Thursday, March 3, 2011

Emergency Advice Needed!

If you are coming to see Margo Benson's guest post, you can find it HERE. Sorry to move on so quickly, but I need all my awesome writerly friends advice.

Yesterday I found out that this months Agent Judged Contest on QueryTracker.net is for adult SF/F, Horror, Thriller and Romance. It started today, twenty-nine minutes ago. The good news is that they are taking all entries for the next 24hours. I need to submit a one sentence pitch and then the first 100 words of my novel.

Last night I tried to boil my novel down to one sentence, but my brain is mush. Seems like it is always mush lately. Anyway, can you look at these and tell me which one pulls you in more, and any advice you might have? You're the BEST!!

1. The only way for Talia to escape death at the hands of the scaled aliens is by embracing the magic flowing through her.

2. With scaled aliens hunting her down, a female scientist learns to trust the magic flowing in her blood to save her people.

3. Scientist Talia Shannon wants to live, but the dragon-like aliens invading her planet are determined to kill her and wipe out the last of Sendek's mages.

4. Scientist Talia Shannon has lived life on her terms, separate and alone, but now that her prophetic nightmares are becoming reality she must work with others to revive a forgotten magic to save her world.
Additions thanks to comments based on standard format:
5. When Talia Shannon finds herself in the city of her nightmares, she knows an alien race will invade any day, and if she doesn't find a way to warn her people without revealing her magical nature all will be lost.
6.  Independent scientist Talia Shannon struggles to warn her people that dragon-like aliens are coming to claim Sendek for their own without revealing magical gifts, but magic is the only thing that can save them.
7. Independent scientist Talia Shannon struggles to warn her people of an alien invasion without revealing her magical gifts, but magic is the only thing that can save her world.
8. When an independent scientist dreams of a brutal alien invasion and it comes true, she realizes science alone cannot protect her way of life, and magic is the only hope.

33 comments:

  1. Tweak sentence four:

    Scientist Talia Shannon has lived life on her terms, separate and alone, but when her prophetic nightmares become reality she must work with others to revive a forgotten magic and save her world.

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  2. Have you tried the standard format,

    When [MAIN CHARACTER] [INCITING INCIDENT], she [CONFLICT], and if she doesn't [GOAL] she will [CONSEQUENCE].

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  3. LOL, perfect. I always throw in those extra words like "now" and "just". Thanks Liana!

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  4. Otherwise I think number 4 (Liana's tweaked version maybe) says the most :-)

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  5. I feel the 4th sentence to be the most powerful, drawing me in. Good luck with the contest.

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  6. Rachel, standard format would read something like this.

    When Talia Shannon finds herself in the city of her nightmares, she knows an alien race will invade any day, and if she doesn't find a way to warn her people without revealing her magical nature all will be lost.

    Of course it turns out that magic is all that can save them, so, there is that. :) Thanks Rachel!

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  7. That one sounds pretty cool too!

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  8. Have you tried this format yet? I learned it in Holly Lisle’s writing class and it’s worked wonders for me.

    [Protagonist] with a [need] versus [Antagonist] with a [need] in an [interesting setting] with a [twist].

    So, to break it down

    *Protagonist: Talia Shannon, an independent scientist
    (I say “independent” because of your sentence “has lived life on her terms, separate and alone”. I tried to think of a good, one word adjective to describe that mentality. If you feel like there’s another word that would fit better, go ahead and replace it.)

    *Antagonist: Alien invaders, *****
    *** means I don’t know what they want. You’ve described what they look like, and that they are invading, but it helps sometimes to mention their motivations, because you can see the conflict line up more clearly. So maybe they think Sendek is their land, or they want the natural resource present.

    *Twist: The twist is your hook, the “Oh cool!” moment that people get when they hear your idea.

    I think your twist is either a) Talia has been having prophetic nightmares, or b) she has to save a world without revealing her magical nature. What would happen if her people find out about her magic? Would they kill her?

    Also, if you mention something about “without revealing her magical gifts” in the twist, you can effectively skip the [interesting setting] part because it’s implied in your other details.

    *Interesting Setting: Sendek ****

    As I stated in the twist, most of the time you don’t have to explicitly mention the setting because it’s implied in the rest of the details. We get that this is an advanced technological society from “scientist” and “alien invaders”. And if you mention that “Talia must use her magic to save her people, without letting them know about her gifts” we know there’s something about magic these people don’t like.

    Sooooo to pull it all together:

    When Talia Shannon, an independent scientist, realizes her nightmares are coming true, she must stop alien invaders from destroying her planet without telling her people about her magical gifts.

    You can play around with what part goes where. You could switch things around like so:

    Without outing herself as a magic user, Talia Shannon must convince her people that aliens are invading [I would add the alien motivation here], and all she has as proof is her prophetic nightmares.

    Neither of my examples are very good, but you can see the gist of how it works. Sorry this comment is so long, but I wanted to help out as much as I could.

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  9. I like #4, but you may want to re-word the first part something like this: Scientist Talia Shannon lives a secluded life on her terms, but when her prophetic nightmares become reality she must work with others to revive a forgotten magic and save her world.

    I hope this helps. Good luck!

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  10. Before I even read any of the comments, I, too, liked sentence number four. It pulled me is, gave me a sense of who the character was and what was at stake.

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  11. I think using a standard format is a good way to blend in with thousands of other entries using the same format.

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  12. Of the original choices, I like #4 the best. I'm a scientist myself, so I like the idea of a scientist needing to work magic. Perhaps you can add that twist to #5?

    I plan to enter this contest too. Good luck!

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  13. Elizabeth, thanks for another format for me to try out. Here's what I came up with.

    Independent scientist Talia Shannon tries to inform her world that dragon-like aliens are coming to claim Sendek for their own without revealing magical gifts, but magic is the only thing that can save them.

    Something about it bugs me though. Feels...wordy?

    Jennifer, I like your tweaks too! Thanks you.

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  14. Angela, thanks!

    Rogue, your comment made me laugh because I agree, but I'm in a hurry and maybe if I have a good foundation I can branch out from there. Thanks for stopping by.

    Sandra, good luck to you too! I really do want to work in the fact that my MC is very logical and scientific, but she is also descended from mages. In book one (the one this pitch is for) she doesn't know how important that will be to the evolution of her people. The end goal with the series is to marry science and magic to accomplish more than either can do on their own. Not sure I'm there yet, but that's the goal. :)

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  15. Yeah, I really like the revised version but it IS a bit wordy.

    What about:
    After seeing her nightmares come true, independent scientist Talia Shannon struggles to warn her people that aliens are invading without revealing her magical gifts, but magic is the only weapon that can save them.

    Okay, so it's still rough. I took out "dragon-like" and "are coming to claim Sendek for their own" because "invading" will suffice and be less wordy.

    I also changed "tries" to "struggles" as you suggested via Twitter, and "inform" to "warn" because I think "warn" is a stronger, more urgent verb.

    The biggest change I made was adding "after seeing her nightmares comes true". Even if you don't like that part, I think you should find a way to connect her prophetic nightmares with the invasion. I think in your original example it's not clear that she has magical gifts until you say "without revealing..." and why she would have to struggle to keep it a secret. There's not enough connection between the alien invasion and her magic.

    I LOVE the idea that "magic is the only thing that can save them" but I am itching to spruce that sentence up. "Thing" bugs me..."weapon"? "Device" "defense"?

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  16. :) Ok, working on some things Elizabeth. Here is my hook from my query, if I could work it in I'd be happy, but it would be a huge run on sentence.

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

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  17. I don't think I would include any names in the one-sentence pitch beside the MC's name, even if it's the name of the planet or world. That's too many proper nouns, I think. I actually really liked #2 because it was short and simple, but I'm sure that one is not your favorite because it doesn't offer as much info about your story. :) I would just suggest cutting as much superlfuous material as possible. You don't need as much as you think you do.

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  18. Thanks KM! I'll take that into account too. cutting is so hard, but I know I need to do it.

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  19. So, what about this:

    Independent scientist Talia Shannon struggles to warn her people of an alien invasion without revealing her magical gifts, but magic is the only thing that can save her world.

    I left out the prophetic dreams in order to keep it simple.

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  20. My first thought was "Forget about the protagonist, antagonist etc! Go with just that!"

    Sadly, they need more context.

    When Talia Shannon, an independent scientist, dreams of a brutal alien invasion and it starts to come true, she realizes that science cannot protect their way of life, and magic is their only hope.

    Let's see: Protagonist, antagonist, setting, twist, and conflict are all present.

    It doesn't include that she's trying to hide her gifts, but then some sentences wind up including some bits of information and some leave them out. It all depends on what you feel comfortable with.

    In this recent version, you're implying a lot more about the book than your previous sentences. I don't think this is a bad thing. I like this new sentence. I think both can work for you, it all depends on your personal taste.

    Personally, I trying to make the sentence instill a certain...feeling. Like I get a little shiver when I read it. While your last sentence has more detail, I think this new one has a spark to it.

    If this hook makes your heart go pitter-patter, we should try to work around it. :D

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  21. What about this, it loses Talia's name, but not all pitches include a name anyway.

    When an independent scientist dreams of a brutal alien invasion and it comes true, she realizes science alone cannot protect her way of life, and magic is the only hope.

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  22. Wow! I love that!

    It's short, simple and to the point. You also convey a lot of information in that little sentence.

    I think we have a winner!

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  23. Woot! Ok, think I'm going to submit that one. I get up every morning at 4:30am so I'm quickly approaching nap time.

    Thank you all so much for your help! The blogging world is the BEST!

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  24. I hope you got your answers by now, but I just wanted to add my 2 cents. For me, #7 gave me a better idea of what your story was really about. (Sounds AWESOME too btw)

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  25. Just jumping in with my thoughts, which you are totally free to discard as you wish =) :

    4 & 8 attract me the most, with 8 being the more unusual and thus original of the two; however, I want to add that if "science alone cannot protect" her, then magic also shouldn't be the only hope.

    I'm guessing that you've probably mixed science and magic - a scientist with magic flowing through her veins - and should highlight that, even by just tweaking a word or two.

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  26. Colene and Alex, thank you!

    jys, great point!

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  27. When an independent scientist dreams of a brutal alien invasion and it comes true, she realizes science alone cannot protect her way of life, and magic is the only hope.

    The 'and it comes true' part kind of throws me off. I was thinking something like 'that actually happens' but I don't know if that works because actually is in it.

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  28. Looks like I'm late. Good luck with the contest!

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  29. Fellow Crusader jumping in to say "hi" and vote for #4!

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  30. #7 looks best to me - it appears to ecapsulate what the story is about and the main conflict.

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