Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Feedback Request

The author of the book featured in Face-Lift 1335 would like feedback on the revised version below.


I’m a friend of your client XXXXX. [Or, to save space, L.] She thought you might like a first read of SACRIFICE, the medieval fantasy novel I’ve just completed, and recommended I email you directly.

Marina’s husband is a smuggler. Strictly small-time. Turns out he has secrets even from her, though. The Duke’s men come for her - and her kids – and she bolts, eventually making a desperate bid for sanctuary. [Not clear why the Duke's men are coming for Marina and her kids or what that has to do with her husband. Did his smuggling operation interfere with the Duke's plans? Would it help us to know what the husband's secrets are?]When it fails, she must give her daughter Quirt up to the Order. [She must give her daughter up to the Order? Is this a law? What is the Order?]

The monks are the only true masters of magic – a force others find maddeningly unreliable. Quirt is fascinated. [How old is Quirt?] She even finds a friend or two among the brothers. But she sees hints that the monks’ creative power – and their mastery of bloody destruction – springs from a dark secret. [Are we talking about a religious order of monks? I only ask because monks are rarely associated with bloody destruction, and those who are are rarely trusted with the care of young girls.]  

Marina bluffs her way from the Order’s smoky cloisters to the sluggish backwaters of the great swamp. She can’t quite see how she - and Hap, the son who remains to her - are going to build a new life, and she increasingly regrets giving up her daughter.

Hedge-wizard Cremona has suffered through a painful education, in the course of trying – and failing - to reap rewards from his magical talent. Meeting Marina, he realizes her story holds clues to the riddle of power that has begun to obsess him.

When Hap is trapped in a fire, only Cremona’s intervention saves him. Marina realizes she must choose between an empty exile and the daunting prospect of reversing her sacrifice. [Is there a connection between this realization and Cremona saving Hap? I don't actually see why Cremona is in the query.] She risks running foul [afoul] of the Duke if she returns home, and the Order are an even more intimidating prospect. But she must face them both to reclaim her daughter, her family and her life. [Is her husband still a part of her family? He was the subject of the first sentence, which makes him seem important, but he quickly disappeared.]

SACRIFICE aspires to the tone, complexity, and moral ambivalence of KJ Parker. [Does K.J. know you consider him morally ambivalent?] At 166k words, it is the first installment in a trilogy. It will appeal to adult readers of fantasy. [The query's somewhat shorter now, but the book is still as massive as ever. That's gonna be a problem.]

I’ve attached a synopsis and initial chapters as per your guidelines. Thank you for your time and consideration.


You seem to like using dashes. I don't think you'd lose anything by changing all of them to less-annoying commas.

We need better connections between ideas, and you need to assume we know nothing about your world. 

If Marina doesn't know why the Duke is after her, you don't need to try to explain it to us. If she does know, then what are the secrets her husband is keeping? If those secrets aren't important in the query, don't bring them up.


Anonymous said...

One of the better strategies of query writing is to not bring up anything you aren't going to explain. You want the agent to understand the details of the main plot. The only question you want them to have at the end is "How much can I sell this for?"

I'm hoping the differently sized dashes are some strange artifact of e-mailing or electronic posting. You might want to make sure any that you don't change to commas are standardized before sending this to an agent or editor.

Chicory said...

The first paragraph made me think Marina was the main character, but then when I read the second paragraph I thought maybe Quirt was the lead and you just started in an odd place. When the third paragraph was about Marina again I'd forgotten who she was and first thought I was getting a third character. (Sorry to be so harsh. That's just what happened.)

Here's how I might write the query if it was me.

When Marina's daughter is snatched by the duke and imprisoned in a monastery of dark magic wielders, Marina is desperate to rescue her. Her only help is Cremora, an untrained hedge-wizard obsessed with learning the monastery's secrets.

...then you could go on from there. My attempt might not be very accurate, since I don't know your story's details, but I thought at least it might spark some ideas.

Anonymous said...

Since three people advised you to change the name Cremona and you didn't, I'm going to assume you don't really want advice.

St0n3henge said...

Okay, first- unless your story is humorous, try not to use humorous sounding names. To me, Hap is a 1950's Sunday comic character, Quirt is a cute robot from a 1980's kids' show, and Cremona is a margarine.

The bigger problem here, as EE and others have mentioned, is that we don't know what your world is like and you're assuming we do. So, we don't know what the Order is, what Monks generally do, what powers your witches may or may not have, and many other rules of your world.
That's why we're seeing what appear to be holes in the plot. They may be fine in the manuscript, but since we don't know why the a woman must take punishment for her husband's crimes or why she would have to give up her daughter to "the Order," it's hard to say if the story is good.

Another problem I'm seeing is hard to describe. I'll call it the "homeostasis" problem. I've seen this in queries before.
Here's your basic plot:
The mother, Marina, runs from her home. She gives up her daughter. Her son is put in danger, then rescued. Now she wants to get her daughter back and take her kids back to the exact same life she had before.
Now, that's hard to root for. I don't really want her to have this. I want the characters to change and grow. Does Marina learn something important about life? Does Quirt discover her own inner magic or solve some long-held riddle of the universe? Is Hap anything besides a damsel in distress, and if not, is there a reason you didn't let him die to service the story?
Main characters running away from the story just aren't interesting characters. If that's not what you've written then you'll need to make it clear that your protagonist engages with the story and other characters. Show how she fights for her family, don't just say that she does.

MVRJ said...

i was dragged away from this for quite a while, but have managed to get back to it finally. Thanks to all for your comments and suggestions.