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Author Topic: SEVEN STARS Query
Meredith
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Open season. Take your best shot. It needs a lot of work.

First version:

Dear [Insert Agent Name Here]:

At seventeen, Casora has already spent nearly all of her life either training as a warrior or fighting in someone else's battles. That's the fate of anyone born with the mark of the berserker curse.

But then her homeland is overrun by a fierce enemy and the young man she loves is killed in the retreat. In her grief and anger at the news, Casora triggers the curse and goes berserk. Now she's cut off from her family by more than just the enemy. Active berserkers are exiled. She finds herself the leader of a band of teenage warriors with no options but to turn mercenary and a hunger to avenge themselves on the marauders that destroyed the homes they can never return to. What she really wants is to find a cure for the curse.

Eighteen-year-old Prince Tiaran is the youngest and least of the princes. He'll never be the warrior his two bigger and older half-brothers are, and they take every opportunity to remind him of it. When the raiders turn to attack his country, Tiaran knows he must take part in the fighting, but no one will take him seriously. His brothers exploit his desperation and gullibility to send him off on what they think is a wild goose chase.

Now, Tiaran is on the wrong side of the walls when the capital city is besieged. Rescued from certain death by Casora, the two of them must find a way to defeat their common enemy, save the kingdom, and break the curse.

It's just possible that they may be the answer to each others prayers.

SEVEN STARS is a 77,000-word young adult fantasy. Readers who liked Kristin Cashore's GRACELING will enjoy SEVEN STARS. I have enclosed the [whatever the agent asks for].

Thank you for your time.

Second version. Too long, but hopefully answers some of the questions:

Dear [Insert Agent Name Here]:

At seventeen, Casora has already spent nearly all of her life either training as a warrior or fighting in someone else's battles. That's the fate of anyone born with the mark of the berserker curse until they prove they can fight without losing control. The alternative to such discipline is exile for those who let the berserker out.

Then her homeland is overrun by a fierce enemy and the young man she loves is killed in the retreat. This news reaches Casora just before she goes into battle. In grief and rage, she triggers the curse and goes berserk. When she comes back to herself, she's filled with regret. Now she can never go back to help her family fight the invaders.

She finds herself the leader of a band of teenage warriors with no options but to turn mercenary. They're united by a hunger to avenge themselves on the marauders that destroyed the homes they can never return to. What she really wants is to find a cure for the curse.

Eighteen-year-old Prince Tiaran is the youngest and least of the princes of a neighboring country. He'll never be the warrior his two bigger and older half-brothers are, and they take every opportunity to remind him of it. When the raiders turn to attack his country, Tiaran knows he must take part in the fighting, but no one will take him seriously. His brothers exploit his desperation and gullibility to send him off on what they think is a wild goose chase.

Tiaran is on the wrong side of the walls when the capital city is besieged. Casora rescues him from certain death. Tiaran, by default the leader of the resistance, must rely on Casora to help him become the warrior he needs to be to save his kingdom. In helping him, she discovers knowledge that might help to manage her curse.

It's just possible that they may be the answer to each others prayers.

SEVEN STARS is a 77,000-word young adult fantasy. Readers who liked Kristin Cashore's GRACELING will enjoy SEVEN STARS. I have enclosed the [whatever the agent asks for].

Thank you for your time.

Third Version, slightly different take:

Dear [Insert Agent Name Here]:

At seventeen, Casora has spent nearly all of her life either training to be a warrior or fighting in someone else's battles. That's the fate of anyone born with the mark of the berserker curse until they prove they can fight without losing control. The alternative to such discipline is exile for those who let the berserker out.

Then her homeland is overrun by a fierce enemy and the young man she loves is killed in the retreat. This news reaches Casora just before she goes into battle. In grief and rage, she triggers the curse and goes berserk. When she comes back to herself, she's filled with regret. Now she can never go back to help fight the invaders or even find out if her family is still alive. Instead, she becomes the leader of a band of teenage warriors with no options but to turn mercenary. They're united by a hunger to avenge themselves on the marauders that destroyed the homes they can never return to. What she really wants is to find a cure for the curse and go home.

When a neighboring kingdom comes under attack, the Prince Tiaran falls victim to a prank by one of his brothers and is trapped on the wrong side of the wall. Casora and her band are sent to rescue him. With the capital city now besieged, there's no option but to keep him with them and teach him to be a warrior.

But Tiaran has something to teach them, too. It's just possible that Tiaran and Casora may be the answer to each others' prayers.

SEVEN STARS is a 77,000-word young adult fantasy. Readers who liked Kristin Cashore's GRACELING will enjoy SEVEN STARS. I have enclosed the [whatever the agent asks for].

Thank you for your time.

Rewrite:

Now that she's lost it and gone berserk, seventeen-year-old Casora is doubly cursed and there's no going back.

Born with the mark of the berserker, she's been sent away to learn war craft. Those skills are no use when her home is invaded while she's far away. She turns mercenary, leading a band of teenage warriors, for the chance to avenge themselves on the marauders who destroyed their homes.

What she really wants is to find a cure for the curse so she can go home. When she prays for an answer, she's told to rescue the youngest prince to find what she needs.

Tiaran, youngest prince of a neighboring kingdom, falls victim to a prank by one of his brothers. When the marauders attack, he's trapped on the wrong side of the city walls. Casora and her band are sent to rescue him. With the capital city now besieged, there's no option but to keep him with them and teach him to be a warrior.

But Tiaran has something to teach them, too. It's just possible that Tiaran and Casora may be the answer to each others' prayers.

SEVEN STARS is a 77,000-word young adult fantasy. Readers who liked Kristin Cashore's GRACELING will enjoy SEVEN STARS. I have enclosed the [whatever the agent asks for].

Rewrite, Version 2:

Now that she's lost it and gone berserk, seventeen-year-old Casora is doubly cursed and there's no going back.

Born with the mark of the berserker, she's been sent away to learn war craft. Those skills are no use when her home is invaded while she's far away. She turns mercenary, leading a band of teenage warriors, for the chance to avenge themselves on the marauders.

What she really wants is to find a cure for the curse so she can go home. When she prays for an answer, she's told to rescue the youngest prince to find what she needs.

Tiaran, youngest prince of a neighboring kingdom, is considered more a scholar than a warrior, but he's determined to fight for his home. When the raiders attack, he's trapped on the wrong side of the city walls. Casora and her band are sent to rescue him. With the capital city now besieged, there's no option but to keep him with them and teach him to be a warrior.

But Tiaran has something to teach them, too. It's just possible that Tiaran and Casora may be the answer to each others' prayers.

SEVEN STARS is a 77,000-word young adult fantasy. Readers who liked Kristin Cashore's GRACELING will enjoy SEVEN STARS. I have enclosed the [whatever the agent asks for].

[ March 03, 2012, 11:28 PM: Message edited by: Meredith ]

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Jess
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Your story sounds cool. this is just my genre! The query format is pretty good. I'd say maybe find a way to make the first line a bit hookier (uh I mean make it hook the reader more).
Then I was confused about the beserker curse. I thought she was using it to fight other people's battles but then when it becomes active it is confusing. Maybe just a bit of clarification.
I'd say too the last line about being answer to each others prayers needs to be stronger. the first time I read it, I missed it and wondered how the two story lines connect.
Also be wary of using too many starter words. Now, but ect.
otherwise its a pretty good query start.

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Jess
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Ps this is the genre I write and read. if you need readers of the novel, I am looking for novel swappers.
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pdblake
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Just my two pence worth, take what you want and forget the rest:)

Firstly, she has been training all her life because she is a berserker. But then, all berserkers are exiled. There's a bit of a disparity there, or something not being made clear enough.

"She finds herself the leader of a band of teenage warriors with no options but to turn mercenary and a hunger to avenge themselves on the marauders that destroyed the homes they can never return to."

This sentence makes no sense, it reads that she finds herself the leader of a hunger to avenge.

"..... is the youngest and least of the princes. "

What princes? Who is the common enemy and why? Why won't they take him seriously about fighting? They're under attack aren't they? Is there some kind of strife between these princes?

I think you need more of a hook, more of a reason why anyone should care for these characters. I'm not sure revenge alone pulls this off, I know she's after a cure, but I don't get any sense of it, it's just tacked on to the end of the paragraph. I'm not sure what the prince's goals are at all.

There are some grammar issues in there too, but you've already said it needs work so I won't go poking at it [Smile]

Hope that helps, just trying to pick on things an agent might [Smile]

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Meredith
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Okay, second version above. Too long. Better?
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pdblake
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The newer version gives much more of a sense of the story and clears up a few of the things I picked on, but I still don't know who the 'enemy' is. It would also be nice to see the name of the neighbouring country.

Apart from that it just needs tightening up a bit, but it's pretty much there.

I hate doing queries and blurbs BTW [Smile]

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annepin
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Hi Meredith, I thought your query was strong, and if I were an agent, I’d probably read the synopsis.I think the second version did a good job of getting rid of many of the questions.

Some small things::

At seventeen, Casora has already spent nearly all [bi]I would suggest cutting either nearly or already. The two of them together just seems over kill. I think it reads better with just nearly[/b] of her life either training as a warrior or fighting in someone else's battles.

She finds herself I would suggest a strong word. I get that she’s probably despondent and depressed, but in books we’re always hoping the character will be active. Maybe something like “teams up with” or something the leader of a band of teenage warriors with no options but to turn mercenary.

Eighteen-year-old Prince Tiaran is the youngest and least I get what you mean but I kind of stumbled over this. Maybe least important?of the princes of a neighboring country. … Tiaran knows he must take part in the fighting this struck me as odd, and maybe brings up more questions than is necessary. How does he know this? How does he think he could possibly make a difference in the war? Maybe something like, “wants nothing more than to fight…”, but…

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Meredith
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Third version above.
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Meredith
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Newer version above.
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micmcd
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quote:

She turns mercenary, leading a band of teenage warriors, for the chance to avenge themselves on the marauders who destroyed their homes.

Nits: I think that second comma isn't needed. Also, in the sentence before the one I quoted... is war craft two words or one (or is that only in the game?)

I like the tone of this one. It gets a lot of the major events in the plot.

quote:

Tiaran, youngest prince of a neighboring kingdom, falls victim to a prank by one of his brothers.

That sentence doesn't do justice to what happened to Tiaran. It sounds more like one of his brothers put a pail of water over a door. They tried to have him killed.
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Meredith
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Thanks.

Um, yeah. I think I need to beef up Tiaran's part just a little. Not too much. I definitely want the query slanted towards Casora's part of the story.

I'll work on it.

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angel011
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There's a book with the same title, by Kim Newman. While it's not YA fantasy, I'm not sure if the same title might create a problem.

http://januarymagazine.com/SFF/7stars.html

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Meredith
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quote:
Originally posted by angel011:
There's a book with the same title, by Kim Newman. While it's not YA fantasy, I'm not sure if the same title might create a problem.

http://januarymagazine.com/SFF/7stars.html

Titles aren't copyrightable. Unless the other title is a best seller or a classic, I'm not sure I'd worry about it.

Besides, author titles very rarely are the title actually used by traditional publishers. [Smile]

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angel011
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I was just thinking it might lead to confusion, but I suppose the publisher will decide about that anyway. [Smile]

As for the query:

Casora sounds somewhat similar to Ketsa, and also to Cashore, and I'm not sure it's a good thing (by the way, I translated Graceling to Serbian, so I know the book very, very well [Smile] ).

"Tiaran, youngest prince of a neighboring kingdom, falls victim to a prank by one of his brothers. When the marauders attack, he's trapped on the wrong side of the city walls."

I'm not sure what happened here. Was it a mere prank gone wrong, or did his brothers try to get him killed? If it's the latter, adding a reason might be a good idea -- is he the favorite son, would he inherit the throne, even though he's the youngest? Or is it something else?

Also, if Tiaran and Casora may be the answer to each other's prayers, it looks to me like they're equals, in a way; she may be a great warrior, but he has some other gift. From the query, it looks like Tiaran is weak, not like he has some sort of strength. If he is a little boy, that's fine, but if they're about the same age, it doesn't seem quite right.

I hope this helps.

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Meredith
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quote:
Originally posted by angel011:
I was just thinking it might lead to confusion, but I suppose the publisher will decide about that anyway. [Smile]

As for the query:

Casora sounds somewhat similar to Ketsa, and also to Cashore, and I'm not sure it's a good thing (by the way, I translated Graceling to Serbian, so I know the book very, very well [Smile] ).

"Tiaran, youngest prince of a neighboring kingdom, falls victim to a prank by one of his brothers. When the marauders attack, he's trapped on the wrong side of the city walls."

I'm not sure what happened here. Was it a mere prank gone wrong, or did his brothers try to get him killed? If it's the latter, adding a reason might be a good idea -- is he the favorite son, would he inherit the throne, even though he's the youngest? Or is it something else?

Also, if Tiaran and Casora may be the answer to each other's prayers, it looks to me like they're equals, in a way; she may be a great warrior, but he has some other gift. From the query, it looks like Tiaran is weak, not like he has some sort of strength. If he is a little boy, that's fine, but if they're about the same age, it doesn't seem quite right.

I hope this helps.

Thanks. Tiaran is about a year older than Casora. [Smile] I will try to beef up that brief intro to Tiaran a bit. He definitely has his own strengths that are different than hers. The book is almost equally divided between Casora and Tiaran, but I'm intentionally trying to simplify the query by concentrating on Casora's story.

Casora has some things in common with Katsa, but she's definitely not a Katsa clone.

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angel011
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Oops, sorry, Katsa, Ketsa is in Serbian spelling. [Smile]
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MattLeo
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Meredith -- which each revision you do a fine job of summarizing your story succinctly, even down to some character backstory. That's a huge plus, because it shows you have discipline and some skill with words.

But the problem with such a distillation is that it necessarily loses the *flavor* of the story. It's like distilling wine down to pure alcohol; alcohol's alcohol. It's the stuff that's left out that makes the wine special.

What is the unusual pleasure we'll get by reading your story? That's more important than the details of the plot. Is it *Dr. Zhivago* -- an epic story of passion, betrayal and survival set against a sweeping backdrop of a corrupt and violent revolution? Or is it *A Wrinkle in Time*, which depicts the coming of age of a gifted but awkward girl as an unique blend of science fiction adventure, social critique, and mystical quest?

Stories do all kinds of strange and wonderful things, so there's no one right way to get at them. Sometimes the question might be, how will I be different after I read this story? But I think that what I get from your query is that you have a competently constructed story. And maybe that's right for who you're pitching this to.

I guess it all boils down to this: when somebody picks up the book in a bookstore, what's going to make them take it to the register and pay for it?

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Meredith
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Newer version above.

I've tried to add a little more to Tiaran without taking the focus off Casora.

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micmcd
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I really like the last version. My only nit thought reading it is that I figured warcraft was one word, though I notice as I type that Chrome disagrees with me in the form of a red squiggly underline, so perhaps you've got it.
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Meredith
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quote:
Originally posted by micmcd:
I really like the last version. My only nit thought reading it is that I figured warcraft was one word, though I notice as I type that Chrome disagrees with me in the form of a red squiggly underline, so perhaps you've got it.

I think that's only the game. [Smile]
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MattLeo
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Hmm. The first paragraph of third revision triggers an interesting thought:

quote:
At seventeen, Casora has spent nearly all of her life either training to be a warrior or fighting in someone else's battles. That's the fate of anyone born with the mark of the berserker curse until they prove they can fight without losing control. The alternative to such discipline is exile for those who let the berserker out.
Using my absurd system of query letter analysis I get CWW for this paragraph -- character building, world building and world building. But what you're really talking about in this paragraph is a dilemma the character faces, albeit in her backstory. She must choose between a life of discipline and a life of abandonment to her emotions (do I detect a common Meredithian theme here?).

What if you described the information in this paragraph as story rather than backstory? In other words Casora's beserker curse emerges and so she's faced with a dilemma: become a disciplined warrior and serve "the man", or become an outlaw on the run from "the man"? This slips the character and world background details under the reader's nose as *plot*.

One of the least enjoyable things about critiquing unpublished spec fic manuscripts is the backstory and worldbuildling aspiring authors make you slog through before the story gets moving. So I'm thinking an opening query paragraph consisting entirely of character backstory and world building might not be such a good idea.

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