May 19, 2011

QUERY: STEALING A DREAM (3rd attempt)

Click here to read the original query.
Click here to read the first revision.

Dear agent,

Haisma Perell will do anything to have her baby brother back. Since the night he watched their parents slaughtered, he has been eroding away with madness. After years failing to help, Haisma embarks on a quest to steal a Dream, the only cure that may save him.

She hires a guide. Faziel De Garxia--the charming Gatekeeper with wings and a hero complex--is obsessed with fixing things, including her. When they stumble upon an upheaval that is escalating to war against the universe, Faziel itches to fix that too. Haisma grudgingly agrees, until she learns Faziel’s one-time patron--the driving force behind the rebellion--is collaborating with a clandestine sect responsible for her family's tragedy.

Together, they launch into ruthless power games against soul-enslaving politicians and vengeful fanatics, winding up on opposing ends against their will. When Haisma traces the clues from her parents' murder and gathers the means to stop the war, she finds herself standing on the crossroads of an impossible choice: her brother’s Dream or Faziel’s life.

I’m seeking representation for my novel, STEALING A DREAM: a character-driven epic fantasy, complete at 100,000 words. (Credentials and thank you)

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

I feel like the thesaurus was used on this query. "he watched their parents slaughtered" is awkward. "eroding away"? the word away is not needed. "stumble upon an upheaval". Upheaval doesn't seem like the right word to me?
Otherwise, much better. it's more streamlined.

Anonymous Author said...

I agree w/Anonymous about the thesaurus. Even though you didn't take my advice about eliminating all adjectives, this version is still much easier to understand. For the first time, I'm getting a sense of your plot.

And although this is probably the last thing you'll want to hear: the novel sounds like it needs major revisions.

1. We've got Haisma, who'll do anything to save her younger (I assume he's not really a baby) brother.

2. She goes off to seek a Dream, but is distracted from her quest by her guide, and then there's a kind of convoluted politics that connects the rebellion to her quest.

3. Haisma for some reason lets herself get involved in "ruthless power games against soul-enslaving politicians". (That whole sentence tells us nothing, btw. I think you're trying to say Haisma and Faziel end up enemies.)

4. Haisma has to choose between saving her brother and saving Faziel. If he's buds with the guys who killed her parents, that doesn't seem like a hard choice.

Now, you've got plot problems. Haisma's stated goal seems not to be her goal.

Try to sum the whole story up in one sentence, no more than 20 words long. If you can't do that, revise your manuscript until you can.

And please, please lose the adjectives. And if you do own a thesaurus, I'd suggest finding a nice Salvation Army drop box for it. If the word doesn't come to you naturally, it's the wrong word.

Lydia Kurnia said...

Thank you so much for your help, both. As a matter of fact, I didn't use thesaurus at all writing it, lol. Don't know why it appears so, perhaps it's my general discomfort seeping through.

From your comments, it seems what I have failed to show is the fact that Haisma and Faziel end up falling in love (because the advice on the previous version was that I went on and on about Faziel when what I tried to show was that they grow to love). It's easy to show a bond by blood-you say brother and boom, you understand the connection. A lover is harder, at least in a few words, without sounding cheesy.

The tough choice is essentially love vs. blood. The 'plot' in this 170 words is simply: what does ANYTHING (in that first sentence) really mean for Haisma? This obviously does not come across.. argh!

And soul-enslaving politicians are exactly that: they enslave souls to do things against their will. That's how Faziel ends up on the other side. I wonder how best to say this?

Lastly, could you kindly show me which adjectives are unnecessary? As I'm pretty sure I followed your advice and discarded LOADS from previous versions! (and when I said loads, I meant LOADS) I tried to leave only the ones I felt show SOMETHING from the story, but perhaps I'm too close to it to show it well here.

I'll leave it up to the agent/editor if the plot needs MAJOR revisions :) My gut tells me it's my query that isn't showing what I want to show. Having said that, no agents will ever see the story until they see it in the query, so I think I will try to fix the query before I go ahead and butcher my book :)

Any help I can get will be HUGELY appreciated.

Btw, is there a limit as to the number of revisions one can post on the site?

Anonymous Author said...

Lydia, as far as I know there's no limit, but there does seem to be a diminishing returns problem: I've seen people go to sixth revisions, but after a while people stop responding.

Since I've been through the query thing a hundred times myself, I can tell you that even when everyone assures you that your manuscript is perfect, it will still get rejected. If you're submitting something that you haven't polished to the absolute max, no agent or editor is going to tell you where you need to revise. They're just going to form-reject you.

(And yes, they will form-reject you after they've requested the manuscript. It's happened to me many times.)

There are no, repeat no, shortcuts.

I'm sorry, I see, you did cut a lot of adjectives. I guess what I mean is you need to cut the grandiose language. Below I've deleted some stuff that is too convoluted to be comprehensible. I tried to strike through it, but blogger gave me guff about using strikethrough.

She hires a guide. Faziel De Garxia-- a charming Gatekeeper with wings and a hero complex--is obsessed with fixing things, including her. When they stumble upon ... [be specific], Faziel itches to fix that too. Haisma grudgingly agrees, until... [Give the stuff after "until" its own brief, specific sentence.]

Together... [Make more specific. I would never have guessed you meant actual soul-stealing, because you use so much figurative language.] When Haisma traces the clues from her parents' murder and gathers the means to stop the war, she finds herself [deleted] with an impossible choice: her brother’s Dream or Faziel’s life.



If your characters are in love, say so. Remember we know nothing about your novel, except what you tell us.

And please take my advice about the 20 word sentence. Not for public consumption. For your own use. If you can't do it, then revise your novel before you revise your query.

Always remember:

There are no shortcuts.

Now, I'm probably going to sign off from commenting on future revisions; I have my own work to do, after all. I hope you'll take my advice, and that over the years you'll develop into the writer you want to be.

Lydia Kurnia said...

Oh, of course I won't submit anything that's not ready, but from friends with agent representation, I know for sure the revision does not stop, even after the acceptance. It goes on :) all the way till it reaches the shelves.

My book is going through its third round of workshop at the moment, but the story itself hasn't changed. That's why I thought I might start preparing the query now. I know how long these things take to reach its ready form,

And yes, thank you for all your help, anonymous. You've been great.

Rick Daley said...

There's no limit on the number of revisions, but interest does drop off the more revisions you submit.

Take time between revisions. Read them aloud. The better revisions I've seen are the ones with a long delay between submissions. It shows the author has really thought through all the feedback, and worked and re-worked it.

Anonymous Author has a good point about thinking through your manuscript. I've been guilty of the same thing...focusing on a query because my MS was complete, i.e. I had reached the end, when in all reality I was still in need of further revisions.

It's good that you are in a third round of workshops. As the saying goes, "Real writers re-write." While you are understandably eager to land an agent, don't underestimate how competitive the industry is, and don't sell yourself short by focusing energy on a query if you are really not ready yet. I haven't read your MS, so I don't know if you are or not...

Lydia Kurnia said...

Okay, thanks Rick, and yes, I am well aware of the competition. It's a terrifying world out there.

I won't post more revisions, not for a long while anyway (ugh, horrible to be displayed everywhere on the main page, ha!) but anyone, please feel free to lend a hand if you feel inclined. I will still keep working on both query and book. Thanks to those who have helped.

melanie said...

Lydia, kudos on your perserverance. I have a few comments and you'll have to excuse my attrocious spelling, I am a child of spell check! Perhaps it is because I have not read your other queries and thus haven't seen the other dimensions of your plot, but I found this query extremely confusing. I have a few points in the order they appear in the query:
1. Why is dream capitalized? Are you using dream to mean something unique in your world? If so, I have no idea what you're talking about. Even if not, I still don't know what you're talking about- how does one steal a dream? I'm sure you explain this in your manuscript, but here it might be clearer if you simply say that she sets of on a quest to find a cure.

2. Why are you telling me Faziel is a gatekeeper, it's confusing because I don't know what he is a gatekeeper of or how this is relavent to your story. This seems like unncessary and confusing information for the query and I would simply say somethign like: She hires Faziel De Garxia, a charming guide with a hero complex and a penchant to fix things, including her.

3. The next two sentences might be your opportunity to introduce the love dynamic. Why does she agree to get involved in a fight that on the surface has nothing to do with her quest- a word that suggests a certain amount of focus and determination? You need to explain the motivation for this twist, and it may be that her growing love for the guide is the answer. For example, you might say something like: When they stumble upon a battle that is sure to start a war against the universe, Faziel itches to fix that too. Although Haisma is determined to save her brother, her growing love for Faziel prompts her to join...

4. This sentence "Haisma grudgingly agrees, until she learns Faziel’s one-time patron--the driving force behind the rebellion--is collaborating with a clandestine sect responsible for her family's tragedy." Is confusing- does she stop agreeing to fight once she learns this information, or does she stop being grudging? Is she fighting for or against the rebellion? Does this information make her switch sides? In essence- what is important about this event?

5.I agree with a previous comment about the soul-enslavers. It is confusing because you don't have the space to clarify that they are literally stealing souls. To me though, this is a moot point- like the gatekeeper and the dream, this doesn't need to be in your query. All the reader needs to know is that these are destructive and ruthless politicians and that your main characters want to stop them (though it is still unclear whether they are trying to stop the rebells or the existing regime).

6. You need to clarify how the quest and the battle are connected. I think you are saying that Haisma finds essential information about her brother's cure and her family's tragedy through the battle, but the way it is written now, these seem tangental and as another commentor said it feels like the main character has gotten distracted from her goal or that her true goal is not to find the cure but to stop the war.

7. It's confusing that you say they end up on opposite sides of the battle against their will. Either clarify, or don't say it at all. It would be fine to say that they launch into this battle and in the end she must choose between saving her love and finding her brohter's cure.

8. Overall, I would just keep in mind that the query reader doesn't know anything about your world or your ideas. All they have is what is on the page, so you want to convey the story line with as much clarity as possible and include details about the world only when they promote clairty instead of confusion.

yankinfrance said...

I've given this one a bit more thought. At this point, I think part of the problem with this query can be summed up by the title of the novel. "Stealing a Dream?" It just feels awkward, untuned, like listening to someone sing who has no ear for music.

I think this is also why people have reacted to thesaurus-like quality of the writing.

There's just too much stylistic goop in the body of the query, from "watched...slaughtered" to "stumble upon an upheaval that is escalating to war" to "gather the means" ... at what point do we assume the novel has none of these very same problems?

FWIW, I don't trust writing workshops. If you can't feel the language, no one else can do that for you.

I'd take AA's suggestion and write a 20-word description of the novel. If you can't do that, then write a 20-word description of the novel you WANTED to write, and rewrite the novel accordingly.

And I mean rewrite, not merely revise. Rewriting is my favorite part of the writing process -- I set the earlier draft/s aside and start out fresh. It's liberating and always achieves something greater.

Also FWIW, I think the real focus of this novel is the love story between Haisma and Faziel -- all the rest of it is setup and background.

Anonymous Author said...

Yank, it's true no one can give you a feel for language, but the members of a good writing workshop can tell you what you're doing wrong-- exactly the kind of stuff you just told her, such as that the real focus of the story is the love story.

Since it's nearly impossible for unpublished writers to get the kind of feedback that published writers rely on from agents and editors, a writing workshop or a critique group can be a godsend.

Not everyone in these groups is helpful, but like anything else in life you take the good and try to ignore the bad.

Lydia Kurnia said...

Thank you for your help, Yankinfrance and AA, I take your feedback onboard.

I find the workshops very useful. The reviews from both published and unpublished authors give me the mix of feedback I need to improve the story. Not just this one, anything I write.

I think I need to step back and find a better way to present the book in the query. If I must rewrite it, then I will. I'm just waiting until I get more feedback on my latest draft before I do anything drastic. Meanwhile, I will try that 20-word summary challenge :)

Even though the main story may be Haisma and Faziel's relationship, everything is built on the main plot that starts off from the quest, hence the title. And the dream is meant to represent many things I don't think I have the space to put in the query. Let me think about that, but I know what you mean.

Thank you again. You all have been great. I won't post more attempts for a while, but please know that I keep working on both the book and the query in the background. I appreciate your help.

Anonymous said...

Hello Author,

After reading your first line, I thought the MC's baby brother (i.e., actually a baby) was stolen and the MC's quest was to get the baby back from someone. So when the second line started with "he" (and several of the following), I thought you were refering to the MC who was initially a "she". I had major gender confusion and thought you'd forgotten some S's. After reading other's comments I see you mean the "he" to be the brother (who is apparently not a baby). I may be the only person in the universe who misunderstood, but perhaps describe the brother as "younger" instead of "baby" and in that next sentence give a name or say "her brother" instead of "he" so the reader knows who you mean.

Best of luck!