Monday, December 21, 2020

Feedback Request

The author of the book whose query appeared in Face-Lift 1410 would like feedback on the following version of the query.


Dear Evil Editor, 

When the villagers of Lambahvras are forced to evacuate their homeland by an invasive toxic weed, they decide to take up residence in an abandoned island fortress, Carraig Runda [anagram: agrarian crud]. The villagers choose it as a place to escape the poison plants [agrarian crud] and maintain their independence from the rest of the world.  

Upon reaching it after a difficult journey, they must establish a steady food and heat source before winter freezes the lake. As they explore, they find evidence of the previous inhabitants: furnished rooms, garden ruins, glyphs. They also discover remnants of advanced technology that would make habitation here self-sustainable. [How'd that work out for the previous inhabitants?] But how to activate the mechanisms eludes them. 

Rue, the priestess of Lambahvras, believes the structure is a temple. And that a human sacrifice would awaken the gods and allow access to the power here. Her target is Petal Longseed, [sister of Pippi Longstocking and] an orphan village girl. 

Mathieu Westerhall is not one of the Lambahvras. He’s a scientist who journeyed with them from the village to the fortress. He volunteered to care for Petal when her mother was killed and superstitions ostracized her Petal. He’s come to love the gentle, studious girl like a daughter. To protect her from Rue’s religious faction, he’ll need to convince everyone that blood won’t unlock the secrets of Carraig Runda. But if not blood, then what? 

SEEDS IN SHALLOW SOIL is a 108,000 word fantasy novel. It is a standalone book with the potential to become a series. Comparison titles for this work would be Joe Hill’s The Fireman, [and] The Wicker Man (1973), Fiddler on the Roof (1971), and The Oregon Trail computer game. [Including those last two will make the reader wonder if this is a hoax query.]


Notes

Way better than the original. Now we have a story with some conflict.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Q & A 194

As word count expectations vary across genres. Do these expectations apply to the query letter? Is it somewhat expected that a query letter in fantasy, science fiction, or historical fiction will run longer than one where the setting/time is more familiar?


I certainly hope not, or books like War and Peace and the Bible would have query letters ten pages long. Devta, by Muhiyyu-d-Deen Nawaab, would have a 50-page query, which would be bad enough, but it would also be written in Urdu. 

The reason queries are supposed to be about a page has nothing to do with the length or genre; it's because that's as much as an agent or editor can bear to read. Chalk it up to short attention spans.

Friday, December 11, 2020

Q & A 193


 I have signed up for a 7 week writer’s group hosted by a published author that I am a fan of. 

There are five other students in the class and we will be critiquing each other’s work. Would EE care to offer any pearls of wisdom on how to provide feedback to writers? Of course I’ll be modeling my behavior on your examples from the blog but is there any advice you could provide explicitly?


Also, any advice on ingratiating myself to the author? I’m going for an easy A and access to her network of contacts in the publishing industry. 



The 1st thing you need to do is figure out how many of the other students think they're the smartest person in the class. Those people won't listen to your comments, except for the ones in which you praise them effusively, so start by praising them effusively, but then tell them they'll never make it as a writer because no agent will want to work with a narcissistic ass. 

The other writers will probably only respect the opinion of the published author, so agree with whatever the author says, especially if they're arguing with one of the writers. This may ingratiate you. A better way to ingratiate yourself (and get that "A") is to sign up for the author's follow-up course. 

The only way the author will give you access to their network of contacts is if you produce stellar writing. But not so stellar that the author fears you'll become more famous than they are.


Tuesday, December 08, 2020

Face-Lift 1410


Guess the Plot 

Seeds in Shallow Soil

1. Sacked from selling seashells at the seashore, Sue seeks to sow seeds in shallow soil. 

2. When magic and science both fail to kill the toxic weeds destroying their crops, farmers, led by a stranger in patent leather shoes,  set out on a brutal journey in search of a new home, one surrounded by a fortress that weeds can't penetrate.

3. Rose was always down on her luck. Now that she's grown, she wants to help her old friends, Iris, Holly, and Violet. But can this trio of miscreants rise above their meager surroundings? Or will they always live in the shallow end? 

4. Conman Jonas accidentally discovers he's good enough at the self-help guru shtik to thumb his nose at the feds who're giving him the eye. Unfortunately, he's good enough at it to become internationally recognized, and his long, long trail of unhappy marks want back what he bilked them out of. Plus interest.

5. Don't worry, this isn't yet another preachy allegory. It's your complete guide to the exciting world of tillandsia--plants that grow anywhere, need minimal care, and die after they flower. Which, come to think of it, pretty much makes it yet another preachy allegory.

6. Farmer Hiram sows his corn on barren, rocky soil. After years of failure, he sells his tractor, moves to Washington, and makes a seven-figure income lobbying for farm support. 



Original Version 

Dear Evil Editor, 

Nobleman Mathieu Westerhall is nobody’s idea of a hero. He’s privileged and aloof. He doesn’t venture outside of his upper crust neighborhood in the capitol [capital] if he can help it. 

Which is why he’s dismayed to be squatting in a field in the remote hamlet of Lambahvras; [Wasn't lamb bah vras the sheeps' password in Babe?] a place so small the name on the map far outsizes it’s [its] geographical area. [I assume you mean its geographical area on the map, and not its actual geographical area, because otherwise Lambahvras would have to be about two inches wide. Or the map would have to be about a mile wide, in which case it wouldn't fit in the glove compartment, even when folded up. Not that they have glove compartments in Lambahvras, I assume.] [When you think about it, every country's name would outsize it's geographical size on the map if you use a big enough font size.] [I wonder if stage coaches and hansom cabs had glove compartments. Never mind me, I'm babbling.] He’s attempting to scoop up dirt samples with one hand and keep his handkerchief pressed to his nose with the other. [If only he had a coronavirus mask.] All while avoiding scratches from a thorny, foul-smelling weed that the village innkeeper assures him is toxic.

No one mentioned this agricultural problem when the Queen assigned him the dreaded task of land survey. He was expecting quaint hospitality and platters of fresh food. [If that's what he expected, why is the task "dreaded"?] It wasn’t until the carriage driver had gone that he learned there was no food to be spared. That the town had been overrun by this stubborn weed that chokes crops and cattle alike. 

He ought to have returned at once to report this to the Royal Botanists Society. He could have returned home, filed a report, and resumed his wedding plans. But by the time his reports are [got] reviewed, the homesteads could be destroyed. 

The Lambahvrans are desperate. Desperate enough to allow a city man like him to use his fancy science equipment and interfere with their hexes. These are their homes. Their farmland. And their reservation. [Can you be more specific about the fancy scientific equipment? That Matt arrived by carriage and not car, and that he's wearing patent leather shoes, would indicate it's betweem 1820 and 1910. If we're on Earth. So I assume we're not talking about crop dusting airplanes.] 

What Mathieu doesn’t know yet is that his fancy science is going to fail. [Thus portending the rise of the first Trumpians.] And the Lambahvrans are going to leave. It’s going to be Mathieu of all people who suggests hiding out in an ancient island fortress. [Wait, what are they hiding from? The weed? That's the only threat that's been mentioned.] 

Perhaps most absurd of all, he’s going to go with them. On a hard march through the wilderness. In patent leather shoes. And that reaching this fortress -- if they can -- will only prove the first challenge. [The second will be convincing his privileged fiancée to move into an ancient island fortress with a bunch of impoverished strangers.]

SEEDS IN SHALLOW SOIL is a 108,000 word fantasy novel. It is intended to be the first novel in a series, although I designed the structure to work as a standalone book [with the potential to become a series.] 

 Thank you for your time and consideration.


Notes

I think you left something out. If they can't beat the weeds, why don't they just march to somewhere with good soil and no weeds? What does this island fortress offer them? Your entire plot seems to be farmers facing ruin because of weeds take up residence in an old fortress.

If most of the story takes place after they get to the fortress, you could just start with:

When the hamlet Lambahvras is overrun by toxic weeds that choke their crops and their cattle, the people embark on a long and brutal journey to an ancient island fortress. 

Then you have plenty of room to tell us what happens in your story.  

If most of the book is the journey to the fortress, tell us about the obstacles they must overcome along the way, and how they plan to overcome them. I'm assuming these obstacles are more interesting than weeds.

Either way, we need to know why they're going where they're going.