Sunday, September 18, 2011

Query #35: "The Privileged" by Anonymous

This query is from an anonymous writer for the novel The Privileged. Thank you, Anonymous, for the honour of allowing me to work on and post this!

(And my apologies, Anonymous, for the delay. I was out of town for the weekend and didn't keep up with my email as diligently as I'd intended!)


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ORIGINAL QUERY

The first day of school sucks. Jonathan Stevens didn’t know what to expect as he crossed the threshold into the chaos that is known as high school. Becoming a social outcast, getting lost in the halls, embarrassing himself over and over in front of cute girls and their boyfriends was definitely expected. Falling face first into a giant hole caused by an earthquake, not so much.

Waking up in the dark underbelly of the earth, Jonathan discovers he’s been kidnapped. Not just by anyone, but by a tightly wound sorceress who tells him he is an immortal, and he is being hunted. But Jonathan is not just any immortal. He’s been designed to be the ultimate immortal. The one person that will bring peace back into the immortal realm and save it from the evil overlord known simply as the Master.

Putting his trust in his kidnapper, Jonathan follows her into the immortal realm where he learns more about who he really is, and what purpose he was created for. Jonathan is the only hope left to purge the realm of the malevolence within its walls. He must find the strength and the will to trigger his power before the Master destroys him.

THE PRIVILEGED is a young adult paranormal fantasy complete at 80,000 words.

Thank you for your consideration.


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GOBLIN-EDIT

The first day of school sucks. Jonathan Stevens expected becoming a social outcast, getting lost in the halls, and embarrassing himself over and over in front of cute girls. But falling face-first into a giant hole caused by an earthquake? Not so much.

Waking in the underbelly of the earth, Jonathan discovers he’s been kidnapped by a tightly-wound sorceress who insists he is being hunted and is an immortal--but not just any immortal. Jonathan was designed to bring peace to the sorceress' realm by saving it from an overlord known as the Master.

Jonathan learns [something specific that deepens the story and raises the stakes]. [He tries to do something meaningful and is thwarted, which raises the stakes again.] He must find the strength and the will to [do something specific, but very difficult, where failure will mean disaster].

THE PRIVILEGED is a young adult paranormal fantasy complete at 80,000 words. Thank you for your consideration.


Have any thoughts about either the original or the re-written query? Please join the discussion in the comment thread!

Also, I'd be delighted if you would please help draw more commenters to the site by mentioning this post to your online friends. Thank you!

11 comments:

  1. What I thought was done well:

    The prose is clear and professional, with a lively "voice". The structure is also nice, with an escalation of stakes sketched out.

    What I thought could be improved:

    There are just too many things left vague. At the very least, we need to know what the threat to the immortal realm is (what is the evil overlord doing that is so evil? who is being hurt?), what Jonathan can do to fix this (what are his powers?), and what the cost is if he fails (will he be hurt? Will other people be hurt?)

    What I think remains to be improved in the edited query:

    I think we just need more specific details about what happens after Jonathan begins his quest. I like your clean writing style, and the query is structured to provide an escalation of stakes, which is great. My only quibble is with how little we actually learn about the plot.

    Without providing details, this story comes across--at least superficially, in the query letter--as being guilty of a few cliches. By including more substance, you'll lessen this impression and provide the agent/editor with a better idea of what makes your book both unique and gripping.


    Best of luck with this! I'd like to see another version with more of the details included, if you want to post one here in the comments section.

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  2. Thank you so much for your advice :) That third paragraph will be the death of me! I'll try to get more of the story in there, and your suggestions will help a lot in cutting out those darn cliches. Thank you query goblin!

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  3. This starts out more like a first page than a query. There's too much setup and too much wordiness. The parts where it goes into 'he's this' and even more deeper meanings with each successive sentence take up valuable real estate you could use to show the stakes and why an editor/agent would want to read pages.

    First paragraph could be said in one sentence, maybe two.

    Nice voice for sure and that can be that hardest part to instill into a query.

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  4. @jjdebenedictis: I have changed the third paragraph, and added a line at the end of the second. Per your suggestion, I'm posting the edit here. Hopefully it sounds a lot clearer in terms of plot line. And thank you for taking the time to do this.

    @Sarah Laurenson: Thank you for your comment and advice. :)

    Here's the edited paragraphs. I used the query goblin's edit for the first part.

    Waking in the underbelly of the earth, Jonathan discovers he’s been kidnapped by a tightly-wound sorceress who insists he is being hunted and is an immortal--but not just any immortal. Jonathan was designed to bring peace to the sorceress' realm by saving it from the Master, an evil overlord that collects immortals and uses them to kill off the young and the weak.

    Jonathan learns he was given specific power that would destroy the Master. The problem is, he doesn’t know how to trigger it, and time is running out. The Master grows ever closer to his true goal which is to conquer not only the immortal realm, but the mortal world as well. Jonathan must find the strength and the will to find his powers before the Master succeeds in his cause.

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  5. Anonymous: This is much better; nice work! The details really help the story take shape.

    Unfortunately, I still think you're being too vague in some places.

    What is Jonathan's power? If there's no easy answer to that, then what is his power going to allow him to do? Phrases like "specific power" and "destroy the Master" just don't tell us enough.

    If you're not sure how to explain it in the query, then go ahead and explain here in the comments and we can help you brainstorm how to phrase things.

    Also, rather than saying "time is running out", tell us what exactly will happen if Jonathan doesn't stop the Master. In what way is the Master's plan close to fruition?

    Again, feel free to explain it here if you need help in figuring out how to put it in succinct-enough words for the query letter.

    Another thing I'd like to know is what will happen to Jonathan if he fails. Is it just that he'll see two worlds conquered, or is there a more personal cost? I'd like to work these stakes into your last paragraph too.

    Keep up the excellent work! This is taking shape. :)

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  7. Excellent! *rubs hands* Now we've got some juicy details to work with!

    If Jonathan himself doesn't know what his power is, that actually works well. It becomes one of the obstacles he has to overcome. In other words, we don't have to reveal the power; we can work the fact that he doesn't know what the power is into the query letter instead.

    So. Every (good) story has an escalation of stakes--a series of costs that keep getting worse.

    And here are Jonathan's problems in order. As you can see, they do get worse and worse:
    1) Fell in a big hole
    2) Being hunted by a baddie
    3) Only way to defend himself is a mystery even to him
    4) The baddie is about to attack his parents

    So here's how I work those escalating stakes into your query letter, one by one. If you're not happy with this version, feel free to change it up, then come back here if you'd like more feedback.

    Goblin-Edit:

    The first day of school sucks. Jonathan Stevens expected becoming a social outcast, getting lost in the halls, and embarrassing himself over and over in front of cute girls. But falling face-first into a giant hole caused by an earthquake? Not so much.

    Waking in the underbelly of the earth, Jonathan discovers he’s been kidnapped by a tightly-wound sorceress who insists he is being hunted and is an immortal--but not just any immortal. Jonathan was created to save the sorceress' realm from an overlord with the power to find immortals strong enough to challenge him before they are old enough to know how.

    Unfortunately, that description fits Jonathan. The sorceress says he has power too, but Jonathan doesn't know what it is or know how to trigger it. When the sorceress is captured, Jonathan learns from her allies that the overlord has discovered the means to control mortals as well--and he intends to test that power on Jonathan's parents.

    To destroy the most dangerous man in two realms, Jonathan will have to risk his life by triggering an unknown power too early. And if he fails, his family--as well as every other mortal and immortal in existence--will suffer for it.

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  8. ** In the second paragraph, I think I'd like to change the last sentence to:

    ...with the power to locate immortals strong enough to...

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  9. Thank you so much :) Everything was so jumbled in my head and now I have something organized to work with. I appreciate your help, (and patience) with me.

    Thanks again query goblin! I'd be lost without you!

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  10. Oh, and I removed the descriptive post for my beta readers so the story won't be spoiled for them. Hope that was okay :)

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  11. Cassie Mae: That's totally fine. Glad you found the experience helpful! :)

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