July 2015 Query Blog-Hop

When I had just finished Happily Ever After, I did one of these and got some great feedback. I’ve done two more drafts and worked on the query, so I’m hoping to get that final polish in time for #Pitchwars. If you’d like to join in, see this post on the lovely Michelle Hauck’s blog: http://michelle4laughs.blogspot.co.uk/2015/07/july-2015-critique-blog-hop.html

Genre: Fantasy, adult, lgbt+

Wordcount: 103,000

Query:

Dear [Agent]

Lavie Streaver has many identities: noblewoman, knight, and now hero. With a long war over, Lavie and her childhood friend have set the rightful heir to the throne, but, while the kingdom is at peace, she’s not. Too highborn to remain with the soldiers, and too scarred by her experiences to be comfortable with the nobility, she searches for a purpose to her life amid worries the new reign she risked her life for will be short-lived.

When the new king is torn between his duty to the throne and the man he loves, Lavie finds must choose between what’s right for the kingdom, and what’s right for her oldest friend. As cracks appear in the peace, and their friendships, Lavie finds herself continually drawn to an unlikely source – the man she worked so hard to defeat.

Starting where most fantasy novels would finish, Happily Ever After is an adult fantasy of 103,000 words featuring a strong LGBT+ cast.

Yours sincerely,

First 250 words:

The sea-warped gate in the bailey opens with a squeal, dusting me in flakes of rust. I cringe at the sound, hoping the keening seagulls cover it. Sea-salt on the wind mixes with the smell of blood and anticipation in the air as I slip into the narrow space between the inner and outer wall and signal my team to follow me.

Today, I take back my home. Today, I kill a man and end the reign of a tyrant. The idea of it makes my body tingle. Everything ends today. Either we defeat the Usurper and set the prince on the throne where he belongs, or we fail and nothing matters anymore.

“…Lavie?”

The voice makes me start and I curse under my breath. One of the soldiers accompanying me points ahead and I hear something else. Footsteps.

“Sir,” I correct the man sharply as I draw my sword. “Wait here.”

I slip into the inner bailey and press my back against the wall by the steps. The unseen figure is almost at the bottom and my fingers twitch on my hilt. As he emerges, I step out and drive my sword into his belly.

Our eyes meet in the gloom. He’s not a soldier, just a runner. He’s also barely more than a boy, fifteen at most. His pale hands clutch at his stomach, as if he’s trying to push the blood back, and a gurgling cry spills from his lips. I give him mercy and put my sword through his heart.

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13 comments

  1. First thought is word count, which I’m sure you’ve heard before. That WC is PROBABLY fine for fantasy, but triple digits on a first novel is always an eyebrow raiser (I’ve heard it enough times myself.)
    Your query is intriguing, but I would extend it more. I want more specifics in your plot, as I’m not really getting a sense of high stakes here and think there’s probably room to explain things in more detail, maybe even a whole extra paragraph or two, especially if your book is that long.
    In your 250, I would switch up some of your first and second paragraphs. Right now, you open with a sentence of description (ack! and passive voice) followed by more description. Try alternating each sentence in P2 with a description from P1, for example. “Today I take back my home. Flakes of rust rain down as the sea-warped gate opens with a squeal. I cringe at the sound, hoping the keening seagulls cover it. Today, I kill a man and end the reign of a tyrant. The idea of it makes my body tingle. Sea-salt on the wind mixes with the smell of blood and anticipation in the air as I slip into the narrow space between the inner and outer wall and signal my team to follow me. Everything ends today. Either we defeat the Usurper and set the prince on the throne where he belongs, or we fail and nothing matters anymore.”
    *Prescription: take feedback with several grains of salt, repeat as needed.

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  2. It was interesting. After reading your query I wondered for a moment if this was the second book in the series. Because it mentioned all of these past events (such as a long war) that sounded really important and crucial, it made me wonder for a second. I also thought we were really thrown into the 250 words, perhaps a bit too quickly. After looking at your query and first 250 together I understand why but your novel’s opening almost feels like one of those beginnings where the writer starts out with the climax event and then flashbacks to an earlier point in the story for the rest of the novel. It did feel a bit jarring to be thrown into that situation, where the main character might do something as important as killing a tyrant, but not really knowing the main character enough to figure out if we should even be rooting for her.

    On another note, I really liked your first paragraph. The description was great and pulled me into the story.

    I hope that helps!

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    1. Thanks. I’m really struggling with how to pitch this. Essentially, it’s a story of what happens to heroes after the usual fantasy epic would finish, so it’s not a sequel, and there’s very little actual flashback, it just starts when most books would end.

      I’m also struggling to get the chapter in the right place. I’m worried the reader isn’t invested enough in Lavie, but when I’ve tried starting it a bit earlier so less in the action, I was told it wasn’t nearly as engaging.

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  3. Hey, girl! 🙂

    I feel the query doesn’t really get going for me until the very end when we see the conflict–that she’s in love with the dude she overthrew. I might start closer to that point in the query. The first paragraph sound like a lot of back story to me, and it’s a bit ho hum. “People did stuff and now everything is sort of okay.” The character’s identity/existential crisis doesn’t feel exciting to me at all, I’m sorry. And even the stuff with the new king/friend is a bit dull for me. So they disagree? But why? And why does that matter? What’s at stake? I’m having a hard time answering why I should care about this character (even though she seems very cool and kick ass).

    For me, I would get deeper into the conflict involving the man she defeated. There’s great tension in that and potential for a bigger “hook.”

    I love your writing. I would consider switching the second paragraph to the first and open with, “Today, I take back my home.” That would make a wonderful first line.

    Hope this helps! Cheers!

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    1. Yeah, this is why I’m struggling with it. I think the story has a lot of potential (I wouldn’t be doing this if it didn’t), but I’ve no idea about how to sell it in a way that gets an agent’s interest.

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      1. Oh, and it’s not that she’s in love with the guy she overthrew. I’m not even sure how to get that across. It’s more like they’re obsessed with each other, like it’s a wound she can’t stop picking at. The main character is asexual.

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      2. When I’m feeling that way, I try to brainstorm everything that makes the story interesting to ME. You wrote this story for a reason. Tap back into that passion and develop a list of all the things you love about this book, character-wise, conflict-wise, plot-wise, etc. You got this!

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  4. Hi! I love the first paragraph of your query–makes me want to find out more about Lavie. I like the idea of your story starting where most stories end, because usually readers want to know what happens next. Great story idea! I was a little confused in the query about whether the king and Lavie’s childhood friend were the same person or not. I really liked the description and voice in your 250. Very nice.

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  5. Great premise! I love the idea of the story starting at the end. 🙂 Your query is strong, but there are a few things missing. Who is the childhood friend? Is it the King? Also, why is the King already having doubts if he just got his kingdom back. Why does his have to choose between the BF and his kingdom? I know I’d be disappointed if the the only reason they can’t be together is because he’s a guy. 🙂

    Lavie is likable in the Query. Her choices were pretty vague though. What is right for her kingdom? What are the stakes? Also, I love the idea that she may fall for the villain.

    Is your first page a prologue? It seems disconnected from the story. I was expecting to see Lavie putting her sword away because the war was over. Also, the killing of the boy made me cringe a little, kind of gratuitous. It didn’t make her very likable. Did she mean to kill him? or did she know he was there to kill them? Maybe she explains this in the next page. I know it’s tough to cram everything in 250 words.

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  6. I like your 250 a lot. I agree with Colleen that maybe starting with the second paragraph would make for a stronger opening. The query tripped me up a bit. First, the first paragraph is backstory and the second isn’t very clear. I get that you’re starting the book where most books leave off, but there still has to be that driving conflict that moves the story forward and your query kind of skims over that conflict for me. What does Lavie want? What stands in her way? Maybe make the stakes clearer?

    Hope this helps. Good luck.

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  7. I really like the premise of your book and would love to read a what-happens-after story.

    Query:

    Because of the unusual premise of your story, I think your query would be much more effective if your hook sentence prepared the reader … something like “After ending a war and putting the rightful prince on the throne, Lavie Streaver expected to live happily ever after. Little did she realize real-life stories are never so simple.” That’s not very catchy but you get the idea.

    I was confused in a few places in paragraph 2. How many friends are there. I had the impression there were 2, the friend who helped her end the war and the prince/king. If so, I’m confused about which is her oldest friend. I also think you need to flesh out her relationship with the man she tried to defeat a bit more. Is she in love with him? Does she come to sympathize with him?

    First 250:

    Your 250 is fine, but I expected/was excited for it to start just after she put the rightful prince on the throne. I imagined Lavie helping the rightful prince over a pile of broken weapons onto the throne. Or standing behind the prince as he addressed the people for the first time and feeling empty about it all. Or anything you want, but I think whatever happens the moment after “happily ever after”, that would be the most original and interesting place to start the story.

    It sounds like a great read, good job! Best of luck querying.

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