Thursday, August 13, 2015

Feedback Request

This is my second time submitting a query for The Adventures of Parker Rhodes to Evil Editor. After reading some of the comments from last time I was inspired to really put my heart into writing and learning the craft. After numerous writing classes, working closely with a writing coach and revising my book for what seemed like the hundredth time I feel I am ready to show the world what I can do. I just want to let the Evil Editor take another look and help me tighten up the query.

Thanks for the help.

It had been three years since the alien took Parker Rhodes [Rhodes's] father away from him, though Parker didn’t know it at the time. [He didn't know it had been three years or he didn't know an alien took his father away? If you change it to Three years ago the alien... there's no ambiguity.] “He died during an important mission overseas” were the lies [was the lie] the Government told Parker and his mother, Dorothy Rhodes. But now that the alien has come back, before the day was over, Parker would learn the truth. [But now the alien has returned, and before the day is over Parker will learn the truth.]

The Adventures of Parker Rhodes is the story of an ordinary young man, full of humor and audacity, who finds himself in an extraordinary circumstance. Just when his [Parker's] life seems to be taking a real upswing, departing from the sad years after his father's alleged death, the alien who was there when his father died, returns to earth, causes mayhem, and threatens the existence of Parker, his mother, and the entire world. [I'm gonna kill everyone on this planet, but before I do that I'm gonna kill you and your mother.] Parker joins with the grizzled General, a character who knew and distrusted the alien from the first time it visited, a lisping tiny cowboy, and a cast of other characters as he fights, with his new found superpowers, to save them all. [I assume the General has command over an army, and Parker's superpowers are more like Superman's than Aquaman's, but I don't see how a tiny cowboy with a lisp brings so much to the table that he's worth mentioning in the query.]

The Adventures of Parker Rhodes is told in a language that compels, excites, entertains and sparks the imagination. [According to . . . you. It's not your fault that we don't trust your opinion about your book, but we've been fooled once too often.] It brings to life a hero for a new generation in the form of a sarcastic, clever, resourceful, and funny teenager, with whom kids all over the world can relate.

A cross between Saint Dane (The Pendragon Adventure) and President Snow (The Hunger Games), [You've already told us he's threatened the existence of the entire world. Do you really need to compare him to other bad guys?] the alien is on earth to do the wrong thing [Destroy the world.] for the right reasons [For kicks.].

I am a lifelong reader of sci-fi and a great fan of Rick Riordan (Percy Jackson series) and Eoin Colfer (Artemis Fowl series). I have written this, my first book and the first in a series in honor of the great writers of YA Science Fiction. I work in IT, an improbable spot for a novice writer, yet it puts me in a unique position to get my work in front of a diverse, creative and open-minded audience. I have studied novel writing both independently and alongside professional writers. I completed this novel with the assistance of a professional editor. [I don't see that anything in this paragraph is helpful. Better to use the space telling us what happens in your book. All we know is that an alien who was here three years ago is back and threatening our world, and a cast of characters including Parker who suddenly and inexplicably has superpowers, is going to try to save us.]

This 60,000 word book is complete and ready for your review. I would be delighted to send it to you.


Why is the alien threatening our existence, what powers or weapons does he have that make him a threat, where did Parker acquire superpowers, and what are they? How does the "battle" go in the early stages? If we're losing, what do our heroes plan to do to turn things around? 

Everything you've told us could happen in the first chapter or two. We want to know what happens throughout the book.


AlaskaRavenclaw said...

This sounds like you're thinking book flap copy rather than a query.

Some differences between the two:

Book flaps are usually not written by the author. Therefore, praise is considered okay. In a query, it's not.

Book flaps speak in generalities, but queries must speak in specifics.

A book flap is read in a context where nobody has to wonder what age the book is written for or what the genre is. In a query, these things have to be identified succinctly.

When reading book flaps, some readers may be curious to know details about the author's life. But when reading 100 queries at a sitting, most agents, alas, don't care.

InkAndPixelClub said...

The first paragraph is an interesting start. It could use some of the tightening up EE suggests, but I could be persuaded to read a second paragraph.

Unfortunately, that second paragraph is a vague, detached description of the story with a recap of paragraph one, a list of characters with no mention of how they connect to the story, and the one important and potentially interesting bit of information (Parker has recently discovered that he has superpowers) is so buried that I might miss it because I'm too busy wondering what the tiny lisping cowboy is doing in this story.

Your job is to show an editor or agent what your story is like, not tell them what it's like. You want the query reader to read about what happens in your story and conclude on her or his own "this writing style is exciting and entertaining" and "this sounds like a character any kid to relate to." If you just say that the writing is exciting and entertaining (I would stop at two adjectives) and the character is internationally relatable, you leave space for the reader to think "Oh, really?".

You will not be able to reference characters from other books when describing your villain in your manuscript, so you need to demonstrate that you can make it clear what kind of bad guy the alien is without comparing him to other villains. "A cross between (x) and (y) doesn't really tell me much anyways, as I don't know what elements of each character you're using.

Like both EE and ARC have told you, your bio isn't going to help you get your book published. The only thing an editor or agent wants to know about you is if you have any previously published work. Your current job, courses you took, and what you like to read aren't relevant. I'd leave out the professional editor too as that can mean anything from "person who looked over my manuscript with a critical eye and offered helpful suggestions" to "person who rewrote the entire book for me and will be suing when it gets published" to "person I paid a ton of money to find where I used 'your' instead of 'you're'."

You've obviously put a lot of work into your book and learning the craft. Now you need to put those skills to use making your story sound as fun and exciting as you know it is in query letter length.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on your enthusiasm, your faith in your project, and your time back at square one. Still, you're going to need not only an evil editor, but a copy editor. You still seem to be missing the eye and ear for grammar and usage that distinguishes a practiced writer. Some may dispute this, but in my experience, one usually develops these senses through voluminous reading of the classics -- masters of prose such as Mark Twain and Charles Dickens -- even if it's not the type of prose you would write. (I repeat, some may dispute this, and plenty will disagree with my choice of prose masters.) Failing that, anyone else have any suggestions for improving in these areas?

But if you've figured out the business of creating a story arc and developing your characters, you're massively ahead of most writers who are querying agents. The rules of query-writing are not intuitive, and it's best for you, a novice, to apply them rigorously as you structure your letter.

You'll get lots of good advice here. Read it all, absorb it, and spend several weeks reworking your query and reading other columns here. And then, please get back to us!

Mr Baskerville said...

Could you be a bit more specific about the story? What does Parker have to do to save the planet, how does the alien fight back, what choices does Parker have to make to succeed?

This is what I get from the query: An alien who killed Parker's dad returns to Earth. This alien is going to destroy Earth for the right reasons. But Parker has mystery superpowers and a tiny cowboy, so he will save them all.

I was totally distracted by the tiny lisping cowboy. Tiny like Tinkerbell? Tyrion?

Also, why does working in IT put you in a position to get your work anywhere, open- or closed-minded? I am in no way disparaging IT, I just don't see how working anywhere (other than maybe a bookstore...) will get your work in front of any audience.

Anonymous said...

Author, as your details piled up on the scifi market, other scifi books, characters, and authors, and the place of an IT worker in the community of scifi readers and writers, I kept wanting to get back to the thing you and I came here for -- your story. You abandoned it at the end of the second paragraph and then carried on for four more paragraphs.

Imagine sitting someone down to tell them a story, and instead you tell them that the story is full of great characters and you'll tell it in a great language, and the story is loved by people of all races and backgrounds, and you feel inspired to tell the story because of your lifelong love of similar stories, such as X (which is all about John Smith) and Y (which is all about Jim Doe). No, no! Tell them that at the end, after they're sitting there wide-eyed and wondering, "What sort of wizard are you to have thought up that cool story?"

Can you tell me one little thing, say, about how Parker is putting his life back together in the wake of his father's death? Is he at lost last resuming his hobby of rock collecting -- which is how he gains his superpowers? Is he going back to Black Lick Creek, where he and his father used to swim and play -- which is how he meets the tiny, lisping cowboy? Just something small and revealing and maybe a bit touching instead of your lists of adjectives.

Minion 621 said...

Since everyone seems to be confused by this (not gonna lie, I was too before I read the other query), maybe you should describe Billy more specifically, since "five-year-old with a toy gun" is a clearer image than "tiny, lisping cowboy".

That was the big detail that stuck out to me, haha. Other than that, I agree with making the story clearer. I love a good alien invasion.

AA said...

I agree this needs more story, less personal information. Ditto on leaving out description of the story. You need to tell us what actually happens.

All I've got is that someone's father was abducted by aliens, aliens are planning on taking over the earth, and a tiny lisping cowboy. It sounds like a mash-up of Twin Peaks and the X-Files. I'm guessing it isn't, though.

Anonymous said...

Thank you guys for the feed back. I have taken the advice you all have given and have done a complete rewrite of the query. I have expanded on the description of the core story and explained how the characters I named are relevant. The hard part is making it all fit on one page. I have submitted the revised query to EE so hopefully it will be posted soon. Is there a rule against the same book being posted 3 times on the site? If so could I just post here for review?

Again, thank you all for recognizing my love for writing and my passion for this project which I feel could be very successful if it is presented correctly.