Jan 17, 2010

QUERY: THESE ARE THE END OF DAYS - First Revision

Click here to read the original query.

Dear Agent.

December 6, 2012. As the Mayan calendar draws to its end, the world is plunged into a global frenzy when news of an entity heading toward earth is leaked. An American led coalition to defend the planet is created when mechanical equipment and technology begin to abruptly fail, triggering fears of an imminent attack.

Howard Andersen, a political appointee, who is noted for his ability to “influence” policy, is unexpectedly appointed Director of FEMA when the Continuity of Government Plan is implemented. A political enforcer, Howard is faced with contempt and hostility by his boss, the Homeland Security Secretary who wants him out.

The craft disappears as it nears the Solar System and the coalition begins to fracture. A challenge is made by countries who are skeptical of the unfolding events and feel threatened. They dispute the assertions of an alien presence and demand proof. When none is forthcoming they accuse the United States of fear mongering and crimes against humanity.

Howard is thrust into a chaotic world where religious beliefs vie against military dogma when the ship is discovered on Mars beside a mountain that eerily resembles a human face. As the planet marches towards nuclear warfare it falls to him to discern what is the truth. Is this a divine sign or staging post for an invasion?

THESE ARE THE END OF DAYS is a completed manuscript of 115,000 words. Thanks for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely
Lenworth Wesley

7 comments:

justsomethoughts... said...

sounds like a lot of ideas and not so many words.
but that's just me.
and i am by no means on par with the other critics here.

good luck.
sounds rather intriguing.

Piedmont Writer said...

Lenworth, I must say this is so much better. The query has undergone a complete transformation. Still I have a few questions.

What is a "political enforcer"? I know he thinks he's a thug in a suit but I'm seriously seeing Arnold Schwarzenegger. Is that the idea?

I don't understand "crimes against humanity". Fear mongering yes, but what kind of crimes? Do they round people up and put them somewhere for the good of the nation which could be construed as crimes? I'm not saying it doesn't make sense, it just doesn't seem clear for some reason.

And I would suggest "Thank you" not thanks. This is a professional business letter.

But again, this is really great. Good job.

RCWriterGirl said...

Lenworth,

This is much better. And I'm so glad you're keeping at it. You are going to have a fab query when you finish.

The good news is this is more internally coherent and reads better than your first.

The problem is, it's still too much information. Too much stuff is going on in the query, so it makes it seem like the book could be confusing or populated with a bunch of political, back-alley stuff that's uninteresting (I'm a journalist, and whenever editors cut out your interesting fun-facts about political stuff, they call it "inside baseball" and say, "nobody wants to read about that." As a reporter, you frown, and go, "but it's so interesting," and your editor goes, "eh, not really." and hits delete). This has too much "inside baseball." Or, in the fiction world, I guess you'd call it backstory/setup.

Yes, your query needs some setup/backtory, and in a complex tale like this one, it may need a little more, but what you've got here is too much.

I think one of the previous commenters suggested writing a tagline. I have to agree.

I found this post on writing a logline/tagline extremely helpful. I think it will help you to do this exercise, then sit and write your query. Here's a link to the site http://edittorrent.blogspot.com/2009/04/log-line-pitches-or-how-to-tweet-your.html.

Your novel is 115,000 words. Your query is supposed to be fewer than 300. That's a lot of condensing to do. It's really hard. So, don't get frustrated.

I apologize for not being able to offer more advice about what you need to do to get your query to the "there" mark. But, it's not yet. There's too much extraneous info and not enough kick.

I like that you try to spell out what's at stake: "As the planet marches towards nuclear warfare it falls to him to discern what is the truth." You follow that up with a question: "Is this a divine sign or staging post for an invasion?" And while it's intriguing initially, any answer you give leads to a "so what." If it is a divine sign, so what? If it is a staging post for an invasion, so what? Or perhaps, then what? I still don't know what's at stake for Howard, and if he can effect any change. If it's an invasion, is he somehow in a position to stop it? If it's a divine sign, does he even care? I didn't get the impression he was religious.

If you end your query with a question like that, you want the reader to be thinking, oh, I have to know the answer, because I care so much, not, even if I know the answer, so what?

Keep at it. The key is keeping it simple and making us care about what happens. Easier said than done. I know.

Good luck.

RC

RCWriterGirl said...

Just a quick follow up. The link I added before was the initial post. The follow-up-post is probably the better one.

This is it: http://edittorrent.blogspot.com/2009/04/how-to-put-it-together-into-one-neat.html

Dominique said...

This is much better. Definitely more cohesive and tied together.

You might want to make it clear up front what sort of coalition the US is leading, because when I read the words "the coalition is coming apart" I didn't feel like I knew much about it except that America was involved.

You might also want to explain a tad more about the Continuity of Government Plan and how that leads him to get the FEMA job, because it didn't seem like it necessarily followed.

Lenworth said...

Again, thanks for the comments and suggestions. The objective is to keep moving forward until we hit the goal line.

More random thoughts:

Yes the idea is an Arnold Schwarzenegger character - twice as mean and trice as smart. An enforcer is supposed to be a fixer. The person who gets stuff done, or makes unwilling people get stuff done.

I see that the crimes against humanity line is not working here. Will lose it in rewrite. Rationale was; when mechanical stuff fails abruptly, bad things happen, eg planes fall.

Will revisit the COG and FEMA's role in it.

RCWriterGirl, thanks for the link. Looks very promising.

gj said...

You're focusing on the universal without ever bringing it down to the individual. The stakes and problems for the world are pretty clear -- entity threatening the planet, Mayan doomsday, etc. What's less clear is what the protagonist is DOING about it.

Look at all your verbs. They describe the protagonist as a passive pawn:

The coalition that appoints him "is created" -- passive.

Howard is appointed -- passive.

Howard is faced with contempt -- passive.

A challenge is made -- passive (and it's not even involving our protagonist, as far as I can tell).

Howard is thrust -- passive.

It falls to him to discern the truth -- passive (he should be eager and anxious to discern the truth).

Exaggerating a little for effect, you've got this guy sitting in an office, watching the news on tv, seeing/hearing that bad things are happening, when the janitor comes along and slaps a new sign on his office door -- now you're the FEMA head. So he keeps sitting there and watches/listens as other people fight the entity, other people riot, other people whine about his being apppointed the director. He's just sitting there, within his elbows on his desk, fingers steepled, mildly interested in discerning who's right about the end of the world.

For a thriller, the protagonist needs to be part of the thrills! Get it short and snappy: "when an alien entity approaches earth, an unlikely guy ends up in the political hot seat, expected to stop the aliens, despite the machinations of his political rivals, global panic and the omnipotent aliens themselves. When Howard does X, things get worse. "