Sunday, June 8, 2014

#258-Revised once

First Revision

(1) In my closing, should I include a "novel meets novel" line if I've written that it is a loose interpretation of the Arthurian legend?

(2) "Jules, who wants to strangle him, agrees," the him is Ulric. I just want to make sure that is clear. To my crit partner she thought it was the prince at first, because um, yeah, Jules wants to strangle lots of people.

It's not clear.

Dear Query Shark,
Jules was prepared for an in-and-out job: kill Queen Isabella, avenge parents, achieve happiness.
Exiled from Ronan following the execution of her parents, Jules plots the murder of the queen responsible. When she’s eighteen, she returns, but has her plans dashed after a brawl with the guards. Injured, she is forced to accept help from a magician and his pesky band of outlaws. Ulric, their leader, wants her to spy on the prince. Jules, who wants to strangle him, agrees.

You've got a lot of pronouns there at the end. I'm assuming Uliric is bothe the magician and the leader of the pesky band of outlaws? And the "he" that Jules wants to strangle is the Prince? Oh wait, no it isn't (see question above)

So, why does she want to strangle Ulric? Did he kick her dog?

Spying is easy. The hard part is actually liking the prince and his obscene turtle jokes. Revenge had always seemed like the only road, and now Jules begins to wonder if she’s gone too far down it. However, Ulric’s plans are already in motion and he is less inclined to take a detour. Armed with only her blades and her wit, Jules finds herself standing between Ulric, his magic, and the crown.

I thought she'd be standing between Ulric and the Prince. It's the Prince she likes, right? Why does this change her mind about the evil Queen? Many people fall in love with someone  who has an evil mother. There's a whole sub-genre of Borscht Belt jokes about that.
Wasteland, a YA fantasy novel, is complete at 96,000 words. It is a loose interpretation of the Arthurian legend. As per your request I’ve included --- sample pages. Thank you for your time and consideration. 

What's at stake? If she goes through with her revenge plot, what bad thing will happen? If she doesn't, what worse thing will happen?

Right now you've got a very chick-lit voice going on and that's all well and good but the best chick lit novels had stakes that really mattered to the characters, and thus to the readers.


(1) I'm concerned I've given away too much plot--please advise. 
(2) I know you advocate for short sentences, but do long sentences equal death?

Dear Query Shark,

Jules was prepared for an in-and-out job: kill Queen Isabella, avenge parents, achieve happiness.

This is good. Short, to-the-point, enticing.

The three step plan might as well have never existed once she ends up in a brawl with the queen’s guards. Now it is just a matter of time before Isabella realizes Jules was once the seven year old Juliana whose parents she executed for being magic users, the same Juliana she believes to be just as bad as all magicians and expressly ordered never to return to Ronan unless it was in handcuffs.

And splat. And I mean splat from a seven story fall, no trampoline, no net.  Look at that first sentence: The three step plan might as well have never existed once she ends up in a brawl with the queen’s guards.

Think of how much simpler this will all be with a sentence that is not so complex: Then she ends up in a brawl with the queen's guard.  

You're trying to be too fancy here. I can not over-emphasize the power and beauty of plain, simple sentences in a query.  Plain and simple is VERY hard to do well. 

And the second sentence is worse than the first. For starters, you've gone from something happening now (the brawl) to something happening years before. It's confusing. Confusing is bad. 

However, in eighteen years of life Jules hasn’t possessed so much as a magical toenail. Armed with only her blade and wits, she is forced to play nice with a band of magicians who share her murderous goal. The only problem is Jules’ three step plan was a one woman job and did not involve pretending to be a girl named Sybil, who happens to be the half sister of Prince William’s servant. And it certainly did not include crushing on William or hiding daggers in a ball gown (or wearing ball gowns, for that matter). 

This is where I stop reading. I don't know what the hell is going on here. Even if I stop skimming (and trust me, agents skim queries more often than not) and focus intently, I'm still confused. 

There's a formula for getting the elements of the plot into the right place in a query letter. I've mentioned it dozens of times here and it's elsewhere too.

"What does the protagonist want? What's keeping him/her from getting it? What choice/decision does he/she face? What terrible thing will happen if he chooses ____; what terrible thing will happen if he doesn't."


"The main character must decide whether to ____. 
If s/he decides to do (this), the consequences/outcome/peril s/he faces are ____. 
If s/he decides NOT to do this: the consequences/outcome/peril s/he faces are ____."   

Torn between her growing feels for the prince and her revenge, the past repeats itself and Jules loses someone close to her seemingly at the queen’s hand. Set back on her vengeful path, it appears someone she thought she knew is getting ready to seize power in Ronan and she may have unwittingly carved the road to the throne.

The Sybil Project, a YA fantasy novel, is complete at 95,000 words. I believe it will appeal to fans of the BBC show Merlin and readers of … As per your request I’ve included … sample pages. Thank you for your time and consideration. 

Answers to your questions:

(1) I'm concerned I've given away too much plot--please advise.
I'm too confused to know what the plot is as yet. 

(2) I know you advocate for short sentences, but do long sentences equal death?

Long sentences do not equal death. BAD sentences equal death.  Shortening your sentences will help you stay on point. This isn't bad writing, it's just not polished yet.

It's clear you've got some verve under all this convoluted writing.  Get out of your own way and quit trying to be fancy. Your verve will show if you just write simple sentences.

Honestly I can hear you saying "but I want an agent to NOTICE me!"  Of course you do. Please please trust me when I tell you that a simple, elegant query is so rare in my inbox that should you achieve that, you will be noticed.  Fancy is over-rated unless it's in your choice of headgear.


french sojourn said...

To echo your comment, I saw some really neat things happening in the writing. The story is there but the query needs that ever constant pruning.

I would like to read the story, even though it's not my favored genre. It seem like a fun story.

It is a good point about how much plot to release in the query, i guess just enough plot with good writing to get the Literary Agent interested.

Cheers Hank.

DLM said...

The work itself probably needs much the same attention as the query - it may be too soon to be approaching agents. The language here feels to me like it shifts in tone from contemporary teenager to a sort of period feel at times - like The Shark, I am confused by the tonal inconsistencies.

Julia Ergane said...

"Crushing?" This is definitely not a word that would be used in the time period in which your story is set. I doubt it is much of a word anyway as it is modern slang.

Stoich91 said...


Laura W. said...

"However, in eighteen years of life Jules hasn’t possessed so much as a magical toenail."

The fact that she's 18 isn't really relevant unless this is YA or NA. Even then, just say it's YA at the end of the query. But, I really like the "Jules hasn't possessed so much as a magical toenail" part of the sentence. :)

I'm confused about the whole romance with the prince thing. If Jules is trying to kill the queen, why is it important that she has feelings for the prince? Why can't she like the prince and still hate and want to kill the queen? Unless the prince is significantly older than Jules, he probably had nothing to do with killing her parents. Unless her mission is to kill the *prince* and she has feelings for him, I don't see the problem.

What with the band of magicians who want to make her into a spy and kill the queen, possibly the prince as well, I feel like there's a big overarching plot that got lost in the tiny details. It sounds to me like the magicians are planning a coup to overthrow the government and take control, and Jules goes along with them to kill the queen. But their coup involves killing the prince/taking over the government, which she might not be OK with. That's the only way all these parts seem to make sense to me.

DLM said...

Julia, "crushing" is what threw me out of whack too. But what time period is this, if it's fantasy? That's why I thought it was shifting.

Anonymous said...

Once you find an agent, I'd love to read your book. The bits of plot that you did share sound enticing and remind me of Maid of Secrets by Jennifer McGowan, which is a YA historical with fantasy elements.

Laura said...

Julia and DLM, I scarcely blinked at "crushing," but "her growing feels" nearly made me snort coffee up my nose. YA or not, a query letter is not a Tumblr post.

Anonymous said...

I would appreciate it if the Query writer would post the first 3 paragraphs of the book online so we could see how the manuscript prose differs from the query. Like DLM, I suspect the manuscript is probably as circular and, let's be honest... confusing as the query.
I would suggest this writer join a critique group to have a long, hard look at the manuscript long before querying.

Brigid Gorry-Hines said...

Oh hey, that's my old blog you linked to! What a nice surprise! Anyway ...

I agree that the problem isn't necessarily in the length of the sentences but in their lack of clarity. There seems to be an intriguing story in there somewhere, but I also am confused as to what's going on. In the case of queries, it's usually better to keep sentences short and to-the-point. Agents have to read a ton of queries a day, and they need to be able to determine what the story is right away or they'll lose interest. Hope that helps and I wish the author good luck!

Lara said...

I didn't even figure out it was a YA book. I tried to add the seven years PLUS the 18 years and came up with an adult novel? So that was confusing to me.

As for the three-step process I totally agree. There were too many characters in this, too many plot turns mentioned and too much going on.

Plus I got this creepy feeling with the name Sybil -- harkening back to the time in 8th grade I read that book of the lady with many personalities. eeekk-- That was just me though.

Good luck with your project and the editing process. It's difficult, I know.

Elissa M said...

I just want to say that fantasy is NOT the same as historical. A word like "crushing" isn't out of place in fantasy because the story-world isn't our world. However, I agree the query's tone is uneven, which does make a word like "crushing" stand out (and not in a good way).

I'm not ready to say the novel is necessarily as convoluted as the query, but a confusing query isn't going to pique an agent's interest in reading pages.

Don't try to be cute. Get the story down first. Who's the protagonist, what does she want, who's trying to stop her, what happens if she fails. You can flesh it out from there, and yes, add a little of the novel's voice.

LynnRodz said...

As others have stated, I'm afraid the long sentences will probably show up in the manuscript. The author should take a more Zen approach, the "less is more" philosophy, when revising her query and ms.

Lara, I also thought about Sybil and her multiple personality disorder when I read the name. Did the author do that on purpose? I'm not sure that's a good thing.

As for the hat, not one for Queen Elizabeth II, but I can definitely see it on the QOTKU for some reason!

Ruth Farrell said...

Laura W - "Why can't she like the prince and still hate and want to kill the queen?"

My guess is that if the queen is the prince's mother, he might not be keen on Jules killing her... kind of a bar to romance, someone killing your mum.


Theresa Milstein said...

The writer is using a three step plan in the query. Someone who is a planner would have short sentences to explain those steps. And then the rest of the query would be organized around the steps. If the query isn't going to be centered around that plan, then I'd leave it out. Good luck with the rewrite!

Shawna said...

Which Arthurian legend? There are many.

But yeah, I'm still confused as to what the plot is exactly and how the two guys relate to it and your main character.

Nicole Grasse said...

A little late here, but I totally want to read this too. Love the chick-lit voice in fantasy (I think crushing is fine here as well because it's not historical fiction).

Author, if you need another reader, drop me a line. I think your story sounds fun. Sometimes the query is the hardest part.