Saturday, January 06, 2018

Feedback Request

The author of the book featured in Face-Lift 1366 would like feedback on the following version of the query:

Dear Agent ----

Nathaniel Tillack has recently awoken to the piercing electric lights and roaring cars of 1994, after residing underground for 122 years. Though the world has changed since 1872, Nat has not. He still feels drawn to complete the death that started a century ago. [A century ago meaning 1894?] [What caused him to wake up at this time?]

Nurturing that desire, Nat returns to the place where he died, a secluded road in the small mountain town of Toolangi, but facing the possibility of his own demise, he finds his desire for blood is still too strong to choose that death. [I was with you up to Toolangi; after that I got lost.] Standing by the river, conflicted about his unreachable goal, he realizes he is not alone. A fourteen-year-old girl walks out from behind the trees and she appears to mirror his preternatural torment to a T. [No need to say "to a T." If it's not to a T, it's not mirrored.]

How is this possible? The girl is human. Liz Morton is empathic. Fascinated by her ability and fearful that her connection to him might kill the girl, Nat becomes Liz’s guide, attempting to help her overcome the empathic bond caused by her sixth sense. [In the previous paragraph his desire for blood was so irresistible he couldn't complete one simple task. Now he's able to hang out with a girl who has delicious human blood coursing through her veins?] No mean feat when she isn't even aware she possesses it. But friendships between humans and vampires always end in disaster. Can Nat cure Liz of his own self-destructive drive before it kills her? He couldn’t bear more innocent blood on his hands. Once was enough.

Thank you for your time and consideration, 


How does Nat know Liz's torment mirrors his? 

What did Nat do a century ago that started his death, and what must he do to complete it?

Liz Morton doesn't sound like the name of someone who lives near the small mountain town of Toolangi.

Has Liz always been an empath, or did this develop because Nat just arrived? Maybe if he goes away she'll be cured. What other means does he try in attempting to help her overcome the empathic bond caused by her sixth sense?

If her 6th sense is so weak she doesn't even know she has it, maybe she doesn't need to be cured. Maybe being an empath would be useful once she knows how to handle it. 

Presumably you're aware you failed to include the title and word count.


Iamanoldvampirechild said...

Thank you E.E.

My book is like Pandora's box. If I explain one thing it all comes out lol.

Liz has always been Empathic, yes.

Nat does drink her blood but she doesn't remember it. Liz is an unreliable narrator. He confesses it at the end.

She'd never be cured of her Empathy. I have empathic ability and it is possible to have it when you are young and not realize what it is ( if you have been brought up to be cynical and rationalize things, which Liz has, and you don't even have the word in your vocabulary Only thing as a kid that resonated with me and I didn't know why was where in E.T. Elliot gets sick when E.T. gets taken away after being left out in the cold, and in this book Liz gets sick when Nat abandons her in fear of how time with him is affecting him. So Empathy for Liz is more than what I have, she takes on the physical as well )

Toolangi is where I grew up, it's in Australia and we have lots of weird sounding towns

I'll go back to the drawing board and see if I can work around or include these answers really briefly somehow

Anonymous said...

My book is like Pandora's box. If I explain one thing it all comes out lol.

If that's the case, then your book is not going to be published. Flat-out, full-stop, hard-love response. If you can't give a synopsis that makes sense WITHOUT giving away the majority of the plot, then you probably should rework that story before worrying about query letters.

Unless I'm reading you wrong and you mean you can't stop your tongue from wagging about your story: In which case, you need to refine the story to a short-paragraph blurb that makes sense.

For instance,

Nat drinks Liz's blood and learns she's an empath. If this is important to his abilities, mention it in a way that doesn't make it sound like a complete mystery but also "mystery"-izes it to where readers will want to know why. Is it tied to his "death?" What even is his death?

Think a little about it.

khazarkhum said...

What happened that sent Nat into prolonged sleep? You hint in your final sentence. Make it clear. Something like, "and after killing that innocent girl in 1872, he is unwilling to hurt Liz."

Make it clear upfront that Nat is a vampire. I'm guessing he learns to rein his self-destructive tendencies in after meeting Liz and learning she's an empath.

Anonymous said...

You might want to say Toolangi, Australia so the agent/editor knows this isn't a fantasy world with unusual place names. In the previous version you mentioned the country in the intro para. You might also consider putting that you grew up in that town in your bio section.

For a query letter, you want to tell the agent/editor enough about the plot so they know whether or not they can sell the book. (and btw, the vampire romance market is a bit bloated atm) Everything about the plot coming out (except the ending) is fine. If the ending comes out too, the book itself might be too predictable, which would be a problem.

Is Nat or Liz the main character? If it's sort of both of them, pick one. If it's a romance, you can do a paragraph on her, a paragraph on her, and a paragraph on what's keeping them apart and why they belong together.

For both this and the previous version, you're getting bogged down in details. You don't need to set the scene in a query. Tell rather than show.

I don't recommend bringing up questions that you aren't going to answer (re: How is that possible?).

Is it her connection to him that's going to kill her directly or the actions she's going to take as a result of that connection? It seems to me the easiest solutions are to either stop being suicidal or to off himself quickly instead of trying to slowly starve himself to death. Is there a good reason he doesn't go for wither of those?

If Nat caused someone's death and that's why he'd suicidal, you might want to directly say so at the beginning.

Mister Furkles said...

Maybe you are trying to cram all the spiffy stuff from the novel into the query. That isn’t possible.

A few notes:
1. Best to write the query in present tense because it is customary. “Nathaniel wakes to piercing electric lights and traffic noise after ...” Also ‘still’ is a pleonasm and an agent may fear you novel if full of them.
2. First paragraph is a bit verbose for a query. Readers know that the world changed and will assume anybody asleep has not changed.
3. In paragraph 2, there is a sudden switch from planning suicide to lust for blood. It is an abrupt switch.
4. Is his ‘unreachable goal’ to suck somebody’s blood or to kill himself. Readers don’t know. I would just leave out “conflicted about his unreachable goal”.
5. I can’t imagine how one appears to mirror preternatural torment. How about “She also appears tormented.” Try to keep the query simple enough to follow easily.
6. Rhetorical questions are counter-productive in queries because they take the reader out of the plot to consider them. And the reader is likely to have an answer not conducive to the query plot.
7. So, where did Liz Morton come from? If the girl is named Liz, use her name in the second paragraph, otherwise explain who she is.
8. Empathic? It’s fantasy, so is Liz an empath? How is Liz connected to Nat? This third paragraph doesn’t make sense. Maybe you should just leave out the empath stuff in the query.
9. You need to answer the basic query questions: Who is the MC? What choice or dilemma does the MC face? Who or what prevents the MC from easily resolving the central problem.
10. Don’t try to abstract the characters’ inner conflicts.

Too confusing for a reader. Make it simpler by leaving out minor detail and all but one motivation per character.

Iamanoldvampirechild said...

Anon 1.

I didn't mean my book is pandora's box, I mean writing a query for it is.
I also didn't mean I'm struggling to not give away plot, I meant I'm struggling to write query without having to explain cosmology, because to explain any plot I have to explain cosmology.
To say it's unpublishable based on my inept query skills is a botched and glib idea...I think maybe you should be as embarrassed about that comment as I am about my query skills.

You lost me in paragraph with ' "mystery"-izes'. No idea what you were saying.


Yes that example about tne innocent person dying is good. It was a boy who dug him up a month before ( in 1994 ) that died, but I'm worried by saying that I'll have to then explain why the boy was drawn to do that ( which is more cosmology ) and that scene not even in book anymore and its' just referenced later on. Maybe I can think of a way to answer it though.
Thankyou, I see how that question is raised in re: what innocent person died
Thanks for your astute and relevant feedback, it was helpful.

Anonymous 2. All your points were so on point and I appreciate the attention and thoughtfulness of your feedback.

Toolangi in bio ok great. Yes I didn't realize it sounded like a made-up place until recently lol

It's actually not a romance. My best friend when I was 17 ( I'm 36 now ) told me I should call it 'Adore' because we were listening to a Smashing Pumpkins album 'Ava Adore'. Years ago I thought I'd change it to 'A Door' but though apt as a metaphor for the book 'Adore' has always had aesthetic appeal for me. I may need to use 'A Door'.

Ok I won't share ending. And Yes...very bogged.

A boy died digging Nat up. But now I think I'll just stick to Liz's point of view as it's just more cosmology I'll need to explain ( as to how boy knew to dig him up etc )

Thankyou so much

St0n3henge said...

There's a lot of vagueness here. I'm not 100% on exactly how Liz's empathy effects the story. I can clearly see why they would be drawn to each other, but not what the empathic-ness does or why it's important.

How does a vampire commit suicide? Aren't they immortal?

"Can Nat cure Liz of his own self-destructive drive before it kills her?" This suggests Nat is going to try to cure Liz of a behavior HE is doing. I get what you mean, he recognizes it in himself. But the sentence is confusing.

I would also try to avoid long sentences strung together with commas, such as "Nurturing that desire, Nat returns to the place where he died, a secluded road in the small mountain town of Toolangi, but facing the possibility of his own demise, he finds his desire for blood is still too strong to choose that death."
About the third comma you should start anouther sentence.

khazarkhum said...

For Nat, what about "Liz meets Nat, a vampire filled with remorse after killing the boy who accidentally disturbed his 122 year-long sleep. Lost in the strange new world of 1994, he is quickly drawn to Liz because she shares with him both the ability of an empath and the strong desire for self-destruction."

Or somesuch.

I normally don't care much for vampire stories, but this has the potential to be a breakout, I think, if you can get out of the story's way. You don't need to outline the cosmos here, just give us enough taste that we want more.

You know what might work? Try writing a query for a book you know and love.

Anonymous said...

Author, you might want to try something along the lines of:

paragraph 1-
Liz Morton's empathic connection to a suicidal vampire may cause her to commit suicide herself. [rearrange/expand this to include a few sentences explaining a bit more about Liz and why she's an empath (c), Nat and why he's suicidal (a), and why Liz has an empathic bond with Nat (b). Keep it short. If you can't keep it short, try leaving it out] (the letters are how important I'm guessing the information is, ymmv)

paragraph 2-
[A few sentences explaining what she tries to do about her situation (kill Nat? get him counseling? find a good witch doctor to sever the link?), what resources she has, how Nat/Braun help hinder her efforts, etc]

paragraph 3-
[A few sentences explaining the big decision(s)/change(s) she's going to need to make to find the true solution to her problem. Explain the crisis at the climax of the book, but not how it's resolved (some parts of the explanation may need to go in the previous paragraph(s))]

Iamanoldvampirechild said...

Mr Furkles Thanks for handy list,

Ston3h3ng3 Thanks for your feedback

Thanks Khazarkum. I think I will try modelling a paragraph of that example. And thanks for liking my story even though it's about vampires. Writing a query for a book is a good idea...because I baulk at the thought, which probably means I ought to do it

Anon, thanks for paragraph example. It's a good template =)

I think part of problem might be ( apart from the fact that I suck ) is that the main arc of Liz needing to be cured of her empathy to become a proper, functioning vampire doesn't resolve itself until the end of next book. Liz becomes a vampire in the middle of this book

But I will see if I can use the template, by applying the story up until Liz becomes a vampire, maybe that broader approach might be ok. If I can wrangle a way to say it without having to explain the why's and how's

And last but not least, Thanks EE for your editing and pointful pointings of valid points

Mister Furkles said...

Hi Iam an old vampire child,

Sorry to be late with this but only after reading your last comment did I know the main conflict for Liz.

To sell a vampire story it needs to be quite different from the normal vampire story because the market has been saturated already. A vampire who is extremely empathetic is (I think) a unique idea. This inner conflict is interesting.

You may not need the setup details at all but get quickly to the main conflict. Some literary novels about inner conflict do not resolve at all. (Literary fiction is mostly about inner conflict for the MC.)

Concentrate on Liz's empathy vs vampire conflict and build the query around that.

Hope you sell it and when you do, don't forget to notify EE. We might buy it, read it, and recommend it to others. Word-of-mouth is what makes a first novel successful.

Iamanoldvampirechild said...

Mister Furkles,

thanks very much for that. Just saw this. Conflict. Empathy and conflict. Yeah I do need to make what is unique stand out somehow or it's just another vampire novel at which people will roll their eyes. That is interesting about literature novels.

Anonymous said...

Sorry Mr. F, a vampire has no empathy, no matter what Twilight portrayed. Does a wolf have empathy? Or a croc or any carnivore blood/meat eating creature? Short answer no. They merely want to feed, like the vampire bat. No emotion, it is just food.

Romanticizing hunger kind of leaves me cold as an anthropologist. It is how they, carnivores survive.

The author might have a good tale but I can't find it. The underlying research is faulty and most readers get that.

Sorry, but this jumble of assumptions rather than truth kind of makes me a little nuts.

Anonymous said...

Vampires don't die - according to the lore - first 'graph kind of skews that common belief. If they do die how do they come back? And why would they if given a choice between eternal sleep or eternal hunger?

So, I think you kind of need to well kind of, I think you know.

It must make sense, what we right and hope to publish, not indulge ourselves.

This is just not ready dear writer, need to go deeper, don't surf. Dive down deep.

St0n3henge said...

On the other hand, Twilight sold a book series and a movie series, so I don't get what your point is, Anon.
Props for being an anthropologist, but vampires are mythical creatures. You are neither going to find their bones or evidence of their lost civilization.
Unlike history, which deals in facts, myths and lore tend to evolve.
Personally, I'm more of an old-school vampire afficianado, but the youngsters have their taste, be what it may.