Guess the Plot
1. Tin Woodsman, a cyborg with a dark past, is sent to Oz intergalactic prison to pay for his crimes.
2. Just when the Karkonians and the Malabahians are about to go to war, Laura White, the cruel and ruthless teenaged warrior leading the Karkonians, must contend with her own sister's rebel army. Is destroying your own sister good tactics, or just . . . heartless?
3. Are all men as cruel as the one who just burned Ellie? We're about to find out, because now it's her turn to hurt someone stupid enough to believe in love.
4. When a man is found dead with his chest ripped open and his heart missing, homicide detective Chris Sanchez knows two things: the guy didn’t die from natural causes, and the guy isn’t his AWOL partner Zack Martinez.
5. Curmudgeonly New York editor R. J. Calhoun is gravely ill. Without a heart transplant, he won't live more than a few weeks. Fortunately, his gifted cardiologist is Dr. Tracey Spellman. Unfortunately, Calhoun recently rejected the good Doctor's manuscript.
6. Rupert is a golem. Except for a heart, he has everything any golem could want: a strong body of stone and steel, eternal 'life', and a brain as sharp as a tack—in fact, made of brass tacks. But while Goldberg, Rupert's sorcerer, was off getting him a heart, priests caught Goldberg and burned him to death. Now poor Rupert wanders the Earth searching for a heart.
7. Cynthia's older sister Prue steals and uploads Cynthia's personal diary to the school website. She makes out with Cynthia's boyfriend at her own sweet sixteen and donates Cyn's brand new dress to the Goodwill. Ready for bloody vengeance, Cynthia discovers a voodoo spell which means she can torture Prue in any way she wants on the condition she promises to give her heart away. Trouble is, Cyn doesn't realise that's literal.
Dear Evil Editor,
Laura White has been destined to become Karkonia's queen since her childhood, when her older brother renounced his claim to the throne and her older sister betrayed the family by joining a group of rebels aimed at destroying their father's imperialistic reign over the country. [Usually in these stories if you're "destined" for something it's from birth and not dependent on other events. The brother and then the sister were destined to take charge, and look how that turned out. Just because you're next in line doesn't mean it's your destiny. As Prince Charles would attest.] Now, at age seventeen, [Put her age in the first sentence; it doesn't work here.] Laura has been raised to be a cruel and ruthless warrior who will lead the Karkonian Empire to a victory against their neighboring rivals, the Malibahians, [Usually in these stories, when the countries are named Karkonia and Malibahia, the main character is named Lorelle or Liliana, not Laura White.] [Also, once Laura becomes heir to the throne, it's hard to believe she'd be allowed to continue in her role of ruthless warrior. In the first place, she might get killed, and in the second place, the Malibahians won't exactly be quaking in their boots when they hear that Laura White is on the warpath. The Karkonians need to keep Laura in the castle and send Aethelgyth the Disemboweler to handle the ruthless cruelty.] and extend her country's rule from coast to coast, a job that she takes with great pride. [I wouldn't call that a "job." A task or a goal maybe, but you don't take pride in a task or goal until you've completed it.]
Everything goes according to plan- [Not clear to me what goes according to plan. It sounds like she's well on her way to extending her country's rule from coast to coast, but the rest of the sentence suggests she's barely started.] until Alicia returns with a new and improved rebel army, prepared to usurp the rule of Peter VII. Along with the help of her new and unwanted bodyguard Shane Kage, who is secretly a rebel himself, Laura searches [seeks] to destroy her sister and protect her country at all costs.
Lies come to light, loyalties are tested, war is on the horizon, but Laura's future has never been more unclear. She is faced with the most important decision of her lifetime: whether or not she should remain loyal to her power hungry father, or sacrifice everything she loves for the country that she was born to rule. [What do you mean by "sacrifice everything she loves"? What does she love?] [It seems to me that if the rebels win, and there's still a throne, Laura's sister or brother would sit on it. So if she was born to rule, it's an easy decision. Stick with dad and destroy sis.] [Furthermore, in the previous paragraph she was planning to destroy her sister to protect her country. Now she's apparently considering siding with her sister . . . to protect her country.]
HEARTLESS, at 75,000 words is a young adult novel about strength, love, and sacrifice set in a medieval-dystopian world. My first novel was published by a small press company in 2011, [Specifics?] and I am currently pursuing a minor in creative writing at the University of Louisville.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
If you want us to believe Laura has an important decision, you have to give us reason to believe that she's not cruel and ruthless, that she sees the rebels' side, that she has some redeeming qualities. Right now I'd rather read Alicia's story than Laura's.
When your sister shows up with a new and improved army, you need more than an unwanted bodyguard to destroy her. The way it's worded, it sounds like it's just the two of them against an army.
Several instances of slightly off word/phrase choice, while they don't interfere with my understanding, would have me worried.
Sentence one made me double take. There is too much information in it.
The brother doesn't come up again so he is unnecessary for the query.
Who is Peter VII? I don't see you mention him earlier, I am assuming it is her Dad. Also Alicia isn't mentioned by name until she reappears.
You need to shorten your sentences. There a couple of long rambling ones that I had to re-read to understand what they meant. For example in paragraph two I thought you were talking about Alicia's body guard until I realized it was still referring to Laura.
I presume the lies coming to light is the conflict in the story, but since you don't tell us what they are I can't be sure. Paragraph three really says nothing and since I don't know anything about the stakes of the kingdom I don't have any idea what is going on. You need to tell us why her father will destroy the kingdom and why after being a ruthless warrior she is contemplating changing sides.
Hi Author, I was enjoying the set-up (warrior daughter, sister conflict), but feel like you took the easy way out in the third paragraph by just listing vague events ("Lies come to light, loyalties are tested," and the main character is "faced with an important decision"). That's OK for the back of the book, but I suspect it won't be sufficiently detailed to hook an agent.
I can see no reason for Laura to not stay with her father. After all, he hasn't betrayed her, run away, or quit. From what I can see, staying with the king means a better life for her and a stronger kingdom. After all, if you're fighting an outside group, the last thing you need is internal conflict.
The entire query is 256 words; that's good. The first sentence is 45 words; that's bad. The second sentence is 47 words; that's worse. The fourth sentence is 31 words; there's a trend here. Now cut it out.
The third paragraph is all tell and no show. And the entire query is setup. Rewrite the query and confine the setup to the first paragraph of no more than sixty words. Also, either boot Kage out of the query or show him doing something.
Delete “... about strength, love, and sacrifice.” It's all tell. And doesn't 'medieval' imply 'dystopia'? No science, construction methods forgotten, and half the population die in a plague. How much worse could it get?
Isn't the Karkonian Empire really the kardashian sisters' estates?
You introduce the choice Laura is faced with without giving any hint of how she got to the point where she has t make the choice. One minute she's happily serving as Dad's enforcer, and the next she's contemplating siding with a band of rebels.
Your query needs to set up who Laura is and what she wants when the story starts (which you've done already), show what happens to change that (which you haven't), and explains the choices Laura is faced with as a result (which you're starting to do). Laura's sister returning with Rebel Army 2.0 is not the event that changes everything. It could lead to Laura's situation changing, but it's clearly something else that makes Laura actually consider changing sides.
You also need to make the positives and negatives for each choice clear, especially if you don't want it to be super obvious that Laura is going to join her sister to take down Dad.
While I don't think every fantasy character needs to be Totally Unpronounceable Name of Place Name with Too Many "Y"s, I have to agree that "Laura White" is creating a disconnect. She just doesn't sound like she belongs in a fantasy kingdom.
If those five chapters are representative of the current state of the manuscript, then this isn't ready to query yet.
oh my! i was having a crappy day until i read Aethelgyth the Disemboweler.
SPEW!! tea all over my keyboard! What a glorious return to Evil Editor for me!
as for the story, I was just lost as to whose side she was on and what she was supposed to do.
Those five chapters were from several years ago that I posted sometime last year to see what people's opinion of the stor was. I've revised and edited three times since then.
Here is the new query that I made.
Seventeen year old Laura White, heir to the throne of Karkonia, is faced with the impossible decision of killing her traitorous sister or betraying her father, the king. Murdering Alicia should be easy; Laura has hated her sister for the past six years, after Alicia betrayed their family and joined a rebellion set on usurping the king’s imperialistic rule over the country. And besides, Laura’s been killing people at her father’s order since she was eleven. But something still stops Laura from following through with the horrible task assigned to her.
Shane Kage owes a lifetime debt to the Rebellion that threatens to overthrow Karkonia’s royal family…and so does his seven year old sister, Lainey. But the Rebel's have given him an option: complete an exceptionally dangerous mission, and they'll let his sister go. In order to free her, he must accept a position in the Royal Guard as a spy for the rebels. Doing so could cost him his life but that’s a price he’s willing to pay for his sister’s safety.
Shortly after Laura’s father orders her to rid the world of her sister, Shane is assigned as her body guard. Now, with Shane’s help, Laura searches to find the truth behind the rebellion and her sister’s betrayal. As she uncovers secrets that her father has kept buried for years, Laura is faced with the impossible reality that the rebellion might have been right about him all along. She is faced with the most important decision of her life: whether or not she should remain loyal to her power hungry father, or sacrifice the everything she’s ever known to protect the country that she was born to rule.
You may want to remove the old chapters from the internet, if possible. When querying, you are honor-bound to mention prior publication of any significant part of the work, and if little ol' me can find it on the interent, that's a publication.
I'm guessing that an acquiring editor would want to know about five chapters of a previous edition.
I find it odd that you say she faces an impossible decision, then turn around and say it shouldn't be that hard. And given the way that the last sentence also has this "she's facing an important decision between these two things" format, I'd suggest taking that element out of the first sentence and just start with who she is and that her father's told her to kill her sister.
On your revision, her age should have hyphens: sixteen-year-old
Seventeen HYPHEN year HYPHEN old Laura White, heir to the throne of Karkonia, is faced with the impossible decision of killing her traitorous sister or betraying her father, the king. Murdering Alicia (I would stick to "her sister" otherwise it could sound like you are bringing in another character here) should be easy; Laura has hated her sister (delete starting here) for the past six years, after (delete ending here) and add "since" Alicia betrayed their family and joined a rebellion set on usurping the king’s imperialistic rule over the country. And besides, Laura’s been killing people at her father’s order since she was eleven. But something still stops Laura from following through with the horrible task assigned to her.
what stops her??
Shane Kage owes a lifetime debt to the Rebellion that threatens to overthrow Karkonia’s royal family
this is where I stopped reading because out of nowhere you bring in another character. the query should be in your mc pov, so don't introduce him without telling me (or showing me!) what this means to the mc.
just my thoughts.
The problem is that they are both the main characters. They both narrarate the story and I'm not really sure how I can get this across without throwing people off... It's really frustrating. Thanks you for your help :D
P1: Why should murdering Alicia be easy? Is Alicia still living with Laura? If not, how is Laura going to safely find Alicia and kill her?
P2: No apostrophe in "Rebels"
It sounds like Shane has been siding with the rebels all his life, so why do they need to threaten his sister to get him to accept the mission?
P3 bodyguard is one word.
Can you be more specific than "the everything she’s ever known"? If joining the rebels protects the country she was born to rule, what exactly is she sacrificing? Her lifestyle as a cruel warrior?
Better than the previous version. Still needs work
It doesn't matter if they are both MCs, for the purpose of the query letter pick one.
It might be easier to do a query with Shane since he has a clearly defined problem:
Shane owes his life to the rebellion but they've now taken his sister hostage....
any time you use 'something' you're either trying too hard to condense complicated concepts, being lazy in your description, or haven't thought the matter through enough--use specifics
bodyguard, one word
usually you want to mention the bad consequences, not "they'll let her go"
This is still mostly setup. Include specifics about current goals and obstacles. I've seen recommendation for just looking at the plot progress in the first three chapters if that helps
Hope this helps
If Laura and Shane are co-protagonists, paragraph 1 should introduce Laura and her problems and desires, paragraph 2 should introduce Shane and his problems and desires, and the remainder of the query should be about the both of them and their shared problem. Shane feels very secondary as it is, so if you can't make the query show that it's equally his story, you may want to drop him from it and just focus on Laura.
I only skimmed the chapters online (which should be taken down), but if they reflect the basic story of the final manuscript, you may have another problem. Everyone is assuming that your story is a quasi-medieval sword and sorcery type of tale, but it looks like it's actually set in modern times. You haven't done anything that specifically screams "fantasy," but that's where people's minds tend to go when they read about princesses, tyrant kings, and rebel armies. Could you throw in some reference to modern technology or something early on that makes it clear what the setting for your novel is? Maybe state that Laura is shooting Dad's enemies rather than stabbing them?
I will echo ink and pixel here. When I browsed the first chapter I had to double check the title twice to make sure it was the right story. If it's not medieval fantasy I would strongly hint at that.
You are still not telling us why she wants to switch sides. I would keep the perspective to Laura and really spell that out. That appears to be the crux of the story. It will be stronger if you tell us her father is a baby killer, or whatever it is.
I would be interested to see how the new beginning looks. Consider submitting it to EE.
It's still all setup because Laura and Shane just sit around trying to decide what to do. Apparently they don't get around to doing anything. I doubt an Agent wants to read a 300 page manuscript where two teenagers can't decide what to do.
“Hey, Laura, wanna go to the mall for pizza?” Shane asked.
“I think I should kill my father.”
“Can I help?”
“Or maybe I should kill my sister, Alicia.”
“No! Not Ally, she's hot.”
“Well, I just can't decide.”
How about an opening sentence that goes something like this:
"Seventeen-year-old Laura White loves fast cars, electronic dance music, and dispatching her father's enemies with a bullet to the back of the head."
That will let your query readers know that your story has a modern day setting without stopping to query to say "by the way, it's not medieval fantasy." Then you can talk about princesses, rebel armies, and tyrant kings all you want without anyone thinking it's a sword and sorcery book.
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