Beta Reader Group discussion

43 views
Covers, Blurbs, 1st Line, Query > Query Letter - ENTROPY - Hard Science-Fiction

Comments Showing 1-37 of 37 (37 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Mike (new)

Mike McGinty | 16 comments Hi All
Your comments on my query letter would be greatly appreciated

Dear Agent

It’s not His job to find the catalyst that controls entropy, but if he does, he can save humanity from extinction.

The morning after his Supervisor reprimands him for using Aleph-1 to search the pre-Enlightenment data archives for the catalyst — a serious violation of the Guidelines — a man's perfect life shatters when he wakes to find his wife murdered. He knows he is innocent, but with his hands soaked in her blood, who will believe him? Fleeing from the over-crowded city, he is plunged into another world unrecognizable for its blood-red wastelands, empty mega-cities, and receding oceans — a dangerous place inhabited by the remnants of mankind. Still convinced he can save everyone, he teams up with a pair of remnants before a chance meeting the Thinker, an enigmatic loner, reveals that not only has Aleph-1 fabricated his ideal existence (his wife included) to increase his productivity and harvest his thoughts for the Cantor Infinity Drive, but the decline of the human species has already started.

Set in the near-future, ENTROPY strips away the attributes that make us human, from our names to the reason we exist. With an undercurrent of present-day themes (including our obsession with everything digital; climate change; over-population; corporate greed; and disruptive activism), ENTROPY asks the question: What is the catalyst that will start our decline? If He can find the answer, then he holds the future of our species in his hands — unless it is already too late.

ENTROPY is a 100K-word hard science-fiction novel that includes keystones of Ray Bradbury’s FAHRENHEIT 451, Cormac McCarthy’s THE ROAD, Dan Simmons’ HYPERION, and William Gibson’s NEUROMANCER.

In my first novel, I’ve drawn from 35 years’ experience as a degree qualified Electronics Engineer (with a broad knowledge of computer hardware, software, and mathematics), to create a future world where science and technology, both real and imaginary, are woven into ENTROPY.

Thank you for your time and kind consideration.


message 2: by Tito (new)

Tito Athano (bobspringett) | 144 comments mikem wrote: "Hi All
Your comments on my query letter would be greatly appreciated

Dear Agent

It’s not His job to find the catalyst that controls entropy, but if he does, he can save humanity from extinction.
..."


I wouldn't mind doing a beta-read on this, but it looks like you're already past that point.


message 3: by Mike (new)

Mike McGinty | 16 comments Hi Tito
I'm still in the beta reading/editing phase. At the same time, I'm trying to create the killer query letter and synopsis.
It's a completed works with ending etc. I've had 3 beta readers so far who have given great feedback. I would welcome more readers. Not for an editing critique but for feedback on structure, flow, dialogue and characters.
One of the key things I take away from them is religion (no holding back). So not sure if that might be a problem for you.


message 4: by Tito (new)

Tito Athano (bobspringett) | 144 comments mikem wrote: "Hi Tito
I'm still in the beta reading/editing phase. At the same time, I'm trying to create the killer query letter and synopsis.
It's a completed works with ending etc. I've had 3 beta readers so ..."


Hi Mike,

I'd be more than happy to do a Beta for this book. And don't worry about offending my vulnerable religious petals. I can not only handle other religious opinions, I can also understand them from within. For example, I'm basically a Protestant only a month or so away from publishing my own novel which is sympathetic portrayal of a man who becomes Pope in 2032. I have also been thanked warmly for helping improve a 'Last Days Apocalypse' book by a Latter Day Saint author, another belief paradigm that I personally consider unhelpful. But it's NOT MY BOOK, so I can look at it as an intellectual exercise, not a statement of my personal beliefs. My aim is to help the author make his book as close as possible to what he wants it to be, not to impose my own filters.

I prefer to work in Word, leaving marginal notes as I go with consolidated comments on plot, character, pace, technical points, etc every fifty pages or so. I do NOT touch the base text.

bspringett@iprimus.com.au


message 5: by Mike (new)

Mike McGinty | 16 comments Thanks. I'll send tomorrow.
Just a query - I assume you are Bob. Is Tito your pen name then?


message 6: by Tito (new)

Tito Athano (bobspringett) | 144 comments mikem wrote: "Thanks. I'll send tomorrow.
Just a query - I assume you are Bob. Is Tito your pen name then?"

Thanmks, Mike,

When I signed up with Goodreads, the system would only accept me as an 'author' if I listed under the name used to publish my 'Other Rome' series of books.

These were written as though an actually history in an alternative universe where the Roman Republic lasted a lot longer and became Hellenised and centred in Mesopotamia. I wrote as though a Professor of History in that other timeline. The name Tito Kithes Athano was intended as an evolution from Titus (modified from Latin) Kithes (Persian roots) Athanos (modified from Greek for 'deathless').

I'll be publishing future books under my real name, and intend to set up a new Goodreads page based on that.


message 7: by Alex (new)

Alex | 124 comments I don't read much hard science fiction, although I recently wrote a science fiction novel (decidedly soft in comparison to the contents of your query). I also don't have a technical background. That said, I like and am impressed by your query. It may be that agents/publishers who specialize in the hard stuff will find it perfect as is. True, within the science is a conventional, but serviceable plot.

It’s not His (You've chosen not to give your hero a name. Is this only for the query or is this an aspect of His society? Perhaps people don't have formal names in this world. If I saw a capitalized his in a different context, I'd expect it to be a stand-in for God. Your reason for His isn't explained. Do you expect agents to accept it as a trophe of hard science fiction?) job to find the catalyst that controls entropy, but if he does, he can save humanity from extinction.

The morning after his Supervisor reprimands him for using Aleph-1 to search the pre-Enlightenment data archives for the catalyst (Aleph-1 is an aspect of set theory. Can it actually be used for such a search? If so, then no explanation is necessary. If not . . .)— a serious violation of the Guidelines — a man's perfect life shatters when he wakes to find his wife murdered. He knows he is innocent, but with his hands soaked in her blood, who will believe him? (A classic plot move: The Fugitive. But that's fine. BTW, I like the two periodic sentences.) Fleeing from the over-crowded city, he is plunged (I think the passive works here, but you could say, "he plunges or he escapes, he takes refuge . . . You don't capitalize the he. Inconsistent? )into another world unrecognizable for its blood-red wastelands, empty mega-cities, and receding oceans — a dangerous place inhabited by the remnants of mankind (Compact, effective description of setting). Still convinced he can save everyone, he teams up with a pair of remnants before a chance meeting (with) the Thinker, an enigmatic loner, reveals that not only has Aleph-1 fabricated (Is Aleph-1 more than just set theory?) his ideal existence (his wife included) to increase his productivity and harvest his thoughts for the Cantor Infinity Drive (I love the sound of CID. The idea of real life being an illusion occurs in a lot of Science Fiction, but the CID makes it sound fresh), but the decline of the human species has already started. (This may be enough, but something about the forces he has to overcome to save the human species wouldn't hurt)

Set in the near-future, ENTROPY (the physics principle or your novel?) strips away the attributes that make us human, from our names (OK, here you clue us into the generic names, but why only the possessive pronoun?) to the reason we exist. With an undercurrent of present-day themes (including our obsession with everything digital; climate change; over-population; corporate greed; and disruptive activism), ENTROPY asks the question: What is the catalyst that will start our decline? If He (ah, but here he is capitalized) can find the answer, then he holds the future of our species in his hands — unless it is already too late.

As I said initially, this is a solid query. The concept of something controlling entropy is fascinating, and it appears you have the background to convince us. Good luck.


message 8: by Wmba (last edited May 14, 2020 04:25PM) (new)

Wmba Dams | 49 comments I hate anything starting with a vague pronoun.
Perhaps rephrase with Can MC(name) save humanity by....
That would be more forceful and fix the pronoun problem.

Ditto wrt pronoun in graf2.

That 2nd graf is a bit long. Perhaps break it up into two or three more focused ones.

Overall I find it too much of a fantasy and less as science fiction type book.

There are good guides for how to write a synopsis.
Ditto for good queries.

Not sure if that personal hype at the end is beneficial. As, I too, am a degreed engineer, plus MS math, PhD CS, and did not find that as substantiating your claims to be the one to write about Entropy. But as I said it sounded like fantasy not SciFi to me.

Change the genre and the query might work fine. Except the pronouns.

Overall I would rate it as about a 3 or 4 as it is. You really want a 9+ when you contact agents.


message 9: by Mike (new)

Mike McGinty | 16 comments Alex wrote: "I don't read much hard science fiction, although I recently wrote a science fiction novel (decidedly soft in comparison to the contents of your query). I also don't have a technical background. Tha..."

Thanks Alex. Much appreciated.
Regarding 'He' vs 'he' - It's a tough one when characters don't have names, but that's how the story is written. Think of it like 'Jack does this, then he does that.' The MC is referred to as He whereas everyone else (except Julia) is referred to by their roles.
Aleph-1 is indeed more than set theory as described in the story. The clue is further on when it has fabricated his life,
The CID plays an important part in the story as well.
When capitalized, ENTROPY refers to the book as a standard convention.
The difficulty with a query letter is 100k-words -> 200-words is a challenge. There is so much to say but I guess its job is to create enough interest/questions that an agent will want to read the Synopsis.
Thanks again


message 10: by Mike (new)

Mike McGinty | 16 comments Alex wrote: "I don't read much hard science fiction, although I recently wrote a science fiction novel (decidedly soft in comparison to the contents of your query). I also don't have a technical background. Tha..."

Does the following help resolve the He vs he problem?

It’s not His job to find the catalyst that controls entropy, but if he does, He can save humanity from extinction.

The morning after his Supervisor reprimands him for using Aleph-1 to search the pre-Enlightenment data archives for the catalyst — a serious violation of the Guidelines — a man's utopian life is shattered when he wakes to find his wife murdered. He knows he is innocent, but with his hands soaked in her blood, who will believe him? After fleeing from the over-crowded city, He is plunged into another world unrecognizable for its blood-red wastelands, empty mega-cities, and receding oceans — a dangerous place inhabited by the remnants of mankind. Still convinced he can save everyone, He teams up with a pair of remnants, who can help him reverse the decline. But a chance meeting with the Thinker, an enigmatic loner, reveals that not only has Aleph-1 fabricated his whole existence — including his wife — to increase his productivity while it harvests his thoughts for the Cantor Infinity Drive, but the decline of the human species is almost complete.


message 11: by Alex (new)

Alex | 124 comments Don't worry about the 200 word limit. What agents want to see is something they haven't seen before. If you can give them that, they'll read. I think your credentials are fine, but unnecessary for a fiction query.


message 12: by Mike (new)

Mike McGinty | 16 comments Wmba wrote: "I hate anything starting with a vague pronoun.
Perhaps rephrase with Can MC(name) save humanity by....
That would be more forceful and fix the pronoun problem.

Ditto wrt pronoun in graf2.

That 2n..."


Thanks wmba. Much appreciated.
Yes the pronoun to start a sentence can be infuriating. My aim was to try and summarize the whole plot in a sentence.
I'll think about splitting into extra paragraphs, however I want to stick to the recommended format for query letters.
Your observation about it sounding more fantasy is interesting. I'll make sure the maths and science are prominent in the Synopsis.
Once again, thanks.


message 13: by Alex (new)

Alex | 124 comments You might start with something like "In a world where personal/individual names are forbidden, a (job title that parallels Supervisor) . . ." You could continue referring to him by his title for a couple of sentences and then use the lowercase pronoun.


message 14: by Wmba (new)

Wmba Dams | 49 comments Alex wrote: "You might start with something like "In a world where personal/individual names are forbidden, a (job title that parallels Supervisor) . . ." You could continue referring to him by his title for a ..."

That world makes no sense. Worst case they would have serial numbers or some means to identify them to whoever is in charge.

I would never read any book just using pronouns. I zero-starred a number of books that I read for confusing us with pronouns because of their careless writing leaving us unsure who they were talking about.


message 15: by Wmba (new)

Wmba Dams | 49 comments mikem wrote: "Wmba wrote: "I hate anything starting with a vague pronoun.
Perhaps rephrase with Can MC(name) save humanity by....
That would be more forceful and fix the pronoun problem.

Ditto wrt pronoun in gr..."


I would suggest you first write your premise and a logline.
Then write a blurb, and then a summary, and finally the elevator pitch.
If you need one then do the synopsis.

Next refine the summary and EP to target the agent.


message 16: by Mike (new)

Mike McGinty | 16 comments Thanks guys. I'll take it all on board.


message 17: by Wmba (last edited May 14, 2020 06:33PM) (new)

Wmba Dams | 49 comments mikem wrote: My aim was to try and summarize the whole plot in a sentence.



That would be the logline.

A query letter needs a bit more than that.


message 18: by Mike (new)

Mike McGinty | 16 comments Thanks Wmba. My original query had more info but advice from the QueryTracker forums kept advising to reduce the word count to 1 page max (or ~300-words total).
Maybe I condensed it too much. As Alex said, >200-words is not necessarily a show stopper.


message 19: by Alex (new)

Alex | 124 comments Wmba wrote: "Alex wrote: "You might start with something like "In a world where personal/individual names are forbidden, a (job title that parallels Supervisor) . . ." You could continue referring to him by his..."

You might well never read a book using only pronouns, but if a writer can construct a world where personal identity has been eliminated (no names, no serial numbers) that would interest me. In fact, Ayn Rand wrote a book called We the Living about a nation in which individuality had been eliminated. To make her point, the first person pronoun wasn't used in the novel. It's been awhile since I read it, so I'm not sure if her characters didn't have first names. I suspect they didn't. Many windows in the house of fiction.


message 20: by Wmba (new)

Wmba Dams | 49 comments mikem wrote: "Thanks Wmba. My original query had more info but advice from the QueryTracker forums kept advising to reduce the word count to 1 page max (or ~300-words total).
Maybe I condensed it too much. As A..."


I would check your agent's site and see what they want. Often they give instructions as to what they want to see, as well as length, yada yada. You could send a one page query and attach a slightly longer summary unless their instructions said not to do that.

Your sample has 321 words. I would say to focus it on what is most important.
There is a wide variation in usefulness with what was presented.

Having read it again and putting on my agent's hat, I would say pass based on what was presented. Would I say yes if it were focused. Perhaps. As it stands I am unsure how coherent all those pieces would be together.

Not sure what the query forum would say but I want a better idea of the plot. Not sure if the potential agent wants that or not.


message 21: by Wmba (new)

Wmba Dams | 49 comments You might well never read a book using only pronouns, but if a writer can construct a world where personal identity has been eliminated (no names, no serial numbers) that would interest me. In fact, Ayn Rand wrote a book called We the Living about a nation in which individuality had been eliminated. To make her point, the first person pronoun wasn't used in the novel.....


For me that is just too hard to read. How do you keep the characters straight?

Also hard to believe the government does not assign identifiers of some sort, even a serial number, to everyone so they can control them easier.

The key question is how does that affect the potential audience and sales?
Agents and publishers obsess over sales potential.


message 22: by Mike (new)

Mike McGinty | 16 comments Alex wrote: "Wmba wrote: "Alex wrote: "You might start with something like "In a world where personal/individual names are forbidden, a (job title that parallels Supervisor) . . ." You could continue referring ..."

People kept telling me I needed to name my characters, but I wanted to write a story that slowly takes away our human characteristics. The first, is our identity (ie our names).
I put a lot of effort into making sure there is no confusing dialog or who said what to whom and when. I used techniques like giving each character a specific voice.
No complaints yet from any of my beta readers.


message 23: by Wmba (new)

Wmba Dams | 49 comments If people keep telling you to name them then I would take that as a sign that without names the agent won't be interested, unless you could show how they are identified.

But you say the beta readers did not complain about that. That perplexes me. Did any of them say they would plunk down the 30USD to buy it at B&N?

I still think the government would assign some identifier. Using the number to remove identity like prisons do. How would they say to a cop to go arrest (voice sounds like?)? Or would they say to bring in 9458w8 for questioning.

What you think is confusing clearly differs from what I think is confusing. What would the agent think? What would the publisher think? You need to make them happy not me.


message 24: by Mike (new)

Mike McGinty | 16 comments Wmba wrote: "You might well never read a book using only pronouns, but if a writer can construct a world where personal identity has been eliminated (no names, no serial numbers) that would interest me. In fact..."

We are the smartest animal on this planet, if not the Universe. We can overcome every obstacle. So how would I write a story about our demise which is believable? I take away every attribute that makes us human, starting with our identities.
How do we make that saleable (when it's definitely hard SF)?
We fuse the science and math with our humanness and have faith the non-scifi reader will enjoy the story just as much as the avid hard-core Scifi reader.
I don't profess to be a pro, but I'm going to give it a real good go.
I listen to all advice +ve and -ve. I liked your logical Premise -> Logline -> Blurb etc advice and will shelve the Synopsis until I have the predecessors in place.
Cheers


message 25: by Wmba (new)

Wmba Dams | 49 comments mikem wrote: "Wmba wrote: "You might well never read a book using only pronouns, but if a writer can construct a world where personal identity has been eliminated (no names, no serial numbers) that would interes..."

My advice is worth every penny you paid for it:)

Good luck and do not get discouraged if you think the book is good.

PS
where is this query forum. I did not see it readily.


message 26: by Alex (new)

Alex | 124 comments Wmba wrote: "You might well never read a book using only pronouns, but if a writer can construct a world where personal identity has been eliminated (no names, no serial numbers) that would interest me. In fact..."

If the writer can pull it off, he pulls it off. That's the challenge of writing something original. You do what can't be done.


message 27: by Mike (new)

Mike McGinty | 16 comments Wmba wrote: "mikem wrote: "Wmba wrote: "You might well never read a book using only pronouns, but if a writer can construct a world where personal identity has been eliminated (no names, no serial numbers) that..."

I listen out for the gems, regardless of who is talking. Sometimes inspiration comes from the most unexpected places.
https://querytracker.net/index.php
Hope your day is going well. Cheers


message 28: by Mike (new)

Mike McGinty | 16 comments Alex wrote: "Wmba wrote: "You might well never read a book using only pronouns, but if a writer can construct a world where personal identity has been eliminated (no names, no serial numbers) that would interes..."

Exactly. What I'm trying to achieve is unusual, but at least it's thought through. If it comes off then all power to myself and my satisfied readers. As a (budding) writer, I'm not scared of taking a chance. I just need to convince the agent, publisher and future readers. That's my mountain, and I'm climbing it with the help of people like you, Wmba, my beta readers etc.
Cheers


message 29: by Wmba (new)

Wmba Dams | 49 comments Alex wrote: "Wmba wrote: "You might well never read a book using only pronouns, but if a writer can construct a world where personal identity has been eliminated (no names, no serial numbers) that would interes..."

Catch 22

If I don't read it then he does not get a chance to pull it off.

Is this just my quirk or are there enough like me to impact the size of the potential market?


message 30: by Wmba (new)

Wmba Dams | 49 comments mikem wrote: Exactly. What I'm trying to achieve is unusual, but at least it's thought through. If it comes off then all power to myself and my satisfied readers. As a (budding) writer, I'm not scared of taking a chance. I just need to convince the agent, publisher and future readers. That's my mountain, and I'm climbing it with the help of people like you, Wmba, my beta readers etc.
Cheers
..."


good luck with it!

I am skeptical, but with your confidence and planning you could pull it off.


message 31: by Alex (last edited May 15, 2020 10:18AM) (new)

Alex | 124 comments Wmba wrote: "Alex wrote: "Wmba wrote: "You might well never read a book using only pronouns, but if a writer can construct a world where personal identity has been eliminated (no names, no serial numbers) that ..."

Ah, that is true, but I think many may be up for the challenge. There is an entire school of writing known as Oulipo that sets constraints on narratives (perhaps no form of the verb "to be" is permitted in the story) to force the writer down new paths of creativity, or perhaps just for the hell of it. Italo Calvino was a member, and interestingly many mathematicians (French, of course). There are many readers who like difficult stuff--and likely considerably more that don't.


message 32: by Wmba (new)

Wmba Dams | 49 comments Alex wrote: Ah, that is true, but I think many may be up for the challenge. There is an entire school of writing known as Oulipo that sets constraints on narratives (perhaps no form of the verb "to be" is permitted in the story) to force the writer down new paths of creativity, or perhaps just for the hell of it. Italo Calvino was a member, and interestingly many mathematicians (French, of course). There are many readers who like difficult stuff--and likely considerably more that don't. .."

That is a problem for the writer.
The question is whether it is a problem for the reader.

Fine if the author challenges themself, but not if it causes problems for the reader.

Knew a prof who once wrote a book without the letter in it, or something equally silly.
Maybe he did the no verb < to be > challenge. Dont remember, dont care:)
Most readers did not care or even notice unless they were told.


message 33: by Wmba (new)

Wmba Dams | 49 comments mikem wrote: "Hi All
Your comments on my query letter would be greatly appreciated


I think this months WD magazine has a special issue on queries.
Might be worth a look.



message 34: by Mike (new)

Mike McGinty | 16 comments Cheers
Much appreciated


message 35: by Wmba (last edited May 22, 2020 05:26PM) (new)

Wmba Dams | 49 comments mikem wrote: "Cheers
Much appreciated"


de nada

Just checked their site now and it is not the may-june issue so I supect it is the july or july/august edition or else I hallucinated about the web post I saw hyping it.


message 36: by Mike (new)

Mike McGinty | 16 comments Cheers. I'll keep an eye out.


message 37: by Wmba (new)

Wmba Dams | 49 comments mikem wrote: "Cheers. I'll keep an eye out."

They cover this topic every couple of years. Your library may well have back issues where they discussed queries. And F+W has (had?) some books on doing queries too.

Also check their website writersdigest.com for free materials that might be useful. They apparently redid this recently but except for killing the worthless forum that was essentially dead for years now and putting on a fresher look a lot of it still seems to be the same.

I do miss that old forum even if it was not useful for discussions any longer as I could often find old posts (usually my old ones but not always) that answered questions that I had and forgot the answers to.


back to top