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A PYRE FOR THE BLACKWATER(Adult Dark Science-Fantasy) (Query Reboot)(3/13) (Critiques Welcome/Will Critique in return)

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#1 albarchs

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Posted 15 October 2017 - 07:07 PM

Update 3/13

 

So I worked on querying this novel from January to early February: And I received 4 requests. 1 partial, 3 fulls, that are currently being read/waiting to be read. To put it into perspective, I sent out 26 queries last year for my first novel. I received zero responses. This time, I sent out 16 the first batch, and I received four requests so far. So, thank you guys for the help.

 

I haven't submitted any queries the last month, as I've made some modifications to the story based on an agent feedback/minor things.

 

I finally figured out the male MC's angle/what it was missing. But I'm still trying to keep the query tight. It's about 270 flat pitch, but I'm trying to figure out how to condense it to maybe 230-250 max. I'll look at anyone's queries, and would be glad to receive feedback on this rebooted one.

 

Thank you.



#2 Faltho

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Posted 16 October 2017 - 08:13 AM

 

Mora Aresh once ruled the known world (Nice intro). Now she’s lost it and isn’t sure she ever deserved it (This feels a little awkward for me to read. Perhaps it's from the double use of 'she' in such a short spacing).

 

After returning home from a failed expedition to explore the dark side of the world, Mora is betrayed by her beloved cousin and Legion successor, Aratha. Barely escaping with her life with the aid of her lifelong friends and acolytes, she finds her legacy of peace and reform shattered in the wake of her cousin’s failed assassination. Humiliated and grief stricken at Aratha’s unfathomable betrayal, Mora discards her former regal identity and transforms into an Outrider, a holy mercenary that carves their own path according to her ancestral faith. Mora embraces her strife and misery like all true Outriders before and vows a simple retribution: liberate her former dominion and bring Aratha’s fledgling reign to its pathetic knees (Very strong paragraph).

 

But Mora and Aratha are both Kadran, and successors of the sisters who nearly conquered all of Orenos, a world that should have died but endured (Not sure you need this sentence). When Mora received word of Aratha’s potential alliance with a brutal warlord who hates the Kadran, she and her acolytes travel far south. A distrustful chieftainess, in bitter civil war with her warlord cousin, demands Mora prove she isn’t another tyrant like her cousin or mother before. As Mora leads a counter-insurgency against the southern warlord, she discovers old ruins that connect to her mother’s lifelong obsession with the Kadran’s missing history. Inside, she discovers a corrupting power that brings her closer to the past her mother purposely buried from Mora and her kin. As blood flows and gunpowder sings, Mora questions her true motives. She’ll have to decide between ending Aratha’s reign and pursuing her mother’s true mission in invading Orenos. Whichever she chooses, Orenos will march towards its inevitable end (This paragraph feels much more like a synopsis, and a total shock to the system after the great first paragraph. Perhaps there is a way to cut down on the step-by-step plot feel here, which I think would make this second bit a lot easier and more interesting to read).

 

A TYRANT COMES is a 115,000 words dawn of the 19th century dark fantasy. It deals with themes of tyranny, atonement, and the nature of heroism in an amoral world. I have a BA in Political Science.



#3 albarchs

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Posted 16 October 2017 - 11:15 AM

 

 

Mora Aresh once ruled the known world (Nice intro). Now she’s lost it and isn’t sure she ever deserved it (This feels a little awkward for me to read. Perhaps it's from the double use of 'she' in such a short spacing).

 

After returning home from a failed expedition to explore the dark side of the world, Mora is betrayed by her beloved cousin and Legion successor, Aratha. Barely escaping with her life with the aid of her lifelong friends and acolytes, she finds her legacy of peace and reform shattered in the wake of her cousin’s failed assassination. Humiliated and grief stricken at Aratha’s unfathomable betrayal, Mora discards her former regal identity and transforms into an Outrider, a holy mercenary that carves their own path according to her ancestral faith. Mora embraces her strife and misery like all true Outriders before and vows a simple retribution: liberate her former dominion and bring Aratha’s fledgling reign to its pathetic knees (Very strong paragraph).

 

But Mora and Aratha are both Kadran, and successors of the sisters who nearly conquered all of Orenos, a world that should have died but endured (Not sure you need this sentence). When Mora received word of Aratha’s potential alliance with a brutal warlord who hates the Kadran, she and her acolytes travel far south. A distrustful chieftainess, in bitter civil war with her warlord cousin, demands Mora prove she isn’t another tyrant like her cousin or mother before. As Mora leads a counter-insurgency against the southern warlord, she discovers old ruins that connect to her mother’s lifelong obsession with the Kadran’s missing history. Inside, she discovers a corrupting power that brings her closer to the past her mother purposely buried from Mora and her kin. As blood flows and gunpowder sings, Mora questions her true motives. She’ll have to decide between ending Aratha’s reign and pursuing her mother’s true mission in invading Orenos. Whichever she chooses, Orenos will march towards its inevitable end (This paragraph feels much more like a synopsis, and a total shock to the system after the great first paragraph. Perhaps there is a way to cut down on the step-by-step plot feel here, which I think would make this second bit a lot easier and more interesting to read).

 

A TYRANT COMES is a 115,000 words dawn of the 19th century dark fantasy. It deals with themes of tyranny, atonement, and the nature of heroism in an amoral world. I have a BA in Political Science.

 

Second paragraph was a tough one. I do feel like the heart of the first act is there but it does have a synopsis like feel to it in the beginning. The funny thing is how much easier this query was to organize/think of since this novel is in the last rounds of polish. I'll tinker with it but wait to see other posts/critiques. Seriously, thanks for the look!



#4 VeletaC

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Posted 16 October 2017 - 01:05 PM

Dear [Agent],

 

Mora Aresh once ruled the known world ( what world is it, it's not clear) Now Mora's lost her former reign (as a what?) and isn’t sure she ever deserved it.

 

After returning home from a failed expedition to explore the dark side of the world, Mora is betrayed by her beloved cousin and Legion successor, Aratha. Barely escaping with her life with the aid of her lifelong friends and acolytes, she finds her legacy of peace and reform shattered in the wake of her cousin’s failed assassination(were there reasons for the assassinations expand). Humiliated and grief stricken at Aratha’s unfathomable betrayal ( how may times3,4 times?) , Mora discards her former regal identity and transforms into an Outrider, a holy mercenary that carves their own path according to her ancestral ( name the ancester and elaborate )faith. Mora embraces her strife and misery like all true Outriders before and vows a simple retribution: liberate her former dominion and bring Aratha’s fledgling reign to its pathetic knees.

 

But Mora and Aratha both inherited their mothers' sins. They both live in the binding shadow of the sisters who nearly conquered all of Orenos, a world that should have died but endured. When Mora received word of Aratha’s potential alliance with a brutal warlord who hates Mora's kind, she and her acolytes travel far south. A distrustful chieftainess, in bitter civil war with her warlord cousin, demands Mora prove she isn’t another tyrant like her cousin or mother before. As Mora leads a counter-insurgency against the southern warlord, she discovers old ruins that connect to her mother’s lifelong obsession with the Kadran’s missing history. Inside, she discovers a corrupting power that brings her closer to the past( what was the past, interesting but tell the story) her mother purposely buried from Mora and her kin. As blood flows and gunpowder sings, Mora questions her true motives. She’ll have to decide between ending Aratha’s reign and pursuing her mother’s true mission in invading Orenos. Whichever she chooses, Orenos will march towards its inevitable end.

 

This sounds like a lovely story and readable you added style and rhythm and the content is impressive. Is this part of the first chapter of a novel/short story? 

 

A TYRANT COMES is a 115,000 words dawn of the 19th century dark fantasy. It deals with themes of tyranny, atonement, and the nature of heroism in an amoral world.



#5 Illumen

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Posted 16 October 2017 - 11:36 PM

Dear [Agent],

 

Mora Aresh once ruled the known world. Now Mora's lost her former reign and isn’t sure she ever deserved it.

 

After returning home from a failed expedition to explore since expeditions are usually thought of as exploring journeys you probably don't need the 'to explore' the dark side of the world, Mora is betrayed by her beloved cousin and Legion successor, Aratha. Barely escaping with her life with the aid of this reads kinda weird with the two with's, maybe 'due to'? her lifelong friends and acolytes, she finds her legacy of peace and reform shattered in the wake of her cousin’s failed assassination. Humiliated and grief stricken at Aratha’s unfathomable betrayal, Mora discards her former regal identity and transforms into an Outrider, a holy mercenary that carves their own path according to her i think this should be 'their' to agree with the previous pronoun ancestral faith. Mora embraces her strife and misery like all true Outriders before and vows a simple retribution: liberate her former dominion and bring Aratha’s fledgling reign to its pathetic knees coool.

 

But Mora and Aratha both inherited their mothers' sins. They both live in the binding shadow of the sisters who nearly conquered all of Orenos, a world that should have died but endured. agree with starting this paragraph here When Mora received word of Aratha’s potential alliance with a brutal warlord who hates Mora's kind, she and her acolytes travel far south. A distrustful chieftainess, in bitter civil war with her warlord cousin, demands Mora prove she isn’t another tyrant like her cousin or mother before. As Mora leads a counter-insurgency against the southern warlord, she discovers old ruins that connect to her mother’s lifelong obsession with the Kadran’s missing history. Inside, she discovers a corrupting power that brings her closer to  maybe? the/a past her mother purposely buried from Mora and her kin. As blood flows and gunpowder sings, Mora questions her hers or her mother's? unclear to me true motives. She’ll have to decide between ending Aratha’s reign and pursuing her mother’s true mission in invading Orenos. Whichever she chooses, Orenos will march towards its inevitable end. this is really interesting, would read

 

A TYRANT COMES is a 115,000 words dawn of the 19th century dark fantasy. It deals with themes of tyranny, atonement, and the nature of heroism in an amoral world.



#6 albarchs

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Posted 17 October 2017 - 04:15 PM

 

Dear [Agent],

 

Mora Aresh once ruled the known world ( what world is it, it's not clear) Now Mora's lost her former reign (as a what?) and isn’t sure she ever deserved it.

 

After returning home from a failed expedition to explore the dark side of the world, Mora is betrayed by her beloved cousin and Legion successor, Aratha. Barely escaping with her life with the aid of her lifelong friends and acolytes, she finds her legacy of peace and reform shattered in the wake of her cousin’s failed assassination(were there reasons for the assassinations expand). Humiliated and grief stricken at Aratha’s unfathomable betrayal ( how may times3,4 times?) , Mora discards her former regal identity and transforms into an Outrider, a holy mercenary that carves their own path according to her ancestral ( name the ancester and elaborate )faith. Mora embraces her strife and misery like all true Outriders before and vows a simple retribution: liberate her former dominion and bring Aratha’s fledgling reign to its pathetic knees.

 

But Mora and Aratha both inherited their mothers' sins. They both live in the binding shadow of the sisters who nearly conquered all of Orenos, a world that should have died but endured. When Mora received word of Aratha’s potential alliance with a brutal warlord who hates Mora's kind, she and her acolytes travel far south. A distrustful chieftainess, in bitter civil war with her warlord cousin, demands Mora prove she isn’t another tyrant like her cousin or mother before. As Mora leads a counter-insurgency against the southern warlord, she discovers old ruins that connect to her mother’s lifelong obsession with the Kadran’s missing history. Inside, she discovers a corrupting power that brings her closer to the past( what was the past, interesting but tell the story) her mother purposely buried from Mora and her kin. As blood flows and gunpowder sings, Mora questions her true motives. She’ll have to decide between ending Aratha’s reign and pursuing her mother’s true mission in invading Orenos. Whichever she chooses, Orenos will march towards its inevitable end.

 

This sounds like a lovely story and readable you added style and rhythm and the content is impressive. Is this part of the first chapter of a novel/short story? 

 

A TYRANT COMES is a 115,000 words dawn of the 19th century dark fantasy. It deals with themes of tyranny, atonement, and the nature of heroism in an amoral world.

 

I appreciate the feedback. There are some worldbuilding elements in the query like you noticed. The one thing I took away from the story I'm querying atm was to not overload in jargon/terminology based on previous suggestions on here. I probably need to give a quick blurb/short sentence to explain the one or two elements there. The past can be expanded but I do feel its best not go to overboard, I did just that in other queries before and  the query ballooned getting too bogged down in setting details.

 

It's the first chapter/opening act.



#7 albarchs

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Posted 17 October 2017 - 04:41 PM

 

Dear [Agent],

 

Mora Aresh once ruled the known world. Now Mora's lost her former reign and isn’t sure she ever deserved it.

 

After returning home from a failed expedition to explore since expeditions are usually thought of as exploring journeys you probably don't need the 'to explore' the dark side of the world, Mora is betrayed by her beloved cousin and Legion successor, Aratha. Barely escaping with her life with the aid of this reads kinda weird with the two with's, maybe 'due to'? her lifelong friends and acolytes, she finds her legacy of peace and reform shattered in the wake of her cousin’s failed assassination. Humiliated and grief stricken at Aratha’s unfathomable betrayal, Mora discards her former regal identity and transforms into an Outrider, a holy mercenary that carves their own path according to her i think this should be 'their' to agree with the previous pronoun ancestral faith. Mora embraces her strife and misery like all true Outriders before and vows a simple retribution: liberate her former dominion and bring Aratha’s fledgling reign to its pathetic knees coool.

 

But Mora and Aratha both inherited their mothers' sins. They both live in the binding shadow of the sisters who nearly conquered all of Orenos, a world that should have died but endured. agree with starting this paragraph here When Mora received word of Aratha’s potential alliance with a brutal warlord who hates Mora's kind, she and her acolytes travel far south. A distrustful chieftainess, in bitter civil war with her warlord cousin, demands Mora prove she isn’t another tyrant like her cousin or mother before. As Mora leads a counter-insurgency against the southern warlord, she discovers old ruins that connect to her mother’s lifelong obsession with the Kadran’s missing history. Inside, she discovers a corrupting power that brings her closer to  maybe? the/a past her mother purposely buried from Mora and her kin. As blood flows and gunpowder sings, Mora questions her hers or her mother's? unclear to me true motives. She’ll have to decide between ending Aratha’s reign and pursuing her mother’s true mission in invading Orenos. Whichever she chooses, Orenos will march towards its inevitable end. this is really interesting, would read

 

A TYRANT COMES is a 115,000 words dawn of the 19th century dark fantasy. It deals with themes of tyranny, atonement, and the nature of heroism in an amoral world.

 

Second query starts at your suggestion. I got into a bit more story/specifics, but still feel like I can shave off 20-30 words. Still, thanks for the look/suggestions.



#8 anah+theshadowaccomplice

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Posted 19 October 2017 - 07:03 PM

Dear Agent,

 

Mora Aresh once ruled the known world of Orenos. Now Mora's lost her former reign and isn’t sure she ever deserved it. Okay, bringing in the morals is good here, a little person vs. self.... 

 

After Is she betrayed while she's away, or actually after she's returned home? If the latter, this seems a little extraneous, unless it's made clear that Aratha betrays her because she failed. returning home from a failed expedition to uncover a part of her people’s lost history on the dark side of the world, Mora is betrayed by her beloved cousin and Legion successor What is a legion successor? This might be one too many world-building tidbits for the query, just saying she's a beloved cousin should be strong enough here, Aratha. Barely escaping with her life, due to I'd go with "with" here, because saying "due to" makes it feel like they were the ones who nearly killed her the aid of her lifelong friends and acolytes, Mora finds her legacy of peace and reform as an Archon, a living vessel of her people’s conflict driven tenets, shattered in the wake of her cousin’s failed assassination. This sentence is really long. I'd consider moving the info I have strike-through to a later sentence. Humiliated and grief stricken at over Aratha’s unfathomable betrayal, Mora discards her former regal identity and transforms like... as in literally transforms, or just becomes? into an Outrider, Okay, so now we know what an Archon is, and an Outrider, and this query is pretty short to have to keep track of all that. a holy mercenary that carves their own path according to their ancestral faith. Mora embraces her strife and misery like all true Outriders before and vows a simple retribution: liberate her former dominion and bring Aratha’s fledgling reign to its knees. Now this, this should be the last sentence of the query. 

 

When Mora receives word of Aratha’s potential alliance with a brutal warlord who hates Mora's kind, Outriders? Archons? I mean, they're cousins right, so they can't be that different race-wise she and her acolytes travel far south. Mora calls in old debts from her distrustful If they are allies, why does she distrust them so much. Or is this supposed to be mistrustful allies, who don't trust her much? allies to raise a counter-Legion Still not clear on what this Legion thing is.... to fight Aratha’s inscrutable ambitions and true purpose for betraying Mora Wait, now there's a true reason. Well that's what I wanna hear about!!. As Mora and Aratha wage a proxy war through their former enemies, Mora discovers ancient ruins that match ones in her wasteland like homeworld,Okay, so there is some world jumping going on here? the same kind of ruins she found half way across the world Two bucks says it's ruined modern day human cities :P (don't worry, I'm just teasing). As blood flows and gunpowder Yes! sings, Mora questions her true motives for waging her wrathful crusade To me, crusade kind of implies something specific. A "holy" war, or at least something marketed as "holy" and that's still straying from how I think of them historically. She’ll have to decide between ending Aratha’s reign and pursuing her mother’s true mission in invading Orenos Above, Orennos is called a known world, meaning that it would be the entire world this story is set it. But in order to invade it, it would either have to a country, or there would have to be some serious dimension/world jumping going on. Whichever she chooses, Orenos will march towards its inevitable end. Okay, I guess that sentence I said should be the last can't quite fit here if she hasn't decided yet... but if she does decide to go with war, I don't think that will give anything away and really put that emphasis on the unique idea she know's she wrong to do it, but it's the only way. I like the inner conflict bit of this. 

 

A TYRANT COMES is a 115,000 word, dawn of the 19th century​, dark fantasy. It deals with themes of tyranny, atonement, and the nature of heroism in an amoral world.

So the tone of this reminded me of the blurbs on the back of 1980's TOR or DelRay fantasy books. This is very much in that style. Sparkle word after sparkle word, "Oh, you thought that last sentence wasn't dramatic enough, well check out this one!!" Lot's of names, lot's of fancy fantasy sounding words, intro to fantasy sounding job. I'm not saying that's a bad thing (I've literally picked up and read hundreds of those books, and I wasn't even alive when they were being published), but I would hope the tone of the story matches the tone of the query. The voice should be the same in the letter as it is in the book, or as close as you can manage, so the agent knows what to expect. 

 

Sounds fun, sounds fantasy, good luck on it!


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#9 albarchs

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Posted 19 October 2017 - 07:33 PM

So the tone of this reminded me of the blurbs on the back of 1980's TOR or DelRay fantasy books. This is very much in that style. Sparkle word after sparkle word, "Oh, you thought that last sentence wasn't dramatic enough, well check out this one!!" Lot's of names, lot's of fancy fantasy sounding words, intro to fantasy sounding job. I'm not saying that's a bad thing (I've literally picked up and read hundreds of those books, and I wasn't even alive when they were being published), but I would hope the tone of the story matches the tone of the query. The voice should be the same in the letter as it is in the book, or as close as you can manage, so the agent knows what to expect. 

 

Sounds fun, sounds fantasy, good luck on it!

 

It definitely feels like a 1980sesque back cover blurb. I do agree, I think there's a few too many worldbuilding elements in this query. I think the Outrider and the world, Orenos, are the two elements I should focus on. Honestly, this story is pretty much a throwback to late 1990s/early 2000s dark fantasy. Less Joe Abercrombie, more Malazan or the Black Company. I do agree some of the word choice is mismatched, a quick edit can take care of that.

 

And you are right. I think most of it is word edits/swaps to make it clearer. I would definitely say this is a safer model/my homage to old school dark fantasy. Unlike Runner of the Void, I had a much easier time envisioning this story and its query. I'm modeling this query based on excellent points from dogsbody, who really helped with their criticism/suggestions on things I was forgetting/not focusing. There might be some dollar words there but I do think most of them convey the point. There is a religious/dogma element to her crusade/counter-rebellion.

 

Jeremy Szal's Rogueman query success provided some insight as well. As much as I devil's advocated its "genreness/seen it before story", his query was precise and conveyed enough to me that I would potentially pick it up. I might trim some of the dollar words but a lot of advice (that I agree with) on this website has been be specific about the nature of the elements. If its too vague (a dark secret? Ok, what secret? I play DA with most of my stuff, so I'm aware of how it might come across).

 

I'm not sure about the tone criticism. I get what you're saying but I would say the tone is a little more flexible. The book's tone/voice is two povs who are different. However, the objective/narrative voice are closer than it would appear. It's not Sanderson's Shardblades, five hundred pages of customs, etc. It's more Martin's in the character's head, relating to the setting, history, while weaving the machinations, the battles, and quiet scenes together in that close but still older style of narrative. I changed up my style and it reflects in this query as well.

 

I'll tinker with it but seriously thanks for the tidbits/suggestions.



#10 anah+theshadowaccomplice

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Posted 19 October 2017 - 08:18 PM

I'm not sure about the tone criticism. I get what you're saying but I would say the tone is a little more flexible. The book's tone/voice is two povs who are different. However, the objective/narrative voice are closer than it would appear. It's not Sanderson's Shardblades, five hundred pages of customs, etc. It's more Martin's in the character's head, relating to the setting, history, while weaving the machinations, the battles, and quiet scenes together in that close but still older style of narrative. I changed up my style and it reflects in this query as well.

 

I'll tinker with it but seriously thanks for the tidbits/suggestions.

No problem! It's a fun query. I wasn't really criticising the tone so much as pointing out my immediate impression as a reader. If I were to read the letter, and then read the first ten pages to find the narrative voice was vastly different (I'm talking structure and style here, not POV/tense/closeness), I might be a little put off. In my case, I might even be a bit disappointed because I love the feel of those older dark fantasies. That's what kept me reading them :)

 

 I agree, veering towards concrete details is better than being too mysterious about it, but I think "show don't tell" actually applies to queries a little more than actual writing. Really draw the reader in with tidbits that give all the information required, without tacking it all on in appositives, for instance. Of course, only if possible. Otherwise, I really do think this query is well on it's way. All the stuff is there :)


My Query Letter: Killing Crow

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#11 albarchs

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Posted 19 October 2017 - 11:33 PM

No problem! It's a fun query. I wasn't really criticising the tone so much as pointing out my immediate impression as a reader. If I were to read the letter, and then read the first ten pages to find the narrative voice was vastly different (I'm talking structure and style here, not POV/tense/closeness), I might be a little put off. In my case, I might even be a bit disappointed because I love the feel of those older dark fantasies. That's what kept me reading them :)

 

 I agree, veering towards concrete details is better than being too mysterious about it, but I think "show don't tell" actually applies to queries a little more than actual writing. Really draw the reader in with tidbits that give all the information required, without tacking it all on in appositives, for instance. Of course, only if possible. Otherwise, I really do think this query is well on it's way. All the stuff is there :)

 

You are spot on. The actual content/presentation is less grim and more matter of fact/character's pov/narration coloring each chapter. I would say the tone/presentation is closer to the Black Company. Not necessarily the world or style, but a very gray vs gray conflict. Not baby eating barbarian vs lord of oblivion kind of story. I love grimdark but sometimes some of the stuff coming out forgets why Croaker and the members of the Black Company were lovable/memorable, despite their pretty reprehensible/implied atrocities.



#12 MICRONESIA

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Posted 20 October 2017 - 07:00 AM

Dear Agent,

 

Mora Aresh once ruled the known world of Orenos. Now Mora's lost her former reign and isn’t sure she ever deserved it.

 

After returning home from a failed expedition to uncover a part of her people’s lost history on the dark side of the world, This is a VERY long introductory clause. As always, these make it easy to get lost. I suggest breaking it up. Mora is betrayed by her beloved cousin and Legion successor, Aratha. Betrayed how? Arantha tries to kill her? Steals her boyfriend? Buys stuff with her iTunes account? After escaping with her life due to the aid of her lifelong friends and acolytes, Mora finds her legacy of peace and reform as an Archon, a living vessel of her people’s conflict driven tenets, shattered in the wake of her cousin’s failed assassination. There is WAY too much information crammed into this sentence. Humiliated and grief-stricken by Aratha’s unfathomable betrayal, Mora discards her former regal identity and transforms into an Outrider, a holy mercenary that carves their This should be singular. Subject/verb agreement. own path according to their ancestral faith. Mora embraces her strife and misery like all true Outriders before and vows a simple retribution: liberate her former dominion and bring Aratha’s fledgling reign to its knees. Six proper nouns so far. It also seems like every noun has an adjective: "failed," "lost," "dark," "beloved," etc. You don't need half of these.

 

When Mora receives word of Aratha’s potential alliance with a brutal warlord who hates Mora's kind, Another long introductory clause. You've also started both paragraphs similarly: "After..." "When..." she and her acolytes travel far south. Mora calls in old debts from her distrustful allies to raise a counter-Legion to fight Aratha’s inscrutable ambitions and true purpose More adjectives. for betraying Mora. As Mora and Aratha wage a proxy war through their former enemies, Mora discovers ancient ruins that match ones in her wasteland like homeworld, the same kind of ruins she found half way across the world. What does this have to do with the main plot? As blood flows and gunpowder sings, Mora questions her true motives for waging her wrathful crusade . Vague. She’ll have to decide between ending Aratha’s reign and pursuing her mother’s Wait. There's a mother all of a sudden? true mission in invading Orenos. Aren't "ending Arantha's reign" and "invading Orenos" the same thing? I thought Arantha was the new queen of Orenos. I get no sense of urgency from these stakes because they're so vague. Whichever she chooses, Orenos will march towards its inevitable end.

 

A TYRANT COMES is a 115,000 word dawn of the 19th century dark fantasy. It deals with themes of tyranny, atonement, and the nature of heroism in an amoral world. This last sentence is telling, not showing. You don't need it. We should infer these things.

 

 

I feel like you're doing your best to get the plot onto the page. And don't fret -- you'll get there. But right now, this query lacks style. There is very little punch/rhythm to your sentences. Again, this will come later. As far as the plot itself, see my comments above. It veers off into vagueness at times, especially in the second half of the query. Right now, I don't see how it's much different from the usual "usurped leader fights to reclaim her throne" fantasy story. For your next draft, I think you should highlight the SPECIFICS that make this novel different from all the rest of its ilk.



#13 albarchs

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Posted 20 October 2017 - 08:58 AM

I feel like you're doing your best to get the plot onto the page. And don't fret -- you'll get there. But right now, this query lacks style. There is very little punch/rhythm to your sentences. Again, this will come later. As far as the plot itself, see my comments above. It veers off into vagueness at times, especially in the second half of the query. Right now, I don't see how it's much different from the usual "usurped leader fights to reclaim her throne" fantasy story. For your next draft, I think you should highlight the SPECIFICS that make this novel different from all the rest of its ilk.

On the one hand, I think this is a matter of just preferences. Like you said, it's a balancing act between plot but others have pointed out the strengths of this query. Cutting down the dollar words makes sense. However, some of the points you make on adjectives like inscrutable ambitions or true purpose modify the words as they are meant to be. Inscrutable suggests incomprehensible, holy suggests religious connotations, and beloved is important because it emphasizes the relationship/emotional connection to the reader. There's nothing wrong with using a few adjectives to highlight words/strengthen their importance. Also, their can/has been used as both plural and singular for a long time. Since the term refers to both sexes, it works in that sentence.

 

However, you are correct in that the second half is jumbled. Some of the introduction sentences need a tweak as well. I want to avoid cipher syndrome. Sure, you might have a working query but if I don't know what's happened to the MC/Query character, her relationship, and her personal/plot stakes, why do I care? It's not always about the plot but rather the emotional connection to the character.

 

Still, I appreciate the feedback.



#14 MICRONESIA

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Posted 20 October 2017 - 09:23 AM

What do you mean a "balancing act between plot?" Your plot is VAGUE. That is bad. No, it's not a matter of preference. Specifics matter. You don't have enough yet.

 

Where did you get that I said you need to sacrifice character for plot? That's not what I said at all.

 

 

 

Mora Aresh once ruled the known world of Orenos. Now Mora's lost her former reign and isn’t sure she ever deserved it.

 

After returning home from a failed expedition to uncover a part of her people’s lost history on the dark side of the world, Mora is betrayed by her beloved cousin and Legion successor, Aratha. Barely escaping with her life due to the aid of her lifelong friends and acolytes, Mora finds her legacy of peace and reform as an Archon, a living vessel of her people’s conflict driven tenets, shattered in the wake of her cousin’s failed assassination. Humiliated and grief stricken at Aratha’s unfathomable betrayal, Mora discards her former regal identity and transforms into an Outrider, a holy mercenary that carves their own path according to their ancestral faith. Mora embraces her strife and misery like all true Outriders before and vows a simple retribution: liberate her former dominion and bring Aratha’s fledgling reign to its knees.

 

When Mora receives word of Aratha’s potential alliance with a brutal warlord who hates Mora's kind, she and her acolytes travel far south. Mora calls in old debts from her distrustful allies to raise a counter-Legion to fight Aratha’s inscrutable ambitions and true purpose for betraying Mora. As Mora and Aratha wage a proxy war through their former enemies, Mora discovers ancient ruins that match ones in her wasteland like homeworld, the same kind of ruins she found half way across the world. As blood flows and gunpowder sings, Mora questions her true motives for waging her wrathful crusade . She’ll have to decide between ending Aratha’s reign and pursuing her mother’s true mission in invading Orenos. Whichever she chooses, Orenos will march towards its inevitable end.

 

 

Any editor worth her salt will tell you that's WAY too many adjectives. Pretty much every noun has a modifier or two. It's over-writing. And no, this is not another preference. Agents see this stuff and automatically assume your work needs trimming. And by looking at your wordcount, I'd hazard to guess that's probably the case.



#15 albarchs

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Posted 20 October 2017 - 10:10 AM

What do you mean a "balancing act between plot?" Your plot is VAGUE. That is bad. No, it's not a matter of preference. Specifics matter. You don't have enough yet.

 

Where did you get that I said you need to sacrifice character for plot? That's not what I said at all.

 

 

 

Mora Aresh once ruled the known world of Orenos. Now Mora's lost her former reign and isn’t sure she ever deserved it.

 

After returning home from a failed expedition to uncover a part of her people’s lost history on the dark side of the world, Mora is betrayed by her beloved cousin and Legion successor, Aratha. Barely escaping with her life due to the aid of her lifelong friends and acolytes, Mora finds her legacy of peace and reform as an Archon, a living vessel of her people’s conflict driven tenets, shattered in the wake of her cousin’s failed assassination. Humiliated and grief stricken at Aratha’s unfathomable betrayal, Mora discards her former regal identity and transforms into an Outrider, a holy mercenary that carves their own path according to their ancestral faith. Mora embraces her strife and misery like all true Outriders before and vows a simple retribution: liberate her former dominion and bring Aratha’s fledgling reign to its knees.

 

When Mora receives word of Aratha’s potential alliance with a brutal warlord who hates Mora's kind, she and her acolytes travel far south. Mora calls in old debts from her distrustful allies to raise a counter-Legion to fight Aratha’s inscrutable ambitions and true purpose for betraying Mora. As Mora and Aratha wage a proxy war through their former enemies, Mora discovers ancient ruins that match ones in her wasteland like homeworld, the same kind of ruins she found half way across the world. As blood flows and gunpowder sings, Mora questions her true motives for waging her wrathful crusade . She’ll have to decide between ending Aratha’s reign and pursuing her mother’s true mission in invading Orenos. Whichever she chooses, Orenos will march towards its inevitable end.

 

 

Any editor worth her salt will tell you that's WAY too many adjectives. Pretty much every noun has a modifier or two. It's over-writing. And no, this is not another preference. Agents see this stuff and automatically assume your work needs trimming. And by looking at your wordcount, I'd hazard to guess that's probably the case.

Edit: Did a run through and I agree to a point. Cutting out the adjectives in the third query helped. Thanks for that.



#16 bookgirl_kt

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Posted 21 October 2017 - 04:04 PM

Here are my thoughts. Hope they help!

 

Dear Agent,

 

Mora Aresh healed the fractured world of Orenos through cunning, pragmatism, and old-fashioned charm. Nice opening--gives me a good sense of your character. It took her thirty years to undo her mother’s failed invasion, a mystery that’s plagued her since she was a young girl. This sentence confused me a bit: did her mother invade from another world? If this was a world war it might make more sense to say "her mother's failed war." Plus, an invasion doesn't seem like a mystery, unless you mean WHY she invaded is a mystery. At the height of her power, Mora gave everything (should this be present tense? The rest of the query is in present tense.) up to pursue her last link to her mother: a tablet linking Mora’s worldfaring race to Orenos, centuries before her mother's invasion. Chasing a strong lead half way across the world, Mora finds only dust and ash. Instead, something finds her.

 

The Ivory, an insidious force that’s plagued races across the cosmos for millennia, infects her crew. Mora barely escapes with her life; she returns to her former stronghold seeking answers from her successor and cousin, Aratha. Aratha greets her with a disturbing claim to have surprise: she’s mastered the Ivory and found the means to overcome its influence. Aratha’s erratic behavior says otherwise, and Mora narrowly escapes conversion at Aratha’s hands.

 

Grief-stricken at Aratha’s betrayal, Mora casts aside her past. She becomes an Outrider, a mercenary that carves her path according to Mora’s faith. Cleansed of her failures, Mora launches a counterinsurgency to reclaim her legacy. But grudges don’t fade and Mora has to prove to the world she isn’t a tyrant like her mother or cousin. As Mora wages skirmishes against Aratha’s acolytes, the Ivory’s song spreads and Mora uncovers a disturbing truth: she can use the Ivory without losing her will. As blood flows and gunpowder sings, Nice line. Mora questions her motives for her insurgency. She’ll have to decide between ending Aratha’s reign and discovering the Ivory’s purpose for Mora’s ambitions. Whichever she chooses, Orenos will march toward its end. Good ending, though I wish you'd explained why Orenos is doomed either way earlier.

 

A TYRANT COMES is a 115,000 word dawn of the 19th century epic dark fantasy. Up until this point I hadn't gotten any hint of 19th century technology; it seemed more high fantasy.

 

This seems like a really interesting story! My biggest critique is I think there's too much going on. I suspect you've given away more of the story than is normal in a query letter (surely it takes us at least fifty pages to get to Aratha's takeover?) Plus there's a lot going on with an intricate plot and morally complicated characters. For a query letter, I think it's okay to pick one or two things to focus on and write out the rest. Either the first paragraph or the third paragraph look like separate query letters, and you could turn either one into it's own letter. I think either letter would be cool and fascinating.

 

Hope I've helped! My query letter is here.



#17 albarchs

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Posted 22 October 2017 - 11:55 AM

Here are my thoughts. Hope they help!

 

Dear Agent,

 

Mora Aresh healed the fractured world of Orenos through cunning, pragmatism, and old-fashioned charm. Nice opening--gives me a good sense of your character. It took her thirty years to undo her mother’s failed invasion, a mystery that’s plagued her since she was a young girl. This sentence confused me a bit: did her mother invade from another world? If this was a world war it might make more sense to say "her mother's failed war." Plus, an invasion doesn't seem like a mystery, unless you mean WHY she invaded is a mystery. At the height of her power, Mora gave everything (should this be present tense? The rest of the query is in present tense.) up to pursue her last link to her mother: a tablet linking Mora’s worldfaring race to Orenos, centuries before her mother's invasion. Chasing a strong lead half way across the world, Mora finds only dust and ash. Instead, something finds her.

 

The Ivory, an insidious force that’s plagued races across the cosmos for millennia, infects her crew. Mora barely escapes with her life; she returns to her former stronghold seeking answers from her successor and cousin, Aratha. Aratha greets her with a disturbing claim to have surprise: she’s mastered the Ivory and found the means to overcome its influence. Aratha’s erratic behavior says otherwise, and Mora narrowly escapes conversion at Aratha’s hands.

 

Grief-stricken at Aratha’s betrayal, Mora casts aside her past. She becomes an Outrider, a mercenary that carves her path according to Mora’s faith. Cleansed of her failures, Mora launches a counterinsurgency to reclaim her legacy. But grudges don’t fade and Mora has to prove to the world she isn’t a tyrant like her mother or cousin. As Mora wages skirmishes against Aratha’s acolytes, the Ivory’s song spreads and Mora uncovers a disturbing truth: she can use the Ivory without losing her will. As blood flows and gunpowder sings, Nice line. Mora questions her motives for her insurgency. She’ll have to decide between ending Aratha’s reign and discovering the Ivory’s purpose for Mora’s ambitions. Whichever she chooses, Orenos will march toward its end. Good ending, though I wish you'd explained why Orenos is doomed either way earlier.

 

A TYRANT COMES is a 115,000 word dawn of the 19th century epic dark fantasy. Up until this point I hadn't gotten any hint of 19th century technology; it seemed more high fantasy.

 

This seems like a really interesting story! My biggest critique is I think there's too much going on. I suspect you've given away more of the story than is normal in a query letter (surely it takes us at least fifty pages to get to Aratha's takeover?) Plus there's a lot going on with an intricate plot and morally complicated characters. For a query letter, I think it's okay to pick one or two things to focus on and write out the rest. Either the first paragraph or the third paragraph look like separate query letters, and you could turn either one into it's own letter. I think either letter would be cool and fascinating.

 

Hope I've helped! My query letter is here.

One of the hardest parts of query writing is balancing worldbuilding, the character, and the first act/later story tease. I had a lot of help from a previous poster and Micronesia's comments actually helped me. The first two queries were I guess decent but vague plotwise. What I've written in this query is essentially the opening pages/inciting incident plus the flow of the first act. General rule I've come to agree with is get a sense of the character, setup the first 15-20% of the story, and then the last paragraph/line. This query you know the character better, the plot more specifically, and how those relate to the world/personal stakes more.

 

At most, a query should have 1-2 worldbuilding elements and then focus on that. My First drafts had 2-3 unexplained elements while important, took up too much space/words. Why Orenos is doomed is a tease. Explaining it in the last line would weaken the stakes line/you should leave a little mystery as to why the world is doomed. Your question is the exact response I want from a reader/potential agent.

 

But thank you for the feedback, it helped.



#18 tn_writer

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Posted 22 October 2017 - 01:22 PM

Update 10/20

 

Dear Agent,

 

Mora Aresh healed the fractured world of Orenos through cunning, pragmatism, and old-fashioned charm. It took her thirty years to undo her mother’s failed invasion, a mystery that’s plagued her since she was a young girl. At the height of her power, Mora gave everything up to pursue her last link to her mother: a tablet linking Mora’s worldfaring race to Orenos, centuries before her mother's invasion. Chasing a strong lead half way across the world, Mora finds only dust and ash. Instead, something finds her.

 

The Ivory, an insidious force that’s plagued races across the cosmos for millennia, infects her crew. Mora barely escapes with her life; she returns to her former stronghold seeking answers from her successor and cousin, Aratha. Aratha greets her with a disturbing surprise: she’s mastered the Ivory and found the means to overcome its influence. Aratha’s erratic behavior says otherwise, and Mora narrowly escapes conversion at Aratha’s hands.

 

Grief-stricken at Aratha’s betrayal, Mora casts aside her past. She becomes an Outrider, a mercenary that carves her path according to Mora’s faith. Cleansed of her failures, Mora launches a counterinsurgency to reclaim her legacy. But grudges don’t fade and Mora has to prove to the world she isn’t a tyrant like her mother or cousin. As Mora wages skirmishes against Aratha’s acolytes, the Ivory’s song spreads and Mora uncovers a disturbing truth: she can use the Ivory without losing her will. As blood flows and gunpowder sings, Mora questions her motives for her insurgency. She’ll have to decide between ending Aratha’s reign and discovering the Ivory’s purpose for Mora’s ambitions. Whichever she chooses, Orenos will march toward its end.

 

A TYRANT COMES is a 115,000 word dawn of the 19th century epic dark fantasy.

 

 

I'm a newbie here, but I'll do my best to offer a helpful nugget. It does read a bit like a synopsis, so maybe you could try replacing the secondary-character names with nouns and center all the action on Mora. You want the agent to connect to her and her only, right? That's what I'm doing, at least.  :wacko: Great start though, especially for a 115k-word MS. It's so hard to condense!



#19 albarchs

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Posted 08 November 2017 - 07:18 PM

Query #5

 

Dear Agent,

 

Mora Aresh will carve peace into Orenos again-even if she ends up remembered a tyrant.

 

When the Ivory Flower, an entity that’s plagued the cosmos for centuries, drives her expedition to a familiar madness, Mora sees herself reflected in their scarlet marked eyes. Nearly killed, but never beaten, she returns to the only person she can trust back home.

 

The Ivory follows her wherever she goes. Instead of a warm welcome, her cousin and successor has tainted her soul with the Ivory’s intoxicating song. The one person she loved and trusted now dances to its maddening melody. Her world, her legacy, the Ivory robs her of everything she holds dear.

 

But Mora is the woman who held the world together for three decades. Born of fire, bound in steel, she’ll show the Ivory and those who succumb to its power to never cross she who thirsts for fire. She’ll ignite a world war to deter the Ivory’s song and prevent her world’s end. But Mora has no idea that her war may lead Orenos to repeat its forgotten tragedies again. To save her world, she’ll have to become one with the Ivory. At the end of it all, she may have to bring Orenos to its inevitable end.

 

A TYRANT COMES is a 105,000-word dark fantasy novel, a standalone tragedy with series potential.



#20 RRouth

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Posted 08 November 2017 - 09:00 PM

Query #5

 

Dear Agent,

 

Mora Aresh will carve peace into Orenos again-even if she ends up remembered a tyrant. I'm a little lost here. The intro is vague. I liked your earlier hook of Mora being the ruler. Maybe try something like 'Mora Aresh, the former ruler of Orenos, will carve peace in the world even if she ends up remembers as a tyrant.' I think knowing that she was the ruler and seems to have fallen is very important. I also like the thought of her being remembered as a tyrant, because I'm getting from the sentence that she isn't.

 

When the Ivory Flower, an entity (I'm a little confused here. What kind of entity? Being? Spirit? I think you need more description here) that’s plagued the cosmos for centuries, drives her expedition to a familiar madness, Mora sees herself reflected in their scarlet marked eyes. Nearly killed, but never beaten, she returns to the only person she can trust back home. Love the last sentence, but I'm not understanding what she's doing with the expedition. I think you need a few sentences to connect the two. Maybe one sentence to explain the Ivory Flower. Then one to explain where Mora is. Then how the Ivory Flower attacks her.

 

The Ivory follows her wherever she goes. Instead of a warm welcome, her cousin and successor has tainted her (who's soul? Mora's?) soul with the Ivory’s intoxicating song. The one person she loved and trusted now dances to its maddening melody. Her world, her legacy, the Ivory robs her of everything she holds dear. Great last sentence again. I'm still getting a little bit of a disconnect between the Ivory Flower and what it's doing to Mora.

 

But Mora is the woman who held the world together for three decades (Okay, so she is the ruler. Touch on this earlier). Born of fire and bound in steel (great!), she’ll show the Ivory and those who succumb to its power to never cross she who thirsts for fire. She’ll ignite a world war to deter the Ivory’s song and prevent her world’s end. But Mora has no idea that her war may lead Orenos to repeat its forgotten tragedies again. To save her world, she’ll have to become one with the Ivory. At the end of it all, she may have to bring Orenos to its inevitable end.

 

A TYRANT COMES is a 105,000-word dark fantasy novel, a standalone tragedy with series potential.

 

Overall, it sounds like an interesting story idea. I read a few of your earlier query attempts and I think you have some strong links between all of them. The only thing I'm really struggling with is what exactly is the Ivory Flower. It feels like an actual being, but it doesn't seem to be one based on your later description in the Mora vs. self part of the later chapter. This one feels very sparse and very vague to me. In all honesty, I would recommend going back to the one from 10/20. From that one, while it reads a bit more like a synopsis, I have a much better handle on both your world building and your character. Here, I'm getting stakes, but I'm not getting any attachment to the character or any feeling for the world that you're in. From the one from 10/20, I sense your Mora's stakes and what she's going through. I'm sorry to throw you for a loop, but it's just an opinion. Personally, I'd scrap this one and go back to tweaking that one. This is a fantastic idea!


Take everything I say with a grain of salt. :tongue:






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