Monday, July 23, 2007

Face-Lift 382


Guess the Plot

The Whitlock Papers

1. Whitlock Manor is an exclusive spa, catering lavishly to the rich and famous. But smooth-skinned young girls have been disappearing and janitor Willy Bliss has discovered the mystery behind the manor's famed bathroom tissue. Can he survive the perilous journey to the outside world and reveal the secret of . . . The Whitlock Papers?

2. An ancient secret has been kept for centuries, but the current custodian of the precious knowledge faces a temptation so strong that it may destroy the world. Can newspaper editor Beauregard Jameson resist publishing . . . The Whitlock Papers?

3. Second grader Joey Whitlock obsessively chronicles every mundane activity in his household. While searching Joey's desk for a spare candy bar, his teacher, Mrs. Grodle, discovers the diary containing a detailed description of her one-night fling with Mr. Whitlock. Maybe it's time for another "parent - teacher conference."

4. The POWs in Colditz are desperate for cigarette papers. They've already smoked their way through the Old Testament and the New Testament is disappearing fast. Will Captain Whitlock, on his way to liberate the castle, bring them what they need?

5. Super spy Dan Whitlock told his psychiatrist everything. Now his case file has gone missing. Can Dan retrieve his papers before his true identity is exposed? Or will his girlfriend find out why her Victoria's Secret lingerie was stretched out of shape?

6. In the medieval city known as Whitlock, fourteen-year-old Amelia finds papers that could rock the Earth's very foundation. Now she must decide whether to destroy them, give them to a complete stranger, or turn them over to the space alien.


Original Version

What happens when future and past collide—when fate tosses ordinary people into the mix with heroes and monsters older than time itself [—when clichés battle it out for supremacy in a query letter for the ages]?

Amelia Paige is about to find out…

I am writing in reference to my YA fiction title, The Whitlock Papers. It is the story of Amelia Paige, a fourteen year-old girl living in the medieval town of Whitlock. When she stumbles upon a trail of riddles left behind by her missing grandfather, [If I'm captured or whatever, and I find myself with the opportunity to leave a clue to where I'm being taken, it's going to be something like, Help! They're taking me to the library! Not: What building has the most stories?] Amelia finds herself in the middle of an ancient mystery involving the forgotten city of Veritas and an enemy who will stop at nothing to reign on its throne. Knox, a visitor from Veritas, comes to Amelia’s aid, and the unusual pair discovers a map to the city’s hidden gates. In the wrong hands, this map could lead to an overthrow that would rock the very foundations of the earth. [If this city is that important, why has it been forgotten?]

While striving to keep the map safe, Amelia and Knox find a citizen of Veritas who needs it in order to return home. [There seem to be a lot of people from Veritas roaming around, even though it's a forgotten city and no one can even find it without a map.] Can they give him the map without endangering Veritas? Can they help one man while hindering another? [Hindering? When you discover an evil overlord is about to rock the foundations of the Earth, you might want to do something more drastic than hinder him.] Amelia and Knox attempt to answer these questions, but all is not as it seems: Whitlock’s Prince keeps sneaking into the forest by night, [What of it? Can't you make that sound a little more sinister?] Amelia may be helping the enemy, and her beloved mentor, the King’s High Councilor, is not even human. [Minions may vote on what the King's High Councilor is:

1. Alien from another planet
2. Wolfman
3. Marionette
4. Zombie
5. Dick Cheney]

This book is written for young teens. Its appeal lies in a fun, mysterious plot which deals with friendship, faith, and finding one’s purpose through the chaotic maze of adolescence. [I see no evidence that it deals with any of these things. Except for that sentence, of course.]

I am a graduate of Middle Tennessee State University, and am currently staying at home with my young daughter. This is my first attempt to become published. Whitlock is finished, [I recommend using the full title, even if it requires additional ink.] and its word count is 56,000. I am writing the second book in the Hidden Gates Trilogy, The Labyrinth of Ocasus, [Labyrinth? Maybe this is the one about the chaotic maze of adolescence.] at this time.

Out of courtesy, I would also like to inform you that I am submitting to other agencies simultaneously. Thank you so much for the time you have taken to read my query. I look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.

Sincerely,


Notes

The title sounds like a thriller or mystery. You know, like The Ipcress File, The Quiller Memorandum, The Pelican Brief, The Colbert Report. Plus, your character is named Amelia. That's like naming a character Hercule or Sherlock. As soon as people see the name Amelia, they'll think Miss Pettipants.

I wouldn't mind seeing a stronger connection between the missing grandfather and the rest of the plot. He left a trail of riddles, but that's the last we hear of him.

Whitlock sounds more like a Wyoming mining town than a medieval city. How far is it from Ocasus, which sounds like it's on Crete?

I can't tell from the query if the story is set in medieval times or if it's set in present times in a medieval city. And what do you mean, "future and past collide"? Where does the future come in?

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

Sounds like middle grade to me. Might be well done, but doesn't seem to score very high on the fresh-and-different scale.

Anonymous said...

Better to reign on Veritas's throne than rain on its parade, I suppose.

Anonymous said...

This sounds like it could be a fun mystery but the query goes in too many directions for me. I need more about less.

For instance, if the grandfather is important - more about him. If not - you don't need to mention him. Same with the sneaky prince and other characters.

I'd choose your main plot points and focus on those.

takoda said...

I think I've stopped learning from all these queries because I skip to the blue. Very funny on this one!!
Sounds like YA, right? Why are Knox and Amelia an unusual pair?

pacatrue said...

MTSU!! Go, blue raiders!

Okay, I only took one independent study there about 5 years ago, but I can shout about MTSU anyway, can't I?

I can't?

Well, damn.

Then, go Titans! ... ... and Preds.

No, I have nothing useful to contribute.

BuffySquirrel said...

What happens when future and past collide...?

Your presents get squished?

Sorry, couldn't resist :). I think unfortunately the opening to this is trying too hard to sound impressive and ends up instead conveying very little information.

Writing these queries is hard, and I suspect this is a lot clearer in the author's head than it is on the page. Why does it matter who sits on Veritas's throne? Why is that person Amelia's enemy?

Anonymous said...

You had a lot of vague descriptions and cliches but nothing solid EE could use to determine the actual plot of the story. I also noticed you used quite some elaborate sentences when it came to the standard query stuff. Why not simply say "The Whitlock Papers is completed at x words". If you want to save words, there's plenty of places to prune, but not in the title.

phoenix said...

Are the "monsters" in the first paragraph real monsters or figurative ones (like the evil usurper)? I didn't see any real monsters in the rest of the query (or is the High Councilor or the Prince a real monster in human disguise?).

There are too many hints in the query without actual details. While you MIGHT keep the end of a mystery a secret from an agent, the whole book shouldn't be such a mystery in a query.

Is Veritas something like Brigadoon? Just trying to figure out why someone can't find their way back to a city. Or why Knox can't give the other citizen directions. One traveler being that navigationally challenged is one thing, but two?

And I'm with EE. If you're going to give us the themes in the book, the query should at least show how some of them are addressed. Who are friends with whom? What kind of faith -- faith in self, others, a higher being, aliens? And while I had a lively adolescence, can't say I hobnobbed with a lot of adults, especially non-human ones, or worried much about forgotten cities and plots that threatened the world. Compared to Amelia's maze, my adolescent maze would have been about as difficult to find my way around as an oval racetrack. Can't see the connection based on the query.

Most agents advise an unpubbed who's pitching a series/trilogy to be sure the first book can be a standalone and to state so in the query. You can mention trilogy potential, but you have to sell the first book on its own merit.

Tighten up your last two paragraphs to give yourself more room to elaborate on your plot and characterization. You don't usually need to mention if the query is simultaneous (the default is that all queries are simultaneous); you can usually put that in a follow-up letter when a partial or full has been requested by multiple agents.

"While THE WHITLOCK PAPERS is standalone at 56,000 words, it is also the first book in the Hidden Gates Trilogy.

Thank you for your time. I look forward to sending you sample chapters or the completed manuscript."

Bonnie said...

I giggled all the way through the query, since Veritas is a software company that makes network backup packages. They have very good algorithms for dealing with situations where the past and present collide.

stick and move said...

Submitting your query for critique: free

Reading EE's critique and the comments that follow: humbling

[—when clichés battle it out for supremacy in a query letter for the ages]?

... freakin' priceless

Robin S. said...

I'm casting my vote for The Wolfman.

Also - what about mentioning the college he/she graduated from, the attempt to publish first novel, etc., part of the query? I wouldn't think that'd be something to include.

The GTPs were especially good this time - all of them.

Evil Editor said...

what about mentioning the college he/she graduated from, the attempt to publish first novel, etc., part of the query?

The decision whether to request a manuscript has invariably been made before this paragraph is reached. This is unlikely to change it one way or the other, though leaving out the college is a good idea, as it's less likely that the editor attended your college than that she attended one of your college's big rivals.

writtenwyrdd said...

There isn't enough plot in teh letter to make me want to read this story. Also, the names are a bit off putting. Whitlock for an ancient town seems wrong. I think EE nailed it: sounds like something from Out West here in the US. Veritas? Trying to hard to telegraph some sort of attitude, it seems to me.

Overall, sounds like it could be interesting; but the letter isn't communicating that well enough yet.

Erica said...

Muchas Gracias fellow minions...

Obviously the reason for submitting anything to be critiqued is not to hear that you nailed it on your first try! I knew I needed some help in this area, so thank you to those of you who have given me constructive meat to chew!

Anonymous said...

Obviously the reason for submitting anything to be critiqued is not to hear that you nailed it on your first try!

Actually, that's exactly the reason I submit my stuff: to share my artictic awesomeness. And anyone who doesn't see it is merely highlighting their own deficiencies. If you can't read my stuff and immediately see that I've nailed it, you're probably playing in the wrong sandbox and ought to go learn macrame or something. IMHO.

Bonnie said...

Actually, that's exactly the reason I submit my stuff: to share my artictic awesomeness.

Yeah, anon, you're just about that cool. And melting.

erica said...

Actually, that's exactly the reason I submit my stuff: to share my artictic awesomeness.

Which is why you left the comment anonymous, right? Because you're so awesome? ;)