Sunday, May 07, 2006

Face-Lift 17

Guess the Plot

Crazy Lane

1. The zany adventures of five formerly desperate housewives who have found happiness through pharmaceuticals.

2. Lane Brian is a plus-size gal with an axe to grind. An overdose of Blue Bunny sends her on a killing spree, destroying every size 14 and below in her path. Can good humored detectives Ben & Jerry Dreyer stop her before it's too late?

3. With a three-legged dog by his side and top hat made of weasel noses, Grant Longtree walks the streets of Las Vegas singing (to the tune of the Beatles’ Penny Lane) Crazy Lane is in my ears and in my eyes . . .

4. Jonathan marries Jill. Then he discovers she's a pathological liar, she's not about to become a lawyer, and he actually knows nothing about her. Crazy, eh?

5. You've heard of the Right Lane, you've heard of the Left Lane. Introducing, the Crazy Lane, where you can drive any direction at any speed.

6. When Lebowsky takes his girlfriend bowling, they get put on lane 13--where the ball return never works, and the pins are welded to the floor.


Original Version


Dear Editor,

I am currently seeking representation [Evil Editor often gets letters from authors seeking representation; presumably it's the result of sending him the same letter previously rejected by an agent, without bothering to change the first sentence.] for a work of literary fiction, Crazy Lane. Crazy Lane is a first-person narrative about a pathological liar [Evil Editor finds that hard to believe.] and the narrator's relationship to her that explores the boundaries between truth and lie [Usually, boundaries aren't between things, but outside things.] and between forgiveness and redemption in an accessible voice and multicultural context. As such, the tone of the story is situated somewhere between the storytelling of Jhumpa Lahiri and Jonathan Lethem and the confessional style of Augusten Burroughs and Jennifer Belle. [A perfect example of what Evil Editor was talking about. The storytelling of Jhumpa and Jonathan would be one boundary, sort of like the states bordering the Atlantic Ocean, and the confessional style of Augusten and Jennifer would be the other boundary, or the states on the west coast. And the tone of your novel is somewhere in the hinterland.] [Evil Editor had a bet with a fellow editor that he could work the word "hinterland" into his next critique.] [Wait a minute, are you actually counting on every editor to whom you send this query being familiar with the storytelling of Jhumpa and Jonathan, and the confessional style of Augusten and Jennifer? (Note that EE is on a first-name basis with all of them.) While Evil Editor would never admit (if it were true) that he has only even heard of one of these people, it should be clear that some editors won't have the slightest idea what you're talking about, and won't care to acquire and read several books to find out.] [Besides which, an author is the worst person to judge his or her own tone. For instance, Evil Editor considers his tone to lie in the hinterland (Hah! Twice!) between Philip K. Dick and Guy de Maupassant.]

Jonathan, the narrator, has long known that his on-and-off girlfriend Jill [Light switches are on-and-off; girlfriends are on-again-off-again.] [Usually off-again.] is a complicated characer. But it is only after the two become engaged the he finds out that she has been lying about going to law school to friends and family for three years. [Now that he knows she won't be pulling that six-figure salary, something tells Evil Editor the relationship is off-again.] [That makes two typos in the last two sentences; by the time a query reaches Evil Editor, it should be free of missing words, typos, and memos like: Note to self: look up definition of "synopsis" to make sure sending right thing.] Crazy Lane is the story of Jonathan's quest to find out who Jill really is and of what it means for him to become an adult in New York City.

Crazy Lane has market potential on several levels:
- Mental illness, particularly bipolar disorder, plays a crucial role in the unfolding of the story, creating a very immediate appeal for readers affected by mental illness directly or through friends and relatives.
- As a New York story by a Dutch writer, Crazy Lane should appeal greatly to secondary markets like Holland. [And other Dutch countries.]

[If our target markets are the mentally ill and people in Holland, we're in trouble.]

This is the first time that I am seeking to publish a work of fiction [which I'm hoping you'll interpret as an implication that I've published numerous works of nonfiction]. I have already revised the manuscript (93,400 words) several times, but I would be more than happy to continue working on it in order to make it work both as a work of fiction and as a marketable product. [In other words, both as a book and as an action figure.]

Please note that I intend to query other agencies, [Are you threatening Evil Editor?] but I will gladly grant you an exclusive reading upon request. [That's better.]

Thank you very much for your time and consideration.


Revised Version

Dear Agent,

I am currently seeking representation for Crazy Lane, a work of literary fiction. Crazy Lane is a first-person narrative about a pathological liar and the narrator's relationship with her. The book explores the barriers between truth and lie, and between forgiveness and redemption, in a multicultural context.

Jonathan, the narrator, has long known that his on-again-off-again girlfriend, Jill, is a complicated character. But only after they become engaged does he discover that she has been lying to friends and family for three years about going to law school. Jonathan embarks on a quest to learn who Jill really is, a quest that eventually leads into the realm of mental illness, particularly bipolar disorder.

This is my first novel. The manuscript is complete at 93,400 words, and I would be delighted to submit it upon request. A brief synopsis is attached.

Thank you very much for your time and consideration.

Notes

Presumably if you have any credentials or personal experience with mental illness, you would not have neglected to mention it.

If you would find it easier to work a bit more information into the query than to produce a brief synopsis, it appears there's room.

9 comments:

Patrice Michelle said...

Yes, lots more room to give more information!

Amra Pajalic said...

This was hysterical. Perhaps it's appeal will only be to the mentally ill residents in Holland. That's a unique market right there.

PS I thought Evil Editor changed the template to mint green. Was I high?

Evil Editor said...

There was an outcry to change back, accompanied by a suggestion that those having trouble reading the original template switch to Firefox (Windows) or Safari (Mac).

BuffySquirrel said...

I'm blanking on the connection between compulsive lying and bipolar disorder.

Anonymous said...

thanks for your help dear evil editor! i obviously have some work to do.

about the personal background/ experience: i keep reading that mentioning this may be absolutely required for non-fiction, but redundant for fiction (because the work presumably stands on its own). so is it just a matter of an agent's personal preference/ mood/ time of day/ level of caffeination?

agents also tend to mention that they would like their hopefuls to know their market (in my case, um, holland). how do i demonstrate that otherwise?

re lying + bipolar: many people who suffer from BP also have symptoms of other personality disorders or associated problems, such as compulsive lying. and there is a lot of hinterland between standard definitions of mental illnesses. (now i guess i have to figure out a way to not have to explain that in the query.)

BuffySquirrel said...

Bipolar is classed as a mood disorder, not a personality disorder, although, as you say, some of these classifications often appear more arbitrary than not. Seems more than usually evil however to give your character a mood disorder AND symptoms of a personality disorder like narcissism :D.

Anonymous said...

you are absolutely right, BD is not a personality disorder (i swear i pay more attention to the wording when actually working on the ms), though from what i have read the rate of comorbidity of BD and personality disorders is relatively high.

as for the confluences of these mental health issues in one character ... let's just say that that particular character isn't entirely made up. but perhaps my evilness is manifested in the fact that i wrote a novel about her.

BuffySquirrel said...

You've got me wondering now if making the compulsive liar the narrator instead would have been an interesting or simply an unsaleable choice. It would certainly take the "unreliable narrator" device to new extremes.

(Sorry, I'm wandering off down my own little street now...)

Good luck with the novel!

Anonymous said...

OK, maybe I'm a dolt, but I have a usage question. I see the term "blurring the boundaries between..." used often and in literary contexts (it's even used in MLA style guides). This particular query enlisted the term "boundaries between...," but Mr. EE points out, "Usually, boundaries aren't between things, but outside things."

Not to sound like a geometry or grammar idiot, but EE's correction confuses me and makes me fear I might have been using this almost-cliche (shame, a cliche!) incorrectly. I cannot find anything in my AP style guide about this (I trust it ever so much more than MLA). Is it that I cannot visualize boundaries? Do I have boundary issues? Can't a group of concepts with overlapping outer edges blur as they combine and enmesh? Please help (and don't laugh too hard at my incomprehension)!