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message 1: by Ari (new)

Ari Augustine (ariananelson) | 26 comments Hello all. I finished the final wave of beta readers and I'm in the querying letter stage now. Can you please take a look at my query letter and let me know what I can do to improve it? Part of my dilehmma is finding there are two ways to query: one beginning with "I am seeking representation" and one beginning with the hook. I'd like to know which would be considered better, in terms of getting attention. Also, please ignore the word count. I am not looking to make this any longer than it is.

Thank you :)





Dear (insert agent name),

Number 023 has no memory of his life before. He doesn’t know he speaks German or that he’s harboring a deadly secret​. He doesn’t know about Elda’s invasion, why he sees a woman invisible to everyone else, or that he’s being hunted by his brother. Number 023 doesn’t know he’s a traitor, a liar, a murderer.

When the prison falls into chaos, Number 023 escapes; only to be thrown into a universe dominated by a new currency of war, sex, stolen knowledge, and XOA, an unyielding regime with an iron fist. That, coupled with an impossible revelation - he is in fact Commander Rue, the missing leader of the Athena - sends him on a mission to prove everyone, including himself, wrong.

War, betrayal, secrets, love, and loss - these are but a taste of Number 023’s new life and when his brother catches up to him, it becomes clear he can no longer evade the truth. Number 023 must decide if he’s Commander Rue or if he is someone - something - else entirely.

THE PRISTINE CHAOS OF SOLANGE RUE is an Adult Science Fiction novel, complete at 80,060. The plot is set in a post-earth world where humans are the invading aliens and visits C.G Jung's Shadow theory. It would appeal to fans of Red Rising by Pierce Brown and The Medusa Chronicles by Alastair Reynolds and Stephen Baxter.


message 2: by Keith (new)

Keith Oxenrider (mitakeet) | 1166 comments Hey Ariana,

It's been a while since I read it, but here's my suggestion from memory:

Number 023 wakes up in a prison, with absolutely no knowledge of his past. He keeps seeing the same woman every time he closes his eyes. And sometimes when they're open. Number 023 doesn't know if he's a traitor, a liar, a murderer or something else entirely.

The prison, a ship isolated in an ocean, falls into chaos when a storm hits. Number 023 escapes with a couple of other prisoners, only to be thrown into a universe dominated by a new currency of war, sex, stolen knowledge, and XOA, an unyielding regime with an iron fist. The more he learns, the less he understands; he is Commander Rue, the missing leader of the Athena.

As Number 023 / Commander Rue start to piece his life together, one of his prison companions is revealed to be his brother, and there's a deadly history between them Number 023 can't remember, yet knows it has something to do with the mysterious woman he kept seeing in prison.

Number 023 must decide if he’s Commander Rue or if he is someone - something - else entirely.

I wish you the best of luck with this!


message 3: by Alex (new)

Alex Buchanan (msbananananner) | 17 comments There is a lot of time spent on giving all the details of who 023 is/who he doesn't know he his. Condense, show me the decision he needs to make, and what the stakes are for each side of the coin.

Similarly, in the first half I'm led to believe that 023 figuring out his identity IS the plot of the book. But then I'm told who he was/is. Thus, everything before it its just setup and backstory. "So what is this book about?" I am left wondering--and only a few sentences in the query left to tell me. The conclusion? A "thing" happens, people do "things", and Rue makes a choice. I say "things" in quotes, because I'm given no hint at to what all these big, scary, high stakes things are. It could be war, it could be a pretzel-famine.

As for your last paragraph, it can be condensed significantly. First, just say that is SF at 80k words. No need to write it all out. Adult is implied if you don't say YA or MG, and those sixty words aren't going to make or break your agent's decision.

Also, I'm told of the SF aspects in the last paragraph, but there isn't much mention of it in the summary. A large factor of the SF genre is the world building, and usual SF readers are going to want a hint as to what yours is. Being only 80k though, I'd be curious to know how much is in the novel, as that would have to be pretty tightly packed to have SF level world building.

Anyway, hopefully some of that helped. Best of luck with your querying!


message 4: by Ari (new)

Ari Augustine (ariananelson) | 26 comments Hey Alex,

I did a rewrite a few days after this one. Mind taking a look? Slowly, my QLs are worker toward being shorter, so it's only a matter of time before it's short enough.

In the near future, far beyond the Horsehead Nebula, Number 023 is imprisoned on Hungrig Wasser, a planet comprised of a single vast ocean, for a crime he can't remember. Haunted by the ghost of a woman and hungry for the truth, he escapes with the help of another prisoner to Petra, a Human-Aboidea colony thriving on a rocky planetoid.

With his freedom, Number 023 is determined to uncover his identity and the truth behind his imprisonment. Guided by dreams of the woman who warns of a traitor close by, Number 023 turns to the underworld of Petra for answers and finds two: his memory loss was not an accident and the woman he sees is not dead.

When the crew of the Athena find him and claim he is their lost leader, Commander Rue, Number 023 is thrown into a decade-old war between the Roguls, the original post-Earth regime, and XOA, the self-appointed iron fist of humanity. Running out of time, Number 023 decides to face the person who’s had the answers all along - the prisoner who helped him escape.

When he is offered a choice he can't evade, Number 023 must decide which is most important: saving himself or saving humanity from itself.



Alex wrote: "There is a lot of time spent on giving all the details of who 023 is/who he doesn't know he his. Condense, show me the decision he needs to make, and what the stakes are for each side of the coin.
..."



message 5: by Ari (new)

Ari Augustine (ariananelson) | 26 comments Hey Keith,

I did a rewrite.


In the near future, far beyond the Horsehead Nebula, Number 023 is imprisoned on Hungrig Wasser, a planet comprised of a single vast ocean, for a crime he can't remember. Haunted by the ghost of a woman and hungry for the truth, he escapes with the help of another prisoner to Petra, a Human-Aboidea colony thriving on a rocky planetoid.

With his freedom, Number 023 is determined to uncover his identity and the truth behind his imprisonment. Guided by dreams of the woman who warns of a traitor close by, Number 023 turns to the underworld of Petra for answers and finds two: his memory loss was not an accident and the woman he sees is not dead.

When the crew of the Athena find him and claim he is their lost leader, Commander Rue, Number 023 is thrown into a decade-old war between the Roguls, the original post-Earth regime, and XOA, the self-appointed iron fist of humanity. Running out of time, Number 023 decides to face the person who’s had the answers all along - the prisoner who helped him escape.

When he is offered a choice he can't evade, Number 023 must decide which is most important: saving himself or saving humanity from itself.


Keith wrote: "Hey Ariana,

It's been a while since I read it, but here's my suggestion from memory:

Number 023 wakes up in a prison, with absolutely no knowledge of his past. He keeps seeing the same woman eve..."



message 6: by Keith (new)

Keith Oxenrider (mitakeet) | 1166 comments I like this one a whole lot better. I'm not sold on the 'In the near future', though, and feel you may be better off not pinning it in time. I think the first sentence reads better thus:

"Number 023 is imprisoned on Hungrig Wasser, a planet comprised of a single vast ocean, for a crime he can't remember."

Need a comma:

"Haunted by the ghost of a woman, and hungry for the truth"

I think I'd add to that sentence, "Number 023 takes advantage of a once-in-a-century storm to escape"

Regarding "decides to face the person", it's been a while, but I don't recall there so much as 'deciding', but events unfolding such that the knowledge sprang on him. This is a bit nit picky and probably irrelevant to capturing the reader's interest. I only didn't delete it just so you'd have my impression.


message 7: by Alex (new)

Alex Buchanan (msbananananner) | 17 comments I like the new one better, but it's not quite flowing quite right yet. It's bordering on character soup, with how many names are included, 023, rue, Petra, hungrig wasser, horse head nebula, XOA, Rogul, Athena, and the unnamed woman. Too many. You have room for 3, maybe 4 if you stretch it. And if two are used up on your MC, then that narrows it even more. So which ones of these are plot essential? Focus on those, and leave the others out. It may feel impossible, but a book could be explained in a sentence if it had to, it's possible, just sucks.

Also, we lost everything about the brother from the first one. Is he a main player in the book? I like it because it made gongs more personal than just "evil bad guys", but it really just depends on the story.

The last paragraph is really close to working. I like the part about him making the decision to "protect humanity, or save it from himself" bit, but maybe tighten it up by taking the "which is most important" and give us a hint of what this choice he can't refuse is, rather than a vague phrase.

Nice edits though!


message 8: by Ari (new)

Ari Augustine (ariananelson) | 26 comments Hey Alex,

I'm still working on how to tighten the last line. For the most part, Athena, XOA, and Roguls are locations/organizations, not characters. They're all equally important to the story, which is why I left them in. If I take them out, the most I could do is remove Athena and put "cosmic-vessel" in its place. Other than that, I feel removing anymore would take away from the letter rather than make it better but that's just me.

I added the brother back in and removed Hungrig Wasser and Petra.

So, with all the changes, here it is:



In the near future, Number 023 is imprisoned on a planet comprised of a single vast ocean for a crime he can't remember. Haunted by the ghost of a woman, and hungry for the truth, he escapes with the help of another prisoner to a Human-Aboidea colony thriving on a rocky planetoid.

With his freedom, Number 023 is determined to uncover his identity and the truth behind his imprisonment. Hunted by his brother and driven by forces beyond his control, Number 023 turns to an unlikely ally for answers and finds two: his memory loss was not an accident and the woman he sees is not dead.

When the crew of a cosmic vessel find him and claim he is their lost leader, Commander Rue, Number 023 is thrown into a decade-old war between the Roguls, the original post-Earth regime, and XOA, the self-appointed iron fist of humanity. To make matters worse, his brother catches up with him and he can no longer avoid the inevitable.

When he is offered a choice he can't evade, Number 023 must decide which is most important: saving himself or saving humanity from itself.

Alex wrote: "I like the new one better, but it's not quite flowing quite right yet. It's bordering on character soup, with how many names are included, 023, rue, Petra, hungrig wasser, horse head nebula, XOA, R..."


message 9: by Keith (new)

Keith Oxenrider (mitakeet) | 1166 comments Sorry to have not pointed this out before, but isn't "Hunted by his brother" a twist? Would you want to reveal that in the blurb?

"cosmic vessel" sounds awkward to me. Why not either 'space ship' or simply 'ship'?


message 10: by Ari (new)

Ari Augustine (ariananelson) | 26 comments Hey Keith,

I agree with some parts of your first suggestion but still leaving out the storm bit. Technically, it wasn't a storm that resulted in the escape and compared to other details to add in the letter, the storm that did occur isn't as important as the fact that he escapes. I kept "in the near future" because the story itself takes place not that far from where we are now in time and several agents I'm interested in want to know time period this happens in.

Much of the book has changed since your read, so several of the details are no longer the same (30k words worth), including the way events unfold in the story. In the version you read, Number 023 just let things kind of happen (which is still deciding to not act). In this version, he makes several active decisions, rather than passive ones.

Thank you for your feedback!




Keith wrote: "I like this one a whole lot better. I'm not sold on the 'In the near future', though, and feel you may be better off not pinning it in time. I think the first sentence reads better thus:

"Number 0..."



message 11: by Ari (new)

Ari Augustine (ariananelson) | 26 comments Oh and thank you so much for your help, Alex. It's actually helping me to improve my letter and getting me to think about it differently. So, Thank you.

Alex wrote: "I like the new one better, but it's not quite flowing quite right yet. It's bordering on character soup, with how many names are included, 023, rue, Petra, hungrig wasser, horse head nebula, XOA, R..."


message 12: by Keith (new)

Keith Oxenrider (mitakeet) | 1166 comments Ariana wrote: "Much of the book has changed since your read ..."

Any interest in me taking a look at the changes?


message 13: by Ari (new)

Ari Augustine (ariananelson) | 26 comments Not at the moment. My last few betas really liked it and my editor gave me the thumbs up, so I'm done with the beta phase for now.

Keith wrote: "Ariana wrote: "Much of the book has changed since your read ..."

Any interest in me taking a look at the changes?"



message 14: by Alex (new)

Alex Buchanan (msbananananner) | 17 comments First paragraph:
I think this could still be condensed. In essence you're saying, "MC is wrongfully imprisoned, he escapes with someone else." Human-aboidea, vast ocean planet, and rocky planetoid, don't tell me a whole lot other than the the fact that this is SF and there are aliens. (I'm not saying you have to take this out. I'm not familiar with the specifics of a SF query to know exactly how much world building you need to include, other than there should be *some*). Someone else might have better advice on this.

Second:
You've stated his search for the truth in both paragraphs, I think the second one is stronger as it tells us he wants to know why he was imprisoned as well as what his identity is.

Third:
I'm not sure I'm getting a distinct picture of the difference between Roguls and the XOA. Are they both human comprised? And I'm not sure the names are completely necessary. Without the context of being able to read the whole book, they end up feeling like two faceless names.

You could say something about him being trapped between two powerful organizations and then show the ways the two contrast each other. Jumping back to the example earlier, it would be like saying "MC left the vast oceans of his imprisonment for the rocky, dust infested planetoid of X planet." Then, rather than two separate descriptions, I get two, plus a handy dandy way to remember them: correlation.

Also, if you state here, post-earth, then I think that solves your issue of needing to state that it is "in the near future".

Fourth:
I like this! Now go through it one word at a time and see which you can take out. No really, every single word. If the sentence can work grammatically without it, remove it.

Keep up the good work!


message 15: by Ari (new)

Ari Augustine (ariananelson) | 26 comments Because the name of the "space ships" in the story is cosmic vessel. I understand that it would be easier to call it space ship or a ship but that's not what they're known as in my world.




Keith wrote: "Sorry to have not pointed this out before, but isn't "Hunted by his brother" a twist? Would you want to reveal that in the blurb?

"cosmic vessel" sounds awkward to me. Why not either 'space ship' ..."


Because the name of the space ships in the story is cosmic vessel. I understand that it would be easier to call it space ship but that's not what they're known as in my world.

Hunted by his brother tells you an important point in the story without revealing who the brother is.

Keith wrote: "Sorry to have not pointed this out before, but isn't "Hunted by his brother" a twist? Would you want to reveal that in the blurb?

"cosmic vessel" sounds awkward to me. Why not either 'space ship' ..."



message 16: by Ari (new)

Ari Augustine (ariananelson) | 26 comments Alright! After going through this with a fine comb, I have shortened this to half a page and just the "need to know". I've also changed the title to one I felt better echoes the story. Here it is:


Number 023 is imprisoned for a crime he can't recall. Urged by the apparition of a woman, he escapes to a Human-Aboidea colony in the far reaches B33. He is determined to uncover his identity and the reason for his captivity. Driven by instinct and hunted by a man who claims to be his brother, Number 023 turns to an unlikely ally and finds two answers: his memory loss was not accidental and the woman he sees is not dead.

When the crew of a cosmic vessel declares he's their lost leader, Number 023 is thrown into a decade-long war between the despotic regime in power and rebels who favor intergalactic integration. Number 023’s world is ripped apart when his role in the war is revealed, forcing him to face an undeniable truth about himself and his part in the extinction of an entire planet.

When the ghostly woman offers a choice he can't evade, Number 023 must decide which is most important: saving himself or saving humanity from itself. If he doesn’t act quickly, he risks failing again and this time, there would be no coming back.

DESIDERIUM is a Military Science Fiction novel, complete at 90,000 words. It will appeal to readers of Red Rising by Pierce Brown, Old Man's War by John Scalzi, and Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card.




Alex wrote: "First paragraph:
I think this could still be condensed. In essence you're saying, "MC is wrongfully imprisoned, he escapes with someone else." Human-aboidea, vast ocean planet, and rocky planetoid,..."



message 17: by Alex (new)

Alex Buchanan (msbananananner) | 17 comments I like it! Looks good to me!


message 18: by Alex (new)

Alex | 128 comments I like this too. Lots of big hooks. I wonder if there's a word or phrase other than "world" that you could use in that second paragraph. Coming soon after intergalactic, it initially reads like a literal world (planet, etc) instead of his life.


message 19: by Ari (new)

Ari Augustine (ariananelson) | 26 comments Hi Alex,

Would "perception" be a good substitution for "world"?


Alex wrote: "I like this too. Lots of big hooks. I wonder if there's a word or phrase other than "world" that you could use in that second paragraph. Coming soon after intergalactic, it initially reads like a l..."


message 20: by Ari (new)

Ari Augustine (ariananelson) | 26 comments YAY! It took me ages but I got it :)

Alex wrote: "I like it! Looks good to me!"


message 21: by Ari (new)

Ari Augustine (ariananelson) | 26 comments Samia,

Thanks! It was certainly an enlightening experience.

Samia wrote: "Watching the history of how this blurb went from good to great is incredibly helpful! Also, great blurb!"


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