Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Query Revision 23

Face-Lift 650: Hang the Thief

The author asks EE's minions "if they prefer the title HANG THE THIEF or A DEBT OWED. I am partial to HTT but the last title reflects the novel better."

Dear Evil Editor:

Magic returns to Craie and it brings the promise of unimaginable wealth and power, but nothing comes without a price, and, the price exacted for this power may be mankind’s very existence.

Herald by pulsing orbs, it is accompanied by mythical monsters of lore. Griffins, harpies and even demons ravage the countryside, while the world’s leaders race to master a power they were never meant to master before their neighbors do.

Ehlana, a street performer turned thief, lives in this world but she has very little interest in magic or for that matter anything beyond herself, until she discovers how it is being used for great evil. This information saves the life of a court official but not all the culprits are apprehended and she is sent across the continent for her safety. During her journey she witnesses the plight of the common folk who have been left to fend for themselves against the broken-beasts and criminals. She also witnesses how magic is being used for the unimaginable evil of raising the dead.

Far from home, Ehlana acquires all that she desired: fame, wealth and, yes even love, but remains restless, and eventually is haunted by nightmares. She is advised to seek meaning at a mysterious temple; advice she does not readily take until her lover is betrothed to another.

She is guided there by four warriors; three who have been sent by their deities to help her, and an unbeliever who has fallen secretly and hopelessly in love with her. He too seeks meaning for his life and believes he has found it in her.

Together they discover the orbs are gateways to hell and the price magic exacts from its users are their very souls. Gifted with the rare ability to understand any language she hears or reads, Ehlana deciphers clues hidden in ancient songs and learns how to close the gates.

But, time is against them, a betrayer is amongst them and there is a price to be paid. A price that Ehlana, a woman betrayed, may not be prepared to pay.

HANG THE THIEF is a 900,500 word fantasy. Thank you very much for your time and consideration. Per your request I am prepared to send you a full manuscript or partial.

Respectfully,

Comments

I noticed a propensity for repeating words in both the original query and this revise. The word "world" in the original and the word "price" here. Just something to watch for. I think the revise is much clearer and you're almost there regarding Ehlana's motivation and journey toward character growth.

One thing that concerns me if I use this as a sample of your writing: you have a lot of run-on sentences and comma issues. You'll want to be sure your query letter and your manuscript are as free from errors as possible.

BTW, I love the term "broken-beasts," but I'm not sure it conveys the appropriate horror needed here. And I personally like Hang the Thief better as a working title.

My Revise

Magic returns to Craie, bringing with it the promise of unimaginable wealth and power. The cost, though, may well be humanity's very existence. While Craie's leaders race to be the first to master power they were never meant to own, the magic floods the land, accompanied by strange orbs, ravaging monsters, and hellish demons.

Ehlana, a street performer turned thief, has little interest in magic -- or for that matter anything that doesn't directly affect her and her own aspirations. When she inadvertently saves a court official from assassins and is sent across the continent for her safety, she witnesses the plight of common folk left to defend themselves against monsters and criminals. The trip changes her, giving her new-found insight and empathy. So when she sees a petty lord using magic to raise the dead, the ultimate evil, she resolves to do what she can to combat the magic as opportunity arises.

Far from home, Ehlana's exotic looks and performance skills earn her all she's ever desired: fame, wealth and yes, even love. Success, though, is marred by a vague restlessness and nightmares. When her lover betroths himself to another she flees to a distant temple hoping to find enlightenment and peace. Her guides are four warriors, three of whom have been sent by their deity to help her. The fourth, an unbeliever, falls secretly and hopelessly in love with her. Together they find enlightenment of a different kind. The strange orbs, they discover, are gateways to hell -- and the magic is demanding the very souls from those who use it.

The temple provides clues for closing the gates and Ehlana is called to shed the last of her apathy to help her companions banish the gates from her world. But time is against them, a betrayer is amongst them, and there is a price to be paid. One that Ehlana, a woman betrayed, may not be prepared to pay.

HANG THE THIEF is a 100,000-word fantasy. I look forward to sending you the completed manuscript.

Sincerely,

13 comments:

Sarah Laurenson said...

Um 900,500 words? I'm assuming that part is some sort of running joke with this query.

Will take a deeper look and comment mroe later.

AA said...

Phoenix's version is good here. I dislike both names.

AA said...

I looked through the query and came up with some phrases that could work for titles. Here are five starting with "The."

The Price of Power
The Magic of Craie
The Warriors of Craie
The Demon Masters
The Gates of Hell
The Song of the Ancients

This list is just meant as a creativity jump-start. You wrote a creative story. I know you can put that creativity to work to come up with a great (not just okay) title.

Orlando said...

Phoenix,
Your query should not be more than 250 words, this one is 322.

The portion (the magic floods the land) seems to be missing something. Any errors in your query reflect on your ability to write. You don't want to give the impression your manuscript has too much to edit. In fact that entire sentence seems to be missing something.

Your query should start with your 2nd paragraph. I'm assuming your protagonist is Ehlana. Your query should always start with your protagonist.

Other than losing a lover, I don't see any conflict to interest an agent to want to read more beyond the query. The conflict, which the protagonist needs to over come, is very vague here.

I can't see why Ehlana needs 4 guides because she lost a love, and now wants to find enlightenment. I don't see why she needs enlightenment when everything else is going so well for her, per your previous sentence.

You don't mention what is Ehlana's super power or ability in this query, other than apathy. I'm pretty sure she'll need more than that to accomplish her mission.

You don't explain why or how is time against her. Also you don't explain how she is betrayed. This would be more interesting than the previous paragraph. You may want to elaborate on the price to pay as well.

Your story sounds fascinating and I look forward to seeing it in print. You only need to fix the query letter a bit. Check out "http://www.queryshark.blogspot.com/" also "http://www.agentquery.com/writer_hq.aspx" They have great hints to help you out.

Phoenix said...

Hi Orlando:

Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

One clarification: There isn't really a set rule about the number of words for a query. The general rule of thumb is that it fits comfortably on a page with decent margins, 12-pt type and normal business conventions.

Agents differ, but here is what Nathan Bransford has this to say about length in his FAQs:

...there is a sweet spot in query word count between 250 and 350 words. Anything shorter than 250 usually (but not always) seems too short and anything longer than 350 usually (but not always) seems too long.

Christina Auret said...

If this was published I would would be especially predisposed to buying it, if it was called HANG THE THIEF. That is the type of title that would grab my attention while I was browsing through the shelves.

Orlando said...

Phoenix,
You're absolutely right on the word count. I looked it up on Nathan's web as you suggested. I'll have to look at my query now and see if I can improve on it with more info.

Thank you!

Sarah from Hawthorne said...

I like HANG THE THIEF as a title. It's unusual, eye catching, and has a sense of danger about it.

Phoenix mentioned word repetition already as something to look out for. To that I would add a warning about passive language. "Ehlana is advised to seek meaning at a mysterious temple" doesn't have the urgency of "Ehlana seeks meaning at a mysterious temple." Likewise "she discovers how it is being used for great evil" versus "she discovers a magical conspiracy bent on toppling the government."

Here's my suggested edit:


Magic has returned to Craie. Griffins, harpies and even demons ravage the countryside, while the world’s leaders race to master power before their neighbors do.

Ehlana, a street performer turned thief, has very little interest anything beyond her own survival until she stumbles upon a magical conspiracy and uses this information to save the life of a court official. Sent across the continent for her safety, Ehlana acquires all that she desired: fame, wealth and even love. But the plight of the common folk who have been left to fend for themselves against the broken-beasts and the criminals leaves her haunted with nightmares. When her lover betroths himself to another, she seeks meaning at a mysterious temple.

Her guides are four warriors; three who have been sent by their deities to help her, and an unbeliever who has fallen secretly and hopelessly in love with her. Together they discover the price magic exacts from its users: their souls. In a race against time, Ehlana must decipher clues hidden in ancient songs and learn how to close the gates of hell.

But a traitor hides amongst them and there is a price for such knowledge. A price that Ehlana, a woman betrayed, may not be prepared to pay.

HANG THE THIEF is a 99,000 word fantasy. Thank you very much for your time and consideration.

vkw said...

I want to thank everyone who stopped by to give some advice on the query, especially Phoenix who must be an angel in disguise and Sarah.

Orlando, thank you as well, I liked your input.

I am reading the comments, gleaming from them all the wisdom my mind can and reworking the query. I am also re-writing the synopsis in hopes Phoenix will help with that as well.


but mostly I am very grateful for the help and words of encouragement.

thank you
vkw

Anonymous said...

Hang the thief is a good title. I like the street performer turned thief line.

Does the main character still die in the end?

Phoenix said...

I think we can accommodate another synopsis or two, vkw ;o)

vkw said...

Thanks Phoenix, I'm still working on it.

For Anon: The final two sentences in the synopsis:

Ehlana’s soul ascends into the heavens, becoming a star next to other heroes who gave their lives in similar acts of bravery. Her friends are unsure whether they succeeded in closing the gates.

vkw

Anonymous said...

Sorry for missing that. I posted that comment at 1am.