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Horace Wheatson and the Book of Secrets - MG Fantasy


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#1 PH87

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Posted 05 June 2019 - 11:12 AM

Hi everyone,

 

A few years back I posted a few critiques here, at the time I was working on this project, which I now finished. I submitted it to agents a few days back, and so far only got two rejections. I'd love to hear what you all think about my query, so here it is:

 

Dear AGENT,

 

There are two things you absolutely must know about tree-dwarves: they live inside trees, obviously, and they never, ever leave their town, the County of Thombling.

 

Twelve-year old Horace Wheatson is fine with the first rule; he quite enjoys living in trees, even though his particular tree-burrow, the Thombling Home for Unwanted and Disregarded Children, is far from cozy. And if you ask Horace, that second rule just goes without saying. Everyone knows that Eaohl is a terribly dangerous land, all with dragons, goblins and those stinky, detestable wizards. Horace’s two best friends, Grindel and Harriet, talk constantly about leaving Thombling, but he knows they wouldn’t last long outside its borders.

 

His life turns upside down when Grindel flees without warning, an event so rare it sends the entire County into an uproar. Determined to find Grindel and bring him back, Horace must face his lifelong fears of the outside world and enter the terrifying River Mouth Woods. With the help of an enthusiastic Harriet, finding Grindel proves to be the easy part, as they soon learn of something terrible: the dreaded wizards want Horace dead, and they are looking everywhere for him.

 

Horace has no idea why the wizards want to kill him, and, when trying to learn more, he stumbles upon an obscure riddle whose words point to a mysterious text known only as the book of secrets. The volume might hold the answers Horace is looking for, but in order to find it and save his life, he and his friends must embark on a dangerous journey across the land of Eahol, and go deeper and deeper into a world of adventures and secrets that reveal more about Horace’s unknown past, and Eaohl’s uncertain future, than any of them could have ever imagined.

 

HORACE WHEATSON AND THE BOOK OF SECRETS is a 73.700 words upper middle-grade fantasy book with series potential. A full manuscript is ready at request.

 

Yours faithfully,

 

 

 

Thanks everyone!!!



#2 Jemi

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Posted 18 June 2019 - 08:22 PM

Sounds like a fun story, but I think you can really trim this down to make it move more quickly. I don't think you don't need all of the info you've included - just enough to entice an agent into NEEDING to read those pages. I've included some tightening suggestions below.

 

 

There are two things you absolutely must know about tree-dwarves: they live inside trees, obviously, and they never, ever leave their town, the County of Thombling.

 

Twelve-year old Horace Wheatson is fine with the first rule; he quite enjoys living in trees, even though his particular tree-burrow, the Thombling Home for Unwanted and Disregarded Children, is far from cozy. And if you ask Horace, that second rule just goes without saying. Everyone knows that Eaohl is a terribly dangerous land, all with dragons, goblins and those stinky, detestable wizards. Horace’s two best friends, Grindel and Harriet, talk constantly about leaving Thombling, but he knows they wouldn’t last long outside its borders. (I think you could eliminate all of this and incorporate the important details with the rest. Start with the initiating event, not the backstory...

Twleve-year old HW knows leaving his tree is dangerous, leaving his community is just crazy!...

As a tree-dwarf, 12yo HW knows the outside world is crazy dangerous. But his buddy has disappeared and H is determined to find him...

12yo tree dwarf HW has no desire to meet dragons and wizards, but his friend has taken off and someone's got to mount a rescue...)

 

His life turns upside down when Grindel flees without warning, an event so rare it sends the entire County into an uproar. Determined to find Grindel and bring him back, Horace must face his lifelong fears of the outside world and enter the terrifying River Mouth Woods. With the help of an enthusiastic Harriet, finding Grindel proves to be the easy part, as they soon learn of something terrible: the dreaded wizards want Horace dead, and they are looking everywhere for him

(Once again, I think you can tighten up a lot...

Once outside their community, HW and his friend find it's just as terrifying as they thought...

When H and his friend are hiding from the wizards, they overhear them plotting a way to find H. And then to kill him...

Searching for G and hiding from dragons and wolves, H overhears some wizards who want to kill him. Terrified, H...

 

 

Horace has no idea why the wizards want to kill him, and, when trying to learn more, he stumbles upon an obscure riddle whose words point to a mysterious text known only as the book of secrets. The volume might hold the answers Horace is looking for, but in order to find it and save his life, he and his friends must embark on a dangerous journey across the land of Eahol, and go deeper and deeper into a world of adventures and secrets that reveal more about Horace’s unknown past, and Eaohl’s uncertain future, than any of them could have ever imagined. (That's one long sentence!  :smile: Because you're writing MG, I'd showcase your MG voice/style with shorter sentences that move quickly.)

 

HORACE WHEATSON AND THE BOOK OF SECRETS is a 73.700 words upper middle-grade fantasy book with series potential. A full manuscript is ready at request.

 

Hope some of those ideas help you out a bit. I think by tightening up, you're going to have an agent skimming quickly through the query - which is exactly what you want.

All of the proper nouns slow down the eye. Stick to the basics, use your voice to its best advantage, and get us right inside H's head to let us see what he is feeling. From what I've learned it's mostly characters and emotions that sell agents on a query. Obviously, you need enough of a unique plot (which you have!) to tie it all together, but we want H to be the star.

If none of that makes sense, feel free to ignore it - it's your story and you'll know what's best. Good luck!



#3 London C

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Posted 19 June 2019 - 01:57 PM

Hi PH87,

 

I think this is wonderful. The voice comes through strongly, the stakes are clear  and interesting, and the notion of tree dwarfs is both familiar (aka, Hobbit-y) and unique. I disagree with Jemi and cutting stuff: it's not overly long and, for me, the whole thing flows with a charming voice. My only critique would be building on what Jemi said about the long final sentence.  As a whole, most of your sentences tend towards long. If you can break them up a bit, it might help.

 

However, I suspect your two rejections and no requests is just due to luck. There are a lot of reasons agents can reject an MS that have nothing to do with its quality or prospects, and you've probably just stumbled over a few of them. The other thing it might be is the pages. If the first pages don't deliver the same quality of voice as you have here, or otherwise stumble, that  could lead to rejections, too. 


——————

My latest query is here. I appreciate reciprocal critiques


#4 Derrick

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Posted 05 July 2019 - 10:43 AM

Hi everyone,

 

A few years back I posted a few critiques here, at the time I was working on this project, which I now finished. I submitted it to agents a few days back, and so far only got two rejections. I'd love to hear what you all think about my query, so here it is:

 

Dear AGENT,

 

There are two things you absolutely must know about tree-dwarves: they live inside trees, obviously, and they never, ever leave their town, the County of Thombling.

 

Twelve-year old Horace Wheatson is fine with the first rule; he quite enjoys living in trees, even though his particular tree-burrow, the Thombling Home for Unwanted and Disregarded Children, is far from cozy. And if you ask Horace, that second rule just goes without saying. Everyone knows that Eaohl is a terribly dangerous land, all with dragons, goblins and those stinky, detestable wizards. Horace’s two best friends, Grindel and Harriet, talk constantly about leaving Thombling, but he knows they wouldn’t last long outside its borders.

 

I think your query should start below. Maybe with, "When Grindel the tree-dwarf leaves home without warning--something that is just not done, Horace must face his life long fears of the outside world to bring his friend back."

 

His life turns upside down when Grindel flees without warning, an event so rare it sends the entire County into an uproar. Determined to find Grindel and bring him back, Horace must face his lifelong fears of the outside world and enter the terrifying River Mouth Woods. With the help of an enthusiastic Harriet, finding Grindel proves to be the easy part, as they soon learn of something terrible: the dreaded wizards want Horace dead, and they are looking everywhere for him.

 

Horace has no idea why the wizards want to kill him, and, when trying to learn more, he stumbles upon an obscure riddle whose words point to a mysterious text known only as the book of secrets. The volume might hold the answers Horace is looking for, but in order to find it and save his life, he and his friends must embark on a dangerous journey across the land of Eahol, and go deeper and deeper into a world of adventures and secrets that reveal more about Horace’s unknown past, and Eaohl’s uncertain future, than any of them could have ever imagined.

 

HORACE WHEATSON AND THE BOOK OF SECRETS is a 73.700 words upper middle-grade fantasy book with series potential. A full manuscript is ready at request.

 

Yours faithfully,

 

 

 

Thanks everyone!!!

 

I do think the query's voice is good. I think you just need to pack as much punch up front as possible. And by eliminating some of the above, you will have even more space to build out some of the other things that are making your query work for you.


Would you do me the kindness of critiquing my query?


#5 mwsinclair

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Posted 11 July 2019 - 11:26 AM

I like Derrick's suggestion very much. It really cuts to the chase, and it also suggests right away that the classic Hero's Journey is employed, which in turn suggests that the storyteller (you, obviously) has a sense of story structure.






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