Author Topic: Starry Eden (Literary Fiction)  (Read 535 times)

Offline Prophecies

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Starry Eden (Literary Fiction)
« on: July 25, 2022, 12:17:12 AM »
Hello everyone - this is my first attempt at a query letter. As per QueryTracker rules / guidelines, personal details are omitted out with silly pop culture references. I'm concerned if I'm revealing too much and if this query is suitable for literary fiction with spec elements. I appreciate any feedback!

Dear Agent,

(Personalisation)

STARRY EDEN is Speculative Literary novel that combines the mythic English fantasy of Kazuo Ishiguro’s THE BURIED GIANT with the psychological terror of Yoko Ogawa’s THE MEMORY POLICE. The novel is complete at 80,000 words and will also appeal to those who appreciate the religious and legal dynamics of Arthur Miller’s classic THE CRUCIBLE.

A war in heaven, where Lucifer is triumphant, leaves the world in disarray with ecological change and dictatorships forming in Europe. Billions have perished and left for the stars, never to be seen or heard from again. Now, thanks to Lucifer’s victory, the townspeople of New Eden (England, 2999 A.D) must decide who among them goes to heaven - and to hell. Salvador is a young librarian who fears hellfire and tries to maintain his status among the community.

When a mysterious, forbidden book appears in the library, covered in beautiful jewels, Salvador becomes bewitched by a distant and enemy land called Russia. However, this threatens his need for assimilation and acceptance. Over the course of the novel, Salvador falls in love with the hopeful Swistaly refugee Valeria and must confront his childhood, where the cruel town leader, Eve - shares a horrible past with him, involving the death and sentencing of their parents.

I have a B.A in Modern History from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardy and run the book blog The Sunnydale Times (as well as a growing YouTube channel). My articles on art and literature are frequently published by Spyglass.

As per your guidelines, (attached pages)

Thank you for your consideration.

Kind Regards,
Author

Offline susan-louise

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Re: Starry Eden (Literary Fiction)
« Reply #1 on: July 25, 2022, 05:32:10 AM »
Hello everyone - this is my first attempt at a query letter. As per QueryTracker rules / guidelines, personal details are omitted out with silly pop culture references. I'm concerned if I'm revealing too much and if this query is suitable for literary fiction with spec elements. I appreciate any feedback!

Hello.  I think you're veering  into a lot of telling, so concentrate more on giving us glimpses of the intrigue rather than a linear account.  Start with a hook (using your first sentence or so)  that lays out the landscape of your unique work (X is about....) so we are sufficiently  motivated to read the next paragraphs.  These should draw us in, making us itch to read the novel

 But it all sounds very interesting.  Good luck and hope the comments help.

Dear Agent,

(Personalisation)

STARRY EDEN is Speculative Literary novel that combines the mythic English fantasy of Kazuo Ishiguro’s THE BURIED GIANT with the psychological terror of Yoko Ogawa’s THE MEMORY POLICE. The novel is complete at 80,000 words and will also appeal to those who appreciate the religious and legal dynamics of Arthur Miller’s classic THE CRUCIBLE.  Great comps, although "power dynamics" is possibly clearer rather than *legal".  That said, not sure you need the descriptions because the comps  speak for themselves.   And italicize, rather than upper case.

A war in heaven, where Lucifer is triumphant, leaves the world in disarray with ecological change and dictatorships forming in Europe. Billions have perished and left for the stars, never to be seen or heard from again. Now, thanks to Lucifer’s victory, the townspeople of New Eden (England, 2999 A.D) must decide who among them goes to heaven - and to hell. Salvador is a young librarian who fears hellfire and tries to maintain his status among the community.  (This is intriguing but you are telling.  Give us a glimpse of this world...why is he at risk. At present, you're not giving me, the reader, enough to engage with him)

When a mysterious, forbidden book  (I'd choose one adjective here because two dilutes the impact) appears in the library, covered in beautiful jewels, Salvador becomes is bewitched by Russia, a distant and enemy land syntax called Russia. However, this threatens his need for assimilation and acceptance. (so here's another opportunity to show, rather than tell  Why is he craving acceptance?  Has he been ostracised?? ) Over the course of the novel, Salvador falls in love with the hopeful Swistaly refugee Valeria and must confront his childhood, where the cruel town leader, Eve - shares a horrible past with him, involving the death and sentencing of their parents.[/u]  This all smacks of the synopsis.  Can you tease out some of these dramatic threads, so they become hooks to draw us in, rather than linear telling?

I have a B.A in Modern History from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardy  (well, this does catch the eye!!) and run the book blog The Sunnydale Times (as well as a growing YouTube channel  (If you have hundreds of followers, would be worth mentioning its name). My articles on art and literature are frequently published by Spyglass.

As per your guidelines, (attached pages)

Thank you for your consideration.

Offline Prophecies

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Re: Starry Eden (Literary Fiction)
« Reply #2 on: August 01, 2022, 08:11:10 AM »
Ah thanks for your feedback! :clap: Your suggestion about teasing ideas / not turning the query into a synopsis resonated with me. One challenge in writing a worldbuilding novel is not wanting to confuse the agent with the query.

Here's another attempt:

Dear Miss Buffy Summers,

(personalisation)

Starry Eden is literary novel with speculative aspects. It combines the mythic English fantasy of Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant with the psychological terror of Yoko Ogawa’s The Memory Police. The novel is complete at 75,000 words and will also appeal to those who appreciate the religious and power dynamics of Arthur Miller’s classic The Crucible.

A war in heaven, where Lucifer is triumphant, leaves the world in disarray with ecological change and dictatorships forming in Europe. Billions have perished and left for the stars, never to be seen or heard from again. Constant war threatens the lives of the townspeople. Now, thanks to Lucifer’s victory, the townspeople of New Eden (England, 2999 A.D) must decide who among them goes to heaven - and to hell. Salvador is a young librarian who fears hellfire and tries to maintain his status among the community. Although a curious and intelligent man with many interests, Salvador continues to submit to the trial system by condemning individuals, often innocent, to hell.

When a forbidden book appears in the library, covered in beautiful jewels, Salvador is bewitched by Russia, a distant and enemy land. However, this threatens his need for assimilation and acceptance - two things crucial under the threat of hellfire. With initial reluctance, Salvador conjures a daring plan to regain his courage and to challenge the tyrannical systems of New Eden. Yet this proves complicated in a town where everyone desires heaven.

Over the course of a turbulent Spring, Salvador falls in love with the hopeful Swistaly refugee Valeria, travels across Europe’s wastelands and must confront his childhood, where the cruel town leader of the same age, Eve - shares a horrible past with him, involving the death and sentencing of their parents. Much to Salvador’s agony, Eve is hopelessly in love with him and, like the librarian, holds onto sentimental memories of the past through photographs and fading memories.

I have a B.A in Modern History from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and run the book blog The Sunnydale Times (as well as a growing YouTube channel). My articles on art and literature are frequently published by Spyglass. For the past five years, I’ve been learning various European languages relevant to Starry Eden, particularly Old English and Russian.

As per (your recommendations)...

Thank you for your consideration,
Luna Lovegood
« Last Edit: August 01, 2022, 08:12:44 AM by Prophecies »

Offline susan-louise

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Re: Starry Eden (Literary Fiction)
« Reply #3 on: August 03, 2022, 03:47:33 AM »
Ah thanks for your feedback! :clap: Your suggestion about teasing ideas / not turning the query into a synopsis resonated with me. One challenge in writing a worldbuilding novel is not wanting to confuse the agent with the query.  Absolutely. because its one and only job is to hook the agent.

Here's another attempt:

It's tighter than the previous version, well done.  But for me, it still lacks the energy and clarity  that draw one in from that opening line. 
Have you ever looked at the back blurb of novels in your category? They can give lovely ideas for the flow and pace one needs to replicate.  Goodreads and Amazon are great sources of ideas.   Also, the frequently-cited Query Shark, who takes writers' queries and literally pulls them apart.  If you've not seen her site, it's worth having a look.


Dear Miss Buffy Summers,

(personalisation)

Starry Eden is literary novel with speculative aspects. It combines the mythic English fantasy of Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant with the psychological terror of Yoko Ogawa’s The Memory Police. The novel is complete at 75,000 words and will also appeal to those who appreciate the religious and power dynamics of Arthur Miller’s classic The Crucible.  much more concise.

I'd be inclined to date this story upfront, rather than halfway through this paragraph.   Also, the first line isn't grabbing my attention and it really must.   

Work on a really vibrant opening that rivets our attention, capturing the conflicts in the heavens, and repercussions for earth dwellers....in one sentence.  It's always wise to distill the backstory and focus on the "now".  Just a random idea:

"2999AD  After Lucifer's victory over XX. a terrifying world emerges, where A B and C..."

Then introduce Salvadaor, and his struggles which seem to be the meat of this query



 A war in heaven, where Lucifer is triumphant, leaves the world in disarray with ecological change (is it more than change or disaster? Just curious...because if the latter, perhaps use a stronger adjective)  and dictatorships forming in Europe. Billions have perished and left for the stars, never to be seen or heard from again.  This made me pause and think.   If they perished, then logically might never be heard of again.  Are they killed and despatched to the stars?  What is "the stars?" or is a euphemism for heaven?) the townspeople of New Eden (England, 2999 A.D) must decide who among them goes to heaven - and to hell. Salvador is a young librarian who fears hellfire and tries to maintain his status among the community. Although a curious and intelligent man with many interests, (too much informationSalvador continues to submit to he supports? the trial system by condemning individuals (heretics?  individuals sounds flat...they have obviously broken some code), often innocent, to hell.   

 I'd tweak things  here for maximum impact and interest.  Not perfect, mind.   

"Fearing hellfire, the young librarian, Salvador,  will do anything to preserve his life/secure his place in heaven"....(raising the stakes and making us fear for him....)   "He condemns  XXX to XXXX" (drama here, using a snippet example from the novel...it might only be a phrase...what do they do to these poor people? A glimpse of this terrible process will make us see his world

Then you could modify the next para, keeping the wonderful visual of the bejewelled book that dazzles S.....I'm not sure you need assimilation and acceptance now, if you draw this out more clearly above.  The key to the book here, for me as a reader, is it becomes a catalyst for finding his courage, no?   But by courage, do you mean a determination not condemn people to hellfire?  This is not clear.   However, the paragraph has great potential to hook. 
 

When a forbidden book appears in the library, covered in beautiful jewels, Salvador is bewitched by Russia, a distant ,and enemy land. However, this threatens his need for assimilation and acceptance - two things crucial under the threat of hellfire (to avoid hellfire?). With initial reluctance, Salvador conjures a daring plan (sounds hackneyed...try another adjective...outrageous?) to regain his courage and to challenge the tyrannical systems of New Eden. Yet this proves complicated (perilous??) in a town where everyone desires heaven.   (so  you are building a sense of menace, which could be developed. just a glimpse...because we need to know what he's up against)

Over the course of a turbulent Spring, (avoid this phrase, it belongs in a synopsis) Salvador falls in love with the hopeful Swistaly refugee Valeria, travels across Europe’s wastelands and must confront his childhood (this reads like a list), where the cruel town leader of the same age, Eve - shares a horrible past with him, involving the death and sentencing of their parents. Don't tell us...save this nasty twist....make us itch to learn more with the mystery, in my opinion) Much to Salvador’s agony, Eve is hopelessly in love with him and she too like the librarian holds onto sentimental memories of the past through photographs and fading memories  (this is a lovely phrase  but I must admit to being confused.  On the one hand, you tell us she is cruel, on the other, loves mementos of the past.  She loves him hopelessly?  It seems you introduce many dramas along the way.   We have a love interest, Valeria, and then Eve.  Be wary of introducing too many characters in a query as they can dilute impact and confuse. The journey is important but if it becomes a summary of what happened,    we cease to engage with S.

I have a B.A in Modern History from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and run the book blog The Sunnydale Times (as well as a growing YouTube channel). My articles on art and literature are frequently published by Spyglass. For the past five years, I’ve been learning various European languages relevant to Starry Eden, particularly Old English and Russian.  (impressive!)

As per (your recommendations)...

Thank you for your consideration,
Luna Lovegood
« Last Edit: August 03, 2022, 03:55:25 AM by susan-louise »

Offline Talean

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Re: Starry Eden (Literary Fiction)
« Reply #4 on: August 03, 2022, 05:32:16 PM »
Ah thanks for your feedback! :clap: Your suggestion about teasing ideas / not turning the query into a synopsis resonated with me. One challenge in writing a worldbuilding novel is not wanting to confuse the agent with the query.

Here's another attempt:

Dear Miss Buffy Summers,

(personalisation)

Starry Eden is literary novel with speculative aspects. It combines the mythic English fantasy of Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant with the psychological terror of Yoko Ogawa’s The Memory Police. The novel is complete at 75,000 words and will also appeal to those who appreciate the religious and power dynamics of Arthur Miller’s classic The Crucible. Move this to the end, just before you get into who you are. I know there's a lot of advice out there that putting the housekeeping at the beginning is the thing to do, but that's apparently a hold-over from the age of letter mail. For email queries, and online forms, start with the story. Agents apparently read the first paragraph AT MOST unless there's something in those precious few sentences that catch their attention.

A war in heaven, where Lucifer is triumphant, leaves the world in disarray with ecological change and dictatorships forming in Europe. Billions have perished and left for the stars, never to be seen or heard from again. Constant war threatens the lives of the townspeople. Now, thanks to Lucifer’s victory, the townspeople of New Eden (England, 2999 A.D) must decide who among them goes to heaven - and to hell. Everything before this is setup. Start here, with Salvador. Salvador is a young librarian who fears hellfire and tries to maintain his status among the community. Although a curious and intelligent man with many interests, Salvador continues to submit to the trial system by condemning individuals, often innocent, to hell. Trial system? Condemns them to Hell? Give more info about this, without all the above backstory. Be concise. Something like...

Salvador is a young librarian who worries about hellfire and his status amongst the community; a community that has been forced to judge who amongst them goes to Heaven or to Hell, for there was a War in Heaven, and Lucifer has won.

When a forbidden book appears in the library, covered in beautiful jewels, Salvador is bewitched by Russia, a distant and enemy land. Why? What does the book have to do with Russia? Why is Russia the enemy? However, this threatens his need for assimilation and acceptance - two things crucial under the threat of hellfire. With initial reluctance, Salvador conjures a daring plan to regain his courage and to challenge the tyrannical systems of New Eden. Yet this proves complicated in a town where everyone desires heaven. Why did he lose his courage? Regaining it means he lost it to begin with. And "the tyrannical systems of New Eden" is too general. What's tyrannical about it? Have gangs of old ladies decided that, if they vote together, they can send those young ne'er-do-wells to the pits of Hell? Is Lucifer forcing them to vote certain ways, making it a false choice?

Over the course of a turbulent Spring, Salvador falls in love with the hopeful Swistaly refugee Valeria, travels across Europe’s wastelands and must confront his childhood, where the cruel town leader of the same age, Eve - shares a horrible past with him, involving the death and sentencing of their parents. Much to Salvador’s agony, Eve is hopelessly in love with him and, like the librarian, holds onto sentimental memories of the past through photographs and fading memories. This is a lot, without really telling us anything. Is Valeria why he's bewitched with Russia? If she's from an enemy land, why is she a refugee in New Eden? Also, where's the book? Why did you mention it if it disappears from the query? And Eve, well, I have no idea who she is or why she's an issue, other than that she's in love with him. Where's the conflict?

I have a B.A in Modern History from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and run the book blog The Sunnydale Times (as well as a growing YouTube channel). My articles on art and literature are frequently published by Spyglass. For the past five years, I’ve been learning various European languages relevant to Starry Eden, particularly Old English and Russian.

As per (your recommendations)...

Thank you for your consideration,
Luna Lovegood

I got caught up in the same trap on most of the versions of my query. You're focusing on the world building, the setting, and the backstory more than you are the story. Those things are secondary (I hope) to the story. You need to tell us who the main character is, what they want, what's stopping them, what choices they face, and what the consequences of those choices are.

Hope that helps!
« Last Edit: August 03, 2022, 05:33:53 PM by Talean »
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Offline godisjealous

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Re: Starry Eden (Literary Fiction)
« Reply #5 on: August 15, 2022, 07:36:08 PM »
Greetings Prophecies,

Have you considered leaving a link to your blog or YouTube channel?

Offline Pineapplejuice

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Re: Starry Eden (Literary Fiction)
« Reply #6 on: August 16, 2022, 07:33:00 AM »
Hello everyone - this is my first attempt at a query letter. As per QueryTracker rules / guidelines, personal details are omitted out with silly pop culture references. I'm concerned if I'm revealing too much and if this query is suitable for literary fiction with spec elements. I appreciate any feedback!

Dear Agent,

(Personalisation)

STARRY EDEN is Speculative Literary novel that combines the mythic English fantasy of Kazuo Ishiguro’s THE BURIED GIANT with the psychological terror of Yoko Ogawa’s THE MEMORY POLICE. The novel is complete at 80,000 words and will also appeal to those who appreciate the religious and legal dynamics of Arthur Miller’s classic THE CRUCIBLE (I think putting housekeeping is better at the bottom, like Query Shark says, as it's better to hook the reader with your story)

A war in heaven, where Lucifer is triumphant, leaves the world in disarray with ecological change and dictatorships forming in Europe. ( Even thought this is important information to know, I'd reorganize this. It does feel a bit info dumpey about world building. Even though you need to get this acoss,  I think start with your MC ) Billions have perished and left for the stars, never to be seen or heard from again. Now, thanks to Lucifer’s victory, the townspeople of New Eden (England, 2999 A.D) must decide who among them goes to heaven - and to hell.(Why must they decide this?) Salvador is a young librarian who fears hellfire and tries to maintain his status among the community. (I'd start with Salvadore and keep to his Point of Veiw of the state of things, rather than begin with the birds eye veiw of the global situation)

When a mysterious, forbidden book appears in the library, covered in beautiful jewels, Salvador becomes bewitched by a distant and enemy land called Russia. (I like this because we get a sense of MC's character! :)) However, this (what do you mean by "this"? Maybe say "his....desire to travel" or what it specifically is ) threatens his need for assimilation and acceptance. Over the course of the novel,(This authorley interjection of scope of novel feels jarring to me and made me gaze off, distracted.)  Salvador falls in love with the hopeful Swistaly refugee Valeria and must confront his childhood, (why must he confront his childhood? If it's not necessary to convey plot and stakes, I'd leave it out)  where the cruel town leader, Eve - shares a

 horrible past with him, involving the death and sentencing of their parents.

(Oh no...I don'[t know what the stakes are or what the character has to do or why it would be difficult etc.)

I have a B.A in Modern History from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardy (reading this I am not sure if the B.A. is a joke altogether. I'd leave the Hogwarts thing out as it makesitsound like you don't actually have a B.A. and are kidding about the whole thing) and run the book blog The Sunnydale Times (as well as a growing YouTube channel). My articles on art and literature are frequently published by Spyglass.

As per your guidelines, (attached pages)

Thank you for your consideration.

Kind Regards,
Author

I think the various elements aren't knitting together to create a clear picture of character motivation and story direction. I'd start with salvador and explain what happens after he finds the book. I'm not sure why it was important or what the consequences of finding it are.

Maybe try starting with:
"Young librarian Salvadore fears Hellfire." then explain a bit about why he fears it. Then say the bit about the book, and what that means.

EDIT : (Just realised the Hogwarts thing was the popculture reference. I didnt' read or rmember your note above - sorry  ;D)

I noticed now Talean's suggeston of beginning and i think it's really good. I love how it starts with character and moves to mention the worldbuilding breifly , ending on the ominous note about Luclfer having won." I'd adjust the repetition of community though...would this make sense to your book?:

 "Salvador is a young librarian who worries about hellfire because his community has been forced to judge who amongst them goes to Heaven or to Hell. There was a War in Heaven, and Lucifer has won."
« Last Edit: August 16, 2022, 09:31:20 AM by Pineapplejuice »

Offline Pineapplejuice

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Re: Starry Eden (Literary Fiction)
« Reply #7 on: August 16, 2022, 09:54:55 AM »
Ah thanks for your feedback! :clap: Your suggestion about teasing ideas / not turning the query into a synopsis resonated with me. One challenge in writing a worldbuilding novel is not wanting to confuse the agent with the query.

Here's another attempt:

Dear Miss Buffy Summers,

(personalisation)

Starry Eden is literary novel with speculative aspects. It combines the mythic English fantasy of Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant with the psychological terror of Yoko Ogawa’s The Memory Police. The novel is complete at 75,000 words and will also appeal to those who appreciate the religious and power dynamics of Arthur Miller’s classic The Crucible.

A war in heaven, where Lucifer is triumphant, leaves the world in disarray with ecological change and dictatorships forming in Europe. Billions have perished and left for the stars, never to be seen or heard from again. Constant war threatens the lives of the townspeople. Now, thanks to Lucifer’s victory, the townspeople of New Eden (England, 2999 A.D) must decide who among them goes to heaven - and to hell. Salvador is a young librarian who fears hellfire and tries to maintain his status among the community. Although a curious and intelligent man with many interests, Salvador continues to submit to the trial system by condemning individuals, often innocent, to hell. I didn't realise this was his job in the other one, so I'm glad you put it here. (I still think with this version the same as with the other one, regarding starting with Salvadore and not the worldbuilding. The bit I crossed out is "telling" like someone else said. I'd try to avoid that kind of phrasing)

When a forbidden book appears in the library, covered in beautiful jewels, Salvador is bewitched by Russia, a distant and enemy land. (I'm assuming Russia is just as plagued by War as his country so need a reason here)  However, this threatens his need for assimilation and acceptance - two things crucial under the threat of hellfire.(Oh he needs to be feeling ok with being where he is. I think you need to explain why) With initial reluctance, Salvador conjures a daring plan to regain his courage and to challenge the tyrannical systems of New Eden. Yet this proves complicated in a town where everyone desires heaven.( Not sure why he lacks courage ...but I think it's better not to use phrases like "conjures a daring plan" ...as it's telling. If you convey the other information in a  way that the situation is more clear ( Hard, I know ) I think by telling us what he plans to do will be enough, rather than telling us about how he feels about doing it.)

Over the course of a turbulent Spring, (Queries generally don't set the scenes like this...only for set up in beginning. But the wording was "telly" anyway, as in you'[re telling us it was turblulent, not giving us a reason to conclude it. So I find myself asking why it's turbulent, when you really don't want agents being distracted by those kinds of questions.) Salvador falls in love with the hopeful Swistaly refugee Valeria, travels across Europe’s wastelands and must confront his childhood, where the cruel town leader of the same age, Eve - shares a horrible past with him, involving the death and sentencing of their parents. Much to Salvador’s agony,(Giving too much telly narration for a query letter here as well) Eve is hopelessly in love with him and, like the librarian, holds onto sentimental memories of the past through photographs and fading memories.

It's better to just put things simply like "Eve is hopelessly in love with him" rather than prefacing with "telling about" how he feels about it."  Cutting stuff like that saves words but also it's wording that doesn't add much to the query because query needs to focus on basic, compelling details)

I have a B.A in Modern History from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and run the book blog The Sunnydale Times (as well as a growing YouTube channel). My articles on art and literature are frequently published by Spyglass. For the past five years, I’ve been learning various European languages relevant to Starry Eden, particularly Old English and Russian.

As per (your recommendations)...

Thank you for your consideration,
Luna Lovegood

I think after reading this version we need to know why he wants to go to Russia ( which is in conflict with his need to stay in his community) . I'm not sure if Eve actually lives in Russia and he went there...if the Russia bit isn't important then I'd leave it out. (Since he travels through Europe it seems like he might be going there btu then again he said he knows Eve from his childhood...and before he hadn't  been to Russia.) But if it is important to stakes I'd keep it but explain why he wants to go ( if Russia isn't a war zone.).

« Last Edit: August 16, 2022, 10:03:18 AM by Pineapplejuice »

Offline Prophecies

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Re: Starry Eden (Literary Fiction)
« Reply #8 on: August 20, 2022, 06:32:19 AM »
Thanks everyone - I really appreciate the feedback. I tried a radically different version, focusing on a few key aspects: Russia and the fear of hellfire. It's more character-centric. Please note that character names have changed (after some feedback). My concern is that I'm leaving too much out and raising too many questions without answers.

As for links in queries, my e-mail signature has my personal website, which links to my blog and YT channel. I hope that's okay.

Dear Buffy,

(Personalisation and intro)

2999 A.D.

Alexander, a young librarian, fears hellfire. The prospect of endless suffering and darkness horrifies him to the point of nightmares.

In his small town of New Eden (formally London), the townspeople determine whether their deceased goes to heaven or hell through a ‘trial’ system, the result of Lucifer triumphing in a heavenly war. The world is left in disarray with ecological mutiliation and population collapse. Warfare and dictatorships dominate Europe.

Alexander desires the approval and love of others, to ensure his place in heaven as well as to maintain his popularity in New Eden. Unfortunately, this involves condemning individuals, often innocent, to hell. One example is the deceased man Francis, who is accused of rape without evidence. Alexander, in public, condemns him to hellfire, with the hope to gain the approval of other townspeople. This causes significant anguish within him, who must either suffer the consequences of telling the truth or enjoy the benefits of lying.

When a forbidden book appears in the library, covered in beautiful jewels, Alexander is bewitched by Russia, a distant and enemy land. He is drawn to Russia’s magnificent art and philosophy, finding it radically different to New Eden, where no building matches the glorious St. Basil’s Cathedral. According to Alexander, Russia is free from the rot dominating New Eden, where the innocent is cast to hell and there is no mercy.

This Russophilia threatens his need for assimilation and acceptance - two things crucial under the threat of hellfire. With initial reluctance, Alexander conjures a treasonous plan to regain his courage and end the corrupt trial system. Yet this proves perilous in a town where everyone desires heaven.

Starry Eden is literary novel with speculative aspects. It combines the mythic English fantasy of Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant with the psychological terror of Yoko Ogawa’s The Memory Police. The novel is complete at 75,000 words and will also appeal to those who appreciate the religious and power dynamics of Arthur Miller’s classic The Crucible.

I have a B.A in Modern History from Hogwarts and run the book blog Spyglass (as well as a growing YouTube channel). My articles on art and literature are frequently published by The Sunnydale Times. For the past five years, I’ve been learning various European languages relevant to Starry Eden, particularly Old English and Russian.

As per (guidelines)

Thank you for your consideration,
Luna Lovegood

Offline Pineapplejuice

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Re: Starry Eden (Literary Fiction)
« Reply #9 on: August 20, 2022, 04:02:09 PM »
Thanks everyone - I really appreciate the feedback. I tried a radically different version, focusing on a few key aspects: Russia and the fear of hellfire. It's more character-centric. Please note that character names have changed (after some feedback). My concern is that I'm leaving too much out and raising too many questions without answers.

As for links in queries, my e-mail signature has my personal website, which links to my blog and YT channel. I hope that's okay.

Dear Buffy,

(Personalisation and intro)

2999 A.D.

Alexander, a young librarian, fears hellfire. The prospect of endless suffering and darkness horrifies him to the point of nightmares. (I don't think it's good to follow this with the first sentence. It feels extraneous because we don't know what it means yet. I think the hellfire sentence is a good sentence to start with but the second one isn't adding anything new, only being expository and not hooky)

In his small town of New Eden (formally London), the townspeople determine whether their deceased goes to heaven or hell through a ‘trial’ system, the result of Lucifer triumphing in a heavenly war. ( I think this got a lot of relevant info across quickly) The world is left in disarray with ecological mutiliation and population collapse. Warfare and dictatorships dominate Europe.

Alexander desires the approval and love of others, to ensure his place in heaven as well as to maintain his popularity in New Eden.(I don't think we need to know all of this. It's a long sentence saying the same kind of thing twice. "approval and love" "ensre his place and maintain popularity" it's too much. Also saying "desires" makes it sound like he doesn't need it for his survival, and it sonds like he does in other versions, so I'd keep to making things sounding as important as possible. "Desire" is like a preference, so I'd steer clear of it because a preference for a thing isn't the stuff of character motivation)

I'd be breif: Alexanders job is condemning people to heaven or hell. When he's pressured to send an innocent man to hell to maintain his position in New Eden, the guilt tears him apart.

 Unfortunately, this involves condemning individuals, often innocent, to hell. One example is the deceased man Francis, who is accused of rape without evidence. ( It's going into too much detail about a sub character here. We don't need to know what the crime was or his name. Eva and the love interest are more important to put in the query. The point that innocent people are being sent to hell and the obvious inner conflict of that is the main point) Alexander, in public, condemns him to hellfire, with the hope to gain the approval of other townspeople. ( This makes me wonder why or if the other townspeople know he's innocent, so why would they want an innocent man to go to hell, so I'd leave it out.) This causes significant anguish within him, who must either suffer the consequences of telling the truth or enjoy the benefits of lying. (This last sentence is like repetition)

When a forbidden book appears in the library, covered in beautiful jewels, Alexander is bewitched by Russia, a distant and enemy land. He is drawn to Russia’s magnificent art and philosophy, finding it radically different to New Eden, where no building matches the glorious St. Basil’s Cathedral. According to Alexander, Russia is free from the rot dominating New Eden, where the innocent is cast to hell and there is no mercy. (A distant enemy land, free from the rot is enough to get the point across....the words I crossed out are going into too much detail or repetition)

This Russophilia threatens his need for assimilation and acceptance - two things crucial under the threat of hellfire. With initial reluctance, Alexander conjures a treasonous plan to regain his courage and end the corrupt trial system. ( And go to Russia? Isn't he obsessed with Russia to escape? Not sure why he doesn't just sneak out of there one night) Yet this proves perilous in a town where everyone desires heaven. ( Terms like "proves perilous" is too vague to be stakey. We need to know what he's got to lose here. And be clear on what his plan is. ( know he wants to end the trial system, which is great....but that direction is diluted by his wanting to escape. In other versions I think he does escape...so I'm  not sure what the stakes are in the book)

Starry Eden is literary novel with speculative aspects. It combines the mythic English fantasy of Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant with the psychological terror of Yoko Ogawa’s The Memory Police. The novel is complete at 75,000 words and will also appeal to those who appreciate the religious and power dynamics of Arthur Miller’s classic The Crucible.

I have a B.A in Modern History from Hogwarts and run the book blog Spyglass (as well as a growing YouTube channel). My articles on art and literature are frequently published by The Sunnydale Times. For the past five years, I’ve been learning various European languages relevant to Starry Eden, particularly Old English and Russian.

As per (guidelines)

Thank you for your consideration,
Luna Lovegood

I think I need to know what he wants more. To escape, or end the trial system? And what does he do to try and acheive that? Who tries to stop him? Is the antagonist the townspeople and trial system, or something else. The antagonist and difficulty of escaping or fixing the trial system ( what he has to do) needs to be mentioned, I think.

Which is the point in the story where we know he's gotten himself into a predicament? The catalyst for change is the innocent man being sent to hell, which is great...but then I feel the details are too vague to feel threatening.

Keep at it! You'll get there. Hopefully some more people pipe in for a different perspective. It sounds like there is a lot going on in your book and those are the hardest queries to write....but means the book is fleshed out well.  :cool:

Offline Prophecies

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Re: Starry Eden (Literary Fiction)
« Reply #10 on: August 24, 2022, 04:38:34 AM »
Thanks for your feedback! I'm really struggling with this query: I'm unsure what to include and how much I need to explain. Pineapplejuice is correct to point out potential flaws and plot holes ("why doesn't he sneak out"), which my novel deals with. I just don't think it's a good idea to spend words in a query, especially in a marketing e-mail, trying to convince an agent that my story makes complete sense and follows logic. My sample pages do that. My novel is jammed packed with worldbuilding, and any answer I give, seems to provoke another?

Gosh I'm lost. I'm working on the next attempt.

Offline Talean

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Re: Starry Eden (Literary Fiction)
« Reply #11 on: August 24, 2022, 12:29:11 PM »

Thanks for your feedback! I'm really struggling with this query: I'm unsure what to include and how much I need to explain. Pineapplejuice is correct to point out potential flaws and plot holes ("why doesn't he sneak out"), which my novel deals with. I just don't think it's a good idea to spend words in a query, especially in a marketing e-mail, trying to convince an agent that my story makes complete sense and follows logic. My sample pages do that. My novel is jammed packed with worldbuilding, and any answer I give, seems to provoke another?

Gosh I'm lost. I'm working on the next attempt.

God, right? What's worse is reading those success stories that are like "yeah, I sent in a paragraph and got responses right away." Makes me bang my head against the wall as I struggle to write my own query.

Honestly, the more I work on it, the more I take inspiration from what I see on the backs of novels. Shoot for that: a pithy little paragraph that will grab a potential reader's attention, then allow yourself MAYBE one more paragraph of description.

Dear Agent,

A war in heaven; Lucifer victorious.
Alexander, a young librarian living in a community forced to choose who amongst them goes to Heaven or Hell, can keep his head down for a shot at a good afterlife, or live for what he wants in this world, hellfire be damned.

Stumbling upon tales of a distant land said to be free of the Devil's influence and known in the past as Russia, and haunted by the innocents he is forced to condemn, Alexander embarks on a journey of absolution. The more he searches, the more the all important public opinion begins to turn against him, increasing his chances of being sent to Hell. Pulled between social pressure and his desire to live, to truly live, Alexander must decide if finding Russia, and perhaps God, is worth his eternal soul.

Starry Eden (75,000) is literary novel with speculative aspects. It combines the mythic English fantasy of Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant with the psychological terror of Yoko Ogawa’s The Memory Police. The novel will appeal to those who appreciate the religious and power dynamics of Arthur Miller’s classic The Crucible.

I have a B.A in Modern History from Hogwarts and run the book blog Spyglass (as well as a growing YouTube channel). My articles on art and literature are frequently published by The Sunnydale Times. For the past five years, I’ve been learning various European languages relevant to Starry Eden, particularly Old English and Russian.

Thank you for your consideration,
Luna Lovegood

Designing buildings & writing stories.
www.talean.net