Thursday, June 02, 2016

Feedback Request

The author of the book featured in Face-Lift 1315 has submitted the following revision, and would like your input.

I am seeking representation for my fantasy/adventure novel, The Missing Traveller, aimed at high school readers. 

Ages have passed since a flood turned the world into a waste [Is the world covered with water? Or has the water subsided, leaving a wasteland?] and drove survivors up the immense Mount Era, and cities of the Union federation are perched across the cliffs. [That would be better as two sentences, with "are perched" changed to "have grown up (or "have formed").] [It sounds like Mount Era is the only place in the world where people live. Are there other mountains harboring survivors?] The Stone of Dominus, responsible for the flood and destruction, [One could get the impression the Stone of Dominus is so huge that when it rolled into the ocean it caused the whole planet to flood. If it's a normal-sized stone with magical powers maybe it should be a crystal or jewel.] [Also, if you change Dominus to Dominos, as my auto-correct keeps doing, you can make it a pizza stone.] was buried in the centre of the mountain to prevent such a cataclysm from occurring again. [They somehow know that the Stone is harmless if it's inside a mountain?] [Does the Stone have to be in the possession of a human to cause a cataclysm? If so, they should sail to the other side of the planet and toss it under the ocean instead of burying in the one place on the planet where humans live.] 

For all the years Lark, the travelling merchant, told the sixteen-year-old Alister about the cities of the Union, he never imagined he'd be one of the few to leave home and explore them. [I feel certain he at least imagined it. Maybe he never believed it.] ["For all the years" bothers me. Maybe "Despite all the times"? But after his rash actions lead to a young girl's death, Alister sees no choice but to run away.

His guilt might have overwhelmed him if not for a message from Lark, who recently went missing. The message leads Alister to discover [reveals] that Lark's disappearance was no accident. Baudouin, the unnervingly charismatic king of the western side of the mountain, took Lark captive after the merchant learned of his plans to regain his "rightful" rule over the mountain, using the Stone of Dominus. [The Stone was buried to prevent this. If it's still accessible, my earlier warning that they should find a better hiding place is proven prophetic.] 

With the rest of the Union oblivious to Baudouin's plans and fooled by the aid he's given them over the years, Alister needs to decide who to trust to free Lark, so the two of them can determine a way to stop Baudouin from destroying the Mount. [If the Mount is destroyed, what's left? I thought Baudouin wanted to regain his "rightful" rule over the mountain, not destroy it.] [Also, a guy who's capable of destroying the one place where people live captures the guy who knows about his nefarious plan, and doesn't kill him? What's he keeping Lark alive for?] Along the way to Deemstun, Alister uncovers the mysteries of Lark's past, earns his funds from an illegal glider race, and finds himself wondering how far he should go to stop the ambitious king.

Thanks for your time and consideration. The full manuscript is complete at 108 000 words and is available upon request. As per your submission guidelines, attached are the first two chapters. I look forward to hearing from you.

Best regards,


I think we should begin with Alister killing the girl and running away. Opening with a description of the world is okay if it's crucial to what you're about to tell us, but the plot points you include could take place anywhere. 

I see you've changed Hawk to Lark, but do we really need him in the query? All he does is disappear. He seems to be important to Alister, but not so much to us. It's still not clear how a merchant can be useful, and while Alister somehow seems better equipped now that he's not known exclusively as a whittler, he still doesn't have super powers If he beats Baudouin to the Stone of Dominus, can he use it to defeat him?.

Here's the story as far as I can tell: Alister accidentally kills a young girl and chooses to run away. While on the run he learns of a plot by Baudouin to either destroy the only habitable place in the world or to become the ruler of all he surveys, which, in either case, is Mt. Era. Despite having no useful skills and no allies, Alister sets out to stop Baudouin. Turn each of those sentences into a three-sentence paragraph. 


Anonymous said...

'Include details' means 'include specific details'. "rash actions" isn't specific.

The plot still sounds disjointed. What does killing the girl have to do with the king's plot to take over? It puts the MC on the road, but getting the message about the merchant could have done that. The agent/editor should be able to look at the query and get a good sense of how the story elements interrelate and add up to the final decisive action. (A happens so B happens then C gets in the way and D and E happen, etc) What you currently have doesn't accomplish that.

The motives listed aren't compelling for either the MC getting involved or for the villain's evil plan (where is the king going to live if he destroys the only inhabitable place in the world?) Is there reason to believe the king wouldn't make a good ruler?

The world description is wordy and doesn't shed light on the protagonist or his goals and only vaguely illuminates the mcguffin.

If the MC's trusting someone else to free Lark (which statement can be read in a couple of ways), there would seem to be more than two people then involved.

Your MC spends a lot of query space thinking, wondering, discovering, etc. In an adventure fantasy, he should probably be taking more action which should be mentioned in the query.

You probably realize the book needs to be complete before you start sending queries out. 108K is still on the long side, but better than 120K for YA. Not calling the book YA and then saying for high school readers just makes you sound ignorant of the industry.

alaskaRavenclaw said...

There are no characters mentioned until the third paragraph of your query. Many agents will not read that far.

batgirl said...

Too much backstory raises a lot of irrelevant questions instead of raising a story question. Here's my irrelevant question: If Lark travels around, and Alister is stuck in his hometown, how does Alister know that Lark is missing instead of just delayed?

You might consider writing up a brief summary of the story as it happens in the book, in sequence. I'm hoping you don't begin the actual book with several pages of backstory.

AA said...

Seems to me your story starts at "For all the years..." I don't think you need the introduction about how this happened, unless you can compress it into a sentence. Or maybe you could put in a sentence about the stone where you mention it later.

I'm following your plot better here, but this: "With the rest of the Union oblivious to Baudouin's plans and fooled by the aid he's given them over the years, Alister needs to decide who to trust to free Lark, so the two of them can determine a way to stop Baudouin from destroying the Mount." Is needlessly complicated. It looks like it should be at least two separate sentences. The ideas are: Alister and Lark are the only ones privy to Baudouin's plans. The two of them need to stop him from destroying the Mount. And Alistair needs an ally that can free Lark. (And then do what? Disappear? Help them fight?) Any way, too many subjects for one sentence.

Are the mysteries of Lark's past important? Did he kill somebody? Is he related to Baudouin?

I keep reading Baudouin as Bedouin, making me think this is all taking place in an Arab country.

SB said...

"earns his funds from an illegal glider race"

This makes me immediately think of the pod-racing in Episode 1 (even more so than the first version of the query, which also made me think of it), which immediately makes me think of how little the pod-racing added to my enjoyment of that movie. I would leave this part out of the query.

How do you pronounce Baudouin?

endlessedits said...

I find that I keep getting confused between Alistair and Lark. I agree with evil editor on focusing on Alistar. You could just say that a letter from a missing friend spurs Alistar to overcome his guilt, because if that evil king guy destroys the world, he won't be around to feel guilty anymore anyway. People usually get more motivated when their own life is at stake. Also, if he feels very guilty about the girl's death, he's probably motivated to redeem himself. Good luck with revisions.

khazar-khum said...

Here's something I've never understood: Bad guy wants to destroy the world. But if he does that, he can't live, either. Even Sauron only wanted to make the world into an industrial hellhole, not destroy it.

So why is it always DESTROY THE WORLD and never anything that makes sense, like enslave everyone, make everyone into zombies, rebuild the glade into a slag heap, etc.?

InkAndPixelClub said...

I'm concerned that all of the details in your query that sound interesting to me - the accidental death of the young girl due to the actions of the protagonist, the last survivors of the human (I think?) race living on a single mountain in a flooded world, the glider race - don't have much to do with the plot. They may well influence the narrative in major ways in the book, but as far as the query goes, they're side elements that don't affect or tie into the main story of Alister going to rescue his traveling merchant friend and stopping the evil king from doing an evil thing. Would the query version of your story be that much different if Mt Era was the only inhabitable place in the world for some other reason, or merely completely cut off from the rest of the world? If not, you don't need to spend so much time explaining the world and how it came to be, certainly not an entire paragraph devoid of characters.

In the first sentence of your second story paragraph, I initially thought it was Lark who never imagined he'd be exploring the rest of Mt. Era. Lark is the subject in the first part of the sentence, so I didn't realize the "he" after the comma referred to Alister instead. This may be a moot point because this sentence makes it sound like the story is about Alister going on an adventure to explore his world when he's actually running away and then attempting to rescue his friend. Getting to see the various cities of Mt. Era is a secondary or tertiary concern.

So Mt. Era is divided into two regions: the presumably eastern side where the Union cities are and the western side which is Baudoin's kingdom. Is that correct? Your initial world building paragraph makes Mt. Era sound like a single civilization comprised of the remaining survivors of the flood, so I'm getting confused when you suddenly start talking about the Union and then later mention a kingdom.

What I need to see to get excited about this story are the aspects that make it different from any other "guy who's never left his hometown is now the only one who can save the world" story and a real idea of what to expect from the book after the first third or so. For the former, the setting could be part of what makes your story unique, but it needs to feel like an important part of the story. Does Alister have a job in his hometown that relates to living on the side of a mountain, maybe one that would teach him skills that might help him on his quest? Are traveling merchants some of the only people who go from city to city? How are the other cities of the Union different from Alister's hometown? How do people travel around the mountain? Will Alister be rock climbing? Gliding from city to city? Training a dragon to carry him around?

Same goes for the girl's death. A hero who accidentally kills someone early on could be interesting and unique, but only if it's an important part of the story. If Alister is going to be carrying around feelings of fear and guilt over the girl's death or trying to deny his role in it and these feelings are going to affect the choices he makes in the story, you'll want to make that clear. If the girl's death is just a way to get Alister out of his hometown and the consequences beyond that are minimal to nonexistent, just leave it out.

You don't have to relate the entire plot, but an potential agent or editor is probably going to want to know the rough direction of the rest of the book. Will Alister and Lark be trying to raise an army to battle the king? Plot an assassination? Destroy the stone? You have some other things that happen in the book, but they're either too vague or too disconnected from the main story to give me a real idea of your narrative.