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Olly and the Red Baron (MG Steampunk/Sci-Fi)


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#1 Erevos

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Posted 03 November 2018 - 09:02 AM

Hello everyone!!

 

It's been a while since I was last in the forum.

 

So my first novel got about 25 rejections and only 2 partial requests. I had the "luck" to discuss with an agent, who told me that it will be very hard to sell something resembling Game of Thrones, since everyone jumped on the hype train and the market is flooded with similar novels. I mean even erotica writers have turned to the medieval theme...go figure. What's worse, he told me that not making it stand-alone really hurts my chances.

 

So, I gave up on the first one, and I just finished writing my 2nd novel, a fun idea I had but for whatever reason I postponed turning it into a novel.

The genre is... Sci-Fi, I think. It's basically light Steampunk, set in the Victorian era in an alternate universe. Atmos is a city south of New York.

 

It doesn't focus heavily on its Steampunk genre, rather it uses it to promote the adventure of Popo and Olly as they seek to take down the villain.

Here is my first shot at the query. It's a bit crude and doesn't cover much, but I tried to summarize it as best as I could. Like always, I appreciate the help and I will critique back!

_______________________

 

Inspector Popo never wanted to take a vacation — and he has just found the perfect excuse to go back to work: Olly, a nine-year-old vandal with amnesia and the unique gift to make people disappear.

 

Or so he thought.

 

When Olly mucks up an important arrest by dissipating the suspect along with Popo’s dreams of promotion, the two of them get stuck with each other whether they like it or not. As they look for the boy’s parents, they meet Jack, a failure of a reporter, who convinces them to assist him in the fight against the Red Baron — the infamous underground boss who seeks control of steam, the life-giving source for Atmos, and the one responsible for the death of Popo’s family.

 

Things get more complicated when Olly looks at a burned photo and remembers that two years ago he was standing outside Popo’s home, moments before it went up in flames. Baffled by this, Olly and Popo start digging deeper, hoping that more of Olly’s memory returns. Sellout policemen tip the Red Baron off, however, and he sends men after them.

 

If Popo and Olly want to save Atmos and succeed in bringing him down, they will have to put their trust on each other, on a smug butler with a sketchy background, and even on the notorious sky pirates.

 

But the Red Baron’s identity isn’t what they think, and Olly and Popo will have to decide if taking him down is worth shaking the core principles upon Atmos was built.

 

Olly and the Red Baron is a MG (With A appeal) Sci-Fi / Steampunk (will have to look for the proper genre) novel, complete at 60,000 words, that will appeal to fans of The Golden Compass and The Invention of Hugo Cabret / Castle in The Sky (Still looking for comps)

 

Thank you for the blablabla...

______________________


My query: http://agentquerycon...teampunksci-fi/

Let me know if you want me to look at yours. Will happily do so.


#2 Koechophe

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Posted 04 November 2018 - 07:03 PM

Hey, welcome back! I hope my critique can offer some help

 

 

"Inspector Popo never wanted to take a vacation (we dont really need to know this)— and he has just found the perfect excuse to go back to work: Olly, a nine-year-old vandal with amnesia and the unique gift to make of making people disappear. 

(I'm interested in the 9-year-old, but "making people disappear" is something I'm hoping will be clarified further on in the query, since it's kind of vague.)

 

Or so he thought.(This phrase is disgustingly cliche. I'd replace with something like "In theory."

 

When Olly mucks up an important arrest (and Popo's hopes for a promotion) and yes, I do mean add that phrase in parentheses right here by dissipating MG fiction shouldn't be using words like "dissipate", and it doesn't really connect here, nor does it tell us any more about what Olly actually does the suspect along with Popo’s dreams of promotion, the two of them get stuck with each other whether they like it or not Uh... why?. As they look for the boy’s parents Again, why?, they meet Jack, a failure of a reporter, who convinces them to assist him in the fight against the Red Baron Uhmmmmm why? — the infamous underground boss who seeks control of steam, the life-giving source for Atmos, and the one responsible for the death of Popo’s family.

You just threw like 4 plot twists and developments into a single paragraph, so they end up feeling random and unexplained. Better off having a few great details than a load of underdeveloped ones. I'd cut Jack as a character from the query entirely (anything more than 3 names in a query is excessive, and you've got 4 in this paragraph alone)/. 

 

Things get more complicated when Olly looks at a burned photo and remembers that two years ago he was standing outside Popo’s home, moments before it went up in flames. Baffled by this, Olly and Popo start digging deeper, hoping that more of Olly’s memory returns. Sellout policemen tip the Red Baron off, however, and he sends men after them. Okay, you've gone into full-blown summary mode, which is the last thing you want to do in a query. You can cut this whole paragraph, honestly. 

 

If Popo and Olly want to save Atmos and succeed in bringing him down, they will have to put their trust on each other, on a smug butler with a sketchy background, and even on the notorious sky pirates. 

Total character count: 8 (Popo, Olly, Jack, Red Baron, Butler, Popo's parents, Olly's parents, Sky pirates.) You can cut probably everyone except the two MCs and the Antagonist. 

 

But the Red Baron’s identity isn’t what they think We don't even know what they think it is, and Olly and Popo will have to decide if taking him down is worth shaking the core principles upon Atmos was built. We also don't know what these are

 

Olly and the Red Baron is a MG (With A appeal) Sci-Fi / Steampunk (will have to look for the proper genre) novel, complete at 60,000 words, that will appeal to fans of The Golden Compass and The Invention of Hugo Cabret / Castle in The Sky (Still looking for comps)

 

Thank you for the blablabla... "

 

Alright, so my thoughts are that there's WAY too much going on here. You try to distill the entire plot of your book into the 250 words. That isn't going to work. You need to seriously think about what makes your book awesome/unique/good MG fiction. Then distill that AND ONLY that. Explain it. You also need to cut some characters, you've got way too many going on there. Successful queries give the reader a hint of the plot, a promise of exciting pages ahead, not a summary.

 

Your tone is also far too adult for your genre. MG fiction requires strong, MG voices. That's the single most important selling point of books in the genre, and it's entirely lacking in your query. My best advice for this is to pretend you're writing a pitch directed at a middle school kid, and write your query accordingly. Agents don't need to know that you can write for adults, they want to see that you can write for kids. 

______________________

 

I critique because I care. Good luck and happy writing!



#3 Ilovesoup

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Posted 04 November 2018 - 07:23 PM

Hello, Erevos,

 

Welcome back to the forums! Sorry to hear about your first book. Yeah, that can be a bit of a bummer when the market is "not right" or saturated with something. Five years ago it was vampires (still is?) and now it's Game of Thrones. Oh, well, sounds like you've got an interesting second book going on here!

 

I love science fiction and steampunk and your query sounds very interesting. However, I am going to agree with all of the amazing points that koechophe mentioned above. You have way too many characters and there are a lot of things like why Popo and Olly HAVE to work together that don't quite connect. Tighten up the points koechophe made and I'll come back for a critique.

 

Good luck!

 

-Soup



#4 Erevos

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Posted 05 November 2018 - 11:20 AM

Thank you both for the comments!!

Soup I couldn't find your query, so if possible please give me a link so I can comment back.

 

Hopefully my new draft is better. I bumped the age of Olly by 1 year, and the removed the part where Olly makes people disappear. It's something like magic, but so very subtle it's not worth being in the query. Even in the story it's used rarely as comic relief <- did I say that right? :P

 

I won't alter the voice yet, but I will start working on something... funnier. After all, there's a lot of humor in the book.

_____________________________________________________

 

Draft #2

 

 

Inspector Popo has just found the perfect excuse to go back to work: Olly, a ten-year-old vandal with amnesia.

 

In theory.

 

When Olly mucks up an important arrest — and Popo’s dreams of promotion — Popo is tasked with finding his parents, and the two of them get stuck with each other whether they like it or not.

 

During their investigation, Olly remembers that two years ago he was standing outside Popo’s house moments before it went up in flames, taking with it his wife and daughter. Responsible for this was rumored to be the Red Baron — the infamous underground boss who seeks control of steam, the life-giving source for Atmos.

 

Baffled by this, Popo and Olly put their quarrels aside and start working together to bring him to justice and uncover Olly’s past.

 

But soon the Red Baron makes his move, planning to seize control of Atmos by force.

 

With time running short, Olly and Popo will have to put their trust on unconventional allies and each other in order to free the city from his sinister grasp.

If they fail, the Red Baron will seize Atmos, and the great city of steam will be forever lost.


My query: http://agentquerycon...teampunksci-fi/

Let me know if you want me to look at yours. Will happily do so.


#5 Koechophe

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Posted 05 November 2018 - 05:59 PM

 

Inspector Popo has just found the perfect excuse to go back to work: Olly, a ten-year-old vandal with amnesia. This statement is okay, it's not bad, it's not phenominal. The issue is, most of the info here can be deduced from the next paragraph, and I actually think the next paragraph works better as a hook. I'd just incorperate into the next paragraph like so.

 

In theory. This now doesn't make any sense. Olly only has amnesia in theory? I'd actually just cut this line, 

 

When a ten-year-old vandal with crippling amnesia Olly mucks up the most important arrest in Inspector Popo's carrer an important arrest — and Popo’s shatters his dreams of promotion — Popo is tasked with finding the kid's his parents. This would be a good place to throw in a "or he gets fired" or something to give us a bit of the stakes. and the two of them get stuck with each other whether they like it or not.

 

During their investigation, Olly remembers that two years ago he was standing outside Popo’s house moments before it went up in flames, taking with it his wife and daughter. Responsible for this was rumored to be the Red Baron — the infamous underground boss who seeks control of steam, the life-giving source for Atmos. This is all story setup, we're not getting any of the excitement of plot going on. I'd recommend rethinking how you want this info to come about. 

 

Baffled by this, Popo and Olly put their quarrels What quarrels? More details on this earlier on would really make this query pop aside and start working together to bring him to justice and uncover Olly’s past. We know nothing about Ollie's past, so this doesn't really resonate.

 

But soon the Red Baron makes his move, planning to seize control of Atmos by force.  Again, this doesn't really click since we don't know anything about the city. 

 

With time running short, Olly and Popo will have to put their trust on unconventional allies and each other in order to free the city from his sinister grasp.

If they fail, the Red Baron will seize Atmos, and the great city of steam will be forever lost. I feel like we escalated rather quickly. We go from investigating where Ollie's parents are (a fact which is never mentioned again) to now they're fighting a "kill everyone" criminal. 

 

 

You definitely cut fluff from the query, but we still need much more voice, and the story still feels disjointed and vague. I think you're trying to give too much of the plot. You only need to give us a sample; just a little taste of what happens at the beginning, so the reader can start to predict the conflict and stakes.

 

I also am curious, is this book written primarily from Ollie's perspective, or Popo's? The query would make me think Popo's, even though the genre would make me think Ollie. Think about which character is primary in your book, and write the query with splashes of their voice. For example (and I don't know the voice, so I'm shooting in the dark here)

 

"Inspector Popo wants the simple things in life; to put away bad guys, get recognized, and finally land the promotion of Head Detective. Things are looking great for him, until a ten-year-old vandal (who claims he has Amnesia) interferes with the case of his lifetime, making Popo's key suspect vanish into thin air. 

To add insult to injury, Popo's boss gives him responsibility for the little brat. If Popo can't find the kid's parents in two weeks, he'll be sacked..."

Etc.

Or if it's Ollie's POV you want to emphasize, something like this (again, I'm going to miss a lot, but hope it demonstrates the point)

"The world's a pretty confusing place when you're a ten-year-old with amnesia like Ollie. His only real fun is in painting pretty pictures on city walls, and making people go "poof!" and vanish. Except this time, Ollie's gone too far.

When Ollie Poofs away the key suspect in a big murder case, a grumpy, overworked inspector named Popo just about explodes at him. Ollie is taken to the scary police station and talked to by a bunch of smart people, until they finally decide that Mr. Popo will help Ollie find his parents. That sounds okay to Ollie, except he just can't remember what happened to him. And Mr. redfaced Popo certainly isn't helping jog Ollie's memories..."

Etc.

A lot of queries on this site demonstrate different focuses, but I think that with your genre, the best focus you can have is on portraying a single voice effectively.

 

Again, I know my critique is pretty blunt and harsh, but I hope it's helpful. Query writing can sometimes seem like you have to do 1,000 things right all at once in a short period of time. Truthfully, if you do nothing else except give us a strong character with a cohesive point of view, I think everything else will come naturally and you'll have this query in the bag!

 

As always, I critique because I care. Good luck and happy writing!



#6 Erevos

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Posted 12 November 2018 - 01:53 PM

Thx again Koe! You've give me a pretty solid advise there.

The novel has 2 POV, but Popo's is only a total of 4 chapter out of the 16 and I tried my best to make it as subtle as possible. So, Olly is the main focus here.

Let's see if I can deliver a better query from his side.

 

Also, the bad guy doesn't want to kill people :P His plan is to seize control of steam, which will lead to seizing control of the city.

 

I love that you mention GO POOF, cause this is exactly Popo's reaction when he finds Olly.

________

 

Ten-year-old Olly has two problems. He can't remember anything of his past, and for some reason he can make people go "poof".

 

If this wasn't troubling enough, he mucks up an arrest by "poofing" the prime suspect and gets stuck with the world's grumpiest Inspector. And Inspector Popo just can't wait to get rid of him.

 

"Nothing-but-trouble" Olly, however, soon finds out he shares a connection with Popo when he recalls being present on the day Popo lost his wife and daughter to a fire.

 

When their quet for clues makes them a target by the Red Baron -- the infamous underground boss who seeks control of steam and the man responsible for the fire -- Olly and Popo find themselves on the run.

 

To uncover the truth of his past, Olly will have to "poof" some bad guys, convince Popo to join forces with some unconventional allies and bring the fight to the Red Baron's door.


My query: http://agentquerycon...teampunksci-fi/

Let me know if you want me to look at yours. Will happily do so.


#7 Koechophe

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Posted 12 November 2018 - 05:25 PM

Holy crap this is SO much better! Just minor wording critique here

 

 

Ten-year-old Olly has two problems. He can't remember anything of his past, and for some reason he can make people go "poof" and vanish.

 

If this wasn't troubling that isn't bad enough, he Ollie mucks up an arrest by "poofing" away the prime suspect and gets stuck with the world's grumpiest Inspector. And Inspector Mr. Popo just, who can't wait to get rid of him.

 

"Nothing-but-trouble" Olly, however, soon finds out he shares a connection with Popo when he recalls being present on the day Popo lost his wife and daughter to a fire. When their quest for clues makes them a target by the Red Baron -- the infamous underground boss who seeks control of steam and the man responsible for the fire -- Olly and Popo find themselves on the run.

 

To uncover the truth of his past, Olly will have to "poof" some bad guys, convince Popo to join forces with some unconventional allies (maybe pick something more kid friendly here, like "strange new friends" and bring the fight to the Red Baron's door.

 

This honestly is way, way better than the first few attempts. It's got a clear voice. It's not confusing, it's extremely concise and it makes your story sound much, much more enticing. I've definitely flogged this query with the critique hammer in the past, but really great job here. I'll tip my hat and say good day and great work!



#8 Erevos

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Posted 13 November 2018 - 10:17 AM

"I'll tip my hat and say good day and great work!"

 
This totally made my day!  :biggrin:
A big big thank you Koe!! I only did it because of you!
 
I'm not sure if there's anything to improve, so for me it's pretty much good to go!
 
Now comes the SYNOPSIS part. Time to grab a towel for my tears.

My query: http://agentquerycon...teampunksci-fi/

Let me know if you want me to look at yours. Will happily do so.





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