Sunday, March 22, 2015

Become an Agent 2015 Post #16

Title: The Red and the Scarlet
Genre: YA Historical Fantasy
Word Count: 84,000

Query:

Eighteen-year-old mercenary Fyr has desperate aspirations. One: To keep her sickly brother Asaan alive after they escape racial massacre with only each other. Two: To get revenge on the one man she remembers taking part in the killings. And three: to fulfill an alleged prophecy she's stumbled upon.

The pseudo-historical script promises a supernatural race called "The Blue People" will conquer her native land. As a devoted sister and scarred survivor of near genocide, Fyr isn't about to let that happen, even if it means facing her own arrest.

When Fyr and Asaan are arrested, by the same controversial politician she's vowed to kill, her plans are brought to a screeching halt. But instead of prosecuting the siblings, he invites them into his world. Trapped in the nobility's glittering society, Fyr's criminal dreams and her ideas about "Blue People" quickly become synonymous with scandal. She must fight self-doubt, racism, and a growing affection for her former enemy if she's to keep Asaan alive and safe, and escape before the Blue People attack.

THE RED AND THE SCARLET is a novel about siblings, culture clash, natural and political disasters, and pseudo-history. It is set on a fictional Slavic and Asian continent in the Napoleonic Era, and has sequel potential.

First 250:



When Fyr was struck, and Vladyslav scarred, the world was shivering.

A cloudy blanket lay across nations. Chill dragged into bones. The breath of a hundred furnaces rose to the heavens.

Nevertheless, a handful of caroling bourgeoisie gathered outside the Vlalonnan King’s palace, hoping to warm souls and fill their purses, ignoring winter’s slaps on their cheeks and voices. Relentless wind snatched and swept their ancient song towards the Grassland Reserves, where the Yihhe, the “savages” lived.

The same clouds were on their horizon, but different joy in their hearts. One that gloried in the disfigured heads of Vlalonnan pilgrims staked around the camp.

Yihhe children ran out shrieking to catch snow in outstretched fingers and dark lashes. One girl stood on the edge of her people’s territory, daring to poke toes past the invisible boundary, near the heads. She glanced at them, balancing her infant brother on her hip. From them had come the book in her hand. St. Thandos’s History of Sayy.

She had read it over and over. Even now, she murmured passages. Her words lifted to the heavens, mingling with the carolers’ call, braiding them together with the pure snow into something none knew would enter their lives in a matter of time.

Time after a time.

But then the moment ended, and the riders appeared on the horizon, warped shadows coming in the name of the dead.

They broke upon the village faster than it could panic, guns blazing, shattering still air, clogging it with black smoke and dying screams. In the midst of cold and chaos, the girl ran in a belt buckle forest, clutching her wailing brother.

She had to keep him alive.

Query:
I am seeking representation for my 84,000 word YA historical fantasy, THE RED AND THE SCARLET, which is Les Miserables meets Mulan with a bounty-hunting Jo March as a heroine.

In 1811, 18-year-old Fyr fights racism, looming disaster, and for bloody revenge on Vladyslav, a charismatic politician.

As children, Fyr and her brother Asaan escaped racial massacre enacted by their divided motherland. But devastation may return: every five hundred years, supernatural foreigners, known as “the Blue People,” arrive on the coast for war.

Thanks to their own discord, Fyr’s countrymen forgot the deadly cycle. Fyr, determined not to relive her past, puts aside her personal quest to slaughter one of the massacre’s young participants, and sets out with sickly Asaan to alert her squabbling country.

But Vladyslav, the man Fyr wants to kill, arrests the siblings, halting their plans. But instead of prosecuting, he invites them into his world for his own dark political purposes.

Trapped in the nobility’s glittering society, Fyr, with her criminal dreams, controversially conservative host, and her whistleblowing on corruption and “Blue People,” is soon slandered as scandalous. As her reputation plummets, so does the worth of her word. She must fight self-doubt, discrimination, and a dangerous new affection for Vladyslav if she is to keep Asaan alive and safe, and escape before the Blue People attack.

First 250:
When Fyr was struck, and Vladyslav scarred, the world was shivering.

Clouds blanketed the nations. Chill dragged into bones. Under spinning snow rode Vladyslav’s regiment to slaughter "savages.”

In their village, the “savages” were oblivious. Fyr, eight, watched shrieking children run to catch flakes in outstretched fingers and dark lashes among the heads of decapitated travelers, raised on pikes as a warning to future trespassers. She poked her toes past the edge of her people’s territory, glancing at the heads in defiance, and balancing her infant brother on her hip.

While the other children held the bodiless things in fearful reverence, Fyr was grateful to them. From the heads had come the book in her brother-free hand.

Together they gazed in fascination at the falling snow, and Fyr whispered the poem that opened her book.

But the moment ended. The riders appeared on the horizon, warped shadows coming in the name of heads and vengeance.

They broke upon the settlement faster than it could panic, their blazing guns clogging the still air with black smoke and dying screams. In the midst of the cold and chaos, the little girl ran in a forest of belt buckles, clutching her wailing brother and the battered book.

She had to keep him alive.

Suddenly, she collided headlong into a wall of gray uniform and staggered to the earth. Fyr stared up at the young soldier’s blue eyes, full of dismay, at the blood blackening his coat, the musket in his fingers.

Vladyslav.

52 comments:

  1. Post #3 Commenting...
    The first paragraph of the query is tight and clear until the prophecy is thrown in. Is this really her goal from the beginning or something that comes up later? I wonder how the prophecy relates. One and two fit together and three feels like another story. Can you relate it?

    "pseudo-historical script" I have no idea what this means. Is this the prophecy? Is this really how Fyr would refer to it?

    After this, I think you can be tighter with the information… But the very man Fyr sought to kill captures and brings Fyr and her brother into his world. (Then I'd get specific - what glittery/luxurious things are distracting Fyr from her goal?)

    As for the final paragraph… wow. That's a lot. I don't see how/why the story I just read about above needs to be told in a "fictional Slavic and Asian continent in the Napoleonic Era." In fact, I'm having a very hard time wrapping my mind around what that could even be.

    250:
    There are some lovely images but I think your story starts with the sentence, "the riders appeared on the horizon, warped shadows coming in the name of the dead." That's so strong! Give me the drama and then show me what these riders are coming into/about to destroy. If you don't like that suggestion, definitely change your first sentence. It's passive and falls flat. For example, to make it active… The world shivered when So-and-so scarred Vladyslav and struck down Fyr. (and then stay in this action - get Fyr up! show us what she does!)

    For me this story has interesting elements but both the query and writing need refining. My vote is no.


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    1. Thanks for the feedback!! In the revision I tried to tighten the info (the story is so enormous in some ways, it's hard to try and streamline it sometimes!) and make it clearer. I also cut some of the beginning narrative to cut closer to the action. I'd love to hear your thoughts on the revision! Thank you again for your time! I really appreciate it :D

      Delete
  2. This is a reluctant no from me.

    There's a lot of lovely prose here, but I found I had to reread several passages for clarity. In the query, I'm not sure the 3rd goal works so well if the prophecy's described as 'alleged.' I would expect the MC to believe in the prophecy -- even if others don't -- if her 'desperate aspiration' is to fulfill it. I don't think you need the 1st half of the 2nd paragraph since paragraph 1 has told us about the genocide and her devotion to her brother: '(As a devoted sister and scarred survivor of near genocide,) Fyr isn't...'

    Loved 'The breath of a hundred furnaces...heavens.' but also felt there was a bit of overwriting in the first 250. I think once we've been introduced to this world, the lovely prose can take over, but in this introduction, I needed a bit more grounding in the scene.
    #1

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    1. Hello! Thank you for your comment!

      In my revision, I tried to cut down on the overwriting and jump more to the action. Also, in the query, I clarified and cut down on redundant information. I would love to hear your thoughts on the revision! Thank you again for your time! :D

      Delete
  3. This is a no for me.

    The query was great. I was drawn in and interested because I enjoy historical fiction and the names sounded really cool. Once I got to the 250 though, I had to read through the whole thing twice to kind of place myself in what was going on. Personally, I feel like it should start with the riders coming across the horizon, because that creates a sense of immediacy that draws the reader into the story. It seemed like there was too much background initially.

    Your writing for those paragraphs are great. But perhaps you could save them for later on in the book, after the reader has already been drawn in by the first initial dramatic scene.
    #18

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    1. Hello! Thank you for your helpful comment!

      In my revision I jumped more to the action. I'd love to hear your thoughts on it! And thank you, I enjoy coming up with my fantasy names :D

      Delete
  4. I think this is where subjectivity comes into play, because the query doesn't make me want to read the story, and it's difficult to pinpoint exactly why. I would recommend cutting the "This is a story about..." line. We should know what the story's about from reading the meat of the query. Don't summarize the themes at the end. That's query real estate that can be used to bring the characters to life, explain the conflict, and give us the stakes.

    The first sentence uses the word "was" twice. Since "was" is my least favorite verb, that makes me nervous. It could be flipped around and reworked to flow better.

    I don't really have any idea what's going on in the rest of the first page, although the writing is beautiful. The fact that the query picks up after the battle makes me think it's really a prologue, and that makes me think you don't need it. Consider starting the story after their escape, when the story picks up.

    Just not for me. No.

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    1. Thank you for your feedback! I understand subjectivity completely. Thanks to your comment, I cut the "this is a story about" line, and focused more on the action on the first page.

      The opening is not a prologue, per say, which is hard to explain in a query and first 250! There are a few flashbacks in different sequences to show much of the massive backstory as opposed to info-dumping it.

      I'd love to hear your thoughts on the revision! Thanks again, your time is much appreciated!! :D

      Delete
  5. No.

    This is one of those instances where I think the writing is very beautiful and I love the way you describe things, but there's just too much of it, especially in the first 250. I had to read it twice to really get a firm grasp on what was going on. Since the query started with after the battle, and the 250 is, I'm assuming, the battle, I wonder if this is a prologue? And if it is, is it really necessary?

    As for the query, I was right with you up until you mentioned a prophecy. I don't mind them, in general, but it didn't seem to fit with the first two points. When you mentioned a "pseudo-historical script" I was thrown. At first I thought you were referring to the MS itself, but I think you're just talking about the prophecy?

    With a little refining/editing I think you could really suck me into this story.

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    1. Thank you for your feedback! In the revision, going with your suggestions, I cut down on the excessive writing and focused more on the action. The opening is not a prologue, per say, which is hard to explain in a query and first 250! There are a few flashbacks in different sequences to show much of the massive backstory as opposed to info-dumping it.

      I also cut the word prophecy entirely out of the query to avoid confusion.

      I'd love to hear your thoughts on the revision! Thanks again for your time! :D

      Delete
  6. Yes.

    Bystander here. I went through all 20 entries, made my yes, no, and maybe pile. This started out in the maybe pile. Congrats, you made it into the yes pile. ;)

    The query described the story pretty well, although I remember workshopping this in Michelle's critique event, so I am not sure if I'm biased since I read through it a couple times already. The only thing that I keep rereading is the "fulfill a prophecy" thing--isn't she supposed to stop the prophecy from coming true?

    The big reason I said yes was the atmospheric voice. I like this kind of ethereal, depressing, hints-at-brutality-in-the-story kind of thing. It's definitely a subjective yes, but I feel like I will enjoy the story based on the tone you've set at the front. And I assume that your writing is strong throughout, so I would want to see more pages.

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    1. Thank you so much!! :D Even with your yes, I took your advice to heart and cut "prophecy" entirely out of the query to avoid confusion. Since you've read this before, I'd love to hear your thoughts on the revision.

      Thank you for your time and for your kind yes!! :D

      Delete
  7. No.

    This is actually a really good query at the beginning. I would suggest combining the first two paragraphs into one since you end the first with a mention of the prophecy and then immediately discuss it in the second, bringing it all nicely back to Fyr’s original motivations.

    When you get to the politician inviting Fyr and her brother into his world I want to know why. There has to be a motivation, and if it’s an evil motivation then that will ramp up the tension even further. Without motivation the nobleman sounds more like a plot device than a character. I want know more about him. Is he old? Young? Is he a star-crossed love interest?

    Even by the end of the query, I still want to know more. What, specifically, is the final conflict to be resolved – is it an internal conflict for Fyr or the external battle? Who are the Blue people and why do they pose such a threat? Is there more to Asaan than being a sickly younger brother? You state a rich world, but you aren’t showing it to us.

    Then we get to the first 250 words, and I’m lost. There’s the myth about Fyr. Then there’s caroling on one side of a conflict drifting to the ears of people on the other side of the conflict. One of them is Fyr as a girl with a book she’s gotten off a dead enemy body, which she gets to read a lot of times before the bad guys on horses show up and she has to flee with her brother. I think there’s time and space compression happening, but also an all-seeing god-like narrator. What I, as a reader, would like is a little more explanation and a chance to pause in each moment so that I can be brought into the elaborate world of this story and appreciate its nuances. I really like some of the imagery, but I can’t figure out what a belt buckle forest looks like.

    #2

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    1. Thank you for your kind comments! I took them to heart and tried to talk a little more about Vladyslav in the query. I also tried to clarify the first 250. I'd love to hear your thoughts on the revision!

      Thanks again! :D

      Delete
  8. This is a no for me.
    While I love the historical premise and the themes of culture and sibling relationships, I just couldn't connect with any of it - but remember that this is SUCH a subjective business, someone else may feel differently.
    Here's what made me a no:
    Your first 250 reads like a prologue. If this is the case, I can see why you might not want to use the MCs name right away - but be aware that this is risky, because the first 250 is often all you have to hook your agent, even if you've submitted your first 5 or 10 or whatever. You've named the country, the king, even the book she's reading -- but not her -- which makes her hard for me to connect to. I agree with others who say your prose is lovely -- it is -- but for me, a little less description and a little more connection to your character and why I am going to want to get to know her would be critical.
    I would also work on trimming and streamlining your query. I felt there was just SO MUCH going on and so many adjectives that it's more like a synopsis than a query.
    I'd delete that first paragraph and start with the second which is better and more straightforward. You could take the most important elements of the first paragraph (keep brother alive, kill the politician) and incorporate them into the second. That said, these words are confusing "the pseudo-historical script" - is there another way to word that? Simply "a prophecy"?
    The third paragraph is also confusing. Why are they arrested? Why are they trapped in society and not in a jail? Why are the Blue People scandalous? Why is she now attracted to the politician?
    I know. A lot of questions to answer in a short space! I think you can use the space you save by cutting down paragraphs 1 and 2 though to hook us more thoroughly on the clash between her and the Blue People and herself and her need save herself and her brother.
    Last note: be careful of adjectives -- you them a lot and I think they get in your way. E.g.: what is an alleged prophecy?
    Good luck!



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    1. Hello! Thanks for commenting!

      I actually intended to name Fyr in the first 250... not sure how that slipped! Thanks for pointing that out! In my revision I cut down on description and got to the heart of the action.

      I also tried to streamline and clarify my query, and cut references to the "prophecy." I'd love to hear your thoughts on the revision! Thanks again! :D

      Delete
  9. Hi *waves* #20 here!

    I’m not sure the first paragraph of your query is adding much and, personally, I kinda eye-roll at the word prophecy. You’re second paragraph does a much better job hooking me, and it brings up the prophecy without even using the dead-ed “p-word” ;)

    The third paragraph ping-pongs around between “affection for the enemy” and “Blue People attacking,” so I’m not really sure what’s going on. Which is it? Remember you only have to set up the book in a query. Generally, that means you only need to dig into the first third of the plot. With that in mind, I’d try re-writting with a simple Character, Conflict, Stakes, premise in mind.

    P1: introduce Fyr and what she wants.

    P2: when does PLOT start happening.

    P3: what happens if Fyr fails?

    For the sample...You’re writing style has a very lyrical quality to it. Beautiful. I particularly enjoyed the lines “the breath of a hundred furnaces...” and “braiding them together with the purse snow...” Really sets the tone.

    Where I felt bogged down in the 250 was in the number of concepts you introduce. Fyr, Vladyslav, Vlalonnan King’s palace, Grassland Reserves, the Yihhe...that’s a lot in a few short paragraph. I would try infusing your descriptions with more concrete ideas to slow the pacing down and ease us into the world. You clearly have a grasp on visual imagery. Now what does it smell like? Taste like? Feel like? Those are often the most powerful sensory images.

    Bring them in and work on smoothing out your query and you could be on your way to turning this NO to a yes :)

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    1. Hello! Thanks for your comment!

      I cut the word prophecy out entirely. I kind of realized one could get the premise across without using it. Thank you for your kind remarks on my voice! In the 250 I tried to cut down on ALL THE NAMED THINGS and focus more on the action. I'd love to hear your thoughts on the revision! Thanks again!! :D

      Delete
  10. #17
    First, I was drawn in by your query, but only after I read it twice. There was so much in there in that last paragraph that I got a little lost and had to go back and start over to make sure I was getting everything you wanted me to get. An agent isn't going to want to read it twice.
    Second, your writing is beautiful. I can tell you write with a poet's soul - it gave me a very clear picture of the setting and these beautiful smiling children looking up to the sky as snow falls down. I could even hear their laughter. Then the danger from the riders comes and I got that feeling of dread about their world falling apart. So...good for you. You pulled me in.
    The reason I am going to say "no" here though is that some of your beautiful writing didn't makes sense to me. For example:

    "Her words lifted to the heavens, mingling with the carolers’ call, braiding them together with the pure snow into something none knew would enter their lives in a matter of time.

    Time after a time."

    This part just lost me. It is beautiful...but I don't understand it.

    You clearly have a way with getting a picture into your reader's mind. Don't sacrifice that, but make sure you use it to convey a clear plot (which sounds really cool from your query!).

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    1. Oh...and one more thing! I LOVE this title! It evokes all kinds of thoughts in my mind. Gets me thinking.

      Delete
    2. Thank you!! I love the title too! Glad to know someone else does too! :D

      And thanks for your lovely comments on my voice. In my 250 I cut down on the abstract description and jumped more to the action. In the query, I tried to make it more clear.

      I'd love to hear your thoughts on the revision! Thank you for your time :D

      Delete
  11. This is a No from me. I had to read the query a few times before I got that the script referenced in the second paragraph is the prophecy mentioned in the first. I'm not even sure you need the first paragraph. You can probably re-work it into the last paragraph--after all, it's really just a summary of the conflict, which you've already told us about (albeit vague): "She must fight self-doubt, racism, and a growing affection for her former enemy if she's to keep Asaan alive and safe, and escape before the Blue People attack."

    And yes, people roll their eyes at prophecies, so if you can tell us what's going on without referencing a prophecy, it might be wise to try.

    The 250 is written well, as people said, but to me it's just too much, and I'm not sure what is really going on. Yes, you need to world-build, but the best world-building is seamless. Here, it all reads as world building with nothing much else going on.

    Sorry, but this just wasn't for me. Good luck!

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    1. Thanks for stopping by!

      I cut the prophecy/script out of the query, and tried to streamline the query. I also cut down on the description in the 250 to jump to the action.

      Even if it's still not for you, I'd love to hear your thoughts on the revision! Thanks again :D

      Delete
  12. This is a no from me. I read over the query and 250 a few times because I enjoyed the language, but I had a lot of trouble figuring out what was going on.

    As mentioned by others above, your query is good until the second paragraph, where the prophecy is thrown in. I got the sense that it is very important to the story, but maybe not so important that it deserves its own paragraph. We don't really need to know about the Blue People in the query.

    As for the 250, the first sentence really confused me. Same as the second. I didn't have an idea of what was going on until you actually started describing the carolers. I do like your writing style, but there were a lot of instances of passive language and details that would have been better off left out.

    I really like how you immediately get into Fyr's people being attacked. You're opening with a bang. Unfortunately for me, that bang came after too much confusion. With a little bit of tightening up and some more active sentences, this could really get some attention. Good luck.

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    1. Hello! Thanks for commenting!

      I cut the prophecy out of the query, and tried to emphasize why the Blue People are so important to the main plot. They're the MacGuffin for the whole story, so I can't really cut them out from the query. I hope the query is clearer now!

      I also tried to focus more on the action and less on description in the 250. I'd love to hear your thoughts on the revision! Thanks so much for your time!!

      Delete
  13. Hi, #19 here.

    Query:

    Parts of your query worked really well for me. I know some others mentioned they thought you could lose the first paragraph. That's one way to go about it. I DO like the list of things that are important to Fyr and if you could combine the description of the prophecy with her motivations, it might end up being clearer.

    I'm someone that enjoys a good prophecy story, but I have seen some agents mentioning they specifically don't like prophecies. If, in the query, you avoid mentioning it by name, it might help avoid alienating the anti-prophecy agents before they get to your sample.

    I did get lost towards the end of the query. Does Fyr think the Blue People are bad? Is the politician, the nobility and the Blue People all the same group? If you can clear up some of the terms/characters mentioned, or cut some of them out of the query, you might be able to make it clearer as to who or what the antagonist of your story is.

    250:

    You have a very poetic quality here that is intriguing, but there were parts that I had to reread to understand what you were going for. I think when editing, you might want to look for important areas of action or description that need to be clear. Those areas I would keep the language as concise as possible. If you kept the descriptions in your lovely writing style with nice, crisp actions, I think you could craft a MS that would really shine.

    I felt like I did miss Fyr in your sample though. If she is the little girl, I wouldn't mind her being named. It makes me wonder if you're withholding her name for a reason.

    Your entry started off in the maybe pile. But, for me, the lyrical style might get to be too much throughout the whole book. If the action was tidied up and you had this lovely description and concise action, I'd turn my no into a yes.

    Jen #19

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    1. Thanks so much for your comment! I took your advice and cut the word "prophecy" from the query, and tried to clarify the last paragraph. In the 250, I named Fyr and clarified the prose. I'd love to hear your thoughts on the revision!

      Thanks for your time, I appreciate it!! :D

      Delete
  14. Ok, the writing is beautiful. You have some truly beautiful phrasing in the 250. It just has so much jargon that the reader doesn't understand at all. These aren't the most commonly understood cultures, so the reader has to be introduced to them in relation to things they do understand, right now there is no starting point for that. On the bright side, these aren't the most commonly understood cultures, so once you introduce the reader to them, it's going to feel fresh and interesting and exotic.

    In the Query I'm not clear where the prophecy really comes into play. It needs a little more info on the fantasy elements, as well as more info about Fyr herself, maybe a little of the synopsis feel. It's hard to introduce a fantasy without an info dump in so little space. But your writing is beautiful.

    Tobias Eaton (4)

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    1. Thank you so much! Going along with your advice, I cut down on the jargon, and took the word prophecy out of the query. I'd love to hear your thoughts on the revision! Thanks again for your time! :D

      Delete
  15. # 5 here - I am going to say no, I would not request pages.

    The premise itself has a lot going for it. The plot is intriguing and it has all the requisite character conflict and growth to keep it interesting. Additionally, the writing in the 250 is very nice.

    Most of the problems are with the structure and details of the query itself.

    First of all, I'm not really crazy with opening the query with a list of things Fyr wants to accomplish. I would prefer you ground us in her character and the world before you tell us what she wants to accomplish. And I'd also prefer this query unfold like a story rather than a bullet pointed list. You are a great storyteller, I can tell from your writing. I'd like to see that come through your query more.

    But the things that you list as her aspirations are also unclear to me.

    Wanting to kill a man she remembers as taking part in the killings - why this man? Was he *responsible* for them? Or just someone who was there along with others? If it's the former, say so. If it's the latter, again, why this man?

    "Fulfill an alleged prophecy she's stumbled upon." First of all, she's desperate to fulfill a prophecy that's merely alleged? Why makes her believe it's true? I'd drop the "alleged," not only does the word feel wrong but it just raises too many questions. She's clearly going forward, so for all practice purposes, it's real. And is she desperate to *fulfill* it or stop it? Because in the next paragraph, it sounds like she wants to stop the prophecy from happening, to stop the Blue People from taking over her native land.

    I would also like to know what makes *her* capable of stopping this prophecy. Sheer willpower? Some special ability or skill she's developed? I really think that in order to go along with this, I'm going to have to believe that she *could* stop it.

    "When Fyr and Asaan are arrested, by the same controversial politician she's vowed to kill, her plans are brought to a screeching halt." You have a very lush quality to your writing, but don't let your style bury the lede. The most important part of this sentence isn't that they got arrested it's that THE ANTAGONIST GOT TO THEM FIRST. Don't write it like it's an aside, you lose the dramatic effect. Find a way to blend your style with active, engaging writing. And the very last part of this sentence is so obvious it need not be stated. When the antagonist locks you up, yup, your plans to kill him just came to a screeching halt. :)

    I really need to understand the antagonist more (if he still is??). What would prompt him to show such hospitality? He seems like an awfully nice guy all of the sudden. And, at this point, the rest of the query becomes really vague. Is the reason for this that the plot becomes so complicated it's hard to boil down and put in a query? I know I struggle with that. I'm sure there are a ton of plot points you could touch on. But you really need to get more specific about the scandal, what she doubts she can do, etc. for us to feel really engaged in the story you want us to read.

    Again, your 250 really is beautiful writing. But some phrases are unclear. For instance, what is a belt buckle forest? With the style of prose you write, your world building should be amazing, and I want to be immersed in it. But when I stumble on phrases like that, it does the opposite.

    Good luck to you!






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    1. Thank you for your detailed critique! I really appreciate it!!

      I cut the list out of the opening of the query, and tried to clarify the plot/query. And yes, the plot is DEFINITELY complicated for a query! Thanks for understanding, it's been darn tough trying to crop it down like this! :D I also tried to clarify the 250. I'd love to hear your thoughts on it!

      Thanks again so much for your time!!

      Delete
  16. Hi! I'm #6. I love love your concept, but for me the query is a little muddled. I think your hook could be stronger, maybe by making it more concise. When I read it, there are a few too many things going on, so I wasn't sure what was really at stake for Fyr.

    In the second paragraph I wanted to know, what is their 'divided motherland' ? It might be helpful to add some clarity there. If it's historical fantasy is it a real place? I'm also having trouble seeing how the events in each paragraph connect. You mention Vladyslav in the first paragraph, then describe other, larger conflicts, before returning to Vladyslav. So I think I'm having trouble seeing what the central conflict is.

    This sentence could also use some simplifying and paring down. There's just so much going on here that I'm not sure what I should be focused on / caring about : Trapped in the nobility’s glittering society, Fyr, with her criminal dreams, controversially conservative host, and her whistleblowing on corruption and “Blue People,” is soon slandered as scandalous.

    Best of luck with this. I'm really intrigued by the concept, and I think there's some really lovely writing here. I was especially taken with this line : Together they gazed in fascination at the falling snow, and Fyr whispered the poem that opened her book. It's gorgeous! I mean, I love this sentence so much.

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    1. Thanks for your comment!! I'll continue to revise with your advise in mind :D

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  17. Hello from #15! Thanks again for your crit on my revisions. I, like you, missed this one the first round. I really like your premise! It reminded me in some ways of the way the Capitol of the Hunger Games treated some of the people in the districts. That is a good thing!

    I really like the way your 250 begins. I can't help but think of it as a prologue, though, the way you tell of the history and legend. I wonder what an agent or editor might think? Some frown upon that sort of thing as an opening, but I like it. You may want to get another opinion it.

    One change I would make would be your opening sentence. "When Fyr was struck, and Vladyslav scarred, the world shivered." For some reason, this wording seems to invoke a darker, more sinister vibe for me.

    Overall, I'd give this a yes, and I would want to read more pages!

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  18. Thank you so much!! :D I really appreciate it!

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  19. Revision critique from #17
    Rachel, you improved that query a lot. There was one part that threw me off. "Trapped in the nobility’s glittering society, Fyr, with her criminal dreams, controversially conservative host, and her whistleblowing on corruption and “Blue People,” is soon slandered as scandalous" - I read it a few times and kept getting tripped up.
    The rest is a good improvement, but could be cleaned up just a bit more so that the reader doesn't get lost in all of the details. This is such a complex story, that I'm sure it is really hard to simplify it enough for the query, but still get the stakes in there. You are heading in the right direction though.
    Your 250 - SO different from before. It is black and white. The poetry in the first one vs. the destruction and death in the second. But you still got some poetic lines in there! YAY! There is something about the way you write that intrigues me. I can't place my finger on it, but I think it is special. Clean up that query just a bit more and you will have a yes from me!

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    1. Thanks so much for your feedback!! I'll keep clarifying that query :D

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  20. Hi, #9 here.
    I love the premise and the writing is awesome, but I'd have to say no on this. The query seems to jump from point to plot point.
    The first sentence seems to be a brief summation of the main idea. But then you go onto to backstory and I'm left wondering who this charismatic politician is and how he's connected to what happened to her. If he's one of the people involved in the genocide, then you could mention it. Or you could start the query off with the second paragraph instead, since that seems to be the inciting event.

    Here - Thanks to their own discord, Fyr’s countrymen forgot the deadly cycle. Fyr, determined not to relive her past, puts aside her personal quest to slaughter one of the massacre’s young participants (here too, I'm wondering who she's talking about. Also, it makes me wonder why is it she wants to slaughter only one of the participants. You could avoid the questions by going with something like- Putting said her personal quest for revenge, she sets out…)

    Here - But Vladyslav, the man Fyr wants to kill, arrests the siblings, halting their plans (this last part could be deleted. We can assume arresting them would halt their plans).

    Trapped in the nobility’s glittering society, Fyr, with her criminal dreams, controversially conservative host, and her whistle blowing on corruption and “Blue People,” is soon slandered as scandalous. - This confused me. You could simplify and just go with saying she's framed by the nobility.
    A few changes and this would be a yes from me.

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  21. Rachel, I agree, this revision is a big improvement! I absolutely loved the comps you used at the beginning. A bounty hunting Jo March? I might request on that alone. :)

    Right off the bat, I love knowing at what point in history this is taking place. I love that you explain what the prophecy is and who the Blue People are. I definitely understand much more clearly what this novel is about.

    I wonder if you could skip the first paragraph altogether. I like knowing it's 1811 and Fyr is 18, but everything else, we can get from the rest of the query.

    I am also going to send you a link to a fantasy based query that an agent used as an example on her blog. In it, the writer really sets the stage for the discord. I wonder if you put us in Fyr's world, this aftermath of racial massacre and a country divided, and then brought it down to Fyr's personal conflicts, how that would read.

    The last paragraph still has a lot going on, and I like everything you are telling us. Just keep trying to streamline the language for efficiency and clarity, without sacrificing your unique style (so easy, right?).

    The 250 is just as beautiful as it was, but it's even better. It's more clear what's going on without sacrificing imagery at all. I love how it ends. (And I now understand what you meant by belt buckle forest).

    I think fantasy with a lot of world building might be one of the most difficult queries to write. Keep going - already you've moved this query so much farther than where it was. Good luck!

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    1. Thanks so much!! And I got the link you sent me :D

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  22. Revision critique! I'm #8.

    This is an improvement from last time but I'm still going to say no, but a very hesitant no that can be easily turned into a Yes. This paragraph in the query could be completely cut out: "In 1811, 18-year-old Fyr fights racism, looming disaster, and for bloody revenge on Vladyslav, a charismatic politician." Also, the query does an AMAZING job at detailing just how nuanced and complex this novel is. It's a story unlike anything I've heard before, and that is what the query shows: instead of one vs. another, it's one inviting another and leading to corruption and internal struggle. That is amazing. I think you need one last concluding line, in the same tense, not-gimmicky writing style you have, to end the query with a bang. Also, but be careful about this and please please realize this is just a suggestion, and seriously take it with a grain of salt, but you might be able to push the internal struggle a *bit* more. I hesitate to suggest that because the beauty of your writing is in its nuance! Do not lose that (but I may love it just as a personal love, and others might not love it as much, so be aware of that too).

    The 250 is great. You are a very good writer.

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    1. (And by 'still' I don't mean that I voted on this entry before, but I mean that even with the improvement, I'd vote a very hesitant no :D)

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    2. Thank you so much! And yes, that's EXACTLY what it is: internal struggle and conflict. I'll try and find that last "bang" XD Thanks again!!

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  23. Good call to lead off with the hook! Definitely makes me sit up straight. Hell, I might request off that alone :D

    Overall though, the query is still a little too complicated for my tastes. At least, I’m having a hard time laying my finger on the pulse of what the story is really about. Is it forbidden love? Revenge? Saving the world? Sounds like a combo of all of the above, but by bringing them all into the query none of them get fully fleshed out. Fantasy world queries are TOUGH. My previous MS was fantasy and I went through 30 query drafts before I finally came up with one that work (sort of). I strongly believe that simplifying, simplifying, simplifying is the way to go here. Don’t give us so much backstory and personally, I would even bring in the Blue People until the end.

    1. Character: Who is Fyr? What does she want before Plot happens?
    2. Conflict: Vlaydyslav captures her, but doesn’t kill her, Fyr is trapped.
    3. Stakes: what happens if Fyr fails to get what she wants? Also, here’s where you can bring the Blue People in.

    Your writing in the 250 is gorgeous. The excerpt also has great tension and Fyr’s motivations are well fleshed out. Love, Love, Love. I would definitely keep reading. Here, I think it’s mostly about whittling that pesky query down enough to match the power of the 250. If you can do that, there should be a lot of yes in your future!

    Best of luck!

    #20

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    1. Thank you!! Yeah, trying to capsulate fantasy in a query is definitely tough! Thank goodness for these sorts of contests :D

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  24. Hi Rachel, #19 back for more.

    Query:

    A big improvement! It's much clearer now. Now I can see how all of the unique bits of your story line up. You have this antagonist/love interest politician-soldier and the Blue people...sounds like fun.

    I totally feel you. Writing complex fantasy queries are tough! It's hard to get it jammed in there while making it clear, concise, and exciting. I've been struggling as well. There are a few sentences that can be simplified and some of the comma-laden sentences could be broken up for more punch.

    I've read that you don't need to say you're seeking rep because a query letter implies that already. I'd start right in at "My 84,000 word YA Historical Fantasy..."

    250:
    There's a lot of improvement here too. I get a clearer mental picture of the who/what/where of the scene. I like that we see your politician-soldier on the first page. Bam. There he is. Awesome.

    I don't mind the history/prologue-ish feel if it's integral to the story. It features the MC. That's a huge plus. Agents have different preferences, so I would just research to make sure your favorites are okay with starting in the past.

    I am saying a hesitant yes, only because I think you can continue to make your stuff even stronger and I don't want you to stop. :) This story would be right up my alley. Best of luck!

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  25. #1 commenting on the revisions. Again, your prose is lovely. The query is a bit more clear, but perhaps it could be streamlined further? The following line stopped me: 'As children, Fyr and her brother Asaan escaped racial massacre enacted by their divided motherland.' After puzzling over why, I think it's the use of 'enacted' -- it felt too distant, too rational when paired with 'massacre' -- but perhaps that's your intent?
    This will probably seem ultra-picky, but the following also gave me pause: '...determined not to relive her past, puts aside her personal quest to slaughter one of the massacre’s young participants...' Since the Blue People come every 500 years, this reads like the havoc they wreak is part of Fyr's past while the query says she's 18, not 500. Perhaps 'her country's past devastation' or something? My other query line pause came with: 'Trapped in the nobility’s glittering society, Fyr, with her criminal dreams, controversially conservative host, and her whistleblowing on corruption and “Blue People,” is soon slandered as scandalous.' I had to read that several times. I think putting 'the 'controversially conservative host' in a separate line might work more effectively.(This is what happens when you write as poetically as you do -- we readers tend to linger over every line :D )

    In the first 250, the opening line didn't work for me. If I were reading this without the benefit of the query, I'd have no idea who Fyr and Vladyslav are at this point. I think opening with the next line works better -- while still keeping the forbidding, omniscient voice. So many wonderful lines, but I especially liked 'They broke upon the settlement faster than it could panic,...' fresh and gripping. I'd read on.



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  26. In your query, I got mixed up in the third paragraph. Racial massacre is such a big issue I expected to hear more about it. Or about the characters and what happened after it. The new and very different threat is a lot to absorb all at once. I also thought tying the two together with a “but” was confusing. It made me expect the first threat to come back, rather than preparing me for a second threat.
    I also wonder why Fyr is not vindictive towards “one of the massacre’s young participants” but wants bloody revenge against a politician. But maybe this is a section that is best to drop. It raises questions, and your query already seems long. What I’d really like to know more about is Fyr. Why is she out for bloody revenge? Wouldn’t hiding be safer? What makes her go after the politician? Why does she think she’d have any chance of success? I’d love to hear some of her voice in the query.
    You have what sounds like an ambitious concept, but maybe you should deal with just the highest level of the concept in the query so that you convey less but convey it more clearly.
    Sorry. I’m going to vote no on this. Best of luck!

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  27. #2 coming late to the revision party. I was a big no at first and now I'm intrigued (so yes!). I think you did an amazing job revising the 250, it's clearer for the reader in a way that makes your imagery stronger. I think the query is a bit on the wordy side, especially toward the end. I don't think you need to give so much detail about Fyr's actions in that last paragraph. You've already established she's an outsider and Jo March pretty much the rest of the work for you. Good luck!

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