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  1. #1
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    Ready for torture .... Opps! critique for QL (lol) :D

    Allow me to try (yet) again.

    Thanks to all who have helped thus far, I know I must be boring you all to death by now!



    In tenth century Europe soothsayer Cecilia is given a gift; immortality. Trouble is, to her it’s a curse – she wants to die.

    Perun, Slav God of Thunder & Lightning, has selected Cecilia to ensure the prophecy of one thousand years comes true. However, to do so, she must defeat the merciless Jezi Baba witches, who have tormented humanity throughout millennia.

    Cecilia’s duty seems simple. She must protect a bloodline from the witches and their carnivorous minions. But, as the witches are immortal creatures of death, she too must become immortal. Her duty will span centuries of wars, famines and plagues and her own conscience and resolve will be tested many times as she watches man’s misery unfold, capable of little more than guidance. For Perun’s promise of humanity’s salvation will not come until the 21st century.

    Her decision – one of blind faith and complete self-sacrifice.

    Her success measured by the saving of a lost soul; that of a Jezi Baba. Once a loving mother, in the 16th century, Dora sold her soul to save her daughters life, and became the fifth Jezi Baba. If Cecilia can find a way to capture the witches but save Dora’s soul, she’ll also save mankind. If not, mans suffering will be escalated. For within the bloodline Cecilia is charged with protecting runs not only the blood of kings but also of witches. Her wards could be the next generation of Jezi Babas and Cecilia their tutor.

    Her task, find the essence of good that lay in everyone and use it as both weapon and tool.

    ZVONIMIR’S CURSE is an 115,000-word historical fantasy set against European history and Slavic mythology.

    This story draws on my Croatian heritage interweaving Slav mythological creatures as the enemy of all mankind.

    Thank you for your time and consideration
    if the wine is sour – throw it out

    SatyricalRaven



  2. #2
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    Re: Ready for torture .... Opps! critique for QL (lol) :D

    You had the last version down to three characters, C, P, and the JBs and it was starting to make sense. Now you've added Dora along with another plot complication. Sorry, but this one seems a step backward in readability.

    Stan

  3. #3
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    Re: Ready for torture .... Opps! critique for QL (lol) :D

    I agree with Stan. Also, think of the semicolons...the poor, abused semicolons...

  4. #4
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    Re: Ready for torture .... Opps! critique for QL (lol) :D

    JUST MY OPINION, FEEL FREE TO IGNORE:

    "In tenth century Europe soothsayer Cecilia is given a gift; immortality. Trouble is, to her it’s a curse – she wants to die."

    Okay, I want to show you something here that may be helpful to you in other parts of your writing.

    I don't like this opening sentence. I think it's really awkward. So, let's pick it apart. Assuming you want to stick with opening your letter this way, what really needs to go in that first sentence? What is really valuable there? And most importantly, what will keep an agent reading?

    So we want to look for stuff that punches up an opening. The rest can be inserted in lower paragraphs, right? And that gives us (AGAIN, IN MY OPINION):

    tenth century soothsayer Cecilia immortality curse

    Okay, IN MY OPINION (I'm getting my a$$ kicked so much around here lately, I feel the need to constantly remind folks that I'm simply expressing an opinion), those are the words I'd want to keep. The rest I'd put aside, for now. They could pop up later in the Q.

    So now we construct an opening that includes those words because they have more punch than anything else in the sentence you wrote. And MAYBE we start our first rewrite with this:

    Cecilia, a tenth century soothsayer, has been given immortality. Trouble is, to her it's a curse.

    Or, you might break it up like this:

    Cecilia, a tenth century soothsayer, has been given immortality.

    Trouble is, to her it's a curse.


    Let's look back at your original sentence:

    "In tenth century Europe soothsayer Cecilia is given a gift; immortality. Trouble is, to her it’s a curse – she wants to die."

    Do you see the difference? Do you see that "she wants to die" dilutes the strength of "it's a curse." And the other stuff in your sentence just weighs it down. You don't need it.

    THEN you start your next paragraph and explain why immortality would be a curse to this person plus all the other elements you want to include in your Q letter. Europe. Doesn't want to live forever, etc.

    I'm not saying that sentence is perfect. I'm saying it's more likely to make the agent keep reading, and it's constructed of the words you already used, just in a different order, and IN MY OPINION a more effective order.

    If you look at every sentence in a Q letter this way, you'll come out with a stronger letter. And considering how short a Q letter is, you need that strength to attract an agent.

    But of course, it's JUST MY OPINION, feel free to ignore.

    Hope it helps.

    Four edits. Jeez, I need some sleep!

  5. #5
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    Re: Ready for torture .... Opps! critique for QL (lol) :D

    leslee, that is great. I wanted to give some input but I did not know how to suggest improving it. And in the absence of that - I figured I better shut up, lol.

    Sometimes it is easy to see that a certain chapter is not quite what it should be ~ but very, very difficult to point out exactly what is wrong, or even more difficult, how it could read better.

    Of course I am only speaking for myself B). Some of you really seem experts at focusing on just that part that needs tweaking (sp?), and then even suggesting the improvement.

    Which is why this is such a great forum!

  6. #6
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    Re: Ready for torture .... Opps! critique for QL (lol) :D

    Raven,

    I think the problem here is that you don't give us anything to identify with.

    Here's your opening salvo:

    In tenth century Europe soothsayer Cecilia is given a gift; immortality. Trouble is, to her it’s a curse – she wants to die.

    No one identifies with the 10th century, let alone the vague "Europe," which makes it seem that Cecilia wanders around between borders and therefore can't claim a region or country. Neither can anyone identify with immortality. A few folks can identify with a desire to die, but I'm betting you don't want an agent who would. Your first sentence, the most important does nothing to bring a reader, let alone an agent, into your story.

    So you waste the opening line? Okay. But what follows is more of the same. We have a god, undefined prophecy, undefined witches, vague bloodline protection. We've got minions, wars, famines, resolve, testing, misery, promise of salvation, blind faith, saving lost soul. You get the idea. There is nothing here that gives us a character we care for with a problem we care about. For you, all these esoteric words have meaning; for the reader they have none. You've failed to put yourself into the mindset of an agent, which will be assumed to mean you have failed to place yourself into the mindset of a reader.

    I'd recommend you look closely at what universal characters and themes gird your story. Bring an agent into your tale from those commonalities that bridge the past and present, fantasy and reality. There are so many great thinkers who have looked at myth as it applies to modern life. Read them; figure out how you can use those ideas to bring your story to life for someone who doesn't give a rat about 10th century Cecilia. Navigate your query from the premise that no one cares about Cecilia or 10th century Slav gods..

    I think that if we all kept in mind that no one needs our books, that no one cares, remembering that maybe three percent of us will get decent traditional publishing deals, and that it's up to us to prove otherwise, we'd come up with far more relevant queries.

    All harsh, I'm sure. But if you want to publish successfully, it is necessary to understand your audience -- here an audience of one -- and write to who you know that agent to be.

  7. #7
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    Re: Ready for torture .... Opps! critique for QL (lol) :D

    Thanks guys,

    Firstly to Leslee:
    1. I have found your opinion very valuable - EVERY TIME. Even if I don't always agree I always see the value. In this case I completely agree with you and I like the suggested changes.
    When I have (emotional) time and energy to address the changes, I'm intending to incorporate them.
    2. I don't think anyone half serious has ever taken your opinon as anything but your personal opinion. I have always said everything is the personal opinion of each individual. If you feel you have to explain opinion, then perhaps it is more in the eye (ear?) of the reader.
    3. Get some sleep! (I know how you feel!)

    Sabina:
    It is 100% true it is easier to see issue in others work. I think primarily the issue is not being able to remove yourself enough.

    CK:
    Thanks for all the suggested changes and identifying the issue.
    I will be looking at the 'vague' issue. I was attempting to remove detail so as to remove the 'wordy' issue I had earlier (last year) but I can see now what I may have done is to disconnect the reader. Or rather, not connect the reader in the first place. I will work on Leslee's suggestions and when I feel I have this 'right' I will then look to improving with your suggestions.
    I think I need to ignore the word-count issue. Trying to live up to the 250-300 word limit has, perhaps, resulted in a less than engaging QL. Writing the right QL is more important thna writing a short QL - I think anyway.

    To everyone:
    The funny?/sad? thing is that, it looks as though I really do have something.
    Aside from Ms. USA lit agent still waiting for the full MS, as it turns out, one of my 'checker-friends '(people who are reading the entire MS for spelling mistakes etc.) works with a fellow who was, until very recently, working for a very large publishing house. When he noticed my friend reading every day during lunch, he asked what it was etc. She offered him just a few pages to read. He has now asked for the first 10 chapters to pass on to one of his own 'mates' who still works for the publishing house. (it is a very large publishing house)
    I have actually said no. I do not want to burn a publishing house and perhaps burn other opportunities. Instead I have agreed to meet with the 'mate' and pitch the story - adding I expect to be signed to a lit agent.
    If the publishing house rep wants to see the MS I will then be contacting Ms USA lit agent and informing her of the same. If she wants to represent me to the house, bonus.
    I guess my point is, I must have something - I just need to understand how to prepare the QL so as to sell the book.

    SO thanks to everyone
    if the wine is sour – throw it out

    SatyricalRaven

  8. #8
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    Re: Ready for torture .... Opps! critique for QL (lol) :D

    Hi Rayven,

    If you are going to present your protagonist as someone who sees her immortality as a curse, or has been given eternal life but wants to die - then you need to follow that up in the synopsis by showing how Cecilia's desire to die impacts her choices and conflicts in the story. In all your synopsis attempts so far there doesn't appear to be a clear connection between Celia's viewpoint of her immortality and the story you are telling.

    If Cecilia's dissatisfaction with her live forever curse has no connection to the plot you are describing, then maybe you should leave her issues with her immortality out of the query entirely and reveal other things about her that have a clear connection to your story.

  9. #9
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    Re: Ready for torture .... Opps! critique for QL (lol) :D

    Simon,

    I wasn't writing a synopsis for critique, I was writing a query letter.

    In my synopsis, I have the advantage of length to add in the detail, which was my point - I have been too concerned (I think) with the word-count issue of query letters.
    if the wine is sour – throw it out

    SatyricalRaven

  10. #10
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    Re: Ready for torture .... Opps! critique for QL (lol) :D

    Hi Rayven

    I was talking about the short synopsis in your query letter. Nothing that you reveal about your story in your query relates in anyway to what you set up in your first paragraph - Cecelia being tortured about her immortality and it should. There should be clear and direct correlation between your hook and your mini synopsis in your query.

    Even if an agent accepts a synopsis and/or manuscript pages with the query. The fact is they won't read anything other than the query, unless the query hooks them. Throwing in an interesting inner conflict for your protagonist but then not letting the reader see how that conflict relates to the story in the synopsis paragraph in the query does not tend to add interest, but rather makes the reader question whether the writer understands the connection between a protagonist's inner conflict and outer ones (i.e. the plot).

    As I suggested in another thread, if your worried about word count, try to hone the story down to the barest of barest of bones (protagonist, goal, external obstacle, internal obstacle {[try coming up with an adjective to describe the protag that defines the internal obstacle] and stakes) in a sentence or two and then add a wee bit of flesh to the bone so that you have solid one paragraph description of the story. I realize your manuscript is an epic, but you need to find away to relate the epic quality of the story while zooming in on the heart of your protagonist's journey (both inner and outer).

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