Friday, May 20, 2011

Query Revision 86

Face-Lift 906: Lifeweaver

[Author's Note: The problem I come across is instances where I'm unsure if a substitution really improves the work, or just reduces word count for the sake of reducing word count. For example, instead of 'lands where the judged have no voice', I could have used 'draconian lands', but does that really have same impact or convey the same meaning?]

As lifeweaver, Talyn can shift injuries, diseases, even death from one person to another. To the nobility and clergy, he is a miraculous healer. To the wicked and downtrodden, he is an executioner. He tries to help others, but every benevolent act causes someone else pain.

To those in power, he is not a man, but an exploitable tool. The king proves this best by using Talyn's abilities to fake his own assassination. When Talyn finds out he realizes this false affront could start a war. Unable to stand the suffering his blessings cause, Talyn starts down a treasonous path of unveiling the truth.

But a convicted murderer, Serra, upsets his plans. Desperate to escape execution by weaving, she takes Talyn hostage. As she drags him through lands where the judged have no voice, Talyn discovers just how corrupt the kingdom is. To liberate it, he will have to elude an army of zealots, ally with demons, blackmail judges, and trust a fugitive with his life. With each choice, he faces consequences familiar to every lifeweaver: who will he save, and who will suffer for it?

I am seeking representation for Lifeweaver, a fantasy complete at 149,000 words. I have appended the first chapter of my novel to the end of this email for your consideration. Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Comments

The ideal would be never to cut for the sake of cutting. But queries need to be models of economy. The description doesn't have to be stripped bare, though. Often it's a marriage between more evocative word choices, prudent trimming of unnecessary words and what you choose to describe.

What I'm missing most in this query is what Talyn is doing with his power and why he can't simply choose not to use it.

As (a?) lifeweaver, Talyn can shift injuries, diseases, even death from one person to another. To the nobility and clergy, he is a miraculous healer. To the wicked and downtrodden, he is an executioner.

I'm a little unclear as to whether the "to the" phrases mean that's how those classes perceive him or whether he's actually healing nobility/clergy and killing the wicked/downtrodden. If he's actually killing downtrodden, is he OK with that? I'm not sure "downtrodden" is the word you want.

He tries to help others, but every benevolent act causes someone else pain.

This is where I'm wondering if the simple answer is to do nothing. A little elaboration on the dilemma will help the reader identify better with Talyn, I think.

To those in power, he is not a man, but an exploitable tool.

Here's one spot where word count can be addressed. At it's simplest, you don't need "not a man, but". What's left implies that. However, I'm confused because who are those in power if not the nobility and clergy who you just told us consider him a miraculous healer.

The king proves this best by using Talyn's abilities to fake his own assassination.

I think this needs to be more clear that Talyn was duped into participating in the king's plan.

When Talyn finds out he realizes this false affront could start a war.

I have no idea what "false affront" means in this context.

"could start" is a little safe. I think you can find more precise word choices.

Unable to stand the suffering his blessings cause, Talyn starts down a treasonous path of unveiling the truth.

Again, I don't feel this sentence is conveying precisely what you mean it to. I don't get the connection between his disgust about his gift and deciding to find out why the king is screwing the kingdom over.

But a convicted murderer, Serra, upsets his plans. Desperate to escape execution by weaving, she takes Talyn hostage. As she drags him through lands where the judged have no voice, Talyn discovers just how corrupt the kingdom is.

OK, would "draconian" work here? I think it all needs to be rephrased, honestly. As written, it seems like you're asking for reader sympathy that convicted murderers like Serra can't -- I'm not sure. Can't vote? "lands where the judged have no voice" is one of those phrases that sounds cool but is really pretty meaningless.

To liberate it, he will have to elude an army of zealots, ally with demons, blackmail judges, and trust a fugitive with his life. With each choice, he faces consequences familiar to every lifeweaver: who will he save, and who will suffer for it?

There are two schools of thought about how much of the story to reveal in the query. The first is that you detail the obstacles out. Following that thought, critters may well say you need to condense much of what has gone before in order to elaborate on the obstacles you list.

The second school says describing the inciting incident is enough and that hinting at what's to come as you've done here is enough. In this case, I'd say this is a fine close with two changes: delete "for it" at the end and delete "ally with demons" as this world being a world with demons you can ally with seems to come out of left field.

I am seeking representation for Lifeweaver, a fantasy complete at 149,000 words. I have appended the first chapter of my novel to the end of this email for your consideration. Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Remember that thousands of others are doing and providing the same info. You don't need to remind the agent of why you're contacting them: of course you're seeking representation. You don't need to point out you want them to consider the sample you're providing: what else would you like them to do with it? And where else would you append material but at the end?

Evil Editor and others have pointed out you'll want to trim another 25K or so from the novel. Simply going through sentence by sentence and looking for redundancy is a great way for most of us to trim a good bit of excess verbiage. (In this case, I might edit that last: Looking for redundancy sentence by sentence is a great tool for trimming.)

Sincerely,

My Version

Talyn is a lifeweaver, able to shift injuries, diseases, even death, from one person to another. The church and peerage have long exploited lifeweavers to carry out judgments against sinners and lawbreakers and to deliver benedictions to the righteous -- such as themselves. Talyn buys into the justice of his position, convinced the judges are fair and equitable. Until he finds out he's being used to purposefully punish people falsely tried and accused as criminals.

When the king uses Talyn to fake his own assassination to incite a war, Talyn turns traitor, building evidence against the throne. But his plans are derailed when the woman accused of assassinating the king takes Talyn hostage in a desperate attempt to escape the executioner. As she drags him with her through the underbelly of the kingdom, Talyn sees for himself just how corrupt the church and crown have become.

To liberate the oppressed, he will have to resort to subterfuge, blackmail and unholy alliances. But first, he will have to trust a fugitive with his life. At every crossroad he faces the soul-searing decision familiar to every lifeweaver: Who will he save and who will suffer? And soon he'll have to confront the most agonizing question of all: Are the choices he's making the right ones?

LIFEWEAVER is a 149,000-word fantasy. I have appended the first [chapter/5 pages/whatever] below. I look forward to sending you the completed manuscript.

Sincerely,

5 comments:

Wilkins MacQueen said...

What I'm missing most in this query is what Talyn is doing with his power and why he can't simply choose not to use it.

This is what snagged me.

Loved Phoenix's version. Smoother and clear.

Meaningful/meaningless phrases are hard to sort out. One phrase won't make or break the query but several will. Decision time.

Look forward to the next revision.

AA said...

I don't think a land can be draconian any more than a chair can be machiavellian. Just my opinion, there.

How can the king fake his own death by using the ability of someone else to shift pain from one person to another? Seems like you'd need someone with very good theatrical skills for that sort of thing.

Why has Talyn decided it is his job to liberate the entire kingdom?

And what exactly is a "false affront"? I've always thought of an affront as being a deliberate insult.

batgirl said...

Yeah, I think a draconian land would be one where dragons live. A draconian rule or government would make more sense.
I construed 'false affront' to mean an insult or offence, like Prince Humperdinck planning to assassinate Buttercup and make it look as if the neighbouring kingdom had done it. But it's an awkward usage, and inclines me to suggest that the writer needs to close the thesaurus and not try quite so hard to sound elevated.

no-bull-steve said...

WOW! I've never seen a more dramatic turnaround from author query to Phoenix's revised one! I went from not even know what to say about the first, to really wanting to know more about Phoenix's.

And thus we have the problem. Virtually 100% of the time I've met overly verbose writers, they either don't understand the concept of hooking the reader and keeping them hooked, or haven't nearly mastered it enough to snag a publishing deal.

Imagine meeting someone on a dating website and you noted that their profile reads: 6'1" and 500 lbs. Not to judge them, but starting a relationship with someone that large is just not going to work for a vast majority of people. The person claiming that he or she has broad shoulders, muscular legs and a nice smile do nothing to change the fact that they're too big.

Chro, closely examine what/how Phoenix did what she did. You need to do the same thing in your MS and trim your word count significantly. Any excuse not to is just that: an excuse. We see how you write and 149k words just isn't going to cut it.

That said, I'd copy and paste Phoenix's version and use it. I bet you get some reads....

I hope my words weren't too stern. Good luck!

Ink and Pixel Club said...

The big question for me is how the kingdom's elite are able to use Talyn as they see fit and why the method they use to control him wouldn't also work to keep him from exposing the king's plot to start a war. Pjoenix's explanation - that Talyn starts out believing that he is doing the just and right thing with his powers - makes sense, but if that's not the case, you need to explain why Talyn is letting those in power decide how he uses his power. Seems to me it would be awfully hard to threaten someone who can just shift any bodily harm inflicted on his loved ones and possibly himself over to whoever is doing the inflicting.

Who is Talyn going to reveal the truth to? The most obvious answer would be the people of the kingdom so that they can rise up and overthrow the king. But it's not clear and the later paragraph about how corrupt the kingdom is suggests to me that the common people probably don't need any additional reasons to kivk out the monarchy. If Talyn reveals the truth, what's going to happen?

I think Phoenix's list of Talyn's later adventures is less for the quert reader to digest. Demons aren't mentioned anywhere else in the query, so including them in one of the last sentences is confusing.