Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Query 59: Redux

The Time Weaver

Seth believes his life is under control, that magic doesn't exist, that he's human. When a dormant gene awakens within Seth and temporarily stops the flow of time, it challenges everything he thought he knew.

The kingdom of Findoor teeters at the brink of war, threatened by Grian, a dark and powerful warlord. Wizards on both sides are drawn by this pause in time. In the past, Time Weavers were a race that could manipulate time and space, and control powerful magic, but they are now extinct. Seth's demonstration of those abilities changes that calculus and makes him a new target.

Grian covets Seth's new talents and Findoor needs a savior from Grian's much more vicious and powerful army. Seth discovers the war to be a facade as a darker and more ancient evil stirs, a force that spans generations, locked in time. Plagued by doubt and fear of his own powers, Seth must stop this evil before Grian's top wizard revives it and annihilates both worlds.

THE TIME WEAVER, complete at 80,000 words, thrusts an unlikely hero into a foreign world, with an ability he never wanted, and fighting a war he's uncertain to win.

Thank you for your consideration.


I'm going to be honest. I think the version we saw here before was the more compelling.


This version is basically the same query with just a few words tweaked here and there. IMO, the tweaking takes it a step backward from a writing mechanics perspective. For instance, the "changes that calculus" phrasing really doesn't work; I don't think "facade" is the word you want since the ancient power has to be raised (it isn't manipulating the battle) and the war is very real; and it's unclear what "annihilates both worlds" means. Up to this point in the query, Earth hasn't really figured in and while I'm guessing it's one of the worlds you mean, a reader may well think you made a mistake and meant to say both sides in the battle.

The basic problem, though, is that structurally this query still sounds like every other high fantasy query in the slush pile.

What I think the commenters and I were hoping was that we would see a true revision -- a re-envisioning -- of this query. A tear-it-down-and-build-it-back-up version that re-focuses it and gives it a hook -- that oomph that will lift it out of the slush. I'm betting it's there in the book; it's just not coming through here.

Of course you can have the same story that's been published a billion other times and still be published. But it still needs something that makes it sound fresh: a great voice, a unique twist, a guy who isn't the same average joe with a power he doesn't want but who can save the world (he can BE this guy, just make him sound like someone you'd want to kick around with in the query).

You're in a query rut here, I think, and it's hard for you to see past THIS envisioning of your story as the right way to tell it. So, a challenge for you: Try writing the query from Seth's POV. Let the reader discover the plot and action as Seth must discover it in the book. Try to show more than to tell.

  • What's Seth doing when he stops time for the first time? How does that make him feel?
  • How does he wind up in Findoor? Is he kidnapped into the world by Grian and must work at figuring out what's going on?
  • How is he practicing his manipulation of time and space? What other kinds of powerful magic can he control if he's like other Time Weavers?
  • Does he feel the ancient evil stirring? Does he know there's a link between it and Earth? What's that link? Is the link Seth himself?
  • Does he go after the wizard trying to revive it or after the evil itself?
 My Version

The idea is to downplay the tropes and get the reader focused on something else. Here's one way to change around the details you've provided (with some license) and focus a little more on Seth and a little more on voice. I'm sure there are other details in your novel you can bring to YOUR version and better ways to express them in YOUR voice.

Seth's still laughing at all the tired jokes about turning 30 when he blows out his candles -- and stops time. Only it's not an everybody-simply-freezes-in-place kind of stop. It's a lurching, nauseating, grind-to-a-halt kind of stop that rips open space itself and at its end pitches him through to a world that's not his own.

He arrives in the middle of a border skirmish -- a tableau of swords and spears and men hanging between life and death. Panicked, Seth runs. When time lurches forward again, he discovers he isn't the only one who noticed the temporary lull. The kingdom of Findoor teeters at the brink of war, threatened by Grian, a dark and powerful warlord. Wizards on both sides flock to Seth, drawn to the aura of the powerful magic that lies latent within him, each side hoping to harness the talents of the first Time Weaver to walk their world in a thousand years. But this isn't Seth's war. He doesn't care about Grian or Findoor. All he wants is to be rid of the abilities he can't control that some recessive gene thrust upon him. The only responsibility he has is to get back to his safe, normal life.

But then Grian calls to an ancient evil that even locked in time has the power to sense Seth's magic, sending tendrils of pain and darkness through him. From its touch Seth learns it's a conduit between this world and his own. Plagued by doubt and fear, Seth must stop Grian before the warlord's wizards revive the evil and it rises up to annihilate both worlds.

THE TIME WEAVER is a high fantasy novel, complete at 80,000 words.

Thank you for your consideration.

1 comment:

vkw said...

Try this:

Who is the main character: (more than a name)
Why is he the main character.
What does he want to accomplish?
Why does he want to accomplish it?
Who is trying to stop him?
Why should I, the reader care? (In other words - what is the MC's redeeming qualities or why is the purpose so important I would care?)

I never like this part: When a dormant gene awakens within Seth and temporarily stops the flow of time, it challenges everything he thought he knew.

It sounds odd in the query. I am sure Seth doesn't know he has this gene. That's the author's knowledge that doesn't have to be spelled out in the book or the query. It's extraneous information. All we need to know is that Seth develops this supernatural ability that makes him a threat.

So we have:

Seth, (who is seth? you tell us what he believes he is but not who he is or even where he is) So I am going to have to make something up: Seth, a seventeen year old street urchin, living in my make believe world develops the ability to:
stop time. This ability makes him a powerful wielder of magic that allows him to travel thru time and space, therefore able to change fate. This makes him a threat to the bad guys.
Seth learned he had this ability when he was tying his shoes in the middle of a battle.
The bad guy is Grian, a powerful evil warlord hellbent on conquering the kingdom of Findor where Seth may or may not live.
Seth is Findoor's last chance and he joins their cause/army/rebellion/court. But he learns (how? we don't know, I'm going to make up something) Seth learns after freeing Grian's slave that the warlord is merely a pawn in a much more sinister game.
(And now the query is so vague I have no idea what this even means, "darker and more ancient evil") So I am going to make something up.
He is being controlled by Satan who has been locked in time. Grian's wizard is trying to unlock the demon from the Abyss - a move that will destroy both worlds? or both countries? for the purpose of taking over the world.

I think your stuck on a line that you like. I did the same thing, nix the line, do not re-write the query, start with a blank screen.