Monday, February 1, 2010

#144-Revised Thrice

Dear Query Shark:

Hurled twenty years into the future, young Jakorus is confronted with a horrifying truth: his world has changed, and it’s his fault.

His home, the island of Cybraxas, teeters at the brink of civil war. Magical creatures have secretly co-existed with humans for centuries, but the illusion of peace crumbles when a rebellious faction fights to overturn their primary law: Humans are not food.

Why? What changed? Are they hungry? Hungrier? Did humans destroy their normal food? What happened to create the rebels?

And "civil war" implies a country or a place fighting itself. This doesn't sound like that. It sounds like the alligators have come out of the NYC sewers and are looking for some payback. That's not a "civil war", even to this reptilian NYer.

Trapped in a time loop, many versions of Jakorus have tried to change the future, but they only make things worse. In order to restore the original timeline, Jakorus learns he must murder innocents, betray friends, and repeat the same immoral choices that the original Jakorus made. If he fails, the rebellion could blossom into civil war.

And so, what's the problem here? If he made the immoral choices the first time, surely it's easier the second? You've missed the key part of the story: Jakorus has had some sort of transfiguring moment, and has renounced his earlier evil self. (Think Clint Eastwood in Unforgiven-he hangs up his guns and becomes a farmer)

But through it all, Jakorus has his own problem: in the future there are two of him, and they both love the same girl.

This part I do like a lot.

TIME TOURISM is a YA urban fantasy novel of approximately 123,000 words. It stands alone as a single book, but has series potential. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Big Love meets Portnoy's Complaint, ok. (alright I'm just teasing you here)

Best Regards,

better, but still needs work.

Dear Query Shark,

Hurled into the future twenty years, young Jakorus is confronted with a horrifying truth: his world has changed, and it’s his fault.

Hurled twenty years in to the future, young

The island of Cybraxas teeters at the brink of civil war. Mythical creatures have secretly co-existed with humans for centuries, but maintaining an illusion of peace becomes increasingly difficult when a rebellious faction wishes to overturn their most strictly enforced law: Humans are not food.

We don't know what the island of Cybraxas is. Is it young hurler Jakorus' home? If so, it's better to name it "young hurlers home island" so we know. The name of the place is the least helpful identifier here.

Also, if a creature is mythical it doesn't exist. If it exists, it's not mythical.

And you're burying the most important part of the story: creatures want to eat people.

His older self, haggard and worn beyond his years, warns Jakorus against the seductive power of manipulating destiny. Altering the outcome of events has been repeatedly attempted by previous Jakorus’ trapped in the time loop that was created, but all efforts make things worse. To prevent the rebellion from blossoming into civil war, Jakorus learns of innocents he will murder, friends he’ll be required to betray, and the immoral choices that he must repeat in order to restore the original timeline.

This paragraph is as convoluted as the time loop you're describing. What you want to say here is that the Hurler isn't the first Jakorus to come forward, or go backward in time to try and fix things. All that travelling through time has only made things worse. Now, he not only has to fix the problem, he has to un-convolute the mess his previous selves made. And that means murder, betrayal, and best of all, immoral choices!

Returned to his own time with strict instructions of what must be done to save his people, Jakorus has his his own problem own agenda: to prevent one of the most unusual love triangles in history: In the future there are two of him, and they both love the same girl.

Set in modern day, TIME TOURISM is a YA fantasy novel of approximately 125,000 words. It stands alone as a single book, but has series potential. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Best Regards,

Your Chum
1313 Query Hell Lane
Craptastic, BS 12345-6789

this address still cracks me up

You're getting better, and it's sounding more like something I'd actually look at but it's still not there yet.

Dear Query Shark,

Azomyn Jakorus is a young being from an immortal race that lives secretly among humans. One day he is magically catapulted through time twenty years. His older self is there waiting for him to tell him about the dangers of trying to change the past, something that had been tried again and again by other Jakorus’ trapped in the time loop that was created. He is shown what is meant to happen in his life; people he has to murder, people he cares about that he needs to betray, and the wrong choices that he must repeat, otherwise his world and everyone he knows will suffer for his cowardice.

What's an immortal race? Are the beings immortal? If so, they better not get too old or you'll have a real problem.

And I'm not sure the "people he has to murder" are going t much care that if they don't die "everyone he knows will suffer for his cowardice." Suffer and be damn quick about it I say.

In other words, this isn't the real conflict. You need a real problem and a real choice in the first paragraph.

While in the future, Jakorus makes many unusual friends and trains with his older self and Master Kale, a member of the Council of Elders, trying to become the creature of fortitude and resolution they need him to be. Yet, he often questions himself and their decisions, worried that he is not strong enough for the task. Reluctant to leave his friends, but determined to do what is best for his people, he is returned to his true time with a mission to make things right.

yea yea yea. This is the montage scene in every heroic quest movie ever made. It's boring then. It's boring now. Leave it out.

However, against all advice and fierce pressure, he has his own agenda: to prevent the most unusual love triangle in history. The decisions he makes on his own are foolhardy at best. Perhaps this was to be expected from one so young, but at seventeen he was headstrong, independent, and absolutely positive that what he did was right.

The conflict is "to prevent the most unusual love triangle in all history." Lead with that. And sadly, you're going to need to spell out what it is. What you've got right now is telling not showing.

Time cripples confidence.
This is a pithy phrase, but it doesn't actually mean anything.

Set in modern day, “Time Tourism,” is a YA fantasy. The manuscript is 125,000 words in length. It can stand alone as a single book, but it is meant to be the first in a series. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Best Regards,

Your Chum
1313 Query Hell Lane
Craptastic, BS 12345-67

this just cracks me up.
I think we have a new address for ALL the Chum.

Still a form rejection but it's getting better.

Dear Query Shark,

I am seeking representation. My completed manuscript, “Time Tourism,” is a fantasy-adventure-romance chapter book with a target audience of young adult readers,

whoa baby! "Chapter book" is a phrase used to describe books for early readers. Having chapters doesn't make it a chapter book. "Fantasy-adventure-romance" is not a category. Romance is. Fantasy is. They're also two very DIFFERENT categories. Just because a novel has elements of fantasy, or adventure, or romance doesn't mean it's in the romance or fantasy category.

but will also appeal to older adults. The manuscript is 125,000 words in length. It can stand alone as a single book, but it is meant to be the first in a series.

Given your word count, this is a YA fantasy novel. Anything else and the word count is a problem.

Set in modern day, a young immortal from a secretive race accidentally travels forward in time twenty years. Trapped there, he makes friends and trains with his elders, trying to become what they need him to be. Upon learning what tragedies have transpired in his own world and ours, he is returned to his true time with a mission from the elders to make things right. However, he has his own agenda: to prevent the most unusual love triangle in history.

This is generic and boring. Start with the characters name. Then be specific about what he has to do. What choices he faces.

I must tell you however that a book that is largely abut a young man learning from his wise elders doesn't sound like something the YA audience will much like. YA novels are generally about characters finding their own way in the world, and thwarting the best intentions of their elders.

I have included the first five pages of “Time Tourism” and a synopsis beneath my query. Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.

Form rejection


Josin L. McQuein said...

So... what exactly happens in this book? Too generic on the plot points.

Lehcarjt said...

Your hook seems to be the unique love triangle. It caught my attention as different anyways -- as long as it truly is. Perhaps you should focus the query on that element and be very specific on what it is, why it is important, how it changes the life of the protag, and what the protag does to end it.

As a caveat -- a love triangle between paranormals/supernaturals and humans is not only not unique, it's a cliche. (2/3 of YA follow this trend at the moment) I'm really hoping that isn't what you're building too.

Clare K. R. Miller said...

I have a question that I hope someone (or perhaps a few people!) will have answers for--what exactly is the problem with the 125k wordcount? I'm guessing it's too long to be a romance--is it too short to be adult fantasy?

Unknown said...

125k words falls in the YA category???

Jenn McKay said...

If the odd love triangle is a leprechaun, a dead Rock idol, and Mel Gibson, I'm in!

Lehcarjt said...

On word count, I think we just had this discussion on another one of QS's reviews. If I remember right, the general rule is that longer word counts are expected for Historicals and Fantasies. Everything else should aim for 100K and under with various genres having more specific guidelines.

I think there are a couple of other things to consider when it comes to word count: For new writers a long word count usually indicates wordiness, inability to cut, inability to tell a story concisely, pacing problems, etc. (If the query drags, is wordy, and/or confusing - it is pretty much a guarantee that the book does as well. If there is a high work count on top of that...)

A long word count may make a book harder for an agent to sell (some one - Kristen Nelson? - blogged about this ages ago). More words equal more paper. More paper does not necessarily mean higher sales price.

Genre readers may also have expectations that control word count. A Harlequin series reader or a MG reader isn't going to be comfortable picking up a 125K book. It isn't right for what they are looking for. Same goes for most readers. How many people really have the time to read a 200K-er? (especially if they like to read a book in one sitting!)

However, with all rules, there are always exceptions (Harry Potter being the most famous).

Personally, I pay no attention to word count until I'm finished with the book. Even then I'm more interested in the pacing within the number. How many scenes and sequels did I go through? How much changed? How much action and dialogue? How can I tighten it all even more?

SatyricalRaven said...

"a young immortal from a secretive race accidentally travels forward in time twenty years. Trapped there, he makes friends and trains with his elders, trying to become what they need him to be"

I don't understand this. If he 'accidently' travels in time how does he know where to find the elders and why would they NEED anything from him if his trip was an accident?

If this line is needed to set the story I would delete a few lines to something like:
"a young immortal from a secretive race travels twenty years into the future where he trains with his elders, becoming what is needed of him"

Its shorter and tells the same story without more questions than answers.

Anonymous said...

As long as there are people who regard "cripple" as hate speech (and you had better believe there are) it is unwise to use it as a verb in a query.

Doesn't matter if you didn't mean it that way. The word has fangs. If I'd been an agent that's where I would have stopped reading.

Rebecca L. Boschee said...

Wow. Did this get revised with lightning speed or did I miss a few beats? That love triangle phrase really popped for me in the first version of the query too. I'd almost read just to find out more about that (and really hope the writer can deliver on the promise), but also why it's critical to him to prevent it. What are those stakes?

Lehcarjt said...

Definitely improving.

I'm confused by the opening where it says he is looping through times with multiple versions of himself, etc. I think if you are going to mention that you need to explain why it is relevant. That whole first paragraph is just kind of confusing and vague.

Is the romance between a human and two different 'times' of himself? That would actually be pretty unique.

Emily J said...

The comments after the "heroic montage" are in black font, rather than blue. As I was reading I thought it was part of the query and started laughing, thinking it was some sort of bizarre self-efacing humor.

Anonymous said...

You are talking more about theme than plot - he has to betray people and make the wrong choices, he has to "become a creature of fortitude", he has to stop a love triangle, etc.

I would like to know more about the actual world he is living in, what it's like in the future, what exactly his immortal race is, and what exactly he does. What he actually has to do is what people are interested in. The themes about what he has to learn should come through with that.

I'm really looking forward to the next revision! I'm curious about this kid and his immortal world.

JS said...

125K is NEVER too short for anything.

Kale is a vegetable.

I am oddly gnomic this morning.

Christi Goddard said...

It's me, the author who can't describe her story well enough to sell it :-)

I was trying to follow the three paragraph guideline, but it's just got so many things going on that narrowing it down was daunting.

I've been working feverishly on it for two days now, and I think I've just about got it cleaned up enough to pass for interesting (I joke. I'm confident that it is WAY better than before). Your comments have been extremely helpful. Thank you so much!

Lehcarjt said...

@ the author - keep posting, as I said before you are improving.

I've never heard of the three paragraph format for queries. Have you checked out Kristen Nelson's blog series on the subject? The first on is at I can't recommend it enough.

Christi Goddard said...

"Big Love meets Portnoy's Complaint, ok."

As I mentioned on your agent blog, I had to google Big Love because I don't watch TV. My television is mostly for watching movies or for my daughter to play her X-box.

Your comparison, however, relates to a recent rant I had in my blog regarding my inability to compare my book to anything. For your viewing pleasure (since I doubt you have ever seen my blog) here is part of my rant:

"I mean, if I wanted to sound crazy, I could go, 'It's The Butterfly Effect meets Dune meets Underworld only the vampires and werewolves are ugly and on the same side against gods, elves, satyrs, and fairies, and they duke it out in Potterverse College in Atlantis with scarier creatures and no wands.' How's that for comparison? Kind of makes you go "WTF?" doesn't it?"

laughingpaws said...

You have a threesome going in a YA book? Really? It's not without precedent. Edward, Bella and Jacob being the most popular right now but it was totally chaste. I can see definite comedic relief if she's deciding between the age appropriate version or the older one who can buy me beer version but it's a little freaky. I read it as Big Love meets Gossip Girl's mom, the Time Traveler's Wife.

Trivia fact, first HP book was about 76,000 words.

I like the premise. It has real potential but the pivot point can't be a freaky, probably age inappropriate, love triangle. BTW, of course they both love the same girl, it's the Same Guy.

That said, What does your hero want? To clean up his mess. Why does he want it? To save the human race from being eaten. What's stopping him? He has to kill and lie to people he really kind of likes. But why? Why would he make the same mistakes he's made before? It's a logic question. If he has to balance the scales, then it would go the other way. The person he killed the first time around, he now has to go back and save. I don't get it. I want to, this is totally my kind of book but I don't get it.

Anonymous said...

Like others have said, the love triangle between his two selves are the most intriguing part of this query. This query predates the release of Looper by 3 years, so a story like this can do very well, and I hope it did.

As for what alaskaravenclaw said, I understand your concern of avoiding certain words to prevent someone from misconstruing it as hate speech, but come on. I don't believe any agent would have stopped reading this query because of how the word cripple was used in this case. I had this same similar headache with someone a while back when I used the word retard when discussing the growth of a company. She wouldn't even consider anything I said about the word, valid, and the steam shooting out of her ears would have made a kettle jealous, so we parted ways in disagreement.

Having said all that, I agree with you some words are better to avoid in most situations (like the f-word for cigarettes or any words directed at someone in a hurtfl way), but should we completely abandon them and their original meanings because a small percent of the population views it as hurtful?