Friday, September 25, 2015

Feedback Request

The author of the query for Keeper of the Woods, most recently seen here, would like feedback on the revision below.

Ana is a monster. She doesn’t have claws, fangs, or even a tail-and that’s the problem. One by one everyone else around her has changed and taken on physical traits of an animal just like they’re supposed to.

Abandoned and feared, Ana has raised herself in the woods for eight years until, one day, a fire breaks out. In the blaze she finds and rescues a coyote-girl named Arella, as well as her dog-brother Rae. The siblings seem kind, and even offer to take a skeptical Ana to someone who might be able to fix her. Ana reluctantly agrees to travel with them, and even stays after she discovers they are wanted criminals. After all, she has nowhere to go and already knows she can’t trust anyone-but if there’s a chance that she can end her nightmare, she’ll take it.

They’ll have to rely on each other as they journey, but the closer they come to their destination, the closer they become to each other. [That makes no more sense than it did last time. You're saying: They'll have to rely on each other, but how can they when they've become close? It's like saying Dorothy needs to rely on the Scarecrow, but she can't because they've bonded. It's like saying when you need someone to rely on it's better to go with a stranger than with your best friend.] In the end, Ana can’t hide from the world anymore and will have to decide who to trust. Keeper of the Woods is a 56,000 word middle grade fantasy novel.

I look forward to hearing from you.


You're not giving us enough specific information about the plot. You have a paragraph telling us who your main character is, a paragraph telling us what her situation is, and a vague paragraph that tells us nothing. If you apply the same format to The Wizard of Oz it will sound like this:

Dorothy is an average girl living on a farm in Kansas. She has a loving family and a cute dog named Toto. Sometimes she stops what she's doing and breaks into song.

One day a tornado threatens the farm. Dorothy is knocked unconscious while trying to find Toto, and when she wakes she's in a wondrous colorful land populated by little people called Munchkins. The Munchkins and a kind witch tell Dorothy about a wizard in the Emerald City who might be able to help her return to Kansas. She has no better idea, and if there’s a chance she can get back home, she’ll take it.

Along the way Dorothy meets interesting characters and encounters some dangers. In the end, she will learn a valuable life lesson. The Wizard of Oz is a 56,000 word middle grade fantasy novel.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Note that my query leaves out all the good stuff. Now, if I condense it into one paragraph:

After 12-year-old Dorothy Gale is knocked unconscious during a tornado on her Kansas farm, she wakes in a wondrous land called Oz. She longs to return to her family, but it seems the only one who might help her is a wizard who lives in the Emerald City. So off she goes, accompanied by her dog Toto, to see the wizard.

. . . I'll have plenty of room to talk about the friends Dorothy makes along the way, and especially about the villain, the wicked witch who's trying to stop them. And then to wrap it up with what Dorothy might learn if she somehow survives.


Anonymous said...

Author, you've been using most of the same words in each version of this query. They don't work. You don't need minor tweaks, you need a major overhaul.

The purpose of the query is to prove to the agent you have a story they can sell. You have to tell them what the story is, not just the setup of the internal and external journeys and vague details that could refer to half the books in their slush pile. What is so special about your book that should make them want it?

*Ana wants to be part animal, just like everyone else.
--you don't need to bring up the inexplicable fact that she's considered a monster. Tell us this in one sentence. Keep the questions raised to a minimum.
*Her new friends that she just rescued have promised to help her get what she wants by doing what exactly? Introduce her to the king? Why does she think this will work?
--she obviously goes along with it since she then is journeying with them. you don't need to state the obvious. Try one sentence about the rescue, and one sentence with what they promise. Make the promise sound like it will solve her problems.
*What happens? Even in the synopsis you don't really say.
--my suggestion would be to give an example event that shows the characters causing trouble for themselves, one that shows them being clever, and one that shows them bonding. At any rate, sample events that show both their internal and external journeys, and preferably ones that show Ana taking action.
*A sentence or two about the critical situation they will face or fatal choice they will make to close. What is the point of this book?
--Not 'she can't hide anymore', more like 'If she rescues her friends her face will be posted on reward posters across the kingdom.'

InkAndPixelClub said...

I'm afraid this is a step backward. There's even less in here to tell an editor or agent what happens in the bulk of your book than there was in the last draft. Not wanting to spend time on what challenges Ana and her friends face seems to be a running theme between the various drafts of your query and the synopsis and it's hurting you. An editor or agent needs to know you have a whole, compelling story, not just an interesting setup. You can reveal much more than you would on the book jacket, all the way up to the final decision Ana faces. What you can't do is be vague about the what happens after Ana leaves the forest.

As this draft reads, the majority of your story is about Ana and the canine kids growing closer (which somehow threatens their ability to rely on each other) and Ana nor being able to hide anymore for some reason. She will also have to decide who to trust, but since there are only three characters in the query, I assume she decides to trust Rae and Arella. In fact, I know she does, because she sticks with them even after she learns that they're wanted criminals.

At this point I'd start over with a bare bones version of what you need in the query. Don't worry too much about trying to make it great writing yet; just getting the content down. Try to get Ana introduced to Rae and Arella and out of the forest in the first paragraph like EE suggested. Paragraph two should be the challenged they face on their journey, what skills allow the, to overcome those challenges, and Ana beginning to like and trust other people for the first time in years. Paragraph three should set up the big challenge Ana faces. Rae and Arella have a terrible secret (other than being wanted criminals), Ana finds out, and her faith in her new friends is shattered. She's presented with an option that could benefit her, but at the cost of betraying Arella and Rae. End with those options, then genre, word count, and thank you for your consideration.

After you have that down to the point where everything you need is in there and making sense, you can go back in and punch up the writing.

Anonymous said...

Author, maybe as an exercise you could write a one- or two-sentence summary of each chapter. You could build a one-page (probably less) synopsis from that. Whittle that down to query size, BEING SURE TO INCLUDE EVENTS RIGHT BEFORE THE ENDING. Maybe that's what you need to do to get an idea of what we want to see beyond your setup.