April 3, 2012

Any help would be so, so appreciated!!! Query critique

I've starred at my first chapter and query till I was blue in the face. So far I have entered a couple of contests, and sent out about 4 queries with no luck or nibbles. Which I know is normal...but I want to make sure what I'm sending is precise, and solid.

I've revised my query to show more of my story's depth. I feel like the original is vague. Here is my latest attempt. I think it might be too long, and I'm scared to tell an agent there are 2 pov's... Any tips, comments, advice...all are welcome.


QUERY

Samael is creating an army to rule over the planet. Most people on Satus have no idea about the war going on around them. If they don't have supernatural powers then they are of no value, good or bad. If they do have powers, and Samael learns of this, they will be hunted down and given a choice- join or die.

Gabe's family is discovered for their abilities and attacked. He and his little sister just barely escape, thanks to his gifted, best friend Rhet who came to the rescue. Gabe's parents weren't so lucky and were murdered. And now Rhet is missing.

Rhet is the one Samael has been hunting all this time. Rhet is captured, but isn't given the same options as the others. His choices are- join- or everyone you ever loved will die. He faces many trials and temptations while in Samael's clutches. With Rhet in his grasp, Samael will do anything to turn him- offer anything. What Samael doesn't know is that Rhet has his own motives, something much greater than Samael could ever offer.

Gabe, at just sixteen, is left to care for his six-year-old sister. A pair of Samael’s men, posed as cops, tries to snatch him from the hospital, but an unexpected ally comes to his aid. A pint-sized woman named Maria rips into them, using her own supernatural powers, but not before finding out that Rhet is still alive and being held prisoner.


Desperate to rescue his friend, Gabe accepts her help and she takes him and his sister into hiding. What he didn't know was that he’d be living with a group of obnoxious teens she's rescued, each with their own special power and tragic story of Samael's reign. Getting along with this group will prove a challenge.

Soon he discovers there is more that binds him to this band of questionable heroes than the common enemy they share. Angry at the world and having trouble trusting, Gabe must get control of his temper to harness his supernatural abilities and fight alongside this liege of gifted misfits. They might be his only chance at saving Rhet. The only problem is he can't seem to stop fighting against them.

UNYIELDING, is a YA high fantasy. Complete at 62,000 words, this novel puts a unique spin on the classic story of the 40 days of temptation Christ suffered. This tale weaves through the forty days, showing Gabe's trials some days, and other days tell of Rhet's suffering. The two pov's give this story strength since these characters are in two separate places it allows the reader to connect with both of them and their struggles. This story will appeal to fans of The Lord of the Rings because of its symbolic nature and dark, battle scenes.

UNYIELDING is my first completed novel. I have won a blog contest for a scene in this story and my first chapter is soon to be published as a flash fiction piece on an agent’s blog, Glass Cases. This is a multiple submission.


Here's my original.....


Being a clumsy, hot-tempered, seventeen-year-old boy who sparks lightning from his hands anytime he gets upset isn’t ideal.  But when Gabe awakes in a hospital from a brutal beating which left him unconscious, he finds his world shattered. A man named Samael and his legion of followers are on a rampage for power over the planet Satus. Gabe’s parents stood in their way and were murdered. His best friend Rhet was in the wrong place and is now missing.

A pint-sized woman named Maria comes to his rescue when a pair of Samael’s men, posed as cops, tries to snatch him from the hospital.  Using her own supernatural powers she rips into them, kung fu style, but not before finding out that Rhet is still alive and being held prisoner by Samael. 

Desperate to rescue his friend, Gabe accepts her help and she takes him into hiding to begin training for war. What he didn’t know was he’d be living with a group of obnoxious teens she's rescued, each with their own special power and tragic story. They might be his only chance at saving Rhet. The only problem is, Gabe can't seem to stop fighting against them.

UNYIELDING, is a YA high fantasy. Complete at 62,000 words, this novel puts a unique spin on the classic story of the 40 days of temptation Christ suffered, but written from the POV of a hot headed disciple. 

My first chapter of UNYIELDING is soon to be published as a flash fiction piece on an agent’s blog, Glass Cases.

5 comments:

Rena said...

I hate being the first because my comments are always crazy long on crits: feel free to skip over.

First off, this is way too long. It's 500 words and you don't have an personalization, which means you need to knock out three hundred words.

The problem is that you are trying to talk about too many things in this query letter. You only need to sum up the first thirty to fifty pages (or up to the inciting incident). Agent Kristin at PubRants has a really great video on this here.

It's not usually a good idea to mention that it's your first novel, but definitely mention that it's getting some face time on Glass Cases.

Try not to compare your work to Lord of the Rings if you can avoid it. There are vast multitudes of books that have been published in the epic fantasy genre since Tolkien (and hopefully, you've read a bunch of them). There are lots of reasons not to compare to Tolkien, the least of which is style. No one writes like that now because it doesn't get published easily.

I'm not saying it can't, I'm just saying that his writing is very different, and clearly yours is very different from his as well (The fellowship clocks in at 187K, that's three times as long as your manuscript, so clearly there are big differences).

The other big reason not to compare your dark epic fantasy to Tolkien is it sort of makes agents think it's the only other dark epic fantasy that you've read.

Try to compare to something recent, shorter, and not adapted to a major block buster movie.

Good luck, and feel free to ask questions.

Kelley said...

I agree with the previous comment. It's too long.

I know, this is SO hard. To knock it down to 250/300 words.

All that should be in the query are the 3Cs. Character, Conflict and Choice. Get us to feel for your character, present the major conflict and tell us what your characters choice is.

Good luck!

Jeff Hargett said...

I'm not qualified to give advice on this, but everything I've read fits in line with Kelley and Rena's comments, to the tune of "you got 250 words, baby. Hook me with something fresh and don't waste my time."

Personal view: 2 POVs shouldn't be a problem if you're referring to two viewpoint characters, but I'm not sure it warrants mentioning specifically. Your query's content already alludes to that fact.

Best of luck to you!

Amber said...

thanks everyone...maybe I should stick with my original query. It seems to fit with what you all are saying much better than this one. I haven't queried this one yet, but my original doesn't seem to be getting nibbles. I will add my original to this post. If any of you stop back by and want to throw out your 2 cents on that one, it would be wonderful!

I sooo value others opinions. When you've rewritten it a gazillion times, it just helps to have new eyes on it. I hate it when an agent just want a query. I prefer it when they want the first couple of pages as well as a query. That way, if I get rejected I know it was the entire package they didn't like. To think a single page determines whether an agent will read any of my book is just stressful. Anyways...enough of my blabbering :) Thanks again!!!!

elizabeth seckman said...

I agree with them, it's too long. On the bright side? You wrote a pretty good synopsis. Your query should be an eye catching shorty short. I try to keep mine to four short paragraphs...1st paragraph- a nutshell sentence with the bare facts. An 'if then' sentence is a good fall back, 'if hero faces such and such then this may happen'
2nd paragraph...the blurb (read backs of books..you don't need to explain POV shifts...just what's the book about)
3rd paragraph...a little about yourself. I'd probably not mention blog awards or that it's my first novel. Do add anything that credentials you to write the story...since I have no writing credentials, I usually put that I am a member of a writing group, that I have an online presence (offer link to blog here)
paragraph 4- why I chose said agent/editor with a thank you then sign off
short, sweet, concise
good luck! Ever need help, drop me an email; I'd be more than happy to throw in my 2 cents (eseckman at ymail dot com