Friday, August 21, 2015

Feedback Request

The author of Valor (see post below this one) would like feedback on a revision.

Dear Evil Editor,

Charlie and his team are traveling to Japan to play in a video game tournament. Mysterious lightning hits the plane making them ill, but they continue to the tournament where they play brilliantly. [Do we need to know how they played?] By the end of the tournament they are so sick they are admitted to the Naval Hospital with radiation poisoning. In a fever ridden delirium Charlie intercepts the healer; he realizes what he just did [What did he just do? I don't know what you mean by "intercepts."] and begs her to heal them. Sara heals her team and they find themselves able to use the magic their video game characters had. [I suggested in the original version that you change the phrase "they all can do the magic that their characters had" (10 words) to "they have acquired their characters' magical abilities." (7 words) Instead you changed it to "they find themselves able to use the magic their video game characters had." (13 words) Why?] At the same time they find out Charlie's brother Rick is MIA.

Team Valor is now in a hurry; Isis is beheading the soldiers they kidnapped, [Whoa. You say that as if we know all about it. All you said was Rick was MIA, nothing about ISIS or kidnapping.] Charlie's brother Rick could have only hours to live. Stasia will use her new ability to become invisible to find a way to sneak over the border of Turkey into Iraq. Oz gets them aboard a helicopter using forged papers and magical disguises. Once in Isis territory Oz can use his locate spell to find Rick. Hawk can sense locations of people and animals in a six hundred yard radius, [semicolon] he's the perfect scout.  [Oz can use his locate spell to actually find Rick, so why do they need Hawk's ability to determine whether they're within 600 yards of Rick? If anyone's the perfect scout, its Oz, not Hawk.]

They have found and freed the hostages, but now must escape on foot across Isis territory. Charlie is a protection warrior intent on not only saving the hostages, but the girl he loves. The first enemy engagement teaches them they can't rely on defensive magical abilities; the enemy is to [too] numerous[comma] the hostages to [too] weak. [One use of "to" when you mean "too" is a typo. Two, and I'm worried you either don't know the difference or you didn't even bother reading this before submitting it. Either way, I'm moving on to someone else's query.] Charlie will lead his team into battle armed with a stolen fire ax and a garbage can lid [semicolon] his magic spells make him nearly invincible. Add in a rogue that [who] can kill ten men in ten seconds, a mage that [who] can blow up tanks with fireballs and lightning, and a ranger that [who] never misses what he shots [shoots] at [and] the odds increase of them escaping despite the overwhelming force they face. [Whattaya mean add them in? Who are they? Where'd they come from? The odds are even better if you add in Superman and Green Lantern, but unless you have them on speed dial, they aren't showing up. You've got a team of five people, one of whom is almost invincible, and they can't rescue Rick without help from three more superheroes? The three added heroes have better powers than team Valor. Fireballs and lightning are much better weapons than an ax and a garbage can lid. You'd never see the Avengers calling in the X-Men to help them rescue a guy.] With Sara behind them shielding them with her magic[comma] team Valor is a force to be reckoned with.

Valor is a 78,000 word YA fantasy.

Thank you for your consideration,


Sending a revision the same day your original query appears on the blog is never a good idea. It's been proven time and again.

When I suggested you trim the plot summary to three paragraphs I didn't mean three paragraphs that were twice as long as the paragraphs in the original. I meant three paragraphs the same length as your original paragraphs. For instance, this is enough info for a setup:

When Charlie's five-person video game team are exposed to radiation during a lightning strike, all of them acquire the magical abilities of their game characters. Charlie phones his mother to report they're okay, and learns that his brother Rick is MIA in Iraq. And "Team Valor" has its first mission.

I suggest you set the query aside and work on polishing the writing in the book. Your mechanics in this letter suggest that the book will be filled with comma splices, misused words, improper punctuation, etc.

Maybe you should write a book starring the rogue, mage and ranger. They could wipe out all of ISIS by themselves, while your team can't rescue one guy without help.


InkAndPixelClub said...

You may be able to dump the tournament altogether and just say that a team of competitive gamers are stuck by lightning. You may be trying to make a connection between the lightning strike and their success in the tournament, but it's not working.

I grew up on the Final Fantasy series and whatever other RPGs I could get my hands on. I used to play World of Warcraft. A lot. I do not know what "intercept the healer" means, especially in a real world context. The chances that an agent or editor who may not have ever played an RPG would understand what you're talking about is virtually zero.

Just based on what you have here, Oz and Hawk can and probably should be merged into one character.

Oh joy. Now we have Charlie wanting to save Sara, completely apart from the rest of his team who can presumably save themselves.
And she spends the battle behind everyone else. You said in the last query that you used to play multiplayer games yourself. Surely you noticed how many of your fellow gamers were women, and that they might want to read about other women who do more than heal, turn invisible, and get saved by the male protagonist?

Actually, I need more explanation of why the fight is going to be difficult for Team Valor, not reason that they might win. Why can't the only magic users on Earth wipe out a group of terrorists without breaking a sweat? I suspect that your heroes are going to win, but right now it doesn't even seem like a remote possibility that they won't.

This is still not tight writing and you're still raising more questions than you answer. You use way too many words to describe Stasia's plan to cross the border, and you don't explain how one member of the team turning invisible to cross the border helps anyone else. On top of that. On top of that, this sentence in in future tense (she will use her new ability at some later point) and the next one is in the present (Oz gets them on board a helicopter now). Anyone who reads your query is going to assume your book is full of similarly bloated, clumsy prose and errors. In other words, not ready for publishing.

If you decide that your best course of action is to continue working on the query rather than revising your novel, take a day off where you don't work on the query. Then come back here and read over EE's comments and any you get from the other minions. Write the new query with those comments in mind. Put it down for a while. Read it over, looking for any spelling errors, punctuation issues, or words you don't absolutely need. Read it out loud. The query should be short, so it won't take long and it's a great way to catch missing or misplaced words and sentences that should be shorter. Put it down again. Read it through one more time. Then send it in to EE.

Anonymous said...

On your first version, I commented, "execution counts" and "You must learn the craft of constructing proper, intelligible sentences." Let me put it this way: As an experienced gamer, you know when a game is full of sloppy code, poorly thought out scenarios, an illogical AI, and animation that cuts corners. That's what you're doing here. Great games are years in the making and they utilize the expertise of artists and programmers who have developed their skills through focus, dedication, and experience.

You've got to take a giant step backwards and learn the mechanics of English sentences as well as the art of constructing narratives. Yes, this can take years. Keep writing in the meantime, as all writers do, despite rejection and criticism -- write your heart out! But don't attempt a big publisher until you can put your first ten pages in front of a professional copy editor and get them back with barely a mark.

Chicory said...

I just thought I should point out that if I hadn't read your previous query I would have no idea that Sarah and the love interest Charlie must save are the same person. Good luck with your revisions. :)

Anonymous said...

You get three (3) sentences to explain the setup/situation/circumstances the characters find themselves in to a person who has not read your book, whose only contact with video games may be watching commercials on television, and who really really cares about things like grammar, punctuation, and complete sentences.

You get another 6 sentences to show where the story is going, what decisions the characters face, and the consequences to them and those around them.

If your characters' super powers (magic) works like most RPGs and comes from a mysterious MP pool that gets refreshed by mysterious means, one (1) sentence with a few of these details might help the agent/editor see the difficulties they will be facing. So, are there any differences from video game magic? Are there any consequences to the characters for using it? Is one of the characters taking notes to try to parse out how much HP each terrorist has?

tldr: The agent/editor needs enough of a silhouette of the story to know if they're looking at a camel, a giant robot, or a zombie toad.

khazar-khum said...

There needs to be a reason that Team Valor thinks it could fail. If they are unsure of how to harness their new-found powers, leading to the occasional vaporized goat but unharmed hut, you've given them a reason to be worried. Right now it just sounds like a WoW raid.

AA said...

I agree that we need a reason the team could possibly fail. You make it seem like the rescue is going to be a cinch. You have five heroes (or eight- the query seems a bit confused) with near-invincible powers, ranging from invisibility to casting lightning and magical sharpshooting. It doesn't really make any difference how many villains there are. The heroes are definitely going to win.

It's like the old transporter conundrum. In the original Star Trek series the transporter was introduced because it was too expensive to show the shuttlecraft landing in every episode. The device was a great concept, but writers hated it because whatever the danger was, Kirk and crew could easily escape it. The writers had to keep writing in more and more implausible scenarios to explain why they couldn't use the transporter at that moment. Otherwise the tension would be lost.

It's also why Superman had Kryptonite. It was introduced because without it there was no real danger that villains could prevail- and therefore, no real drama.

Matt said...

I disagree with khazar-khum and AA about needing a reason to fail. If anything I wonder how these guys could possibly succeed.

These are five gamer kids walking into a war zone. Bullets are their kryptonite. They have no training. I imagine them walking into urban rubble, chests puffed out and full of awesome. Bang! One of them drops dead from a sniper bullet. The others don't know what happened. Bang! A second one is dead. They start freaking out. This is real. Bang!

Now the healer can bring them back, right? She folds her hands in prayer. Bang! The main guy is all that's left. He ducked behind a crumbling wall. He thought he loved the healer, but he loves living a lot more. The insurgents can smell his urine-soaked clothes. They tie him up and bring him to their cave turned movie studio. They kneel him beside his brother's decapitated body.

Now the main guy can use his powers to make a break for it — and die in a hail of gunfire — or he can keep crying until he is executed. Either way, his death is about to get a million hits on Youtube.

khazar-khum said...

Matt, you just described what AA and I mean. They are kids, with newfound powers that they can barely control, and they're going into a war zone. They need to sit down and discuss the very real possibility of dying in a hail of bullets before going anywhere. Or, being kids, they rush in, and someone gets shot. Now they have to face the fact that this isn't a game, and they can't press Start Over if someone dies.

From that standpoint, it could be a gripping, shocking book, a brutal introduction into the reality of war.

Or it could be a silly fantasy, where kids learn about Differences and Working as a Team or whatever the feelgood trash du jour is.

Anonymous said...

It kind of depends on a couple of things

1) there are enough war games out there that they may not be completely clueless about things like bullets and not standing out in the open. Their powers come from a fantasy RPG game, but that doesn't mean they haven't played others.

2)How much HP does a normal bullet take off and how much HP do the characters have? Extended HP may just be one of their new superpowers. What level are they (as opposed to base level of normal humans)? There's also the possibility that, as in a lot of RPGs, the damage taken doesn't show at all. You've just emptied your clip of bullets into a guy and there's not a scratch on him (you can't see the HP meter). What do you do?

Essentially, we don't know enough about the characters' normal abilities or super powers to see what kind of story this is

Anonymous said...

Well, author, you see one thing: your ideas aren't as simple as perhaps you thought they were.

Matt, I do love your imagining, even though the word count would have to lose one zero at the end.

Evil Editor said...

As Charlie has been described as nearly invincible, I think we can assume mere bullets can't hurt him. Perhaps the girl who can become invisible, like the Invisible Girl in the Fantastic Four, can create a force field around everyone to protect them from bullets. While the ability to locate people and animals isn't too useful once the locating has been done, perhaps someone's magical abilities include turning all ISIS members into sand fleas. What we need is a happy medium between Valor all being dead in ten minutes and their enemies all being dead in ten minutes,

AA said...

That's pretty much the idea. If they're just inexperienced gamer kids, they're dead in minutes.
But the way they're being described as nearly invincible superheroes, they can just stroll in, release the captives and walk out without being seen while a magical sniper who can't possibly miss takes out all the villains. Anyone who gets hurt can be healed by Sara.
Either way the story, as it is described, lacks the suspense which makes it interesting.

InkAndPixelClub said...

Given that the worst thing that happens the first time Team Valor encounters their enemies seems to be the kids realizing that they have to use their offensive spells too, I'm assuming that the problem is more "Team Valor is invincible" than "Team Valor is going to get slaughtered." The last line of story is about Sara shielding her fellow warriors with her magic, so I'm guessing that's keeping everyone from immediately getting shot.

Magic needs to be well defined in a story, as do the costs of using it. If you don't say what the magic can and - even more importantly - can't do, then there's no drama. Any problem the characters face can simply be solved by introducing a new magical power. If the healer can raise the dead without serious consequence to herself, the person being healed, or somebody we might care about, then there's absolutely no reason to care what happens to Team Valor or anyone else in the world. You could write a very interesting story about what happens when there's suddenly one person in the world who can bring the dead back to life, but I don't think that's the story you're trying to tell here.

Five (while I understand where the confusion is coming from, I believe the three characters being "added in" at the end of the query are the three members of Team Valor who aren't Charlie and Sara) ordinary gamer kids getting magical powers and fighting terrorists could make for a cool looking five minute video, but it's not a story on its own. There has to be some kind of challenge and some sense that the final battle could go either way. Even if you limit what Team Valor can do, the terrorists seem hopelessly outmatched. Maybe a high level boss from the game was brought to Earth and Team Valor needs to stop it?

The Rower said...

Forgive me, but so many of the "queries" posted here (such as this one) are really synopsis, no?

SB said...

My assumption about the girl who can turn invisible is that she's a rogue, which is a class in WoW (with similar classes in other games) who can go at least transparent, or at least that's the way it's presented when they become more difficult to locate. Higher levels of these classes can often expand that ability to cover those within a certain radius of them. But all that would depend on the particular type of class and abilities with this particular version of the rogue in this story, and that would all need to be explained in the book, in more detail than can or should be explained in a query.

But anyway, I still don't see the sexism/cliche problems that we pointed out before being addressed. And from this version of the query, it seems like you're combining a very silly premise with a very serious villain, and to me it doesn't mesh well. If this is actually a very serious and dramatic and brutal story, maybe show more of that in the query. If it's a fairly light kids book, make the villain someone other than ISIS.

AA said...

You can post it here again. There is no rule about home many times. It's EE's final decision.

Evil Editor said...

Forgive me, but so many of the "queries" posted here (such as this one) are really synopsis, no?

A synopsis provides more information about the plot than a query does. Those query writers who can't resist providing that additional information do end up with synopsis-length material.