Saturday, July 22, 2017

#291

Questions:
Will beginning each part of my book with a stanza be a total turn-off for agents? Not including it in a response to a request for pages would be dishonest; but I realize the only other creatures in the sea who share my love of poetry might be cryptozoological.

Is including supplementary/reference material at the end of a manuscript frowned upon? (Not as extreme as Operation Red Jericho)

Dearest Carcharodon Inquiro,
Filo is a glitch in a centuries-old U.N. plan. The Academy was designed to admit one child from each family. There shouldn’t have been any siblings. Filo and his brother must decide which of them is to attend and which must stay behind. When another child fails to show on Collection day, Filo secretly takes Silas’ place. He thinks he is merely an imposter protecting his frightened friend. He is trying to fit into a hole he was not designed for.


This is a hot mess of backstory and explanation. SIMPLIFY! I should be able to read this paragraph straight through without pausing to think "huh??" and at the end know what problem the main character faces. Yes, it's really hard to get it right.  It helps to prune out everything that doesn't matter, AND go in chronological order.

Filo is a glitch in a centuries-old U.N. plan.
The Academy was designed to admit one child from each family.
The Academy admits one child from each family.
There shouldn’t have been any siblings.
Filo and his brother must decide which of them is to attend and which must stay behind.
When another child fails to show on Collection day, Filo secretly takes Silas’ place.
(I'm assuming that Filo's brother is NOT Silas' but that is not clear here at all.)

He thinks he is merely an imposter protecting his frightened friend.
He is trying to fit into a hole he was not designed for.
But: he's not. And this is where the query goes flat. If he's not just an imposter, what is he?

At the Advancement Academy, 21 students are instructed in the ways of an ideal Humanity. A perfected gene-pool, crafted ethics, and dogged morals. Their charter from the United Nations is to restore mankind to a better state.

Eleven years later, all Filo wants is to complete his training unnoticed. To maintain calm and order. A resurgence of suppressed memories and the appearance of Silas dissolve this balance and bring Filo under the microscope. He can either escape the compound with Silas or stay and let the Academy run its course. Escape would jeopardize not only the success of his fellows, but the entire species. If he stays, he might be collateral damage.


And here's where I've stopped reading. That entire first paragraph is now backstory. It's clear the main part of the plot takes place here, eleven years later. And what you've written is too abstract to be interesting. I'm confused about who Silas is, I have no idea what happened to his brother, and I thought "The Academy" was an institution not something like a disease.

Then there’s the matter of being an asexual male charged with repopulating the planet.

Huh? Where the everloving holy moly did that come from?


INITUS is 47,000 words of young adult fiction and deals with the paradoxes of ethics and diversity from the revolving viewpoints of Filo, his brother, their co-conspiring classmates, and Silas. INITUS is GENESIS with a human instigator -- a real-life macrocosmic ‘Take Two’.

I don't understand any of that. 

And there's no way you can write any kind of complex world-building-required fantasy in 47,000 words. You'll need twice that.

Thank you for your time and consideration!

As to your questions:


(1) Will beginning each part of my book with a stanza be a total turn-off for agents? Not including it in a response to a request for pages would be dishonest; but I realize the only other creatures in the sea who share my love of poetry might be cryptozoological.

 It wouldn't be dishonest at all. I'm not sure why you think it would be. Lots of things get added to a book betwixt submission to an agent and publication. Glossaries, indexes, timelines, maps, and epigraphs (which is what you're talking about.)

You can include them if you want of course. I personally find them distracting and useless but I just skip over them. I don't stop reading if you include them.



(2) Is including supplementary/reference material at the end of a manuscript frowned upon? (Not as extreme as Operation Red Jericho)

This is added later if the editor thinks it's beneficial.  For example, there are extensive author notes in Gary Corby's historical novels about the real life events and timeline for the world he's created. All of that is added after the book has been edited.


Those things aren't even close to your problem here though.

Your problem is two fold: a hot mess of confusion in the query, and word count in the book.

First things first: figure out what you left out of the book if you think it's finished at 47K. Then rework the query to show us:

Who is the main character?
What does he want?
What is keeping him from getting what he wants?
What must she sacrifice to get what he wants?

Sunday, July 2, 2017

#290


Question, I'm an African, and this novel is African-themed, do I need to query agents who strictly represents African writers or do I generally query agents who represents books in my genre?

Dear QueryShark,
When Aisha, a young Fulani maid, chooses to stay with her dying foster mother, she has no idea she'd be investing her heart for an emotional whirlwind. 

This isn't a log line (which I think you intended it to be.) You don't need a log line in a query, and if you did, a good log line is less about description (a young Fulani maid) and more about action.

Aisha Batu is not a typical housemaid. She is educated, she wears expensive clothes, and her employers Henry and Teju Cole has have become her informal, foster parents. But her old tranquil life suddenly changes when she is raped. By Henry.

This paragraph is a much more dynamic set up than what you had for a log line. It's specific. It gives us a sense of the characters, and we have an emotional response to what happens. In other words: start with this.

Reeling emotionally from the storm caused by her foster father's betrayal, she Aisha resolves to return to her home village to heal. However, Teju - her foster mum - gets devastating news; she has leukemia and has less than three months left to live. Torn between grief and her sense of duty, Aisha is forced chooses to put her intense fear and hatred for Henry at bay and stay with her dying foster mom.

Aisha isn't forced, she chooses. That's the actual strength of the story.  You don't need to tell us Teju is Aisha's foster mom again since you introduced her in the preceding paragraph.

Reeling emotionally from the storm is just overwrought writing and really out of place here. Don't be afraid to be plain. Aisha was raped by a man she trusted. We don't need to be told she's reeling; WE are reeling with her.

 With the clock ticking out the seconds of Teju's life, and the struggling through hospital visits, endless tests and fainting spells, the extraordinary bond between both women deepens. As Aisha works on piecing her life together, she watches Teju's own fade away. Determined to make Teju's final days as joyful and painless as possible, she keeps Henry's brutal attack to herself. 

 The charade is kept up until she When Aisha discovers she is pregnant, and soon her secret is out. Her reticent friendship with Teju is disrupted, and she faces the risk of losing everything she has ever cared for. She must decide the depth of her loyalty, how far she could go for love, and, in the face of devastating heartbreak, learn how to hope again.

 Reticent is the wrong word here. It's a word that describes a person not a friendship. You might have meant nascent. But, nascent would imply she's just now becoming friends with Teju, and that doesn't feel right. Aishu is choosing to stay with her; surely that means they were friends of long standing.

I also don't understand what any of "risk of losing everything" etc means. She is going to lose Teju. I hope she's kicking Henry to the curb in terms of any kind of filial devotion. What else does she have to lose? Be specific here. Specificity will engage your readers; generalities will not.

WHEN I WAKE, a one sided narrative adult fiction is complete at 95,000 words. I have attached included the first chapter as required and would be happy to send the completed manuscript on request.

I'm not sure what one sided means here.  
Unless instructed otherwise, you'll include the pages in the email NOT attach them as a document of any sort.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


You should query every agent who represents commercial fiction, literary fiction or women's fiction. Do not limit yourself to agents who've expressed interest in African stories. As far as I can see here, there is nothing uniquely African in this story. It's much more of a universal story. That it is set in Africa (I assume) is a bonus.

 I'm not sure if English is your first or second language. If it's your second, get a native speaker to review this with you to pick out problems like "reticent." If it's your first language, get a good copy editor to help you find problems like "reticent."

Revise with an eye to being very specific about what's at stake for Aisha.