Wednesday, July 24, 2013

An Agent's Inbox #13

Dear Bridget,

Samantha Silverwood is the key to protecting the galaxy, or bringing about its end.

Sixteen-year-old Samantha will be training at Kungorum Academy to be a Weaver, a psionic protector of the universe. Unfortunately she is not sure how she got into the Academy in the first place with her crippling shyness, unique looks that get her bullied and Weaver abilities that are sub-par at best. Overall she does not truly believe she can even protect herself.

That is until an Imperial shuttle crash lands directly into her classroom bringing with it an ancient enemy that may or may not just be in her imagination. While trying to discover the truth she learns a secret about her past that changes everything she knew about herself and her deceased parents. Then her and her friends are attacked by a creature only she can see and must stop it from getting to a special crystal at Kungorum, one of the few remaining that still have the power to protect the galaxy.

And this is just her first year at the Academy.

I am seeking representation for my manuscript, complete at 50,000 words with a working title FORGING SILVER: EMERGING DARKNESS. It is my first novel and the first of a YA Science Fiction quadrilogy that should appeal to young and adult readers alike.

Thank you for your time and consideration.



In the cold vacuum of space, where distance is measured in time, a small shuttle sat motionless. Pin point lights of distant stars and galaxies filled the darkness and reflected brightly off its smooth white hull. A massive nebula hung in space to the ship's starboard like an artist's canvas swirled with amazing colors. Intent with the task at hand and having had seen such sights so often before, the beauty and majesty of the scenes before them were lost on the occupants within.

“Once again, this is recon shuttle Ryder from the Bowen Imperial Union. Can anyone at all in the Penumbra Confederacy read me?” The young officer looked over at his companion and shrugged.

“That’s the tenth call out you’ve made, Mitch. I don’t know why the outposts in this sector aren’t responding, but I don’t think we need to keep trying.” The older of the two officers leaned back in the chair and propped his hands behind his head.

Sighing, Commander Mitchell agreed. “Alright Gaines, you win. I’ll call up Central Control; let them know we still can’t get a hold of anyone. I wonder if any of the other shuttles have had better luck.”

“I doubt it. If Control can’t get through with their Weavers, I don’t know why they thought sending shuttles to the boarders would make contact easier.” The older spacer leaned forward again and keyed a few commands into the console, then nodded to Mitchell. 


Susan Oloier said...

Let me start by saying I am not a Sci Fi reader. However, I believe the third paragraph of your query is the strongest. Things become more active here (shuttle crash lands, she and her friends are attacked). I truly believe active versus passive verbs will truly enhance your query letter. For example, “Sixteen-year-old Samantha trains” instead of “will be training”. I am not hooked until the action happens in graph 3.

I really like the premise behind your story and would like to see a bit more action (doesn’t have to be explosive action) in the sample, too. I do love description, so if you want to stick with that opening, I would enhance it a bit. Instead of “swirled with amazing colors” show us what the colors are. Show us more about the people who are speaking, as I don’t yet have a picture of who they are in my mind.

With your idea, I think this can be an amazing read! Good luck.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting premise.

One thing:

"Then her and her friends are attacked by a creature only she can see and must stop it from getting to a special crystal at Kungorum, one of the few remaining that still have the power to protect the galaxy."

I hate to be the grammar police, but it does matter, especially in a query. It should by "she and her friends".

Eric Steinberg said...

You've an interesting premise here and the query does a good job describing the characters and what happens.

I agree with Susan that the first two paragraphs would benefit from an active present sense and a little tightening Maybe something like:

"Sixteen-year-old Samantha trains at Kungorum Academy to be a Weaver, a psionic protector of the universe. Unfortunately she's not sure how she got into the Academy in the first place. With her crippling shyness, unique looks that get her bullied, and sub-par Weaver abilities, she cannot even protect herself."

I'd also cut the hook sentence or make it more specific.

The first 250 feels like the story may be starting in the wrong place. There's no mention of Samantha. After reading the query, I'd like to see that space ship crashing into Samantha's classroom.

Kelsey-plain and simple said...

I mostly agree with everything that's already been said. Those above have made a good point of where you can quickly and easily tighten up your query to make it shine that much brighter.

Unlike Eric, I'm content with where the story begins (all a preference. I can see where he's coming from). I do agree with Susan about maybe pumping up the description if that's where you're going to start. I liked the poetic feel of it, so I would love to see the colors you see in your head!
You're talented, no doubt! A spit shine will make your query zoom above the stars (Ah, Sci-fi space cliches. Beautiful).

Anonymous said...

Agreed with the others on the picky points, and also on the fact that this is really intriguing and sounds like a great read! However, I agree with Eric that Samantha seemed missing to me in the beginning. Starting elsewhere and with other characters gave the beginning more of an adult than YA feel to me. I really wanted to see her--especially from the set-up about her in paragraph one of your query. I'm sure you pop over to her soon, so I'd definitely read on to get to that.

Megan Reyes said...

I like Sci-Fi, so this kind of plot interests me.

I do have a few suggestions:
The first line… “or bringing about its end” seems slightly anti-climatic. Maybe you could use the word “destruction” instead of end?

Also, a lot of agents are turned off to the whole “savior of the world” (or universe in this case) so you might want to consider starting with something different. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a sucker for the whole Chosen-One character (in fact, I have one in my story!) but just know that it comes up in queries a LOT so you want your character to stand out.

“unique looks” is a bit bland. Could you give more description? Also, I would cut the “Overall” in the last sentence (2nd paragraph)—it’s not strong enough. Eric had some great suggestions for tweaking that paragraph.

“may or may not just be in her imagination”? This drew me in. I want to know why she can see things others can’t. I also want to know more about the crystal. What powers does it have? Why does it matter if the creature gets a hold of it?

50,000 words might be a bit short for a YA sci-fi novel, though it’s a great length for MG.

All in all, it’s a good start! With some tweaking and polishing, this is going to be a solid query for sure! Good job!

JasonMWeibel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JasonMWeibel said...

Thank you all for your comments. The 250 words falls just short of action starting unfortunately; it's also the prologue necessary for later too. Rules said first 250 words so I didn't want to jump ahead to chapter one.
I see your point on the opening hook Megan and Eric, it either needs to go or be changed. Since she is one of seven keys it wasn't supposed to sound like a 'chosen one' scenario. Maybe something more like this:
Seven keys are needed to bring about the destruction of the universe. Unfortunately for Samantha Silverwood, she the seventh.

Mandy P. said...

I'm a great lover of SF and always on-board for space opera, so this concept is right up my alley. However, I think the query can definitely use some tightening.

I think you really need to punch the query up and show us Samantha's voice, something along the line's of Eric's suggestion for your first paragraph. I agree with the Megan that you need to be more specific about what makes her look unique. Right now I'm not sure if she just feels like she's ugly (but in reality isn't) because other kids tease her or if she has some sort of deformity or something.

I agree with Megan that the "That is until an Imperial shuttle..." sentence is great! But I think the following sentence needs to be made more specific. "Discovering the truth" and "secrets" that "change everything she knew"...that's incredibly vague. Being specific makes a query pop. You don't have to give away everything but you need to tell us enough so that we can distinguish it from all the other stories on the shelf.

In your 250, I really like your first line. It painted the perfect picture, but I was quickly lost in this conversation between two characters who are not in the query. I know you mentioned this is a prologue. Prologue's aren't inherently evil, but a lot of agents do frown on them. And it's rare you see a prologue in a YA book. If there is some way to get us to Samantha right away, to put us in her head, that would be best, since she's the character we want to care about.

Also the conversation between these officers read very mechanically to me. I think part of the problem is I didn't have a good sense of who's Point of View I was seeing the scene from. When reading I should always know who I'm viewing a story from and then the story can be filtered through their viewpoint. Is it Mitch? Is he curious why the outposts aren't responding? Is he concerned? Is he just bored out of his mind that he got this stupidly pointless duty when he'd rather be having adventures somewhere? There are so many ways you can go with this. (Yes, I recognize that you can have a distant third person omniscient viewpoint, but generally YA viewpoints tend to be much closer and more limited, helping to engage the reader in the moment.)

I think there is a lot of potential here, but based on the 250, I'm not sure I would keep reading.

Bridget Smith said...

Honestly, this sounds like a middle grade novel to me. It doesn’t have to be, but academies for special abilities often shine best in MG, and this is pretty short for SFF YA. It’s a possibility to consider!

As for this query: there aren’t enough specifics. Everything is couched in the vaguest of terms, which doesn’t allow it to distinguish itself from similar stories. It seems like it could be a fun book, but I’m not seeing enough from just this pitch to know for sure.

About the sample: does the book need to start here? Can it start with Samantha instead? If there’s no specific reason to start elsewhere, give us the character we’ll be following right up front, and start us off with her story.

Finally, there are a few grammatical errors here (as others have said, "her and her friends," among others) that would make me worry about seeing the same throughout the manuscript. You might want to find a grammar geek to run this by before sending it out.