Friday, February 24, 2012

Face-Lift 996


Guess the Plot

Pensive

1. Evelyn has always felt secure within her own borders. But when she opens a door into a world where dreams are no more reality than her own faith, she finds herself thinking about thoughts and dreaming dreams of reality. And faith.

2. Some superheroes are strong. Some are fast. Some can fly. Gus Rodin, aka "The Thinker" is smart. Thrill as he fights evil by sitting down to contemplate.

3. He used to call her his Lucky Penny, but now that they're divorced, (due to her affair, mind you) he just calls her Ex-Pensive. Why can't he just forget about her? She's all he can think about. It's like witchcraft or something. Hang on! There was that dead goat and pentagram in the garage...

4. To think, or not to think . . . I think. When you have a 10 minute memory it's all a little fuzzy.

5. Anne has just graduated NYU with a degree in Sociology and $100,000 in student loans. There are no jobs to be had in her field of choice: social justice at a top non-profit in NYC. A gin and sex filled weekend will determine her fate: give up and go work at her uncle's accounting firm, or say screw it and be a stripper.

6. Unable to think of a good title, an author goes to a random word generator site, specifies "adjective," and is given . . . Pensive.



Original Version

Sister Evelyn of the C.G. Priori lived her life sheltered and absorbed in the understanding that the Influence would always be a dream away, protecting and securing her future. All of that changes one day and shakes up Evelyn’s fifty years of devotion with the single opening of a rusted and once sealed door, leading her past her own borders, and into a world where dreams are no more reality than her own faith. [I was about to suggest that we drop paragraph 1 and start the query with paragraph 2. Then I looked ahead and discovered that paragraph 1 is the entire plot.]

PENSIVE, a debut novel of 50,100 words, thrusts the reader into a world where thoughts are controlled by the rules of a close-minded society, and consequences are extreme for those that dare to ask what lies outside their own borders. [You keep using that word. I'm not clear on what it means.] A notable work it can be compared to would be The End of Mr. Y, by Scarlett Thomas. [I Googled The End of Mr. Y, and I agree that it's a good comparison, in that it sounds just as wacko as your book. However, compare the first paragraph of that book's plot description (on Wikipedia):

The book tells the story of Ariel Manto, a PhD student who has been researching the 19th-century writer Thomas Lumas. She finds an extremely rare copy of Lumas's novel The End of Mr. Y in a second-hand bookshop. The book is rumoured to be cursed - everyone who has read it has died not long afterwards.

. . . with your first paragraph. My point being that no matter how incomprehensible your book may be, your query needs to be clear, straightforward, and easily understood so that someone can easily be conned into reading it.]

I have a degree in psychology from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in Belton, Texas [UMHBBT] with an emphasis on personality theory and how it affects the individual mind as well as a collection of people. [A theory should explain, not affect.] My credentials come from me taking specific courses such as: human genetics, positive psychology, developmental psychology, history and systems, statistics, experimental psychology, as well as vertebrate and invertebrate biology. [Is vertebrate and invertebrate biology one course or two? If it's one course, I imagine the course work involves dividing the blackboard in two and then the professor calls out the names of animals and the students discuss which column each one goes in. If it's two courses, that would be good for those students who have no interest in animals that have backbones but much interest in animals without backbones. Or vice versa.] [Maybe you can enlighten me. First they decided living creatures should be divided into two categories: plants and animals. Makes sense. Then someone decides animals should be divided into exactly two categories: animals that X and animals that don't X. Someone says, How about animals you might see in a cage, and animals you wouldn't? Someone else says animals that are scary and animals that aren't. Eventually someone, possibly as a joke, suggests Animals that have a backbone and animals that don't. And no one in the room has the backbone to say the idea is ridiculous? So it sells?] [Actual quote from Wikipedia's article on invertebrates: The word invertebrate comes from the word vertebrate with the prefix in- attached to it.] [Okay, now that that's out of my system, Why are you listing all these courses you took in college instead of telling us what happens in your book?]
Italic
I read on your bio that you have an interest in psychology and stories that deal with unusual views of the world. [Hey, all I meant was I loved Good Will Hunting and The Matrix.] Despite being a debut author, I feel that even without endorsements I can surprise and intrigue you with a story that not only educates, but causes the reader’s heart to race, break, and look for repair in a world driven by old science and fearsome thought.

Thank you for your time and consideration,


Notes

Start over. With a blank page, not with a page on which you've saved your favorite parts of the query. Burn any paper on which this was printed and delete it from your computer files. I'll wait.

Done? Now . . .

Set up the situation and tell us what Evelyn wants. Sister Evelyn has always felt secure thanks to the Influence (which is what?). But when X happens (preferably something better than she opens a rusty door--if there's an actual rusty door, tell us where it is.) she realizes whatever.

Now tell us what happens. Does she get to the new world outside her borders? Do the mind police come after her? Is there a villain or some obstacle to getting what she is looking for? What's her plan?

If you summarize your plot in eight or ten sentences, you might get lucky and have no room left for a paragraph about your credentials and another paragraph about your lack of credentials. You have a product to sell. Make it sound irresistible. Be sure to send us the revised version before sending it anywhere else, as we don't trust you.

26 comments:

Rashad Pharaon said...

The fake plots are hilarious. Still laughing. I agree, there is far too much centered on the author's personal courses in college. My questions are this:

a. The work is 50,000 words? Is this normal for this type of fiction? Sounds kind of low to me, I mean unless I missed the YA tag somewhere.

b. Why don't you expand and clarify the source of antagonism? Why is this society so close-minded? I'm also assuming this is happening in the present.

I think this could turn out beautifully if reworked properly. I know it's hard cramming a book in a paragraph description.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

As a child, I wondered what lay outside my own borders. Then my mom thumbtacked a map to the kitchen wall, and I knew.

You're new to this writing business, right? Welcome. It's competitive as hell. A few tips:

1. Call it 50,000 words and then assume it's middle grade. At that length it has precious little chance as anything else.

2. "Notable" is a label the ALA slaps on our books if we're lucky. Very few writers are modest, but all should pretend to be, at least in query letters.

3. Your query should be 100% about your manuscript and 0% about you. Unless you have previously published work or have won prestigious contests. Then your query can be 99% about your manuscript and 1% about you.

4. Get thee to QueryShark and read every. Damn. Entry. on that blog. Yeah, I know that's a lot of work. Like I said-- welcome to the business.

Evil Editor said...

The author was calling The End of Mr. Y notable, not Pensive.

150 said...

The Alchemist is 45k. Unless your story is on that level of language, resonance, and marketability, it'll never sell at 50k. It's the job of the query to make an agent think it might actually be that good, so you have to make the query letter a masterpiece of concision and vividness. Congratulations on winning NaNoWriMo, by the way.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Oops. Well, okay. But I still want to stick to the Modesty point.

Evil Editor said...

I think it's time we quit complaining about the length of books. Ebooks have established that they're here to stay, and plenty of novella-length books are selling in ebook format.

It's easier for publishers to scale down prices for books in the 50,000- and 40,000-word ranges when it comes to ebooks, because the most expensive part of the book to manufacture is the cover. Thus even short books cost almost as much as long ones. With ebooks, you merely show the cover, no expensive paper with lamination and gold leaf and 3D holograms.

True. not all publishers will lower prices on shorter ebooks, if they publish them at all, but I predict fewer and fewer publishers will reject books solely on length as time goes by.

The point is, even if your goal is to be published only in ebook format, you still need to start with a query.

BuffySquirrel said...

The Alchemist may be 45k but it's also nonsense soup. This at least seems to have a plot, even if the author is withholding it.

Eh.

Listen to the EE. I never do, but someone should.

150 said...

That's an interesting point. I usually assume these queries are meant for agents unless the querier comes in and says otherwise, and as I understand it, there's not enough advance money in short ebooks for most agents to consider them. I've stood up for short romance novels here in the past because it was clear (from prior credits or whatever) that the author planned to send it to ebook publishers, but I still suspect the people submitting queries here are more likely to be publishing noobs aiming for an agent and/or print publication with the Big Six--in which case it's worth letting them know how stuff this short is usually received in those venues. I wonder if that's an outdated assumption.

Mister Furkles said...

Well, EE says “Now tell us what happens.” But EE, it’s literary fiction. Maybe nothing happens. Here is an example of literary fiction:

An old woman dies. Just to annoy her family, she insisted on burial in county far away. They are poor. It’s a pain in the rear to get her corpse there. It’s a dozen people whining about how much they dislike one another.

It is a great literary masterpiece.

Okay, seriously now. Your sentences are too long for a query—which is a simple business letter. Along with Query Shark you should read Miss Snark. And especially look at Query Shark number 220.

Hope you don't write your novel like your query. We readers are too lazy to decode forty-word sentences. That's so nineteenth century.

Evil Editor said...

If they found Evil Editor, chances are they Googled Awesome Query Assistance and found lots of helpful sites. No need to send them elsewhere.

Evil Editor said...

An old woman dies. Just to annoy her family, she insisted on burial in a county far away.

That alone is more clear information than we got in this query.

BuffySquirrel said...

Speak for yourself. I have no problem decoding several-hundred word sentences. Even though I am a rodent.

150 said...

I found this place by Googling "free porn laser eyes muttonchops".

Khazar-khum said...

It sounds like she's in a cult. Is she? Is it something like Sea Org from Scientology, where they put you on a boat & you can't leave? Or those ones where they have an old schoolhouse somewhere, and shoot people who leave?

Is the door real or metaphorical?

Why is she called Sister? Is she a nun--or a wife?

BuffySquirrel said...

I found 150 by going around Twitter crying.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

I don't remember how I found this site. I'd read Khazar-Khum's novel about the cult in in the old schoolhouse.

And if we have to quit complaining about novels that are too short to be considered novels, then do we also have to quit complaining about poor grammar? I mean can't we assume the industry has some standards and that the people who submit to our ministrations are desirous of meeting them?

Wilkins MacQueen said...

Author, this is your lucky day. Do what Evil says.

Okay?

Wilkins MacQueen said...

Author, this is your lucky day. Do what Evil says.

Okay?

Wilkins MacQueen said...

Author, this is your lucky day. Do what Evil says.

Okay?

ril said...

And if we have to quit complaining about novels that are too short to be considered novels, then do we also have to quit complaining about poor grammar? I mean can't we assume the industry has some standards and that the people who submit to our ministrations are desirous of meeting them?

Just decide whether you're ministrating or complaining.

Evil Editor said...

I would think a querier would want to be informed of any grammar or spelling errors. It's their queries they want feedback on, not their books. (True we give feedback on the plots, but we assume the problem is with the query's presentation of the plot.)

Fixing a few grammar errors is a lot easier than adding 25,000 words to novel that you've finished writing.

Mother (Re)produces. said...

Y'all are scaring me today.

Mother (Re)produces. said...

Y'all are scaring me today.

BuffySquirrel said...

When I reviewed a Horrow novel that I won't name, last year I think it was, I commented that the early part of it seemed tacked on and unnecessary. The author later contacted me to explain his publishers had asked him to expand the book, and, specifically, to add stuff to the beginning that would 'explain' what came next.

So yeah. Adding stuff to completed work not always good.

Rashad Pharaon said...

I don't know. I don't think there are enough classes listed at the bottom of the query. I think you should post your whole college curriculum, along with GPA, and favorite coffee shop ;)

Stacy Beauregard said...

Ok. Can we please go to 101. Pensive? If I saw a line up off books on Amazon.com, Pensive wouldn't quite be the eye-catcher. How about facelifting the title?