Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Query Check, BoLR Version, Take 2

I think I can fit a few more commas into that title if I really want.  Perhaps I should have added "The Brickening"?

Anyway.  This is once again me begging for query feedback.  I'm exhausted from training at my new job (mental fatigue is utterly and completely a thing), and I don't think anyone wants yet another blog entry about my plots not doing what they should.  >_<  Next week's IWSG will, most likely, be a ramble about why the part of the writing process I'm in right now is most likely the worst one, and the part where it's easiest to give up.

But before that, it's another query.  I took this one in a completely different direction, focusing more on character like I should have the first time.  The first two paragraphs cover the first two chapters of the book, and the third is a summation with much less detail.  Thank you in advance for any help y'all can give me.

Dear [Agent]:

Shiloh Donovan never wanted to be an airship pilot.  Ferrying around rich people instead of studying runes or reading an enormous book is not her idea of a good life.  But it’s the life she’s stuck with, until Edwin Figaro steps onto her airship.  House Figaro ruined Shiloh’s family ten years ago, but Edwin offers her a job she must keep secret, a journey into magical wastelands.  The money could make Shiloh’s life much easier, but is it worth working for Figaro?

Alexi RiLeon knows House Figaro’s secret – they’re smuggling artifacts out of the magic-infused wasteland she calls home.  The Figaros ruined her family as well, all thanks to a kiss she shared with Shiloh.  When the two women reunite, they rekindle their decade-lost romance, and share what they know about House Figaro.  Together, they form a plan to get revenge on Figaro for ruining their lives.

But the wastes hold more secrets than Shiloh and Alexi anticipated.  House Figaro is allied with a group of minotaurs who seek the powerful runes that created the magical wasteland.  The minotaurs want to recreate their long-lost empire with that ancient magic, and they’ll start their conquest with Shiloh’s home city.

Airships, blackmail, and ancient magic collide in THE BOOK OF LOST RUNES, a fantasy novel of 80,000 words.  Thank you for your consideration, and I look forward to hearing from you.


  1. The query pulls me in! I stumbled over the 2nd sentence several times (maybe reword), and supposedly questions should never be in a query (end of 1st paragraph). But otherwise, thumbs up from me!

    1. Thank you! I've heard that rhetorical questions are a big "do not do this" in a query, but I'm not sure about a question that's being asked of a character. It's easy enough to fix, though.

  2. Agree with T - it's coming together well. Maybe shorten that second sentence? Leave out the book part?

    1. Not leaving out the book part, as I'm trying to squeeze in a little bit of character in the query, and Shiloh does love to read. But I think I can fix that sentence.

  3. This is MUCH, MUCH better! And I don't think you need to delete the second sentence. You need to turn it around.

    She would rather study runes than ferry around rich people. (You could add a brief phrase describing the rich people or their activities that shows how Shiloh feels about them.)

    1. And that's what I'm going to do. ^_^ Thank you.

  4. It sounds interesting, but I think it might be a bit repetitive for a query. Don't get me wrong, I think it's good. But these were things that stuck out to me.

    Figaro is brought up 8 times. Some of these instances could be tweaked like this line:

    When the two women reunite, they rekindle their decade-lost romance, and share what they know about House Figaro.

    Could say:

    When the two women reunite, they rekindle their decade-lost romance, and share what they know about their common enemy.

    Or this line:

    Together, they form a plan to get revenge on Figaro for ruining their lives.

    Together, they form a plan to get revenge for their ruined lives.

    Just suggestions. Another thing that caught my attention are the wastelands. They come up in 4 different variations:

    into magical wastelands
    the magic-infused wasteland
    the wastes
    the magical wasteland

    It caught my eye, though I'm not sure it needs to be addressed.

    Another suggestion is changing could to would in this sentence:
    The money could make Shiloh’s life much easier...

    Would implies definite benefit, thus greater incentive to take the job.

    But that's all I have to really suggest. I think you've got a good thing going for you! Best of luck!

    1. Thank you. I was trying not to give too many specific names, as several people said I did that in my last query. But I see how that's led to some repetition issues. I might name Cordobrae, as that will only be four names and it would prevent the 'wasteland' issue. I'll see how it works out.

  5. This is a really great query, Mason, I will have to agree with the second sentence - the "enormous book" part threw me a bit. And Loni's spot on as well - you mention Figaro a few times. But other than that, I think it's really good!

    1. Thank you! Good to hear that from someone who's read the book - there's a lot I tried to fit in and queries are only supposed to be so long. >_<

  6. This is a big improvement over the first, but there are questions I will now pose to you in the hopes that their answers bring out a better query:

    Why is Figaro on her airship specifically? In short, tell me that there's a reason, a DEEPLY personal reason. Like for instance, was this rich noble sent to her air ship because he'd heard of the girl with the matter repelling--you know, her special attributes. Or maybe her reputation is that she's awesomesauce on toast. Or she has an ability with the air that means she can guide these ships through places no one else can go (and if that's the case why isn't she filthy rich already and happily retired??)

    And what exactly does Alexi care? does it hurt her that someone is stealing stuff from her "desert waste land"? You make it sound like people are stealing stuff out of the desert in New Mexico, and to be clear, if someone stole a rock or two from that desert, how would you or I have noticed?

    Also, I'm a bit freaked by the whole they kissed ten years ago, fell in love, ruined their families and still didn't get to be together thing. You have to explain that or leave it out. (also a kiss, one little kiss ruined their lives and the lives of their families? No offense, but that makes me very unlikely to want to spend a lot of time in the world your book is set, so I feel like you should focus on other aspects of your novel)

    The reason I ask these questions is that the answers to them is how the story is tied together. If the answer to these questions is "luck" or "no reason" then you have missed opportunities in your plot. Missed opportunities in your story that can be seen from your query letter. This is why the query letter can make or break a submission.

    If you have answers that are somewhere in between, consider accentuating these possible conflicts in the next edit (and to be sure, there's ALWAYS a NEXT version). Just some thoughts.

    1. 1. Yes, there's a personal reason for Edwin Figaro to seek her out. And Shiloh doesn't have the "special attributes" you're talking about, that's a version of the character from 4+ years ago.

      2. I never used the word "desert" in this query. That's from the last one. The wasteland is specified as highly magical, with artifacts being what's taken. Is NM's desert magical? I must have missed that. :P And Alexi has very good reasons to have issues with artifacts being taken from her homeland.

      3. The first two chapters of the book explain Shiloh and Alexi's past and why they were separated for ten years. It's a vital part of why the two of them seek revenge on House Figaro, so I'm not leaving the mention of it out of the query.

      In other words, there's a reason for and a meaning behind every single thing you've asked about. Nothing in this story relies on luck, and "no reason" is never a factor. But I cannot fit all of that into a query. It would be over a thousand words, and no agent would ever read the whole thing. I've done the best I can to make sure everything in the query makes sense and fits together, but I'm not going to sabotage it by trying to fit in too much. You wouldn't query "The Hobbit" by talking about the history of Middle-Earth and how the ring was lost, you'd query it by talking about Bilbo and how he gets catapulted into an adventure.

      It feels like you're making a lot of assumptions about a story you haven't read, and since it's my story, that upsets me. I know you're trying to help, and I appreciate it, but this is a query, not a synopsis. I've got 200-300 words to work with, I have to make every single one of them matter.

    2. I'm just pointing out where your query is weak. Those holes make it vague. Vague means you could stuff a different story into it. At the query stage, you have to write a pitch that wouldn't work for any other story. That's all. You asked for feedback, and I'm sorry I've hurt your feelings.

    3. I know you mean well. And I do appreciate you taking the time to give me feedback. It's just that what you've said goes against a lot of what I've read from many people about writing queries, and some of those people I read because you recommended them, so I know you've read some of the same advice. I've seen (for example) Query Shark tear people apart for putting in too much background info, so I don't understand why you're suggesting I add so much.

    4. I'm just advising you to be specific. Currently your query would work for many different stories, and that's the problem. We can't tell what kind of story yours is going to be because you haven't been specific enough. to be clear, my advice was to drop the part about the kiss because that anchors the whole thing in the past. focus on the now, write a query that shows us what kind of story we're getting into. Is it funny? there should be fun in the query. Is it adventurous? the query should feel that way. Right now, your query is 1 part romance, 1 part revenge, and 1 part treasure hunt. You don't have enough room for all of it, and you need to tell us enough about one of these stories to make it interesting. My advice is to pick a plot line and dig your teeth in. cut everything else.

    5. I see what you're saying, and I apologize for misunderstanding before. The thing is, I have written queries without one of the major aspects of the story. My fourth draft (out of seven so far, this one being #7) left out the romance entirely, and it was horrible. I know queries can't include every detail, but on the other side of that, I can't adequately describe the story with a huge chunk of its core cut out, not in any way that will convince anyone to read it.

      Besides, the story *is* part romance, part revenge, and part treasure hunt. Most stories are more than one thing, and most good queries I've read show that. And I've seen very few agents who are only looking for one kind of story. I'm sticking with this query because it's the best I've done (so far, anyway) that captures the kind of story that BoLR is.