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  1. #91
    Edited for submission Holbrook's Avatar
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    Just two things, I would check that the link can be accessed by outsiders, i.e. someone not a member of online, also suggest you put the name of the editor that did the review, a number of them are ex-publishing industry, so it might help catch an agent's eye.

  2. #92
    Fulgurous Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    Though I don't discourage you from including a link to your website, most of the time, they're not going to be clicking on any links you send them. If they get interested in the project, than that sort of stuff is more useful. Online writing workshops are usually of not much interest.
    Last edited by KatG; January 20th, 2007 at 03:03 PM.

  3. #93
    Registered User Optimutt's Avatar
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    After putting together a first query letter, I received two negative responses. What I did not expect was a suggestion to rework the query. "It just did not grab [the agent]." Ok. The following is the reworked book synopsis:

    "There is an old legend where a tyrant wants to know what his people
    think of him. To get the most authentic opinion he can, he summons two
    monks to relay their story to him. The first says that the people love
    him, that every policy he creates brings a smile upon their face. He
    says that they wished he held more parades so that they might cover
    him in rose petals and garlands. The second monk takes a different
    approach. He tells the tyrant that the people think he's a lying,
    manipulative, brute of a tyrant. They want nothing to do with him, and
    wish for him to burn and die in Hell for all eternity. After hearing
    both monks' statements, he kills one of them and takes the other on as
    his priest. "A General Problem" is an exploration of that story with a
    small difference, in this, one of the monks beheads the tyrant and the
    mystery is which monk did it."

    The question I have for you all is: "Does this grab you?"

    comments welcome, both harsh and supportive

  4. #94
    Fulgurous Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Optimutt View Post
    After putting together a first query letter, I received two negative responses. What I did not expect was a suggestion to rework the query. "It just did not grab [the agent]." Ok. The following is the reworked book synopsis:

    "There is an old legend where a tyrant wants to know what his people
    think of him. To get the most authentic opinion he can, he summons two
    monks to relay their story to him. The first says that the people love
    him, that every policy he creates brings a smile upon their face. He
    says that they wished he held more parades so that they might cover
    him in rose petals and garlands. The second monk takes a different
    approach. He tells the tyrant that the people think he's a lying,
    manipulative, brute of a tyrant. They want nothing to do with him, and
    wish for him to burn and die in Hell for all eternity. After hearing
    both monks' statements, he kills one of them and takes the other on as
    his priest. "A General Problem" is an exploration of that story with a
    small difference, in this, one of the monks beheads the tyrant and the
    mystery is which monk did it."

    The question I have for you all is: "Does this grab you?"

    comments welcome, both harsh and supportive

    The answer for me would be no, it doesn't, though I suspect that the story you have actually written might grab me, if it was clear what it is. You have the "legend" that I believe you gave us earlier in another thread, asking us what we'd do in that situation. All nicely philosophical. And you have taken this legend and done something to it. What, we're not entirely sure. You say one of two monks kills the tyrant and it's a mystery which one it is. Is there someone trying to solve this mystery? Is the story organized backwards in time, so that eventually we find the moment where one of the monks kills the tyrant? Who are the monks? What kind of monks are they? What happens when the tyrant is killed? Or before? Other than the tyrant getting killed, what's the story about?

    I'm sure that the idea of the monks and the tyrant interests some people, but because they don't know what story you've created from this idea, they may not bother to ask and find out. That would be my take, anyway.

    When an agent says that a query letter didn't "grab" them, they don't mean, write a flashier query letter. They mean the story description you presented was unclear or the description didn't offer anything that really interested them.

  5. #95
    Ranke Lidyek
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    quotes and more

    Quote Originally Posted by KatG View Post
    Though I don't discourage you from including a link to your website, most of the time, they're not going to be clicking on any links you send them. If they get interested in the project, than that sort of stuff is more useful. Online writing workshops are usually of not much interest.
    You're right. I have a quote by Karin Lowachee, a published SF novelist concerning a first-draft chapter of On Raven's Wings. I would be better using that, instead--if at all. Not sure.

    I'm making every query mistake in the book, I think.

    The novel is coming along well though and I'm proud of it. I'll just finish more books and keep plugging away. I do have an agent interested in the new SF, so who knows....

    Thanks again,
    Ranke
    Last edited by Ranke Lidyek; January 29th, 2007 at 02:42 AM. Reason: grammar...

  6. #96
    Ranke Lidyek
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    query

    Quote Originally Posted by KatG View Post
    The answer for me would be no, it doesn't, though I suspect that the story you have actually written might grab me, if it was clear what it is. You have the "legend" that I believe you gave us earlier in another thread, asking us what we'd do in that situation. All nicely philosophical. And you have taken this legend and done something to it. What, we're not entirely sure. You say one of two monks kills the tyrant and it's a mystery which one it is. Is there someone trying to solve this mystery? Is the story organized backwards in time, so that eventually we find the moment where one of the monks kills the tyrant? Who are the monks? What kind of monks are they? What happens when the tyrant is killed? Or before? Other than the tyrant getting killed, what's the story about?

    I'm sure that the idea of the monks and the tyrant interests some people, but because they don't know what story you've created from this idea, they may not bother to ask and find out. That would be my take, anyway.

    When an agent says that a query letter didn't "grab" them, they don't mean, write a flashier query letter. They mean the story description you presented was unclear or the description didn't offer anything that really interested them.
    I think Kat is right here. Who is your main character? What is the dilemma and his "need"? Who opposes him? Utilize this and I think you'll also likely encompass the philosophical element proposed here (which I quite like, to be honest.... but I'm a sucker for aesopian writing). I think the concept has merit and promise, but you don't get a sense of the actual story here. I'm not someone qualified to say as my queries suck.

    Still, the process is admittedly random, but one has to do the best they can in the slight chance that an agent might want to (gasp) "read" something.

    Luck and keep at it!

    Ranke

  7. #97
    Ranke Lidyek
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    Latest query

    I thought I'd resurrect this thread because I like the smell of decay. I've at last settled on what I think is a semi-decent query. I appreciate all thoughts and ideas to enhance it. Mainly, I'm curious as to if it "works". I'm happy, at least, to say that the novel is finished and ready to waddle off. I know the whole thing is random, I just hope to leverage the odds.

    Thanks and here goes:

    Her Dress is Darkness: (95,000 words, dark, literary fantasy with epic overtones) www.darkwoodchronicles.com

    To eleven-year-old Walter, Lydia is sunlight in a dark place: a lone, caring presence in the face of his unstable mother and missing father. Together, they explore the innocent woods of their quiet valley and make up stories about a huge, brown blade left in a hidden copse.

    When a strange, black frog bites Lydia in the wood, Walter discovers an evil lurking beneath the shroud of the old Priory, an evil rooted in magic and Making, buried in his forgotten bloodline. Secrets conspire to return him to a lost world, a world belonging to a terrible Queen of ancient lore, a world where innocence is devoured. In the land of Temeres, nothing is as it seems. 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 purity. Lydia has been taken, her soul trapped within the Queen's far tower. But nothing—not the Pale Queen, nor her hunger, not her Darklings or her beast and the Drum of its Heart, not even her cursed, immortal Knight—will keep Walter from fulfilling his promise.

    He will find her. And he will bring her back.

    Author information: This is my first novel. Two others are in progress.

  8. #98
    Fulgurous Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    Better. You're getting a little more confident here, I think. And you're putting your poetic style to better use for you.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ranke Lidyek View Post
    Her Dress is Darkness: (95,000 words, dark, literary fantasy with epic overtones) www.darkwoodchronicles.com
    Keeping the URL, are you? Couldn't hurt. "with epic overtones" -- remember that epic fantasy in the market means fantasy written in a pre-industrial setting. While I'm sure that Temares, the underworld, qualifies, I can't remember, does Walter live in a historical-type period or contemporary? I know it seems weird that this is important, but you may not want to use the word epic in the description because it may give them a mistaken impression of what type of story it is, because it is the name of a distinct sub-category. They can get that the story has an epic scope from the description of the story, so you don't need to tell them this fact.

    To eleven-year-old Walter, Lydia is sunlight in a dark place: a lone, caring presence in the face of his unstable mother and missing father. Together, they explore the innocent woods of their quiet valley
    Excellent.

    and make up stories about a huge, brown blade left in a hidden copse.
    I still don't know what this is. Is it a sword blade, a plow blade -- what sort of blade? You need another adjective here.

    When a strange, black frog bites Lydia in the wood, Walter discovers an evil lurking beneath the shroud of the old Priory, an evil rooted in magic and Making, buried in his forgotten bloodline.
    Peachy, except for "the shroud of the old Priory" -- this is unclear. Is it an old building that housed a priory? Or a working priory that's just very old? What do you mean by beneath the shroud? What is the shroud? Is it an actual shroud?

    Secrets conspire to return him to a lost world, a world belonging to a terrible Queen of ancient lore, a world where innocence is devoured. In the land of Temeres, nothing is as it seems. Dead gods stir in the Groves of the Deep, preparing for a return to the world of light,
    All very nice here.

    while an eleven-year-old boy, a wooden knight, a glass dragon, and an ancient warrior strive to protect what remains of purity.
    Here is where you are still hiding most of your story. I can guess that the eleven year old boy is Walter, and his allies, as you list them, continue to sound interesting, but since you give no other information, it's limited.

    Also, you have the interesting info that the gods are planning to prepare to return to the world of the light -- the real world -- which we can see would be bad, but then we don't get any sense of just how bad it might be. The description is good, but it does indicate a possible YA story, again, so briefly describing some of the darker, more adult aspects of the story might help frame the story as definitely adult. Then you can have the neat bit about Walter below for the ending of the description.

    If you feel that's too dificult to work out, then I would suggest that you attach a longer 1-1 1/2 page single space plot synopsis of the work to the query letter that gives more information.

    {QUOTE] not the Pale Queen, nor her hunger, not her Darklings or her beast and the Drum of its Heart, not even her cursed, immortal Knight [/QUOTE]

    I have no clear idea what these things are, but they sound really good, so I think you can keep this as it is.

    —will keep Walter from fulfilling his promise.

    He will find her. And he will bring her back.
    Very nice. They'll use it for the cover copy, if they take it.

    Author information: This is my first novel. Two others are in progress.
    What happened to the author bio paragraph you used to have?

  9. #99
    Defender of Cononicals Physics Knight's Avatar
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    I can't remember if this was talked about in this thread before, but is it appropriate in a query letter to, after the one/two paragraph summary-hook of your story, also include the ending? In my case, the ending to my story is something unexpected and puts the entire story in a new light. I feel that I should let the agent/publisher know about the ending outright, but I am not sure if that is the proper form for a query letter, and I should just wait and hope they are interested enough to ask for a synopsis.

    Thanks!

  10. #100
    Ranke Lidyek
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    endings

    Quote Originally Posted by Physics Knight View Post
    I can't remember if this was talked about in this thread before, but is it appropriate in a query letter to, after the one/two paragraph summary-hook of your story, also include the ending? In my case, the ending to my story is something unexpected and puts the entire story in a new light. I feel that I should let the agent/publisher know about the ending outright, but I am not sure if that is the proper form for a query letter, and I should just wait and hope they are interested enough to ask for a synopsis.

    Thanks!
    I think if your ending is something that really speaks of the novel itself, why not add it? Still, it's a tricky subject. Some novels have so much depth it's nearly impossible to describe it all in a paragraph or two. One thing I (very slowly) learned is it's best to get to know the main character straight off, then the event (turning point and stakes) then what he faces. Typically, it works out. Though, the approach should be suited toward YOUR story rather than just from template. I wish I could be more specific or hand out better advice. I say if your ending has a killer concept, then let the editor know. Though don't just put the ending down--put down the concept. From what I've seen, the opening is more important than the closing. Your query is separate from any samples of writing you choose to provide.
    Hope this helps, and I could be very wrong!

    Best,

    Ranke

  11. #101
    Ranke Lidyek
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    thanks!

    Quote Originally Posted by KatG View Post
    Better. You're getting a little more confident here, I think. And you're putting your poetic style to better use for you.

    Keeping the URL, are you? Couldn't hurt. "with epic overtones" -- remember that epic fantasy in the market means fantasy written in a pre-industrial setting. While I'm sure that Temares, the underworld, qualifies, I can't remember, does Walter live in a historical-type period or contemporary? I know it seems weird that this is important, but you may not want to use the word epic in the description because it may give them a mistaken impression of what type of story it is, because it is the name of a distinct sub-category. They can get that the story has an epic scope from the description of the story, so you don't need to tell them this fact.

    Excellent.

    I still don't know what this is. Is it a sword blade, a plow blade -- what sort of blade? You need another adjective here.

    Peachy, except for "the shroud of the old Priory" -- this is unclear. Is it an old building that housed a priory? Or a working priory that's just very old? What do you mean by beneath the shroud? What is the shroud? Is it an actual shroud?

    All very nice here.

    Here is where you are still hiding most of your story. I can guess that the eleven year old boy is Walter, and his allies, as you list them, continue to sound interesting, but since you give no other information, it's limited.

    Also, you have the interesting info that the gods are planning to prepare to return to the world of the light -- the real world -- which we can see would be bad, but then we don't get any sense of just how bad it might be. The description is good, but it does indicate a possible YA story, again, so briefly describing some of the darker, more adult aspects of the story might help frame the story as definitely adult. Then you can have the neat bit about Walter below for the ending of the description.

    If you feel that's too dificult to work out, then I would suggest that you attach a longer 1-1 1/2 page single space plot synopsis of the work to the query letter that gives more information.

    "not the Pale Queen, nor her hunger, not her Darklings or her beast and the Drum of its Heart, not even her cursed, immortal Knight."

    -- I have no clear idea what these things are, but they sound really good, so I think you can keep this as it is.

    Very nice. They'll use it for the cover copy, if they take it.

    What happened to the author bio paragraph you used to have?

    Kat,
    Thanks again for your advice. I value your input and what you have suggested prior to this has really helped me shape the query into semi-respectable form. I chopped the author bio at the behest of another writer who told me they don't really care. She said to just say it is "my first novel".
    I've struggled with the inclusion of "epic" in many respects. There is a level of scale to the novel that is coupled to a strange intimacy. On the surface, it follows the traditional mythic structure, but a lot of those elements are inverted. Walter's first world is pre-industrial, yes. Temeres, on the other hand, is a much older place--feudal, yet primordial--filled with odd Makings and beings. As things are revealed, Temeres takes on a threatening complexity, much like a child's transition into an adult's world where passions rule the hearts of men. The mistakes of fathers become the burdens of sons. Thematically, it is definitely more of an adult piece. Walter's abuse is confronted in both real and mythic terms, and there is a sort of savagery, a lack of "comfort", that is hard to explain. The story wears the disguise of a fantasy novel, an adventure, but with a dark underbelly uncommon in the genre.
    Then again, I'm a huge fan of Roger Zelazney, and I like the odd milieus of Glen Cook and other writers. I like the touch of madness to the past, of deeper things in the soul revealed, things not often understood, things we turn away from and deny. Of the threat of waters and darkness, of instinct and passion before the age of reason. Some people say Her Dress is Darkness has a Poe or Lovecraftian vibe. I don't know. I think I mainly wrote it because I felt there was a lot yet to be explored in fantasy. I love mythic structure and the power of images and silence and dreams. Hopefully, I captured some of the essence of what spurred me to write it to begin with.

    Sorry for the long dissertation here, by the way. Despite all the words (too many), I likely just confused the issue more.

    Thanks again!

    Ranke
    Last edited by KatG; April 16th, 2007 at 10:42 AM.

  12. #102
    Fulgurous Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    What you are talking about is the epic paradox. There is the dictionary definition of "epic," which I think we've discussed before, which means a widely sweeping tale, and your story may well be that. But there is also the market/fan definition of epic as the name of a sub-category of fantasy fiction. Epic fantasy is thus commonly understood to be a fantasy story that takes place in a pre-industrial setting, usually in an imaginary secondary world, whether it is epic in scope or not. So if you use the word "epic," the latter definition is what editors and agents will think you are talking about.

    Now, if Walter's world is pre-industrial -- and I think you did mention that before, I just couldn't remember -- then the issue is whether it is pre-industrial Earth or a pre-industrial mirror alternate world that you made up. (I think it was made up?) If it is Earth, then you can say dark historical fantasy, and they will know that you are writing a historical fantasy and a dark fantasy -- adult, touch of horror, suspense -- Poe-like. If it's an imaginary place where Walter lives, then you can call it a dark epic fantasy, and they will know that it's an epic, the sub-category, but also a dark fantasy, and so part of that sub-category, which is again going for the Poe-thing. So there you go. But don't use the word epic without dark, unless you want the book seen as purely epic.

    This is not to label the story and give it a forced identity. It is to identify in broad terms what sort of story you chose to do. You chose to do a dark story. You are using the idea either of history with the mythological side being real (historical,) or an imaginary world that mirrors history, which we've come to call epic for want of a better moniker. It's simply a matter of using the identifier, so that they aren't confused, same as making it clear that this is an adult story meant for adults, even if the protagonist is eleven.

    Dark fantasy is built on the idea of going where Poe and Lovecraft liked to go, so this is not going to be an alien concept to them. It's always been a small but much respected sub-category of fantasy, nestled between horror and non-horror fantasy. You might, if you haven't so far, want to check out the thread in the Fantasy Forum archives on dark fantasy, and you'll find a bunch of authors who have been doing such stories, which might be useful to you.

  13. #103
    Ranke Lidyek
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    thanks

    Quote Originally Posted by KatG View Post

    Dark fantasy is built on the idea of going where Poe and Lovecraft liked to go, so this is not going to be an alien concept to them. It's always been a small but much respected sub-category of fantasy, nestled between horror and non-horror fantasy. You might, if you haven't so far, want to check out the thread in the Fantasy Forum archives on dark fantasy, and you'll find a bunch of authors who have been doing such stories, which might be useful to you.
    As much as we writers gripe about classifications, they are important in the broad scheme of marketing your novel. I appreciate the information you gave here, which is very informative. I feel like I learn something every time you post. Thank you again.

    There is a literary aspect to my book, and yet there is the full-on adventure element. The novel is a weird mix. I've read a lot of dark fantasy, and for most I found the action secondary to the atmosphere (which is fine by me if the air is pure enough). However, I'll admit to loving elaborate action sequences. If one draws the characters properly, action becomes a metaphor for the thematic arguments presented (if done with intelligence and a keen enough eye toward imagery, etc). I've always been a bit stingy with dialogue as well. To me, you find more truth in a character's actions than his words. As a writer I love to pull out the cool toys in a world and let it fly--once things are properly grounded. The big sequences are much easier for me to write than the little moments. I think that childlike excitement takes over and I believe that when a writer is excited, it shows in their prose and then the reader feels it as well.

    What I like about darker novels is that there is a more tension involved during these sequences, and, often, these sequences possess an intimacy and an added meaning. Combat, to some degree, is intimate. In dark fantasy novels you know the characters can suffer (and will) and the outcome is more in doubt. You know these people will be tested and they will change, and more is required of them overall. I guess I like things with strange orbits. I've always loved the outright alien aspects to myths and cultures, that unique plane of thought and spirituality and superstition. Even with music, I want the sound coming from different angles. Those things make me question my own world and look with fresh eyes. I tried to write the book I've always wanted to read (which I think drives many writers). In a way, the novel has two faces. It takes archetypes and skews them, examining the humanity beneath the facade. It also works in a purely mythic sense as well, even if it is a tad subversive.

    Let's say that was the "mission" statement, at least. Whether I got anywhere close to the mark is another matter. I DID enjoy writing it and I think I learned from the characters in many respects. I think it's getting close to what I had hoped for. And whatever happens (or doesn't), I feel grateful for being able to write this novel and for the story and dream that prompted the whole odd escapade. As I say too often, the story was already there--buried, I just had to do a lot of digging. The sense of discovery is the best part. It drives me and I think that's why I'll keep writing. It's incredibly fun uncovering the fossils of these weird creatures in the subconscious.

    Again, thank you for your explanations and continued help!

    Ranke

  14. #104
    bmalone.blogspot.com BrianC's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ranke Lidyek View Post
    To me, you find more truth in a character's actions than his words.
    Yet there is even greater truth in the dissonance between action and word.

    I'm hoping that you do get it published, Ranke, because I certainly want to read it.

  15. #105
    Fulgurous Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    Which is exactly why you don't want to give too much short-shrift, I think, to your monsters and to your poor creatures who have to go venturing in that dark, and what they symbolize as well, when describing the story. Not that you want to give your whole "mission statement," but you don't want to say, I have these things, but I'm not going to tell you anything about them.

    If it just seems too unwieldy, I think an attached plot synopsis is the way to go.

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