Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Face-Lift 380


Guess the Plot

Invisible

1. Half the fun is in trying to find this book on the shelves, thanks to an innovative printing method, never before seen.

2.


3. In the finest tradition of literary hoaxes, this book asks the reader to figure out why every page appears to be blank.

4. Josie knows why people ignore her. The Rules of Invisibility keep her unseen. But Claire has discovered her, and now nothing will be the same.

5. Gertie can't figure out why people ignore her. Then she looks in a mirror. Turns out, she's . . . Invisible.

6. Revenge is never pretty. But for Isabel Hitchens, 50 and looking it, a new overnight cream has the answer. Tom Burke isn't going to know what hit him.


Original Version

Dear Agent:

On the surface, Claire and Josie are total opposites. Once childhood friends, Claire now enjoys Park High School’s pinnacle of popularity while Josie remains unseen, blending into the crowd by following a list of self-made "Rules of Invisibility," which include [using an unscented anti-perspirant; not wearing clothes--which aren't invisible, and yes, I know the Invisible Girl's clothes disappear when she becomes invisible, but that's a comic book and we're talking about real life here; not bumping into anyone, unless it's Jimmy Clark in the boy's locker room; wrapping your head in bandages like a mummy and putting on sunglasses and a hat when you want to be seen, like when Mrs. Wilson is taking attendance (people find this less disconcerting than empty space);] avoiding eye contact and speaking only when necessary. Things change for both girls when their worlds accidentally collide.

When Josie finds Claire in the school bathroom suffering a painful miscarriage, the two high school juniors begin to rely on one another. [When I was in high school, the worst that happened in the bathroom was that some hoodlum smoked a cigarette. Nowadays the bathroom's home to heroin shooting, abortions, murders . . . and that's just the teachers' bathroom.] Claire needs help, and Josie, avoiding [Repressing?] her own dark memories of sexual abuse, agrees to keep Claire’s secret. Josie is surprised when she discovers just how much she has in common with the seemingly perfect Claire; they’re both miserable and hiding it.

To ensure that her secret will remain safe, Claire wants Josie close. Convincing her friends that they need a "project" to spice up their boring lives, Claire sets in motion a plan to bring Josie into Park High’s circle of popularity. [I was thinking modern-day Blackboard Jungle. Now I'm thinking My Fair Lady.] Josie is wary of the situation, but decides that she can use it to her advantage to escape her own problems. She is accepted quickly, especially by quiet and mysterious Owen, who is dating one of Claire’s best friends.

Claire and Josie’s unlikely friendship sparks a chain of events that ultimately leads each girl to confront the secrets they’ve been keeping, causing them to endure entirely new inner struggles and to realize that the only true way out of anything is straight through the middle. [Vague. Come up with something better than "through the middle."] [Also, the best way to get out of a tunnel is at one of the ends.]

Invisible is a contemporary young adult novel, complete at 53,000 words. A third person narrator offers the perspectives of Claire and Josie in short, alternating chapters. A second book in the series, which will follow these characters through their senior year of high school, is in its beginning stages. [Four additional books covering college (and various prequels) are not yet planned, but inevitable.]

I have taught secondary English for eight years and recently completed my Master’s Degree in education. [Is that the usual order?] I am also a member of the SCBWI. I would be happy to send you Invisible. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Notes

This wasn't the next query in line, but it was the only one with five GTPs.

To me, a miscarriage in the girls' bathroom sounds more like tabloid headlines than reading material for a 14-year-old. Obviously I'm out of touch with today's youth.

It may be a bit long. The good news is you can do without the third paragraph. And the sentences about your teaching/education and the third-person narrator can also go. The bad news is that the fourth paragraph needs more specificity. What's this chain of events? Is confronting their secrets a good thing? It's not clear, since they end up with new inner struggles. This paragraph may be the heart of your story, but it's so general we can't tell.

17 comments:

writtenwyrdd said...

This sounds like it could be good, but I would have liked a little more about the compelling events which are about to unfold.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I'm just not seeing it.



;)


There seem to be an awful lot of these YA books about "misfit" kids trying to get into the "popular" cliques. We've seen a few on EE already, and there's more queued up in "New Beginnings".

This was never such a big deal when I was in school (not in the US), so I guess I don't relate to well. But, is this becoming too much of a cliche?

A miscarriage in the school bathroom? 1) Ick (though I'm sure it's happened); 2) Wouldn't she need/seek medical treatment (see, another black hole of my knowledge). Could they really keep it as their "little" secret?

Anna B said...

It's a good query, and the plot sounds okay- except for that third paragraph, which reminded me of the movie "Clueless," in a way. The plot of popular-kid-transforms-unpopular-kid has been done to death.

McKoala said...

LOL number two. That would be a quick read.

I think the rules of invisibility would be a fantastic hook for a YA novel. The abortion thing suggests a dark undertone, but the query doesn't seem to fulfil that; it goes a bit 'Clueless'.

writtenwyrdd said...

FWIW, dark undertones in YA seem to be selling. Read Such A Pretty Girl, which is about a teen dealing with a child molesting father. There are others, but that's the one I read recently which sticks in my mind.

author said...

Thanks for the comments. Here's a revised version. Thoughts?

Dear Agent:

On the surface, Claire and Josie are total opposites. Once childhood friends, Claire now enjoys Park High School’s pinnacle of popularity while Josie remains unseen, blending into the crowd by following a list of self-made “Rules of Invisibility,” which include avoiding eye contact and speaking only when necessary. Things change for both girls when their worlds accidentally collide.

When Josie finds Claire in the school bathroom suffering a painful miscarriage, the two high school juniors begin to rely on one another. Claire needs help, and Josie, repressing her own difficult memories of sexual abuse, agrees to keep Claire’s secret. Josie is surprised when she discovers just how much she has in common with the seemingly perfect Claire; they’re both miserable and hiding it.

Claire and Josie’s unlikely friendship sparks a chain of events that ultimately leads each girl to confront the secrets they’ve been keeping. As soon as Claire realizes that she became pregnant due to the blatant betrayal of her boyfriend, who made her believe he was wearing a condom when he actually wasn’t, she ends the relationship once and for all. When Josie breaks the final “Rule of Invisibility” and shares her darkest moment with Claire, Claire threatens to get help for her if she doesn’t do so on her own, which forces Josie to inform her mother about the night her stepfather raped her. Claire and Josie learn that facing life’s challenges can actually make you stronger and are surprised at the confidence they gain after doing so.

Invisible is a contemporary young adult novel, complete at 53,000 words.

I am a member of the SCBWI. I would be happy to send you Invisible. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Dave said...

That's much better.
A suggestion: I don't think that you need this: "which include avoiding eye contact and speaking only when necessary. Things change for both girls when their worlds accidentally collide."

And I think that this: " Claire threatens to get help for her if she doesn’t do so on her own, which forces Josie to inform her mother about the night her stepfather raped her."
Could be: "Claire's efforts to help Josie forces Josie to confront her mother about the night her stepfather raped her."

Try those changes and see what you think. It reads very well as is, though.

I went through a relative having a baby at 16 y/o. It's not fun. I can't imagine what a miscarraige in the girls room would be like. WTF is a guy pushing sex on a girl of 15 for?

Robin S. said...

Hi author,

This sounds good.

I have a fifteen year-old daughter - the things kids her age deal with now are mind-blowing. And it doesn't matter what socio-economic group one's family falls into. It's there. As a teacher, I'm sure you already know this.

I've had to be a lot more blunt and open that I ever thought I'd need to be, to raise my daughters and help them through this labyrinth of a society.

I think the reason this theme is repeated in books, through different tellings, is because the story resonates.

Good luck!

By the way, EE - where I'm from - getting one's MA after beginning to teach is very common.

Bonnie said...

Love your avatar there, EE -- but don't you think maybe you're getting a little, er, thin?

author -- I ought to like this story. It's a genre I'm interested in and the story sounds like it's well told. But the query, even the revised version, left me thinking, "Didn't I just read this in Jodi Picault's last novel?" I didn't. I don't recall reading a novel with this same plot. Maybe that means you're onto a good thing, a story that tells the truth about what we already know and won't admit. But it might be a good idea to check to make sure your characters are archetypes, not stereotypes...

writtenwyrdd said...

A couple of thoughts. First, in the first paragraph, you say they were friends years ago, then they become unlikely friends. I'd suggest beginning with "Claire and enjoys Park High School’s pinnacle of popularity while Josie remains unseen, blending into the crowd by following a list of self-made “Rules of Invisibility,” which include avoiding eye contact and speaking only when necessary. Things change for both girls when their worlds accidentally collide." Thus, no confusion.

Second, "Claire and Josie’s unlikely friendship." This sentence is strong, but the word unlikely doesn't work. They had been friends once, so how unlikely is a friendship between them? Either this stays or the earlier friendship reference goes. Personally, I'd suggest keeping this reference and ditching the one earlier.

Third, "As soon as Claire realizes that she became pregnant due to the blatant betrayal of her boyfriend, who made her believe he was wearing a condom when he actually wasn’t, she ends the relationship once and for all. When Josie breaks the final “Rule of Invisibility” and shares her darkest moment with Claire, Claire threatens to get help for her if she doesn’t do so on her own, which forces Josie to inform her mother about the night her stepfather raped her."

This doesn't yet work. Not quite sure what the problem is, but it lacks emotional pull. If you talk about both girls must deal with sexual abuse, and the first step is trusting just one person (each other) to listen, that might do it.

This does read better than the original, though. Keep working on it to get that emotional hook in there as well. tough and dark subject matter, but gripping if done well.

takoda said...

I was about to comment on the first query, but see that you've reworked it. It reads much better, and you've gotten great comments.
I think you're going to do very well with this manuscript.

author said...

I really can't thank you enough. All the comments have been helpful and I think I'm about ready to start sending this query out. Off to revise some more . . .

author said...

Okay - if anyone's still checking this (esp writtenwyrdd since this revision is based on your comment) let me know what you think.

When Josie breaks the final “Rule of Invisibility” and shares her darkest moment with Claire, Claire’s efforts to help her force Josie to confront her mother about the night her stepfather raped her. Starting with the small step of trusting one person, Claire and Josie face their life challenges and begin to realize that they hold inner strength and confidence that had previously been invisible to everyone, including them.

writtenwyrdd said...

still doesn't really hook me, because I think I don't want to know about the specifics of the past, but what they are going to do about it. Does that make sense?

So, maybe stick with mentioning sexual abuse and how they move forward, because that moving forward is the story. And then, at least an implication as to what the ending is.

Evil Editor said...

That first sentence is unwieldy. How about: When Josie breaks the final “Rule of Invisibility” and shares her darkest moment with Claire, Claire helps her to confront her mother about the night her stepfather raped her.

It could also be broken into two sentences.

Anonymous said...

There are a lot of books out there about girls wanting to fit into the popular crowd, but that's exactly what the kids want to read. As a teacher, I've seen the kids gravitate to this topic.

Good luck.

Twill said...

I'm concerned about a girl having a miscarriage / spontaneous abortion and not getting medical help. I *hope* you didn't write that like it was okay.

Don't know the exact statistics, but there are deaths every year.