Jun 7, 2011

Query- By the Sword

Dear Agent,

Kill. That is what warriors are supposed to do. They are not supposed to dream visions or fall for their worst enemy.

Twenty-two year old Talya is a knight who lives and breathes to fight. The need to avenge her mother`s death fuels her as Sanctus, her country, prepares for war against the expanding Malinorian Empire. She hates the Malinorians, especially their new young general, Jalarn. Not only has Jalarn murdered her king, he`s almost killed Talya twice.

With the upcoming battle on her mind, Talya is shocked when a prophet from the woods tells her that God has called her to go on a mission to Hunter Forest. When the messenger of God confirms the graphic nightmares that Talya has been having, she agrees to go.

It is in Hunter Forest that Talya finds Jalarn. Her plan to slay him doesn`t exactly go as planned. When she awakens within a Malinorian prison, she needs to make a decision to follow Jalarn`s religion in order to live, or stay true to her faith and die.

By the Sword is a fantasy novel that is 81,000 words in length.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

7 comments:

Anonymous Author said...

This is nice and coherent and gives a good summary of your novel.

There are a few problems.

The first paragraph is really unnecessary and doesn't seem to work as a hook. I'd take it out.

The next paragraph introduces four unfamiliar names. Though it's done fairly clearly it still may be a bit much. The names themselves don't roll off the tongue-- particularly Jalarn. And Sanctus and Malinoria is a little too close to naming the kingdoms Good Guys and Bad Guys.

Is this a religious novel? If orders from capital G God are a prime character motivation, it seems like it probably is. In non-religious fantasy God shows up allegorically, or with a different name, if at all. (Think Lord of the Rings, where God-- Tolkien's God-- is a prime mover but is only referred to once, extremely obliquely, when Gandalf says Bilbo's finding the ring was "intended.")

Anyway, it sounds religious so you should identify it as such in the penultimate sentence.

"[C]onfirms the graphic nightmares" is awkward and unclear. Does s/he confirm that they describe reality, or describe the future?

Anonymous said...

This query is easy to read, but I didn't think it was stand out enough to make me want to read the actual novel. Been there, read that.

I agree that the first paragraph doesn't work as a hook. Especially when you never bring back the idea that the MC falls for her worst enemy.

"Her plan to slay him doesn`t exactly go as planned." Don't use plan twice in the same sentence.

glj said...

I agree that this is well organized and generally clear. Not bad, but the suspense could be pumped up in some places, indicated below. I agree that this does not present a unique plot, so it has that worst of all query letter flaws—not compelling.

Kill. That is what warriors are supposed to do. They are not supposed to dream visions or fall for their worst enemy.
This tells us what all fantasy readers already know. Drop it. It adds nothing.

Twenty-two year old Talya is a knight who lives and breathes to fight. The need to avenge her mother`s death fuels (drives?) her as Sanctus, her country, prepares for war against the expanding Malinorian Empire. She hates the Malinorians, especially their new young general, Jalarn. Not only has Jalarn murdered her king, he`s almost killed Talya twice.
(suggestion: “Not only has Jalarn murdered her king, he almost killed Talya. Twice.” I suggest avoiding the contraction “he’s”, as it can be visually confused with the possessive)

With the upcoming battle on her mind, Talya is shocked (too strong? How about “refuses to listen when …”) when a prophet from the woods tells her that God has called her to go on a mission to Hunter Forest. When the messenger of God confirms (describes?) the graphic nightmares that Talya has been having, she agrees to go.

It is in Hunter Forest that Talya finds Jalarn. Her plan to slay him doesn`t exactly go as planned. (would be more interesting to show us. The “doesn’t exactly go as planned” seems cliché and misses an opportunity to give the reader detail that may create interest in reading on) When she awakens within a Malinorian prison, she needs to make a decision to follow Jalarn`s religion in order to live, or stay true to her faith and die. (but this does not tell us why she must decide. Sounds like Jalarn has ordered that she convert or die. This conflict is weak, and will likely not compel a reader to continue reading)

By the Sword is a fantasy novel that is 81,000 words in length.
BY THE SWORD is an 81,000 word fantasy.

yankinfrance said...

This reads to me like a YA novel. Is it? If so, make this clear in the query -- it'll help to explain the somewhat juvenile choices (Sanctus, "Mal"inorians, God, etc.). 81K is pretty short for an adult fantasy.

As for the name "God" -- which god are you speaking about? Capitalized like that, it can only be the Judeo-Christian variant. If it's a different god, then consider renaming it for the novel.

I'm a bit concerned about the sudden introduction of the conflict at the end -- the 'stay true to her faith' bit -- since this isn't really discussed earlier in the query (where Talya's main concern appears to be fighting/vengeance).

Anonymous Author said...

YIF, the bar's no lower for YA. If anything, it's higher, since more people are trying to write it these days. As a middle grade author, I know that a large proportion of my readers are adults; a YA writer needs to assume that an even larger proportion are.

The names are a problem. God is more of one, unless this is for the religious market.

God can show up in any kind of novel he wants, of course. But as a prime, identified motivation for the character, he usually sticks to the religious market.

Sara Flower said...

Anonynmous Author,

Yes good point. I will take out the first paragraph and remove "confirms" as well. And I did forget to identify it as a Christian fantasy at the end.

Thanks for the constructive feedback! :)


Anonymous,

Thanks for being honest about your interest level. I will definitely try to make the query a lot more gripping and use a better hook. Oh and using plan twice in the same sentence...ick! Need to change that.

Sara Flower said...

glj,

Thanks so much for breaking down the query for me. I can see a lot of other weak points. I need to make the conflict stronger.

yankinfrance,

Yes I see what you mean. It does sound a little YA but I just can`t bring myself to change the ages of the characters. (They are in their early 20`s with the exception of one teenager). Hmm maybe I should bit the bullet and switch it, since my word count is also short for fantasy. And yeah I will be more clear that the novel is Christian.

Anonymous Author,

Wow really? YA fantasy word count is longer than adult fantasy? Yikes!