Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Abhinav Bhat's Current Query Revised - Critiqued

Okay, today we have Abhinav's revised letter again, and questions, and I'm actually going to answer the questions first:

Questions, with my replies in blue:

I have been told on quite a few forums that the POV shift from Indy to Eldritch to Indy is jarring and unrequired and that I should be writing in one POV only. And that it should be Indy only. Does the shift work given that this is a dual POV novel?

I think the query should be written from only one POV. You can always mention the alternating POVs in your housekeeping section. There are, of course, probably queries out there that break this "rule" and break it well and make it work, but it's difficult, and non-standard, and queries are hard enough to get right already. As for whether the query should focus on Indy or Eldritch, well... that would depend on the manuscript, but it seems to work pretty well focusing, or at least starting with, Indy.

Many people are getting confused at the entire family being murdered and grandson left over, thinking that Indy's dead. I've added a clarification in brackets. Does it work?

Yeah it's definitely a little confusing as it's written. I will try to cover this in the critique below.

Is my novel YA or Adult? The tone of my novel is distinctly adult I feel. But others say that if the protagonist is teenage, then it's YA, even though I've two protagonists, but then if I have two protagonists, it can't be YA others say. I've been advised to up the age from teenage to twenty to make it adult. I'm confused. Please advise.

This is hard to say for certain without having read the manuscript, but don't let anyone tell you that just because your manuscript has one protagonist and/or narrator that is a teenager that automatically makes it a YA book. That's entirely inaccurate. Read All the Pretty Horses, by Cormac McCarthy, or The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss if you want to see two excellent examples of books with teenaged protagonists which are definitely not YA novels. The Rothfuss book is something you should almost certainly read, if you haven't, since it is also fantasy.

Again, I can't say for certain without having read your manuscript, but this sounds like Adult Epic Fantasy to me.

Anyway, let's move on to the revised letter, with my feedback in blue.

The query:

Dear Agent

Indy Ramsay has studied her entire teenage life for the day she would be recruited to the Reverend Council—the elite civil corps that runs the Ever Empire. Instead, it is her grandfather, Eldritch, who is inexplicably chosen and then promptly sent away on a mission, leaving behind a shattered and dejected Indy.

I won't rehash what I said the last time I critiqued this, but as far as I can tell, only one word in this opening paragraph has changed. You added "civil" to "elite corps." I don't think that was the biggest problem with this opening before. The problem, as I see it, is that you jump right into what starts happening to and around Indy, without taking the time to properly introduce her first. How old is she? What kind of person is she? Why should we care whether she succeeds?

The very next day, the city is under attack. The exiled heroes of a hundred subjugated races have returned, and they will see the Empire burn. And the Ramsay household is among their first targets.

This is much better than before. Could still use a bit more info about these heroes, but this is a big improvement.

Eldritch returns home to find his entire family murdered, all except his grandson, who has been taken prisoner. (Indy is presumed dead.) He presumes Indy has been killed along with the others. He will get his grandson back, he is told, if he betrays the Empire—a simple act . . . Millions of lives weighed against his grandson. Eldritch wants to not care . . . The Empire has heroes and patriots and omniscient deities enough. Let them save whoever they can.

This is ... too many ... ellipses for a query--avoid em-dashes too, if you can. They don't format well in email. Otherwise, this is good, but the prose kind of drags on. See if you can tighten it up. Short, clear, specific sentences, if you can.

Unbeknownst to Eldritch, Indy is also alive. This is somewhat redundant. You already said he presumes she's dead. Maybe something like "Yet Indy was not among the victims." Targeted for death as Eldritch's blood, she instead manages to defeat her assailants and learn of the enemy's plan for Eldritch to betray the Empire.

The Empire. Above humanity. Above her brother. Above all else. This is what Eldritch has taught her.

She will live by it.

The rest of this is pretty good.

As the heroes incite riots in the city and the underclass rises up in rebellion against the Council, Indy will prove herself worthy of the Empire and the validation she was denied. She will find and stop Eldritch, she will save the Empire at any cost.

Even if the cost be Eldritch himself. I don't think you need this. It's pretty clearly implied.

THE BURNT STATE is an adult fantasy novel about a girl and her grandfather as seen narrated from their alternating points of view. It is complete at 113,000 words.

So, in summary, this is a marked improvement. The conflict in the middle is still a bit muddied, but it's much clearer than it was. The biggest thing you should still work on is introducing Indy earlier and better, so that readers know more about her character, and can sympathize with her more easily.

That's it!

Please share your thoughts below.

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