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?

9 comments:

cam.robbins said...

3 males are going to explore diversity?

Laina said...

*raises ace hand*

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

Asexual people can have sex. Asexual people can have children. Asexuality = not feeling, or feeling very rarely or only under certain circumstances, sexual attraction, not "doesn't have sex". Have you gotten an ace sensitivity reader to make sure you're not falling into aphobic tropes? Because I'm sitting here kinda cringing personally because this... isn't a great place to start, with it as an afternote like that.

Especially considering... things going on currently with asexuality rep in YA.

Is it not kosher to say I do ace/aro sensitivity SRs here? Or there's plenty of people who aren't me who also do them! Because... I mean yeah. I really think you need one. I mean, I think you need to do a lot of world building first, but hiring (HIRING) a few SRs is a step I really don't think you should skip here, friend. My red flags are all waving right now.

Dani Nosek said...

Maybe the point of that line wasn't that the character isn't *able* to repopulate, it's that he doesn't want to be forced to do so? I don't know, I haven't read the book. I'm just hoping for the best.

In my opinion, however, unless the entire story revolves around that character trait, it shouldn't be included in the query. If he is in the novel, and it's well done, then that's great. But included here it seems like you're fishing.

And, having just finished the first set of revisions on my own MS, I can tell you that as a skeleton first-drafter, my first draft came in at about 47. It was essentially an outline. I have gone through and added another 40k in the revisions (not saying they're perfect, but they're there). I think you need to go through and do the same. It might also allow you to really flush out the character traits you think are important to your novel.

Mister Furkles said...

To me, it hints at being judgmental about either society or politics. “You readers are too stupid to figure it out, so I’m going to tell you what to think.” If that’s the case, it’ll be as effective as a neutrino bowling ball.


Of course, it's too vague to know what it's about, so perhaps my read is entirely off.

Emilee A. Groat said...

Laina,

I am asexual, very happily married, and not at all sensitive about sexuality. But thank you for your input.
I actually took this line out of a revision I have made to the query since then, because it is dealt with quite subtly in the plot. I don't want to mislead anyone in that this aspect of Filo's personality plays more into the subplot than the main story. Filo is not granted a partner because asexuality is considered an 'unfavorable' way of being diverse that they do not want to have passed down to any prospective offspring. It is a small social commentary on how, as much as people clamor for diversity, there are limits to just how diverse society wants things to be and it what ways it is ok to be different.

Lennon Faris said...

I also was confused as to who was being discussed in each sentence, and how that person related to the main character.

I have a tendency to hold an idea or image so clearly in my head that I only put part of it down on paper. It's like carrying on a conversation and only saying every other sentence out loud. It's super easy to do this when writing; you're so close to the story that your head just fills in the rest.

As you revise, it might help to get some completely 'fresh' eyes to glance over it periodically. Not for perfection or even typos, but just for plain ol', 'do you get this.'

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

I've read this several times. I'm puzzled by the use of the word 'asexual'. Normally, that has two meanings: not interested in sex or sexually attracted to anyone, or able to reproduce without gametes (fertilized cells). Since there is a species of frog that can reproduce without sex, having a basic understanding of biology and using this term correctly would be beneficial.
If, on the other hand, it is meant to infer neither male nor female sex organs, the use of 'asexual' is incorrect. A hermaphrodite has both sets of genitals. Someone born with no visible genitals is asgenetic.
This appears to be a long short story or an attempt at a novella. Not sure which, but novels run much longer than that. George R.R. Martin currently has 1500 pages going on with his current volume to finish the series that started with Ice & Fire. (Game of Thrones is the TV series.) It doesn't sound planned, from the description. Perhaps planning a rough plotline or summary, breaking it into chapters with chapter blurbs to follow would help. It seems somewhat disorganized, but without a draft to read, I'm guessing.
I will add, however, that if you want to write a novel as a long bardic poem, that is certainly a valid thing to do. You do have to understand the bardic tradition, determine what form to use, and review the work of the masters like Homer's "Iliad", Virgil's 'Odyssey' and the Beowulf saga. That could provide a better idea of how to produce a tale in that poetic form.

Laina said...

@wolfmoonpressblog Asexual in this situation, and in most you'll hear talking about people, equals not feeling, or only feeling very rarely or under specific sitatuations, sexual attraction. Not wanting to have sex = sex indifferent or sex-repulsed, case dependant. Millions of people are asexual. There are many resources out there if you are confused. AVEN is a good start.

"hermaphrodite" is incredibly offensive, fyi. The term you are looking for is intersex. And that would be "an intersex person", not "an intersex". That's like a saying "a gay". sUPER DUPER RUDE.

Laura McMaster said...

I can't get over Filo's name, it reminds me of the whole Darth Vader/Dark Father thing. Did you intend the resemblance to the Latin root "filius?" I definitely understand the choice, nothing wrong with giving your MC a meaningful name, it just seemed a little on the nose to me. (Plus, from the first sentence, we don't really know WHAT Filo is, and I almost thought it was the name of the Academy until I got a tad further down).