Thursday, July 22, 2010

Query Revision 18

Face-Lift 797: Reincarnate

Hey everyone. Thanks a lot for all the feedback. I've made a few adjustments in an attempt to make it work a little better, but I'm not so sure I've succeeded. I've been having a lot of trouble achieving a result that has enough details but doesn't become too long. >.<

Dear XXX,

Finding out she’s the reincarnation of Jeanne d’Arc is no picnic for Jeanne Delacey. Sure, she now has a divinely empowered bracelet that turns into a sword, and Luca Griffith—tall, dark, and definitely hiding something—to guard her, but she’s going to need, well, a hell of a lot more. Especially since she’s also inherited nightmares of burning to death, a centuries old arch-nemesis, one Pierre Cauchon, who’s been reincarnated as well, and—oh yeah, there’s that pesky business of an impending war between Heaven and Hell.

Jeanne is an atheist but even if she wasn’t, she wouldn’t believe her soul once belonged to Jeanne d’Arc; they have nothing in common. Torn between anger and fear, she falls back on her usual method for dealing with problems: ignoring them. But as demonic attacks grow more frequent, drawing her friends and family into danger, she realizes she’ll have to find the courage to fight. Cauchon sent her to the stake in her past life; he’s more than willing to do it again. And this time, the entire world will burn with her.

REINCARNATE is an 82,000 word adult urban fantasy set in modern day New Orleans.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Comments

Now, I thought your original version stood up just fine. Sure, everything can be improved -- no matter how many revisions it's already been through. But sometimes you just have to go with it. And sometimes the enthusiasm of a first effort can never, ever be replicated. So I'm going to deconstruct this version with a very critical eye as long as we're agreed that you are likely to get requests from your first version (which I like better than this one) anyway and these are just picky things. Okay?

Finding out she’s the reincarnation of Jeanne d’Arc is no picnic for Jeanne Delacey.

Is it really the finding out part that isn't a picnic or is it the whole being d'Arc that's tough? And maybe change "no picnic" to something more appropriate to the theme you're setting up, like "no communion party" (but not that).

Sure, she now has a divinely empowered bracelet that turns into a sword, and Luca Griffith—tall, dark, and definitely hiding something—to guard her, but she’s going to need, well, a hell of a lot more.

"Now" throws me. Do you mean more like, "Sure, this time around she has a divinely...". Also, the switch from the present "is" in the previous sentence to the future "going to need" is a bit off. In the first sentence, you're saying it's no picnic right now, but in the second sentence you don't defend that statement; instead, you tell us that for some reason she will in the future need more than the bracelet and the guard.

Especially since she’s also inherited nightmares of burning to death, a centuries old arch-nemesis, one Pierre Cauchon, who’s been reincarnated as well, and—oh yeah, there’s that pesky business of an impending war between Heaven and Hell.

Since you didn't really give us a clue in the previous sentence as to why she needs a hell of a lot more, the "Especially since she's also" isn't exact and throws the reading off a bit.

Jeanne is an atheist but even if she wasn’t, she wouldn’t believe her soul once belonged to Jeanne d’Arc; they have nothing in common.

Technically, "wasn't" should be the conditional "weren't" here. More importantly, this is the one part of the query that I think needs to change as it contradicts what was said in the first sentence. She's found out she really is, now you're saying she doesn't believe it.

Torn between anger and fear, she falls back on her usual method for dealing with problems: ignoring them.

You're giving us her emotions but no motivation for them. Maybe the fear we understand, but why the anger? Who/what is she angry at? The god she doesn't believe in or the demons or her heritage in general?

But as demonic attacks grow more frequent, drawing her friends and family into danger, she realizes she’ll have to find the courage to fight. Cauchon sent her to the stake in her past life; he’s more than willing to do it again.

The transition to Cauchon is abrupt. I don't know his relationship to the demons. Is he one? Is he in league with them? I thought he had political reasons for sending her to the stake before; what does she have this time around that he targets her in this life, too?

And this time, the entire world will burn with her.

I think this sentence needs an "if" clause. I don't know what she's fighting against this time around. Just the demons? Hell itself? What does she have to do that tells me when she fails the world will burn, too? 

REINCARNATE is an 82,000 word adult urban fantasy set in modern day New Orleans.

My Revision

Heaven hath no fury like a saint reborn.

Being blindsided by the revelation she's the reincarnation of Jeanne d'Arc would have been preferable to the slow reveal heaven subjected Jeanne Delacey to. For starters, she grew up atheist. And there's nothing of the saint's fire and courage in her own heart. In fact, her preferred method for dealing with problems is to ignore them. Maybe the persistent nightmares of burning to death should have tipped her off early, but it isn't until she's given a divinely powered bracelet that turns into a sword and the enigmatic Luca Griffith—tall, dark, and definitely hiding something—comes to guard her, that she begins to suspect the soul she possesses may have been preowned.

Why her and why now becomes apparent when demons attack, drawing her friends and family into danger. Seems there's an impending war brewing between Heaven and Hell, but this one's going to take a hell of a lot more than a simple saint to stop it. If a pack of demons weren't enough, playing for the opposition is her reincarnated arch-nemesis, Pierre Cauchon. He sent her to the stake before and he's eager to prove he can do it again. The demon army behind him is poised for the win and if Jeanne can't find the courage to stop him, this time the whole world will burn with her.

REINCARNATE is an 82,000 word adult urban fantasy set in modern day New Orleans.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

14 comments:

Sarah Laurenson said...

I am so reading Phoenix's version. Awesome job!

150 said...

Oh look, his name is Luca. What could possibly be his secret.

Any of these versions should work fine, I'm guessing. Think about moving the New Orleans setting to the top; when I got to that point I just perked up.

Joe G said...

I don't really understand the emphasis on her transition of faith. Are you going for some sort of Christian theme there?

The premise reminds me of this manga... Kamikaze Kaitou Jean. I guess not a lot of agents would recognize that though :P

B said...

"as long as we're agreed that you are likely to get requests from your first version"

I do appreciate that, but I'm afraid I can't agree. That's why I'm here. I've had nothing but no's and non-responses. I'm trying to figure out what I'm doing wrong. And yes, before anyone asks, I've researched agents before sending queries. :)

What's become apparent is that I simply am not communicating what I want to communicate. So I've restarted from the ground up, taking a completely different tack:


Dear XXX,

Jeanne Delacey doesn’t believe in God or Heaven or angels; it’s no surprise she doesn’t believe the psychic who tells her she’s the reincarnation of Jeanne d’Arc. Still, when a demon attacks her in the French Quarter, she realizes her beliefs need to bend at least a little. Sure, she might be able to shrug off nightmares of burning to death as coincidence. Ignoring the reincarnation of Pierre Cauchon, Jeanne d’Arc’s head judge and worst enemy—not so easy. Especially since he’s leading Hell’s vanguard in a war against Heaven.

The angel Jeanne finds sitting in her living room isn’t terribly Biblical, but he is a pain in the ass; he thinks she can stop the war if she stops Cauchon. She just wants her normal life back. But no matter how much she wants to run from the problem, she can’t. Because Heaven wants to bring the fight to Hell, which will land the mortal world in the crossfire. Now she must rely on a powerful bracelet that turns into a sword, and Luca Griffith—tall, dark, and definitely hiding something—for aid. Worse, she has to rely on herself. If she can’t find the courage to fight, Cauchon will send her to the stake again. And this time, the entire world will burn with her.

REINCARNATE is an 82,000 word adult urban fantasy set in modern day New Orleans.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

(P.S. That was a nice guess, 150, but while you're somewhere in the right ballpark, you're still pretty far out in left field. ;) )

S said...

I like the voice and the story, but my only concern is that it sounds more like the film "Dogma" with every revision. Long-lost great x a squillion grand-niece of Jesus has inherited holy powers and is handed a holy quest to stop the end of the world by an angel who appears in her bedroom. She just wants her normal life back but has to travel to a place while under attack by demons, has protection from holy personages of various derivations, blah blah etc. I'm sure your novel is nothing like that, but you might like to skip the reference to the angel being in the living room as that's what set off alarm bells for me.

Incidentally, Luca isn't Pierre's reincarnation, is he? I only ask because you mention both an unknown reincarnation trundling about and a tall, dark and hiding-something fella. If the heroine didn't make the obvious connection, I doubt I'd think much of the character.

On the other hand, if Luca isn't Pierre, you might want to make that obvious in the query letter so you don't get some persnickety bugger like me dismissing your novel on the obvious-twist grounds. :)

150 said...

Hmm. I think at this point I have a pretty good grasp on the "what" of your story, but until this version I didn't realize how much the query lacks in "how". What actions cause these revelations, and what actions come of them? Can you write it in terms of actual happenings?

B said...

150 - I'm not sure I'm clear on what you mean by that.

Anonymous said...

Took a long time to get to what I wanted to know after the first line. I'd cut out a bunch out. Keep tightening and winching it up.

Heaven hath no fury like a saint reborn. Jeanne Delacey doesn’t believe in God or the psychic who insists she’s Jeanne d’Arc reincarnated. Pierre Caucho, the judge who burned her alive in (year)is going to do it again. This time the world is going to burn with her.

Then a FEW details. Love the writing. Cut it to 3 paras and re-send. Could be the length and not getting to the crux fast enough is putting off the agents.
Look forward to your next shot.
Bibi

Phoenix said...

I don't know, B. Rather than Dogma, I went to the TV show Joan of Arcadia. But your story seems to be different enough from either that I wasn't especially worried.

What is worrisome is the market. It really seems things are VERY tough right now. You didn't say how many rejections you've gotten or if you included pages with your query. If you did include pages, have you posted the first page to EE's New Beginnings? If you didn't send pages, then maybe the concept just isn't hitting with the right agents.

I'm fairly confident the query and pages for my ms are request-worthy. And I have gotten requests for partials and fulls. BUT my request rate is only running around 10%. I've sent out a LOT of queries and have been surprised that the agents who I thought my story would be perfect for are sending form rejections. Like the guy who is specifically looking for "Monsters and Disaster" stories. To have not gotten a request from him was just unimaginable. On the flip side, agents I didn't really have any hopes for have requested, so go figure.

If your sample pages have been polished and you haven't sent out 10 or more queries yet, I'd send another handful out and see if you don't get a request. Honestly, I don't think it's query that's at fault, it's just the overwhelming number of queries out there and a tight, tight market right now.

I'll ask EE if he has any insight he can share on his blog about all this.

Anonymous said...

Hi B,
More -
Where's J's fury as noted in the opening sentence? Which I love. If I'd been burned alive and was facing another ghastly death I'd be pissed. I don't get furious - I get she's bored and wants out. Get rid of the angel in the query. The demon attacks are far more important. The magic bracelet/magic sword - didn't fit in the query.
Don't kill your query with details that detract and bog down and make it so much longer than it should be.
Best,
Bibi

Anonymous said...

Hi again B,
If you're not getting nibbles, I'd keep reworking the letter and keep sending it in here. If the market is as bad as it sounds, as grand as the query is (and I liked it immediately) it is the only thing you can change. I'd work on length. Take my comments for what they're worth. Divine Miss Phoenix was right about pages and putting them on EE's site as an opening. Good luck, wishing you the best.
Bibi

Ellie said...

I feel like these versions still focus an awful lot on Jeanne's difficulty with and journey towards accepting she's Joan of Arc, and then they jump right to a vague "but can she SAVE THE WORLD" conflict. This skips right over what was most interesting to me when I first read that GTP summary: Joan of Arc has been reborn, but so has Pierre Cauchon. And I still have no idea what Jeanne's supposed to do. Fight a battle? Kill Pierre? Convince Heaven to back down?

Just throwin' out a sample rewrite:


Heaven hath no fury like a saint reborn.

Jeanne Delacy is an atheist who prefers to ignore problems until they go away. So when a psychic tells her she’s the reincarnation of Jeanne d’Arc, she just wants to put it out of her mind. Except then she starts having terrible nightmares of burning alive. And she gets attacked by a demon in the French Quarter. Coming home to find an angel in her living room pretty much convinces her, but it doesn't stop her from wanting her normal life back. That's not going to be easy.

The eternal war between Heaven and Hell is escalating dangerously. Heaven wants to take the fight to Hell directly, catching the mortal world in the crossfire. Jeanne must [whatever concrete goal she has to achieve] in order to [whatever she has to do to save the world]. All she has is a magical bracelet that turns into a sword and Luca Griffith--tall, dark, and definitely hiding something--to guard her.

Mostly, she has to rely on herself--if she can find the courage to do so. She'll need it. Because the leader of Hell's army is also a mortal reincarnated: Pierre Cauchon, who sent Joan of Arc to the stake in her past life. He's more than willing to do it again. And if he succeeds, this time the entire world will burn with her.

REINCARNATE is an 82,000-word urban fantasy set in modern day New Orleans.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

150 said...

B-

I mean specific events, not setup. I don't think we've yet seen any actual things that actually happen. See if you can try something like:

When a gypsy in the French Quarter tells Jeanne she is the reincarnation of Joan d'Arc, the teenage atheist laughs it off...until the handsome Luca Griffith turns up in her bedroom, hands her a bracelet, and explains he's there to guard her. She kicks him out. But then the bracelet turns into a sword, and Jeanne starts to wonder if there are things her atheism can't explain.

Jeanne begins seeing things that she desperately wants to believe are not demonic activity...but she knows better. And the nightmares are getting worse. When she finds her parents murdered with a taunting note pinned to them from "Pierre Cauchon--your once and future executioner" she realizes that what she believes is not as important as what she does. And what she's going to do is make Cauchon pay.

---

On a totally different note, I've been trying to remember Joan's squire's name all weekend, so I just looked it up: Jean d'Aulon. Which led me to this article about Gilles de Rais. Holy CRAP.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gilles_De_Rais

Anonymous said...

Hi B,
Divine Miss Phoenix did an outstanding version of your query. Hope you test the waters with it.
Best,
Bibi