Friday, February 24, 2017

Abhinav Bhat's Current Query Critiqued

Today we have Abhinav's query again, this time with my thoughts, in blue.

Here's the letter:

Dear Mr./Ms. Agent

Indy Ramsay has trained her entire teenage life for the day she would be recruited to the Reverend Council—the elite corps What is this? Corps makes it sound pretty militaristic. Is this Empire under military control? Or this more like a congress of leaders? The word council helps, but it would be great if you could get even more specific. This is actually pretty nit-picky of me, to be honest, but your opening is quite good, so it's difficult to find things that can be improved upon. that runs the Ever Empire. I really like this name. It rolls smoothly off the tongue. Instead, it is her grandfather, Eldritch, Is this a bit too on the nose? This is a word, albeit a kind of archaic one, but I'm sure you know that. Hard to judge from the query, but I'm sure it works in the book. who is inexplicably chosen and then promptly sent away on a mission, leaving behind a shattered and dejected Indy. Hmm. Wow. Now that's a twist I didn't see coming.

All in all, this is a really good opening. You introduce Indy right away, and you subtly and skillfully set up her backstory so that we know what kind of person she is (ambitious, dutiful, honor-bound). If I was to nit-pick one big picture item about this opening, it would probably be that we don't really have a major reason to sympathize with Indy right away. I mean, you do kind of set up this nice conflict where her dreams are suddenly torn away from her, but it would be nice to get one more element of her character that was clearly sympathetic, so that we could root for her from the very beginning.

The very next day, the Council is under siege from an unknown enemy; What does this mean? Like literally? Physically under siege? This is vague. Vague language is the greatest enemy of a good query. the annual market has been burnt to cinders, the Parliament So there's a Reverend Council and a Parliament? Or is the Parliament just the building the Council meets in? For the most part this is all very good, but this part is a bit confusing. stands destroyed in an earthquake, and Eldritch returns home to find his entire family murdered, all except his grandson. Wait, what? I though Indy was a girl? Is this some other character?

He will get his grandson back, he is told, By whom? The unknown enemy? Unless there's some specific plot twist reason not to reveal this detail in the query, don't hold back. if he betrays the Empire—a simple act . . . Millions of lives weighed against his grandson. Man, this is some great conflict and a truly sadistic choice. Eldritch wants to not care . . . The Empire has heroes and patriots and omniscient deities enough. Whoa. Now this sounds cool. Let them save whoever they can.

Unbeknownst to him, Indy is also alive. Ah, okay. So it's two different characters. Got it. Targeted for death as Eldritch's blood, she manages to defeat her assailants Again, this is vague. We have no idea who these antagonists are. and learn of the enemy's plan for the Empire and Eldritch.

Humanity, kindness, justice, and above all else, the Empire. This is what Eldritch has taught her.

She will live by it. As riots rage throughout the city and the enemy brings its true might We have no idea what this means. Be specific. Is it an army? to bear upon the Empire, Indy will prove herself worthy of the Empire and the validation she was denied. She will find and stop Eldritch, Oh, interesting twist, this. she will save the Empire at any cost.

Then what if the cost be Eldritch himself? Nice.

THE BURNT STATE is an adult fantasy novel about a girl and her grandfather, and the Empire that tilts on their decisions. It is complete at 113,000 words. This is great. One more detail that might help, since the query isn't clear on this, is whether this book is narrated from their alternating points of view. If I had to guess, I would say it probably is, because A) Indy is a teenager and if it was just her it would be a young adult novel most likely, and B) the query seems to point to a good deal of the story being about Eldritch, with no involvement from Indy. It can sometimes help to clarify that her in your housekeeping section, but it's not necessarily required.

I have had a short story titled "Blah Blah Blah" published in Apex Magazine Apex Magazine in 2016. This is my first novel. You don't need this.

Thank you for your time and consideration.
Sincerely,
Abhinav Bhat

In summary, this query is already quite good. The opening is especially strong. There is a good deal of vague language in the middle, but you finish up strong, and I think if you clarified a few things in the middle, you'd be in excellent shape, and would probably get a high rate of requests if you started sending this out.

That's it!

What do you think? Please share your thoughts and feedback below.

3 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I was confused by the grandson line as well. It's got potential, but it needs to be more focused and a bit shorter.

Susan Kane said...


Like Alex, I was confused about the characters.

mshatch said...

I agree with Matt and here's my take on improving (comments in parentheses)

Dear Mr./Ms. Agent

17 (or whatever)year old Indy Ramsay has trained her entire life for the day she would be recruited to the Reverend Council—the elite corps that runs the Ever Empire. Humanity, kindness, justice, and above all else, the Empire. This is what her beloved grandfather, Eldritch, has taught her. Instead, it is Eldritch, who is inexplicably chosen and promptly sent away on a mission.

The next day, the Council is under siege from an unknown enemy; the annual market has burnt to cinders, the Parliament destroyed by an earthquake, and Eldritch returns home to find his entire family gone except his grandson who is being held by the enemy (That’s a lot of stuff to have happen in a single day, especially if at least some of it isn’t hinted at before hand. Not that this has anything to do with the query).

He can have his grandson back, he is told, if he betrays the Empire—a simple act . . . Millions of lives weighed against his grandson. (If he does so or agrees to do so, I think you should say so in the query)

Unbeknownst to him, Indy is also alive and she knows the enemy’s plans for the Empire and Eldritch.

Humanity, kindness, justice, and above all else, the Empire. This is what Eldritch has taught her. And this is what Indy will live by. As riots rage throughout the city and the enemy brings its true might to bear upon the Empire, Indy will have to prove herself worthy of the Empire and the validation she was denied. She will find and stop Eldritch, and she will save the Empire at any cost.

But what if the cost is Eldritch himself?

THE BURNT STATE is an adult fantasy novel about a girl and her grandfather, and the Empire that tilts on their decisions. It is complete at 113,000 words.

My short story Blah Blah Blah (should be italics I think) published in Apex Magazine in 2016. This is my first novel.