Tuesday, March 28, 2017

March Pass Or Pages Entry #2

It's feedback reveal time! We hope everyone reading can find something helpful as they work on writing their own query letters. Many, many thanks to the members of our agent panel for taking the time to critique these entries, and major props to the authors for putting themselves out there in the name of improvement. We salute you!



When a little boy gets lost in the forbidden mountains, his desperate mother, her brother, and her two best friends break the law every Rinaryn is taught from the time they can walk- never, for any reason, leave the path. [L1] [K1] 

For generations there has been a rift [H1]between the agrarian Rinaryns and the secluded mountain-dwelling Kamalti, who have faded to legend. So when the four Rinaryns[H2]force their way into the mountain, they are surprised to discover an entire civilization far more advanced than their own and filled with strange rules. Misunderstanding the Kamalti justice system triggers a fight for their lives, sparking the Kamalti to enslave them for a year as criminals. [L2] [K2]

In the face of Kamalti prejudices, the Rinaryns [L3] must reach an understanding with their captors to make their escape. Along the way they discover a horrible truth: because of a generations-old translation error[H3], the Kamalti send lost travelers to the same inescapable prison city the Rinaryns exile the worst of their criminals to.[K3] If they can't get the Kamalti to see them as peers, countless more lives will be needlessly destroyed.[K4] The way the future unfolds for both peoples will be determined by four Rinaryns: the hero running from glory, the peacemaker trained for battle, the priestess berserker, and the tall dwarf with the smart mouth.[H4][L4][K5]

BETWEEN STARFALLS is an epic fantasy novel with science fiction elements describing the clash between two long separated cultures and the little things that mean the difference between war and peace. The narrative is told through six points of view: the voices of the four members of the search party, one of the Kamalti captors, and a rebel from the prison city. It is complete at about 147k words[K6] [L5] and intended to begin a series. BETWEEN STARFALLS is The Stormlight Archive meets the Lightbringer series meets The Rain Wilds Chronicles. [L6]

Lisa's Notes:
[L1] I would’ve liked to have their names. It would help to ground me sooner in the story and establish a closer connection with these characters.
[L2] Too long and it’s expository information (info dumping).  Starting to read like a book summary not a pitch.
[L3] Need to get to this sooner. Also when “Rinaryns” is used here, it was confusing. Before I figured out we were now back to the characters, for a second, I thought it was in reference to the people/race (previous paragraph) rather than the characters (first paragraph).  Again, it would help to know their actual names.
[L4] This is the most interesting sentence in the entire pitch.
[L5] The max word count for Adult fantasy is 120k. This one is a bit long, especially if this is a debut. I wouldn’t pass on that alone, but it is a red flag for me.
[L6] So nice when comparable titles are included.

Kirsten's Notes:
[K1] It feels very strange that we don’t get these characters’ names, here or anywhere else. There’s potential in this opening, but I don’t see how it relates to the rest of the query.
[K2] This is very general. What caused the rift? What is the legend? Advanced how? What kind of rules? What’s the misunderstanding? What happens in this fight, and why are you telling us the outcome before we can even get interested? Without more specifics, it’s hard to invest myself.
[K3] I thought the Rinaryns didn’t know the Kamalti existed?
[K4] Not following this logic: if it’s just an accident of translation, why do the Rinaryns need the Kamaltis’ respect to fix it?
[K5] Are these the same four people in the first paragraph? I’m at the end of the query but still have no idea who they are. Even if I weren’t confused by the worldbuilding, I’d need someone specific to care about in order to want to read the story.
[K6] This is getting into dealbreaker length for me.

Hannah's Notes: 
[H1] If there has always been a rift, then why are the characters surprised to find the Kamalti there?
[H2] A book about “Four Rinaryns” is not as interesting to me as a book about four individuals with distinct personalities, who you do not name at all in this query.
[H3] Can you give us more about what this translation error is? Otherwise, I have no idea what could be so horrible that the Kamalti imprison lost travelers over it.
[H4] Give me this at the beginning.
Also, to be clear – they’re in the mountains in the first place to retrieve a lost boy? What happened to him? He’s never mentioned again.

First 250: 

Kaemada narrowed her eyes and focused on shutting out the sounds of sparring to her left. Sweeping her long hair back over her shoulder and tying the dark honey colored curls out of her way*, she eyed the course set before her. She was stalling. Earsa’s patience was short, his temper shorter. With slender fingers curled around the familiar wood of her bow*, Kaemada lifted her chin and ran. From her left across the clearing* sped two orbs of force through the air like ripples along a cracked whip. She hurdled one then stopped short, every muscle in her body working to halt forward momentum as the second blazed by. Again she ran and dove to the ground under a third shimmering, translucent ripple. Pain shot through her knee, the old injury exacerbated by the dive to the ground. Gritting her teeth*, she picked herself up and sprinted, favoring her right knee. She must do better. Swiftly*, she nocked an arrow, drew back the string while aiming, and let loose. The arrow thudded home near the center of the target. [K1] 

There was no time to celebrate. She barely saw the arrow hit before she sped on lest yet another ripple hit her. They kept coming and she ran, sprinting and leaping and diving and slowing and dodging. She aimed, drew, and released. The arrow struck the edge of a target high above her in a tree.[H1] [L1] 
Lisa's Notes:
[L1] I’m passing on this entry. I like that it begins in scene with character movement.  But I’m unable to connect with the character.  I tend to be drawn more to characters with deep inner lives.

Kirsten's Notes:
[K1] I like opening to this action, but I’m having trouble picturing it, particularly the orbs of force and the translucent ripple (another orb of force?). Also wish I knew who Kaemada was from the query above.

Hannah's Notes:
[H1] These stars mark passive voice. Be careful of overusing passive phrasing, especially in an action sequence.

Lisa Abellera: PASS
Kirsten Carleton: PASS
Hannah Fergesen: PASS


  1. I found the first 250 words to be exciting and I was drawn in to the story, but I agree with the agents that the query was a little confusing. What if you just focused on the mother in the query - naming her and turning the descriptions around what she's after and what she's doing, then at a later point you can mention the other POVs and how they relate to her. If the mother is Kaemada. Otherwise the first 250 words might be confusing. The overall concept sounds intriguing and I wish you the best of luck!

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