Sunday, January 3, 2010

#141-Revised 4x

Dear Query Shark,

Guardians can defeat any injury or illness, and for around three hundred years have brought about great improvements in people’s lives. Yet these acts are nothing compared to what could happen if a certain fourteen-year-old mustered up the desire to resume his dead father’s cause.

yikes, where did this come from?

Three years ago, Will’s life was shattered. Now, he has rotten prospects, faded dreams, and an old note which hints that his father may have actually chosen to die. Translated, that means something else was more important than staying alive—to be with him. Everything Will believes about his father unravels when he uncovers evidence of a double life kept hidden for over a decade.


Will becomes the target of growing suspicion (by whom?) after another person (who?) connected with the note disappears. When he sets out to discover his father’s past, he learns something else: his father possessed a significant, otherworldly artifact (be specific), which is now missing. His problems worsen after when word gets out that its power might be transferred to anyone who could (yes, forcibly) claim it–and he doesn’t know where it is or what it even looks like.


The trouble with that is? Everyone thinks he has it.

Then he meets Soren, who seems to know more about Will’s fate than Will does. Will is drawn to the frailties and mysteries of the aging monarch, yet fearful of his protection. As violence increases across a once peaceful land, and the guardians begin to disappear, Will must ask himself if Soren is his savior or the one who will lead him to his demise.

You don't need any of this. This is a quest novel. It's Will's story. All you need to do is tell me what Will needs to do to reach his goal.

Will needs to find the artifact--if he can first find the desire, then the courage--to continue what his father believed to be so very worthy. Oh, and the life of poverty thing should be fixed also. But what can one solitary boy do?


THE SAME SPIRIT is complete at 86,000 words. It is YA fantasy adventure and my first novel. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,


This is getting better except for that first paragraph. Good name change. Pare down to the essentials. Get some vivid word choices in there.


---------
Dear Query Shark,

Sixteen-year-old Percy has a plan for summer vacation, and it doesn’t include discovering the truth of what happened five years ago. That was when his father died, and he has yet to accept his fate as a result of it: a hard life of poverty. Now he learns that his father may have actually chosen to die.

There's a missing paragraph here. You go from "a plan for summer vacation that doesn't include" to "look for the missing artifact" Something must have happened to change his plans. What was it? That's the key.

Also, five years is a LONG time for a kid. At sixteen, it's not quite a third of his life. Percy sounds a bit neurotic if he hasn't "accepted" what his life is like. If you notice other adventure/quest YA books, you'll notice the main characters may remember the past, but they don't really dwell there. They are trying to make things work in the present.

Percy also learns his father possessed an artifact which one day, along with its bearer, will unite all people when their very survival is threatened. (this is so general as to be useless) He is thrown into the kind of adventure he thought existed only in his father’s bedtime stories, but ill-equipped, for he has never set foot outside of their isolated seaside town. He must overcome an inherent mistrust of adults and learn to accept help - from one in particular. His problems worsen when he realizes that the artifact’s power might be transferred to anyone who could claim it…and he doesn’t know where it is, or what it even looks like.

You don't need a laundry list of the quest. What's the one thing he needs to do? What happens if he fails? What worse thing happens if he succeeds?

And the trouble with that is? Everyone seems to think he has it.

Percy needs to find the artifact, its proper bearer, and why his father was willing to die for it. Oh, and his own life story could also use a happy ending. But what can one solitary boy do?

SAME SPIRIT is complete at 86,000 words. It is YA adventure fiction and my first novel. Thank you for your time and consideration.


I'm pretty sure this isn't a category called adventure fiction cause I've never heard of that before. This is fantasy. Magic artifacts tend to be fantasy (or diet books, but those are shelved, perplexingly, in non-fiction)

This is getting better, but it's not there yet.
---------------
Dear Query Shark,

Percy was just eleven when his father died. The interment was private, nearly unnoticed. In fact, people went about their business as if William Moore had not existed. Now five years later, Percy learns that his father may have chosen to die.

Choosing to die - according to Percy - is just another way of saying that his father chose to leave; it means that he intentionally left them behind. Percy is angry, yet afraid to discover what the well-traveled William knew, why he isolated them near the sea, and with what he was involved – in particular, what he may have loved more than his family. Percy begins to ask questions about his father’s death, stirring what has been long dormant. The questions quickly arouse paranoid suspicion, and he realizes that now he has placed himself and his mother at risk. Powerful memories of his father, and vivid details of a stranger – scholar, actually - who had visited just before William’s death, drives Percy from his childhood home to follow his father’s path back to its beginning.


The story starts here, in the third paragraph:

Percy learns that his (now dead) father acquired an artifact believed to have survived through the end of the previous age.

Believed by whom? You don't need the word believed, and it creates the who believes problem.
Percy learns (no that) his (now dead) father acquired (insert name of what it is or something more specific than) artifact from the end of the previous age (what age? Ice? Dinosaur?)

It may have even stopped time, and much later, brought back the dead to their new world, now 300 years ago.

This sentence just leads to more trouble. You don't have enough time to explain any of the details without sounding muddled: "brought back the dead to their new world" leads me to wonder whose world, and why. Just leave it out.

Along with its bearer, the artifact is prophesied to one day unite all people when their very survival is threatened.

This is where a very plain noun-verb-clause structure is your friend. It is prophesied that one day the artifact and its bearer will unite all people when their very survival is threatened.


Many people are desperate to find it as sporadic violence begins to erode the peace which has reigned for decades. On top of not knowing what or where it is, Percy’s problems worsen when he realizes that the artifact’s power might be transferred to anyone who could claim it. He must overcome an inherent mistrust of adults and learn to accept help - from one in particular.

I strongly strongly strongly suggest that you write straightforward sentences. DO NOT lead with
these damn clauses all the time: Percy's problems worsen when he realizes... Then you put in And he has to find the artifact too or something like that.


If Percy doesn’t discover the origin of the artifact, its whereabouts, and why his father was willing to die for it, he will also fail to find the intended bearer, and his family’s hardship would have been for nothing. Whether his failure results in the end of an age, or his success ensures that the beginning continues, he will learn that parents are still important, friends necessary, and death can be a beginning instead of just an end – for one who surrenders to it, as well as for those who love them.

And when you stop there, instead of adding all this other stuff, you actually have something much closer to enticing.

THE SAME SPIRIT is complete at 86,000 words. It is YA adventure fiction and my first novel. Thank you for your time and consideration.

You're improving but this is still a form rejection.


---------------
Dear Query Shark,

William Moore died when his son Percy was just eleven. The interment was private, nearly unnoticed. In fact, people went about their business as if he had not existed. Now five years later, Percy learns that a friend had feared for his father’s safety, had warned him to discontinue involvement in certain activities…and that William his father may have chosen to die, knowing that it had been foretold.

Start with the character who isn't dead for the entire book, ok? Percy was just eleven when his father died.

And I hate to break this to you, I but I foretell your death. Mine too. We ALL die. Thus "knowing that it had been foretold" is meaningless.

What Percy doesn’t know is that William Moore acquired an artifact believed to have survived through the end of the previous age. It may have even stopped time, and much later, brought back the dead to their new world, now 300 years ago. He also doesn’t know that along with its bearer, the artifact is prophesied to one day unite all people when their very survival is threatened.

If Percy doesn't know it, it doesn't influence his choices at the start of the book. Leave it out. It's like saying "Scarlett O'Hara doesn't know the south will lose so she whiles away the war in Miss Pittypat's parlor instead of learning to farm."

When Percy begins to ask questions about his father’s death. He arouses suspicion and inadvertently places himself and his mother at risk. To discover what William Moore knew, with what he was involved, and why he settled into their isolated, provincial community by the sea, Percy has no choice but to leave his childhood home and follow his father’s path back to its beginning.

Well he does have a choice. And that's why this is still not very focused. You're glossing over the choice he makes: to leave home and discover what his father knew, and why his father isolated their family OR to stay home and remain ignorant. IF he leaves home he risks (whatever he risks). If he doesn't, he'll (whatever he won't)

The query is not the place for a rundown of the entire plot. Focus on what STARTS the plot moving and entice me to read on. Be specific.

And a quick word about starting sentences with when, since, during, meanwhile, but, and: don't. Start with the subject. It will make the sentence stronger about 97.6% of the time, and if it doesn't THEN you start with something else.

However, being sixteen and also much like his father, he strays from his purpose. He quickly gets caught up in the wonder – and the danger - of a civilization which is struggling to build a utopia. He lives through false imprisonment for vagrancy, the murder of his friend’s uncle, and robbery. He doesn’t realize that the events are not unintentional – that being William Moore’s son, he is a curiosity to others who know what he has yet to learn. He may now be the bearer of the extraordinary, if it exists – or could its power be transferred to anyone who could claim it?

To fulfill his father's destiny, and ultimately discover his own, Percy must learn to accept help from others – one in particular - and resume his path, the one which was chosen for him.


THE SAME SPIRIT is complete at 86,000 words. It is YA adventure fiction and my first novel. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Form rejection
----------------------------------
(4 lines of address redacted)

DON'T PUT YOUR CONTACT INFO AT THE TOP. Yes, I'm shrieking. I see this all the time and it's starting to make me nuts. In an email query, your contact info goes at the bottom under your name. Don't waste the first 4, 8 or 16 lines of an email with something OTHER than the most important information: what your book is about.

Dear Query Shark,

The maturation of 16-year-old Percy Moore stalled five years ago when his father died, and left him lingering in their isolated, provincial community.

What? He stopped growing? He stopped maturing? He's lingering on his death bed? This is so general as to be meaningless. Be specific. Percy Moore's father dies and leave him alone in an isolated community. Then what?


He cocoons, and avoids adults with their curious stares.

What, his father was the first person to ever die there? He died from something suspicious? Right now this doesn't make sense. Why are people staring at Percy? And cocooning is one of those shelter-magazine buzz words meaning people stay at home with their entertainment systems. Is that how you mean it here?


But when he endangers his remaining family by discovering that his father’s death may not have been accidental, Percy is forced to leave his childhood home. He knows that he must either run to hide, or swallow his fear and seek out the details of his father’s mysterious past.

You'd think he'd want to leave if people are staring at him. Be specific about what the problem is.

What Percy doesn’t know is that his father had been foretold and accepted his own fate, and had armed and prepared his son to find the same path and accomplish what he would not.

His father had been foretold doesn't make sense. An event, not a person is foretold. And Percy doesn't sound armed or prepared at all to me.

As Percy journeys through the unfamiliar, gathering friends and straying from his original purpose, he also doesn’t realize that his father’s life and death is not a secret.

unfamiliar what?
uh...since when was it ever thought to be a secret?

William Moore was believed to possess a gift of unknown origin or value - brought about by his travels - which would one day bring people and lands together in a struggle for survival. Unaware that the events are related,

What events?

Percy lives through imprisonment for vagrancy, the murder of his friend’s uncle, and robbery. To survive, he must learn to allow adults – one in particular – into his life again and resume his path, the one which was chosen for him.

List the events, then say "the events are related" otherwise the reader doesn't know what events you're talking about. But you also don't want a list of events in a query. You want problem/conflict/consequences and choices.

This is so general as to be meaningless. Get back to basics. What's the problem Percy faces? What are the consequences? Answer that in fewer than 100 specific words.

THE SAME SPIRIT is complete at 86,000 words. It is YA fiction, the first of a 3-book series and also and my first novel. Thank you for your time and consideration.



Sincerely,


Form rejection.

25 comments:

Josin L. McQuein said...

This one bugged me, so this is long (sorry):

You're contradicting yourself. If the man's past was mysterious, then by definition it was full of secrets - even if those secrets were only kept from his son and community. (It had to be from at least those two or Percy is a moron.) To come back later and say "it wasn't a secret after all" means that this kid's quest just became pointless and there's no incentive to read the book. He could have hit Google and saved the reader a few hours of their life and dollars in their pocket.

What year is this supposed to be? At the beginning, it sounds contemporary, but "bring people and lands together in a struggle for survival" makes it sound like it's set in the distant past. (It's also another contradiction. You don't prophesy a union with the goal of struggle.)

And - this kid has the mentality of an 11-year-old according to you. Exactly how well "armed" could he be? He's not very well equipped if he can't even function. (The premise is flawed a bit there, too. Once P hit puberty, if he was a physically normal boy, he'd have had some physical and mental changes no matter what. If he didn't mature intellectually or emotionally, he'd be on some kind of treatment program.)

Tintin said...

On first glance, I was really confused why someone would submit Perry Moore RPS fanfiction to the Query Shark. But no, his name's Percy Moore, lol.

More specific descriptions--and less passive ones--would greatly improve this. At this point, personally, I have no idea why I'm even finishing the query, let alone thinking about wanting to read the book.

lora96 said...

I want to be interested in this one. HELP ME BE INTERESTED, please.

What is Percy like? Why is he hiding unless he is agoraphobic? Does he live alone? How did dad die? In what possible way is reclusive somewhat dumb teenager equipt to deal with whatever killed Pops? And WHY? Did Pops smuggle illegal savory goat cheese into the provincial community, turning cow-centric western Wisconsin into a hotbed of fromagerie fisticuffs????

I got nothin' here.

Lauren said...

I agree with the Shark about the vagueness. I want to have questions when I'm reading a query, but not questions of whether or not your protag is a 16-year-old wearing diapers (which would answer the question of why people are staring at him, at least). One of the things I noticed was that you kind of repeat yourself:

"...lingering in their isolated..."

and then the next line is "...avoids adults..."

Just say he's isolated or that he avoids the staring adults. I'm sure I'm not alone when I say I start skimming when I see repetition like this (and skimming is not what you want the reader of your query to be doing).

I know you don't want to give away the entire book, but having everything be a mystery killed the query for me. Give us a chance to like your book...this query is self-sabotage.

à la vanille said...

I had problems with this too.
I became wary once Percy goes into isolation all because of curious stares from adults? That's hardly intimidating. But I think what would have made me ditch this book at the bookstore or library was once he "endangers his family by discovering his father's death might not be accidental". I don't see how that endangers his family. I don't see the point of him running away either. When I don't see the point of a character's action, I stop reading. Also, there are too many twists upon twists. I read a book like that once. Gave me a headache. Sorry, but not the book for me. Maybe it would be if some things were cleared up in the query, but as of now, no.

Basil Zyllion said...

"William Moore was believed to possess a gift of unknown origin or value"

I found myself trying to decipher its meaning by rereading that paragraph. What gift? Is it a concrete thing or is it a talent?

Don't give up on yourself or your book!

Sheila Deeth said...

I would never have guessed about not putting contact info at the top. I guess I'd kind of viewed queries as "query letters" and therefore assumed they started with address of sender followed (because business letter) by that of recipient. Thanks for the advice.

chris becker said...

You're using 'cocoons' as a verb which I assume you meant Percy metamorphose into his version of a butterfly. I am not familiar with magazine shelter buzzwords so I didn't have a problem thinking it had any other meaning. He's evolved. Beyond even the other townsfolk. That's why they stare. Dinosaurs are seeing the first mammal. At least that's what I assume. It is a bit vague here.

theresamilstein said...

I think the problem is that this query was written in an effort to provide intrigue over substance. In today's climate, when many agencies only want query letters, there needs to be more summarizing of plot and character.

Ashley said...

Okay, the contact info is VERY good to know. I've been taught in my writing classes to write it like a business letter, e-mail or not. It's always good to know what the professionals want to see. I'll keep that in mind for my online submissions.

Margaret Yang said...

I get the vague feeling that there is something good of substance here. It would be so great to see a second try and learn how things can get better. The shark can help you, writer! You've got a great opportunity here.

Marian said...

I'm afraid that the moment I saw "cocoons", I imagined Percy spinning an actual cocoon and continuing his maturation process in there.

Aimless Writer said...

Too many little useless facts tell us nothing about the story. I had to read this twice and still don't know what its about other then Percy is some weirdo running and hiding. And I'm sure you don't want us to think your main character is a weirdo-we need to like him.
Answer these three questions;
What's the conflict? (I don't think it's his father's death but maybe something that death set in motion?)
What's the motivation? (Why does Percy have to solve this?)
What's the goal? (Is he solving the murder? If so why is this different from any other avenge my father story? If that's not it then why is he running around and hiding?)
If you can give these three things up without all the extra words then you'd have a good query letter. Remember write tight. If you don't absolutely need the word then delete it.

kanishk said...

if he was a physically normal boy, he'd have had some physical and mental changes no matter what.

Work from home India

Soror Sweets- North GA's new destination for custom treats! said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Comma girl said...

I know this book, or at least it sounds like a book I've read (YA?) but I see the point that it would never have been published if it had been presented in this way. I'd like to see the actual query for this book. Great info

andylucho said...

It woudnt make sense. He has to talk about his father foretelling him something. He just sounds like a scared 3 year old.

The Zuccini said...

I sometimes find, knowing how people interpret what I've written very useful so I'm going to take a stab at this. I don't know how helpful I can be, but I'll try my best.

Percy Moore's father, William More, died when he was just elven (I think that you don't literally mean he's mental age at sixteen is eleven). Now five years later he learns his father's death wasn't an accident.

William More, acquired an artifact (gift could also mean a magical power so I'm taking a guess. Forgive me=) on his travels. The artifact is prophesied to one day unite the people of (Earth???).

When Percy learns of his father's assassination and the missing artifact, he inadvertently places his remaining family at risk. Forced to leave his home, Percy has no choice but to locate the missing artifact. However, like his father, he is lead astray (by a beautiful woman or because (reason goes here.))

I stopped here because there were a couple things I couldn't piece together. The mistrust of adults seems to be a major plot element for this book. I can connect a death causing a child to become withdrawn but I can't connect the death of his father to Percy mistrusting all adults. Does something happen to cause this mistrust? Or did you mean to say he was so devastated by his father's death he stopped interacting with people?

Basically this leaves two potential summary paragraphs:

To fulfill his (father's?) destiny, Percy must learn to trust again.

To fulfill his (father's?) destiny, Percy must accept help from the people he's pushed away.

Like I said, I could be batting left field here. If I am, I'm sorry about that.

Hope this helps, and good luck with your story. Sounds interesting!

Southern Writer said...

I have taken a LOT of flak about the names of some of my characters, so I probably have no room to say anything about yours, Author, and forgive me, but I don't like the name Percy. Never have. I'm sure someone named Percy will write and give me a bunch of crap about this, but I've always associated it with weakness & whining (ever watched The Green Mile?) Admittedly, the only YA I've read are the Harry Potters, but are there ever any heroes named Percy?

My next issue with this query, other than those already mentioned, is with Percy's imprisonment for vagrancy, the murder of his friend’s uncle, and robbery. I didn't know they put people in prison for vagrancy. It seems a little harsh. If he went to jail for murder--First degree? First / felony murder? Second degree? Manslaughter?--I think the minimum number of years he'd have to serve is fifteen. Of course, that's if he was charged as an adult in the first place. If he wasn't an adult, he wouldn't have been sent to prison. Not to mention that if he did serve the minimum sentence, this is unlikely to still be a YA story at the time of his release. He'd be at least 31. You might either want to rethink this part of your story, or make it clearer in the query, because I'm confused.

btw, I'm another author who would Query Fail because of an address at the top. I would treat it as a formal business letter, via email or not. And I'm Old School, so not only would my contact info have been put at the top, I would have put Miss Shark's in there, too.

ver: Peter

Maybe the Universe prefers that name. I know I do.

Josin L. McQuein said...

Southern Writer,

The Lightning Thief has an MC named Percy (Percy Jackson). So, yes, there is YA with that name. Unfortunately, I think that might be another strike against the query.

Percy is such an unusual name for young people now that it stands out. It would be kind of like naming a girl Hermione, even if she wasn't a witch or British. I've never even read TLT, and that was the first place my mind went.


Verword: Unfospin -- bad information spun the wrong way.

molly said...

I came to make the same name comment. Percy Jackson is HUGE with middle grade readers right now. Using the name Percy along wih a father centric adventure plot is too similar.

alaskaravenclaw said...

What is the artifact?

laughingpaws said...

I third on the Percy Jackson tie in. The books are just too huge right now for another Percy to join the ranks. You'd be hurting your book's chances for success especially with your story line which is very similar to Riordan's even without the Greek Gods. Now, if you haven't read his series, that might be step one. To know what's already out there. The 39 Clue series also comes to mind as do several others. That's not a bad thing, but I would seriously consider changing my hero's first name. It's like writing a YA novel with Harry as the hero's first name. It's off the blocks for the foreseeable future even if your Harry would be a farmer in a dell in Nebraska fighting a plague of ants to save the family empire.

YA adventure books- and I've read A LOT of them- rarely use the flowery language that you have used in your query. I know of one and it's about faeries in Ireland and geared toward teen girls.

Your main character is a 16 year old boy. Your story sounds like it's geared more toward middle school. If you want your hero angst ridden about his father's death, have his father die a year ago and make him 12. By 16 he's almost a man. Even if he does miss his dad like a missing right arm he's not going to want to admit it to anyone, even if he is the most sensitive 16 year old boy alive.

Tolkien wrote for adults, if that's who you're emulating, his books were embraced by the YA audience but they weren't written with them in mind. Now, they are hot in middle school as is Anne Mc Caffrey, etc. They want stories, not beautiful prose. Adults like beautiful prose, most kids just want the goods, the story. Just something to consider.

Congratulations on putting yourself out there.

Stephanie Barr said...

Rev #4 - Points to you for persevering. Four revs to the shark takes guts.

As always, trim and adjust as the Shark suggests. Something I would like to add, however, is that, as this is a quest novel, I think understanding something about Will and why he's worth following on his quest might be helpful. Right now, he seems very passive, being dragged along rather than cutting a swath.

There's nothing wrong with a quest novel where destiny puts your character's feet on a path, but, at some time, they need to start making their own future. I'm sure you've done so, but I don't see it here in the query.

Robin Connelly said...

hmm. So you say, Will needs to decide whether to "continue what his father believed to be so very worthy." This seems contradictory to me, since his father decided he wanted to die...

If it was so important, why did he end his life?