avarice are going to give themselves a deceptively positive name like People First or Saviors of Humanity or Westboro Baptist Church.]

Will Skye be willing to help Mother Nature, and the Earth, even if it means betraying the humans she has grown up with? Or will the Avarice get to her before she even has a chance to choose sides?

NATURAE is a YA paranormal romance novel. The novel is focused on the issue of how humans are currently impacting the environment, intertwined with extraordinary magic, unwavering friendships, a heart wrenching love triangle, and dark betrayals. This novel has potential for a 2 or 3 part series.

NATURAE is my first novel, inspired by my travels and experiences around the world. Having lived in multiple countries and worked with all kinds of animals, my intimate connection with nature world-wide has only further highlighted the many issues our Earth faces and I hope this novel will inspire the younger generation to make a difference. 

Thank you for your consideration of this query. At your request, I would be happy to send along part of the story, which is complete at 50,000 words.


While we can all agree that Earth would be a better place if humans had never shown up, unless Mother Nature's plan is to kill off all 7.3 billion humans without harming the plants and animals, ending the destruction of nature should be good thing, for everyone except Avarice. How does putting an end to humans' destruction of the planet put the life of every human in danger?

Is it known by Skye and/or Mother Nature that there's a traitor on the inside? Would simply getting rid of the traitor remove the threat to the planet? If that's Skye's task, maybe the query should focus on what the traitor is doing, who the suspects are, and how Skye plans to stop it. It does sound like a more reasonable task than harnessing her powers in such a way that puts all of humanity in danger.

What about eliminating Avarice? Would that save the planet? Surely Avarice can be eliminated without endangering all humans. How many people are part of Avarice? Most readers will prefer a book in which the villain is one traitor or one group of greedy people rather than all humans.

Why would Mother Nature abandon her child? I could see hiding her among humans to keep her safe from the Avarice, but abandoning her?

Out of curiosity, what exactly can this one teenager who has yet to understand her powers do? Worst case scenario?


Anonymous said...

This still has most of the problems of the first version
-it's still vague and wordy
-I still don't know what your MC wants out of life or her situation
-your protagonist isn't doing much protagonizing (she's whisked away, shocked, imprisoned, and struggles to understand, all very passive)
-you don't need a paragraph telling us what to think about your book/what's in your book, your query part should have done that already (maybe you should think about why you feel compelled to include this information). If for some reason you're desperately certain it absolutely must be included, you might want to at least group the rest of the information about your book (i.e. word count) so it looks somewhat organized
-putting your title twice in ALL CAPS looks like cheap advertising
-if you didn't include a list of books you've already published or other writing credits the agent/editor is going to know you don't have any. You don't need to tell them it's your first book.

A few suggestions:
How does she know it was her mother who abandoned her? Maybe just 'abandoned as an infant'

When and how did these 'differences' first manifest, and what are they? Small towns are rumor/gossip mills, why doesn't everyone know all about her already? 'Even she doesn't understand', blah very typical and dull not at all creating curiosity. Saying something like 'she can control the tides' would at least give as a detail which we would realize isn't normal and could see the potential with.

not understand, not until -- go for positive constructions. what does she do, understand, want

I know you mean the Avarice has a man/woman/creature amongst Mother Earths homies, but you only say they have a traitor (which could mean in their own organization), and your next pronoun 'she' could easily refer to said traitor amongst them.

Your paragraph about your travels is fine up until it becomes I HAVE WRITTEN A BOOK WITH A MESSAGE <- this will kill you if the reader even makes it that far

Let your writing tell the story. That's the whole point.

Mister Furkles said...

It seems to be entirely setup. Does Skye actually do anything? Don't keep it a secret.

Word-Count Police here: It's about 500 words, which is twice too long. First sentence is 30 words, which is also twice too long. You need a shorter sentence for the kind of impact that should start a query. The average sentence is 25 words. Trim it down and shorten those unwieldy sentences.

Why so many hyphens?

Hypothetical questions should be limited. If you use any, allow just one at the end of the plot description. You can eliminate paragraph four; it says nothing. Paragraph five is likely to send your query to the reject pile because political and social novels are BORING. You might not know that from high school and college. Students are forced to read them but the general public is not forced and usually avoids them.

A lot of the words contribute noting. Here are some examples: even, a mysterious out-of-towner, finally, really, When, the (before humans), over, none other than, the Queen of the Earth, to learn, own. I hope you get the idea: trim, trim, trim.

Also avoid hyperbole. For example, “they will stop at nothing.” Now really! Would they collapse the entire universe into neutron star just to stop Skye?

Set it aside for a while. Then review EE's and the minions' comments. Revise and resubmit.

InkAndPixelClub said...

Agreed with the rest of the comments: still a lot of adjectives, but not enough detail in the right places and not enough of Skye doing anything.

Additionally, Mother Nature is coming off as not very bright:

MN: Hello, Skye. I'm your mom who abandoned you as a baby for unknown reasons.
Skye: Cool! Can we hug?
MN: No, but you can enact an as yet unexplained plan that will stop humans from harming the Earth and me and place all of humanity and you in mortal peril.
Skye: Huh. Well as tempting as that sounds, I'm gonna need to think that over for a bit. In the meantime, I'll start having a relationship with the hunky, mysterious guy who brought me here. I like him.
MN: I'm sending him away.

If Skye has to willingly do whatever it is that she could do to save the planet (PLEASE explain what it is), it's in Mother Nature's best interests to keep her happy, not make her a miserable prisoner. It makes sense if Mother Nature is used to people obeying her every word and isn't clear on how to deal with a teenaged? daughter, but you need to spell it out if that's the case.

As I understand it, a hostage is someone being held and threatened with harm to control another person. Skye seems like more of a prisoner. You want to be careful with your word choices, doubly so when you only have a short query to demonstrate your writing skills.

The love triangle is not yet wrenching my heart, or even threatening to do so. It seems like Skye loses the guy she was getting close to and simply moves on to the next available person, who I know nothing about. And I suspect that person might be the traitor, which feels like a story I've seen before. I don't know for sure, but when you leave things vague, it means the reader has to guess what you have planned. Same goes for Skye's powers. Maybe she can do cool things like freeze water with a thought or start a fire by snapping her fingers, or maybe she walks around with a permanent dust cloud surrounding her like Pigpen from Peanuts. I don't know because you didn't tell me. You can reveal a lot more in a query than you would in something like book jacket copy and you want to show most of your hand. Too many face down cards and editors or agents will assume you have a three instead of a king.

Get to the point where Skye starts taking action and making decisions. If you end the query before that happens, you end up with a character who doesn't feel like the protagonist of her own story.

Compress the last three paragraphs into one. Leave out the sentence summing up what the book is about and what''s in it. If the reader doesn't know that by this point in the query, you need a new query.

Take a day or two the write a new query draft. You will need time to check for errors, let it sit, reread it, and see if anything can be improved.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

I agree with what the others said, and add: I'm not a big fan of bio paragraphs, and I'm afraid this one makes it sound like the main character might be a Mary Sue. I'd leave it out. That you've traveled widely is nice, but not a selling point. Yours may be one of 100 or more queries an agent is reading at a sitting. Imagine being presented with the bios of 100 total strangers.

Don't try to make everything sound big and important. Just be matter-of-fact (eg "Mother Nature" rather than "none other than Mother Nature".) Remember that you're writing a business letter.

The book as you're describing it sounds message-heavy. Such books are generally frowned upon. I would suggest not only putting this aside for a while, but also spending that while reading book reviews in Kirkus, Publisher's Weekly, and BookList.

Naturae Author said...

Evil Editor & others..

Actually yes EE, Mother Natures plan IS to kill all the humans, with the release of a virus that affects only human DNA. Because Mother Nature is sick, she needs to use Skye (her daughters)energy, via blood sacrifice pretty much, to do it. And since this is a large part of the plot, her figuring this out slowly (she doesn't really learn it until quite close to the end), I don't want to just reveal it all in the query! Or should I?

In terms of the Avarice, yes she is hidden in the human world to keep her safe from them... and yes they know there is a traitor on the island but they dont know WHO it is. Do I need to go into all this detail in the query?

Well, I am thankful for your help and any advice on how to give more information without giving away EVERYTHING would be useful!

Minion 621 said...

One big positive for me: the plot about the protag's mom/Mother Nature intending to kill all humans (if that's what it is?) does sound pretty different to me. Original, even. (Though not in the sense that it's never been done before -- just that it's not a plot that shows up in every other book). I'd suggest playing this up in the next version.

Also, yeah, Skye needs to be a bit more active in the query. Something like "Mother Nature sends away Holt, leading Skye to recruit another elemental to help her escape. This time, Skye makes it off the island -- only to witness a group called Team Plasma* destroy a mountain with no regard for the animals who live on it. Disgusted, Skye almost returns to Naturae. Almost. Because while helping her mom would get rid of Team Plasma, it'd also kill all the other seven billion humans on earth.

If Skye can [do something specific], she might be able to save her mom and all humanity. But she's got to do it fast, because Team Plasma [is about to do something], and they are much more ruthless than she is..."

I hope this helps.

*yes, this is a Pokémon reference.

Mister Furkles said...

Naturae Author,

Yes! Tell all except the end. Tell about MN's plan to make humans an extinct species. (Although, for my money, I'd rather get rid of roaches.) All you need mention is that Syke doesn't know NM's real plan.

Okay you don't have room in 250 words to tell everything. So just the main plot line. You may have to leave out the romance. And I recommend Avarice have a seemly benign name like Fengshui.

Give away all that will fit into 250 words except for how it ends. The agent/editor needs to see that you actually do have a story. Limit the setup to about 50 words.

And the horror of killing all the humans should be emphasized. Like, the kitties won't have any servants to cater to their every little whim.

I&PC: love your dialogue.

Anonymous said...

Author, you may have a bigger plot than you realize. Mother Nature is the Unabomber -- no, she's worse than the Unabomber; she's the Old Testament God wiping out the entire earth except for Noah and his family. Wait, she's worse than that; there's not even a Noah in this story. The notion that nature will get revenge on humans for abusing it is a rather old one, but I've never seen nature personified as an apocalyptic figure who needs to be taken out rather than settled with.

If she wanted to protect Skye, but wouldn't it have been safer -- and wiser -- to keep Skye on Naturae and raise her to have no love for humans?

AA said...

I'm not sure how I feel about this one. It seems that with a very few exceptions, your entire readership is the enemy in this novel. I don't see any way out of it.
Except for a few die hard eco-warriors who never use a plastic bag, everyone else who reads this is actively destroying nature on a daily basis. If they're reading a paper copy as opposed to an ebook they're killing trees, unless it's you're planning on having them all printed on 100 percent recycled paper.
As long as you don't alienate your readership I guess it's okay.

"Will Skye be willing to help Mother Nature, and the Earth, even if it means betraying the humans she has grown up with? Or will the Avarice get to her before she even has a chance to choose sides?"
This makes it seems like Skye must choose to help her mother kill humanity or else have the power of choice taken away from her. Does she get to choose NOT to help her mother?

Like Anonymous, I don't understand why her mother abandoned her to be raised by humans if she wanted her to despise humans.

I, also, do not care about Holt. We barely get a hint of him before he's replaced.

Cil said...

I would vote with AA and leave Holt out of the query. Focus on the daughter being kidnapped by her mother and forced to participate in genocide, that sounds interesting and unique. Although it sounds substantially darker than your initial query. Also if Avarice is important we need some specifics about them. Currently they appear to do nothing except be generally bad and have traitors working for them doing... generally bad stuff.

Naturae Author said...

Hi all.

Thanks sooo much for your comments. They are so helpful. I have already written another revision which I have sent to EE. I hope you all wont get tired of my queries because I will keep sending revisions until I have something that works! I have tried to make my new edit much clearer and yes it is definitely a dark book that puts humans, the readers, in kind of the villain position, but I also try to show both sides of humanity so that you see the good AND evil in us! I'm not sure if my book has too much of a "message" to make it popular as it seems in general people like more fluff (ex. Twilight) but I dont know, I feel like its a real topic that we need to be focused on and maybe this is a fun way to get it across....?

Im finding it so hard to really give a good overview of the story but still keep it short and interesting. Anyways, lets see what you all think of the next one. Keep the comments coming. Thanks again!!

Mr Baskerville said...

I agree with many of the comments above, and would particularly like to know more about the love triangle, if the author is querying this as a romance. To me, it seems more like fantasy/paranormal. Which is fine, of course, but it might mean someone browsing the romance section passes on this novel.

If Holt is in the query, who is he, how will he help Skye, and who is his rival? All I get from the query is that Holt is working for Mother Nature, then is banished by her after he gets too close to Skye.

Also, I'd like a bit more specificity about Avarice. Do they call themselves Avarice? Is it an acronym?

Tell a compelling story with interesting characters, and don't worry about a 'message'.