Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Face-Lift 440


Guess the Plot

Blades of the Fallen

1. Tori Dean couldn't land a triple Salchow. She was ready to hang up her skates, until the mysterious old hag in the spangled costume gave her a set of gold-plated blades. Can Tori make it to the Olympics skating on Tonya's . . . Blades of the Fallen?

2. Competing with reality TV, on-demand movies, video games and more was putting Bob’s sport franchise out of business. Needing a new slant on an old sport, Bob is inspired to create Blades of the Fallen – combining the grace and beauty of ice skating with the action and blood of ultimate fighting.

3. Using his father's blade, Jak revenges himself on the man who killed his father. Now, aided by a talking dagger that wants only to be his friend, can he also find and kill the man who murdered his mother? It's a lot to ask of a ten-year old.

4. After the last mowing of summer, just as he is raking up the clippings, Harry's lawn takes its bloody revenge, and nothing in his corner of suburbia will ever be the same. Also, screaming hedges.

5. Collector David Dawkins has an unusual hobby: gathering the tools of deceased barbers. He covets a pristine set of 18th-century equipment once owned by Alexander Hamilton. What will he do to get . . . the Blades of the Fallen?

6. A trio of has-been prostitutes open a barbershop, hoping its clever name will draw customers. It does, but from an unexpected quarter: angst-ridden werewolves hoping a close shave will allow them to "pass." Also: bearded zombies.


Original Version

Dear [Agent],

I come to you seeking representation for my fantasy adventure novel, BLADES OF THE FALLEN: a tale of childhood, choices, and living for those you love.

Like many ten-year-olds, all Jak wants is to make his parents proud -- easier said than done when his father is a heartless, cynical thief and his mother is a bright-eyed priestess to a benevolent goddess. [Why is it difficult for a bright-eyed priestess to be proud of her son?] Even harder when, under completely separate circumstances, both of his parents are murdered. [Where was the goddess while her priestess was being murdered?]

In Jak's world, justice is more a means to control than a means to protect, so he takes matters into his own hands. [Not clear. Justice is a means to control the bad guys? Then why does Jak have to take things into his own hands? Shouldn't the justice authorities take control of the situation?] But when he assassinates the merchant lord responsible for his father's death, he sets in motion a series of events that will thrust him into the center of a hidden war that spans the continent. [It's not easy keeping a war hidden when it spans a continent. Unless you manage to disguise your armies as herds of wildebeest.] One empire wants to enslave him; another wants him dead. [A salesman kills a thief, and the thief's kid kills the salesman, and suddenly two empires go to war? Explain.]

To regain his freedom and survive, [To whom has he lost his freedom? Has he been captured?] Jak will have to escape a network of spies, a spell of enslavement, and the ghosts of his past (or, more accurately, the walking dead of his past.) [(Or, even more accurately, zombies.)] He has a short list of allies: a chipper tomb-robber with a fistful of secrets, a talking dagger who wants nothing more than a friend, [Does the dagger have a mouth, or do its words just emanate from it?]

[Jak: I need to kill that guy.

Dagger: Okay, plunge me into his eye. Then we'll play Truth or Dare again, okay? Please?]

and a goddess that has saved his life but refuses to tell him why. [Is this the same goddess?] If he's lucky, he might even bring his mother's murderer to justice, [Why doesn't the goddess bring his mother's murderer to justice? Someone kills her priestess, and she leaves it to a ten-year-old kid to get justice? Does this so-called goddess have any powers?] and keep a dangerous artifact out of the hands of those who seek power through death and deceit.

Considering his luck thus far, he can only hope that 'praying a lot' is an acceptable substitute. [For what?]

BLADES OF THE FALLEN is an epic, standalone tale and is complete at 209,500 words. [At 250 words per page, we're talking 838 pages. And that doesn't include the title page, copyright page, your 40-page index, etc. War and Peace is longer, but unless you write as well as Tolstoy, consider making this two or three books.] Its sequel, CURSE OF THE FALLEN, is already in the works. [No need to say "already" unless we know the date you finished the original, so that we can be shocked at how quickly you put the sequel in the works.] [Is the talking dagger in the sequel?] I have enclosed the first five pages of my book as an example of my writing, and a SASE if you wish to request a copy or partial copy of the manuscript. Thank you for your time and consideration, and I eagerly await your response.

Sincerely,

[To Evil Editor: The title stems from two sources. He assassinates the merchant lord with his dead father's kukri, and the 'talking dagger' mentioned is believed to be cursed ever since the original owner used it to commit suicide.]


Notes

Usually a main character who's a kid suggests a book for kids. But not at this length. On the other hand, 800,000 words of a kid talking to a knife may not appeal to adults.

If Jak was captured, did his captors actually let him keep his dagger?

I see a spinoff series here, with the talking dagger as the main character. You could have Talking Dagger vs. Dracula, Talking Dagger Meets W.C. Fields, Talking Dagger and the Deathly Hallows.

So each book in the series is something of "the fallen"? Who are the fallen? Jak's parents? Surely there won't be two 800,000-word books inspired by the death of a heartless, cynical thief.

I feel that we're missing some crucial information. Why do empires go to war when Jak kills a cheese merchant? Why do both sides consider Jak a threat? Are there any good guys? What's the dangerous artifact, who wants it, and what happens if they get it? You've set this epic against the backdrop of war between empires, yet Jak's only goal seems to be to find his mother's murderer. Let us in on his quest to save the world.

34 comments:

Chro said...

Well, that was painful, but at least it was painful and useful, as opposed to just receiving form rejections that say 'no thanks'.

So I guess, as the author, I should explain myself and answer a few questions (and then completely redo my query letter so that such questions don't come up.)

I was expecting you to comment on the length. Sadly, it is the biggest hurdle for me to overcome at this point, and yet I can't do as you suggested and chop this into two or three books. There is not any solid 'resolution' until the end of the book, and cutting it off at a cliffhanger would just make it feel incomplete. I've been steadily shortening it, but each revision only trims off a few thousand words at most. It is still going to end up being around 200k words. All I can hope for is that my writing is impressive enough for an agent to work with such a long novel. My only saving grace is that it's in a genre where high word counts are more likely to be accepted (fantasy).

I apparently need to change my query's wording in a few places, in order to avoid giving the wrong impression. For example, with the term 'Merchant Lord', you focused on the word 'merchant' and not the word 'lord'. This whittled an important political figure down to the status of a cheese merchant. Perhaps I'll just cut the word 'merchant' out altogether. Also, while Jak is ten when the book starts (and when he kills the merchant lord), he's thirteen by the end of the novel. Should I describe him as a thirteen-year-old, so that it's not mistaken for a children's book, or leave out the age altogether?

As for the lack of crucial information, this version of my query actually has a lot MORE information than previous attempts! Jak's primary goal is to avenge his mother, but his efforts to do so put him in the position where he is forced to 'save the world'. Squeezing in the entire political situation in a few paragraphs is difficult, but I'll do my best to provide more pertinent information.

Thank you for the critique, and I'll set to work making a more attractive query.

P.S. The dagger's voice is akin to telepathy: the wielder hears it in his head. Is such a detail really THAT crucial for a query?

Anonymous said...

You could tighten the editing. For instance, consider the number 209,500: two hundred nine thousand, five hundred. Six words. 200,000 makes the point with only three.

Evil Editor said...

I can't do as you suggested and chop this into two or three books. There is not any olid 'resolution' until the end of the book

How about he finds and kills his father's murderer in book 1 and finds and kills his mother's killer in book 2? Or is the latter already the sequel?

I apparently need to change my query's wording in a few places, in order to avoid giving the wrong impression. For example, with the term 'Merchant Lord', you focused on the word 'merchant' and not the word 'lord'. This whittled an important political figure down to the status of a cheese merchant.

What I focus on is what will get laughs (which, apparently, don't come as easily to the author of the query). What you want the agent to focus on is "important political figure." Important enough for two empires to go to war when a kid kills him.

Also, while Jak is ten when the book starts (and when he kills the merchant lord), he's thirteen by the end of the novel. Should I describe him as a thirteen-year-old, so that it's not mistaken for a children's book, or leave out the age altogether?

Neither is a good idea. I assume there are reasons your character seeks revenge on murderers at his tender age(s)? Inigo Montoya's father was killed when he was a kid, but he's an adult when he seeks revenge.

P.S. The dagger's voice is akin to telepathy: the wielder hears it in his head. Is such a detail really THAT crucial for a query?

It's not clear that the dagger itself is crucial, much less how it communicates. But if it's to be mentioned at all, I think a dagger capable of commuicating with the person who wields it sounds more adult and more intriguing than a talking dagger that wants to be friends. So if you don't want it to sound like a kid's book...

Do wait till you receive other comments before taking action. Sometimes people disagree with EE, or manage to make the same points less abrasively.

Anonymous said...

chro,
I sympathize, as I'm sure we all do, with the whole dilemma of what to put in the query and what to leave out. One thing I am unclear on here is WHY the book is 200k-plus words with no resolution until the end. There doesn't seem to be enough plot described here to warrant that length. I know it's tough explaining a political situation in a few sentences, but try -- that might help convey the book's complexity. It might also help if you can tell us briefly how Jak changes over those three years.
(and oh yeah, if you mention that the novel spans three years, that would clarify the age while also helping us understand why it's so long.)
-mb

~Nancy said...

Ooo, number 6: Angst-ridden werewolves and bearded zombies - yes!

Talking dagger? My first thought was Knight Rider and then my thoughts turned to the Evil Twin episode. ;-)


In Jak's world, justice is more a means to control than a means to protect, so he takes matters into his own hands.

Like EE said, justice is controlling the bad guys, right? So why would Jak then have to take matters into his own hands if justice is going to take care of the bad ones anyway?

A war spanning a continent is going to be secret - I don't understand that. How can something spanning land that big be kept a secret? Ghosts? I can get the parts where two different empires want to do two different bad things to him, but I just can't buy a war that spread out as being kept secret.

Fourth paragraph - You may need to briefly let us know that Jak is captured or whatever before starting off the para that way, because it sure jarred. Something as simple as

"Jak is captured by Evil Empire 1. But to regain his freedom, he needs to escape a spy ring, an enslavement spell, and the walking dead of his past." Something like that. (I think you can drop "ghosts of his past" and just use "walking dead of his past," as "ghosts" is cliche.)

200+ words from a first-time author? There must be a way you can cut this down. I don't know of any agents that look at anything above 110,000 words or so. Have you had this critted? Sometimes we fall in love with our words (I'm guilty as charged), and it's hard to cut. But I have to tell you, it's not going to be an easy sell for 1 book. It's economics, too. You might want to reconsider EE's advice to cut it into different books.

Tolkien originally wanted LOTR to be one big, fat book, but one of the reasons the publisher said no was because of the printing costs; the other was the cost to the average book buyer.

Good luck, but please carefully consider EE's suggestions.

Chro said...

EE - Sorry if I came off as someone lacking a sense of humor. I understand that many of your comments are only 'poking fun' and not indicative of serious problems. I'm less concerned with you using the term 'cheese merchant' and more concerned with you having to ask yourself, 'Why is this merchant lord so important?' because an agent will ask the same thing.

And yes, there are a number reasons why he's so young. His age actually saves him a number of times (it's easy to underestimate or feel sorry for a kid, even if he's your enemy.)

And I don't think the finding and killing of his father's murderer could be it's own book, since he (*clears throat*) kills him within the first ten pages. The book then goes back and shows the events leading up to the murder, but even that only takes up fifty pages or so.

In response to the anonymous poster, yes I am struggling to get it below 200k words. If nothing else, it's the old retail trick of $19.99 looking so much smaller than $20.00. ;)

blogless_troll said...

I'm disappointed about the dagger. With EE's visual aid, I was picturing a wisecracking vaudevillian spewing terrible puns all over the place. ("Lemme get right to the point." "If I may be blunt--no, not really!" etc...) I figured that's why its prior owner committed suicide.

And I'm sorry, but you're rationalizing excuses for the book's length. There's no way your 200K couldn't be split up, or told in 120K. You're just making it harder to sell at 200K.

Chro said...

So after looking over these comments, I've written up an alternate description of the book, as shown below. Of course, this description would probably make the reader MORE likely to tell me to split it up into multiple books, even when that really is impossible. It also gets rather.. 'listy' at the end. I'd appreciate it if you all could tell me if it answers more questions and yet peaks more interest:

All Jak wants is to make both his parents proud -- easier said than done when his father is a heartless, cynical thief but his mother is a bright-eyed priestess to a benevolent goddess. Even harder when, under completely separate circumstances, both of his parents are murdered.

The murderers are not criminals, but nobles and enforcers of the law, so Jak must take matters into his own hands. But in his pursuit to avenge his parents, he inadvertently steals a powerful artifact, and in doing so thrusts himself into the center of a race for power between two empires. Jak learns that killing one man can unravel a web of secrets, and making friends with the wrong person can target you for enslavement or even death. He also learns that with enough wits and determination, a mere boy can change the fate of the world.

But to survive his three-year journey, he must infiltrate a thieves guild, fight the walking dead, rescue the falsely accused and the enslaved, and keep a deadly artifact out of the hands of those who would use it to start a war. To keep his freedom, he must escape a network of spies, a spell of servitude, and fears that torment him. To succeed, he must rely on a tomb-robber with a fistful of secrets, a sentient dagger with a fear of abandonment, and a goddess that for some reason saved his life but couldn't save his mother's. Above all, to make his parents proud, he must bring their murderers to justice, all while striving to make the world a better place.

Evil Editor said...

It's better, but you're right, it's too listy at the end. Just finish something like:

To survive his three-year journey, Jak must infiltrate a thieves guild, fight the walking dead, rescue the falsely accused, and guard the artifact. Allied with a tomb-robber, a sentient dagger, and a goddess, Jak strives to make his parents proud by bringing their murderers to justice while preventing a catastrophic war.

Deborah K. White said...

EE, I just thought I'd point out a standard fantasy element that seems to trip you up in these fantasy queries. (If you point it out just for laughs, then feel free to keep doing it.) In fantasy, gods are rarely all-seeing or all-knowing. This benevolent goddess might not even realize her priestess is in danger until the poor gal is dead. Also, it's rare in fantasy that a god or goddess will personally throw a thunderbolt to zap a mortal because they are too busy fighting other gods, they have an intra-god pact not to meddle with mortals directly, or whatever. Some gods meddle more in human affairs (whether allowed to or not), but generally they tend to hide what they're doing. Most gods tend to chose heroes to do their dirty work on the mortal realm. So what good is a fantasy god? Well, they might give their chosen hero special powers/abilities, magical weapons or armor, or that missing bit of information that they need to succeed.

So the reason the goddess doesn't intervene should be covered in the book. However, I'm guessing it's probably not that critical for a query. Telepathic talking swords and daggers are also somewhat common in fantasy, so probably don't need an explanation in the query.

However, Author, as EE points out, this does sound like a YA book (dagger wants to be friends, kid's age--even at thirteen). Some re-wording might be in order.

150 said...

Thirteen is still young enough for it to be a kids' book. You may want to touch on what makes it not a kids' book; Ender's Game has a complex philosophical and moral element, for example, and Lord of the Flies includes deep imagery and a troubling insight into society. Young protagonists, adult situations.

If you're serious about cutting down the length, here's something to think about. I've found that my favorite books have plots where everything that happens comes around to impact the ending. (My best example of that is Holes. Holy crap, is that book well thought out.) You list a lot of misadventures for Jak: a thieves' guild, the walking dead, rescuing people, escaping a network of spies, a spell of servitude, and presumably some tomb-robbing, goddess-schmoozing, and good old stabbity with the talking dagger. Is every one of those incidents vital to the ending? Is there anywhere you can combine causes to create the same effect? Are there events that only affect the NEXT event? If so, you can draw a shorter line between A and C and delete B entirely. For a quicker, more visual example of how to do this, try watching the LotR or Harry Potter movies to see how they connected their plot points without having to go through everything in the book. In that respect, OotP really impressed me.

My sister got me the Aladdin DVD for my last birthday. One of the making-of extras pointed out that during story development, Aladdin's mother was a prominent character. It blew me away. "Gosh," I thought, "I hope someday I have the nerve to edit out entire characters." If you're trying to drop 100,000 words, maybe it's time to have a stiff drink and really do something drastic.

Robin S. said...

Hi chro,

I thought this sounded interesting-
"The dagger's voice is akin to telepathy: the wielder hears it in his head."

I don't have any advice about the length issue- but it seems to me that 150's comments:

"One of the making-of extras pointed out that during story development, Aladdin's mother was a prominent character. It blew me away. "Gosh," I thought, "I hope someday I have the nerve to edit out entire characters." If you're trying to drop 100,000 words, maybe it's time to have a stiff drink and really do something drastic" might be a good idea to think about.

I'm frankly impressed that you've written this extensively for a first novel. I guess now it's time for the editing part.

Best of luck to you.

Anonymous said...

EE, talking daggers are nothing. It's the weredaggers you've got to watch out for. --Bill Highsmith

Dave Kuzminski said...

Damn, I've been one-upped. The dagger in my story only blinks an eye.

stick and move said...

Author, kudos on the perseverance to write 200K plus novel. But I have to agree with all of the other comments that it's going to be a tough sell. I'm no expert, but alot of these folks have some wisdom so they bear listening to.

I think your insistence that it can't be cut in two or edited to half is close-minded. I understand. I think we all get that way with our work. I urge you to open your mind to the idea of editing harshly. You might have to remove some plot elements, and it will basically require a rewrite. But if you love the idea of the story and you really want to sell it, listen to what the people here are suggesting.

My thoughts on the story itself is it sounds pretty complicated for such a young audience. You might consider making the protag older, maybe late teens going into twenty. YA isn't my genre, but 10-13 sounds awfully young to be wielding a knife for revenge. Maybe in fantasy that's okay, I don't know.

I'm sure you don't like reading these types of comments, but if you want honesty, there you have it. And on a positive note, no one cracked on you for your writing, which was just fine in the query.

Church Lady said...

I wanted to go where Blogless was heading (all those dagger jokes) but now the author seems too nice.

I don't know much about this genre. But everyone is telling you to cut it. You have to get your mind around that and try. I think you can cut sub-plots (he must infiltrate a thieves guild, fight the walking dead.) That's better than chopping your book into two parts down the middle.

Anyway, good luck. You've put a lot of hard work into this. Don't sabatoge yourself by ignoring good advice here.

Cheers.

Chro said...

*makes a copy of his BotF.doc file*
*renames file 'BotF Surgery.doc'*
*deletes two scenes*
*adjusts all the 'threads' connected to those scenes so everything still works*
*checks word count*

204,104

*sighs*

This is gonna take a while.

Robin S. said...

Forgot to say, EE - love your talkin' dagger picture.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, try cutting subplots. In the fantasy realm, they tend to proliferate like zombies. You can ice the best ones and keep 'em for sequels.

dancinghorse said...

chro, somehow you remind me of a young author I met when I was fairly new to the game myself, who came to my then agent with a ms. well over 250,000 words. My agent called me because I teach and edit, too, and we sat down with this very talented person and explained why the ms., as written, had roughly 50,000 words of story buried in all that verbiage.

That author went on to become extremely successful. Still writes absolutely massive books that have to be gone through with loppers and a machete by a devoted and hardworking editor--that's the kind of writer they are. They put it ALL in, every detail, down to the number of gestures required to walk into an elevator, press the button for the floor, wait for the door to close...

They made it into print in a much less crowded era, and have staked out strong territory in the giant-fantasy-epic genre. It is now much, much harder to do this. Better to learn to write tight--you can loosen up later when you're a Fantasy Star.

Look at your ms. Pick a paragraph. How much detail do you include? Can you prune it all down to a single, salient one?

Next step up: Pick a chapter. List the scenes. Look at the arc they form. Do they repeat themselves? Do they repeat other chapters? Can you pick ONE that does it all, and focus on that?

Ask yourself if your characters do a lot of daily-izing, i.e. mundane activities that can be left to the imagination. Same goes for dialogue--is there a lot of filler of the "hello, how are you, I'm fine, thanks" variety? Get rid of all of that. Just keep the absolutely essential bits.

There's a lot more to the art of hacking out the underbrush, but this is a start. It's good for the craft, and good for the book.

Now will someone please write GTP #1? I want to read it!

Dave F. said...

Cutting is not easy. Reducing your own words is very hard. But there's good advice in these posts as to how to start.

Ask yourself - what do I want this scene to say to the reader? What's the purpose of this character's dialog or monolog? Is this scene transitional? Do I need the transition? Do I need it as a bridge to the next scene or from the previous?
Am I telling the story twice? that is, do my characters say what they are going to do and then do I write the scene?

Before retirement, I used to have to collect and do one-page writeups for publicity. Since I was an engineer, I understood the science that and I understood that the audience for the one-page was the average person. PHD and boss types used to deliver 1000 technical words where 500 plain would suffice. Telling anyone to cut half the words was egotistically hazardous to their mental superiority.

It ain't pretty. it ain't easy.

Take 1000 words and make that portion work with only 500 words. Stare at the words sentence by sentence and say to yourself -- I can say the same thing just as eloquently in fewer words.

This is not a simple replace two words with one word. Nor is it just taking out the excess words. It's the hard stuff of rewriting to half the length, of telling the story with less words, of cutting backstory, of cutting out un-needed facts and details, of describing only what is essential in a scene, building character or arc.

Dave F. said...

I want to say something else about editing for length in a general comment.

Over on Neil Gaiman's website, a lady asked him what he thought of JK Rowling's revelation of Dumbledore being gay.

Part of his answer was that not everything must be revealed in any book. Good authors know so much more about their characters than the facts that are essential to the story. Most details never make it into the story because they have no relevance to the story. BUT, they are highly useful to the author who has to speak in the words of his/her character.

That's a place that editing for length can begin.

Sometimes less story is just as good as more story.

BuffySquirrel said...

From the agent blogs I've read, 150k is the maximum they'll consider representing in Fantasy. Of course, there are always exceptions--looks meaningfully at "Jonathan Strange"--but cutting it at least that far would probably improve its chances.

I'm pretty sure it can be cut--if you make your mind up to it :).

Anonymous said...

Jonathan Strange is a great example to look at, to see how to earn exception from the length rule. It is undoubtably a story about adults, for adults. It has qualities that work in several proven markets: romance, humor, drama. The magic is restrained. The characters are human. The prose is tightly edited. The plot has a unified arc consisting of interwoven threads [each with its own arc] that are built of multiple episodes which each has its own beginning middle end. The parts are great, the whole is even better. Excerpts had been published in lit mags prior to the book. Additional excerpts excised from the book have subsequently been published in lit mags and in a collection of shorts. Film rights looked so good, they were sold prior to publication.

I'm guessing the adult market for a story about a vengeful boy and his talking knife is not huge these days and if the manuscript = 210,000 loosely edited words no agent will feel they can afford to spend the time.

Chro said...

Thank you all for the suggestions, particularly those who offered specific methods on how to trim prose, like dave f and dancinghorse. I find these suggestions much more helpful than, "I refuse to believe you can't cut it into two books." :P

Although this book has gone through extensive editing already, I'm doing what I can to trim the manuscript. I don't expect to get it down to 100k words, but I'll see how far I can get. I'm going to go with the initial goal of getting it below 200k, then perhaps down to 180k, etc.

One thing I've noticed is that I really need to pitch this as an adult book. It's not meant for children (too much violence, and things like rape are alluded to), but some of my wording inadvertantly presented it as such (talking dagger, story about childhood, etc.) I'll change this, so that an agent doesn't say, "What is this, a 200k word YOUNG ADULT novel? Hell no!"

The protagonist is going to be young, yes, but there are books out there with adult themes which have children as main characters. I'm reading a book right now where the protagonist is young (15), and it's meant for adults. I've read books where all of the main characters were under 13, and yet the text contained scenes that would traumatize any tween for life. Frankly, Jak has so many adult-themed things happen to him, his childhood is more or less destroyed. This won't be like Harry Potter where evil is defeated by the power of love. This is a story of pain, grief, slavery, conflict, and murder. Just because the main character is a child doesn't mean the story is childish.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go back to doing some word surgery.

150 said...

Hey chro, now I'm getting interested. Would you consider posting the first few pages on the Crapometer? Or if you want to send me the first twenty or thirty pages, I'll give it a quick look-over for things that might be bogging down your prose. I could also give you my impressions of what age level it would suit. Let me know!

Debbie said...

Chro,

Have you taken any time between drafts? Because it sounds like you're still way too close to this novel. Some very wise friends suggested I do the following before revising my novel (which was a whopping 400+ pages):

--Set it aside for at least a month. Preferably six.
--Before picking it up, list all the key scenes that are in the book from memory.
--Cut everything that doesn't have anything to do with those scenes.

It worked. Beautifully. And don't just delete the bits you cut. There may be some great writing there. Put them in a folder for possible future use.

Listen to the advise that not everything you know about the character, the world, etc. needs to be in the book. You as the author need to know as much as possible about the world you're writing. The reader doesn't.

Leave it be a while. You'll come back with a fresh eye and a lot less emotion about it.

BuffySquirrel said...

Can't offer useful suggestions without seeing the thing. Guess I lack the psychic powers of the other minions ;).

Chro said...

150 - I didn't realize the crapometer still existed. I was not around when Miss Snark was still active. Or is this something different? I'll post the first 7 pages or so if that would help you get a feel. If you want the first 20-30 pages, I'll need an email of some sort. ;)

Debbie - Yes, I have put time between drafts. But lately, in an urge to get this done, I've been working harder on it, trying to get out all the kinks. As for figuring out which scenes weren't key, I did that last night, and got rid of two. The rest of the scenes connect to the main plot in at least five different ways, so unraveling them will be more difficult. :P

Anonymous said...

Chro,

It's a different crapometer:

http://crapometer.blogspot.com

I always call it Elektra's Crapometer because of the Miss Snark thingy (even though I know Miss Snark isn't blogging anymore ::sniff::).

Good luck.

~Nancy
http://writerlystuff.blogspot.com

150 said...

I'm at 150words at gmail dot com.

Thought I replied earlier, but I guess not....

Word ver: Keyth. I swear I saw that name in a book once

Chro said...

All right, I've done some major editing to both the book and the query. The new query is as follows, if I could get any input from the peanut gallery with flamethro-- I mean, from the inspired readers with wonderfully helpful critiques. ;)

-----------------------

Dear [Agent],

I come to you seeking representation for my fantasy adventure novel, BLADES OF THE FALLEN. Complete at 179,000 words, it a tale of broken childhoods, past sins, and living for lost loved ones.

Jak, a ten-year-old boy, is the only survivor of a shipwreck off the rocky shores of Carwyt. When a compassionate priestess takes pity on him and brings him to her temple, she has no idea she is harboring a thief and murderer.

In his new home, Jak seeks solace from his nightmares and atonement for his sins. But even in a sanctuary, peace is temporary. Years later, when the temple is destroyed and his adoptive mother murdered, Jak seeks vengeance for the second time in his life -- with unexpected consequences. By killing one man, he unravels a web of incriminating secrets. By accidentally stealing a magical artifact, he thrusts himself into the center of a race for power between two empires. Even his choice of friends targets him for enslavement in one case, death in another.

To survive his journey, Jak must infiltrate a thieves’ guild, fight the walking dead, escape a network of spies, and challenge an organization that crushes freedoms under a guise of security and benevolence. Through it all, he must rely on the sinful skills his father taught him, while adhering to his mother's moral values. Aided only by a tomb-robber, a sentient dagger, and the blessings of his mother's goddess, he strives to make his parents proud, both by bringing their murderers to justice, and by preventing a catastrophic war. In the end, he finds that his most powerful weapon is not his wits or his father's blade -- but what little remains of his shattered innocence.

I have enclosed the first six pages of my book as an example of my writing, and a SASE if you wish to request a copy or partial copy of the manuscript. Thank you for your time and consideration, and I eagerly await your response.

Sarah said...

IMO, your weakest point is the length of the novel. Lead with the story and stick the word count at the end. Otherwise the editor/agent who reads this is likely to stop at 175,000 and toss off an auto reject.

I’m getting confused with the adoptive mother and the priestess. Are they one and the same? Where did Dad come from? Is the priestess married or is it his biological dad?

When you say – “adhering to his mother's moral values” – I’m not sure who you’re talking about.

“unravels a web of incriminating secrets” I need more here or perhaps a different way of saying it as I don’t know what this means or what consequences are being hinted at here.

It’s hard to accidentally steal something as the act of stealing generally implies intent. Was the accident that it was magical or that he stole it?

“To survive his journey” What journey?

If he’s already killed someone in the second paragraph, how is he adhering to his mom’s moral values?

Is the artifact the dagger?

Here’s my stab at it:

Jak, the ten-year-old sole survivor of a shipwreck, seeks solace from his nightmares and atonement for his sins in the temple of his adoptive mother’s goddess.

Seven years later, when the temple is destroyed and his adoptive mother murdered, Jak seeks vengeance for the second time in his life -- with unexpected consequences. Killing one man unravels a web of incriminating secrets which does something bad. Jak steals what turns out to be the magical dagger at the center of a race for power between two empires. Even his choice of friends targets him for enslavement in one case and death in another.

To survive, Jak must infiltrate a thieves’ guild, fight the walking dead, escape a network of spies, and challenge an organization that crushes freedom under the guise of security and benevolence. He relies on the knife skills his father had taught him, while trying to adhere to his adoptive mother's moral values. Aided by a tomb-robber, the sentient dagger, and the blessings of his mother's goddess, he strives to make his parents proud by bringing their murderers to justice and by preventing a catastrophic war. He finds that his most powerful weapon is not his wits or his father's blade -- but what little remains of his shattered innocence.

Chro said...

Sarah - I'll try to make the identities of Jak's parents more clear, thanks. I'll take your other comments into consideration too.

Actually, he does accidentally steal the artifact -- because he accidentally uses it in order to escape. Just imagine if you push a red button on a time machine, and go back 1000 years. You 'accidentally stole' the machine. ;)