Monday, July 12, 2010

Query Critique--Help Wanted

Queries. Oh, the nightmare! The necessary evil we must survive to catch that coveted agent. I have two and am working on a third one. My goal is to try a few different approaches, find what works the best for intriguing, hooking, and reeling in the agent of my dreams. I'm trying to follow that standard set of "rules", but I'm not super happy with it. That's why I'm going to write a third one that breaks a few of those rules.

Anyway, here are the first two. Please help me out by answering a few questions in the comments.
  • Which do you like better? 
  • Why?
  • What's missing?
  • What doesn't work?
  • Feel free to make any other comments you think will be helpful in this thought process.

Thanks!

Query #1 (Written months ago):
Dear _______,

Talia Shannon feels safe within her scientific world, but her very essence is magical. From birth she has been able to absorb energy from the suns rise, communicate with the natural world around her, and receive prophetic dreams. Fearful of discovery, she keeps her talents hidden while trying to reconcile the two halves of her life. Shortly after beginning a new work assignment, Talia is accused of treason by a commander in the Royalist army. Commander Sutton comes dangerously close to her secret and accidentally reveals his ability to sense other people’s emotions. Talia must learn to trust Sutton in order to save their world from the real traitors—the Dragnot.

The Dragnot have made contact with the aliens of Talia’s dreams. This race of beings, created by a mage from Sendek's past, has returned with superior science and technology to claim the planet as their own. Talia unwillingly finds herself leading a revival of magic with Sutton’s help in order to give the people of Sendek a fighting chance.

Sendek is an 85,000 word Science Fantasy novel. A complete manuscript is available at your request.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,
Query #2 (Written this past Weekend):
Dear _______,

As her nightmares of invasion and death become reality, a lonely scientist embraces forgotten magic to save her world from an ancient evil.

Talia Shannon bears the mark of the mage—colored eyes in a sea of brown. In a world that turned its back on magic in favor of science, she dedicated herself to becoming the top researcher and engineer at the Space Exploration Foundation. Unable to warn the military, she has spent her life searching the stars for the scaly creatures that haunt her prophetic dreams. Her hope? To outrun her destiny.

A loner by habit and out of need to hide her magical talents, Talia’s life is turned upside down by a commander in the Royalist army. Bearing the mark of the mage, he has secrets of his own to protect. Together they must survive the invasion, wake a dragon, raise an army of new mage, and learn the spell to save their planet from the Draguman. This race of creatures, created by a mage from Sendek's past, have returned with superior science and technology to claim the planet for themselves.

When science fails to protect their way of life, magic becomes their only hope.

Sendek is an 84,000 word Science Fantasy novel. A complete manuscript is available at your request.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,
 And yes, the word count did go down about a thousand words after all the revisions.

9 comments:

  1. I like query 2 better. It tells me more about the story. But I'm not sure we need to know about the mark of the mage here, especially since that phrase is used twice. Could you be more clear about what she needs to warn the military of? What's her destiny? The beginning of the second paragraph doesn't work grammatically (the phrase doesn't modify "Talia's life.")

    I hope this helps and that these comments don't sound too abrupt--it's early in the morning for me! Good luck.

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  2. I agree with Sandra. I live #2 better. I get a better sense of the story. The first para in summary in #1 feels like descriptive backstory (although I'm sure this happens in the novel itself), whereas #2 only gives 2 sentences that feel more backstory-ish than plot-driven ("In a world that..." and "Bearing the mark of the mage...").

    In fact, I love everything about #2 until you get to that sentence, but I think it breaks down there. "...wake a dragon, raise an army of new mage, and learn the spell to save their planet from the Draguman." These all come entirely out of the blue, and it's only in the next sentence that we really find out what's going on. Could you perhaps swap the last two lines for something more like:

    When the Draguman, a race of creatures created by a mage from Sendek's past, return with superior science and technology to claim the planet for themselves, Talia and her commander must learn to trust each other to save themselves (and their world?). Together they must survive the invasion, wake a dragon, raise an army of new mage, and learn the spell (to save their planet from the Draguman--some other way to describe the spell here).

    Two other little things: 1) Dragnot or Draguman? I realize you mention one in each, but since you're selling the same book, it seems like an important detail. 2) What's a mage? Am I out of the loop since I don't read as much true fantasy? Will the agent/editor know what this is?

    Two other things I really like abotu #2: the short one-sentence opener and closer paragraphs. It gives it a lot more punch. I like what you've done with these, and I can't wait to see how you're breaking all the rules with #3, you rebel you :)

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  3. Wow, I'm feeling wordy this morning, aren't I? :/

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  4. REALLY liked #2 better. It's more specific, and captured more of the essence of the story, and I like that it's punchier. And I agree about removing the first "mark of the mage" reference. Otherwise, great work!

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  5. I like them both for different reasons.
    #1--I like that she's accused of treason by someone who also has something to hide--that got my interest. But--there's too much information about her abilities and I got confused by the different alien groups.

    #2--Overall I like this one better, but I was a little thrown by the phrase "army of new mage" instead of "mages."

    I can't help much--I don't know the conventions of a query and my 3-year-old is pulling on me--but I sure am excited for you and proud of you for getting so far along on the process!

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  6. I like #2 a lot more than #1. It's got a great opening. But I agree with the others about "mage". I want to know what it is so I can understand/care.
    Good job, and good luck! :)

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  7. #2 caught my eye on the first read. It was a great starting which made me want to read more. =)

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  8. I like #2 better, it's punchier and grabbed my interest. I agree with Rosie and like the way she rearranged it for more clarity. I got confused in both letters about who, then what Sendek is. You could even pare it down a little more, but may lose something in doing something like:

    When her nightmares of invasion and death become reality, a lonely scientist embraces forgotten magic to save her world from an ancient evil.

    As the top engineering researcher at Sendek’s Space Exploration Foundation, Talia Shannon has spent her life searching the stars for the scaly creatures that haunt her prophetic dreams.

    Her solitary life is turned upside down by a commander in the Royalist army, a man who has secrets of his own. Together they must fight the invasion of the Draguman, a race of creatures created to steal their planet. To do so, they must first wake a dragon, raise an army of new mage? and find the spell that will save their planet.

    When science fails to protect their way of life, magic becomes their only hope.

    Hope you don't mind me playing with it and thanks for sharing!

    ~Olivia

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