Crit my query letter synopsis?
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I'm trying to get a query package ready to go out, and I would really like some feedback on the "describe the story in three paragraphs or so " part of the query letter. If anyone has the time to look it over and post their reactions, I'd be very grateful.
I am looking for representation for Eyes of Infistar, a swashbuckling 109,000 word sf adventure, about sibling sleuths who have been hired to recover a stolen alien artifact.
Bambi is in charge of tracking the fugitives who made off with the loot. The world they crashed on is a technological protectorate, so she has agreed to leave her gadgets and weaponry behind, even though her perps are armed with plasma guns. She is dismayed to discover that they also have local contacts. Bambi finds herself abducted, assaulted and jostled about on the back of primitive riding animals, but with the help of the local law-enforcement agent (a sword-twirling John Carter of Mars wannabe) she stays stubbornly on the trail of her perps.
Meanwhile her sister Serena has been attempting to discover how and why the artifact was taken. With the loot long gone, and the theives stranded elsewhere, hers is supposed to be a low-hazard invesigation. But someone doesn't want her to find any answers. She just misses being caught in an explosion, and then a gassing attack, and finally ends up dodging a hit squad in the back alleyways of an manufacturing district. But the attacks themselves are clues Serena can follow.
She discovers that the artifact thieves have ties to an interstellar crime organization, and because of Bambi's determined pursuit of their operatives, they are preparing to send an armed and armored squad of space pirates to retrieve the artifact. Against that kind of opposition, neither Bambi's unarmed combat skills or her new swordmaster defender will be enough to keep her alive. Serena needs to find a way to help her, and fast. But Bambi is on a world whose very existence is supposed to be secret. The only ships heading in that direction belong to the enemy, so the only way Serena can reach her sister in time is to allow herself to be captured.
I have a few suggestions, but I wanted to clarify something first:
This is just the describe the story section?
Yes. Although there really isn't much more to the letter besides my publishing credits.
Okay, mind you that this is based on my research and commentary from others, like Query Shark and the Agents at Absolutewrite.com. Also, this is only opinion and not meant as an attack. This is merely a commentary on what I've read:
You've exceeded your recommended word count by 68 words already. They suggest limiting any query letter to no more than 250 words.
sf, perps - abbreviations draw attention to them, and suggest an amateur.
theives = thieves
invesigation = investigation
swordmaster = sword master (two words)
(a sword-twirling John Carter of Mars wannabe) - should be comma separated not paranthetical
Questions for clarification:
Um, I'm confused based on the synopsis. Is this a dual POV story or a single?
How much of what's listed is story and how much is backstory?
Could you reduce some words by listing the John Carter wannabe's name?
The concept seems good. If I were an agent, I might request a partial, to sample the writing itself.
I offer but one opinion. If you chose to polish it some, you might want to submit it to Query Letter Hell on www.absolutewrite.com or to the Query Shark blog (lost that URL at the moment) to get a more thorough and better review of the item...
4- Thank you for your suggestions.
Sorry about the typos. I thought I had run this version through the spell-check already, but I guess I ran the previous version through the spell check instead.
...now I just need to figure out how to clarify your points of confusion while simultaneously reducing the word count by about a hundred words. Groan.
"The concept seems good. If I were an agent, I might request a partial, to sample the writing itself."
Thanks for the kind words.
I'm glad to help where I can. I hope I didn't come across to harsh. I tend to just hack at the pillars to make sure the support is good. :>
Sometimes, when you hear a name, you instantly get a vision of who that person is. It's not fair, but it is so. And "Bambi" is a ditzy Playboy centerfold.
Here are my thoughts...feel free to take them with whatever amount of salt you like. ;)
First, I agree that it's too long and too rambling, and sounds more like the backstory or the first third of the book rather than a synopsis of the whole. I'm also confused as to whose POV the story is told from. If it's Serena's, start the query with her: who she is (a private investigator? a cop?), what she wants and why (to save her sister and get the bad guys and what else? is there an internal goal as well?) and what's keeping her from achieving it. Leave out the details that don't aid in telling what the core of your story is: once you've got it reduced to its essence, then you can see if you've got room for any of them. Every word counts here.
I agree that a visit to QueryShark (www.queryshark.blogspot.com) or Evil Editor (www.evileditor.blogspot.com) or the boards at AbsoluteWrite might prove helpful.
And, um...I agree with Lilithcat. 'Bambi' as a name has some definite baggage that you might not want your character to carry. Unless she really is a "Bambi", and then you're okay. ;)
Good luck--I hope you'll post a final version of this when you have it properly ground down and polished.
10>>My mind shot straight to Douglas Adams and Trillian when you said that. I think you could pull off a character with a name like Bambi, but you would have to be careful about how you presented her.
Here are my thoughts about the synopsis:
1.) Did you know you use the word "artifact" four times in three hundred words? Perps comes up more than it's fair share of times, too.
2.) If Bambi is the damsel in distress, that makes Serena the protagonist. You should start the synopsis with her.
3.) First (I am looking for representation) sentence should be at the very end, and much pared down.
4.) I'm going to PM you a rewrite. It's Tuesday; I'm bored. Feel free to delete it. In fact, feel free to delete it twice.
#8 "And "Bambi" is a ditzy Playboy centerfold."
Her mother gave her that name with malice aforethought, for precisely that reason.
#14 Well, she had issues. They're kind of not her issues anymore, because she got killed in the shoot-out that happened when the cops came to arrest her. The only thing this has to do with the story at hand, however, is how it has shaped the personality of Bambi and her siblings.
I guess I better answer some of these other questions just so I don't frustrate y'all too much.
#4 - It's a dual pov story, Bambi and Serena both, rotating chapters. The only backstory I provided was Bambi accepting the job, and the thieves crash-landing. The John Carter wannabe's name is probably going to be beside the point, because it looks like he has to be cut completely if I'm going to get down to the 250 word goal, or even anywhere close to it.
#11 -Bambi and Serena are private investigators. Bambi wants to retrieve the artifact and nab the bad-guys, because that is her job and she takes it seriously. Serena wants to keep Bambi alive. (This is occasionally a bit of a challenge.) If I could figure out what a story "core" was all about, I would probably be a lot better off. I have very good reason to believe that I'm much better at writing books than I am at describing them in 250 words.
#12 -Bambi is not a damsel in distress. This is the sort of story where everybody gets rescued at least once, and everyone gets to do at least one rescue -- Serena just happens to have the most climatic one. Bambi is the one that defeats the bad guys and saves the day.
These might be helpful:
The second one in particular might help you whittle down to the basic elements of your story, and then you can go back and add enough detail to make it intriguing without getting lost in backstory.
These things are tough to write. I know. Good luck!
I've been trying to come up with something patterned a bit on karhne's rewrite, and so far it looks like this..
Bambi figures that if someone needs to take on the suicide mission of tracking armed thieves into a technological protectrate, it might as well be her. Her tainted genes probably need to be cleaned out of the gene-pool anyway. But the locals are fascinated by her exotic appearance, and keep trying to abduct her, and coming up with the means to retrieve the stolen goods without the use of any gadgets or advanced weaponry is proving a challenge.
A stampede, forest fire and a high speed chase on beast-back later, Bambi finally manages to get her hands on the loot -- only to have it taken away again by a bunch of fanatic acolytes who want to add it to their gods treasury, and forcibly induct Bambi into their religion. That's when rest of the bad-guys show up with plasma guns and armored space-suits.
Since Bambi's the sort to go down fighting, it looks like the gene-pool contamination is about to be solved. But there's still one problem: if Bambi can't survive the coming confrontation, then who is going to nab her perps?
I dunno. Does this sound like a light, somewhat tongue-in-cheek action adventure, obviously inspired by ye olde sf pulps to y'all?
"Gene pool" and "bad guys" are both two words, no hyphen. "Spacesuit" is one word (per NASA, and they should know!), no hyphen. And "gods" should be "gods' " or "god's", depending on whether the acolytes are mono- or polytheistic.
18>>I think she can get away with space-suit, as long as she is channeling 1950's and earlier pulpy goodness. Pre-NASA. Alternative, non-NASA.
# 19 - Why must it be shorter? It's under 200 words already. That leaves plenty of room for the title, wordage, sub-genre and my publishing credits. Doesn't it?
This is definitely better--the plotline is much clearer...but reads as a little confusing to someone who isn't familiar with your story. For example, tracking something usually means you have to stay in communication with the outside, so how can this be a suicide mission? What is a technological protectorate? I think you can re-write it to be a little clearer and tighter. You've thrown so many details in--high-speed chases, plasma guns, gods/religions (just the one, or are there two different ones here?) that it gets a little hard to keep track. That might be why it still seems too long, even if it isn't.
But this is definitely getting there.
Okay... even shorter.
When a couple armed robbers* attempting to make their getaway crash land in a technological protectrate, Bambi, a private investigator licensed for criminal investigations, agrees to go after them. She knows the rules forbidding her to carry gadgets or advanced weaponry will make retrieving the stolen goods difficult, but she is determined to get the job done anyway, whatever it takes.
A stampede, forest fire and high speed chase on beast-back later, she finally manages to get her hands on the loot. That's when the rest of the bad guys show up with plasma guns and armored spacesuits.
Bambi chose a dangerous profession on purpose -- she always expected to die young, and go down shooting. But no matter how tough the odds have just gotten, she can't resign herself to losing this fight: if she gets blown away, then who is going to nab her perps?
*This is technically the wrong term, but the picture it conveys is fairly accurate. Is it safe to assume that if the agent isn't a lawyer or in law-enforcement, she won't care enough about legal definitions to quibble?
24> I think what people are saying about LShelby's query letter is that there is far too much fluff. No, 183 words is not too much. 250 would even be acceptable. But you have to remember that 250 is all she's ever going to get. She won't be sending the novel with the letter, in most cases. If she's lucky, she gets the letter and first five pages as her "first contact".
She should be giving us guts, and she's not. She's giving us lists. Her favorite scenes, her favorite ideas. She's being wordy. She's cramming in all the back-story she possibly can, and she doesn't seem to know it. "Technological Protectorate" jumps out as an example. She has to define it(a world protected from technology, not a world protected by technology, or a world where advanced technologies are protected) or it's meaningless. We can see she likes the phrase. It's shown up multiple times across several drafts. But if she said "luddite world", or something similar, her meaning gets across, and she doesn't have to define anything.
paragraph1>50% definition. Better word choice would prevent that.
p2.) Starts with a list. Ends with a list.
p3) Now she's suicidal? Really? Come on, Shelby, can we pleeeeeeeeeeeeeease go back to Serena, now? And just for the record, I count 4 cliches in that paragraph, alone.
1.The fact that she wants to win probably goes without saying. At all, much less three times.
2. We still don't know what the "artifact", "loot", or whatever is. Why is it worth dying for or not dying for? I'm guessing not Aunt Fanny's broach, but seriously, what is it?
3. What I'm getting out of this is "Space Indiana Jones with Chicks." 5 words, and I really hate two of them.
On a simple slash and burn, I got this down to 39 words. YMMV.
I still feel like something--and I don't know what, I haven't read the book--is missing. What I'm trying to do is make room for whatever that is.
>25 Okay, I see what you're saying. Here's a shorter version, not because it's currently too long, but to make room for the other things that are needed (whatever they are). I agree with you (karnhe) about what the loot is. We need to know that detail, I think. Also, that something seems to be missing, but can't tell what.
When armed robbers making off with (stolen item) crash land on (Planet X), Bambi, a private investigator, goes after them. Her job is all the harder because Planet X is a technological protectorate – Bambi can’t bring her usual gadgets with her.
A stampede, forest fire and high speed chase on beast-back later, she finally manages to get her hands on the (stolen item). That's when the rest of the bad guys show up with plasma guns and armored spacesuits. (Somehow having circumvented the protectorate thingy.)
Bambi chose a dangerous profession on purpose -- she always expected to die young (Is this because of her tainted genes?), and go down shooting. But no matter how tough the odds, she can't resign herself to losing this fight: if she gets blown away, who is going to nab her perps?
karnhe doesn't like the phrase "technological protectorate." Maybe that is indeed too much terminology, so here's an alternative first paragraph:
When armed robbers making off with (stolen item) crash land on (Planet X), Bambi, a private investigator, goes after them. Her job is all the harder because Planet X’s laws regarding technology forbid Bambi from bringing her usual gadgets with her.
The artifact is a fist-sized crystalline structure with unusual energy amplification and alteration properties.
But even if karnhe likes those words, there aren't enough to fill in the holes after I've been cut down to 39.
I feel like I asked someone to crit my cotton candy, and was told "Too much fluff!". So I tried to cut the spun sugar away, and what I was left with tasted like cardboard.
The only thing left that sounds interesting to me in your version, Thresher, is the list things Bambi encounters between landing on the planet and finally getting her hands of the (stolen item). And karnhe seems to think that lists are evil, and that I am just giving you "my favorite scenes" and that it is worthless "fluff", and that I deserved to be scorned for including it.
I think that if that list goes, so too will all sense of this being a fast-paced action-adventure. The "Indiana Jones" feel of the story will be lost. The story's voice has already entirely disappeared, because voice is highly dependent on word choice, and the words I would chose to use in the story are apparently the wrong ones to use here. I'd already lost the hint of a romantic interest, and the partnership and devotion of the sisters.
There is now nothing left of why I loved this book enough to spend a year of my life writing it, and another year of my life writing the sequel.
In that case, keep it, keep it, keep it!
You absolutely should keep whatever heart and soul it was that drove you to write the novel. (Otherwise how could you communicate real enthusiasm for it?) Do you love the inherent drama of a character who is doomed by her genes to die young? Or do you like the action potential of a clash between a low-tech society and bad guys who have smuggled in high-tech weaponry? Or the sociological/anthropological potential of that high-tech meets low-tech clash? Or the emotional impact of an obnoxious mother who named her daughter Bambi with malice aforethought? Or the devotion of the sisters? All of these things strike me as cool ideas, if handled well.
Whatever it is (it could be more than one thing, natch), put it front and center, by all means.
If anything, dial it up. My example was shorter precisely to make room for whatever it was. It really wasn't clear to me.
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