Author Topic: To Whichever Darkness [YA Fantasy]  (Read 182 times)

Offline louise00

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To Whichever Darkness [YA Fantasy]
« on: October 13, 2021, 02:38:41 PM »
I had another little flurry of form rejections this morning (Tuesday/Wednesday seems to be a popular day for them?) and one was particularly crushing since it came off a partial. I think I need to accept my query needs some more work and, ideally, a new set of eyes.

Here’s what I’ve got, but I’ll rewrite from scratch if needs be. Any feedback much appreciated!


Second attempt in later comment.


[Dear Agent]

I hope my novel, TO WHICHEVER DARKNESS, might interest you. Complete at 89,000 words, it is a queer YA Fantasy retelling of the ballet Giselle.

Murdered by her lover, a eighteen-year-old girl discovers a realm of vengeful spirits and fights for the chance to claim a bloody revenge.

Gisele Raskopf is trapped but resigned to her life below stairs, a kitchen maid in a grand manor home. With an overbearing mother and a best friend preparing to leave her behind, it might not be much, but it’s the life she’s been given. All that changes when a charming merchant, Bren, arrives in the nearby village and sweeps her off her feet. Suddenly, Gisele is sneaking about at night and making plans to elope.

But Bren is not who he says he is, and all Gisele’s plans fall apart when, their secrets revealed, he drives a sword between her ribs.

Thrown into the Unbekannt, the realm of murderous villi, Gisele finds herself the newest addition to their deadly hoard. Desperate to make a place for herself—and determined, in this new life, to bow to no-one—Gisele embraces the villi’s merciless, blood-soaked world. Each ruthless lesson in poison or swordplay brings her closer to the revenge she craves. Yet even as Gisele’s confidence grows, she finds herself torn between a vila’s bloodlust and her own lingering human morality.

When her old life intrudes, Gisele must decide which sacrifice she’ll make: her burgeoning new freedoms, or the loved ones she left behind.


I hope it will appeal to fans of WICKED SAINTS, VESPERTINE, and GIDEON THE NINTH.

[Bio, sign off etc.]
« Last Edit: October 21, 2021, 06:33:35 AM by louise00 »

Offline susan-louise

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Re: To Whichever Darkness [YA Fantasy]
« Reply #1 on: October 14, 2021, 01:09:24 AM »
This sounds like a great story for YA readers, and how clever to base it on Giselle (I love this ballet!).  I think the query does need tightening but be proud of that partial request and now  make the query work even better for you.


[Dear Agent]

I hope my novel, TO WHICHEVER DARKNESS, might interest you. Complete at 89,000 words, it is a queer YA Fantasy retelling of the ballet Giselle.

Murdered by her lover, an eighteen-year-old girl discovers a realm of vengeful spirits and fights for the chance to claim bloody revenge.    This is a great pitch!

Gisele Raskopf is trapped but resigned to by her life below stairs, a kitchen maid in a grand manor home. With an overbearing mother and a best friend preparing to leave her behind,  it might not be much, but it’s the life she’s been given.

This could be strengthened and the emotional stakes made clearer.  How about Giselle is trapped by her menial  life below stairs and her only friend preparing to leave the village"  explains why she is so susceptible to the merchant

All this changes when a charming merchant, Bren, arrives in the nearby village and sweeps her off her feet. Suddenly, Gisele is sneaking about at night and making plans to elope.
 A "charming merchant sweeping her off feet" is a little predicable. Can you use more colourful language??


But Bren is not who he says he is, and all Gisele’s plans fall apart when, their secrets revealed, he drives a sword between her ribs.  ( This was a long sentence.   But more important, as a reader I need some sense of the high drama that would end in her murder. Is he a serial killer?  Also the phrase "their secrets revealed" was confusing (to me). Otherwise it is just "telling").  For example, something like....

But appearances are deceptive and Gisele's romantic dreams shatter when Bren drives a sword between her ribs.


Thrown into the Unbekannt (is it a river? that's what I am envisaging in which case you might need to say) the  (underworld?) realm of murderous villi, Gisele finds herself becomes the newest addition to their deadly hoard. Desperate to make a place for herself Determined, in this new life existence, to bow to no-one, Gisele embraces the villi’s merciless, blood-soaked (choose one, not both adjectives) world.Each ruthless lesson in poison or swordplay brings her closer to the revenge she craves.  (ok so now we have the stakes.  She is being taught to murder...but who?  Are the villi let lose to kill? Do they hate human kind?  What does being a Villi mean?? Not clear why being one suddenly empowers her. And now you tell me she wants revenge. So,  is she after Bren??  ) Yet even as Gisele’s confidence grows, she finds herself is torn between a vila’s bloodlust and her own lingering human morality. Does this mean that as a new vila, she is torn between her hunger for killing and her lingering humanity?   Is she likely to be asked to kill her friends etc?  If so, this is a key dilemma that might need honing.

When her old life intrudes, Gisele must decide which sacrifice she'll make whether she'll sacrifice her burgeoning new freedoms if she has been taught to kill and this empowers her you need a stronger phrase than "new freedoms  eg "her intoxicating new powers", or the loved ones she left behind.  (this was a good paragraph...the dilemma well presented.)

I hope it will appeal to fans of WICKED SAINTS, VESPERTINE, and GIDEON THE NINTH.

  (Don't forget to add a couple of sentences about your biography)
« Last Edit: October 14, 2021, 08:04:55 AM by susan-louise »

Offline louise00

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Re: To Whichever Darkness [YA Fantasy]
« Reply #2 on: October 14, 2021, 09:14:47 AM »
Thanks susan-louise! <3

This is great feedback and I really appreciate all your suggestions. Reading your notes makes me see the spots I think I knew (deep down) were causing problems. I'll get to work implementing changes into a fresh letter.

Offline susan-louise

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Re: To Whichever Darkness [YA Fantasy]
« Reply #3 on: October 14, 2021, 11:56:50 PM »
Glad  it helped, Louise00.  Also, meant to say, you should italicise the the ballet, Giselle.  The refinement process can be exhausting but it is worth the blood, sweat and tears.  Wishing you well with the re-crafting. 

Offline louise00

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Re: To Whichever Darkness [YA Fantasy]
« Reply #4 on: October 21, 2021, 06:35:06 AM »
Updated with help from susan-louise's wonderful suggestions. Fingers crossed!

Trapped in a menial life below-stairs, Gisele can only watch as her childhood friends drift away: high-born Liesl to a distant arranged marriage, and gruff Henek to resentment caused by his unrequited crush. Then Bren arrives, and he’s everything Gisele dreams of--handsome, charming, and able to take her far, far away.

But Bren is keeping a secret. He’s Liesl’s fiancée. When the engagement—and the inheritance that comes with it—is threatened, he takes violent steps to ensure Gisele’s silence.

Her romantic dreams shatter when Bren drives a blade between her ribs.

Gisele awakens in an underworld realm amongst the villi, murderous spirits from childhood tales. Immortal, under the rule of a ruthless queen, they hunt down the guilty from beyond the grave. If Gisele stays, she must become a killer. If she refuses, she faces an uncertain future as a wandering, tormented ghost. Determined, in this new existence, to look out only for herself, Gisele embraces the villi’s blood-soaked world. Each lesson in poison or swordplay brings her closer to the revenge she craves, the chance to face Bren and make him pay for what he’s done.

Then the villi turn their anger towards Henek, and Gisele’s old life intrudes. Torn between lust for vengeance and her lingering humanity, she faces an impossible choice. Does she cling to her chance for revenge or protect the loved ones she left behind?

Offline susan-louise

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Re: To Whichever Darkness [YA Fantasy]
« Reply #5 on: October 21, 2021, 11:27:43 AM »
Louise00 - Wow!! You have transformed it.  Your voice is true and strong and I can imagine YA readers devouring this novel. It reads so well and all the bits that hindered flow or created plot confusions have gone.  Here are just a few small comments that might help tighten it  further.

Trapped in a menial life below-stairs, Gisele can only watch as her childhood friends drift away: high-born (aristocratic??) Liesl to a distant arranged marriage (could this be phrased simply as an arranged marriage? because the "distant" is halting the natural flow you have established and also, imo, too much information)), and gruff (moody?  gruff seems odd here) Henek to resentment caused by his unrequited crush.  (or AN unrequited crush?  because you don't indicate who he is crushing on) Then Bren arrives, and he’s everything Gisele dreams of--handsome, charming, and able to take her far, far away.   (this first para now sets the scene, stakes and draws me in.  Also glad the handsome and charming merchant has gone!.)

But Bren is keeping a secret. He’s Liesl’s fiancée. When the engagement—and the inheritance that comes with it—is threatened, he takes violent steps to ensure Gisele’s silence.

This is good...giving the plot context that was missing earlier.  But  having read it again three times, I am wondering if you are "telling" us too much in the following sentence, ie knife in ribs?.  Given the query is supposed to entice and tantalise etc.  Is there any way you can rephrase this excellent para...so that it doesn't reveal too much?  I know I said previously the death needed more context but sometimes it's a balancing act between how much or how little we say. When I was writing/honing my query letter (over months) this was something I became very conscious of.   Perhaps another way of getting around this is simply to leave out the "knife in the ribs"..   

So it could become   "he takes violent steps to ensure Gisele's silence, shattering her romantic dreams forever...."  thus removing some of the telling with the knife in ribs.  What do you think?

 


Her romantic dreams shatter when Bren drives a blade between her ribs. 

Gisele awakens in an underworld realm amongst the villi, murderous spirits from childhood tales. Immortal, under the rule of a ruthless queen, they hunt down the guilty from beyond the grave.  (LOVE it...this now adds vital context.  The world you have crafted sounds fascinating!) If Gisele stays, she must become a killer. If she refuses, she faces an uncertain future as a wandering, (I think tormented says it all...I guess ghosts do "wander" so be ruthless with the words here )tormented ghost. Determined, in this new existence, to look out only for herself, Gisele embraces the villi’s blood-soaked world. Each lesson in poison or swordplay brings her closer to the revenge she craves, the chance to face Bren and make him Bren pay for what he’s done.  (Sakes are clear and I can imagine YA readers loving this so much)

Then  When might be stronger? the villi turn their anger towards Henek, and Gisele’s old life intrudes. Torn between lust for vengeance and her lingering humanity, she faces an impossible choice. Does she cling to her chance for revenge or protect the loved ones she left behind?  (We read much about the risks of posing questions such as this in queries.  To safeguard this excellent version, were it me, I would rephrase it...
...she faces an impossible choise: to cling to her chance for revenge, or protect the loved ones she left behind...)

« Last Edit: October 21, 2021, 11:47:46 AM by susan-louise »

Offline louise00

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Re: To Whichever Darkness [YA Fantasy]
« Reply #6 on: October 21, 2021, 11:58:07 AM »
Thank you again susan-louise, you're an absolute star with these revisions! Your comments actually make me excited to chip away at it more. No mean feat!

Eternally grateful <3

Offline susan-louise

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Re: To Whichever Darkness [YA Fantasy]
« Reply #7 on: October 21, 2021, 12:03:05 PM »
Louise00 a pleasure to help.  I hope you saw my updated version...I had an epiphany about the knife in ribs after posting
This query is SO much stronger.. and does draw one in.   :)

Offline louise00

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Re: To Whichever Darkness [YA Fantasy]
« Reply #8 on: October 21, 2021, 01:37:09 PM »
I just spotted it, thanks! :) I found 'telling' a problem too - getting all my facts in order as it were - so the tips to smooth that out out are great.

Offline susan-louise

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Re: To Whichever Darkness [YA Fantasy]
« Reply #9 on: October 21, 2021, 10:49:43 PM »
Louise00, it's funny how the "telling" can suddenly jump out. Good luck with all the smoothing out -  I think you'll have a really strong query at the end of your hard work re-crafting   :)