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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Books » Most Recent MAGE STORM Query

   
Author Topic: Most Recent MAGE STORM Query
Meredith
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Third Revision:
quote:
Rell doesn't want magic. He doesn't dream of being a hero out of old legends or a mage. Certainly not a mage, after they all incinerated each other at the end of the Great Mage War. What he'd like is just not to be in his big brother's shadow for a change. Someone should have reminded him to be careful what he wished for.

All he knows of magic are the violent, frighteningly aware mage storms formed of the ashes of those dead wizards. Caught in a mage storm, Rell is struck by a strange blue cinder that infects him with magic that protects him from the fury of the storm and allows him to shield his family. Rell starts to think that maybe magic's not so bad after all, but he finds it only complicates his life. His father expects him to bring back the benefits of magic from before the war, but Rell doesn't know how. Meanwhile, others who only remember the terrors of the war fear Rell and his new abilities. Frustration and anger only bring out one of the most dangerous aspects of his magic: fire.

Rell soon learns that whether he intends it or not, his magic will leak out, uncontrolled, whenever his emotions are strong enough. Now, he has to find some way to learn to use this "gift" before he ends up adding his ashes to the mage storms.

MAGE STORM is a 56,000-word middle grade fantasy and potentially the first of a series. I have enclosed a synopsis and the first five pages per the instructions on your website.

Thank you for your time.


Second Revision:

quote:
Rell doesn't want magic. He doesn't dream of being a hero out of old legends or a mage. Certainly not a mage. What he'd like is just not to be in his big brother's shadow for a change. Someone should have reminded him to be careful what he wished for.

Magic isn't even supposed to exist anymore. The last of the wizards incinerated each other a generation ago in the Great Mage War. Their ashes form the violent, semi-sentient mage storms.

Caught in a mage storm, Rell is struck by a strange blue cinder that infects him with magic that protects him from the fury of the storm and allows him to shield his family, too. Just when Rell starts to think that maybe magic's not so bad after all, he finds it only complicates his life.

His father expects him to bring back the benefits of magic from before the war, but Rell doesn't know how. Meanwhile, others who only remember the terrors of the war fear Rell and his new abilities. Frustration and anger only bring out one of the most dangerous aspects of his magic: fire.

It doesn't take Rell long to discover that magic can't just be contained. Now, he has to find some way to learn to use this "gift" before he ends up adding his ashes to the mage storms.

MAGE STORM is a 56,000-word middle grade fantasy and potentially the first of a series. I have enclosed a synopsis and the first five pages per the instructions on your website.

Thank you for your time.


First Revision:

quote:
Rell doesn't want magic. He doesn't dream of being a hero out of old legends or a mage. Certainly not a mage. What he'd like is just not to be in his big brother's shadow for a change. Someone should have reminded him to be careful what he wished for.

Magic isn't even supposed to exist anymore. The last of the wizards incinerated each other a generation ago in the Great Mage War. All that's left of their magic are the violent, semi-sentient mage storms composed of their ashes. White cinders seek flesh and burn to the bone. Red ashes explode. Orange spreads like a fungus, yellow causes death and decay.

Caught in a mage storm, Rell is struck by a strange blue cinder that infects him with magic. Suddenly, he's protected from the fury of the storm and able to shield his family, too. Rell starts to think that maybe magic's not so bad, after all.

Except that Rell's father expects him to bring back the benefits of magic he remembers from before the war. Meanwhile, memories of the terrors of the war make others fear Rell and his new abilities. Rell's caught between the two and it doesn't help that he doesn't know how to control, let alone use, his magic. Frustration and anger only bring out one of its most dangerous aspects: fire.

It doesn't take long to discover that magic can't just be contained. Now, he has to find some way to learn to use this "gift" before he ends up adding his ashes to the mage storms. There's a rumor that one mage survived the war, if Rell can find him in time.

MAGE STORM is a 56,000-word middle grade fantasy and potentially the first of a series. I have enclosed a synopsis and the first five pages per the instructions on your website.

Thank you for your time.


Original Version (this round):

quote:

Magic isn't supposed to exist in Rell's world anymore. The last of the wizards incinerated each other a generation ago in the Great Mage War. All that's left of their magic are the violent, semi-sentient mage storms composed of their ashes. White cinders seek flesh and burn to the bone. Red ashes explode. Orange spreads like a fungus, yellow causes death and decay.

Caught in a mage storm, Rell is struck by a strange blue cinder that infects him with magic. Suddenly, he's protected from the fury of the storm and able to shield his family, too. Rell starts to think that maybe magic's not so bad, after all.

Except that Rell's father expects him to bring back the benefits of magic he remembers from before the war. Meanwhile, memories of the terrors of the war make others fear Rell and his new abilities. It doesn't help that Rell doesn't know how to control, let alone use, his magic. Frustration and anger only bring out one of its most dangerous aspects: fire.

It doesn't take long to discover that magic can't just be contained. Now, he has to find some way to learn to use this "gift" before he ends up adding his ashes to the mage storms. There's a rumor that one mage survived the war, if Rell can find him in time.

MAGE STORM is a 56,000-word middle grade fantasy and potentially the first of a series. I have enclosed a synopsis and the first five pages per the instructions on your website.

Thank you for your time.



[This message has been edited by Meredith (edited July 21, 2011).]

[This message has been edited by Meredith (edited July 23, 2011).]

[This message has been edited by Meredith (edited July 25, 2011).]


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mbwood
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Hello, Meredith;

Writing a query is as much, if not more work than the first page of your novel. That said, let me offer a suggestion or two (remember, I don’t do fantasy or magic – too difficult):

Consider combining the first two sentences – this way you get a fast start on the setting. Perhaps, like this:
On Rell's world, the last of the wizards incinerated each other a generation ago in the Great Mage War. (Actually, I’d start by putting the nature of whatever is the main conflict in the first sentence – but that’s just my opinion).

I couldn’t help noticing your contradiction when your query states that ‘Magic isn’t supposed to exist anymore…’ and then you tell us ‘mage storms’ filled with cinders with magical properties exist. Ah, don’t box yourself in.

Drop the word ‘suddenly.’ Editors don’t like it.

Lastly, I assume Rell is the protagonist, right? So, who is the antagonist? And what is the conflict? You should make this clear in your query, however, you don’t have to reveal the ending / resolution in it.

You, do, however, have to reveal all plot details in your synopsis.

Oh, one last detail. Don’t refer to the instructions on the agent’s website. It’s assumed that you are complying with them.

All the best,
MBW
p.s. - what's a mage? My dictionary says that it is a priest from ancient Persia, like one of the 'Three Wise Men.' I don't think this is your definition (magic - too difficult!)

[This message has been edited by mbwood (edited July 20, 2011).]


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hteadx
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I keep reading this query, working it out in my mind, and it might help if you condensed it to 8 or 9 sentences.

May I work on an edit? It might help give you another perspective. If not, no worries.


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Meredith
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quote:
I keep reading this query, working it out in my mind, and it might help if you condensed it to 8 or 9 sentences.

May I work on an edit? It might help give you another perspective. If not, no worries.


Take your best shot. I'm not sensitive about that.


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hteadx
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quote:

Mage storms, remnants of a war a generation past, a reminder of magic gained and lost, and Rell is caught in the rage of one. Amid the fury of ash and cinders, the dregs of mages gone, he is infected by a blue cinder and the realm of magic becomes opened to him.

Bestowed with a gift foreign to him, he saves his family, but becomes burdened with expectations of his father. However, magic is still feared, a curse for those who remember. Rell's frustration and anger only brings wild fire. The magic can not be contained.

Now, he searches for answers only a mage would have or risk adding his ashes to the storms of the past.

MAGE STORM is a 56,000-word middle grade fantasy and potentially the first of a series. I have enclosed a synopsis and the first five hundred pages per the instructions on your website.

Thank you for your time.


I may have condensed it a bit too much (7 sentences) and I think I over used the word magic. There may be a run on sentence in there, which I used for flow and effect.

Thanks for letting give a different angle. Hope this helps.

[This message has been edited by hteadx (edited July 21, 2011).]


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MattLeo
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Meredith --

I know I'm on a world-building critique jag, so take what I have to say with a nugget of salt.

The query is refreshingly free of incomprehensible in-world jargon, but the world you've built for the story (the history in particular) still strikes me as the focus of what you've written.

A rich, credible, intriguing story-world is of course crucial; that's the stuff that keeps us fans coming back for more, and which will some day have us dressing up in costumes as we line up for the Mage Storm IV movie premier or walk the halls of our local Mage Storm convention. But before we get to that level of devotion we have to have characters we understand and identify with.

So I suggest you think about rewriting the query to make Rell sound more like an unique, credible individual as opposed to just a cog in the machinery of destiny. If I recall, Rell has a rather jaundiced view of magic, then discovers he has magical ability which he can't safely ignore or get rid of.

In a nutshell, the *human* aspect of the story we can understand and relate to is this: Rell discovers he embodies something he detests, and must not only learn to live with that, but to make use of it. Within that framework, the highly world-specific mechanics of mage storms and the highly generic search for a true teacher become matters of personal importance to the reader who identifies with Rell.

World-building is what makes fantasy special, we all know that. But if I put myself in the shoes of an agent or editor, I'm probably looking at a stack of queries full of unfamiliar mythologies, histories and names that take more effort to comprehend than I really want to spend on the task. So something that makes sense in and of itself, something that compels attention to the characters and story would surely stand out.

Good luck.

-Matt


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Meredith
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Good point, MattLeo.

So, I've put back the original first paragraph, which I had cut because it got severe criticism on another forum. (I like it.)

Undoubtedly, the query needs some tightening and probably more conflict.

The details about the mage storm may be too much in this version. But it does need some detail. Hmm.

@mbwood: I deliberately don't mention the antagonist (although there is one). The main conflict is Rell's need to learn to use his magic, not to defeat the antagonist (although he does). I've already had at least one case where an agent misunderstood (from the synopsis) what the central conflict would be. So I want to be clear that it's the magic, not the bad guy/false teacher. The antagonist is an obstacle, not the main conflict.

Newer version above.

[This message has been edited by Meredith (edited July 21, 2011).]


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MattLeo
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Now you're starting to ring my bell with this query. The opening paragraph would make me sit up and take notice.

Still the query strikes me as a bit cluttered. You can't really retell your story and do it justice here. Can you take it a bit further in the direction of focusing on Rell?


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hteadx
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Actually your new first paragraph gives the rest of your query more context. Agree with the previous post of focusing on Rell. My edit was more focused on the Mage storm. Just need to tighten it up a little bit.
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Meredith
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Newer version above.
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LDWriter2
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Since I read your recent version I thought I would comment.

Not bad... I liked it. I think it says all it needs to say in a concise, clear way.

But I'm not an expert on them and am not an editor, so I don't know if you would want to do as I suggest and send it.

But (yeah another one) remember too many revisions can be like too many cooks.

[This message has been edited by LDWriter2 (edited July 23, 2011).]


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Tryndakai
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This is leaps and bounds better than that one I critiqued a while back. Much more unique and intriguing. I do miss the "white ashes do this, red ones do that . . ." bit in your latest revision--personally, I'm fascinated by quirks like that, and I don't think you spent too much time on it.

I also actually liked starting with that second paragraph better . . . but on the other hand, focusing on the MC is definitely a plus. I'd maybe chop the second and third lines from the first para., though, because they sound sorta redundant and cliche, to me. Not horribly so, just a bit. And really, I think you'd be better served right there by a sentence that explains a bit more *why* Rell doesn't want magic, to help world-build and keep the focus on Rell in particular, as opposed to every other young farm boy ever. i.e.:

"Rell doesn't want magic. Who in his right mind would want something that could destroy you? All he wanted was not to be in his big brother's shadow . . ."

Overall, I like it.


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MattLeo
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These remarks apply to the second revision (the third version presented in this thread).

I feel this has become a much better query. The original version raised lots of questions (indirectly, via jargon) we didn't understand, and therefore can't be interested in answering until we've read your story. This version is more powerful because it raises questions we can understand immediately, and can take an interest in.

There's just two of these confusing questions left in the query. One is raised by the sentence: "Magic isn't even supposed to exist anymore." Supposed by whom? Why is it so supposed? How is the belief in the non-existence of magic reconciled with the existence of magical storms? Might I suggest that these puzzling and distracting issues could be evaded, and the paragraph made a bit more coherent, by simply telling us that *mages* don't exist?

The second is the phrase "semi-sentient"; it's not clear that such a thing is even possible. Wouldn't that be like being semi-pregnant? How would one judge this so seemingly precisely? I think it might make sense to put the reader into the mind of the narrator here, and focus on the subjective quality of experiencing a mage storm. I am supposing you mean the storms display behavior that sometimes seems like it might have a purpose that we can't figure out, rather than behavior that has a clear purpose but somehow fails to be entirely intelligent. Perhaps "seemingly", or "almost" might be better than "semi-".

I see a few more stylistic issues that may just be my peculiar tastes, so take them or leave them. The short sentences in the first paragraph sound a bit choppy and stream of consciousness. Perhaps if you could combine the second and third sentence?

Paragraph 3: "Just when". It may just be me, but phrases like "suddenly" and "just when" strike me as bit inelegant. They feel a bit like hard sell. "Just when" functions rhetorically as a conjunction, telling us the relation between the two sentence clauses. It might be a little more straightforward and immersive to join the clauses with a conjunction like "but". I think you're telegraphing something that a reader would assume anyway.

Paragraph 3 to 4 and paragraph 4 to 5 : Paragraph 3 and 4 each seem to end with a sentence that seems to belong with the next paragraph. Maybe it's just me looking at this too closely, but it seems a bit unnatural to split the paragraphs this way. To my ear it sounds a bit like fall out from editing.

Overall, though this is a much more powerful query.


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Meredith
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Thanks everyone.

As to the semi-sentient mage storms: They do show a degree of purpose in actually moving toward settlements. The one in the first chapter splits itself into two parts to follow both the people seeking shelter and those trying to rescue their livestock.

Also some, at least of the ashes behave similarly, seeking out exposed flesh. The blue cinder definitely targets Rell and even hypnotizes him into staying still.

I'll have to think about the best way to convey that in the query.


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Meredith
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Thanks. Third (and hopefully last) revision above.
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hteadx
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You still have a number of pleonasms in your third draft. Consider cropping some of these, only if you think it won't take away from your voice.

Example: He doesn't dream of being a hero out of old legends or a mage.

Cutting the old wouldn't change the meaning of the sentence.


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zewology
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Edit: I should add that I really only read the third revision, so refer to that for all of my comments.

All right, I haven’t read the other comments yet because I want to let you know what I think without influence from other people.

I guess I’ll start by saying that overall I do like the idea. From what you’ve written, this sounds like it could be a fun, engaging, and intriguing novel to read. However, note the “could be.” I try to think of all the book summaries I read trying to choose one, and then multiply that by at least ten for the number of query letters one agent or editor might look at in a day, and I’m not sure yours has enough of a catch. It doesn’t necessarily need to be some central part of the novel, it just has to be enough to get me to read more when I’ve got a huge pile of stuff to look through. Once you’ve got them reading, engaging writing can be enough to make them stay.

The other thing, then, besides the overall idea, is the writing itself. I’m still getting used to this, so forgive me if I start picking on things I would word differently rather than things that are awkward in and of themselves.

First off, the second sentence … maybe it’s me being overly picky, but the first time I read this, “a mage” seemed overly blunt and short after “hero out of old legend.” I would maybe skip putting “mage” there at all and instead mesh it with the next sentence (legends and certainly not a mage …). The “What he’s like is just …” sentence is also really awkward sounding, though I wouldn’t know how to fix that without changing the structure of the entire sentence.

Next paragraph: the biggest thing for me is, how can a storm be “aware”? Or is that a typo? Later, the sentence about his father – “bring back the benefits” – isn’t working for me. Also, for the last sentence, I would try to tie the frustration and anger he feels to the conflict between family expectations and judgment from outsiders.

That being said, there’s something I really like about your writing. Rell *feels* real to me already, which is wonderful. It’s much harder to make your characters come alive than it is to fix some awkward wording, so well done on that.

My advice: maybe try to capitalize on something that makes your story unique, and keep revising the wording of the query. I’m sorry if I seem too picky, but the query is short, and should be a perfect as possible. If you get me to actually look at the manuscript, awkward places will matter less because I’ll be focusing more on the story than every exact turn of phrase.


[This message has been edited by zewology (edited July 29, 2011).]

[This message has been edited by zewology (edited July 29, 2011).]


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