Saturday, January 13, 2018

#294-Revised once

Revision #1 

Dear QueryShark:

Thirteen-year-old Conrad wants to believe he's on the side of light, but jealousy, bitterness, and anger have always burned inside. Growing up in Pennsylvania's Foster Care System hardened him. He doesn't trust people or make bonds easily. Why bother? He knows he'll be shifted to a different home in no time.


Right off the bat the phrase "make bonds" troubles me.
If you mean he doesn't bond with people, bond is a verb and doesn't need the word make.
If you mean make friends, well, you need the word make but not bonds.

But what gives me pause is this is an awkward phrase, and you should have seen it during revision, and polished it.  Words are your tools and when I see them used poorly, it discourages me.

When Conrad is finally adopted, he's determined to make this home work. He doesn't even last two full days. Conrad's moved to a different home, but not in the normal way. A glowing opal jewel and a few words in a bizarre language propel him to the magical realm of Edynfell. The place Conrad was born.

That first sentence in this paragraph completely undercuts what you told us in the first paragraph. In paragraph one he doesn't trust anyone and he knows he'll be shifted in no time.
What makes this home different? 

Conrad meets his uncle, Burke, who explains that Conrad is a larst, a special being wielding amazing powers. Conrad's powers have been dormant for thirteen years and Burke needs to help Conrad awaken them.

this is where your story actually starts. In a fantasy novel, get to the magic QUICKLY cause those first two paragraphs made me think this was a book about a kid in foster care.

Conrad also learns that the once peaceful Edynfell was divided into twelve clans by a powerful dark larst, allowing chaos and evil to seep into the land. With Conrad returning, the time has come to unite the clans, but Conrad isn't the only one on this quest. His unknown cousin is on the same mission.

 You've finally got something interesting in the last sentence. Conrad's on a quest but he's not the only one.


One cousin is said to be a dark larst, the other light. One will bring peace to Edynfell, the other continued doom. But which is dark and which is light? Despite what Burke and his new friends say, Conrad's haunted by the suspicion that he's the dark larst of destruction.

 And this is where it's actually enticing. The main character who thinks he might be the villain of the piece. This is finally where I'd be interested. That means, move this up to the top of the query!

CONRAD OF EDYNFELL: THE KING'S JEWEL is a MG fantasy with 74,000 words and has potential to be a series. The protagonist is bi-racial along with an ethnically diverse group of characters.

Middle grade fantasy is always a series. Middle grade readers LOVE series (they're not alone in that) Usually you hear "don't say anything about a series" but for middle grade, it's different. Tell me how many zillion books you have in your head AND be prepared to offer up a list of the next three or four, with info on what happens in the books, and the overarching theme of the series if there is one.

 I am an experienced author of twelve published novels with Desert Breeze Publishing Inc. I am seeking representation to help grow my career.


Thank you for your time and consideration.

This is better but you're wasting a lot of time, and risking a quick dismissal by not having the good stuff at the start.

Revise, resend.



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Original query

I've been wading in the shark tank for countless hours, slushing through every single archived post. My eyes sting and I'm dehydrated from all the salt water, but it's been worth it! Harpooning all the advice in the archives, I've brutalized my original query so much that I feel as vicious as a Great White. Still, writing can always be improved!

Q1: Way back in the archives you asked an author why he/she would look for an agent if they already have 19 published novels. Do you think the sentence after my bio explains why I'm seeking representation? Is it okay to leave in?

Q2: Agents are looking for ethnically diverse characters, especially in children's stories and fantasy, right? I touch on this in the query AND state it in the housekeeping part. Is this okay or am I stuffing it in the agent's face?



Dear Query Shark,

In the realm of Edynfell there are magical beings called larsts. Conrad doesn't know what larsts are or that he's supposed to be one. In fact, Conrad knows very little about himself. Is he black, white, or mixed race? Is he actually thirteen years old?

The only thing Conrad knows for sure is he's stuck in Pennsylvania's Foster Care system. When he's adopted under bizarre circumstances, he discovers larsts, his own incredible background, and Edynfell.


I like that second paragraph a whole lot better than the first. It gives me a MUCH better idea of the story.  Even if you just switch the order, you'll be better off.

Conrad faces more than magic and monsters in this medieval-like realm. All teenage boys must train for the honor of becoming a knight, but greater things are at stake than knighthood. There are two possible larsts who can unite the divided clans of Edynfell: Conrad and a powerful dark larst whose cruel heart will destroy the realm.

This is all set up and background. I know you want to get us into the world, but it's more important to introduce us to Conrad so that we care about what happens to him. You haven't done that here yet.

This is also pretty abstract. Why are the clans divided? Why does anyone care? Why do they need to be united? Why are we so sure Conrad isn't the dark larst? (Now THAT would be a good story!)

The clans will unite when the twelve missing jewels from the Crest of Edynfell are collected. The problem is Conrad's lack of powers keeps him from believing he's a larst. Conrad needs to have faith in himself and his new friends to unite Edynfell before darkness rules.

Well, that's just not enough to carry a book. Something has to be at stake here, even in a middle grade novel. Something has to be at stake for us to care about what happens to the characters.  

Also, if he doesn't have powers, how is he a larst?
And what does his being multi-racial (paragraph one) have to do with anything? I actually like it better when race is just something a character is, not a plot point. But that means you don't mention his racial makeup till the housekeeping section since it's not a key part of the story.


CONRAD OF EDYNFELL: THE KING'S JEWEL is a MG fantasy with 75,000 words and has potential to be a series. The protagonist is bi-racial and I understand agents are seeking ethnically diverse characters.


Please leave out any kind of statement about what we're looking for. We know what we're looking for.

I am an experienced author of twelve published novels with Small Company Pubbing Books Inc. I am seeking representation to help grow my career into larger publishing companies and wider distribution. 


You want someone who can grow your career. You don't need to say anything else.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


This just doesn't stand out. It's not terrible. It's not even bad. But it's not fresh and new. It doesn't do what a query must do: entice me to read on. I don't read a lot of mg fantasy, but I've started to recently, and the ones that just heat up my enthusiasm teapot are the ones where I really care what happens to the characters. I don't care about Conrad yet, so this query  isn't effective yet.

Yes, we're looking for books with diverse characters, but that's in addition to a compelling plot, not in lieu of.

I think the problem here is the book, not the query.

As to your questions:


Q1: Way back in the archives you asked an author why he/she would look for an agent if they already have 19 published novels. Do you think the sentence after my bio explains why I'm seeking representation? Is it okay to leave in?

Yup. Yup.
You can actually leave it out too unless you want me looking up sales figures for your previous books.

Q2: Agents are looking for ethnically diverse characters, especially in children's stories and fantasy, right? I touch on this in the query AND state it in the housekeeping part. Is this okay or am I stuffing it in the agent's face?

Just tell me about the story. You can leave out anything about what I'm looking for. 


3 comments:

Anonymous said...

May I suggest a slight edit, QueryShark?
"Something has to be at stake here, especially in a middle grade novel."
signed,
A middle grade writer

SamDrake said...

You mention looking up this author's previous sales records. Out of curiosity, is this something possible for a person who's not in the industry? I've written my first draft of a query and invoked certain other novels that I think are similar to mine, and while I think they are good comparisons, and books that I like myself, I'm not sure whether or not they were considered commercial successes.

Francesca Strada said...

The revision is really good. I would delete the first paragraphs.
I think if you start by quickly describing Conrad by telling us just two words about him. Then go straight to when he founds himself in this magical realm.

You’re on the right track!