Saturday, October 27, 2012

Evil Editor Classics


Guess the Plot

Dawn's Rise

1. Get up. Come on. It's 6:32 already, Dawn. Have to wash face. Brush teeth. 6:33. Have to get stockings out of dryer. Come on. It's 6:34. Make coffee. Get up, or at least hit the snooze button. The alarm is driving me nuts.

2. Solar flares! Asteroids and earthquakes! All Earth's cities destroyed, refugees battling over the world's remaining resources, and the survivors on the space station struggling just to breathe. Can Dawn rise above the chaos and save the planet from the coming apocalypse. . . before her head explodes?

3. Now that Dawn is running for President, Brenda wants to save America by telling everyone what happened that day at Ridgemont High. But can she evade Dawn's cousin Louie, the hitman from Chicago, long enough to get to her clandestine poolside meeting with hunky reporter Chad Wilson?

4. Dawn Flamingo, trapeze acrobat, does too much blogging and develops carpal tunnel problems that ruin her grip. Circus master Jack fires her. Now a woeful waitress, Dawn can only dream of redemption . . . until fate makes her the first kangaroo whisperer.

5. Searching in the archives for something more interesting than the "one thousand ways to praise the god Saratorn," Raston, the youngest priest in the Order of Eternal Darkness stumbles upon the truth: the darkness is almost over, Aspilon is about to enter its cycle of light. Hunted by the priesthood who want to hide the truth, can Raston get anyone to believe him before . . . Dawn's Rise?

6. Accidentally "murdered" by her idiotic high school chums, Dawn is dumped overboard into the warm waters of the Burmuda triangle, where she encounters a radioactive substance and grows to be 230 feet tall. Now she's coming ashore to get her revenge.


Original Version

Dear Agent

Savior of the Planet. [If I know most agents, they're gonna think that's part of your salutation.]

That's a hell of a job description and not one that Dawn Anami would have chosen for herself, but it was thrust upon her by prophesy. [I prophesy rejection if if the plot is built on a prophecy and you misspell it throughout the book.] [Did this prophecy name Dawn Anami, or did it just say the planet would be saved by the niece of an Albanian cheese merchant, which she is? I ask only because I have a feeling if there's a prophecy declaring that Dawn Anami will be the world's savior, you're gonna suddenly find a multitude of parents naming their kids Dawn Anami. Some parents would name all their children Dawn Anami.] Now she has to contend with a space station breaking away from Earth, a massive world quake that destroys the cities [All of them?] (all of them!), the combination of an asteroid and solar flares that threaten to annihilate the crippled station and everyone on the ground, plus groups of refugees battling over the world's remaining resources while the survivors on the space station struggle just to breathe. [If the cities are all destroyed and we're about to be annihilated, not even Dawn Anami is gonna care about the space station. That's like World War III breaking out and the American president declaring that our top priority must be protecting the White House rose garden.] Can she unite the warring factions in time or will they all perish in the coming apocalypse? [Whattaya mean, warring factions? The world is about to end, and there are factions? When all our cities have been destroyed and the apocalypse is upon us, I don't see a lot of earthlings forming factions. Unless you mean the curl-up-into-a-quivering-ball faction and the every-man-for-himself-Road-Warrior faction.] [For that matter, when all our cities have been destroyed and the apocalypse is upon us, I don't see a lot of earthlings trusting Dawn Anami to set things right.] Or will her mind explode from her unrelenting visions of death and destruction? [It sounds to me like all anyone has to do is open their eyes and they'll see unrelenting visions of death and destruction.]

It's no wonder DAWN'S RISE is 145,000 words long. Facing just about every disaster known to man, she needs every one of them to meet her destiny and save the planet. [It sounds like you mean she needs every disaster, rather than every word. In any case, it's a flimsy justification for submitting a book that long.] I come from a high-tech background where we face crises on a daily basis.

[Boss: Johnson! The system's down!

Johnson: Did you try rebooting?]

I've put that fire-fighting spirit into my writing.


Notes

Is Dawn on the space station? If not, why is the space station in the query? It seems pretty trivial compared to the other stuff raining down on us. If she is on the station, how is she supposed to unite warring factions? Are the warring factions on the space station? What can she do about solar flares and asteroids that are about to annihilate all of us?

The query is mainly a list of bad stuff happening. We need the story. Who is Dawn? When was it prophesied that she would save the planet? What was she doing before all hell broke loose? What are the warring factions at war about? What is Dawn planning to do about anything?


Selected Comments

Matthew said...I'm sure the author has heard this before, but 145,000 is too long for a first story. Even if you wrought the best story ever and had the most enticing query possible, an agent would stop reading the moment 145 pops up.

Try and get the word count in the 100,000 range. It might involve removing some scenes that you're fond of, but it will be worth it when those ms requests come rolling in.


Dave F. said...Didn't I read this years ago when it was called "When Worlds Collide" (BTW published in 1933)... And more recently, didn't Bruce Willis and that kid before he played Frodo save the world in not one, but two movies? The apocalyptic end of the world is almost a sub-genre.

To state the obvious, a query is to sell a story, novel or book. Just presenting an apocalyptic situation will not sell the book. The uniqueness of the destruction won't sell the book. Even an apocalyptic novel with multiple disasters. The reader has grown past "Childhood's End" and the amazement of the end times (like Lahaye's series of books).

What will sell this book is Dawn's story. Who is Dawn? How does she grow from humble beginnings into being a hero of the world? What insights will we learn from her struggles? Why should the reader care about Dawn?


batgirl said...The list of disasters makes it sound as if Dawn's waiting until there's so little left of the planet that she could save it in a terrarium, like that miniature Krypton city in a bottle, in Superman's Fortress of Solitude. I'd want to have some idea of who Dawn is, and how she, one person, could save a planet. The blend of space stations and prophecies is unusual. It could appeal by novelty, or it could put off both fantasy and hard-sf fans.


Anonymous said...No Sci-Fi idea is so cheap that it can't be made into a cheesy movie on the Sci-Fi Channel. They specialize in drivel. They glory in drivel.


writtenwyrdd said...I like your way with words in the letter, actually. You have a good command of the language and the letter flows well. It just doesn't convey the story. We need to know about Dawn, her motivations, her situation. What she has to contend with is important to the plot, but not necessarily to the query.

Which leads me to something else. Not to shoot you down, but, as described, this plot sounds like a fantasy and not science fiction. Too many improbable things (world quakes, a prophecy that defacto places her as "leader of the sane people" or whatever) are dropped on us out of context, which gives an overall impression (to me, anyhow) that the plot won't work. Not to say it doesn't work, but the letter is not selling me on the plot elements.

Perhaps you might give us less of the wacky disasters that befall our main character and give us the emotional hook--why she gives a damn anyhow (besides the obvious, which is she wants to survive)? Show us some focus that gets her through, not just what she has to contend with.

I'd also really suggest you delete that whole "It's no wonder..." paragraph. It's overdoing it, and explaining why your massive tome is justifiably massive is not going to make anyone want to take on such a big book.

Good luck with revising the query!


BuffySquirrel said...For some reason, I'm reminded of the bit in Star Wars where an entire planet is destroyed and its whole population wiped out, and the characters just go "meh" and carry on with their lives.
Perhaps tell us what's so special about Dawn that she can pull herself together and even think about confronting these multiple disasters, rather than sitting in a corner gibbering.


Sarah from Hawthorne said...If I may nitpick for a moment, I feel first full sentence has too many clauses. The third clause "but it was thrust upon her by prophecy" feels tacked on. Perhaps that should be its own sentence: "But that is the title an ancient prophecy thrusts upon this hapless kindergartener." Dawn is in kindergarten, right?


Phoenix said...Brilliant first line rejoinder, EE!

Author: Um, how do I put this delicately? This reads like a farce to me. Do you mean it to be a serious work? At 145K, I would guess so. Lots of SF unites prophecy with science, so that didn't bother me. But my first reaction is that you took all the apocalypse tropes and threw 'em in the pot just because. Now that could work fabulously as a tongue-in-cheek adventure (and hey, if that isn't what YOUR book is, maybe that's something I could try!), but it's really hard for me to take it seriously as a serious plot.

So, more about Dawn and how/where she fits into all this, yes. Not sure how uniting the warring factions will stop an asteroid and solar flares, which I take to be the "coming apocalypse", though it's not overly clear to me what part of this is the actual apocalypse. Plus a mind exploding just doesn't sound quite right. And are her unrelenting visions the actual sights she's seeing or, mainly because you use "her," are they internal visions she's having on top of everything else?

A story is more than just a jumble of events told at breakneck speed. Add a bit more story in without slowing the pace and it might just convince me that this is a Saturday-matinee, popcorn-popping, settle-in-for-a-ride kind of a read rather than a comedic take on all the disaster tropes out there (because I'm off now to go write THAT one...).


Adam Heine said...My comments are not different, but you can tally them as votes for the following:

1. Like the voice, especially if it's the voice used in the novel.

2. Like the idea (it's definitely sci-fi, from a publishing perspective).

3. You need to focus the query on Dawn, her goals, her conflicts, her stakes.

4. Don't justify 145k, even in a cute way. Make it shorter.

5. "A high-tech background" is not a credential for an apocalypse story. You say "high-tech" I think "Office Space" (or my old job, which is the same thing). The "crises" encountered at a corporate or even start-up company are not even remotely comparable to the things in your query.

(NOTE: If "high-tech" means "I am a spy who uses high-tech gadgets like Batman or James Bond," then it might work. But you should be more specific.)


Dominique said...I was with you up until the last paragraph about your word count. Everything after the words "It's no wonder" was a giant NO for me. If you feel you need to justify your word count to the agent, it's too high. And the sentence about "fire-fighting spirit" seemed random as all get out.

I don't mean this to sound harsh, because I think you've got an interesting story, but those two parts really did not work for me.


Iapetus999 said...Hee Hee Thanks, EE. You are as Evil as promised.

I will lay claim to this disaster.

Damn you guys are good. BTW I do have a character named Brenda in the book. Good call.

Actually, the prophecy does name her. Or her image. Whatever, close enough.
And the world does turn into Road Warrior mode.

Matthew: Yes, I know 145K is too long. I'm working on it. It's one thing to write, another to unwrite.

Dave F: Those are great ?'s

batgirl: Yes, exactly. She can't save the planet, just a small piece. In a terrarium of sorts. Seriously.

writtenwyrd: I'm trying to tone down the fantasy part but "prophecy" was the closest I could describe it. It's more like "mass hysteria" than a prophecy. If it makes the query too fantasy-ish, maybe I should drop the word.

Sarah: LOL I can't believe how much people picked up about the book from just a couple lines.

Phoenix: I started out with the intention of putting every damn apocalyptic disaster into the book. I wanted to out-disaster every cheesy disaster flick and novel out there. I wanted to out-cheese the cheese. But somewhere along the way I developed characters and an actual plot, not to mention a somewhat viable scientific cause for all the disasters that makes it plausible (IMHO). I will work on the Dawn story. I think if you want to write a tongue-in-cheek all-disaster-all-the-time piece I think that would be awesome.

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