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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Books » Query (again) for Bonded

   
Author Topic: Query (again) for Bonded
Jess
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Hey guys! I'm trying the whole querying thing again. I post this with much apprehension because I'm horrid at writing queries, but I'd rather discover it stinks/is boring/is confusing/has bad grammar (or whatever else can go wrong) here, not after I've sent it to agents.
Thanks a bunch for the help.
ps. I'm putting a blank line between the paragraphs since it seems to not want to show my indents. the blank lines aren't in the version all send, I just don't want it to be big o' block of text because it isn't like that and that is more difficult to read.

For sixteen-year-old Kadren, the worst part about Bonding isn't sharing his fire-magic or thoughts with an obnoxious rule-stickler—it's that he finds himself falling in love with her.

Kadren is imprisoned by the king for being a fire mage. During his captivity, he somehow Bonds to the charming water mage, Brelina. He can’t understand their connection any more than he can explain the fire that flashes from his skin. Kadren sees her once and the next thing he knows, he hears her voice in his head. When she is punished, he feels every lash of the whip as if it were striking his own back.

Enslaved her entire life, Brelina accepts being a captive as if it’s normal. The fool girl reveres the king and believes he has every right to order mages to be beaten or send them to war. Kadren is revolted by her devotion to everything he fights against, but he cannot suppress his fascination with her. Her face sweeps his thoughts like flames, consuming his every protest.

Beautiful, annoying, naïve Brelina.

Her innocence and kindness make hating her unthinkable, but loving her makes leaving impossible. And for Kadren, escape is the only option.

BONDED is a YA Fantasy novel. It is complete at 74,000 words and has been evaluated by a professional editor. It will appeal to fans of Kristin Cashore’s GRACELING for the romance and Brandon Sanderson’s MISTBORN for the world’s magic system. It is the first of a potential trilogy.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

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Meredith
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quote:
Originally posted by Jess:
For sixteen-year-old Kadren, the worst part about Bonding isn't sharing his fire-magic or thoughts with an obnoxious rule-stickler—it's that he finds himself falling in love with her.

I'm not a big fan of tag lines. This feels like you've thrown this in a little too early. If I hadn't read your earlier queries, I wouldn't have any sense of who Kadren is or what the situation is. Especially with a fantasy, I think you need to give enough information to ease the reader into the world and be careful not to confuse the reader right off. (I've gotten that comment a lot.)

Also, rule-stickler just doesn't sound very threatening, without knowing what those rules are.

quote:
Kadren is imprisoned by the king for being a fire mage. During his captivity, he somehow Bonds to the charming water mage, Brelina. He can’t understand their connection any more than he can explain the fire that flashes from his skin. Kadren sees her once and the next thing he knows, he hears her voice in his head. When she is punished, he feels every lash of the whip as if it were striking his own back.
I think I'd reverse these two paragraphs. However, instead of just saying that he's imprisoned for being a fire mage, you might need to put in just a little about the reason mages are imprisoned and/or enslaved (which isn't exactly the same thing).

quote:
Enslaved her entire life, Brelina accepts being a captive as if it’s normal. The fool girl reveres the king and believes he has every right to order mages to be beaten or send them to war. Kadren is revolted by her devotion to everything he fights against, but he cannot suppress his fascination with her. Her face sweeps his thoughts like flames, consuming his every protest.
Sweeps through his thoughts?? Sweeps away his thougths? I think there's a word missing there that could change the meaning of the sentence.

quote:
Beautiful, annoying, naïve Brelina.

Her innocence and kindness make hating her unthinkable, but loving her makes leaving impossible. And for Kadren, escape is the only option.

BONDED is a YA Fantasy novel. It is complete at 74,000 words and has been evaluated by a professional editor. It will appeal to fans of Kristin Cashore’s GRACELING for the romance and Brandon Sanderson’s MISTBORN for the world’s magic system. It is the first of a potential trilogy.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Hmm. I'm not sure I'd mention the professional editor.

Good luck with this. If you're ready to start querying, you might want to consider Deana Barnhart's Gearing Up to Get an Agent to help get this polished up--and maybe even get an agent. [Smile]

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Jess
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Okay, so I've done some tweaking (some of the tweaking might have made it worse, but two steps forward, one step back I suppose).

I'm a little confused about why the log-line is so confusing now, when it's the one part that hasn't changed, but as much as I love it at the top, I might like it even better where it is now in the new version.
anyhow, here's the latest version. Better? Worse? Clearer? Hookier?

Sixteen-year-old Kadren has been a criminal from the day he was born. He is a fire mage and according to the law, all mages are property of the king. When Kadren’s attempts to keep his magic a secret fail, he finds himself being carted off as the king’s slave.

During his captivity, he somehow Bonds to the charming water mage, Brelina. He can’t understand their connection any more than he can explain the fire that flashes from his skin. Kadren sees her once and the next thing he knows, he hears her voice in his head. When she is punished, he feels every lash of the whip as if it were striking his own back.

Enslaved her entire life, Brelina accepts being a captive as if it’s normal. The fool girl reveres the king and believes he has every right to order mages to be beaten or send them to war. Kadren is revolted by her devotion to everything he fights against, but he cannot suppress his fascination with her. Her face sweeps through his thoughts like flames, consuming his every protest.

For Kadren, the worst part about Bonding isn't sharing his fire-magic or thoughts with an obnoxious girl—it's that he finds himself falling in love with her.

Beautiful, annoying, naïve Brelina.

Her innocence and kindness make hating her unthinkable, but loving her makes leaving impossible. And for Kadren, escape is the only option.

BONDED is a YA Fantasy novel and is complete at 74,000 words. It will appeal to fans of Kristin Cashore’s GRACELING for the romance and Brandon Sanderson’s MISTBORN for the world’s magic system. It is the first of a potential trilogy.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

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Meredith
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I like it a lot better. [Smile]
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Jess
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First of all, your advice has been very helpful. It was clear and made sense. So thanks [Smile]

Hmmm Let me run some more thoughts past you (I'm in the getting conflicting feedback phase again and the last time I was in this phase, my query turned into the worst draft ever as I tried to please everyone). But you've given me some awesome advice so far, so I'm going to run their suggestions by you to see if a. its a legit problem b. if you can think of a way to solve it without ruining everything.

Problem 1: The whole thing reads like a synopsis. I've gotten this comment before and thus the revision. Everything within this query letter is with in the first fifty pages (and with the duel pov, it's like the first 25 of Kadren's pages).

problem 2: A good query should have character, conflict, choice. This one is lacking one of them? all of them?


Sixteen-year-old Kadren has been a criminal from the day he was born. He is a fire mage and according to the law, all mages are property of the king. When Kadren’s attempts to keep his magic a secret fail, he finds himself being carted off as the king’s slave.

Problem 3: The entire first paragraph (minus the first line) feels like backstory (which I'm confused about because the conflict in the query is all in the book)

problem 4: We don't know enough about Kadren. Who he is. Why we should care. (How in the world am I suppose to do that while taking out/not adding backstory?)

Enslaved her entire life, Brelina accepts being a captive as if it’s normal. The fool girl reveres the king and believes he has every right to order mages to be beaten or send them to war. Kadren is revolted by her devotion to everything he fights against, but he cannot suppress his fascination with her. Her face sweeps through his thoughts like flames, consuming his every protest.

For Kadren, the worst part about Bonding isn't sharing his fire-magic or thoughts with an obnoxious girl—it's that he finds himself falling in love with her.

Problem 5: Paragraph 3 and 4 are in the wrong order. ???

Her innocence and kindness make hating her unthinkable, but loving her makes leaving impossible. And for Kadren, escape is the only option.

Problem 6: The last paragraph before the book info, has conflict but no choice. I thought the choice was in there: staying with Brelina or escaping for his freedom, but maybe it isn't clear enough. I'm not sure how to do this other putting it blatantly in the query "Should he stay or should he go?" But then I've heard that questions are sort of gimmicky to use in query letters and are frowned upon. Not sure how to cover the story choice more clearly without making it a question.

I know I shouldn't try to please everyone, but I want to! Part of me (most of me) wants to fit everyone's advice into the query because what if they're right? What if what is stopping me from getting an agent is because the query is too much like a summery? or doesn't cover the character well enough? Or covers the character too well and doesn't show the conflict? Or has too much conflict and not enough set up for the conflict? Or too much set up for the conflict with backstory?
Ag!
I just don't know what to do. So yeah, How can I fix the problems noted with out messing everything else up?

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Meredith
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quote:
Originally posted by Jess:
First of all, your advice has been very helpful. It was clear and made sense. So thanks [Smile]

Hmmm Let me run some more thoughts past you (I'm in the getting conflicting feedback phase again and the last time I was in this phase, my query turned into the worst draft ever as I tried to please everyone). But you've given me some awesome advice so far, so I'm going to run their suggestions by you to see if a. its a legit problem b. if you can think of a way to solve it without ruining everything.

Problem 1: The whole thing reads like a synopsis. I've gotten this comment before and thus the revision. Everything within this query letter is with in the first fifty pages (and with the duel pov, it's like the first 25 of Kadren's pages).

Well, yeah. That's what the pitch is supposed to do--give the agent an idea of what the book is about.

What this person may be getting at is the very, very hardest thing to do in a query--voice. Ideally, the query wants to sound like the same voice as the book. For what it's worth, I think there is voice in this query, which doesn't mean that it can't be strengthened.

The best advice I've ever heard for doing this came from Elana Johnson. Try writing the query in first person in Kadren's voice and then change it to third person. Try going to her website. She might still have here ebook "From the Query to the Call" up for free download. [Smile]

quote:
problem 2: A good query should have character, conflict, choice. This one is lacking one of them? all of them?
Technically, it's choice and consequences. You could take it one step forward. What happens if Kadren stays? If he leaves? (No, don't tell what actually happens. What is it he thinks will happen when he makes the choice.)


quote:
Sixteen-year-old Kadren has been a criminal from the day he was born. He is a fire mage and according to the law, all mages are property of the king. When Kadren’s attempts to keep his magic a secret fail, he finds himself being carted off as the king’s slave.

Problem 3: The entire first paragraph (minus the first line) feels like backstory (which I'm confused about because the conflict in the query is all in the book)

While it's true that you want to keep backstory to a minimum, I don't think you can remove it all from a fantasy without making it unintelligibly confusing. The best you might do here is to turn it around so that you start with Kadren and what he wants--to hide his magic and keep his freedom--and then explain why, in this world, magic and freedom are incompatible.

quote:
problem 4: We don't know enough about Kadren. Who he is. Why we should care. (How in the world am I suppose to do that while taking out/not adding backstory?)
I disagree with this one. If the comment really bothers you, the advice above about infusing voice into the query may resolve this, too.

quote:
Enslaved her entire life, Brelina accepts being a captive as if it’s normal. The fool girl reveres the king and believes he has every right to order mages to be beaten or send them to war. Kadren is revolted by her devotion to everything he fights against, but he cannot suppress his fascination with her. Her face sweeps through his thoughts like flames, consuming his every protest.

For Kadren, the worst part about Bonding isn't sharing his fire-magic or thoughts with an obnoxious girl—it's that he finds himself falling in love with her.

Problem 5: Paragraph 3 and 4 are in the wrong order. ???

I suspect this one is a matter of taste. The query has been focused on Kadren, then you give a hint of Brelina's character, and return to Kadren. I don't have a problem with that, but some people might want a clearer break between the two characters. I think it works as it is.

quote:
Her innocence and kindness make hating her unthinkable, but loving her makes leaving impossible. And for Kadren, escape is the only option.

Problem 6: The last paragraph before the book info, has conflict but no choice. I thought the choice was in there: staying with Brelina or escaping for his freedom, but maybe it isn't clear enough. I'm not sure how to do this other putting it blatantly in the query "Should he stay or should he go?" But then I've heard that questions are sort of gimmicky to use in query letters and are frowned upon. Not sure how to cover the story choice more clearly without making it a question.

I think I addressed this one above.

No, don't use a rhetorical question. There are agents out there who really, really hate that.

quote:
I know I shouldn't try to please everyone, but I want to! Part of me (most of me) wants to fit everyone's advice into the query because what if they're right? What if what is stopping me from getting an agent is because the query is too much like a summery? or doesn't cover the character well enough? Or covers the character too well and doesn't show the conflict? Or has too much conflict and not enough set up for the conflict? Or too much set up for the conflict with backstory?
Ag!
I just don't know what to do. So yeah, How can I fix the problems noted with out messing everything else up?

Ultimately, it's your query. Feel free to disregard anyone's advice. You will never please everyone with any piece of writing. It's just not possible.

I will add, that in my experience, I end up revising a query two or three times during the query process, anyway. If it's not getting requests, I'll change it. Sometimes, even if it has, I just am not so much in love with it anymore.

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Meredith
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For what it's worth, the above mentioned Elana Johnson had to send out 80 queries before she found her agent.

Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming. Just keep . . .

Never give up. Never surrender. [Smile]

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MAP
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First of all, second version is much better.

I'm no Meredith, but here is my opinion. Take it or leave it. [Smile]


quote:
Problem 1: The whole thing reads like a synopsis. I've gotten this comment before and thus the revision. Everything within this query letter is with in the first fifty pages (and with the duel pov, it's like the first 25 of Kadren's pages).
The latest version doesn't read like a synopsis IMO. It's a good query.

quote:
problem 2: A good query should have character, conflict, choice. This one is lacking one of them? all of them?
It is lacking choice. I'll clarify in problem 6.


quote:
Sixteen-year-old Kadren has been a criminal from the day he was born. He is a fire mage and according to the law, all mages are property of the king. When Kadren’s attempts to keep his magic a secret fail, he finds himself being carted off as the king’s slave.

Problem 3: The entire first paragraph (minus the first line) feels like backstory (which I'm confused about because the conflict in the query is all in the book)

It may be backstory. I don't know, but it feels relevent to the plot and sets up who Kadren is and what the world is like. It works for me. I'd leave it.

quote:
problem 4: We don't know enough about Kadren. Who he is. Why we should care. (How in the world am I suppose to do that while taking out/not adding backstory?)
Different people are going to want different things, but I feel that I know enough about Kadren, and I care. So this works for me. I think you have a nice voice in the query which helps us get a good feel for Kadren.

quote:
Enslaved her entire life, Brelina accepts being a captive as if it’s normal. The fool girl reveres the king and believes he has every right to order mages to be beaten or send them to war. Kadren is revolted by her devotion to everything he fights against, but he cannot suppress his fascination with her. Her face sweeps through his thoughts like flames, consuming his every protest.

For Kadren, the worst part about Bonding isn't sharing his fire-magic or thoughts with an obnoxious girl—it's that he finds himself falling in love with her.

Problem 5: Paragraph 3 and 4 are in the wrong order. ???

I think the order is fine, but I see a totally different problem with paragraph 3 and 4. I'll clarify at the end.

quote:
Her innocence and kindness make hating her unthinkable, but loving her makes leaving impossible. And for Kadren, escape is the only option.

Problem 6: The last paragraph before the book info, has conflict but no choice. I thought the choice was in there: staying with Brelina or escaping for his freedom, but maybe it isn't clear enough. I'm not sure how to do this other putting it blatantly in the query "Should he stay or should he go?" But then I've heard that questions are sort of gimmicky to use in query letters and are frowned upon. Not sure how to cover the story choice more clearly without making it a question.

I don't see a choice at all. The part I bolded tells me his only choice is to leave. It feels like he has already made that choice. I think you can say something like.

"Kadren can't live as a slave to the king, but Brelina will not go with him. With his feelings deepening for her everyday, he's not sure he can force himself to leave her."

Maybe something like that, only better and in Kadren's voice.

quote:
I know I shouldn't try to please everyone, but I want to! Part of me (most of me) wants to fit everyone's advice into the query because what if they're right? What if what is stopping me from getting an agent is because the query is too much like a summery? or doesn't cover the character well enough? Or covers the character too well and doesn't show the conflict? Or has too much conflict and not enough set up for the conflict? Or too much set up for the conflict with backstory?
Ag!
I just don't know what to do. So yeah, How can I fix the problems noted with out messing everything else up?

Queries are tough, and you are going to get so much conflicting advice on them. Ultimately you have to trust yourself. You're a good writer. Do what feels right to you. I know that's easier said than done, but it's the only answer. You can't fix everything that everyone has pointed out. It's not possible. The hardest part about getting a critique is figuring out what to use and what to throw away. I know it's tough, but this is your story and your vision. You're the only one who knows what needs to be done. So consider the advice, and only follow that which feels right to you. [Smile]

Now here is a new problem I'm going to throw at you. Take it or leave it.

My problem with Paragraphs 3 and 4.

quote:
Enslaved her entire life, Brelina accepts being a captive as if it’s normal. The fool girl reveres the king and believes he has every right to order mages to be beaten or send them to war. Kadren is revolted by her devotion to everything he fights against, but he cannot suppress his fascination with her. Her face sweeps through his thoughts like flames, consuming his every protest.
The bolded part made me think for a moment that we were switching to Brelina's POV. Then the next sentence I realized we were still in Kadren's. That threw me for a moment. So I think you need to convey that information through Kadren's voice.

quote:
For Kadren, the worst part about Bonding isn't sharing his fire-magic or thoughts with an obnoxious girl—it's that he finds himself falling in love with her.

Beautiful, annoying, naïve Brelina.

This part feels out of place, and really gives us no new information. I think you should cut it. My feeling is that the bolded line has become your darling. It's a good line, but isn't needed. We already know he's falling in love with her. So I think it should go. Murder your darlings. [Smile]

Good luck with this. I think you have a good story here.

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Jess
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Why yes, you guys have been very helpful! So I made some tweaks and then tried the whole write-it-in-first-person thing (Elana Johnson is awesome, isn't she?)
Oh and yes, that line was my darling and yeah, it wasn't needed, so yeah it's gone now. Anyhow, here is the newest version (but if the old version is better I'm perfectly okay with going back to that) In fact if there are parts to this one that are better, I'm cool with swapping so that I get the best of both. Anyhow: here it is:

Sixteen-year-old Kadren has been a criminal since the day he was born. It isn’t his fault he inherited fire magic, but according to the law, mages belong to the king. Kadren’s secret—the fires that flash from his skin—is difficult to keep. He makes one mistake and finds himself carted off as the king’s newest slave.

During his captivity, the voice of a charming water mage named Brelina fills Kadren’s mind. The connection is maddening. He knows her thoughts and fears. When she receives punishments, the pain lances through his back as if he were being whipped instead of her.

The fool girl has been enslaved her entire life and accepts her captivity as if it were normal. She worships the king and believes he has every right to order the mages beaten or killed. She is delusional and obnoxious—everything Kadren shouldn’t like, but he cannot suppress his fascination with her. Her face sweeps through his thoughts like flames, consuming his every protest.

Beautiful, annoying, naïve Brelina.

Her innocence and kindness make hating her unthinkable, but loving her makes Kadren’s life difficult. He cannot remain a slave and she refuses to leave with him. Escaping without her means he can’t protect her from her beloved, horrid king. If he stays, Kadren’s defiance will get him killed.

BONDED is a YA Fantasy novel and is complete at 74,000 words. It will appeal to fans of Kristin Cashore’s GRACELING for the romance and Brandon Sanderson’s MISTBORN for the world’s magic system. It is the first of a potential trilogy.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

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Meredith
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I think you need another sentence in that second paragraph to indicate what hearing her thoughts in his mind means--that there is such a thing as bonding among mages.

Otherwise, I like it.

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Jess
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More tweaks. If there was a contest for the most query revisions--I'd be the champion. hahaha!
Anyhow, here it is again:

Sixteen-year-old Kadren has been a criminal since the day he was born. It isn’t his fault he inherited fire magic, but according to the law, mages belong to the king. Kadren’s secret—the fires that flash from his skin—is difficult to keep. He makes one mistake and finds himself carted off as the king’s newest slave.

During his captivity, the voice of a charming water mage fills Kadren’s mind. Somehow, they’ve Bonded. The connection is maddening, yet irresistible. He knows her thoughts and fears. When she receives punishments, the pain lances through his back as if he were being whipped instead of her.

The fool girl has been enslaved her entire life and accepts her captivity as if it were normal. She worships the king and believes he has every right to order the mages beaten or killed. She is delusional and obnoxious—everything Kadren shouldn’t like, but he cannot suppress his fascination for her. Her face sweeps through his thoughts like flames, consuming his every protest.

Kadren should leave without her, but the Bond’s lasting connection gives the king a means to torture him through her. If he makes the wrong choice, it could very well mean the death of her.

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Meredith
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quote:
Originally posted by Jess:

Kadren should leave without her, but the Bond’s lasting connection gives the king a means to torture him through her. If he makes the wrong choice, it could very well mean the death of her.

I like it pretty well right up to this last paragraph. Since he's been enslaved and imprisoned, I think you need to say something like "When the chance arises to run away . . . "

I might break that first sentence into two, also.

I also think I'd simplify "the death of her" to just "her death".

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Jess
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Great advice. How about this:

When the chance to escape arises, Kadren should leave without her, but the Bond’s lasting connection gives the king a means to torture him through her. If he makes the wrong choice, it could very well mean her death.

with all the other stuff too of course. [Smile] Thanks for the help!

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