Friday, February 27, 2009

From Gimmick to Substance

Based on the advise I’ve gotten from several blogging writers (*coughInkyGlam&Davincough*), I updated my query letter once again (v3.0). Glam said I need to be more specific, Inky taught me about “the sentence,” and Davin suggested I try to summarize the novel in five sentences.

Well, I don’t know if I succeeded on all three fronts, but I certainly tried. Oh, and almost everyone said to shorten it. (was 360 words, now 215) When I finished v3.0 I reread the old one for comparison and noticed something in particular.

The original query (the one that got sent to EE) read like a gimmick. Like I was trying to get an agent to read my ms as if he or she were browsing through a store reading back covers. It contained little actual substance, but lots of catchy lines:

“kidnapped by a supposed myth that turns out to be all too real”
“complete with magic, myth, and a cast of characters that act so human, they’re actually related”
“must wade through the layers of intrigue and outright lies”


I think the new one tells the story better, without the gimmick. I felt like I was on the right track with v1.0 and now I’m on a whole different track. You don’t know what you didn’t know until you know it. (Follow?) Well, I learned some things and I have my fellow bloggers to thank for it. I don’t know whether I’ll stay on this track or if I have more to learn to get to another track, but it was a positive step forward in any case.

Here’s the new version:

[redacted for your sanity and my eyes. it did improve from earlier versions, but still... ugh]

Better, no? It still feels a bit synopsis-y but I think it gets the point across. My big problem with it now is that while it certainly gets all the main points across, it feels dry and doesn’t hook me very well.

I think this is largely because the story is ABOUT Paige's growth from the events that happen, but the query doesn't express this. She IS the angel undercover, even though the story contains an actual angel who is undercover. What I mean by angel undercover is that she is an amazing, good person in a surprise package. No one, leastwise herself, expects her to do the things she does and be the person she becomes. Make sense?

Suggestions? Good, bad, and ugly, I want to hear it all. :)

Editing update: Chs 2 and 3 are done, with 2K shaved off between the two of them. I cannot thank my CC and blogging partners enough. Without what I’ve learned from these people, I wouldn’t know what to focus on when editing AUC. So thank you all!


Kat said...

I like it! I do have a couple suggestions though:

First of all, you always want to start with your main character. The first sentence would probably be better as

"Teenager Paige Moss has no choice but to intervene when a kyter named Maisen uses her older sister as a tool in his world uniting vision- a vision of good aims and all the wrong means."

Also, besides being described as 'bat-like' I really have no idea what a kyter is! Maybe it's just me, but you use the word a lot in your query, and it left me a little confused.

Hope my tips helped you! Good luck on the querying front!

Lady Glamis said...

I just sent you an email with a critique of your query. Hope it helps! You said to be honest. As always, ignore what isn't helpful and you don't agree with. :)

Davin Malasarn said...

Hi Anette,
You query is getting tighter and tigher, and I think you are doing good work on it. I thought I'd try to force your letter into a more standard 3-paragraph format that I have learned to use when querying. It really strips the story down to bare bones, so you may hate it, but this is the format that I've seen used most often in my limited experience. Maybe you'll find it helpful or maybe not.

Dear agent X,

I'm querying you because I feel that my work is similar to books that you represent, such as YYY and ZZZ. My novel, Angel Undercover is a YA fantasy and is complete at 97,000 words. It is the first in a planned quartet.

Sixteen-yr-old dreamer Paige Moss is stunned when a bat-like kyter, Maisen, kidnaps her and forces her into his violence-riddled colony. Paige realizes that she is not Maisen's first victim in his quest to unite the world - a vision of good aims but all the wrong means. Her sister Savannah is caught in the middle of a civil war between kyter factions, and when Paige tries to intervene, Maisen imprisons her in a sea cave. Paige befriends some colony members who rescue her, but she finds out that Maisen has escaped. He organizes a rogue onslaught to attack Paige's own capital. Paige must organize her own army to defend it, and through the experience, she emerges as an angel undercover.

My stories have appeared in [mention this if you have any publications, if not, ignore it]. Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing back from you.



Anette J Kres said...

Davin - I do follow a three "paragraph" form, though it is different than yours (and I've not succeeded in getting my plot into one paragraph).

My three are:
Hook paragraph
Plot/synopsis paragraph
Closing details paragraph (title, word count, and publication experience (which I have none))

I've actually read advice that explicitly said NOT to include a "I'm querying you because you represent books X and Y" sentence. The articles said that agents are really more interested in your hook and story.

I do really like what you've done in that middle paragraph though. I've never gotten it down to that short. Some of the details aren't quite right, but there's no way you could know that. :)

Part of what's been making this task challenging for me is that most details in my book appear one way at one time, but are really another way, but I think you did a great job of boiling it down.

I've already updated to v4.0, but I'll probably take a leaf out of your example for v5.0. Thanks for your helpful suggestions!

Davin Malasarn said...

Yeah, I wasn't sure if it would be helpful since I don't know your entire plot, but sometimes just seeing it a different way can help you revise your own. Good luck!