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Acoustic Alchemy


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#1 RichGrad

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Posted 02 June 2019 - 10:04 PM

Dear [Agent name]

 

Tracy Barnes is an ordinary teenager at Milwaukee High. Her dad is a professor of anthropology, her mom cooks the best meals and her brother believes that aliens are among us. After paying her grandmother Sybs a visit just before her eighteenth birthday, Tracy begins to experience bizarre visions and soon learns that she has inherited the ability to predict the future. 
 
Tracy’s newfound ability opens the door to an extraordinary world filled with the burden of responsibility and the excitement of adventure, as she sets out on a journey to Turkey with her father, where an unimaginable discovery is made at Gobekli Tepe, the 12,000-year-old megalithic temple in Urfa. It is this discovery that sets in motion a series of events that changes Tracy’s life forevermore. 
 
Armed with raw intuition and a sharp intellect, Tracy must track down a powerful adversary who will stop at nothing to fulfil an ancient doomsday prophecy. Can Tracy, with her steadily growing powers, predict the outcome and prevent a global Armageddon?
 
Acoustic Alchemy is a 120,000-word mythical fiction thriller for the YA market. 
 


#2 CarterT

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Posted 03 June 2019 - 10:59 AM

I'm going to make some general comments (all based on personal opinion, so please take it with a grain of salt).

 

- Too many proper names - Do you we need her grandma's name or the name of the temple? I get why you did Milwaukee High (sets up where she is AND her age, well done!). 

              - Related to this, you spend a lot of time talking about her family. Instead of that, why not talk about how she sees them. For example, 'As much as she loves her mom's home cooking, and puts up with her brother's belief in aliens, Tracy dreams of following in her father's footsteps...' blah blah blah. Maybe it's not the case, but the query should be about Tracy, whereas right now the first sentence is as much about her family as it is here. 

- Book Title - Reading it, i expected some cool alchemy based on sound. Is that the case? 'Just' predicting the future isn't as cool. You could elaborate on that a touch if there is more to it. 

- To you, what's your hook? The first sentence doesn't give any stakes, or get the reader to go 'oh my gosh, what happens next?'. 

 

I'm sure some other folks will give you more specific suggestions (though I suspect one is that you have some word count room to add some more meat to this) so I will leave it as this for now. 

 

If any of this was helpful, I'd appreciate some feedback on my own query (Found here). 

 

Thanks. 



#3 lnloft

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Posted 03 June 2019 - 06:28 PM

 

Dear [Agent name]

 

Tracy Barnes is an ordinary teenager at Milwaukee High. Starting your query with how ordinary your MC is isn't generally very exciting or compelling. We want to know why there's something unusual, either about them or their circumstances, and hence why there's a story. Her dad is a professor of anthropology, her mom cooks the best meals and her brother believes that aliens are among us I've read the query and I'm still trying to figure this line out. Is this presenting how her family is "ordinary"? Because I don't know many people who think that. Or is it just supposed to be tongue-in-cheek? But that doesn't really work, either. What it does is make me think that aliens are going to be a part of the story, when that doesn't seem to be the case.. After paying her grandmother Sybs a visit just before her eighteenth birthday, Tracy begins to experience bizarre visions and soon learns that she has inherited the ability to predict the future. This is what your hook probably should be focusing on. We don't need the rest of the background, because we'll assume she's ordinary unless otherwise stated.
 
Tracy’s newfound ability opens the door to an extraordinary world filled with the burden of responsibility and the excitement of adventure, as she sets out on a journey to Turkey with her father, where an unimaginable discovery It had better be imaginable, or else it's going to be hard to imagine it in the story. is made at Gobekli Tepe, the 12,000-year-old megalithic temple in Urfa. It is this discovery that sets in motion a series of events that changes Tracy’s life forevermore. This paragraph is written in too-broad strokes. You've got generic adjectives like "extraordinary" and "unimaginable", and vague nods toward something exciting. But we need details. How is her world extraordinary now? Why do they go to Turkey? How is her life changed forevermore? Details are what make your story pop.
 
Armed with raw intuition and a sharp intellect, Tracy must track down a powerful adversary who will stop at nothing to fulfill an ancient doomsday prophecy. Where did this adversary come from? You can't drop them in without details at the end of the query. Can Tracy, with her steadily growing powers, predict the outcome and prevent a global Armageddon? Rhetorical questions tend to be universally disliked by agents. Don't use them.
 
Acoustic Alchemy ACOUSTIC ALCHEMY is a 120,000-word mythical fiction thriller for the YA market. 

 

Right now, your query is focused on the wrong details. You've got too much on her family and where the discovery is made, and not enough on the actual plot. Focus on the first quarter to third of your book and what happens in it. Taking extreme liberties because I don't know your actual story: "Just before her eighteenth birthday, Tracy Barnes gets hit by a lightning bolt and starts to experience visions of the future. What starts as a fun party trick turns dark when Tracy has a vision of all the world's cities burning. From a clue in her vision, she travels to Turkey, where she discovers an ancient relic that will be used to start Armageddon. Worse, Tracy discovers that an ancient cult led by BadGuy McEvil is intent on getting the relic and using it. Suddenly, Tracy is caught in a game of cat-and-mouse as she uses her powers to keep the relic away from BadGuy. But all her visions keep telling her that her escapes are temporary: she must figure out a way to destroy the relic, or else BadGuy will get it, and the cities will burn." Again, forgive my complete invention of your story. But I hope what you can see from that layout is how to show story points leading to another and what sort of details to focus on. Take that sort of outline, make it actually correct for your story, and then add details as able/needed.

 

A couple points also on housekeeping: You've got your story listed as YA, but it's a bit on the long side (not impossible, mind, just a bit more difficult). Eighteen is also a bit old for an MC of YA. Is possible to age her down even just a year? Also, and this is super important: you've got yourself listed as self-published, and you list this title under prior publishing experience. Is this novel already published in some form? If it is, that is going to make your life very difficult, unfortunately. Agents generally aren't going to be too interested in something that's already on the market, unless you get something like The Martian that does extremely well.

 

Anyway, I hope this is helpful, and good luck.


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#4 RichGrad

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Posted 04 June 2019 - 09:46 PM

Thanks for all the assistance. Here's my draft 2:

 

Tracy Barnes is the recipient of prophetic powers. Now, she must use her newfound ability to track down a formidable foe and prevent a global Armageddon.

 

Right before her sixteenth birthday, Tracy discovers that she has inherited the ability to predict the future. She opens the door to an extraordinary world filled with the burden of responsibility and the excitement of adventure, as she sets out on a journey to Turkey with her father, where they unearth an ancient flute, imbued with supernatural powers.

 

But there is someone else after the mythical instrument - a powerful adversary, hell-bent on fulfilling an age-old doomsday prophecy. After a spate of gang-related murders, the FBI steps in and things begin to spiral out of control. Armed with the magical flute and her powerful intuition, Tracy must fight with all of her might, in order to save the world and those she loves.

 

ACOUSTIC ALCHEMY is a 120,000-word mythical fiction thriller for the YA market. 



#5 CarterT

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Posted 05 June 2019 - 08:08 AM

Thanks for all the assistance. Here's my draft 2:

 

Tracy Barnes is the recipient of prophetic powers.Too passive? Maybe: Tracy Barnes is a prophet, whether she likes it or not. The recipient part takes the oomph out of your opening line. Also, a small change would give you a window to throw in some voice.  Now, she must use her newfound ability to track down a formidable foe and prevent a global Armageddon. Hooks are really tough (I'm terrible at them), and I think the biggest challenge is balancing the 'oh my gawd stakes' against details vs length. Here, I think you may have gone too generic on what the stakes are. Is there anything special about your Armageddon? Something that would differentiate it from fireballs raining from the sky? If so, give us a little taste of that.

 

Right before her sixteenth birthday, Tracy discovers that she has inherited the ability to predict the future (instead of using 'discover', you could say something like: Right before her 16th birthday, Tracy's unwanted prophetic powers awaken, opening the door to an extraordinary world of responsibility and adventure. I'd...word it better than I did, but again making it more active. You could also separate adventure from responsibility. Basically, in one sentence, make the powers sound exciting! But, then in the next, the dark shadow of what's coming, which will lead into your final paragraph). She opens the door to an extraordinary world filled with the burden of responsibility and the excitement of adventure, as she sets out on a journey to Turkey with her father, where they unearth an ancient flute I really like that you got specific here, and I love that it's a flute, good job!(Don't think this comma is needed) imbued with supernatural powers.

 

But there is someone else after the mythical instrument (You could also say something like: But Tracy's discovery attracts unwanted attention, a powerful shaman from the blah blah blah...) - a powerful (powerful politically, with a rough-and-tumble gang at his side, magic? Because you brought in FBI later, it makes me think mafia, so if it's not that, touch on his power very briefly) adversary, hell-bent on fulfilling an age-old doomsday prophecy. After a spate of gang-related murders, the FBI steps in and things begin to (This is just me, I try to avoid 'begin to', 'try to', 'start to'. Just do it. Gives your sentences more punch, unless you very specifically need something to happen mid-action, like an interruption.) spiral out of control. Armed with the magical flute and her powerful intuition (What happened to daddy-dearest?), Tracy must fight with all of her might, in order to save the world and those she loves (Similar to above, what makes her fight special? Is her dad kidnapped by Mr. Adversary, and she needs to rescue him while keeping the flute safe? Is it a game of cat and mouse? Does she need to destroy the flute by dropping it in a volcano deep in the heart of...wrong book, sorry. Really though, tell us WHY it's Tracy's story we are reading about.).

 

ACOUSTIC ALCHEMY is a 120,000-word mythical fiction thriller for the YA market. Mythical fiction, is that a thing? If it is, comps! It didn't jump out to me, so comps could really help zero in, though I guess I kind of get a Percy feel from it. Am I on the right track?

 

I think you're on the right track, so keep it up. Queries suck until you have that 'aha' moment. Then they still suck, but less. 



#6 RichGrad

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Posted 09 June 2019 - 10:24 PM

Draft 3

 

Tracy Barnes is a seer and there’s no denying it. Now, she must use her newfound ability to track down a formidable foe, hell-bent on fulfilling an ancient doomsday prophecy that signals the end of all mankind.

 

Right before her sixteenth birthday, Tracy’s prophetic powers awaken, opening the door to an extraordinary world filled with the burden of responsibility and the excitement of adventure, as she sets out on a journey to Turkey with her father, where they unearth a mythical flute imbued with supernatural powers.

 

But Tracy’s miraculous discovery attracts the unwanted attention of another powerful seer, involved in a spate of gruesome, gang-related murders that are being investigated by the FBI. Armed with the magical flute and her powerful intuition, Tracy plays a dangerous game of cat and mouse as she fights to save the world and those that she loves.

 

ACOUSTIC ALCHEMY is a 120,000-word mythical fiction thriller for the YA market.



#7 mwsinclair

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Posted 14 June 2019 - 02:08 PM

I'm still not crazy about that opening hook.

 

Maybe something a bit punchier:

 

Tracy Barnes can't help seeing the future. Now, she sees a foe hell-bent on fulfilling an ancient doomsday prophecy that would signal the end of humanity...

 

 

 

Just a thought.



#8 JEMitchell

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Posted 14 June 2019 - 03:32 PM

If there’s one piece of advice I can give, it’s that specificity is your friend. Always, always try to be as precise as possible when describing anything. Agents hate anything with a whiff of vagueness like - a journey she can’t begin to imagine or “supernatural powers” instead of something specific like a desert excavation in the former case or telekinesis/teleportation/etc in the latter. Always be explicit if possible. Your biggest problem is how vague and generic the stakes are, which need to feel as personal and gripping as possible.

—————
 
Newly sixteen-year-old Tracy Barnes awakens to her seer powers - and there’s no refund on this unwanted gift. After her first startling vision of a fiery Armageddon and a tug of psychic intuition, Tracy joins her father’s excavation in Turkey, where they unearth a mythical flute that can bind the spirits ushering the apocalypse.
 
But Tracy’s attempt to use the flute sends out a psychic wave - one picked up by Madame Malkins (you can name the antagonist if the protagonist is your only other named character), a powerful seer involved in a spate of gruesome gang murders investigated by the FBI (is the FBI’s presence relevant here? Cut it if not). If Tracy can’t fend off Madame Malkins desperate plots to obtain the flute and amplify her powers, she’ll lose her one chance to save her father - and her world - from going up in flames.
 
ACOUSTIC ALCHEMY is a 120,000-word mythical fiction thriller for the YA market.

(Here’s a few points. 120k is very high word count for YA. That’s going to be a red flag. Your genre tags are a bit of a mess as well. Never say fiction. It’s implied when querying a novel.)

ACOUSTIC ALCHEMY is a 120,000-word YA contemporary fantasy. (If you’re including prophetic powers and magic flutes, it’s fantasy. If you feel the need, you can say contemporary fantasy with thriller elements).

Hope this helps!

"Writing is like taking a boat onto the ocean. You pack as many provisions and plan as many contingencies and travel routes as possible beforehand, but once you open those sails, it’s up to the ocean where you’ll end up."

 

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#9 RichGrad

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Posted 20 June 2019 - 09:54 PM

Draft 4. This is my final draft. Thank you all for the advice, feedback etc. I have reworked the hook and I believe that it is punchier and far more attention grabbing than ever. I haven't changed my second paragraph much because I find it very well balanced. The vagueness of the first sentence leads the reader into the second sentence which 'answers' the first. I have also added more specifics to the final paragraph, with a stronger and more definitive ending. I have dropped the word count to 100,000.

 

Dear [Agent name],

 

Tracy Barnes. Insta warrior. Music lover. Oracle. On a perilous mission to prevent her nemesis from fulfilling an ancient doomsday prophecy.
 
Right before her seventeenth birthday, Tracy awakens to her prophetic powers, opening the door to an extraordinary world filled with the burden of responsibility and the excitement of adventure, as she sets out on a journey to Turkey with her father, where they unearth a mythical flute imbued with supernatural powers. 
 
But Tracy’s riveting discovery attracts the unwanted attention of Sabine, another powerful seer, responsible for a spate of gruesome, gang-related murders. Armed with the magical flute and her powerful intuition, Tracy must traverse the spiritual realm and confront Sabine in a brutal battle to save the world from a terrifying Armageddon. 
 
ACOUSTIC ALCHEMY is a 100,000-word YA contemporary fantasy.


#10 brandonyoung

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Posted Today, 04:45 AM

 

Dear [Agent name],

 

Tracy Barnes. Insta warrior. Music lover. Oracle. On a perilous mission to prevent her nemesis from fulfilling an ancient doomsday prophecy.
 
Insta warrior, meaning... Instagram? That's the first thing that comes to my head, which (along with "music lover") lends me to believe it's set in our world. The second bit of that paragraph about the ancient prophecy for some reason makes me think of a typical fantasy world though, particularly due to the fantasy trope of ancient prophecies. So a bit of conflicting thoughts running through my head, personally.
 
Right before her seventeenth birthday, Tracy awakens to her prophetic powers, opening the door to an extraordinary world filled with the burden of responsibility and the excitement of adventure, as she sets out on a journey to Turkey with her father, where they unearth a mythical flute imbued with supernatural powers. 
 
This reads long-winded to me. There are so many things happening in this one sentence. She's turning seventeen. She awakes to prophetic powers. She opens a door to an extraordinary world. She sets out with her father to Turkey. They unearth a mythical flute. Like that's five things. Maybe you could focus instead on the one event that is most important? Or maybe just try not to rush through it. Definitely feels like you're trying to fit as much information in as little space as possible. Which I would imagine is not necessarily indicative of your actual writing style, considering the book was originally 120,000 words and a contemporary fantasy. Slow down would be my advice. My favourite part of this sentence is the mythical flute so maybe focus on that. How do her prophetic powers draw her to the flute?
 
But Tracy’s riveting discovery attracts the unwanted attention of Sabine, another powerful seer, responsible for a spate of gruesome, gang-related murders. Armed with the magical flute and her powerful intuition, Tracy must traverse the spiritual realm and confront Sabine in a brutal battle to save the world from a terrifying Armageddon. 
 
First sentence is good. "Powerful intuition" is too generic for me -- what does this mean? What does it mean to be in the spiritual realm and what kind of story can I expect from that?
 
ACOUSTIC ALCHEMY is a 100,000-word YA contemporary fantasy.

 

 

TLDR: Slow down, man! Take your time and flesh out why I should care about Tracy, what's at stake for her, and what exactly is so cool about this flute.

 

Love the title though and I love music so I would probably like this book. Just not crazy about the execution of the query just yet.


I'm not currently in need of query letter revisions, but I am looking for some amazing beta readers. If you're interested in reading a very short standalone YA fantasy which is heavy on character, crying moments, and not so much on epic scopes and war, shoot me a DM and I'd love to lend you a copy. I'm also open to reading your novels in exchange!





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