Thursday, April 20, 2017

Feedback Request

The author of the book featured in Face-Lift 1342 would like feedback on the following version of the query:

Dear Evil Editor,

Jay Stevens leaves England as a young man. As soon as he sets foot aboard of a Portuguese ship, he is relieved. Relieved [of all his belongings, for it is a Portuguese pirate ship.] to get far away from the grief that ever lingers at home since the death of his sister.

Together with his cousin Tristão Vaz, he roams the coasts of the known world, his restless soul ever driving him towards new adventures. [That sounds more like what you'd say if he were sailing his own ship. He would have no say in where this ship goes, and probably little time for adventures.] He is afraid to stay ashore for too long. [So his restless soul drives him toward new adventures, as long he's back on board by dinnertime.] People might become close to him and he remembers all too well how much it can hurt to lose someone you love. 

Still he cannot avoid Laura. She is a simple tavern wench, but as soon as Jay sets eye on her during his first journey [voyage] to Venice, he knows it will be hard to keep his distance. 

She is the first to break through the wall around his heart, something that scares him beyond measure. After all, everyone knows that no tavern girl truly loves the sailor that pays her. 

His cousin’s plan to go search for gold along the unknown coasts of Africa in service of Henrique the Navigator comes just in time. But then [a] storm arises and Jay’s decisions send them adrift on the ocean, with little prospect of ever finding the way back home.  Alone, lost at sea, he reconsiders his choices. [You said the storm sent them adrift. So why is Jay alone?] If he ever returns, would he dare risk to love again? [Who is adrift? Jay and Trystão, or the entire crew of Henrique's ship? I mean, if you're on a ship helmed by Henrique the Navigator, you shouldn't be that pessimistic about finding your way home.]

NAVIGATORS, is a historical novel set in the fifteenth century. It is complete at 98,000 words and available for your review. 

Thank you for your time and consideration.


I would condense this to something like:

Jay Stevens joins the crew of a Portuguese ship, hoping that by leaving England he can escape the grief he's felt since his sister's death. He tours the port cities of the 15th-century world, and during his first stopover in Venice, meets Laura, a tavern wench who steals his heart. Of course, no tavern girl truly loves the sailor that pays her, right?

Jay's thirst for adventure leads him to join his cousin on a search for gold in service of Henrique the Navigator. A storm sends them adrift off the African coast with little prospect of finding their way home. Lost at sea, delirious, Jay vows that if he ever makes it back to civilization, he'll settle down with Laura and never go to sea again. 

Okay, that's probably not what he vows, but at least I didn't drop Laura from the query. I assume she doesn't get dropped from the book. And there's room to expand this with another paragraph between or after those, in which you provide more specifics. 

Some of the minor errors suggest English may not be your first language, or that you need to proofread more carefully. You may need to find someone to help you out.


InevitablePlotTwist said...

Regarding the last sentence in the fifth paragraph ("If he ever returns, would he dare risk to love again?") - this sounds awfully close to a retorical question to me. I've heard it's a bad ideas to use those in queries, because the agent might answer them oppositely from how you wanted.

Anonymous said...

This query sounds like the book is focused mainly on the MC's internal grief, angst, and relationships, which happen to take place in a historical setting, partly at sea.

If those are the focus, I would suggest tightening up (there's a lot of repetition there) and showing how the emotions/relationships inter-relate and/or progress.

If emotions are more of a background or depth of character thing, you need to say more about what happens externally in the story.

Good Luck

St0n3henge said...

When I saw the last version I felt you were focusing mostly on the emotions, thoughts and internal struggle of the protagonist. Which is okay, but the problem is, that makes it seem like very little actually happens in the book. The plot seems very skimpy. From what you've written here, it looks more like a short story or maybe novella.

You'll have to find a balance between explaining what happens in the story and keeping the introspective tone. However, what will sell your book is a good story. What you don't want to do is suggest your story is boring or that little happens, so I'd do a little more plot and less angst.

Anonymous said...

This story sounds interesting. At the end you say your genre is "Historical Fiction." However, as written this query is for a Historical Romance.

Paragraph 2 is really vague. "Restless souls," "new adventures," "afraid to stay on shore," "Jay's decisions send them adrift" etc. As another commenter hear often writes, specific and concrete details are far better than vague generalities.

If your story is not Historical Romance, than your protagonist should have a plot goal separate from settling down with Laura. Something at risk, something worth fighting for just beyond just daring to love again. That is what will make your protagonist a well-rounded character. For example, in "Count of Monte Cristo" (the film versions, at least), the Count is torn between his desire for revenge, and his love of Mercedes. In "Casablanca," Rick is torn between the self-centered desire to run off with Ilse, and the desire to fight the Nazis. Does your protagonist have a concrete obstacle, beyond just the myriad fears in his head?

I don't know if there's a place for it in this query, but maybe briefly saying *what* is so special about Laura-- she's smart, she's witty, she can beat all the men in a drinking game-- would transform her into more than the generic, saintly bar wench with a heart of gold.

Inge VdW said...

As the writer of the above, I think you all have very good points.
To be honest, the question at the end of the query is not retorical at all. There is more that follows after, and essentially, the whole novel is about the protagonist's struggle to let someone (anyone, not just the lady that he thinks he loves) close to him again.
While his fortune increases over the years and he becomes rich and well respected (the external plot mainly follows his rise in society), his personal struggles escalate. And perhaps I should indeed highlight that in the query....
Thanks a lot for the feedback to all of you, very insightful indeed!