Jun 16, 2010

QUERY - SPYRE REVISION 1

Click here to read the original query.

Thanks for the feedback, everyone. I wish I'd found this site 4 months ago.

Some of you said that you'd like me to add more to the synopsis part of the query. I feel that "less is more" when it comes to a query's synopsis. That way, it garners more interest from prospective agents. I thought that going into more detail would be reserved for a full-paged synopsis. So I'm a little conflicted on that part of the query. However, I've added another paragraph (it's in italics) to see how that works.

I'm certainly open to more constructive criticism since I've sent out multiple versions of this query to over 50 agents and have received 27 rejections and only 1 request to see more pages. Thanks again for you help and let me know what you think:


There was no way for Alex Laxa to know that asking out a girl could land him in so much trouble. When Alex, a shy and uninspired waylei dealer, chases after a beautiful doctor to ask her out, he had no idea that he'd be thrust on a harrowing journey across the Volero System that could ultimately decide the fate of billions.

Alex finds himself a witness to two men assaulting the doctor and instinctively rushes in to help. Moments later, both men lie dead while he and his new companion, Lara Warren, have become fugitives. They discover that Lara stumbled upon the name of a project called Shepherd while researching her father's past. It's a name so secret that her employer, The Company, tries to mind-wipe both of them for learning of its existence. Now they must run for their lives, clueless as to why the very knowledge of this project would be worth killing them for.

Alex learns that Shepherd is a covert initiative to acquire the planet Spyre by annihilating its inhabitants. Only a select few are aware that this world holds the key to controlling the Volero System. Now he and his friends must save the Spyreans and prevent The Company from gaining indomitable power. SPYRE, a science fiction adventure, is complete at over 88,000 words.

Thank you for your time and patience in reading about my work. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

The first two sentences feel somewhat redundant. Try to combine them. And I think that there are some verb tense mismatches.

Lynn Colt said...

I actually think the entire first paragraph could be cut: except for 'shy and uninspired waylei dealer' it's all vague, and even that phrase has problems (what the heck is a waylei dealer? Some Hawaiian thing? But then from the rest of the query it's clear that he's in some other galaxy, so it's a detail that confuses instead of illuminates. Also, why is he uninspired and why would I want to read about someone who's uninspired? Also, what does 'uninspired' have to do with the plot? Shy is the driving characteristic, but that could be better shown than told). Also, I get the feeling you're attached to that first 'hooky' sentence, but it feels ... awkward. Not the snappy hook that I think you were going for. Oh, and a contradiction: you say he's shy but then have him chasing after a girl to ask her out. Shy people don't do that!

Okay, now that I've gone on at length about why that first paragraph doesn't work for me ... :)

The rest of this sounds fun, but needs some tweaks:
-the language could be tightened quite a bit.
-why are 'both men' dead without, it seems, much of a struggle? Did Alex somehow kill them? Did Lara? If she did, does she really need Alex's help anyway? If Alex did, where the heck did his super-killing powers come from?
-"they discover": what? didn't Lara presumably know that already?
-"Now they must run for their lives ... killing them for" is completely unnecessary. we get that info from the previous sentences. cut it.
-there are unnecessary details that clutter things up: 'while researching her father's past' for example (does it matter how she found out? not in the query).

I'm picturing something along these lines (though obviously it's rough) of:

"Alex prefers to mind his own business*, selling weylei at the edge of the Volero System, but when he witnesses an assault he can't help but intervene. Soon he and the victim, Lara Warren, are fugitives: seems that Lara stumbled on an intergalactic project so secret that her employers want to mind-wipe anyone who knows about it--and that now includes Alex.

Alex and Lara discover that the project involves both genocide and a takeover of the entire Volero system, and it's up to them to stop it**.

*or some other detail to show that Alex is shy and tends to keep to himself. Also that helps show internal conflict, if he prefers not to get involved with people but has to because of his conscience when he witnesses the assault. plus, that could be more of a hook, ie 'alex knew getting involved with others only brought trouble--turns out he was right' or something.
**this can be more snappily put, and the consequences of their potential failure elaborated on, but you get the idea.

Anyway, hope this helps! I think you've got a great story here.

PS what exactly is weylei?

eliteaps said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
eliteaps said...

QUERY - SPYRE REVISION 2

Lynn,

Weylei is just a word I made up for a fictional card game.

Anyway, I've pretty much overhauled the first paragraph. Let me know if it's still too vague or doesn't work for you. I can always take the 1st sentence in the 2nd paragraph and combine them.

I've tried to convey how it's Lara that motivates and drives Alex because his fondness for her is central to the story.

Excluding the greeting and contact info, the query has been cut down to 240 words. Tell me if you think the 3rd paragraph still needs to be trimmed down.

Thanks for your help:


Uncertain about his place in life, Alex Laxa's existence was dull and directionless, until he met Dr. Lara Warren. When he does, he's thrust on a harrowing journey that will not only decide his fate, but the fate of the entire Volero System as well.

Alex finds himself a witness to two men assaulting the beautiful doctor and rushes in to help. Through a mixture of panic and self defense, both men lie dead while he and his new companion have become fugitives. They discover that Lara unwittingly stumbled upon a project called Shepherd. It's a name so secret that her employer tries to mind-wipe anyone who learns of its existence—which now includes Alex.

While living under the constant threat of capture, Alex awes at Lara's inner strength and passion for justice. His growing attraction toward her infuses a sense of responsibility for her safety and a desire to uncover the truth. Alex learns that Shepherd is a covert initiative to acquire the planet Spyre by annihilating its inhabitants. Only a select few are aware that this world holds the key to controlling the Volero System. Now he must fight to save the Spyreans and face certain death, or watch as The Company gains indomitable power through genocide. SPYRE, a science fiction adventure, is complete at over 88,000 words.

Thank you for your time and patience in reading about my work. I look forward to hearing from you.



Sincerely,

Lynn Colt said...

This is better, but it still suffers from an abundance of unnecessary details and words:

I still think the first paragraph could be entirely cut. It's a great two-sentence pitch, but in a query where you say the same things later on, it's redundant.

"finds himself a witness" this is wordy--why can't you just say "witnesses"? If agents see you using four words when you could use one, they will assume the entire book is like that too (and I hope it's not).

"through a mixture of panic and self-defense": this is an example of a detail that's unnecessary. I know you're answering a question I had from last go-round, but unless it's important to know HOW he overcame the assault (ie he discovered some superpower that he was unaware of), this doesn't need to be here. When you mention they're on the run in the next sentence, we understand that he and Lara survived the assault.

similarly, "the Shepherd". Does it matter what the name of the project is? you never mention it again. Unnecessary. And if you cut "called the Shepherd. It's a name", you've tightened it up by getting rid of six unneeded words. Snip snip :)

"While living ... the truth." Firstly: awes is not a verb. I've seen agents comment that typos they can forgive, but that using a word incorrectly can kill a query immediately. Secondly, the agent/reader is going to assume that your protagonists fall for each other, or at least become great friends, over the course of the novel. All this is just telling what we already assume is going to happen, thus it's unnecessary.

Now that the meat of the story is starting to shine through, I'm wondering why the baddies have to resort to genocide to take over a planet. Wouldn't someone notice and try to stop them? Why is the planet the key to the system? Tactical importance, or something more interesting that could show how your novel is different than other sci-fi save-the-planet stories. Not that you have to put this info in, but it's an opportunity to give details (vital and specific, not vague or pointless) to make the query more riveting for the agent.

Okay, and now I'm gonna comment again about Alex's characterization. You mention that you wanted to emphasize that his fondness for Lara drives the story. But honestly, just mention that she's beautiful and people will assume that. Guys often go to great lengths for beautiful women. It's nothing new, and nothing that sets your story apart. Plus, emphasizing that he's directionless and dull until she comes along makes me dislike him as weak and boring, not someone I want to spend a novel following. Just starting off the query by introducing him as 'Alex, a rootless card-dealer at the edge of the Volero system, witnesses ...' or something similar gets the point across without belaboring it. He's drifting through life, then is launched on an adventure b/c of Lara. We are shown this through the query--you don't have to tell us too.

Okay, I'll stop now. Sorry if this seems like a lot, but I think you seem to have a great story and I know how hard it is to get query letters to reflect the story well. Hope this helps!

Dan Ritchie said...

I'd keep Shepherd. It sounds cool for no specific reason.

eliteaps said...

QUERY - SPYRE REVISION 3

Keep the feedback coming. I really appreciate it.

I've cut down the query to about 200 words while adding some more details of the story. Let me know what you think:


When Alex Laxa, a burnt-out card dealer on Voleron, witnesses an assault on the beautiful Lara Warren and rushes in to help, he becomes the focus of a deadly manhunt. He and his new companion discover that she unwittingly stumbled upon Project Shepherd, a project so secret that her employer, The Company, tries to mind-wipe anyone who learns of its existence—which now includes Alex.

He learns that Shepherd is a covert initiative started when The Civil War ended in an uneasy truce nearly thirty years ago. Its purpose is to annihilate the inhabitants of Spyre, a planet whose proximity to the sun make it vulnerable to radiation. Under the guise of a radiation-induced plague, The Company can claim the planet without firing a shot. Only a select few are aware that a mineral unique to Spyre holds the key to controlling the Volero System. Now Alex must face certain death to save the Spyreans, or watch as The Company gains indomitable power through genocide. SPYRE, a science fiction adventure, is complete at over 88,000 words.

Thank you for your time and patience in reading about my work. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Lynn Colt said...

This is fabulous now!!! Seriously, great job revising.

My only comment now is that when you mentioned the Civil War it threw me for a bit of a loop, and I had to go back to see if you'd mentioned some detail to indicate that this is in space, not on Earth. You did mention Voleron, but it was still a little confusing. A couple ways to fix this: saying "planet Voleron" (it is a planet, right?) instead of just Voleron, and maybe not specifying that the war is called the Civil War. Maybe call it an intergalactic or interplanetary war or something? Otherwise my mind wants to place the story in civil war-time America.

Minor grammar-police moment: it should be "proximity to the sun makes", not make.

Other than that, I think this query's a winner!! Good luck :)

Dan Ritchie said...

yes, (planet) Voleron would help readability, or (the planet) Voleron.
deadly manhunt is a good touch. Comes off strong.
"Project Shepherd, a project so secret..." maybe the use of "project" twice could be eliminated Maybe eliminate the first "project"
"upon Shepherd, a project so secret..."
Any body else have a comment?
I didn't have a problem with "Civil War" except maybe the capitalization. I've seen a lot of sci fi, and there's been lots of civil wars in space.
This is much, much better, much stronger.
the mention of "minerals" is a little blah and perhaps could be avoided, but somebody check me on this. "are aware that properties unique to Spyre" or is that too general?

eliteaps said...

QUERY - SPYRE REVISION 4

Jenny, Dan, Suzy, and Lynn:

Thank you so much for your help. I've just tweaked the query as you've suggested and will be sending out a new batch of query letters soon. Let's hope I get better results this time around.

Thanks again


When Alex Laxa, a burnt-out card dealer on planet Voleron, witnesses an assault on the beautiful Lara Warren and rushes in to help, he becomes the focus of a deadly manhunt. He and his new companion discover that she unwittingly stumbled upon Project Shepherd, a program so secret that her employer, The Company, tries to mind-wipe anyone who learns of its existence—which now includes Alex.

He learns that Shepherd is a covert initiative started when an interplanetary war came to an uneasy truce nearly thirty years ago. Its purpose is to annihilate the inhabitants of Spyre, a planet whose proximity to the sun makes it vulnerable to radiation. Under the guise of a radiation-induced plague, The Company can claim the planet without firing a shot. Only a select few are aware that an element unique to Spyre holds the key to controlling the Volero System. Now Alex must face certain death to save the Spyreans, or watch as The Company gains indomitable power through genocide. SPYRE, a science fiction adventure, is complete at over 88,000 words.

Thank you for your time and patience in reading about my work. I look forward to hearing from you.



Sincerely,

Dan Ritchie said...

This is the reason I like the name Shepherd:
It's like the add campaigns of those big corporations that say the exact opposite of what the product really is.
For example...

Our software is faster and more reliable than ever before.

Project Shepherd... Leading to a better life.

Read: Leading you to mass genocide.

Dan Ritchie said...

Element is a good choice. The Fith Element, Photoshop Elements. It's in vogue.

Dan Ritchie said...

I think you could get rid of "for your time and patience in reading about my work."

Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you.

Dan Ritchie said...

>> The Company, tries to mind-wipe

Might be stronger if you got rid of "tries"

The Company mind-wipes

Dan Ritchie said...

make...

>>Now Alex must face certain

...a new paragraph. The query shark says, "white space, white space, white space."

eliteaps said...

Thanks for the tweaks, Dan.

Dan Ritchie said...

back when I worked in video, we used to have a philosophy of a sort. When selling videos, we'd always end the video with an invitation to buy the video. Everyone understood that we were selling it of course, but they wouldn't buy just because nobody specifically told them to.

So we'd always end with a "Buy now..." invitation. Don't do it later, buy it now.

I feel like that's the same with with "Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you." Not "Thank you and it would be great if I heard from you" or anything that doesn't get right to the point. Buy my book. Be my agent, do it now, don't delay. Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you. Amen.