Monday, April 07, 2014

Face-Lift 1198

Guess the Plot


1. Farmer Hank whispers everyday, "If I'd a seen it long enough, I woulda been able to get a pitcher." His wife Carolyn keeps a picture of it--an undocumented UFO--in her lingerie drawer. Will she finally show it to her husband, or will the men in black get it first?

2. Adyseen, daughter of Archangel Gabriel, is not your typical college sophomore. She's not into vampires, werewolves, or boys in general. But when a young man with disturbingly smoldering green eyes becomes her Chem 1 lab partner, she begins to thaw. Wait till she finds out he's really Beelzebub's son.

3. Simply rub Adyseen all over your writer's block and WITHIN SECONDS you'll be transformed into an author of such prodigious proportions that only Evil Editor would dare to spurn you! Bonus! This free 750 word sample comes with full instructions for making it as a haiku enthusiast in the Afterlife!

4. Ady was a breech birth. At five she went to first grade before kindergarten. When she learned her numbers, she started at infinity and counted backwards. At sixteen she crashed her car in reverse. Ady earned her PhD before she was a freshman and quit a job before starting it.
Now, she's missing. Has anyone Adyseen?

5. Adyseen wants nothing more than to be invisible to her fellow middle-grade students. She's got braces, squinty eyes, and worst of all -- her skin is green. But the kids who taunt her with cries of "AdyGreen" will soon learn -- superpowers tend to arise at puberty.

6. The Adyseen people's pantheon of gods has been wiped out, all except Haott, the war god. And he's pissed. Now it's up to one young woman with no special powers to defeat vast tribes of fiendish creatures and Haott himself thereby leading the Adyseen to a glorious future with new and better gods.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Greetings, I am looking for an agent who will work with me to publish my epic fantasy novel, Adyseen, and two sequential novels that will complete a trilogy. The manuscript for Adyseen is complete at a traditional word count of 170,000. [When did 170,000 become the traditional word count?] I have completed an outline for the trilogy and am currently working on producing the second novel.

I am intrigued by the concept of the destruction of religions. [Unfortunately my attempts to destroy a few have failed miserably, mostly because I spend all my free time writing 170,000-word novels.] What becomes of the gods that are destroyed when a pantheon is wiped out? What if you missed one? What if the one you missed was a god of war? [What if you answered these questions instead of asking them?]  Let’s face it; an angry god is daunting whether you are an antagonist or a hero. Following an effect and cause motif, [Unlike the chicken-or-egg controversy, there's a solid answer to which comes first, the cause or effect.] Adyseen is the tale of two souls, Raizsha and Torwand, who are separated by an age [Not clear whether that means one is from the Bronze Age and the other from the Iron Age, or one is fifteen and the other is sixteen.] but bound by the vengeance of Hā′ŏtt, a powerful god of war who suffers [survives] the destruction of his pantheon [Apparently he wasn't powerful enough.] to become a solitary god. [I would say ...Hā′ŏtt, the last surviving god of his pantheon.]

Raizsha is a spirited young woman born of the Adyseen, a people that exist in a hellish realm roamed by vast tribes of fiendish creatures. [That sounded like a good sentence with which to begin the query.] She is the unwitting pawn of Haott, who created her [Is there no contradiction between saying she's born of the Adyseen and created by Haott?] for the sole purpose of rectifying [restoring?] the past that has been buried by the treachery of Haott’s own priests. [I see Hā′ŏtt decided to drop the weird diacritical marks. Historians will be eternally grateful.] [A truly evil god would instead have added an umlaut, a tilde and a cedilla.] [Also, If you have the ability to create a being to help you gain revenge on those who destroyed your pantheon, can't you come up with something better than a young woman? Like Godzilla or Superman?] Driven by the fear [Fearing] that the fate of the Adyseen is to end up like the fiends they abhor, Raizsha casts herself into the embrace of a war that will break her body and test her resolve to its limits. Her trials bring her into conflict with the fiend that drives the fate of her people, and an unforgettable encounter with love, [Of the fiend?] as she draws ever closer to unraveling the will of Haott. [She doesn't sound like an unwitting pawn. Why do you call her that?] [Why haven't these vast tribes of fiendish creatures wiped out the Adyseen yet?]

Formidable, if somewhat moody, Torwand is the High Priest of Haott. Betrayed by the queen he loves, he struggles to unveil the evil that she has invited into their land. Torwand endures his culpability when his indecisiveness leads to the demise of twelve of the thirteen Gods his people worship. Torwand will set the wheel of fate in motion that will divide his people, casting his followers into a foreign land to pursue a fiend, while leaving the rest to the whim of an enemy king that seeks to destroy their religion and bring a great evil to power in its place. Torwand’s struggles construct the history that Raizsha must discover to break her people free from the bonds of their past. [The Torwand paragraph should come before the Raizsha paragraph if his role was played out first.] [The fact it's in present tense is confusing if it came ages before the Raizsha part. I read most of the paragraph thinking R and T were contemporaries.]

I am an aspiring fantasy novelist, however; [However?] my passion, creativity, and strength in writing has earned me monetary awards in several competitive essay contests covering a variety of subjects. [Get rid of that; it probably wouldn't be helpful even if it weren't so vague.]  I thank you for your time and effort in reviewing my submission. If you find that my story excites your interest, I would be happy to supply further materials for your consideration.



I have very little idea what happens in this book. The first plot paragraph suggests this is the story of Haott, the war god who survived the destruction of his pantheon, and who is now pissed. I wouldn't mind reading about how he takes revenge on Torwand and all the other Adyseen. Then we get Raizsha, who was created by Haott, but seems more interested in fiends than the war god. If she's Haott's pawn, she should be helping him get revenge, not battling fiends. Then we have Torwand, who is to blame for Haott's being a solitary god. Putting him at the end is like putting the tornado scene after Dorothy gets to the Emerald City.

I suggest organizing the story as follows:

Paragraph 1 (setup): In the fiend-infested kingdom of Adyseen, the high priest Torwand does ____________, destroying the pantheon of gods--all except Haott, god of war. Haott didn't like that, he said I'm gonna get that boy.

P2 (main storyline): _____ years later, Raizsha, a young woman created by Haott to help him in his plan to restore the past, does _____________, in hopes of ________________. But her plans go awry when ______________ happens.

P3 (wrapup): Raizsha comes up with Plan B: _________________. If it works, ____________________ happens, but if it fails, __________________ happens.

Once you fill in the blanks and make it sound like a professional writer wrote it, you still have room to add a few details about the war or the romance.

Do the people still worship the one god who survived? If not, what is their current religion? A religion installed by the enemy king who destroyed theirs?

How is it that one specific fiend is driving the fate of the Adyseen? And if a fiend is driving their fate what's this "wheel of fate" that Torwand set in motion?

Long sentences with big words may be the style of the book, but try to keep things simple in the query. From the "Driven by fear" sentence on, it's hard work for the reader, and too vague to reward that work.

The question What if you missed one? and the phrase "the treachery of Haott's own priests" suggest wiping out the pantheon was intentional. The claim that Torwand's indecisiveness was responsible suggests he wasn't trying to wipe them out.

Raizsha casts herself into the embrace of a war; Torwand casts his people into a foreign land. I'm not sure "casts" is the best word in either case. Is it casting like casting a fishing line? Like casting a magic spell? Like casting as in giving a role to play? I can see them all making sense, though with different meanings.


Anonymous said...

My first thought upon reading the query was needlessly verbose.

I like long sentences, but every word in the sentence needs to be there for a reason that can't be accomplished by something more laconic.

With a word count of 170,000 you don't want anyone thinking the book is 50% meaningless static noise that will need to be cut to find a publisher.

The world setup sounds interesting. I'd like to know more about what actually happens in the book--is the part with Torand all backstory?

Unknown said...

This sound like two ACTUAL books, especially considering the word count is EXCESSIVE AND NOT AT ALL STANDARD FOR A FIRST BOOK IN FANTASY.

Sorry. I got all flustered right out of the gate.

Ditch the rhetorical questions. Cut the plotting of the trilogy and speak only of the manuscript you have written. The other stuff is noise. Focus on the plot.

From my, albeit minimal, understanding of the plot we have three lines: Pissed God, Unwitting God-killer, And Savior. The first two pair well into a single story, the third seems to take place (centuries?) later, and would be a smart place to begin a sequel...

There is a LOT to be learned from reading the query archives, author. Sure, it will take days, but you probably (hopefully) spent years writing, revising, rewriting this doorstop of a novel so a coupla more days spent learning HOW to write an effective query is time well spent.

In contrast to Anonymous above, your long sentences in the query gave me the distinct idea that you had (at least) 50% static to muck up the book. And your word count will turn off any agent in the business. For real, not maybe.

Think about the comments you have received. Do your research. An uninformed writer is an unpublished author. This letter screams a lack of understanding about expectations in the publishing business. The information is a few clicks away, truly. I am not actually criticizing your "writing" for the most part, though the style is not to my taste, I do believe that you need to learn a lot about writing, both mechanics and in a business-sense. This is easily gained knowledge and I advise you to acquire it.

Just as an aside, I have sent query letters as poor as this in my past. They were appropriately rebuffed. I went back and revised and rewrote and got queries that yielded requests. It's a big deal to get that far. Keep writing, keep learning. Publishing is a tough business, and if you want to be successful you need to keep trying, keep improving....

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

This query suggests excessive verbosity, and the 170k word count backs that up.


I thank you for your time and effort in reviewing my submission. If you find that my story excites your interest, I would be happy to supply further materials for your consideration.

Would read better as:

Thank you for your time.

I'm gonna go out on a limb and guess that in calling the 170k word count "traditional" the writer might be thinking of LOTR. Now I'll google my supposition and... whups. Only Fellowship clocked in over 170k, but some other high fantasies are twice that:

I suspect this may be why so many people don't like high fantasy. With me it's more the stony humorlessness of the genre that I can't stand. This humorlessness becomes most painfully obvious when, every 150 pages or so, an author will dust off and display with considerable pride A Joke.

But I digress. I suppose on consideration, yeah, there's a genre out there where people actually treasure verbosity and would read this.

However, it's important to note that big name writers get read in spite of the crap they pull (eg failing to edit themselves) rather than because of it.

Carry on.

khazar-khum said...

Torwand's story is, to my mind, the most compelling of the lot. We rarely see just how someone manages to kill gods.

But we see Raizsha's story all the time. And most involve surviving trials, and being spirited, and I'm not going to read any further if I'm an agent because I've seen it all before.

Stick with Torwand, if you really want to talk about the death of gods.

none said...

EE dear, your aol email account has been hacked and is sending out spam. Time to change the password!

Evil Editor said...

I changed passwords yesterday after Google told me someone tried to log on using my password. What gives? Of course there's no guarantee that was really Google, but I changed from my Google account, not from any link they sent me. Guess I'll try changing again.

Anonymous said...

Superman's a wuss, this sounds like a job for Kratos

175K words better be LotR or a GoT worthy to hold my interest.

Anonymous said...

Evil editor and friends,
I am a newbie, which you ALL picked up - shame on me. I am extremely pleased with the advice and intend to take nearly all of it.
By traditional word count, I simply meant counting lines and words and doing the math rather than using the MS Word count, which is 156,000. The statement is clearly a mistake.
It's a bit of a kick in the teeth, but thanks for getting me out of my head. Also, thanks for your time.
I shall carry on!

Anonymous said...

Actually, I have a question now that I am trying to rewrite my query. I have read different opinions about what to use for the word count. Is it alright to use the MS Word, word count?

Evil Editor said...

Change the last three numbers to 0. The other numbers stay the same unless you believe the agent will think your book is too short, in which case you round the number directly before the three 0s up one.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Which word count to use... okay, that's a question I can't imagine asking. I use the word processor's word count because it takes five seconds, whereas counting the lines and averaging the number of words per line and the number of lines per page would take forever. And we only used to do that, back in the day, because we didn't have word processors.

It matters not. It matters not at all. It matters not in the least. Two things matter, and these are the things.

1. That you write a kick-ass story.
2. That it be marketable.