Work those quads!

I'm worrying somewhat about the quadrology I am currently revising. Do I query only the first part? (They're not very standalone, they're one long book split into four.) Do I query the first part and mention the others? Do I treat the first one in detail and say 'in parts two three and four, Rhailed and his friends get kidnapped, destroy a famous landmark, uncover the enemy's evil plans and foil every stage of them before making major changes to the governance of their kingdom and making tentative peace overtures?' Do I go into detail for the whole thing?

this is non fiction right?

You query the whole darn thing. However, you don't just recite the plot. What makes this compelling? What will draw the reader in? Why on earth do I want the good guys to win? (Miss Snark is bored with the triumph of good over evil.)

Then you break the news about length. SFF skews long so seven gazillion words is not a deal breaker in this genre (there are posts about that earlier on the blog). Tell me that this saga unfolds over four books. At this point its not important to know which book covers what. What's important is the concept and the execution. You tell us the concept, and how well you write those pages and your cover letter tells me about the execution.

Detail is the devil in query letters. You can't go into much, but broad generalizations are boring. You have to find one or two compelling details that really entice a reader. Try not to panic though. Even if your query letter truly sux (9 out of 10 do), if your pages are good, you're still in the game.

And why are there no SFF characters named Susan? or Fred? or Barney? Do they all have to have unpronounceable names? F'lar, Lessa, schmessa.


Simon Haynes said...

And why are there no SFF characters named Susan?
Try CS Lewis's Narnia books. I think they're even making a movie out of them ;-)

Alicia Paige said...

I can pronounce "Lessa" just fine. "F'lar"? Not so much. :-)

NewsNinja said...

That closing statement rather betrays Miss Snark's limited knowledge of SFF. Not to mention that by this standard, about 80% of the *real* world population have names which Miss Snark would deem 'unpronouncible'. Perhaps she'd like to tell all those stupidly named Asian, African, Native American, Middle Eastern, Australian and Eastern European people that they should rename themselves Susan, Fred and Barney...?

Miss Snark said...

Amazingly enough, Miss Snark does not equate "unpronounceable" with "stupidly named" despite the fact she is reading novels in English written by English speakers and published amazingly enough in the United States.

This comment, for anyone having a hard time reading clearly cause their head is up their ass, is s a joke.

Get over yourself.

Bernita said...

Who pronounced them?
But too many consonants or vowels and apostrophes strung together sometimes make it difficult to distinguish between characters.
Um, do we need any ethno-centric slams here,ninja?
The point is, as surely you know, what works with the target audience.
Bit hard to separate characters also if they're all named Chiang or Habib or Singe...So don't pretend that there is an unusual degree of nominal individuality in the areas you mention.

NewsNinja said...

Goodness. Temper, temper, Miss Snark.

AnimeJune said...

Urg - try reading Robert Silverberg's stuff, like "The Queen of Springtime" - there was a character in it named Esparasagiot. I kid you not. What was Mr. Silverberg doing, hitting random keys on his computer while blindfolded??

Tsavo Leone said...

Please allow for the pendant in me, but I believe the correct name for a story being told in four parts is 'tetralogy'. I first came across the word in response to my own disgustipation at 20th Century Fox issuing the Alien Quadrilogy. Quadriliogy may seem a very cromulant word to those nice people at Fox, but bugged the nuts off me.

A quick look at Wikipedia confirms a tetralogy as being "... a compound work that is made up of four distinct works", which suggests the story in question would be classed as neither a tetralogy nor a quadrology (sic).

I am in a similar position myself, although I have managed to encapsulate the basics of the story in roughly 650 words (after several re-writes). The story itself currently stands at 550,000 words with another 50,000/100,000 to go (hence my lurking beneath the gracious wings of hostess Snark)...

Beth said...


While you are perfectly right about tetralogy, you might want to take another look at pendant...

Fran said...

The nonsensical-sounding name stuff in too much science fiction today is one of my pet-peeves. It annoys me so much that often if I see this stuff as soon as I open a SF book, I immediately close the book. Normally I'm not so closed-minded when I first pick up a book, but I've found that this name-shit is too contrived, too deliberate, and often destroys the read's flow, IMO. Maybe some SF writers are trying to sound other-worldly or something.

Whatever the case, I think older science fiction didn't lean this way so extremely. Whenever I've written SF, I've used "regular" names, but when writers do this today, they're sometimes automatically labeled "soft" or "not really SF," like because so much current SF has nonsensical-sounding names, lots of gadgets, lots of technology and flashy world-building, writing SF today often requires all this stuff (or at least getting SF published may require this in too many cases). It's too bad too much SF writing has become so glitzy, so juvenile, so cartoonish. Character and drama and subtlety and thoughtfulness seem to be extinct in the genre overall--at least IMO. I'll stick to Ray Bradbury and the original Outer Limits series. I like John E. Stith's stuff too because, though his books may be hard-SF, they are also very character- and ideas-driven. He hasn't lost his way in science fiction, but then he has real science experience. I think writers with real-world science experience tend to "play scientist" much less on the science-fiction page, to the benefit of their works. Catherine Asaro also fits that category.

Rick said...

If course Miss Snark was joking, but I do have to grump about apostrophes in SF/F names. (I'm not the first one; see Diana Wynne Jones's wonderful TOUGH GUIDE TO FANTASYLAND.) K'far isn't really a bad one, though plain Kfar would do just as well; I've seen much worse.

I suppose the apostrophes are supposed to look exotic, and are easier to do on a standard keyboard than umlauts or other exotic-to-English-speakers marks.

Lessa is kind of pretty, though. DWJ had one example, Lynthelle, that is so pretty it's all I can do not to steal it.

the chocolatier said...

The name obsession is one thing that has always bothered me about SF/F. Give me a good story, and I don't care if the protagonist is called O'Bob and his arch-nemesis is called Mr. Twinkles.

Harry Connolly said...

Hey! I named my daughter "Lessa!" People love that name.

However, I should *never* have named my son "F'lar."

(NB for NewsNinja: That's a joke.)

Tsavo Leone said...

Slightly Off-Topic:

pedant (plural: pedants)

1. A person who is overly concerned with formal rules and trivial points of learning.

Beth, wasn't I being pedantic enough? : )

Miss Snark said...

No Tsavo, you just can't spell.

Two different words.

Rhonda Stapleton said...

Harry Connolly - LOLOL. Nice one.

And I agree with Miss Snark on the SFF naming thing. It's not in all books, but some of them are quite excessive about it.



Tsavo Leone said...

If your story concerns or centres upon characters of non-English origin (which covers a fair percentage of Sci-Fi and/or Fantasy) then surely the use of well thought out 'foreign' sounding names is part and parcel of the package? Without the accents, apostrophes and hyphens in their names characters who might be representative of Arabian cultures may lose that essential 'flavour' (as an example).

Surely, the problem would be more accurately described as authors simply making (stupid) names up, and then adding in the various accents, apostrophes and hyphens as a way of trying to validate an otherwise obviously stupid name...

Re: Miss Snark & Beth

A case of "I can't see the wood for the trees" I'm afraid: I read what I thought I'd written, and not what I'd actually written! Please accept my most humble apologies. I shall force myself to read some of NR's 'writing' to atone for my dim-wittedness...

Beth said...


Oh, it was a typo, then. All is forgiven. ;)


Draker said...

Miss Snark:

Why, why do you write "sux" instead of "sucks"? I spelled like that as a freshman in college. I still blush at the memory.

David Isaak said...

I think strange names work fine, if, like Tolkein, you have a keenly developed linguistic background for them.

But in such a case, the names don't tend to stand out as odd, even if they are constructions like "Eomer" or "Eowyn."

Few authors want to--or have the skills to--spend years developing consistent language and cultural systems. I think readers tend to sense when names have been snagged out of a box of Scrabble tiles.

On the other hand, despite "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," do you really want to call your wizard...Tim?

Existential Man said...

well, I know i'm gonna be in the minority here, but I hate science fiction/fantasy of all kinds and would never read this stuff--no matter what the names of the characters might be. Never read Rowling.I don't give a crap about seeing the Star Wars movies, the Hobbit, or any of that genre. Fine if your 10 years old, but Not for me. ok, all you Trekkies and sci-fi freaks, go ahead and shoot me with your goddamn lazer guns (or whatever they're called)!

Harry Connolly said...

ok, all you Trekkies and sci-fi freaks, go ahead and shoot me with your goddamn lazer guns (or whatever they're called)!

They're called phasers!

P-yoo! P-yoo!

Oops, I misspelled that.

P'yoo! P'yoo!

There! Now you're pretend-dead, so HAH!

the chocolatier said...

Hey! I named my daughter "Lessa!" People love that name.
However, I should *never* have named my son "F'lar.

That's weak, I plan to name my future children Flounder and King Trident, in keeping with the greatest disney movie of all time, regardless of gender.

occasional_anonymous said...

I always assumed the apostrophe in F'lar was silent.

However, there is a reason for it to be there. When a man on Pern becomes a dragonrider, he removes the first vowel from his name and replaces it with an apostrophe as a mark of his rank.

oh dear--did I really type that?

As for disliking SF&F in all its forms, that's perfectly allowable--but only after actually READING all the forms!

Catja (green_knight) said...

Miss Snark, thank you for your helpfulness. I promise most of my names are quite pronouncable.

Tsavo leone, you'll have to live with 'quadrology', whether you like it or not.
Google supports me in statistics. <EG>

I write speculative fiction. I'm allowed to make up a whole world, system of wizardy, and tradition of scholarship; I can create a fountain that is mistaken for a wizards and describe a philosophical treatise called 'On the Bark of Trees' and you question my use of 'quadrology'?

The mind, she boggles.

Mama Rose said...

Well, with all of the comments about names and such, no one addressed one real issue in sff publishing. They don't want multi-book stories from unpublished authors. Trilogies used to be the thing, especially in fantasy, but today, with ordering to the net, they're a great way to tank a career before it starts, according to my sf author friend who was discussing with her editor what they buy. She said that so many people got burned when they bought first books of trilogies that never had all three books published because the sales numbers weren't good enough, readers started to wait for all of them to get published before buying. That made the sales numbers of first books of a trilogy go down even further, making it almost a sure thing that the whole trilogy would never get published. She said that if you're a new writer they want stand-alone novels of approximately 100K. So, I think if you want to sell your multi-book story, you ought to consider focusing on a shorter, stand-alone and develop a reputation in the business, first. Good luck to you, whatever you decide. :)


AnimeJune said...

I think it all has to do with the linguistics of sci-fi names.
If they're easy to spell and pronounce ("Lessa" is an example from McCraffrey, "Talia" from Mercedes Lackey, "Boden" from the novel I'm working on), then I have no problem with them.
It's only with needlessly complicated names with consonant clusters that aren't normally found in the English language that the mind trips up.
By all means, make up names - but they shouldn't be tongue-twisters. When I read, the words form in the mind aurally (spelling?). When I come up against a name like Esparasagiot (which reminds me of snails, for some reason), my tired little brain goes "poof!" and shuts down.

And fantasy isn't only for ten-year-olds, it's just a genre adopted by many young writers because they mistakenly believe you don't need to research to write a fantasy novel. ^_^