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SEVI & THE KEEPERS (YA Fantasy) Newly Revised


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#1 Queen of my backyard

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Posted 17 January 2018 - 07:41 PM

NEWEST Revision on post #13

A HUGE thank you for all the help so far. It has been invaluable. I appreciate any and all feedback and will gladly reciprocate.

 

 

Hi all... I'm new here, so thank you in advance for any and all help. I did my best to offer advice on a few other query letters before posting my own, but am more than happy to reciprocate for anyone willing to critique my query. 

 

I've attempted to write this according to the advice of the Query Shark (yes, I have read all 286 posts), but have yet to screw up enough courage to personally become chum in her bucket. I appreciate your input and your time, fellow writers. 

 

Dear Agent So and So,

 

Eighteen-year-old Severine “Sevi” Moriana gets the most unwanted gift she could imagine, smack-dab in the middle of her initiation into the Order of Histories. She starts seeing spirits. Four to be exact- known as The Ancients.

 

She’ll be executed if word gets out she can see them, not to mention ruin her family’s good name.

 

This can’t be happening to her of all people. She just became second in charge of the very Order tasked with protecting Pentara from seers, for Goddess sake!

 

When her mother falls unconscious at the post-initiation banquet, Sevi’s world unravels precipitously. Her greedy Aunt embarks on a scheme to wrest control of the Order of Histories from her comatose mother. As if that isn’t enough, The Ancients are threatening her sanity with their incessant chatter. They claim she’s The Return, the rightful Keeper of the outlawed Order of Moirai. Oh yeah, and the only one who can prevent Pentara from being overrun by a hostile adversary. They insist she ascend to the role of Keeper before it’s too late.

 

No thank you. She has real world problems that don’t involve a death wish.

 

 Despite the risks posed by The Ancients’ constant presence, her choice is clear. Sevi must defend against her Aunt’s petition in court. Then everything goes horribly wrong when her jealous best friend (and the only person she’s told about the spirits) turns up as a surprise witness and reveals her secret.

 

Prison turns out to be the easy part.

 

Set in a re-imagined alternate version of ancient Crete and steeped in mythology, SEVI & THE KEEPERS is complete at 79,900 words. This #ownvoices YA fantasy novel features an LGBT protagonist and explores themes of self-knowledge and identity, love, loss, and feminine power. It is a character driven story wrapped in high-stakes action that follows Sevi’s journey from passive denial to owning who she is; from accused criminal to possible savior.

 

This is my first novel. It is stand-alone, but planned as book one of a duology. While I’ve never been accused of a crime, and regrettably cannot see spirits, I have taken a similar journey to discovering who I am; coming out just in time for my fortieth birthday. I am a member of SCBWI.

 

Thank you for your time and consideration.

 

Best,


If you found my comments helpful, please consider critiquing my query at http://agentquerycon...fantasyrevised/


#2 lnloft

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Posted 17 January 2018 - 09:25 PM

Hi all... I'm new here, so thank you in advance for any and all help. I did my best to offer advice on a few other query letters before posting my own, but am more than happy to reciprocate for anyone willing to critique my query. 

 

I've attempted to write this according to the advice of the Query Shark (yes, I have read all 286 posts), but have yet to screw up enough courage to personally become chum in her bucket. I appreciate your input and your time, fellow writers. 

 

Dear Agent So and So,

 

Eighteen-year-old Severine “Sevi” Moriana gets the most unwanted gift she could imagine, smack-dab in the middle of her initiation into the Order of Histories I don't know what the "Order of Histories" is, so this means nothing to me. She starts seeing spirits. Four to be exact- known as The Ancients. Why are you italicizing these things? There's no clear reason to do so, and also you don't know for certain that it will translate onto an agent's computer.

 

She’ll be executed if word gets out she can see them, not to mention ruin her family’s good name. Why?

 

This can’t be happening to her of all people. She just became second-in-charge of the very Order tasked with protecting Pentara Who or what is Pentara? from seers, for Goddess sake!

 

When her mother falls unconscious at the post-initiation banquet, Sevi’s world unravels precipitously. Her greedy Aaunt embarks on a scheme to wrest control of the Order of Histories from her This "her" feels like it's referring to the aunt, not Sevi. comatose mother. As if that isn’t enough, The Ancients are threatening her You need to namedrop Sevi again, because you've got too many hers and shes without a clear antecedent. sanity with their incessant chatter. They claim she’s The Return, the rightful Keeper of the outlawed Order of Moirai What do all of these italicized terms mean, and why are they italicized?. Oh yeah, and the only one who can prevent Pentara from being overrun by a hostile adversary. They insist she ascend to the role of Keeper before it’s too late.

 

No thank you. She has real world problems that don’t involve a death wish. Why is this a death wish? Sounds like she might die even if she does nothing.

 

 Despite the risks posed by The Why are you always capitalizing "the"? Really shouldn't be doing it except at the beginning of a sentence. Ancients’ constant presence, her choice is clear. Sevi must defend against her Aaunt’s petition in court. Wait, the aunt's method of grabbing control is to just make a petition? And was Sevi's mother in charge before, then? I'm confused. Then everything goes horribly wrong when her Again, be clear with the antecedents. Going by the grammar book, this should be referring to the aunt, but I know you mean Sevi jealous best friend (and the only person she’s told about the spirits) turns up as a surprise witness and reveals her secret.

 

Prison turns out to be the easy part. What prison? Was she arrested? I thought seeing ghosts would get her executed.

 

Set in a re-imagined alternate version of ancient Crete and steeped in mythology Maybe rather than just telling us it's steeped in mythology, you can show some of that in your query, SEVI & THE KEEPERS is complete at 79,900 80,000 [just round to the nearest 500]words. This #ownvoices YA fantasy novel features an LGBT protagonist and explores themes of self-knowledge and identity, love, loss, and feminine power. It is a character driven story wrapped in high-stakes action that follows Sevi’s journey from passive denial to owning who she is; from accused criminal to possible savior. This is my first novel. It is stand-alone, but planned as book one of a duology. While I’ve never been accused of a crime, and regrettably cannot see spirits, I have taken a similar journey to discovering who I am; coming out just in time for my fortieth birthday. I am a member of SCBWI.

 

Thank you for your time and consideration.

 

Best,

So, fun fact, I read a ton of Query Shark before writing my query, and then I posted my first draft here and someone recommended that I check out QS to figure out how to write a query. That was awkward. But anyway, the point is I know how difficult it is to transfer what you learned from QS to your own query. But good news, after taking a couple days to process the criticism, I came back with a new draft that was the bones of the query I finally decided to query with, and it got a lot better reviews.

 

So, yeah, this, unfortunately, is not going to cut it right now. For one thing, you're pretty long. If I were you, I would look to cut at least 100 words from your word count. 200-250 is the sweet spot, generally speaking.

 

I'm also going to give you some very common advice that I dole out, and that I too had to learn the hard way: You know the context for what these things mean; we don't. So all this talk about "the Order of Histories" and "the Return" and "the Order of Moirai" and "Pentara" just confuses me. Most to all of those, you can probably just drop the proper name and go with some basic descriptor, like, "She's being inducted into an order of left-handed monks", or whatever is the actual, logical application for your story. While within the context of the book we have the time to learn all these terms and keep them straight, we don't in the query.

 

That leads to my next point, which is that all of those terms left me super confused and gave me a hard time following what was going on. So maybe it was just that, but I couldn't see much of a connection between the plot with her aunt and the stuff with the Ancients. I'm still not even sure if the Ancients are bad or good (and maybe that's part of the point that Sevi doesn't either, but if so make it clear).

 

My advice: Rewrite your query as the most absolute bare-bones you possibly can. Brevity and succinctness are your friend, and you can then plump things up as needed. Heck, as an experiment, see if you can write the entire thing with Sevi's name as the only proper noun you use. It might not work, but it would be a good exercise to get you thinking how to simplify, because that's the big first step for you, I think.

 

Query writing is way harder than writing the book itself, most people here agree, and you're certainly not alone. For all my criticisms, you did have a nice voice in places, so I think you will be able to turn this around. Good luck.


Please note I'm also posting on behalf of people who can't sign up, so if I provide a link in the main body of the post, make sure to reciprocate on that thread.

 

I've got 250 words I'd love your feedback on: Untitled fantasy project


#3 Queen of my backyard

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Posted 17 January 2018 - 09:55 PM

LNLOFT, thank you so very much for taking the time to offer your honest assessment! I KNEW I was too darn close to this to see what wasn't working... now I have a much better sense of it. 

 

I've read (can't for the life of me recall where at this point) that you should italicize things specific to your world (particularly in fantasy) to alert the agent it is something specific and special to that world.... but having said that, I totally take your point that as currently stated, these things aren't grounded around any description that offers relevance. That was partially my attempt at eliminating extraneous information/backstory (per the Query Shark's strict dictates, and as you stated, clearly not executed properly).

 

The challenge I'm finding is that this IS a fantasy novel, and I therefore have to balance the need to introduce the MC (and hopefully make the reader give a damn about her) and the inciting event, establish the stakes, reveal her first choice, up the ante, leave the agent guessing and give at least SOME frame of reference for the world/setting the story takes place in... in the span of 250 words. 

 

I will take your advice with respect to the proper noun challenge... and see what I come up with. :)

 

Out of curiosity, why did you cross out the line I inserted about coming out? Yes, it was tongue in cheek, but it was intended to give context as to how/why this is an #ownvoices novel. As a newbie, if that's completely irrelevant, than I'd love to add that bit of info to my toolbox. 

 

Thank you again for all of your time.


If you found my comments helpful, please consider critiquing my query at http://agentquerycon...fantasyrevised/


#4 lnloft

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Posted 17 January 2018 - 10:05 PM

Out of curiosity, why did you cross out the line I inserted about coming out? Yes, it was tongue in cheek, but it was intended to give context as to how/why this is an #ownvoices novel. As a newbie, if that's completely irrelevant, than I'd love to add that bit of info to my toolbox.

Because honestly, I only really paid attention to the first part of the sentence, which I didn't think was relevant, and then just kinda assumed the rest was, too. But yes, since, you are shopping this as #ownvoice, then you probably should establish why that is so. My mistake on not fully paying attention.

 

I haven't heard anything about italicizing new terms, and personally I just find it a little distracting. The closest thing I know to it is that for synopses (and synopses only), you should all caps character names the first times they're introduced.

 

I feel your pain about establishing a fantasy world and character and stakes. Like I said, mine didn't go over too well the first time, either, but it can be done.


Please note I'm also posting on behalf of people who can't sign up, so if I provide a link in the main body of the post, make sure to reciprocate on that thread.

 

I've got 250 words I'd love your feedback on: Untitled fantasy project


#5 Queen of my backyard

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Posted 18 January 2018 - 05:43 PM

After some sage advice yesterday, I gave it another go...

 

Dear Agent so and so,

 

All the stability in eighteen-year-old Sevi Moriana’s life vanishes the moment she starts seeing four spirits- known as the Ancients. Her freedom, if not her life, is at stake if word gets out she sees them. It’s illegal to be a seer- just as Sevi’s always believed it should be. 

 

Pentara’s Keepers aren’t mere rulers- they’re oracles of the Goddesses and Gods, and each Keeper possesses a gift specific to the deity they serve. For thousands of years, the Ancients were the spirit guides for every oracle of the Goddess of wisdom, Keeper of the Order of Moirai. That is, until the Goddess and her Keeper nearly destroyed Pentara through complete negligence. At the end of those dark times, the Goddess was banished, the Order of Moirai expunged, and seers outlawed.  

 

The Ancients threaten Sevi’s sanity with their ridiculous assertion that everything she knows about those dark times is a lieMoreover, they insist she’s the rightful Keeper of the Order of Moirai. They claim time is running out, and she’s the only one who can prevent Pentara from being overrun by a hostile adversary.

 

Sevi’s world continues to unravel when her jealous best friend (the only person she’s told about the spirits) reveals her secret. Thrown in prison and accused of a high crime, Sevi hasn’t just ruined her life- she’s failed everyone she holds dear. Then her enigmatic cellmate makes Sevi question everything she knew to be true about herself- and whether the Ancients might just be telling her the truth.

 

Escaping from prison turns out to be the easy part.

 

Set in a re-imagined alternate version of ancient Crete, SEVI & THE KEEPERS is complete at 80,000 words. This #ownvoices YA fantasy novel features an LGBT protagonist and explores themes of self-knowledge and identity, love, loss, and feminine power. It is a character driven story wrapped in high-stakes action that follows Sevi’s journey from passive denial to owning who she is; from accused criminal to possible savior.

 

This is my first novel. It is stand-alone, but planned as book one of a duology. While I’ve never been accused of a crime, and regrettably cannot see spirits, I have taken a similar journey to discovering who I am; coming out just in time for my fortieth birthday. I am a member of SCBWI.

 

Thank you for your time and consideration.

 

 

Best,


If you found my comments helpful, please consider critiquing my query at http://agentquerycon...fantasyrevised/


#6 VSChapman

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Posted 18 January 2018 - 06:22 PM

After some sage advice yesterday, I gave it another go...

 

Dear Agent so and so,

 

All the stability in eighteen-year-old Sevi Moriana’s life vanishes the moment she starts seeing four spirits- known as the Ancients. Her freedom, if not her life, is at stake if word gets out she sees them. It’s illegal to be a seer- just as Sevi’s always believed it should be. (I like the story but I feel this could be thinned out a little more. For example: 'Eighteen-year-old Sevi Moriana always believed being a sneer should be illegal; that is until she started seeing spirits herself.' Then you can always expand on it from there. It just cleans it up a bit.)

 

Pentara’s Keepers aren’t mere rulers- they’re oracles of the Goddesses and Gods, and each Keeper possesses a gift specific to the deity they serve. For thousands of years, the Ancients were the spirit guides for every oracle of the Goddess of wisdom, Keeper of the Order of Moirai. That is, until the Goddess and her Keeper nearly destroyed Pentara through complete negligence. At the end of those dark times, the Goddess was banished, the Order of Moirai expunged, and seers outlawed.  

 

The Ancients threaten Sevi’s sanity with their ridiculous assertion that everything she knows about those dark times is a lieMoreover, they insist she’s the rightful Keeper of the Order of Moirai. They claim time is running out, and she’s the only one who can prevent Pentara from being overrun by a hostile adversary.

 

Sevi’s world continues to unravel when her jealous best friend (the only person she’s told about the spirits) reveals her secret. Thrown in prison and accused of a high crime, Sevi hasn’t just ruined her life- she’s failed everyone she holds dear. Then her enigmatic cellmate makes Sevi question everything she knew to be true about herself- and whether the Ancients might just be telling her the truth.

 

Escaping from prison turns out to be the easy part.

 

Set in a re-imagined alternate version of ancient Crete, SEVI & THE KEEPERS is complete at 80,000 words. This #ownvoices YA fantasy novel features an LGBT protagonist and explores themes of self-knowledge and identity, love, loss, and feminine power. It is a character driven story wrapped in high-stakes action that follows Sevi’s journey from passive denial to owning who she is; from accused criminal to possible savior.

 

This is my first novel. It is stand-alone, but planned as book one of a duology. While I’ve never been accused of a crime, and regrettably cannot see spirits, I have taken a similar journey to discovering who I am; coming out just in time for my fortieth birthday.  (I know you're trying to make this personal but it just comes off kinda odd to me. I kinda like the spirits part but the 'accused of a crime' is just not something that most people say. It throws me off.) I am a member of SCBWI.

 

Thank you for your time and consideration.

 

 

Best,

So, I read the first one too and liked the mention of the mom and aunt. I struggle with this too. There's so much to say but so little space to say it in. But this second version clears up a lot of questions too that the first one didn't. I think it's getting better. Keep going. :)



#7 AmberA

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Posted 18 January 2018 - 10:45 PM

HI there  :wink: 

After some sage advice yesterday, I gave it another go...

 

Dear Agent so and so,

 

All the stability in Eighteen-year-old Sevi Moriana’s life ( I wonder if you can put something here for a better flow. Balance?)  vanishes the moment she starts seeing four spirits- known as the Ancients. Her freedom, if not her life, is at stake if word gets out she sees them. It’s illegal to be a seer- just as Sevi’s always believed it should be. ( So if people see spirits they're prophets? And it's illegal? Why?) 

 

Pentara’s Keepers aren’t mere rulers- they’re oracles of the Goddesses and Gods, and each Keeper possesses a gift specific to the deity they serve. For thousands of years, the Ancients were the spirit guides for every oracle of the Goddess of wisdom, Keeper of the Order of Moirai. That is, until the Goddess and her Keeper nearly destroyed Pentara through complete negligence. At the end of those dark times, the Goddess was banished, the Order of Moirai expunged, and seers outlawed.  ( This is a lot of information.. Basically backstory and I don't think you need all of them.. You can save it for your synopsis )

 

The Ancients threaten Sevi’s sanity with their ridiculous assertion that everything she knows about those dark times is a lieMoreover, they insist she’s the rightful Keeper of the Order of Moirai. They claim time is running out, and she’s the only one who can prevent Pentara from being overrun by a hostile adversary.

 

Sevi’s world continues to unravel when her jealous best friend (the only person she’s told about the spirits) reveals her secret. Thrown in prison and accused of a high crime, Sevi hasn’t just ruined her life- she’s failed everyone she holds dear. Then her enigmatic cellmate makes Sevi question everything she knew to be true about herself- and whether the Ancients might just be telling her the truth. ( The truth about what?) 

 

Escaping from prison turns out to be the easy part.

 

Set in a re-imagined alternate version of ancient Crete, SEVI & THE KEEPERS is complete at 80,000 words. This #ownvoices YA fantasy novel features an LGBT protagonist and explores themes of self-knowledge and identity, love, loss, and feminine power. It is a character driven story wrapped in high-stakes action that follows Sevi’s journey from passive denial to owning who she is; from accused criminal to possible savior.

 

This is my first novel. It is stand-alone, but planned as book one of a duology. While I’ve never been accused of a crime, and regrettably cannot see spirits, I have taken a similar journey to discovering who I am; coming out just in time for my fortieth birthday. I am a member of SCBWI.

 

Thank you for your time and consideration.

 

 

Best,

 

 

 

Hi there! Your plot is good, but the query needs a little bit more tweaking. You hook needs to be a little clear. But your last para had too much detail and you don't really need that much for a query. Also the stakes aren't clear, I'm not sure what happens after she's in jail. What are the stakes, is she going to escape and continue to help The ancients or what? You need to elaborate on that a little more. Since your book is LGBT, I don't really see it when I read your query. You need to include her lover or some lover to make it read as LGBT. Hope this helps  :wink: 


Would appreciate critiques on my YA- VENGEANCE query: http://agentquerycon...edits/?p=352035


#8 Mdane

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Posted 18 January 2018 - 11:53 PM

After some sage advice yesterday, I gave it another go...

 

Dear Agent so and so,

 

All t (I believe it is a sharper start) The stability in eighteen-year-old Sevi Moriana’s life vanishes the moment she starts seeing four spirits (Don't need a hyphen) known as the Ancients. Her freedom, if not her life, is at stake if word gets out she sees them. It’s illegal to be a seer- (I believe you are mistaking hyphens with em dashes, they have different roles. Too much to get into here, but a google search should help out quickly. also with an em dash, there is no space before or after)just as Sevi’s always believed it should be. (I like the premise)

 

Pentara’s Keepers aren’t mere rulers; they’re oracles of the Goddesses and Gods, and each Keeper possesses a gift specific to the deity they serve. For thousands of years, the Ancients were the spirit guides for every oracle of the Goddess of wisdom, Keeper of the Order of Moirai. That is, until the Goddess and her Keeper nearly destroyed Pentara through complete negligence. At the end of those dark times, the Goddess was banished, the Order of Moirai expunged, and seers outlawed.  (I feel this paragraph focuses too much on the past and not the story)

 

The Ancients threaten Sevi’s sanity with their ridiculous assertion that everything she knows about those dark times is a lieMoreover, they insist she’s the rightful Keeper of the Order of Moirai; the Goddess of Wisdom. They claim time is running out, and she’s the only one who can prevent Pentara from being overrun by a hostile adversary.(How? What is stopping her from doing this? What will happen if she fails?)

 

Sevi’s world continues to unravels when her jealous best friend (the only person she’s told about the spirits) further when her secret is revealed (no need to introduce a minor character). Thrown in prison and accused of a high crime, Sevi hasn’t just ruined her life(- )she’s failed everyone she holds dear. (How) Then her Sevi's enigmatic cellmate makes Sevi her question everything she knew to be true about herself and whether the Ancients might just be telling her the truth.

 

Escaping from prison turns out to be the easy part.

 

Set in a re-imagined alternate version of ancient Crete, SEVI & THE KEEPERS is complete at 80,000 words. This #ownvoices YA fantasy novel features an LGBT protagonist and explores themes of self-knowledge and identity, love, loss, and feminine power. It is a character driven story wrapped in high-stakes action that follows Sevi’s journey from passive denial to owning who she is; from accused criminal to possible savior. This should be shown in the story paragraphs.

 

This is my first novel. NO! haha It is stand-alone, but planned as book one of a duology. While I’ve never been accused of a crime, and regrettably cannot see spirits, I have taken a similar journey to discovering who I am; coming out just in time for my fortieth birthday. I am a member of SCBWI.

 

Thank you for your time and consideration.

 

 

Best,

 

Hey Queen, I like the basics of the story (spirits, goddess etc) however I don't know from your query what the story is about. All we know is that Sevi is a seer, possibly a goddess of wisdom, and that she has to do something or the world will be overrun by some powerful adversary. You need to delve into what Sevi needs to do, what is stopping her from achieving that and what the stakes are. What does the adversary want? what or who is the antagonist.

 

Also there is a full paragraph in there about backstory. I believe this is unrequired and possibly detrimental to the query. If you can incorporate only the necessary parts in your other paragraphs I believe it will run more smoothly.

 

And finally the use of dashes, I believe you mean em dashes. Hyphen (-) vs em dash (). Both have very different uses.

 

I like your story idea, but I think you need revise this query a bit. I hope this helps a bit. Sometimes I get lost in my typing and drone on some :/


Desperately looking for advice on my query The Other Side of Blood

 

My published novel on Amazon The Traitor in the Trees


#9 Queen of my backyard

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Posted 19 January 2018 - 07:53 PM

Dear Agent so and so,

 

Eighteen-year-old Sevi Moriana always believed seers should be illegal; that is until she started seeing spirits herself.

 

The Keepers of Pentara, rulers of men and oracles of the Goddesses and Gods, would deem Sevi a threat to national security if they learned of her ability. Two centuries after a malevolent Keeper (a seer, as it happened) and her negligent Goddess nearly destroyed Pentara, Sevi’s ability now carries a death sentence.

 

 The spirits, however, insist she’s the rightful Keeper of the abolished Order responsible for the devastation. They claim everything she knows about that period in history is a lie. Time is running out they warn; only she can prevent Pentara from falling to the coming onslaught of rival nation, Stonin’s armada. No thank you. She's got enough to handle already.

 

 Sevi’s world unravels when her secret is revealed and she’s thrown into prison. Then her cellmate, Charlotte “Charlie” Delphine, makes Sevi question everything she thought she knew about herself. Escaping from prison turns out to be the easy part. Now fugitives, Sevi wrestles with her growing feelings for Charlie as they struggle to safety.

 

 Sevi discovers the Ancients were telling the truth, and learns the head Keeper is threatening to kill her family unless Sevi surrenders. The only chance of preventing countless innocent deaths and the fall of Pentara is to remain in hiding and learn how to become the oracle before she confronts the Keepers. Or, she can abandon the love she's just learned to accept, forsake the people of Pentara, and try to save the lives of her family.

 

Set in a re-imagined alternate version of ancient Crete, SEVI & THE KEEPERS is complete at 80,000 words. This #ownvoices YA fantasy novel features an LGBT protagonist.

 

This is my first novel. While I regrettably cannot see spirits, I have taken a similar journey to discovering who I am; coming out just in time for my fortieth birthday. I am a member of SCBWI.

 

Thank you for your time and consideration.

 

Best,


If you found my comments helpful, please consider critiquing my query at http://agentquerycon...fantasyrevised/


#10 dizzywriter

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Posted 20 January 2018 - 09:03 PM

Dear Agent so and so,

 

Eighteen-year-old Sevi Moriana always believed seers should be illegal; that is until she started seeing spirits herself.

 

The Keepers of Pentara, rulers of men and oracles of the Goddesses and Gods, would deem Sevi a threat to national security if they learned of her ability. Two centuries after a malevolent Keeper (a seer, as it happened) and her negligent Goddess nearly destroyed Pentara, Sevi’s ability now carries a death sentence.

 

 The spirits, however, insist she’s the rightful Keeper of the abolished Order responsible for the devastation. They claim everything she knows about that period in history is a lie. Time is running out they warn; only she can prevent Pentara from falling to the coming onslaught of rival nation, Stonin’s armada. No thank you. She's got enough to handle already.

 

 Sevi’s world unravels when her secret is revealed and she’s thrown into prison. Then her cellmate, Charlotte “Charlie” Delphine, makes Sevi question everything she thought she knew about herself. Escaping from prison turns out to be the easy part. Now fugitives, Sevi wrestles with her growing feelings for Charlie as they struggle to safety.

 

 Sevi discovers the Ancients were telling the truth, and learns the head Keeper is threatening to kill her family unless Sevi surrenders. The only chance of preventing countless innocent deaths and the fall of Pentara is to remain in hiding and learn how to become the oracle before she confronts the Keepers. Or, she can abandon the love she's just learned to accept, forsake the people of Pentara, and try to save the lives of her family.

 

Set in a re-imagined alternate version of ancient Crete, SEVI & THE KEEPERS is complete at 80,000 words. This #ownvoices YA fantasy novel features an LGBT protagonist.

 

This is my first novel. While I regrettably cannot see spirits, I have taken a similar journey to discovering who I am; coming out just in time for my fortieth birthday. I am a member of SCBWI.

 

Thank you for your time and consideration.

 

Best,

I understand the stakes and like the writing. But you are telling rather than showing for much of it. I got very confused by the number of characters: seers and oracles and keepers and spirits. Pick one of them and create a conflict. Getting jailed would be a good one. Open with her in jail for being a seer and weave in a few snippets of backstory. That would be my suggestion. Good luck. And thank so much for your input on mine. It was very helpful. I have a revision up if you'd like to look.



#11 Sataris

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Posted 22 January 2018 - 01:12 PM

Dear Agent so and so,

 

Eighteen-year-old Sevi Moriana always believed seers should be illegal; that is until she started seeing spirits herself. I really like the idea of this a lot, but I think you could strengthen it by putting it in present tense. "MC believes seers should be illegal. Until she starts seeing spirits herself" Ugly phrasing on my part, but more oomph without the tense change. Also - what's the specific punishment for seers? Jailed? Maimed? Executed? It might amp up the internal conflict if we knew just how viscerally she hates them

 

The Keepers of Pentara, rulers of men and oracles of the Goddesses and Gods, would deem Sevi a threat to national security if they learned of her ability. Two centuries after a malevolent Keeper (a seer, as it happened) and her negligent Goddess nearly destroyed Pentara, Sevi’s ability now carries a death sentence. It seems like you could summarize this from Sevi's point of view to keep it more consistent/less floating backstory. "Sevi fears being lumped in with the seers of old who destroyed the world."

 

 The spirits, however, insist she’s the rightful Keeper of the abolished Order responsible for the devastation. They claim everything she knows about that period in history is a lie. Time is running out they warn; only she can prevent Pentara from falling to the coming onslaught of rival nation, Stonin’s armada. No thank you. She's got enough to handle already.

 

I think you could probably just stop here. You stakes would be pretty compelling: she has to choose between listening to the voices in her head, maybe being executed, but possibly saving her country V. ignoring the voices, staying true to her beliefs and risking the future of the country

 

 Sevi’s world unravels when her secret is revealed and she’s thrown into prison. Then her cellmate, Charlotte “Charlie” Delphine, makes Sevi question everything she thought she knew about herself. Escaping from prison turns out to be the easy part. Now fugitives, Sevi wrestles with her growing feelings for Charlie as they struggle to safety.

 

The above is synopsis

 

 Sevi discovers the Ancients were telling the truth, and learns the head Keeper is threatening to kill her family unless Sevi surrenders. The only chance of preventing countless innocent deaths and the fall of Pentara is to remain in hiding and learn how to become the oracle before she confronts the Keepers. Or, she can abandon the love she's just learned to accept, forsake the people of Pentara, and try to save the lives of her family.

 

 

The above stakes work for me as well, though I had to reread them once to get a good handle on things

 

Set in a re-imagined alternate version (implied by re-imagined) of ancient Crete, SEVI & THE KEEPERS is complete at 80,000 words. This #ownvoices YA fantasy novel features an LGBT protagonist.

 

This is my first novel. can't do you any favors While I regrettably cannot see spirits, I have taken a similar journey to discovering who I am; coming out just in time for my fortieth birthday. I am a member of SCBWI. I do like the voice here, but I think listing this as #ownvoices is probably enough, and that saves you on WC. SCBWI is worth listing if you're a a full member (ie professionally published in that field) otherwise you can just leave it off. I'm kind of a stickler for only strictly necessary information in the bio though so others may disagree.

 

Thank you for your time and consideration.

 

Best,

 

I think the biggest issue is all the capitalized names - i can see you've already cut down from your original version which is great, but every time I hit a proper name I have to stop for a split-second and try to remember who they are/what their place is. Stonin in particular seems like an easy cut if you just call it a rival nation, and Charlie could go if you stopped your query earlier (i feel like romance is probably a given in YA and a lot of agents are looking for FF romances right now, so you could just mention that in your greeting/closing if you want to sneak it in).


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#12 Queen of my backyard

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Posted 22 January 2018 - 02:56 PM

THANK YOU Sataris! I have been wringing my hands, hair, clothes... you name it, trying to figure out how to establish stakes properly and set it up w/o giving away too much or leaving too much out. I hadn't thought to end it where you suggest but I think you're on to something and I'm going to play with it. :) One concern I've had is that it's not just a feminine hero's journey fantasy quest. It's also a coming out story, which is why I've been trying to work that into the query. Maybe that's less important than just having a tightly written query though... I'll give it a go. Thanks again!


If you found my comments helpful, please consider critiquing my query at http://agentquerycon...fantasyrevised/


#13 Queen of my backyard

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Posted 22 January 2018 - 04:41 PM

THANK YOU to everyone who has commented thus far. This version cuts off much earlier (special thanks to Sataris for the suggestion!). Cutting out the additional bits (of mostly plot, y'all were right) allowed me to include an element I'd previously shelved due to space but that's actually pretty relevant to the MC's motivations and internal conflict at this point in the story (Her family runs the Order that educates the population about the past events that lead to seers being outlawed and the Order the seers came from being abolished bc they nearly destroyed Pentara, and now she's the very thing they preach is evil). Please let me know how it reads. I will gladly reciprocate. :)

 

Dear Agent so and so,

 

Eighteen-year-old Sevi Moriana ardently believes seers should be illegal; that is until she starts seeing spirits herself. Now her life is on the line if word gets out she sees them––convicted seers are executed in Pentara.

 

If her secret is uncovered, it won’t matter that her family runs the Order tasked with educating Pentarans on the evil nature of seers, or that she’s the deputy leader––the irony of it won’t do a darn thing to help her predicament either. Sevi knows that the Keepers, rulers of the people and oracles of the Goddesses and Gods, will assume she’s no different than the malevolent Keeper of old (a seer, as it happened) who nearly destroyed Pentara. They’ll kill her without blinking, and her family’s good name will be ruined to boot.

 

 The spirits, however, insist she’s the rightful Keeper of the abolished Order responsible for the devastation. They claim everything she knows about that period in history is a lie. Time is running out they warn; only she can prevent Pentara from falling to the coming onslaught of a rival nation’s armada. Now she doesn’t know who, or what, to believe in anymore.

  

Sevi must choose. She can guard her secret to protect everything her family has worked for, as well as her life, but risk the lives of countless innocents. Or she can ignore every instinct she has and trust the spirits, jeopardizing her life and her family’s future, yet possibly save Pentara from ruin.  

 

Set in a re-imagined ancient Crete, SEVI & THE KEEPERS is complete at 80,000 words. This #ownvoices YA fantasy novel features an LGBT protagonist. 

 

 

Thank you for your time and consideration.

 

Best,


If you found my comments helpful, please consider critiquing my query at http://agentquerycon...fantasyrevised/


#14 ThatDan

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Posted 23 January 2018 - 04:36 AM

Edit: please excuse the odd formatting. Not sure what's up with this forum these days.  :unsure:

 

 

 

Thanks for your feedback. Not gonna read earlier versions so you get a "fresh eyes" take on the current one.

 

Dear Agent so and so,

 

Eighteen-year-old Sevi Moriana ardently believes seers should be illegal<using "should be" here conflicts with the next line where we learn that they are illegal (or at least I assume so, considering the death penalty) ; that is until she starts seeing spirits herself. Now her life is on the line if word gets out she sees them––convicted seers are executed in Pentara.

 

If herSevi's secret is uncovered, it won’t matter that her family runs the Order tasked with educating Pentarans on the evil nature of seers, or that she’s the deputy leader––the irony of it won’t do a darn thing to help her predicament either.<so the red and green selections say the same exact same thing. Unless you mean the irony itself won't help, in which case, I don't think anyone would expect people to let her off the hook simply because of the ironic situation. "oh, she hates seers, but she is a seer, how ironic, let's let her live" :p However, after reading a bit more and getting a better feel for your voice, I think this works in a snarky kind of way. Sevi knows that the Keepers, rulers of the people and oracles of the Goddesses and Gods,<this line is a bit of a mouthful! will assume she’s no different than the malevolent Keeper of old (a seer, as it happened) who nearly destroyed Pentara. They’ll kill her without blinking, and her family’s good name will be ruined to boot.<this line helps with that earlier line I was questioning

 

 The spirits, however, insist she’s the rightful Keeper of the abolished Order responsible for the devastation.​<not quite sure what order and what devastation you're referring to here. They claim everything she knows about that period in history is a lie. Time is running out they warn; only she <any hint why only she can do it. Not essential, but might strengthen her sense of duty. can prevent Pentara from falling to the coming onslaught of a rival nation’s armada. Now she doesn’t know who, or what, to believe in anymore. <I think this is implied. Doesn't need to go, but could be a way to cut wc if needed.

  

Sevi must choose. She can guard her secret to protect everything her family has worked for, as well as her life, but risk the lives of countless innocents.<plot question: so the rival nation will spare her and her family, but kill everyone else? Or she can ignore every instinct she has and trust the spirits, jeopardizing her life and her family’s future, yet possibly save Pentara from ruin.  Aside from the one comment, these are good, strong, concise stakes.

 

Set in a re-imagined ancient Crete,<not great with my genres, but does this potentially make it something like historical fantasy? depends how much it connects to actual ancient Crete I guess. SEVI & THE KEEPERS is complete at 80,000 words. This #ownvoices YA fantasy novel features an LGBT protagonist. 

 

 

Thank you for your time and consideration.

 

Best,

 

You've got a really solid story here. Love the idea of basing it on ancient Crete. Most of my comments are just minor things with the way it reads to me, but other than that, all the major elements are clear. Nice work.


I'm no professional. Take my critiques merely as suggestions.

No active query atm.


#15 Sataris

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Posted 23 January 2018 - 12:28 PM

 

Eighteen-year-old Sevi Moriana ardently believes that her government is justified in executing seers seers should be illegal; that is until she starts seeing spirits herself. Now her life is on the line if word gets out she sees them––convicted seers are executed in Pentara. my edit isn't phrased well, but phrasing it like that would combine your sentences and keep you from having to tell us straight up. and your next sentence addresses it being a secret anyway so it ties in well

 

If her secret is uncovered, it won’t matter that her family runs the Order tasked with educating Pentarans on the evil nature of seers, or that she’s the deputy leader––the irony of it won’t do a darn thing to help her predicament either I really like the voice here, and I can see the additional conflict, but it seems like her life is already at stake, so the background here doesn't really pump the stakes up much more. It's a clever way to weave some backstory in but your main conflict is already so compelling that it seems you're better off keeping a laser focus on it.  Main caveat being that then the family line in the stakes might have to go as well- but that might make the stakes a bit clearer, too (simply her own life v those of innocents). Maybe connect "If her secret is uncovered to Sevi knows that the keepers...". Sevi knows that the Keepers, rulers of the people and oracles of the Goddesses and Gods, will assume she’s no different than the malevolent Keeper of old (a seer, as it happened) who nearly destroyed Pentara. They’ll kill her without blinking, and her family’s good name will be ruined to boot. Would the family be chased out of town? Strung up? Anything worse than their reputation being damaged? Rep works since it's just a tack on, but if there's something more tangible it might help if we knew. You could also just cut this as mentioned above

 

 The spirits, however, insist she’s the rightful Keeper of the abolished Order responsible for the devastation. They claim everything she knows about that period in history is a lie. They say time is running out they warn; that only she can prevent Pentara from falling to the coming onslaught of a rival nation’s armada. Now she doesn’t know who, or what, to believe in anymore. This is probably implied or at least is mentioned in the below paragraph

  

Sevi must choose. She can guard her secret to protect everything her family has worked for, as well as her life, but risk the lives of countless innocents. Or she can ignore every instinct she has and trust the spirits, jeopardizing her life and her family’s future, yet possibly save Pentara from ruin. Nice clear stakes

 

Set in a re-imagined ancient Crete, SEVI & THE KEEPERS is complete at 80,000 words. This #ownvoices YA fantasy novel features an LGBT protagonist. 

Yeah this is way better. The proper names as you mentioned are still a little bit of an issue but nowhere near as much, and at a certain point, fantasy is fantasy. Can you cut either Gods or Godesses? Might be important for world building in your novel, but one fewer proper noun would go a long way. I'd probably trim or cut the stuff on her family running the order; it functions well as a secondary set of stakes with the family's rep/hints at her self-loathing but I'm not sure you really need a secondary set. Might be good to try to inject that same voice back into this somewhere though.


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#16 Queen of my backyard

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Posted 23 January 2018 - 02:39 PM

@ThatDan: thank you for your comments and the compliment. Couldn't have done it w/o the help of this community. 

 

@Sataris- thank you for your continued feedback! To address your comments, part of what I've been wrestling with is the need to both succinctly intro the MC and show the stakes in a creative manner engaging enough to entice an agent (oh heck, why not just go for it... agentS... lots and lots of 'em) into wanting to read sample pages, request a full, etc... and at the same time, ensure the query accurately reflects the actual manuscript. I'm not talking all the details, world building specifics, or sub-plots... but should I be so lucky as to have an agent read the book after reading the query, the last thing I want them to come away thinking is that the book wasn't what was promised based on the query, ya know?

 

As for the Goddesses and Gods, I can't really remove either w/o risking the scenario I just described. I won't go into all the details, but prior to the event referenced in the query (when Pentara was almost destroyed), women had much more power than they now do. Post-event, society has been re-shaped and men are more dominant (using the "lessons learned" as an excuse), so having both Goddess and God included is relevant bc the story delves into those changes and the ramifications in detail. Unless I use "deities"... hmm, I'll play with that. 

 

With respect to the level of stakes represented in her family's reputation: after the "event", the few members of that Keeper's Order allowed to live were forced to run the newly created Order Sevi's family now runs, kind of like a scarlet letter. It's taken 2 centuries to go from pariahs back to having some social clout (in a society where it matters), so it's really a HUGE deal to Sevi she's become the very thing that could ruin them again as her ancestors were the first time around. Unfortunately, there isn't enough space in a 250 word query to adequately convey that, but leaving it out entirely risks making an agent feel duped... or at least that's my fear. 


If you found my comments helpful, please consider critiquing my query at http://agentquerycon...fantasyrevised/


#17 Sataris

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Posted 23 January 2018 - 03:59 PM

 

As for the Goddesses and Gods, I can't really remove either w/o risking the scenario I just described. I won't go into all the details, but prior to the event referenced in the query (when Pentara was almost destroyed), women had much more power than they now do. Post-event, society has been re-shaped and men are more dominant (using the "lessons learned" as an excuse), so having both Goddess and God included is relevant bc the story delves into those changes and the ramifications in detail. Unless I use "deities"... hmm, I'll play with that. 

 

I don't think you need to worry about them taking it quite so literally - no decent agent is going to request a book that has "Oracles to the Gods" in the query, start reading, then

find out there are also Goddesses and get upset at you for it. Gods is kind of a catch-all term anyway; if someone were to say "my story is about the roman gods" I'd naturally assume we'd be seeing athena/bellona/etc at some point, or at the very least, wouldn't be upset if she showed up. 

 

With respect to the level of stakes represented in her family's reputation: after the "event", the few members of that Keeper's Order allowed to live were forced to run the newly created Order Sevi's family now runs, kind of like a scarlet letter. It's taken 2 centuries to go from pariahs back to having some social clout (in a society where it matters), so it's really a HUGE deal to Sevi she's become the very thing that could ruin them again as her ancestors were the first time around. Unfortunately, there isn't enough space in a 250 word query to adequately convey that, but leaving it out entirely risks making an agent feel duped... or at least that's my fear. 

 

I think if you can work that detail in and keep it concise it'd be great, but if not, I wouldn't worry at all about the agent feeling duped (so long as MC is actually worried about her life being at stake, which seems like kind of a given). It's just kind of an example of there being more to the story, you know? Nobody is going to fault you for having more conflict that you didn't mention, or for having layered conflict in your story.


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#18 Queen of my backyard

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Posted 23 January 2018 - 04:27 PM

@Sataris, thank you! I'm going to play with your advice and will post a new revision ASAP. 

 

PS- I've taken to referring to you as the query editing savant (just posted that in Wayfarer's thread). Man, you're gooooood at this stuff! That's not to say that all posters haven't offered valuable advice, because they have... and I'm grateful for all of it. You just have a particular eye for spotting queries beginning/ending in the wrong place among your other notable items of advice.


If you found my comments helpful, please consider critiquing my query at http://agentquerycon...fantasyrevised/


#19 PureZhar3

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Posted 23 January 2018 - 06:05 PM

Dear Agent so and so,

 

Eighteen-year-old Sevi Moriana ardently believes seers should be illegal; that is, until she starts seeing spirits herself. Now her life is on the line if word gets out she sees them––convicted seers are executed in Pentara. Could you use verbs besides "see"? I know she's a seer, but having a form of that word four times in two sentences is a bit much.

 

If her secret is uncovered, it won’t matter that her family runs the Order tasked with educating Pentarans on the evil nature of seers, or that she’s the deputy leader––the irony of it won’t do a darn thing to help her predicament either. This sentence should be split into at least two simpler ones. Sevi knows that the Keepers, rulers of the people and oracles of the Goddesses and Gods, will assume she’s no different than the malevolent Keeper of old (a seer, as it happened) who nearly destroyed Pentara. They’ll kill her without blinking, and her family’s good name will be ruined to boot.

 

 The spirits, however, insist she’s the rightful Keeper of the abolished Order responsible for the devastation. They claim everything she knows about that period in history is a lie. Time is running out, they warn Rephrase this so it's not passive and doesn't mirror the structure; only she can prevent Pentara from falling to the coming onslaught of a rival nation’s armada. Now she doesn’t know who, or what, to believe in anymore.

  

Sevi must choose. She can guard her secret to protect everything her family has worked for, as well as her life, but risk the lives of countless innocents. Or she can ignore every instinct she has and trust the spirits, jeopardizing her life and her family’s future, yet possibly save Pentara from ruin.  This choice could be clarified - the sentence as is, is too jumbled and confusing.

 

Set in a re-imagined ancient Crete, SEVI & THE KEEPERS is complete at 80,000 words. This #ownvoices YA fantasy novel features an LGBT protagonist. 

 

 

Thank you for your time and consideration.

 

Best,

Super cool idea! My biggest advice to you is to parse down your sentences... a lot of them could be split into smaller sentences without much detriment.


If you have time, I'd appreciate it if you took a look at my query: http://agentquerycon...-realismsci-fi/


#20 ThatDan

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Posted 23 January 2018 - 06:17 PM

 Unfortunately, there isn't enough space in a 250 word query to adequately convey that, but leaving it out entirely risks making an agent feel duped... or at least that's my fear. 

 

My personal view on this aspect is not to worry about it.

In reality, once an agent starts reading the ms, anything in the query is obsolete. As long as your ms isn't a completely different story, with different characters, in a different genre, they shouldn't care. After all, they're trying to sell your ms, not your query.

 

My query simplifies a lot of elements and leaves some major points out. But the aim of a query isn't to convey everything accurately and boringly. A query's main purpose is to convince the agent that you have a ms worth reading. If it succeeds, the responsibility then falls to the ms to prove you have a story worth selling.

 

Essentially, even if you did completely dupe an agent, that won't matter if they still enjoy the read, and feel it's good enough to sell.

Or at least that's how i feel about it.


I'm no professional. Take my critiques merely as suggestions.

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