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  1. #16
    Registered User Chris_KW's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KatG View Post
    No, no, let's not evoke Tolkien here. That's going to be pretty meaningless at this point. If an editor says that your work reminds him of Lord of the Rings, fine. Otherwise, it's in your best interests not to bring the most comparey work of fantasy fiction up.

    Here's a version that is likely to have some details wrong, but may work a little smoother:



    I'm not really adding much there because I don't know anything. I don't know if the lich wants revenge, but if that's why he's going after Andora, that can be worked in there, as you see. If he's going after Andora because Andora has magical bonsai trees he wants or whatever, you probably want to just try to get a mention of that in there. If we have a general sense of why people are doing things, we tend to be more interested in what they are doing.

    The problem with the second paragraph is that not only don't we know why people are doing things, we don't know who they are or what they are actually doing. So either I'd say you don't mention them at all and go with something like "As Hannibal stalls for time and war breaks out across Andora, (because?) forces shift and coalesce around him. Aid or destruction is on its way," etc., and just keep it all on Hannibal, or you need to briefly name each of the other key people of that group, briefly what their central situation is and then how that relates to Hannibal and those priests being or not being resurrected. If those three or four characters have really interesting situations, that helps sell interest in the book. And then of course, there's the demon, who might be handy to mention.

    I think if you want to pick a Salvatore novel, that The Demon Awakens, the first in his DemonWars series, is probably a better fit than The Crystal Shard, which is essentially a military battle fantasy in the D&D universe. Other than that a demon manipulates events to create war, I'm not seeing a lot of crossover between your book and the latter one. And then you want something that is like Salvatore so the two references make sense. You don't seem to be writing a horror novel and you don't seem to be writing a mystery, so the references to Stephen King are not going to make a lot of sense to them. I'd suggest someone else like Robin Hobb, Raymond Feist or Gene Wolfe.
    No Tolkien reference? Come on, that guy's got nothing on me.

    I like some of what you did in your rewrite, but I'll have to see if I can pull any of my voice out of it. And, of course, why a character is doing something is far more important than what they're doing, and that's why in my previous version, I wanted to leave the heroes out of the query completely, since Hannibal's dilemma is the main conflict. But then again, they play a big role in the book, as well, so it simply boils down to me making a decision, because I don't think it's possible to fit all 5 of the heroes into anything less than 3 sentences ...

    With regards to Salvatore, I made it about 2/3's of the way through The Demon Awakens, and I just wasn't impressed. I've tried to pick up it again a couple times, but I've been so burned by Salvatore's more contemporary Drizzt books that I just couldn't get back into it. Shame on me, I know, but the man was such a master for the first 12 books of that series that reading anything that's not up to that standard is just difficult.

    Alright, gotta do some bill-paying work before I continue my QUERY adventure.

    Thanks for your insight. P.S.- if you have the time you could always read my book, as I'd be happy to give you and anyone else on this forum a free copy. I really think you'd enjoy it.

  2. #17
    bingley bingley beep kissmequick's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chris_KW View Post
    And if you can write a good query letter, that skill should carry over into the rest of your writing.

    It becomes an invaluable skill when you get the 'Please write a 500 word proposal for your next book. By this afternoon' email.


    I wanted to leave the heroes out of the query completely, since Hannibal's dilemma is the main conflict. But then again, they play a big role in the book, as well, so it simply boils down to me making a decision, because I don't think it's possible to fit all 5 of the heroes into anything less than 3 sentences ...
    Yeah, it's probably a good plan to stick with one character. But you need to show more about what all this means for him. Show what it all means. Show the dilemma he faces, make it really personal to him. Because that's your story - how events affect the character(s) and vice versa. Currently I know little about him, apart from this lich wants him to do something, and holds his life force.

  3. #18
    Palinodic Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chris_KW View Post
    No Tolkien reference? Come on, that guy's got nothing on me.
    It just tells them nothing about the book.

    I like some of what you did in your rewrite, but I'll have to see if I can pull any of my voice out of it.
    You are welcome to do whatever you like with it, including not using it; it's just meant to show you how the key details can be condensed. However, it's the "any of my voice out of it" part that worries me. Again, query letters are not about your "voice," or your prose skills. You seem to me to be worrying too much about how the query letter sounds and its style than the content of what it's saying, which is the only purpose of the query letter.

    And, of course, why a character is doing something is far more important than what they're doing,
    Again, that wasn't my point. Why they're doing something is important, but it's important to make what they are doing more clear and more interesting. If you just tell us that a character wants revenge or has an adventure because he wants to find himself but give us no info about plot, it's not interesting. It's not information because it's too vague. The person who reads this query letter is not going to pull info out of you about the story, like we are. They aren't going to ask you twenty questions. They're just going to reject the query because however nicely written it might be, it didn't tell them enough clearly that they could assess.

    and that's why in my previous version, I wanted to leave the heroes out of the query completely, since Hannibal's dilemma is the main conflict. But then again, they play a big role in the book, as well, so it simply boils down to me making a decision, because I don't think it's possible to fit all 5 of the heroes into anything less than 3 sentences ...
    So do the 3-5 sentences. You are asking them to read this book. They're going to think it's all about Hannibal. Then the ms. is going to be spending lots and lots of time on these 4-5 characters and not Hannibal. And they're going to be wondering, who are these people. That is, if they ask for it. You're basically putting all the pressure on Hannibal to sell the interest. So either you have to cough up more info about Hannibal and his plot, or, if half the book isn't about Hannibal, you might want to give a few sentences about these characters. Again, my suggestion would be to stop worrying about the length of the query letter. Write it out, even if it's longer than a page. Then you can start condensing. Fill the pot and then boil it down. What sometimes helps is to write a plot synopsis -- 1-2 single spaced pages of the main plot information with character details, and then pull the query letter paragraphs out of that, and you can often attach the plot synopsis to the query letter.

    With regards to Salvatore, I made it about 2/3's of the way through The Demon Awakens, and I just wasn't impressed.
    That's interesting because for me, The Demon Awakens is a way better book than his first, The Crystal Shard, although there are some very good things in Crystal Shard. The characters are for me better rendered, the dialogue is a bit better, and the descriptions are much improved. But while it has quite a lot of battle scenes, it doesn't have as many battle scenes as Crystal Shard. So if this is really a war fantasy that you've written, with lots and lots of battles, again the description isn't presenting that by just talking about Hannibal's dilemma. If you're going to pick a book as a reference point, it needs to be similar in type of story and style to what you are doing. If you're going to pick an author, you can't pick only a few attributes of that author and you need authors who again do something similar in type of story and style to yours. Because when they read the reference title or author, then that gives them an idea of where you are going with your story. That's why using Tolkien as a reference point is useless at this point. It's like trying to explain what flavor of ice cream you've made by saying you used sugar in the ice cream just like Tolkien.

    So you're getting the hang of it, but remember, it's the content of the story, the plot with key details of characters, setting, and tone (style/theme) that goes in the query letter. Your writing flourishes go in the manuscript.

  4. #19
    Registered User Chris_KW's Avatar
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    KatG, I agree THE CRYSTAL SHARD wasn't Salvatore's finest piece of work, as I felt he really caught his stride somewhere around books 3-5 in that series, but I just didn't like the plot of THE DEMON AWAKENS. While there was added character depth, stones raining down on an island as the sources of power in the world and a boy living with fairy elves on a mountaintop and getting trained to be a great ranger by them ... Eh, I don't know, it just didn't do it for me. I'm sure I'll try and pick it up again some day.

    Here's where I'm at regarding my latest efforts on my query:



    Hannibal had killed so many times for the lich there was barely a shred of his humanity left, and when his master finds the Stones of Alcari, the keys to unlocking his conquest of the Andoran nation, he demands Hannibal’s services once again. Hannibal would slit his own throat to escape his maniacal master if it was possible, but the price is too high. The lich controls his life force in a phylactery, as well as that of his true love, Elanor, Hannibal’s only reason for living. The lich knows of Hannibal’s insecure obsession with the woman, and realizing that he’ll never accomplish his lifelong desire to conquer Andora without Hannibal’s unique necromantic talents, he promises the couple’s freedom if Hannibal can utilize one of the stones to resurrect a group of priests buried beneath the ruined city of Essen, and bring them in time to crush the Andorans. But as Hannibal rushes to meet the lich’s deadline, he must decide if he can live a quiet life beside Elanor if it costs his own nation’s destruction.

    As Hannibal wrestles with his dilemma, a small group of five friends, while on assignment for the Andoran authorities, stumble across Hannibal and the lich’s plot. As they fight back against the lich and help to save Andora just in time, they come to understand something both frightening and awe-inspiring: the lich was nothing more than a puppet to the true masters of power in Andora, and the chaos they assumed over has only just begun.

    SERVANT OF THE LICH takes place in the nation of Andora, a country progressing ahead of its neighbors, as its governing body is based on principles of freedom and democracy. It contains 89,000 words. It’s fast-paced and occurs over the span of one week. Fans of R.A. Salvatore’s work should find this piece to their liking.
    Last edited by Chris_KW; March 29th, 2012 at 04:03 PM.

  5. #20
    Palinodic Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    Getting there, I think. You can see your gears whirring.

    Hannibal had killed so many times for the lich, there is barely a shred of his humanity left, and when his master finds the Stones of Alcari, the keys to unlocking his conquest of the Andoran Republic (or Union, or some word they call themselves that indicates a possible democracy over a feudalistic kingdom; alternately "of the democratic Andoran nation",) he demands Hannibal’s services once again.

    -- Peachy, that's a stronger way to put it, I think.

    Hannibal would slit his own throat to escape the maniacal necromancer if it was possible, but the price is too high. The lich controls his life force in a vessel, (define lich, give up the word phylactery,) as well as that of his true love, Elanor, Hannibal’s only reason for living. The lich promises the couple’s freedom if Hannibal applies his unique talents and uses the stones to resurrect the sorcerous priests buried beneath the ruined city of Essen. With the priests' powers under his control, the lich can consign Andora to Essen's fate (and enact a long-awaited revenge maybe. He's got to have some reason for wanting to crush Andora.) As Hannibal attempts the task, he must decide if he can live a quiet life beside Elanor if it costs his own nation’s destruction. (Again, and this is just me, my first thought would be why does Hannibal think the lich will keep his word. I figure there must be some reason Hannibal believes he can actually have a quiet life and the lich will let him go.)

    Five agents of the Andoran Council, (government, chieftains, etc. whatever arrangement they have,) on different missions stumble across Hannibal and the lich's plot. They hold the key to Hannibal's fate and to the survival of Andora, but as they save their country, the true (demonic) powers behind the lich are brought to light and reveal that the chaos is just beginning.

    -- Or something like that. I don't have it quite right either, but your present form seems a bit confusing to me. I still think that by not giving any detail here, you're underselling highlight attributes of the story in these characters who make up a big chunk of the story, but this can work okay as long as there's a clear line for why you're bothering to mention them re Hannibal and as long as the info on Hannibal is clear, I think.

    SERVANT OF THE LICH is a 89,000 word epic fantasy novel about the costs of sacrifice and destiny that will likely appeal to fans of R.A. Salvatore and (insert other author name here.)

    -- Progressive isn't a word I'd recommend as it's a modern political philosophy and so the use of the word may possible confuse readers of the query about what sort of world you're doing and the convoluted explanation doesn't help. Saying they don't have a king, that they are a republic, etc., something not 20th century, would probably be better and faster.

    -- There's no point in calling your work fast-paced or any other compliment. Why should they care and believe if an author compliments his own work? Saying what the theme is, however -- and clearly I can have the theme wrong so change accordingly -- can be useful information as it tells them about the tone and approach you've chosen for your story.

    -- They don't care if the story takes place over the span of one week, one month, fifty years or whatever at this point. That's not info you need to spend time on, it would seem to me. Info on characters and major plot events is more important.

    Anything that is your favorite part of the book that is a contributor to the central plot should be mentioned in the query letter description. They're looking for things that make them go "hmmm." Not necessarily super wild things they've never heard of before, but a combo of character, world, emotional theme and plot that sounds like it could be interesting if they like your writing. You've given them a good bit with Hannibal; I'm just not sure that's your only big offering.
    Last edited by KatG; March 29th, 2012 at 09:50 PM.

  6. #21
    bingley bingley beep kissmequick's Avatar
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    My FWIW YMMV go at this. If it helps, I've written 7 queries that worked (sold the piece). I still have trouble getting it anywhere near right

    Quote Originally Posted by Chris_KW View Post

    Hannibal had killed so many times for the lich there was barely a shred of his humanity left, and when his master finds the Stones of Alcari, the keys to unlocking his conquest of the Andoran nation, he demands Hannibal’s services once again. This is one heck of a long sentence to start. It rambles and really, puts a bit of a lie to your fast paced comment later. Also you start this in past and yet later, you go to present tense. Pick one, stick with it, though present is more usual in queries Hannibal would slit his own throat to escape his maniacal a bit OTT imomaster if it was possible, but the price is too high. The lich controls his life force in a phylactery, as well as that of his true love, Elanor, Hannibal’s only reason for living. The lich knows of Hannibal’s insecure obsession with the woman, and realizing that he’ll never accomplish his lifelong desire to conquer Andora without Hannibal’s unique necromantic talents, he promises the couple’s freedom if Hannibal can utilize one of the stones to resurrect a group of priests buried beneath the ruined city of Essen, and bring them in time to crush the Andorans. But as Hannibal rushes to meet the lich’s deadline, he must decide if he can live a quiet life beside Elanor if it costs his own nation’s destruction.

    You can say all this in a lot less words, and perhaps with more voice to hook me in. 'Hannibal's killed more times than he cares to admit, but when the lich that owns his soul asks for one last payment...'



    As Hannibal wrestles with his dilemma, a small group of five friends, while on assignment for the Andoran authorities, stumble across Hannibal and the lich’s plot. As they fight back against the lich and help to save Andora just in time, they come to understand something both frightening and awe-inspiring: the lich was nothing more than a puppet to the true masters of power in Andora, and the chaos they assumed over has only just begun.
    This tells me...actually nothing. It's too vague. Specifics will sell your story. Really. Also, I'd avoid the friends - stick with your protag, make me care about him, about what he does.
    SERVANT OF THE LICH is takes place in the nation of Andora, a country progressing ahead of its neighbors, as its governing body is based on principles of freedom and democracy. It contains - you don't need any of this 89,000 words. It’s fast-paced and occurs over the span of one week. Doesn't matter how long it spans. If it's fast paced your query needs to be less wordy. Fans of R.A. Salvatore’s work should find this piece to their liking. I would again suggest someone more contemporary to compare to - I haven't seen any of his books on the shelf in a long, long time. Add to that, a lot of people think Salvatore = D&D fiction.... is this the impression you want to give?

    Again, YMMV.
    Last edited by kissmequick; March 30th, 2012 at 02:05 AM.

  7. #22
    Registered User Chris_KW's Avatar
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    Thanks, guys! My last post was extremely raw, but you've given me some good ideas to tighten it up. Back to the drawing board ... I intend to have this completed by Sunday so I can hit the process hard next week.

  8. #23
    Registered User Chris_KW's Avatar
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    Thanks for your help, everyone. I'm pleased with the changes I've made and I do feel they give a much more intense look into the plot. The letter may not be perfect, but what letter is? I'm going with this for now; we'll see what kind of replies I get this week.

    One last thing ... Should I change Alcari to something like Zalcari, so that I don't have Andora and Alcari in the same query letter, as I fear those two may be too similar?
    ------------------------------------------------


    Hannibal’s killed so many times for the lich, there’s barely a shred of his humanity left. And when his master finds the Stones of Zalcari, the keys to unlocking his conquest of the Andoran Republic, he demands Hannibal’s services once again. Hannibal would slit his own throat to escape the lich, but the price is too high. The maniacal necromancer controls his life force in a vessel, as well as that of his true love, Elanor, Hannibal’s only reason for living. The lich promises the couple’s freedom if Hannibal applies his unique talents and uses one of the stones to resurrect the Zalcarian priests buried beneath the ruined city of Essen. With the priests’ powers under his control, the lich can accomplish the one dream he was denied in life, ruling Andora. As Hannibal attemps the task, he must decide if he can live a quiet life beside Elanor if it costs his own nation’s destruction.

    While Hannibal wrestles with his dilemma, three agents of the Andoran Council stumble across Hannibal and the lich’s plot. Hannibal’s fate and the survival of Andora lie in their hands. As they help save their country, the true powers behind the lich come to light and they realize the chaos is just beginning.

    SERVANT OF THE LICH is an 89,000 word epic fantasy novel about the costs of sacrifice and destiny. It will likely appeal to fans of R.A. Salvatore’s THE SILENT BLADE.
    Last edited by Chris_KW; April 2nd, 2012 at 11:51 AM.

  9. #24
    Palinodic Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chris_KW View Post
    Thanks for your help, everyone. I'm pleased with the changes I've made and I do feel they give a much more intense look into the plot. The letter may not be perfect, but what letter is? I'm going with this for now; we'll see what kind of replies I get this week.

    One last thing ... Should I change Alcari to something like Zalcari, so that I don't have Andora and Alcari in the same query letter, as I fear those two may be too similar?
    ------------------------------------------------


    Hannibalís killed so many times for the lich, thereís barely a shred of his humanity left. And when his master finds the Stones of Zalcari, the keys to unlocking his conquest of the Andoran Republic, he demands Hannibalís services once again. Hannibal would slit his own throat to escape the lich, but the price is too high. The maniacal necromancer controls his life force in a vessel, as well as that of his true love, Elanor, Hannibalís only reason for living. The lich promises the coupleís freedom if Hannibal applies his unique talents and uses one of the stones to resurrect the Zalcarian priests buried beneath the ruined city of Essen. With the priestsí powers under his control, the lich can accomplish the one dream he was denied in life, ruling Andora. As Hannibal attemps the task, he must decide if he can live a quiet life beside Elanor if it costs his own nationís destruction.

    While Hannibal wrestles with his dilemma, three agents of the Andoran Council stumble across Hannibal and the lichís plot. Hannibalís fate and the survival of Andora lie in their hands. As they help save their country, the true powers behind the lich come to light and they realize the chaos is just beginning.

    SERVANT OF THE LICH is an 89,000 word epic fantasy novel about the costs of sacrifice and destiny. It will likely appeal to fans of R.A. Salvatoreís THE SILENT BLADE.
    Okay. I think that's clear on the Hannibal plot line at least and gives them an idea where it's going. As for Alcari/Zalcari, I don't think it particularly matters much, but do what you feel comfortable with.

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