Monday, September 15, 2008
Guess the Plot
Cliquing on Time
1. Susan hates her high school, where everyone is organized into cliques. But in Dateline High, the clicks are organized by time, and somehow she got stuck with the 2 AM crowd, which means they are always, always asleep. But Susan has her sights set on high noon, and she won't stop until she's clawed her way out of the sleepers and into the lunch date crowd.
2. The popular girls torment Andrea about her relentless punctuality. Cute geek Dan breaks out in hives whenever she's near. High school is tough for an android. When a disaster hits, can Andrea save the day, put the cliques in their place, and win the love of a boy with a metal allergy?
3. Detective Morris Night of the Minneapolis Police Department has been handed a crucial assignment: find out why local teenagers are suddenly disappearing in droves. Night uncovers a new, memory-erasing designer drug, street-named "Time." In a troubled city, can Night stop Time before time runs out?
4. Unpopular band geek, Hermitrude, obsessed with cuckoo clocks and stopwatches, schemes and murders to secure herself a place in the popular clique at her elementary school.
5. At the Texas maximum security prison, the men doing hard time have formed cliques: murderers, rapists, drug dealers, gang members . . . Now they've suddenly found themselves on a raw new world where their survival depends on cooperation. Can these societal misfits choose a leader and work together, or will chaos reign?
6. Twelve-year-old Mefistia Wrench downloads an Internet computer game, Tiempo No Molestame. She and her girlfriends start playing the game together online, but each girl's world changes with each move. The game then announces that only one can return home. Will Mefistia return to her proper time? And what of her friends?
No one at the Texas maximum security prison knew what happened in the small hours of New Year's Day as their regimented world spun into chaos. Murderers, rapists, gang members, drug dealers, and "freeworlders" collided with each other and with nature on a raw, new world. [Whattaya mean, a raw new world? Have they gone back in time to one million B.C. ? Or was there an earthquake that killed the guards and left the place in rubble? Tell us where they are.]
[Rapist: Where the hell are we?
Drug dealer: I don't know, but it smells bad, and there are strange noises emanating from that canyon.
Murderer: Isn't it obvious? We've somehow been transported to Uranus.]
Community would be redefined by the antisocial. Slowly, order, and even romance, emerged, stumbling amid dire setbacks in the tragicomedy of life. [Huh?]
Ultimately, does survival depend more on overcoming the brutality of nature or overcoming the nature of the brutal? [Trying too hard to be clever, I think. "Overcoming the nature of the brutal" is clunky.]
During my thirteen years as a volunteer in a Texas maximum security prison, [When you're doing twenty to life and you ask them to let you work in the prison library, does that make you a volunteer?] I have made a number of close friends; most, I pray will never come visit me. [Sounds kinda like me and my minions.] I have used composites of my friends to create characters who have captivated even skeptical readers. In showing these characters struggling to survive on an empty clone of Earth, I portrayed them positively but also realistically and honestly.
The positive responses to my first book surprised me. Looking for feedback from the maximum number of readers, I submitted it to Baen Book's unofficial slush pile. The response was so positive that mine was the first and perhaps the only unofficial submission to make it to Mr. Bean's desk. [Mr. Bean's desk?] [Thanks a lot. I just blew two hours watching Mr. Bean pantomime skits on Youtube.] He had asked to see the second book in my series before he would commit, but he died before I finished editing it. [Yep, that sounds like a Mr. Bean plot.] With Mr. Baen gone, I'm unwilling to submit the over 330K word series to anyone without an agent. [Are you saying your willingness to submit to a publisher was dependent on Mr. Baen's survival? Intriguing. But not as intriguing as if your willingness to submit to a publisher was dependent on Mr. Bean's survival.]
One last personal note: "a man's got to know his limitations," and I know that any competent agent could write a better query than I. I've researched you carefully; I understand and value the talents an agent of your caliber provides for a storyteller.
Thank you for your time and careful consideration.
Instead of concluding with a note about how your query sucks, why not improve it? You're writing a business letter to an agent. It needs to include a clear description of your book's plot. Your premise is that the inmates in a maximum security prison find themselves on an empty clone of Earth. I assume there's an explanation, so what is it?
Which prisoner is the main bad guy, the one who prevents anything from getting done? In what way is nature brutal here? Describe the hardships the "good guys" have to overcome with a couple specific examples.
An agent is unlikely to care that your book once made it out of an unofficial slush pile.
Drop the Baen paragraph and the following one and you'll have plenty of room to tell us what happens in your book in the plain language you would use if we were sitting on opposite sides of a bulletproof window on visitors day. What's the situation, who are the key characters, what's keeping them from attaining their goal?