1. Tanpoponoko
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    Tanpoponoko New Member

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    My reworked query, help me out?

    Discussion in 'Query & Cover Letter Critique' started by Tanpoponoko, Oct 7, 2013.

    I just reworked my query with lots of good help from graphospasm. I need help getting it into ship-shape. Any advice would be greatly appreciated:

    I am seeking representation for my dark fantasy novel, Unreal City. It tells the tale of Sarah Wilkes, a girl who was desperate enough to do anything to escape the grief of losing her twin sister, even make a deal with the devil—or in her case a Familiar Spirit. Recently named a quarterfinalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest, Unreal City garnered a positive review in Publisher’s Weekly that said: “This intriguing dark fantasy blends some traditional genre tropes into a fresh and enticing tale…. The emotional transformation that shadows Sarah’s metaphysical journey to the Unreal City is definitely satisfying enough to keep readers engaged.”

    When college starts, Sarah moves into the dorm room she and her sister Lea would have shared. It doesn’t take Sarah long to realize she’s being stalked by an unearthly creature that takes the form of a spectral black cat. Once Sarah gathers the courage to follow him into the woods and confront him, the creature reveals himself as a Familiar Spirit and offers her a deal: in exchange for food (and by food, he means her hair, teeth, bones, or blood) he transports her to a dreamlike place Sarah comes to know as Unreal City. Inside this alternate reality she is given a Garden where she can control everything in the world around her with mere thought. Here, all of her desires come true—relieving her misery, if only for a little while. However, she didn't anticipate the hellish consequences this euphoria would bring her when she wakes. As her reality and sanity becomes increasingly warped, people around her are murdered in the same way Lea died. Sarah is soon faced with the decision to become bound to the twisted world of Unreal City for life, or try to escape from it.

    Unreal City is complete at 67,000 words. I am a substitute teacher, and a graduate of University of California Santa Barbara in English. I look forward to hearing back from you,

    (name/contact info)
     
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2013
  2. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I want to read it, it sounds really interesting!
     
  3. JayG
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    JayG Banned Contributor

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    This is it, the point of the thing: Sarah makes a deal she shouldn't. Why doesn't matter yet because the fact of it will make the reader ask why, just as you would. Then you tell them and it's as if you're having a live conversation with the one reading. It works when we write the story and will when we're trying to sell it. Adding in all those whereas and qualification clauses only dilutes the impact.

    Somehow, in the middle of this sentence we go from an offer to the result of the offer having been accepted.

    And: Find a better, and more concise way of mentioning the price rather then listing the elements. As written it's confusing and sounds as if she arrives with no teeth, hair, bones, or blood—which sounds a bit uncomfortable. It also raises the question of why, for that price, she gets what seems to her to be a perfect life. If she can't see there's a catch she's pretty foolish. And, since we don't know either why the offer is made or why she accepts it and drops out of college, her accepting makes no sense. There may be perfectly reasonable explanations, but they aren't apparent as read.

    To me a garden is where we grow food or flowers. I have no clue of what I would want to control there with a thought, or what that means in the context of the story. I think the problem is that you're trying to give a mini synopsis, and in those few words it can't help but be disjointed.

    Write the voice-over for the film they would make of the story. Deal in emotional issues. Tell the reader what the protagonist wants but can't have, and what she must do to try to get it—and what will happen if she fails. Entertain, don't inform. Your goal isn't to sell the story, but to make it sound exciting enough that the reader will turn to the writing sample, in the same way the back cover blurb convinces the reader to open the book.
     
  4. Tanpoponoko
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    Tanpoponoko New Member

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    I revised it again here. I added some more plot points and such, so hopefully they flesh out the motivations more:


    Sarah Wilkes is a girl who’s desperate enough to do anything, even make a deal with the devil— or in her case, a Familiar Spirit.

    After the recent murder of her twin sister Lea, Sarah became consumed by grief. When college starts, she realizes she’s being stalked by an unearthly creature that takes the form of a spectral black cat. Once Sarah follows him into the woods and confronts him, the creature reveals that he is a Familiar Spirit and offers her a deal: in exchange for feeding the Familiar her hair, teeth, bones, or blood, he will transport her to a dreamlike place Sarah comes to know as Unreal City. Inside this alternate reality she is given a section of the world called a “Garden” where she can control everything around her with mere thought. While she is there, all of her wildest desires come true— relieving her misery, if only for a little while. However, she didn't anticipate that upon waking she would be plagued by disturbing hallucinations, which further unhinge her. As her reality becomes increasingly warped, people around her are murdered in the same way Lea died— drowned on dry land and left to rot. Things worsen as another Familiar, this one corrupted by deep madness, haunts Sarah with the intent to destroy her life, her sanity, or both. Sarah is soon faced with the decision to become bound to the twisted, yet enticing world of Unreal City forever in order to discover the truth behind her sister’s death, or to try to escape from it.

    Unreal City is complete at 67,000 words. It was recently named quarterfinalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest, and garnered a positive review in Publisher’s Weekly, which read: “This intriguing dark fantasy blends some traditional genre tropes into a fresh and enticing tale…. The emotional transformation that shadows Sarah’s metaphysical journey to the Unreal City is definitely satisfying enough to keep readers engaged.” Thank you very much for your time and consideration,
     
  5. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm feeling that there are too many details with too little reason for them. For example, why does it matter that she's starting college? Does she hope to make a fresh start there? Does college worsen her misery and isolation? How exactly does the whole situation make her vulnerable to the spirit? Why is what the spirit offers appealing to her?

    It seems to me that the core is that a person is made vulnerable by grief, they give up part of their essence to ease that grief, and they eventually have to make a choice between that druglike relief and a return to reality. But that's not what I get from all the details; the details seem to obscure that core of the story, when they should be revealing it.
     
  6. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I preferred your first version. The second version somehow has no sense of pacing to it and it's a drag to read, even though not much has changed.

    Why don't you submit it to QueryShark and see if they could help? QueryShark is a site hosted by an agent who spends her time critiquing queries, and you can see all the failed and successful entries and all the agent's notes on what works and what doesn't.
     
  7. Tanpoponoko
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    Tanpoponoko New Member

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    Thanks! Already submitted to QS and I've read the whole blog many times
     
  8. art
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    art Contributing Member Contributor

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    Nicely done on getting this far.

    One thing jumps out: the tense of the very first line and at 'However, she didn't anticipate' . The rest is in the present tense, it seems to me, and works rather well. (Perhaps, too, that very first line is a little clunky?)

    By first line, I mean, of course, not the first line but the 'After the recent..' one.
     
  9. Tanpoponoko
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    Tanpoponoko New Member

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    Ok, I think I have what may be the final version I'm ready to send out. As always, more critiques would be appreciated... but I feel like I'm getting pretty close here. I just went through a 6 month long ordeal with a publisher and this novel, and got rejected after being strung along, so I'm eager to get this manuscript out of the door on onto shelves.... or at least into the hands of a capable agent! If there's anything that just MUST be changed or is really screwing it up, please let me know. Tell me if you think this is effective enough:



    Sarah Wilkes is a girl who’s desperate enough to do anything, even make a deal with the devil— or in her case, a Familiar Spirit.

    After the recent murder of her twin sister Lea, Sarah became consumed by grief. Trying to get on with her life, she begins college, but finds little comfort or distraction there. When she realizes that she is being stalked by an unearthly creature that takes the form of a spectral black cat, her sorrow is eclipsed by morbid curiosity. She follows him into the woods and confronts him. When the creature reveals that he is a Familiar Spirit and offers her a dangerously enticing deal, she jumps at the chance to escape from her pain. In exchange for feeding him her hair, teeth, or blood, he will transport her to a dreamlike place Sarah comes to know as Unreal City. Inside this alternate reality, all of her wildest desires come true and everything is under her complete control— relieving her misery, if only for a little while. However, she doesn't anticipate that upon waking she would be plagued by disturbing hallucinations. As her reality becomes increasingly warped, people around her are murdered in the same way Lea died— drowned on dry land and left to rot. Sarah is soon faced with the decision to become bound to the twisted world of Unreal City for life, or try to escape from it.

    Unreal City is complete at 67,000 words. It was recently named quarterfinalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest, and garnered a positive review in Publisher’s Weekly: “This intriguing dark fantasy blends some traditional genre tropes into a fresh and enticing tale…. The emotional transformation that shadows Sarah’s metaphysical journey to the Unreal City is definitely satisfying enough to keep readers engaged.” Thank you very much for your time and consideration,
     
  10. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Only two things:

    1. You start two sentences with "When" in close succession - perhaps change one of them as it sounds repetitive.
    2. I've had this question before but I guess I'll ask now. How does her escape from Unreal City link with the deaths in real life? I'm not really seeing the connection - if she stays in Unreal City, does it mean people stop dying? Or do people only stop dying when she escapes? You write it as though they're linked but I'm not seeing how.

    Ok there's a 3rd but perhaps less important thing - there's a good chance perhaps this does not belong in the query but only in the synopsis, in which case, you can ignore this third question.

    3. What keeps her in Unreal City? Your wording of "try to escape" makes me feel like Sarah might be trapped in Unreal City - what are the stakes here?

    I think your story is very interesting and your query feels strong, but it might help if you tightened the connections a bit more? As always, I'm inexperienced with queries so take my advice with a pinch of salt yeah? :)
     

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