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Author Topic: Luckless -- 76000 YA urban fantasy (*Updated* Post #5)  (Read 302 times)
night
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« on: November 30, 2017, 09:33:01 PM »

Hi everyone. It's been a while since my last query. My last query for my first novel never panned out. I'd realized it was the novel itself, and have spent the last 4 years working on a new novel.
Here's the query. I've spent the past month editing it to death. I really need a fresh pair of eyes. I want to thank everyone in advance, and I will be grateful for any feedback.


Sixteen-year-old Jayce has the worst of luck. Things around him tend to break, he can't ever hand in homework without something happening to it, and people around him have this habit of tripping and falling. He just wants his problem to go away.

When he meets a girl one day, he discovers she has the same problem he does, but she can control it. She tells him they are bad luckers, people born with unnaturally bad luck, whose purpose is to make bad things happen to people who deserve it. There aren't many of them left.

They immediately become friends, and she offers to teach him to control his bad luck by making a charm. A charm contains a person's bad luck and allows that person to use their bad luck when they want. He jumps at the opportunity to learn.

For once in his life, things are actually going his way. But creating the charm has also attracted the attention of good luckers -- those born with good luck, whose purpose is to destroy bad luck charms. If his charm is destroyed, he will be cursed by bad luck again. It is not possible to make another. He is not about to let that happen.

He takes the fight to them, which is something bad luckers never do. Good luckers have always been the hunters, and bad luckers have always been the hunted. Instead of losing just his charm, he may be paying a price far greater than having bad luck again -- his life.

LUCKLESS is a 76,000 word YA urban fantasy with series potential. As per your submission guidelines, enclosed are the XXX sample pages of LUCKLESS for your review. Thank you for your time and consideration.
« Last Edit: Yesterday at 03:02:38 AM by night » Logged
gckatz
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« Reply #1 on: December 01, 2017, 12:22:40 AM »

The structure here is solid, although it could stand to be condensed a good bit by getting rid of those short sentences that don't add any new information (my suggested cuts are below).

But (oh god, you know I'm about to say something SUPER obnoxious, don't you) my bigger issue here is that while this is fine, nothing about it jumps out at me. As written, this is a super basic plot that could belong to any urban fantasy: He's got a power, he discovers that he's part of a group of special magic people, there's another group of magic people who are hunting them, he must risk his life to fight them. Why should a reader pick up this book instead of any other urban fantasy?

Quote
Sixteen-year-old Jayce has the worst of luck. Things around him tend to break, he can't ever hand in homework without something happening to it, and people around him have this habit of tripping and falling. He just wants his problem to go away.

When he meets a girl one day, he discovers she who has the same problem he does, but she can control it. S she tells him they are bad luckers, people born with unnaturally bad luck, whose purpose is to make bad things happen to people who deserve it. There aren't many of them left. They immediately become friends, and sShe offers to teach him to control his bad luck by making a charm. A charm contains a person's bad luck and allows that person to use their bad luck when they want. He jumps at the opportunity to learn.

For once in his life, things are actually going his way. But creating the charm has also attracted the attention of good luckers -- those born with good luck, whose purpose is to destroy bad luck charms. If his charm is destroyed, he will be cursed by bad luck again. It is not possible to make another. He is not about to let that happen.

He takes the fight to them, which is something bad luckers never do. Good luckers have always been the hunters, and bad luckers have always been the hunted. Instead of losing just his charm, he may be paying a price far greater than having bad luck again -- his life.

LUCKLESS is a 76,000 word YA urban fantasy with series potential. As per your submission guidelines, enclosed are the XXX sample pages of LUCKLESS for your review. Thank you for your time and consideration.
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mgmystery
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« Reply #2 on: December 01, 2017, 08:09:20 AM »

Okay, I obviously know nothing about urban fantasy since gckatz (whose comments always seem spot-on, and I agree about the condensing) calls this a super-basic plot. I really like the bad luck aspect here, especially for a teen. I'd like to see some specific and incredibly embarrassing ways this makes his life miserable  Grin

But I have a question--If there are good luckers with the purpose of destroying them, how is Jayce so clueless about his condition to begin with? And is there a way to portray these good luckers as really bad people since they seem to be the antagonists?
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night
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« Reply #3 on: December 01, 2017, 08:52:10 AM »

Thank you gckatz and mgmystery for the critique. I really appreciate it. I've been banging my head on the walls for a long time because of this query. I think I have to start from scratch again. You both are right that the query is just a super basic plot. I couldn't see that until you guys showed me. I'm going to be rewriting it from scratch.

I thought the bad luck/good luck aspect would be enough to entice a reader, but it's not coming out clear in the query.

I've had several beta readers read the manuscript. One of them said my writing has improved a lot since my last attempt at a novel. All my readers have laughed out loud and giggled reading it. I think my next step is try to include the voice of Jayce in query, and as you pointed out mgmyster, to portray these good luckers as really bad people. They are the antagonists.

(There's a lot of specific incredibly embarrassing things/ways that makes his life miserable, but I won't spoil it)

Stay tuned for next query (will need some time as my brain thinks how abouts to do and create this)
« Last Edit: December 15, 2017, 04:21:47 PM by night » Logged
night
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« Reply #4 on: December 15, 2017, 04:27:30 PM »

Originally I had posted a 2nd version of the query here, but I still see problems in it. Please ignore for now. TY.
« Last Edit: December 16, 2017, 10:42:39 PM by night » Logged
night
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« Reply #5 on: Yesterday at 03:01:51 AM »

Hi friends. After spending nearly 2 months rewriting this thing over and over again, I've already gouged my eyes out multiple times. I need a new fresh pair of eyes.  Grin

As per your wonderful and helpful suggestions, I've tried to add more plot, enhance what the protagonist wants, describe the antagonists more, and upped the stakes. Thanks again.


Sixteen-year-old Jayce can't get through a day of high school without being bullied. He would stand up to them, but the odds are always stacked against him, literally. Since he was born, nothing has ever gone his way. He is the unluckiest teenager in the world, but at least he's alive.

When he meets a girl one day, he discovers the crappy luck he's had all his life is actually an ability he's yet learned to control. He and the girl are bad luckers, people born with bad luck, but can keep it under control if they make bad things happen to others instead. He learns from the girl how.

The bullies get what's been coming to them. But using his power has drawn the attention of good luckers, people born with good luck, who've been hunting bad luckers since forever. They've already tried taking him out. He wants to take them down before they get to him again, but he might as well be handing his head to them on a platter.

The good luckers have a prodigy leading them, and a sociopathic mayor backing them. The prodigy has also made a deal with the mayor -- help the mayor win the election, and the mayor will give them the knowledge to create a weapon that can end all bad luckers.

Jayce enlists the help of other bad luckers, but they won't get off their asses to do anything. They've always run instead of fighting back. With the deal drawing a near close, he must convince them to do something. Otherwise, in the end, the bully will win, and they'll all be dead.
« Last Edit: Yesterday at 03:12:59 AM by night » Logged
GVonCarstein
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« Reply #6 on: Yesterday at 03:30:37 PM »

Hey there. I just want to give a bit of encouragement here because I know how hard it is to work 'this angle' on a YA urban fantasy. Gckatz is right, this is a common thematic for this kind of novel, one that I've trunked myself until I can rethink some elements to make them splash. You've got interesting elements in the query and I think you just need to highlight them a bit more.

---

Sixteen-year-old Jayce can't get through a day of high school without being bullied.1 He would stand up to them, but the odds are always stacked against him, literally. Since he was born, nothing has ever gone his way. He is the unluckiest teenager in the world, but at least he's alive.2
1) Of course I'm going to lead off with a comment that is not actually about the query. I've found writing 'realistic bullying' is actually very tough - maybe it was because of my own experiences as a teen, but bullying at that age was either a slow simmer or plain physical rather than the outrageous things that happen in movies/on TV. I'm interested to know what sorts of circumstances you use to show it.
2) I would absolutely lead with the Bad Luck piece, and then transition to show briefly how it effects him. Bullying and one other example would be enough. I would, however, remove the 'at least he's alive.' It sort of begs the thought that death is the only alternative he has, which makes this a much darker book - I would note not everyone would read it that way, I'll admit, but some might.


When he meets a girl1 one day, he discovers the crappy luck he's had all his life is actually an ability he's yetcan learned to control. He and the girl are bad luckers, people born with bad luck, but theycan keep it under control if they make bad things happen to others instead of suffering themselves. He learns from the girl how.
1) I assume this girl is a major character and companion and possibly romantic interest. NAME! Namenamename. Refer back to her in your section about the stakes.

The bullies get what's been coming to them. Bbut using his power has drawn the attention of Good Luckers,1 people born with good luck, who've been hunting bad luckers since forever.2 They've already tried taking him out.3 He wants to take them down before they get to him again, but he might as well be handing his head to them on a platter.4
1) If they have an in-universe name, give it. 'Good Luckers' is a hard sell without the narrative behind it.
2) 'Since forever' is not interesting. If the in-universe reason is 'always' then don't quantify, they just hunt each other.
3) What? When? If this is a major plot point/turning moment, give me some detail. If not, it's enough to know they are hunting him.
4) How is he failing? What is the major plot element that is causing this? 'Head on a platter' is generic and doesn't tell me the interesting bits that will make an agent/editor say 'Ooh, neat.'


The good luckers have a prodigy leading them, and a sociopathic mayor backing them. The prodigy has also made a deal with the mayor1 -- help the mayor win the election, and the mayor will give them the knowledge to create a weapon that can end all bad luckers.2
1) If the mayor is backing them why does there need to be a deal?
2) Wait what now? Being a sociopath does not give one knowledge on how to create a genocide weapon. Need more.

Jayce enlists the help of other bad luckers, but they won't get off their asses to do anything. They've always run instead of fighting back. With the deal drawing a near close, he must convince them to do something.1 Otherwise, in the end, the bully will win, and they'll all be dead.2
1) 'You will all die' seems pretty convincing. Your characterization of them makes the bad luckers seem irredeemable where I assume they are supposed to be an eclectic mix of hooligans that need to bond together against the tyranny of oppression. Being too lazy (as opposed to scared) to do something is a little silly.
2) This is a blurb sentence, by which I mean it is filled with theme reference but isn't direct enough about what the stakes are. Yes, death is a big stake, but I want to know something more personal for Jayce. Death also means losing his newfound love, his new puppy or whatever. 'Death' as a concept is tough to relate to for a teen, but losing other people isn't.


One last overall comment I have is to try and break yourself from 'Punchy Paragraph Syndrome.' You're using 5 paragraphs and watering down your content where you could use two paragraphs to set up your world, then dial in the tension.
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TigerAsh
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« Reply #7 on: Today at 02:26:43 AM »

Hi friends. After spending nearly 2 months rewriting this thing over and over again, I've already gouged my eyes out multiple times. I need a new fresh pair of eyes.  Grin

As per your wonderful and helpful suggestions, I've tried to add more plot, enhance what the protagonist wants, describe the antagonists more, and upped the stakes. Thanks again.


Sixteen-year-old Jayce can't get through a day of high school without being bullied. He would stand up to them, but the odds are always stacked against him, literally. Since he was born, nothing has ever gone his way. He is the unluckiest teenager in the world, but at least he's alive.

When he meets a girl one day, he discovers the crappy luck he's had all his life is actually an ability he's yet learned to control. He and the girl are bad luckers, people born with bad luck, but can keep it under control if they make bad things happen to others instead. He learns from the girl how, and the bullies get what's been coming to them. But using his power has drawn the attention of good luckers, people born with good luck, who've been hunting bad luckers since forever. They've already tried taking him out. He wants to take them down before they get to him again, but he might as well be handing his head to them on a platter. [Personally I'm having a hard time understanding how a bad lucker managed to avoid being taken out by a good lucker, just based on their powers...so if you could maybe explain how that's possible?]

The good luckers have a prodigy leading them, and a sociopathic mayor backing them. The prodigy has also made a deal with the mayor -- help the mayor win the election, and the mayor will give them the knowledge to create a weapon that can end all bad luckers. [If the mayor is already backing them, while does the prodigy need to make any deal with the good luckers?]

Jayce enlists the help of other bad luckers, but they won't get off their asses to do anything. They've always run instead of fighting back. With the deal drawing a near close, he must convince them to do something. Otherwise, in the end, the bully will win, [Are you saying one of the kids bullying him is a good lucker? If so, it seems kind of thrown in there at the end.]and they'll all be dead.


I think overall your query is good. However, I personally feel like something is missing--that spark that will make multiple agents die to read your manuscript. I feel bad saying that and not providing a solution to the problem ... but I just can't seem to put my finger on what it is.


I think it may go back to what gckatz said before:


But (oh god, you know I'm about to say something SUPER obnoxious, don't you) my bigger issue here is that while this is fine, nothing about it jumps out at me. As written, this is a super basic plot that could belong to any urban fantasy: He's got a power, he discovers that he's part of a group of special magic people, there's another group of magic people who are hunting them, he must risk his life to fight them. Why should a reader pick up this book instead of any other urban fantasy?


I think I'm still missing those details that tell me why your fantasy is unique and different from other fantasies. I think if you add those, it'll make your query stronger.



I hope my comments help you in some way. Good luck!  Smiley


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night
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« Reply #8 on: Today at 03:09:58 AM »

Thank you GvonCarstein. You've given me a lot to think about and a new direction to steer in. Will be working on it and hopefully have something soon. (I actually have another version written where I led with the bad luck piece and transition in how it affects him. You read my mind. Going to try and restart from there)

@TigerAsh
This query thing has been harder for me than writing a book =(  I'll keep at it.

The biggest thing I feel stands out about my novel is the theme about luck. Having bad luck doesn't necessary mean it's bad. Having good luck doesn't necessary mean it's good or you can be happy. What's perceived as bad can be good, and good can be bad.

I've used a lot concepts like roosters crowing at night, breaking mirrors, four leaf clovers, horseshoes, black cats crossing your path, etc. Basically anything to do with good luck or bad luck that people are familiar with and incorporated it into a unique magic system. But I'm not sure if that can be a selling point, or how I could even go about to put it in the query. I think I need to concentrate on other areas GvonCarstein has suggested.
« Last Edit: Today at 03:26:43 PM by night » Logged
Pineapplejuice
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« Reply #9 on: Today at 07:29:55 AM »

I really like how clean and simple the query is. I really love 'at least he is still alive' , personally so I think it's subjective. I thought it showed voice and narrative rhythm, which I need in my fiction. I personally wouldn't go into a bullying example because it will bog down the query and whether or not you've written the bullying scenes well will be revealed in the reading.

I did find the last bits confusing though and I'd want to know how the sociopathic mayor is backing the goodluckers, and/or why he knows they exist. Like, I imagine the general population doesn't know about these Luckers.

It sounds original enough to me, to be interesting. Not sure why everyone is assuming your ideas won't be told in a fresh way, as reading your query I trusted it was going to be an interesting story. Maybe I"ve been living under a rock, but I've never heard this 'goodluck' , 'badluck' idea before so it's fresh to me

I agree with Tiger Ash it might be good to inlclude an explanation on  how the goodluckers can take out the badluckers...however I must have a good imagination because I kind of figured it out in my own head how this would be possible. I dunno. I think I just 'get' you easier than other peeps. But I'm not saying their opinons are wrong, just that I liked the query and didn't see much wrong with it really. I suppose it's lacks a great 'hook', like I didn't feel like 'Oh I have to red this!' but on the otherhand I liked reading it and I wasn't bored at any point, and I get bored reading queries often. Good to keep considering all feedback though...Um...'Goodluck' with it...lol
« Last Edit: Today at 07:49:01 AM by Pineapplejuice » Logged
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