1. zoupskim

    zoupskim Contributor Contributor

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    Query Letter Query for Military Sci-fi

    Discussion in 'Query & Cover Letter Critique' started by zoupskim, Oct 25, 2017.

    I rewrote my letter thoroughly based on the following pointers/critiques.

    -The focus is broadened from a single character's arc, to the entire conflict.
    -Specific language was used throughout, such as actual location names, and specific plot beats.
    -Commas. Sentences are less breathy ;)

    Dear agent

    I am seeking representation for Proxy Soldier, a 110,000 word military science-fiction novel about a group of soldiers losing their identity in the only war their world has ever experienced.

    The planet of Endra is the location of humanity’s first extra-solar colony, with a million colonists spread between two technologically sophisticated city-states. A sudden invasion by a mysterious force plunges the population into militarization, and defense of the cities becomes the sole focus of every citizen. The enemy they face seems invisible, engaging from afar with machines and sniper fire.

    In reality, the perceived enemy is a wave of peaceful colonists and scientists. A faction of the Endra military plans to sever all ties with Earth. Through subtle manipulation of both sides’ advanced technology, this faction orchestrates a deadly conflict between the two groups. Charged with the defense of their people and planet, but complicit in the deception, some soldiers grow disillusioned with their actions, as the truth of their crimes is revealed more with every subsequent battle.

    Proxy Soldier is a brutal depiction of how military conflict can change people and technology for the worst, shown through the perspective of the soldiers affected. A lifesaving military data-sharing network is used to deceive an entire planet, injured soldiers saved by prosthetics suffer segregation and brainwashing, and national loyalty is used to justify genocide and child soldiers. The main characters struggle to establish a sense of personal morality, while trying to come to terms with a world where civilian casualties can be resurrected and reprogrammed into combatants.

    (Military credentials will be here)

    Thank you for your time
     
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2017
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  2. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Potatoes again? Supporter Contributor

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    If I hadn't read part of the book, this line might confuse me. Maybe something like "all memories...have been wiped and held hostage..." or something. Not sure, but that stuck out at me.

    Note: This is the first query letter I've ever read, so take my response with

    [​IMG]
     
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  3. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    I am pleased to submit my original manuscript: I am seeking representation for Proxy Soldier, A 110,000 word, military science-fiction novel about a conscripted soldier, fighting on a distant planet, who discovers she is fighting for her life and identity against her own people.

    Fuzz is a female criminal on Earth's first extra-solar colony, serving a term of forced military service during an invasion by an unknown force. All memory of her crime, life, and family are held hostage to motivate her to fight and kill for her country. Fighting at her side are several soldiers she's never met, a hostile team leader, and a disinterested mentor. The enemy force seems invisible, fighting from afar with machines and sniper fire, ever-present, enigmatic, and alien.

    Through her interaction with her squad mates, and the enemy they fight, she unravels the mystery of the colony and the entire war, slowly waking to a brutal, planet wide genocide. A faction of the colonists plan to wipe out or replace their fellow colonists, and create a world where only a new form of ascended human will survive. Although Fuzz is counted among the chosen, her new comrades-in-arms are doomed. She struggles to protect them, while fighting to preserve some shred of her own memory and past.

    Proxy Soldier is a brutal depiction of the mental strain of war on people. The story explores the themes of deception, genocide, and racism through a science-fiction lens. The future concepts explored are information control, future weapons technology, and prosthetic alteration and improvement of soldiers, and are all chosen specifically to explore the main themes. At the center is Fuzz, and her struggle to establish a sense of morality for herself. She is manipulated by lies, forced to kill without reason, and ultimately betrayed by what she believes.

    The narrative is written in a close, 3rd person limited perspective, with a focus on the physical and emotional degrading of the main characters, and the hardship of fighting in an asymmetrical battlefield. The antagonist is right beside the main characters for most of the story, several characters die worthless deaths, and the cost of the war is shown to far outweigh the benefit. The novel does not shrink from depicting warfare at it's most brutal, with civilian massacres and child-soldiers mixed with human experimentation and brainwashing.

    I am currently serving as a United States Marine rank, and have proudly served in many modern operations and conflicts. My work experience and military service gives me perspective on how modern conflicts affect people in the real world. I have personally counseled marines serving in combat zones, trained foreign soldiers, and assisted in the rescue and treatment of suicidal service members. I am intimately familiar with the language, day-to-day functioning, and subtleties of military life. and have attempted to capture the tone of military service in this narrative. I believe my novel Proxy Soldier is an original true vision of future warfare, with strong character development, and a careful eye for realism.


    Again take this with whatever NaCl there is left from Iain's supply

    Also unless you've changed the plot dramatically this description does not describe the book I beta read for you where fuzz was only a relatively small part and the main focus was on how both sides were deceived by the fog of war into fighting each other.
     
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  4. VynniL

    VynniL Contributor Contributor

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    I've been trying to figure out how to critique this without pushing my tone and approach. But I'll give it a go even though I'm also inexperienced with query letters.

    All the above suggested edits but I’d go as far as restructuring it. As I read, I wanted to reorganise things and shuffle it around. The way it's been done feels too safe and generic. There's no impact and is too long. I got a restless reading it.

    "The story explores the themes of deception, genocide, and racism through a science-fiction lens. "

    My brain literally switched off at this point. I was wondering why you need to list out these themes and claim the science fic lens. You already said it is science fiction. Would it not be better to pick a couple of the strongest themes and frame them in an engaging way to define this query? You want your voice and conviction to shine. It's a 'brutal' depiction...

    I’m concerned that moose says it’s not what he read when this letter implies the novel is centralized around Fuzz’s journey... Especially, when you state a ‘careful eye for realism’. Besides stating the obvious, I didn’t like this claim in general even though I know what you meant, but since you’re writing a female MC, I immediately thought: Oh really?

    Get rid of the day-to-day function, subtleties of life -- who honestly cares?! I'm imagining you brushing your teeth at this point. You said you're an active Marine with experience, we got it! It’s also most writers’ goal to carefully consider realism anyway. You don’t need to spoon feed this to your reader, especially after you stated your background.

    Umm...good luck. I know this wasn't useful, but I really tried!
     
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  5. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    I think you're a bit comma-heavy for modern usage, which is probably something you want to avoid in a query - in addition to making the agent question your grammar it also seems, at least to me, to give a kind of breathy, dippy reading to some of the sentences.

    Like, in the first paragraph I'd probably get rid of three commas... the capital Xs I'd definitely lose and the lower case x I'd probably lose.

    I am pleased to submit my original manuscript: Proxy Soldier, A 110,000 wordX military science-fiction novel about a conscripted soldierX fighting on a distant planetx who discovers she is fighting for her life and identity against her own people.
    But I'm far from an expert on punctuation and I certainly can't give you the rules for or against those commas. I'm just going by feel. Sorry that's not more concrete!

    Now, without the commas the sentence does seem pretty long, and maybe you meant that middle section to be a parenthetical, in which case the commas are needed, but I'd say that may be what contributes to my impression of breathy dippiness (which probably doesn't suit a Military SF novel!). Do you really need a parenthetical in your very first sentence?

    For my taste I'd want the whole query to be quite a bit shorter, so I'd probably shorten the first paragraph to:

    I am pleased to submit Proxy Soldier, A 110,000 word military science-fiction novel about a conscripted soldier who discovers she is fighting against her own people.​

    And then, again for my taste, I think I'd try to boil the last three paragraphs down into one. It's kinda the "show, don't tell" rule applied to query writing - there's nothing wrong with a bit of tell, especially for less important stuff, but you're telling a lot.

    I think being a marine is definitely relevant experience, but then I don't think you need to go into so much detail about what you've done (while still being fairly vague about your job title or MOS or whatever you guys call it!).

    It sounds like you've got a really interesting book and I like the middle paragraphs where you show it to me. I'm just not crazy about all the paragraphs where you tell me about it.
     
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2017
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  6. zoupskim

    zoupskim Contributor Contributor

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    Thanks for all the responses so far. I'm gonna let this original version sit for a bit longer before I post changes, but everything so far has been really helpful.

    This is my first ever query, for my first ever full book, on the first writing assistance forum I've ever been a part of. DON'T worry about offending me. I posted this with the assumption that it would need work.

    Thanks so much
     
  7. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Potatoes again? Supporter Contributor

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  8. zoupskim

    zoupskim Contributor Contributor

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    I'd like to field my thoughts, and ideas on correction/editing, based on the critiques people have posted. I've tried to paraphrase below, so if I missed the point of your critique please correct me.

    This is pretty straightforward. Thanks for the input, but I don't really have a question for you. I need to make sure everything is presented clearly. Roger :D Thanks for the response.

    @big soft moose Your suggested edits seem spot on. They remove a lot of fluff, and as I reread it you seem to imply I should lay off talking about technical aspects of the book.

    No, the plot is the same, and you're right in your synopsis. That character is a small part of a larger story, portrayed from five different character perspectives.

    The reason her point-of-view and journey are the subject of the query is because she's the only dynamic character, and all the different plot and setting developments lead to her growth. The other characters are there to show parts of the world and plot, but only Fuzz is dynamic. She changes because of the events of the book, so my plan with this letter was to mention her specifically.

    Your critique highlights a big limitation of the query though. The book looks like a pretty small story if its just about prisoner #1 trying to learn how to shoot a gun. I might have to rewrite the focus to include the entire ensemble of characters. Thanks for the response.

    Your advice seems to coincide with Moose and Bayview's advice about the length of the letter, the longer sentences, and dull subject. I've been struggling with how strong the language needs to be to describe it all. From your critique, I'd say it need to be stronger.

    This comment is eerie. I literally cut "brutal" from this query before I put it up, because I thought it was too strong. In the end, my letter seems a toothless blob :p Thanks for the advice.

    The commas and compound sentences and breathiness seems to describe in technical terms what everyone else was saying: all this is too long. It needs to be quick to read, and clear in meaning.

    Proxy Soldier is about a war destroying someone's identity. DONE.


    As for the "telling", in my first edit, I'm going to try to only "tell" about the heady science-fiction concepts. Thanks for the response.
     
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  9. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    The problem you have here is that that is fine for a back cover synopsis, but for an agent my understanding is that you need to tell them what the book is about so they can judge whether they can sell it (bear in mind that I'm not published and repeating second hand info so if @BayView says different go with her) - the risk you have here is in misleading an agent and potentially using up their goodwill
     
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  10. zoupskim

    zoupskim Contributor Contributor

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    Hey!

    Thanks everyone for all these pointers, and critiques, and blocks of salt :p I am infinitely grateful.
     
  11. TaylorkoleDOTcom

    TaylorkoleDOTcom Member

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    I think moose gave you great edits. I'm overwhelmed by query letter angst that I have never tried. You have my respect for putting this down.
    Reading it brought me mild confusion. Peaceful colonists is where I tuned out. Keep up the fight!
     
  12. Sphynx

    Sphynx Member

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    This is exactly the kind of edit I need for the query I just posted. (I posted two, but one is short and the other I know needs words cut out, but it pains me to do so, and thus I’m being indecisive). If you have time, can you check out my query post?
     

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