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  1. #46
    Ranke Lidyek
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    cool

    Holbrook,
    I'll check it out. Thanks for the link!

  2. #47
    Edited for submission Holbrook's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dawnstorm View Post
    What ever happened to "Folk named this one Oracle."

    Such a great first sentence...

    I wish I could say anything about query letters, but publishing - and all that comes with it - is pretty far from my mind.
    Sorry Dawnstorm, it got lost in the editing, I was trying to smooth the first few paragraphs, maybe I over did it.

  3. #48
    Master Obfuscator Dawnstorm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Holbrook View Post
    ...maybe I over did it.
    Lol, the last I think I wanted to do is push you into another round of doubt. But I do think you should trust your original intuitions a bit more.

  4. #49
    Edited for submission Holbrook's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dawnstorm View Post
    Lol, the last I think I wanted to do is push you into another round of doubt. But I do think you should trust your original intuitions a bit more.
    Just for you Dawnstorm I will put back the original first few paragraphs for the next submission... can't harm...

  5. #50
    Master Obfuscator Dawnstorm's Avatar
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    I feel honoured (as long I don't blow up your vision...)

    (Did I really write "the last I think I wanted"... *cringes*)

    And to not be entirely off topic, a link to the blog of an agent who frequently talks about her reactions to queries, which is helpful (but other agents might react differently).

  6. #51
    Ataraxic Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    Ranke -- spelled your name wrong before, my apologies. I'm sick right now, so that's my excuse.

    Industrial settings for an imaginary realm are not new in fantasy; it's old. It's just that a lot of writers are now returning to that sort of set-up, as well as having renewed interest in Victorian/turn of the century and WWII history. Which is wonderful, I think, but again, not new.

    Descriptions of your work, in a query letter or plot synopsis, are really not teasers. Publishing people are not book buyers looking at cover copy; they need information. If you say I have something good, but I'm not going to tell you exactly what it is, they'll move on to someone else. They do not expect authors to be good at advertising, and they don't want advertising from authors. They want to know what you are doing in the story.

    Which is why authors hate doing query letters and plot synopsis. Aside from the difficulties of trying to reduce an often complicated plot structure to condensed sentences that still make sense, authors often don't know what exactly they are doing in their story. It's like trying to explain intuition. So what may be helpful as practice is to take published stories you like, or your friends' stories that you like, and try to do a plot description of them and what you think is important in them, which is usually much easier than doing your own, but gets you thinking about your own stuff too maybe. Or have one of your friends ask you questions about your book from your description, which may result in stuff like this:

    "Laced through this is Pugh’s personal horror, the person Oracle once was, was his wife, who by a twist of fate is partly restored to him, yet in the wings the Inner Ring are waiting, to claim her."

    Sue, please never leave this out of a description of the book again, would be my advice. It is the meat of your novel, it's heart, and who here does not want to read this book now, based on this information?

    Since Holbrook is doing not a query letter, but a query submission packet, her letter is essentially a cover letter. And if you are just doing a query letter, you can certainly attach to it a basic plot synopsis, and I think that's usually a good idea. But, many publishing folk won't read the synopsis right off, which is why a brief description of the emotional heart of the work is usually a good idea for a query or cover letter.

    So the new description for Holbrook she designed -- I did little edits for clarity, hence the italics.

    "In an ancient and mystical world, visions of possible futures can only be seen by a Glimpser. A Glimpser is not born, but made, by the pseudo-scientific actions of a religious sect, the Inner Ring. This sect is bent on bringing about the return of the Goddess’ prophet, the Seer, to lead them into an era of secular power. Oracle is one such Glimpser, an autistic Cassandra." -- peachy

    "The maelstrom that exists in Oracle’s mind is mirrored in its world, for Timeholm is in the grip of an industrial revolution. Steam power is now king; trains criss-cross the land, huge smoking factories tower over once sleepy towns. The governing body, the High Forum, is under attack from within by reform-minded activists. The rigid class system, once the glue that held Timeholm society together, is being challenged by a bill brought forth before the legislature by member Joshua Calvinward that will empower the bond contract workers who supply the fuel of the new industrial progress. " -- excellent (if you don't like supply the fuel, you can use lie at the heart or similar phrase.)

    "Oracle’s arrival at a train station sets in motion a series of events that plunge Captain Pugh Avinguard into the heart of these turbulent times. Pugh has been charged with the protection of Joshua Calvinward. Train crashes, riots, and a terrorist shooting that takes Calvinward's life at his moment of triumph on the floor of the High Forum, all plunge Timeholm into chaos." -- political and social chaos!

    "Laced through this is Pugh’s personal horror, for the person Oracle once was, was his wife, who by a twist of fate is partly restored to him, yet in the wings the Inner Ring are waiting to claim her. Pugh is forced to act when she is kidnapped, rescuing her and bringing down the Inner Ring. Together, Pugh and Oracle will live to see the implementation of the law that Calvinward worked to bring into existence, and the dawn of a new age in Timeholm's history. " -- okay, how does he bring down the Inner Ring? You may not need to give immense detail here in the description, but just in case there's a detail there that's useful, we might as well hear. Also, how are Oracle's powers going to effect the plot maybe?

    But much better there, I think. It's now focused on the emotional material and gives a decent idea of the setting, culture, etc.

  7. #52
    Edited for submission Holbrook's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KatG View Post
    You may not need to give immense detail here in the description, but just in case there's a detail there that's useful, we might as well hear. Also, how are Oracle's powers going to effect the plot maybe?

    But much better there, I think. It's now focused on the emotional material and gives a decent idea of the setting, culture, etc.
    How am I going to condense three very powerful scenes into a few words. Need to think on it.

    And a big get well hug and thank you, Kat, I have a whole new one page synopsis there. And I know where to work on my four page detailed one as well...

  8. #53
    Ataraxic Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    Ranke -- you have written excellent cover copy here. You should save it, because a publisher would find it useful. And the pretty prose does give a nice indication of your writing style. The story seems evocative of the classic fairy tale, The Snow Queen. The description offers emotional information, but it is a little vague on the details. I'm guessing that you aren't doing a horror novel here, yes? (You aren't trying chiefly to scare.) It's more of a dark fantasy fable? Because you have main characters who are children, you may need to make it clear that you are writing for the adult market.

    "From a windswept tower above the Nyghtmear, a forgotten power gathers, hungering for children in another land. There, love will plunge a boy named Walter into darkness to save a little girl's soul. Terrible secrets lurk in Enheas, a place of magic and Making, a place rooted in Walter's own forgotten bloodline, endangering his very being, positioning him as an unwilling pawn in a game of the gods below." -- Nice opening, but the gods are below where? Underground?

    "Walter will need strength beyond imagining to keep his promise: a promise he knows will thrust him in the midst of a harrowing descent." -- And that promise would be? Descending where?

    "Unspeakable horrors will suffocate his spirit and only Walter's love for Lydia can grant him the will he needs to face the Pale Queen of the Unborn." -- Who's Lydia? The girl? Who is the Pale Queen? Did she take Lydia? Is she the forgotten horror in the windswept tower? I think you may need to speak of some of the unspeakable horrors here.

    "In the world of Temeres, nothing is as it seems." -- Temeres? I thought we were dealing with Enheas? And where is Nyghtmear?

    "Dead gods stir in the Groves of the Deep, preparing for a return to the world of light, while an eleven year old boy, a wooden knight, a glass dragon, and an ancient warrior strive to protect what remains of innocence." -- Where are the Groves of the Deep? A wooden knight, a glass dragon and an ancient warrior -- sounds interesting, but I have no clue what they do in the story. Lydia's innocence, or everybody's, since the gods are angling to get up top?

    "Author information: The new SF novel I am working on (On Raven's Wings under the name, Ranke Lidyek) won an editor's choice award on www.onlinewritingworkshop.com, and I also run an online critique group (Mystic Oasis) for fantasy writers. I have completed several scripts and another novel."

    They don't care. Suggest cutting. However, others here in the forum may be interested in your critique group.

    "I compose music, play guitar and piano, and create art with far too much frequency. Thirty years old, I served six years on a naval submarine and currently work as a senior supervisor for a New England power company."

    Suggest: "I am a former naval submariner who is also active in music and the arts, and currently a manager in the utilities industry."

    And kudoes to you -- which Navy, and if U.S., what sub were you on? If you have any published credits, trot them out, no matter how lowly. If you have any art credits, or put out an album, or someone used your songs, that might be worth mentioning. Critique groups, writer groups, writing classes and contests not held by a magazine or publisher, however, are not of interest to them. If you've done any journalism, that's of interest.

    I'm not sure that they will go to your website until after they've read text, but it doesn't hurt to mention it.

  9. #54
    Edited for submission Holbrook's Avatar
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    Ok, this is the latest version.

    In an ancient and mystical world, visions of possible futures can only be seen by a Glimpser. A Glimpser is not born, but made, by the pseudo-scientific actions of a religious sect, the Inner Ring. This sect is bent on bringing about the return of the Goddess’ prophet, the Seer, to lead them into an era of secular power. Oracle is one such Glimpser, an autistic Cassandra.

    The maelstrom that exists in Oracle’s mind is mirrored in its world, for Timeholm is in the grip of an industrial revolution. Steam power is now king; trains criss-cross the land, huge smoking factories tower over once sleepy towns. The governing body, the High Forum, is under attack from within by reform-minded activists. The rigid class system, once the glue that held Timeholm society together, is being challenged by a bill brought forth before the legislature by member Joshua Calvinward that will empower the bond contract workers who supply the fuel of the new industrial progress.

    Oracle’s arrival at a train station sets in motion a series of events that plunge Captain Pugh Avinguard into the heart of these turbulent times. Pugh has been charged with the protection of Joshua Calvinward. Train crashes, riots, terrorist shootings, and Calvinward's life being taken by unknown hands the day after his moment of triumph on the floor of the High Forum, all plunge Timeholm into chaos.

    Laced through this is Pugh’s personal horror, for the person Oracle once was, was his wife, who by a twist of fate is partly restored to him, yet in the wings the Inner Ring are waiting to claim her. Pugh is forced to act when she is kidnapped, The siege of the building to rescue her takes place during a warped ceremony to complete, in the Inner Ring’s eyes, Oracle’s complete conversion into the re-born Seer. But in the chaos that ensues, Oracle becomes for a small time the avatar of the Goddess, herself, destroying the Inner Ring and removing its hold on both religion and state. Together, Pugh and Oracle will live to see the implementation of the law that Calvinward worked to bring into existence, and the dawn of a new age in Timeholm's history.

    I have also done a 247 word version....

    Oracle is a Glimpser, an autistic Cassandra, created by the pseudo-scientific actions of the “Inner Ring” a religious sect bent on regaining their secular power, for they believe one Glimpser will be their Goddess’ Seer re-born.

    The maelstrom of possible futures and half lost memories that exists in Oracle’s mind is mirrored in its world, for Timeholm is in the grip of an industrial revolution. Steam power is king; trains criss-cross the land, huge smoking factories tower over once sleepy towns. The governing body, the High Forum, is under attack from within. The rigid class system, once the glue that held Timeholm society together is being challenged by a new bill of emancipation for the working class.

    Oracle’s arrival on board a train set in motion a series of events that plunge Captain Pugh Avinguard into the heart of these turbulent times. Pugh has been charged with the protection of High Forum member, Joshua Calvinward. Train crashes, riots and the murder of Joshua at his moment of triumph, all seem set to plunge Timeholm into chaos.

    Pugh also faces his personal nightmare; Oracle was once his wife and the Inner Ring are waiting to claim her as their Seer re-born. Pugh is forced to act when she is kidnapped. But the act of Oracle’s rescue is the signal for the Goddess, herself, to act through Oracle, both to right an old wrong and ensure a future of continued change and growth for the world.


    Shows it is a quiet Saturday night here...lol...

    But thanks for the suggestions KatG. It has given me ideas for my other novels.
    Last edited by Holbrook; November 4th, 2006 at 02:08 PM.

  10. #55
    Ranke Lidyek
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    Holbrook and Kat

    Kat,
    Thanks. Great comments. I agree. Enheas is a derivative of the word "birth" in Hungarian, i believe... the name of the Pale Queen's Tower (though it existed before remembrance of man). I wanted an old-world, russian, slavic vibe. It also is a hint at the structure, which... to a degree is the "return to the womb", which is a slight departure from the standard mythic structure, but more common in russian mythos.
    Temeres is the name of the "other world" Walter goes into. I kind of jumbled things, from what I see. Not sure how to keep it all bandaged together. The "promise" is vague, I agree. He promises Lydia that he will "come for her".
    I agree with removing the author bits. Maybe I should cut it altogether so I can just get more story information across. It is definitely a "fairy tale for adults", as I think of it. With VERY adult themes. This makes it difficult. And I tend to edit rather harshly, which brings me down to a very lean 93k. I'm wondering if the length (short for modern fantasy sagas) is a possible issue. The world-building is very subtle, but a lot deeper than expected. It kind of creeps up on you as you go. And there is this external bit to the plot that shows that things are being manipulated by servants of dead gods (the gods of darkness... or from "below".... ie: The Groves of the Deep). This is stems from the secret of magic and the war behind the scenes... etc.
    Ugh. Not a good job of getting into it. I tend to try to avoid "spoiling" things, though you are right in that you should just tip your hand and let it out. Thanks again, though. I really appreciate your thoughts and observations. You have a keen eye, I feel.

    I served on the Archerfish (SSN 678) as a "nuke". Decommissioned it in Bremerton, Washington, then served on the Jefferson City. "Escaped" in 1999 and wrote music, played in a band... turned down a record deal (yes, I'm an idiot) and band broke up, I couldn't touch a guitar for two years... and now I work for a power company and do a bit of everything. Though I've always written and have always loved it.

    I agree that industrial fantasy is not "new", but it is now in vogue. Also, I think the Dickian elements Holbrook appears to lace inside the novel are something of a fresh perspective, if done write. It will blur the line a bit between the internal (fantasy writing) and the analytical or "observational" (SF). I think there's merit to that. I know I'd like to see fantasy done with that sort of mindset.... not sure. I've always loved a consistency to magic (which IS inward, yes, but should have some set of rules and cause and effect).

    Again, thank you much! I can't judge anything at this point. I'm just trying to get a decent query and send it out there. Give it a fair chance while I work on my SF novel.... If nothing happens, at least I'll have no regrets. It was worth writing, and I learned a lot about myself and about the lives of children in today's world. And I'm proud of it. It's crazy and twisted and has some huge battle sequences (there is a bit of a kid in me when it comes to planning out elaborate, brutal bits.... so much fun and worth it just for bringing out the "toys")....
    But to some degree, while I don't enjoy horror, there are similarities to horror in the way it builds. So, you are dead on.
    Thanks! Gave me something to think about!
    Take care,
    Ranke

  11. #56
    Ataraxic Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    Well it was either play with your query letters, or try to clean my bathroom while coughing my lungs out. I chose the query letters.

    Holbrook -- I think a combination may be in order here. How about:

    "In an ancient and mystical world, visions of possible futures can only be seen by a Glimpser. A Glimpser is not born, but made, by the pseudo-scientific actions of a religious sect, the Inner Ring. This sect is bent on bringing about the return of the Goddess’ prophet, the Seer, to lead them into an era of secular power. Oracle is one such Glimpser, an autistic Cassandra.

    The maelstrom that exists in Oracle’s mind is mirrored in its world, for Timeholm is in the grip of an industrial revolution. Steam power is now king; trains criss-cross the land, huge smoking factories tower over once sleepy towns. The governing body, the High Forum, is under attack from within by reform-minded activists. The rigid class system, once the glue that held Timeholm society together, is being challenged by a bill brought forth before the legislature by member Joshua Calvinward that will emancipate the working class.

    Oracle’s arrival at a train station sets in motion a series of events that plunge Captain Pugh Avinguard into the heart of these turbulent times. Pugh has been charged with protecting Joshua Calvinward, but train crashes, riots and the murder of Calvinward at his moment of triumph by unseen terrorists, all send Timeholm into chaos.

    Laced through this is Pugh’s personal horror, for the person Oracle once was, was his wife, who by a twist of fate is partly restored to him, yet in the wings the Inner Ring are waiting to claim her as their Seer re-born. Pugh is forced to act when she is kidnapped, but the rescue attempt becomes the signal for the Goddess herself to act through Oracle, both to right an old wrong and ensure a future of continued change and growth for the world."

    This is probably sufficient on detail. The more elaborate description version below, though, is usable if you want to give more information about all the events at the end. Watch out for word repetition to the extent that you can.

    "The siege of the building to rescue her takes place during a warped ceremony to complete, in the Inner Ring’s eyes, Oracle’s complete conversion into the re-born Seer. But in the chaos that ensues, Oracle becomes for a small time the avatar of the Goddess, herself, destroying the Inner Ring and removing its hold on both religion and state. Together, Pugh and Oracle will live to see the implementation of the law that Calvinward worked to bring into existence, and the dawn of a new age in Timeholm's history."

    The big problem I've always found authors to have is that they don't know the questions to ask themselves about their story. So all I've really done is asked you a lot of questions, and poof, out comes the good stuff.

  12. #57
    Ataraxic Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    And on that subject, see here, we're getting some interesting info from Mr. Lidyek. (Ooh, Slavic stuff!)

    Okay, so the Enheas tower of the Pale Queen looks out over Nyghtmear which is in Temeres, the world below. Have I got it right? Walter, a young fellow who lives in our current everyday world, loves Lydia, a young lady, who is taken down to the Pale Queen's tower? Was this just bad luck or is Lydia important in some way, or Walter is? And Walter had promised Lydia he would always come for her? So Walter -- through some means, perhaps connected with his family history -- descends to the world below after her.

    Meanwhile, the dark gods of Temeres, which dwell -- in a semi-sleep state? -- in the Groves of Darkness there, are manipulating the world above -- our world -- in ways that corrupt it or darken it, through their servants. So Walter will not just be trying to save Lydia, but dealing with a war with very high stakes.

    I suspect I'm just scratching the surface here -- I bet there are lots of lovely details to this thing. This is putting you into quite nice Neil Gaiman territory, but a bit darker -- Tanith Lee maybe. On letting them know that the work is meant for adults, the key thing is perhaps to just say it's for adults, and also give enough detail about the horror or adult material elements, so that it's clear. Some books with child main characters can be either-or, so if your stuff is very adult, it may need to be mentioned.

    And I tend to edit rather harshly, which brings me down to a very lean 93k. I'm wondering if the length (short for modern fantasy sagas) is a possible issue.
    This isn't a problem at all, that I can see. With all the serial publishing of series going on, publishers are perfectly favorable to non-behemoth works. Further, your Walter is in the modern world? So this isn't an imaginary realm story. It's dark contemporary fantasy with a mythic bent, and contemporary fantasy usually runs shorter. 93K should be perfectly respectable, as far as I know. (I just finished reading a horror novel around that length.)

    I served on the Archerfish (SSN 678) as a "nuke". Decommissioned it in Bremerton, Washington, then served on the Jefferson City. "Escaped" in 1999 and wrote music, played in a band... turned down a record deal (yes, I'm an idiot) and band broke up, I couldn't touch a guitar for two years... and now I work for a power company and do a bit of everything. Though I've always written and have always loved it.
    We know some folk in the service, so I was curious. Do you giggle when you see submarine movies with their impossibly big command rooms?

    I can't judge anything at this point. I'm just trying to get a decent query and send it out there.
    The good news is that they really don't expect you to be perfect at this. And they're reading all these query letters as fast as they can, so they aren't analyzing your sentence construction. They just want the information. Give them the goods, and then hopefully that's how they will be intrigued. After that, it's up to the novel itself and whether they fall for it.

  13. #58
    Ranke Lidyek
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    Kat,
    The worst bits in movies are when everyone cries out that the "reactor" is critical. Critical means that it is "on", essentially. Equal number of fissions "in as out". The command rooms are pretty funny as well as the amount of space throughout the ship. Also, the sonar systems are usually funny with a "little" red ship swimming toward their "dot". What you really see is a green band of static (bandwidths of frequency/sound) and then they "classify" them accordingly to know what it is. No video game screen last time I checked.

    Interesting questions you posited. I think they really help me see where I have blanks to fill. And where I can focus, etc. I'm going to cut the author bit and elaborate about the Russian/Slavic leanings and so forth and explain that it is adult, subversive and many sequences are gut punches that go further than expected. Still, there is an element of gradual tension and release that is more common to horror than fantasy. I used similar names to our own world for Walter's. They live pre-industrial, though. . Think of woodsy, like the old Grimm stories. Temeres is a different place altogether with different "rules", etc. The dead god's memories still "live" on, each memory a servant, each with a name. Though I don't want to get too deep into this. The way magic works (or Craft.... referred to as Making) is very different. It is also at the root of why the new gods rose up and the old gods passed into memory. The book hints at the merging of engineering and Craft in that world that will be explored in greater detail if I write the other two self-contained books in the chronology. Walter, though a little boy, is stronger than he appears (a hidden strength) and does have a bloodline (through a missing king... his father) that is tied to the new gods. This, of course, will cause serious issues later on and prompted the war that made his people flee Temeres long ago. The thematic issue I wanted to delve in was that of children sacrificed for adult passions. Or what I call a "love" story, but how love often hurts more than it heals... often chains the innocent and enables damaging treatment (especially in today's world of broken homes and abuse). This is a bit tough at times because it doesn't shy away from the abuse he suffers... a very creepy, uncomfortable sequence early on that sets up later events, and that abuse is reflected later on through the use of myth and symbolism.... I knew a boy who went through things no child should and I felt... when the imagery hit me, that I needed to examine this and it's effects without pulling punches. And the strength that children still do possess, and how somehow they rise above if they survive. Each book takes a period in Walter's life and goes through how the abuse of the past affects him, and how he can either fall prey to it or push through.
    I mean, that undercurrent is buried, but still present. I feel it's something relevant today. Mainly, I wanted an epic story with a sense of intimacy. Hopefully I came somewhat close.

    Thanks again,

  14. #59
    I AM too a mod! Moderator Rocket Sheep's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Abby View Post
    Thanks. and still struggling with restructuring the book to make it fit a good sales model.
    No, no! It's ART dammit! Art! What's wrong with it? Does it start out with a wham, pick you up by the scruff of the neck and drag you backwards across broken glass, set you down only to slap you around, put you on a bicycle and push you off against the traffic at a Beijing set of lights, pluck you from the grill of an army truck only to hang you by your ankles over a pond at the Australian Zoo to let crocs snap at your hair, pull you to dry land just to kick you in the belly and then let the main character whisk you away, clutching at his sweaty body as he swings Spidermanlike from skyhooks to deliver you safely to the resolution with a sticker on your forehead saying "Newly Warped"? If it does all that why worry about the "good sales model".

    What is the "good sales model" and why should we care?

    I suspect it's been done before and if it has a label, it's already too late to jump on that wagon.

    Abby, you sound to me like you have enough experience to create a "New" good sales model... it's not paint by numbers... is it? (Unless you're writing something where the formula has become part of the genre and then perhaps it almost is... like epic fantasy, or romance, or murder mystery... where the majority of the fans "take comfort" in the basic formula).
    Last edited by Rocket Sheep; November 5th, 2006 at 03:40 PM.

  15. #60
    I AM too a mod! Moderator Rocket Sheep's Avatar
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    When I've read novels and then later read the query letters that got those novels read and ultimately picked up... there seems to be very little that is fact in the query letter.

    I wouldn't get too hung up on what actually happens in the novel if it interferes with the mood of the query letter. It would be better IMHO to get the editor interested in some important aspect of the novel. Older male editors especially, seem very interested in the "big picture".

    In Abby's rewrites she seemed to be trying to incorporate a "bigger picture" and that's a good thing. She didn't put where the slavery/telepath stuff was set and whether there was any threat to Earth. I had my older male editor hat on and I looked for that.

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