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SHEPHERD -- 80K YA Fantasy/Sci-Fi


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#1 booksbybrendan

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Posted 06 February 2019 - 01:47 PM

Newest version is post #6! I'm going to try to return every critique as soon as I can; I really appreciate your help on this one guys. Thanks!

 

Hello, everyone! It's been a year or so since I've posted here, and I'm returning to an oldie-but-goodie: my first book, SHEPHERD. I'm in the process of completely re-writing it, but I've decided to get my query going now so I can be ready to go. Thank you for your help!

 

Dear [agent],

 

Teagan spent a decade studying to slay the beast who murdered his father. The beast, a house-sized wolf named Nil, would kill again. Nil and his horde would descend on more families and more fathers until only bones remained, and not even the superhuman Shepherds could stop him.

 

To fight Nil, Teagan discarded unnecessary things. Friends were pointless. Family distracted him. His world was unclouded by the church’s superstition and fear. It was a lonely world. It was a world where Nil could be defeated.

 

It wasn’t a world at all.

 

Unknown to its occupants, the gargantuan ship New Earth has carried humanity through space for six hundred years, its disc-like surface swathed in wide plains, dark forests and medieval cities. Teagan’s father was its captain. Now Nil controls the ship, and his chosen destination, the abandoned Old Earth, promises certain death to wolf and humankind alike. A cosmic monstrosity, the same that forced humanity to flee their old home, waits beneath the Atlantic for its minion to deliver its next meal.

 

Only Teagan can seize control back from Nil. To save everyone, he must relinquish his hatred and rely on the family he pushed away, the Shepherds he idolized and the wolves he despised. Or only bones will remain.

 

ATTACK ON TITAN meets Lovecraft. A dual-viewpoint story; on the other end of the ship, a wayward bounty hunter struggles to save her soul. SHEPHERD is a YA fantasy/sci-fi complete at ~80,000 words. It stands on its own, but is the first in a potential series. 

 

Thank you for your time and consideration.



#2 lnloft

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Posted 09 February 2019 - 01:34 PM

Hello, everyone! It's been a year or so since I've posted here, and I'm returning to an oldie-but-goodie: my first book, SHEPHERD. I'm in the process of completely re-writing it, but I've decided to get my query going now so I can be ready to go. Thank you for your help! Welcome back!

 

Dear [agent],

 

Teagan spent a decade studying to slay This is a clunky phrase. Maybe "studying how to slay" or "preparing to slay". the beast who murdered his father. The beast, a house-sized wolf named Nil, would kill again. Nil and his horde would descend on more families and more fathers until only bones remained, and not even the superhuman Shepherds could stop him. Okay, logistics have got me confused, and that's not a good way to start your query. The many uses of "would" I think are a big part of what's tripping me up. Does this mean that after killing Teagan's father Nil goes on and kills other people, while Teagan is studying? Or that if Teagan doesn't kill Nil then Nil will eventually go on to do this stuff? I think it's the former, but there's enough ambiguity that I'm not sure. Simplify your hook. "Teagan has spent the past decade preparing to slay Nil, a house-sized wolf that rained destruction on the world, including killing Teagan's father." Even that could use some refining, but it's more streamlined. I also have a quibble with the last phrase of your hook, about the Shepherds. I don't know what a Shepherd is yet in your context, so it doesn't mean anything to me that they can't stop Nil. Speaking of which, is Nil on a rampage for the entire decade that Teagan's studying, or did he come, kill thousands, and then leave? If so, is Teagan going to seek him out for vengeance, or does he expect Nil to come back? I haven't read anything more of your query yet, so maybe some of this is addressed, and not everything has to be answered in the hook, but right now you've got a hook that's just throwing me for a loop because I've got too many questions on it.

 

To fight Nil, Teagan discarded unnecessary things. Friends were pointless. Family distracted him. His world was unclouded by the church’s superstition and fear. It was a lonely world. It was a world where Nil could be defeated.

 

It wasn’t a world at all. I don't know what this means. EDIT: Having read further, I can assume you're saying, it's not a world, it's a ship, but the transition doesn't work, because the world referred to above is more metaphorical, vs it's actually a ship is more literal.

 

Unknown to its occupants, the gargantuan ship New Earth has carried humanity through space for six hundred years, its disc-like surface swathed in wide plains, dark forests and medieval cities. Whoa, okay, we've taken a shocking swerve in genre here. And I'm not complaining about that in the sense of the book itself, but for the query it's a little jarring. You say this is "unknown to its occupants". So does that mean Teagan doesn't know he actually lives on a giant ship at the start of the story? If not, then use that path of discovery as part of the query. Not only is Teagan going to go after Nil, but he's also discovering that his world is not what he thought it was. Teagan’s father was its captain. So... if his father was the captain, then he had to know he was on a ship, which means it can't be completely "unknown to its occupants". So I take it Teagan DOES know he's on a ship? Now Nil controls the ship, and his chosen destination, the abandoned Old Earth, promises certain death to wolf and humankind alike Are there other wolves like Nil? Are wolves a sentient species in this story?. A cosmic monstrosity, the same that forced humanity to flee their old home, waits beneath the Atlantic for its minion to deliver its next meal. I'm not sure that I need to know this for purposes of the query. I've seen/read enough sci-fi where Earth has been abandoned that I just sort of accepted that Earth is no longer habitable and they'll die if they go back. Including this again seems to feel like it's adding just another swerve late in the query.

 

Only Teagan can seize control back from Nil. To save everyone, he must relinquish his hatred and rely on the family he pushed away, the Shepherds Who/what the heck is a Shepherd? I still don't know what this means. he idolized and the wolves he despised. Or only bones will remain.

 

ATTACK ON TITAN meets Lovecraft. I'd start this paragraph with your title, because for a moment I thought "Attack on Titan" was your title. It's also a sentence fragment. Also, as far as comps go, "Attack on Titan" has been adapted to TV (and is also manga, when generally you want to keep your comps strictly books), and Lovecraft isn't exactly recent. A dual-viewpoint story; on the other end of the ship, a wayward bounty hunter struggles to save her soul Again, I'm not sure you actually need this for the query. The way this is tacked on makes it sound like there's a completely separate story happening, when I can assume that they do eventually tie in together. Just say it's dual-POV and leave it at that.. SHEPHERD is a YA fantasy/sci-fi  science-fantasy complete at ~80,000 words We know it's approximate, no need to include the tilda. It stands on its own, but is the first in a potential series. 

 

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Okay, I butchered this, I know. But I would like to say that through all of this there is a very interesting sounding story in there that I actually might be interested in reading one day. Now you just have to make it shine.

 

Right now I have too many questions from the query. Since Teagan seems to know he's on a ship, I'd get that fact out there even earlier, because honestly it's one of the selling points. Evil monster kills destroys medieval civilization and hero is bent on revenge is a story we know. Evil monster destroys medieval civilization that is actually on a giant space ship and will kill them all unless hero takes back the ship is a very different story. See if you can tie the ship point into the hook. VERY roughly: "Nil killed thousands and now Teagan has to stop him to save the world. Except that world is actually a ship." That example is terrible except as a rough framework, but I hope you can at least see what I mean by it. If you can establish that most people are living in a medieval world in the hook as well, so much the better, but if not, then try to get it in early. Again, that medieval + space ship IS a selling point.

 

The other thing I would say is that I don't feel I know much about Teagan. He's angry and really wants to kill Nil. But he doesn't have any friends. Why should I want to spend 80,000 words with this guy? Just because he's going to save everyone? I need something more. He doesn't have to be a shining hero. But either, (1) make his darkness interesting, (2) show him as anti-hero but also give us a reason to believe we're going to see his character arc where he grows to be a better person, or (3) show that he does have some sort of redeeming quality. Right now he just looks like a sour puss, and I don't want to hang with a sour puss.

 

And, lastly, let us know what a Shepherd is, or don't bother mentioning them in the query. Even though it's the title of your book, it's okay if you don't name drop them to clarify. My book is currently titled after my MC's ship, but I don't mention the ship's name in my query. People haven't asked me why it's called that. You've got wolves in your story, so people will likely it's something symbolic, or it'll come up eventually in the story (and let's be honest, it's probably both). If you feels it's important to explain Shepherds, then explain them, but if not, cut them.

 

Good luck.


Nothing to reciprocate on right now; I'm off in the query trenches.


#3 kathleenq

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Posted 14 February 2019 - 07:31 PM

Hello, everyone! It's been a year or so since I've posted here, and I'm returning to an oldie-but-goodie: my first book, SHEPHERD. I'm in the process of completely re-writing it, but I've decided to get my query going now so I can be ready to go. Thank you for your help!

 

Dear [agent],

 

Teagan spent a decade studying to slay the beast who murdered his father. The beast, a house-sized wolf named Nil, would kill again. Nil and his horde would descend on more families and more fathers until only bones remained, and not even the superhuman Shepherds could stop him.

 

To fight Nil, Teagan discarded unnecessary things. Friends were pointless. Family distracted him. His world was unclouded by the church’s superstition and fear. It was a lonely world. It was a world where Nil could be defeated.

 

It wasn’t a world at all. (These aren't really relevant to pushing the query forward. You don't really expand on this later, and the query is really too short for unnecessary details. I know this might seem important and essential to your overall plot, but the query is super short. You have to skip a lot of plot points.)

 

Unknown to its occupants, the gargantuan ship New Earth has carried humanity through space for six hundred years, its disc-like surface swathed in wide plains, dark forests and medieval cities. Teagan’s father was its captain. Now Nil controls the ship, and his chosen destination, the abandoned Old Earth, promises certain death to wolf and humankind alike. A cosmic monstrosity, the same that forced humanity to flee their old home, waits beneath the Atlantic for its minion to deliver its next meal.

 

Only Teagan can seize control back from Nil (why?). To save everyone, he must relinquish his hatred and rely on the family he pushed away, the Shepherds he idolized and the wolves he despised. (Again, why?) Or only bones will remain.

 

ATTACK ON TITAN meets Lovecraft (??? I also thought Attack on Titan was your title). A dual-viewpoint story; on the other end of the ship, a wayward bounty hunter struggles to save her soul (don't bring in another story at the end here. It's too confusing). SHEPHERD is a YA fantasy/sci-fi complete at ~80,000 words. It stands on its own, but is the first in a potential series. 

 

Thank you for your time and consideration.

I have to say that I agree with lnloft on a lot of the points they made. I don't really care about Teagan, I know more about Nil than I do about Teagan from this query, and honestly, he sounds like a bit of an asshole pushing everyone away and then needing their help later on. A hero isn't relatable if everyone starts out resenting him.

 

This does sound like an interesting story, but the query could use a lot of work. Hope this helps!


Query: Glass Domes


#4 smithgirl

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Posted 15 February 2019 - 01:25 PM

Dear [agent]:

 

Teagan spent a decade studying to slay the beast who murdered his father. The beast, a house-sized wolf named Nil, would kill again. Nil and his horde would descend on more families and more fathers until only bones remained, and not even the superhuman Shepherds could stop him.

 

This isn't really a hook. We just know a bad beast killed Teagan's father and he wants revenge, but the hook needs to express some kind of vital conflict. I made a clunky effort at an example hook.

 

Ten years ago, the wolf-beast Nil killed Teagan's father. Teagan wants to slay Nil, but it turns out that to do so, he must save all mankind, as well.

 

To fight Nil, Teagan discarded unnecessary things. Friends were pointless. Family distracted him. His world was unclouded by the church’s superstition and fear. It was a lonely world. It was a world where Nil could be defeated.

 

Following his father's death, Eagan discarded all "unnecessary" things: friends, family, love.

 

It wasn’t a world at all.

 

Unknown to its occupants, Also unknown to Teagan? How does he find out?  the gargantuan ship New Earth has carried humanity through space for six hundred years, its disc-like surface swathed in wide plains, dark forests and medieval cities. Teagan’s father was its captain. Now Nil controls the ship, and his chosen destination, the abandoned Old Earth, So Teagon lives on Old Earth? The whole planet is a ship?  promises certain death to wolf and humankind alike. A cosmic monstrosity, the same that forced humanity to flee their old home, waits beneath the Atlantic for its minion to deliver its next meal. What?

 

Only Teagan can seize control back from Nil. Why? To save everyone, he must relinquish his hatred and rely on the family he pushed away, the Shepherds he idolized and the wolves he despised. Or only bones will remain.

 

ATTACK ON TITAN meets Lovecraft. A dual-viewpoint story; on the other end of the ship, a wayward bounty hunter struggles to save her soul. What? Who is the wayward bounty hunter? I thought Teagan was a man, also did not know he was a bounty hunter. Also nothing obvious here about soul saving. You can't comment on a character who is not included in the query. SHEPHERD is a YA fantasy/sci-fi complete at ~80,000 words. It stands on its own, but is the first in a potential series. 

 

Thank you for your time and consideration.

 

OK, this sounds pretty interesting, but I'm totally lost regarding the actual story. You just have so many disparate events: A wolf-thing kills Teagan's father, then the wolf-thing is piloting a ship through space, then there are minions beneath the ocean. What? It's just not possible to follow an actual story. I'm also unclear on whether Teagan lives on New Earth or Old Earth.

 

This sort of disjointed query happens easily, because you're trying to cram so much info into it that the connections between the story elements are lost. It's especially difficult for world building genres like fantasy. You need to go back to the drawing board and write your query to address these questions:

 

1. Who is Teagan

2. What does he want

3. What obstacles stand in his way

4. What will happen if he fails (the stakes). You have good strong stakes here, but how we reach them is unclear.

 

Go back and start simple, draw a very simple, clear story line, then expand on it. Good luck! Can you please review my query when you get a chance? Thanks! http://agentquerycon...title-redacted/



#5 Joseph Isaacs

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Posted 01 March 2019 - 09:20 PM

Hello, everyone! It's been a year or so since I've posted here, and I'm returning to an oldie-but-goodie: my first book, SHEPHERD. I'm in the process of completely re-writing it, but I've decided to get my query going now so I can be ready to go. Thank you for your help!

 

Hi, mine is Soul Hosts if you would be so kind as to return the crit, thanks!

Dear [agent],

 

Teagan spent a decade studying how (missing word and also I think training makes more sense than studying?) studying and training? to slay the beast who murdered his father. The beast, a house-sized nice, but wonder if you can makes us feel even more scared of Nil perhaps? wolf named Nil, would kill again. Nil and his horde would descend on more families and more fathers until only bones remained, and not even the superhuman Shepherdwho are the sherpherds? why are they superhuman?s could stop him.

 

To fight Nil, Teagan discarded unnecessary things. Friends were pointless. Family distracted him. His world was unclouded by the church’s superstition and fear. It was a lonely world. It was a world where Nil could be defeated. why?

 

It wasn’t a world at all.

 

Unknown to its occupants, the gargantuan ship New Earth has carried humanity through space for six hundred years, its disc-like surface swathed in wide plains, dark forests and medieval cities.  cool Teagan’s father was its captain nice. Now Nil controls the ship, and his chosen destination, the abandoned Old Earth, promises certain death to wolf and humankind alike. A cosmic monstrosity, the same that forced humanity to flee their old home, waits beneath the Atlantic for its minion to deliver its next meal. i am confused and lost, whats the minion, whats the meal, why does it promise certain death? the vagueness confuses and loses me. Can you flesh this out a bit or cut parts that aren't needed and make more understandable the parts that are left?

 

Only Teagan can seize control back from Nil. To save everyone, he must relinquish his hatred and rely on the family he pushed away, the Shepherds he idolized and the wolves he despised. Or only bones will remain.

 

ATTACK ON TITAN meets Lovecraft. A dual-viewpoint story; on the other end of the ship, a wayward bounty hunter struggles to save her soul. SHEPHERD is a YA fantasy/sci-fi complete at ~80,000 words. It stands on its own, but is the first in a potential series. 

 

Thank you for your time and consideration.



#6 booksbybrendan

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Posted 27 March 2019 - 02:39 PM

Here's version 2. Again, I'm going to try and return everyone's critique as soon as I can! The people who helped me out for the first draft too. Thank you for your help!

 

Dear [agent],

 

Sixteen-year-old Teagan wants revenge on the wolf who ate his father. Instead, he discovers his world of castles, monsters, and miracles exists on the back of a colossal spaceship, and now that his father’s dead, he inherits the duty of captain.

 

As Teagan uncovers more of his father’s secret life, he finds his world endangered by more than man-eating wolves. The ship is returning to its birthplace: Earth. A creature waits for them there, ready to consume the last humans and use their ship to move on to the next planet. 

 

Only Teagan can turn the ship around, but he can’t do it without help. His father’s killer taught him hate; his unhinged mother taught him to hate alone. Closed-off and obsessed with retribution, he refuses to accept help from anyone, even his closest family.

 

For most, the ship’s true nature remains a secret. With only the help of his hapless stepbrother, a priestess-warrior, and the wolves he despises, he can pursue his long sought-after revenge, or he can struggle to open his heart. Whichever he choses, a captain always goes down with their ship.

 

[Insert comp here]. SHEPHERD is a YA science-fantasy complete at 90,000 words. It’s a dual-viewpoint story. It stands on its own, but is the first in a potential series. 

 

[Insert personalized paragraph here]

 

Thank you for your time and consideration.



#7 Derrick

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Posted 28 March 2019 - 09:06 AM

Here's version 2. Again, I'm going to try and return everyone's critique as soon as I can! The people who helped me out for the first draft too. Thank you for your help!

 

Dear [agent],

 

Sixteen-year-old Teagan wants revenge on the wolf who ate his father. Instead, he discovers his <Is this supposed to be "his"? Whose is it?> world of castles, monsters, and miracles exists on the back of a colossal spaceship, and now that his father’s dead, he inherits the duty of captain.

 

As Teagan uncovers more of his father’s secret life, he finds his world endangered by more than man-eating wolves. The ship is returning to its birthplace: Earth. A creature waits for them there, ready to consume the last humans and use their ship to move on to the next planet. 

 

Only Teagan can turn the ship around, but he can’t do it without help. His father’s killer taught him hate; his unhinged mother taught him to hate alone. Closed-off and obsessed with retribution, he refuses to accept help from anyone, even his closest family.

 

For most, the ship’s true nature remains a secret. With only the help of his hapless stepbrother, a priestess-warrior, and the wolves he despises, he can pursue his long sought-after revenge, or he can struggle to open his heart. Whichever he chooses, a captain always goes down with their ship.

 

[Insert comp here]. SHEPHERD is a YA science-fantasy complete at 90,000 words. It’s a dual-viewpoint story. It stands on its own, but is the first in a potential series. 

 

[Insert personalized paragraph here]

 

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Not sure you need the say it's dual-viewpoint.

 

I think you need to get me to the premise faster in the hook, like,

 

"When sixteen-year-old Teagan fails to kill the wolf who ate his father, he discovers he's inherited his father's world of castles, monsters, and miracles, which exist on the back of a colossal spaceship."

 

It's subtle, but I think anything to get the idea to the reader faster tends to work better for hooks, imo.

 

Also, I just don't think this sentence adds anything for me: "Whichever he chooses, a captain always goes down with their ship." Maybe it's the placement, or that I don't understand how both options lead to this same outcome.


Would you do me the kindness of critiquing my query?





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