1. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin The game sour like a pickle be.... Contributor

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    dust steel bone - sci-fi/western query

    Discussion in 'Query & Cover Letter Critique' started by Homer Potvin, Jan 13, 2017.

    Hi all,

    This my latest query attempt for my novel. It will obviously be personalized to each agent with all the reasons I chose her. I'd appreciate any feedback... I haven't had a lot of success doing this in the past:


    Hello Agent,


    dust steel bone is a science-fiction/western novel of approximately 99k words. My education is in history and genocide, and while I do not write historical fiction, I often adapt historical concepts and systems into the milieu of speculative fiction. dust steel bone is one of these endeavors.

    After wandering the desert for twenty years, Santino returns to find his homeland changed. Rills have become rivers and the saplings of his youth have evolved into forests, creeping across the Andari plains where once there was only dust. Santino too is unrecognizable. He still wears the long coat of the Malawi but he is shorter and leaner than he used to be. And his eyes, the ubiquitous amber of his people, have become purple behind his desert mask and goggles. One thing that hasn’t changed is Santino’s memory. The cut and contour of the bluffs and canyons of his home. The Company regulators that came from afar to buy and reshape Andar. And the family that shunned him long ago.

    Their voices haunt Santino as he revisits Andar, hell bent on bringing the desert back to the people who would seek to take it away from him. But still they do not recognize him, even after he destroys the Company’s largest gas refinery and turns his attention to the northern cities, hiding in the forgotten shadows of the old sewers and train tubes. The Company is at a loss. They’ve built the schools and the roads, but Andar is still plagued with discontent and indigents who would like nothing more than to undo all the progress they’ve made.

    They turn to Bishop, a down on his luck mercenary who no longer has much belief in his own right, let alone that of the people he is supposed to protect. Bishop soon learns that finding Santino, never mind taking him, will be unlike anything he has attempted before. His search takes him from the back alleys of the capital to the desert wastes of the south where the Malawi, Santino’s old family, have been too busy trying to survive to consider what role they might have played in turning Santino into who he is now. Even as they realize that Santino is not the only ghost to return from the desert.


    Thank you.
     
  2. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man or BayView

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    Sorry you haven't had any feedback yet Homer. I missed this thread so hopefully with a bump others will see it.

    Usual disclaimer that I couldn't write an excellent query to save my life, and this isn't a genre I read.

    dust steel bone is a science-fiction/western novel [Pick one, not both - as far as I know, western isn't a recognised subgenre of sci-fi. This could easily be an instant reject. You need to know exactly where your book fits on a bookshop shelf.] of approximately 99k words. [They know it's approximate, and adding it makes your writing looser.] My education is in history and genocide, and while I do not write historical fiction, I often adapt historical concepts and systems into the milieu of speculative fiction. dust steel bone is one of these endeavors. [This doesn't add anything to your query; at this stage, all the agent cares about is your book. If she's interested in representing you, then she'll ask about your background.]

    After wandering [Could you use a more active verb? Living in the desert? Surviving in the desert? Wandering makes him sound passive.] the desert for twenty years, Santino returns to find his homeland changed. Rills have become rivers and the saplings of his youth have evolved into forests, creeping across the Andari plains where once there was only dust. Santino too is unrecognizable. He still wears the long coat of the Malawi but he is shorter and leaner than he used to be. And his eyes, the ubiquitous amber of his people, have become purple behind his desert mask and goggles. One thing that hasn’t changed is Santino’s memory. The cut and contour of the bluffs and canyons of his home. The Company regulators that came from afar to buy and reshape Andar. And the family that shunned him long ago. [You've used 121 words to tell us that Santino left his homeland when the Company regulators came and his family shunned him, and now he's back. What you haven't told us is why he's come back.]

    Their voices haunt Santino as he revisits Andar, hell bent on bringing the desert back to the people who would seek to take it away from him. [Eh? How is he going to bring the desert back to people, and who are they? Why has he left the desert in order to bring the desert back?] But still they do not recognize him, even after he destroys the Company’s largest gas refinery and turns his attention to the northern cities, hiding in the forgotten shadows of the old sewers and train tubes. [Why? What's so bad about The Company?] The Company is at a loss. They’ve built the schools and the roads, but Andar is still plagued with discontent and indigents who would like nothing more than to undo all the progress they’ve made.

    They turn to Bishop, a down on his luck mercenary who no longer has much belief in his own right, [His right to do what?] let alone that of the people he is supposed to protect. [He's a mercenary, who is he supposed to protect?] Bishop soon learns that finding Santino, never mind taking him, will be unlike anything he has attempted before. His search takes him from the back alleys of the capital to the desert wastes of the south where the Malawi, Santino’s old family, have been too busy trying to survive to consider what role they might have played in turning Santino into who he is now. Even as they realize that Santino is not the only ghost to return from the desert. [This last sentence is the only hint of a hook I've seen, but it's too vague. Is this an actual ghost?[/QUOTE]

    I think this is a scrap and re-do. There are some main things we need to know:
    • What does the MC want and why?
    • Who's trying to stop him and why?
    • What's at stake if the MC doesn't succeed?
    • What's the hook?
    I'm not clear on any of those points.
     
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  3. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    [/QUOTE]


    I agree with what @Tenderiser says here. If you go back and work on those four points she mentioned at the end, you'll have a snappier, more attractive query.

    I think you're trying to tell too much of your story here, and it ends up sounding like a dry and confusing history lesson. Focus on Santino, if he's your main character. Drag us into the story with him.
     
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  4. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin The game sour like a pickle be.... Contributor

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    Thanks @jannert and @Tenderiser. I get it. I suck at these. And if you think this is bad:

    You should see some of the earlier drafts, haha... I've tinkered with a bit more but every time I try answering one of those questions it draws in more story and gets worse. Still plugging though...
     
  5. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man or BayView

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    Maybe if you put the answers here, we can play around with it? It's often easier for someone with distance to write a query. I mean, I doubt any of us can come up with a perfect one without reading the book, but it might give you a base to work from.

    (I say this because a certain WFer wrote part of my query, and it worked :D)
     
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  6. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    I think it's really useful to think of queries as being sales pitches rather than accurate representations of your novel. Does that make sense? Like, if I'm reading a sales pitch for, say, a car, it'll definitely have some facts in it, but the main effort will be on creating a mood, an impression, an attitude. Don't go overboard with this, but don't go too far in the opposite direction, either - you need to present some basic information, but not ALL the basic information, and if the resulting letter makes the agent want to read your first chapters, s/he can get the rest of the information then.
     
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  7. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin The game sour like a pickle be.... Contributor

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    I will at some point... thanks!
     
  8. Niki

    Niki New Member

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    This is old, I know, apologies if you're no longer looking for help.

    You wander off into too many POVs and I don't actually know what this story is about. I don't know who the company is. I don't know who his family is. I don't know who the other ghost is. And, not all of that matters in a query.
    Who is your MC?
    What do they want?
    How will they get it?
    What happens if they fail?
     

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