Friday, May 13, 2011

Pop Quiz

Reposted from yesterday. Because of the Blogger issues, I'll give everyone another day to add comments, then I'll post mine over the weekend. We have a new query in the queue for Monday. Send more. Oh, and I restored comments that Blogger lost that I still had in email to the queries and synopses, to ensure authors don't lose any of the feedback. 

Query 71: Re-redux
The Anasazi Conspiracy

Since we’ve seen a couple of versions of this query already, I’m going to do things a little differently today and give you guys first crack at this revision. I’ll save my suggestions for tomorrow.

Note that the author sent two versions: a short one (~350 words) and a long one (~430). He’s so cute; he assured me the short one fits comfortably on one page. Well, maybe if you fudge margins and point size and put your contact info into the header or the footer … When I plugged it into format, I got the screen capture at the bottom of this post.

He also sent a couple of versions of each version. I posted the one I thought worked best of the batch.

Also, also, the query queue is dry so this is an exception to the limit of revisions I’ll generally post here. Consider this site and Evil Editor and other similar sites to be touchstone sites. The expectation is that folk who submit work take suggestions offered, workshop them with their crit group, then resubmit a revision or two for an objective third-party review. All of us welcome a couple of revisions – seeing work mature warms the cockles of every critter’s heart. It’s the carrot for the time we put in. We vest ourselves in the success of others. But these sites aren’t workshop sites. And while this author, and others, have submitted further revisions with the caveat that they know I might not post them but do I have any suggestions to offer, my purpose with this site is to help mentor more than just the author of the work. Plus, I have my own crit group that I've committed my attention to. As well as prize crits and promo crits I've promised to do. Just a firm but gentle reminder…

So, what does this author need to do to get this to fit on a page and entice requests?

1607BC: Two brothers unearth a strange object in the American southwest. Regrettably, the arrival of this golden idol from the Sun God coincides with the sudden loss of an artesian stream...their only source of water.

The Shaman insists on sacrifices to bring back the water: Human sacrifice. When their civilization crumbles, all that remains is a baffling legacy of Anasazi petroglyphs.

Today: Powerful corporate magnate Robert Bradley discovers an archeologist sniffing around one of his companies for topographical information. Suspicious, Robert has a man tail Dr. Brill.

Smart move... Tucked inside a lost chasm, Dr. Brill finds an ancient village with curious etching in the walls. After a little covert investigation, Robert suspects these petroglyphs point toward hidden treasure. Obsessed with greed, he’s determined to seal off any secrets for his own gain and contracts an assassin to eliminate Brill. An expendable one...

Dr. Brill isn’t guessing - he knows. With his own evil scheme brewing, he hires a specialist to help, but Dr. Courtney Kirkland couldn’t have arrived at a worse time. Brill only needs a few obscure messages deciphered - then she’ll be dead.

Assassin Jake has his target in the crosshairs, but a simple execution spins out of control when Brill’s cruel plan collides with Robert’s. After a sudden push from Brill leaves Courtney dangling off a ledge, Jake violates rule number one – never get involved.

Shooting Brill and helping her to safety, another bullet tears through Jake’s shoulder. Instantly, he realizes he’s been double-crossed. Killing the other gunman, Jake has a new target: his employer.

Arrogant Robert will not accept his mistake, or failure. While he chases the meaning behind the cryptic messages, his men track Jake and Courtney. But Jake won’t be another victim in this deadly game.

With Robert’s men closing in, Courtney works swiftly under Jake’s protective cover, deciphering symbols that will expose a hidden chronicle of Anasazi history and the location of a dazzling cavern of gold.

THE ANASAZI CONSPIRACY is a mainstream action-adventure with significant history elements, complete at 160K words. I appreciate your consideration.

8 comments:

vkw said...

Here is a rough, rough re-write:

1607BC: Two brothers unearth a strange object they believe is a golden idol from their god. Unfortunately, its arrival corresponds with the loss of their only water supply.
The shaman sacrifices a virgin (slave, whatever) to bring back the water but their civilization crumbles anyway, leaving only Anasazi petroglyphs.

Today: Powerful corporate magnate Robert Bradley discovers an archeologist sniffing around his company for topographical information. Suspicious, he has the main tailed.

Smart move... Tucked inside a lost chasm, Dr. Brill finds an ancient village with curious etching in the walls. Robert’s research leads him to believe the petroglyphs point toward a hidden treasure. Obsessed with greed, he contracts an assassin to eliminate Dr. Brill. Then he will have it all.

Dr. Brill isn’t guessing - he knows. He hires a specialist, Dr. Courtney Kirkland, to decipher a few obscure pictures. When she’s done, he’ll tie up loose ends by making sure she’s killed in an unfortunate accident. Then he will have it all.

Dr. Brill and Robert’s plans crumble when the assassin saves Courtney from her freak accident. After shooting the doctor, he pulls Courtney off the cliff just in time to be shot himself.

Together, under a rain of bullets, the assassin and Courtney must decipher the last cryptic messages to find the cavern of gold. The only question that remains is whether or not they will live long enough to enjoy the promised wealth.

THE ANASAZI CONSPIRACY is a mainstream action-adventure with significant history elements, complete at 160K words. I appreciate your consideration.

Dear author - YOU DO NOT NEED THE first paragraph. It's a prologue. I did the same thing. Get rid of it. It's backstory. It's historical. It's not part of the plot

In one of the steps of query writing there is an axiom - "author gives up a part of the query that they have been clinging to like a long lost Teddy bear. A part they don't need in the query that has been holding back its development."

I think this happens in writing too. I've cut many a good, well-written, "I love this scene" from my MS because it didn't work.

It still pains me. . but I had to do it.
vkw

vkw said...

Here is a rough, rough re-write:

1607BC: Two brothers unearth a strange object they believe is a golden idol from their god. Unfortunately, its arrival corresponds with the loss of their only water supply.
The shaman sacrifices a virgin (slave, whatever) to bring back the water but their civilization crumbles anyway, leaving only Anasazi petroglyphs.

Today: Powerful corporate magnate Robert Bradley discovers an archeologist sniffing around his company for topographical information. Suspicious, he has the main tailed.

Smart move... Tucked inside a lost chasm, Dr. Brill finds an ancient village with curious etching in the walls. Robert’s research leads him to believe the petroglyphs point toward a hidden treasure. Obsessed with greed, he contracts an assassin to eliminate Dr. Brill. Then he will have it all.

Dr. Brill isn’t guessing - he knows. He hires a specialist, Dr. Courtney Kirkland, to decipher a few obscure pictures. When she’s done, he’ll tie up loose ends by making sure she’s killed in an unfortunate accident. Then he will have it all.

Dr. Brill and Robert’s plans crumble when the assassin saves Courtney from her freak accident. After shooting the doctor, he pulls Courtney off the cliff just in time to be shot himself.

Together, under a rain of bullets, the assassin and Courtney must decipher the last cryptic messages to find the cavern of gold. The only question that remains is whether or not they will live long enough to enjoy the promised wealth.

THE ANASAZI CONSPIRACY is a mainstream action-adventure with significant history elements, complete at 160K words. I appreciate your consideration.

Dear author - YOU DO NOT NEED THE first paragraph. It's a prologue. I did the same thing. Get rid of it. It's backstory. It's historical. It's not part of the plot

In one of the steps of query writing there is an axiom - "author gives up a part of the query that they have been clinging to like a long lost Teddy bear. A part they don't need in the query that has been holding back its development."

I think this happens in writing too. I've cut many a good, well-written, "I love this scene" from my MS because it didn't work.

It still pains me. . but I had to do it.
vkw

Sarah Laurenson said...

Here's my condensing to 276 words:

1607BC: The arrival of a golden idol from the Sun God coincides with the sudden loss of the Anasazi’s only source of water. The Shaman insists on sacrifices to bring back the artesian stream: Human sacrifices. When their civilization crumbles, all that remains is a baffling legacy of Anasazi petroglyphs.

Today: Tucked inside a lost chasm, archeologist Dr. Brill finds an ancient village with curious etching in the walls. After a little covert investigation, powerful corporate magnate Robert Bradley suspects these petroglyphs point toward hidden treasure. Obsessed with greed, he’s determined to steal any secrets for his own gain and contracts an assassin to eliminate Brill.

Dr. Brill isn’t guessing - he knows. With his own evil scheme brewing, he hires Dr. Courtney Kirkland to help. Brill needs a few obscure messages deciphered - then she’ll be dead.

Assassin Jake has his target in the crosshairs when this simple execution spins out of control. After a sudden push from Brill leaves Courtney dangling off a ledge, Jake violates rule number one – never get involved. Shooting Brill and helping Courtney to safety, another bullet tears through Jake’s shoulder. Instantly, he realizes he’s been double-crossed. Killing the other gunman, Jake has a new target: his employer.

Arrogant Robert will not accept failure. While he chases the meaning behind the cryptic messages, his men track Jake and Courtney. With Robert’s men closing in, Courtney works swiftly under Jake’s protective cover, deciphering symbols that will expose a hidden chronicle of Anasazi history and the location of a dazzling cavern of gold.

THE ANASAZI CONSPIRACY is a mainstream action-adventure with significant history elements, complete at 160K words. I appreciate your consideration.



This does make me wonder about your 160K novel. If it's as wordy as this query, it can be cut down more. Plus, if Courtney's as much of a non-entity as suggested here, you may not gain many female readers. That might not be your chosen market anyway, but thought I'd throw that out there.

AA said...

Powerful corporate magnate Robert Bradley is a man who didn't get where he is by following the rules. When he hears that an archeologist, Dr. Brill, has been sniffing around one of his companies, he hires an investigator to find out why. It seems this Dr. Brill has found ancient petroglyphs that point to hidden treasure on one of Bradley's properties. Bradley quickly seals off any information leaks and hires an assassin to eliminate Brill. He isn't about to be a good boy and turn his treasure over to the government. Who knows how much it could be worth?

Dr. Brill knows- a fortune, especially if this is what he thinks it is. A lost cavern of gold is believed by some to be hidden in the area, the remnants of an ancient Anasazi civilization. He needs a specialist to be sure, so he hires Dr. Courtney Kirkland to help decipher the obscure etchings. Dr. Kirkland gets excited about the project and Brill is afraid she'll talk about it, ruining his chances of cashing in on the find. He plans to get rid of her as soon as he feels certain of what he's found.

Assassin Jake has Brill in his crosshairs when he sees Brill's attempt to arrange an "accident" for Courtney. After shooting Brill and helping the woman to safety, Jake is hit by a bullet and realizes he's been double-crossed by his employer. Jake dispatches the other gunman, but soon discovers that Bradley has sent even more men.

Bradley may be used to getting what he wants, but Jake is used to staying alive under extreme circumstances. Courtney is certain they're very near a vast treasure of gold, and she alone may be able to decipher the symbols that reveal its location. But if she blows their cover, all the gold in the world won't buy their lives back.

Jo-Ann said...

AA's rewrite flows much better because its focussing on a simplified plot thread. The query benefits from having the golden idol removed, because we never hear about it again.

I'm sure it's significant to the plot, in fact I'm guessing that it has supernatural powers that help Courtney dispatch all the bad guys (like the final scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark). But it's superfluous to the query.

My advice is to focus on one main character and detail that person's goals and dilemmas. At a guess, Courtney's your MC. Start with her (eg, "Petrograph expert Dr Courtney has been called to an archelogical dig like no other. Dr Brill has sworn her to secrecy and confiscated her phone, on the promise of a fat cash payment..." and so on).

I'm not going to elaborate on my suggestions, but I suggest you play around with the POV of all major players, and decide which one is the most sympathetic MC, and who has the most at stake. Then decide which version would be the most likely to tempt an agent to read on.

Wilkins MacQueen said...

I am in awe. VKW I wish we were neighbors. Sarah. Awesome. AA JA you guys got it. Like really are so there.

So I'll keep bumbling along. Man. I wish we could have coffee.

AA said...

Thanks, Mac. Me too.

newmancht said...

Thanks for the suggestions everyone. I really appreciate the pointers.