Jan 23, 2010

Query - Between Light and Dark

Dear ,

Per your request, I am submitting Between Light and Dark for your consideration.

Fynn, all of twelve years old, is terrorized by an evil menace that he doesn't understand and doesn't know how to confront. His father, Sir Trent, a well respected knight at the local barracks, is kidnapped. Shortly afterward, his childhood dream to become a knight is shattered when the mages' guild discovers latent magical ability in him. Unknown to Fynn, he has been blessed (or cursed as he sometimes feels) by the gods to save humanity from a long forgotten enemy. During his test to become a mage he sees a vision of his father and unlocks magical abilities previously dormant. Confused and believing that he is fighting against his father's captors, he uses his unbridled power to strike down his mentors.

Consumed by guilt and shame, Fynn is in a race to rescue his father and to learn how to control the immense power bestowed on him; the survival of Terreste depends on it. Between Light and Dark, the first book of a trilogy, is a 165,000 word fantasy novel that will grab your attention from the opening chapter and leave you longing for more at its end.

I have been published on-line by Stories That Lift - http://www.storiesthatlift.com/index.php/action-adventure/of-maps-and-friends.html
and I received an Honorable Mention in the 74th Annual Writers’ Digest Writing Competition.

If you would like to follow Fynn’s journey from youth to manhood, I would be pleased send a detailed synopsis, sample chapters, or the entire manuscript. I appreciate your time and look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Dan Olsen

6 comments:

Piedmont Writer said...

Hi Dan -- sounds like a great story. A few things I noticed right off the top --

With formatting issues from computer to computer, captilize your title throughout the whole query. Italics don't always come through.

If this was a request, say from where, "we met at the deli mart, Joe's tavern, the plane from Miami" just so the agent will remember you.

Your query itself is too long, too busy, too confusing. You sound like you want to tell the WHOLE story not just the 3 major points you need to get to. Conflict, Motivation, Goal.

Fynn is terrorized. Fynn unlocks his magical abilities. Fynn must rescue his father.

Also, 165,000 is kind of long in today's market even for a fantasy. Perhaps you can break this into 2 separate books?

There is no need to mention your on-line writing or honorable mention. annerallen. blogspot.com
has a fantastic post on just exactly what you need to say in your query about your publishing credits.

Remember this is a business letter, an agent doesn't want to know it will grab their attention, they want the query to grab their attention.

Query writing is a rough thing, I know I just went through 3 rounds myself, so slow down, read a few more query sights, Janet Reid, Query shark, Nathan Bransford's blog, become aquainted with the process. And try, try again.

I do like the story premise. Just tighten up the query. Good luck.

Weronika Janczuk said...

Hi Dan! Some comments from an intern in publishing -

Fynn, all of twelve years old, is terrorized by an evil menace that he doesn't understand and doesn't know how to confront. His father, Sir Trent, a well respected knight at the local barracks, is kidnapped. Shortly afterward, his childhood dream to become a knight is shattered when the mages' guild discovers latent magical ability in him. Unknown to Fynn, he has been blessed (or cursed as he sometimes feels) by the gods to save humanity from a long forgotten enemy. During his test to become a mage he sees a vision of his father and unlocks magical abilities previously dormant. Confused and believing that he is fighting against his father's captors, he uses his unbridled power to strike down his mentors.
Way too long of a paragraph. Way, way too long. Piedmont Writer is right about the three prongs that you need to put in your query. Many agents will say you need to focus only on the first 50 pages of your manuscript. What gets the story moving?

Consumed by guilt and shame, Fynn is in a race to rescue his father and to learn how to control the immense power bestowed on him; the survival of Terreste depends on it. Between Light and Dark, the first book of a trilogy, is a 165,000 word fantasy novel that will grab your attention from the opening chapter and leave you longing for more at its end.
Split this paragraph into two. Also, what does Fynn have to lose? What are the stakes in this game? Why does he care Terreste? What drives him?

I have been published on-line by Stories That Lift - http://www.storiesthatlift.com/index.php/action-adventure/of-maps-and-friends.html
and I received an Honorable Mention in the 74th Annual Writers’ Digest Writing Competition.

You don't need the link, and some agents will say that an "Honorable Mention" isn't worth mentioning. Only when you win something. Food for thought.

If you would like to follow Fynn’s journey from youth to manhood, I would be pleased send a detailed synopsis, sample chapters, or the entire manuscript. I appreciate your time and look forward to hearing from you.
Just say "The full manuscript is available."

You need to clarify the conflict. Is the father's kidnapping the only thing that's driving the story? Relate it back to Fynn. Also, is this Middle Grade? Specify that in the query.

Work on shortening it. Be really concise + specific with the conflict/goal/motivation; don't put in all the details.

Weronika Janczuk said...

Oh, and I'll take it a step farther than Piedmont.

Never say anything along the lines of "that will grab your attention from the opening chapter and leave you longing for more at its end." Definite no-no.

RCWriterGirl said...

Dan,

165,000 WORDS!

YIKES.

Gulp.

YIKES.

A story with a 12-year-old protagonist strikes me as YA, which means fewer than 75,000 words (some can be more, but let's go with 75k as a baseline). This is more than double that. Did I say Yikes? Oh yeah. I did.

I think you've got to cut the word count dramatically. Figure out if you can break this into two books. Some agents are going to look at that word count and reject automatically.

As to the actually query, I agree with Peidmont. It's too long and says very little by way of actual story. It's full of nonspecific sentences that hint at what's going on, but don't say. It's confusing.

Be specific, and concise. For example, I don't even know the time period of this. Unless it's stated, the reader assumes we're in present day. Yet, you're talking about knights and stuff, which aren't really around anymore. Then you start talking about magic. Give us some indication of time and place (ex. Twelve-year-old Flynn, son of a Knight living in King Arthur's Camelot...[and I know this isn't your story, but you get the drift]). I think the previous commenters offered good, specific advice on making the rest of your query more specific, less laden with meaningless catchphrases.

The two publishing credits you site look pretty weak. I'm not saying you, in terms of your own personal goals, should not be proud of these accomplishments. I am saying, in the grand scheme of the writing world, they are not impressive. Unless you won the top prize, don't mention it. And the online site (is it a journal, magazine, what?)-- does not strike me as particularly prestigious (especially given that you feel you have to include the URL).

Finally, expect that you're going to impress her with this query enough that the agent wants the manuscript. Don't offer her a partial, synopsis, other stuff. Offer her the whole shebang. If she wants something less, she'll tell you, but you gotta go in with the confidence she's going to want it all. Say: "I'd be happy to send you the complete manuscript."

Falen said...

165,000 is very very long, even for epic fantasy, which is pretty weak in today's market.

The way this Query reads, and the age of the protagonist, makes your story seem like YA which should have a smaller WC than Fantasy.

As it's at, the Query is too long, and it seems as if the story is too long, so the agent will look at those two aspects and pass on the manuscript because they suspect they'll probably find a manuscript that's overwritten and purple.

Here's what Colleen Lindsey states about current Word Count

MG fiction = 25k to 40k

YA fiction = 50k to 80k

urban fantasy / paranormal romance = 80k to 100k

mysteries and crime fiction = cozies: 60k to 70k; others: 80k to 100k.

women’s fiction and chick lit=80k to 100k

literary fiction=65k to 120k, trending away from the higher numbers. “Spare and elegant” is the mark of literary chic these days.

thrillers=90k to 100k;

historical fiction=80k to 140k and up

science fiction and fantasy=100k-110k

Even the longest genre, historical fiction, is still typically around 140k.

5-10K here or there most likley won't be a deal breaker. But 20 - 50k?

i would follow what everyone says above, but i'm worried that if you don't cut that manuscript down, it may not matter how great your Query is.

Good luck!

Dan and Wendy said...

Thank you everyone for your insights and input. I'll keep working on it.