Sunday, May 14, 2006

Face-Lift 20


Guess the Plot

For the Love of my Family

1. Leaving his family is the only decent thing Jeffrey's done for them in years. At least he didn't take all the Christmas presents with him.

2. Joe would do anything to keep the peace in his family--anything except eat his wife's meat loaf.

3. Kat Spencer, smothered by the overbearing love of her family, gets on the Greyhound bus heading west. What she doesn't know is that her family will be on the next bus, following her all the way to LA.

4. Fifteen years after her daring escape from Iran, Betty faces an even greater challenge: for the love of her family, she is competing for a million dollars on a cruel, demeaning summer reality-TV show.

5. On Optima Prime 2, children are created in factories and raised in communes by nanny robots. Two women rise up in rebellion. Will they succeed in bringing back that lost word, "family," to the planet?

6. John's mom is in debt. His little sister needs hip surgery. There's only one thing for it: John has to win the Jeopardy teen tournament, which he can only do if he convinces them he's thirteen, not six.


Original Version


Dear Successful Von Agentson,

Jeffrey Bloom successfully shatters four lives in 30 seconds. In the height of a manic streak on Christmas Morning, he divorces his wife of 25 years in front of their two sons before the wrapping paper has been thrown away. [Apparently the legal system moves faster some places than others.] [Finding a divorce lawyer at the last minute on Christmas morning is hard enough; convincing one to take your case when you're at the height of a manic streak is high fantasy.] Jeffrey knows he is escaping a hollow marriage poisoned by manipulation, abuse and deceit. His wife and children, however, know this is the farthest thing from the truth.

My 96,000-word mainstream fiction/ family drama, For the Love of My Family, watches as Jeffrey, a sufferer of Bipolar Disorder, rips his family apart and forces them [at gunpoint] to try to put their lives back together. But fixing the millions of pieces is impossible. [I wonder if they make a jigsaw puzzle with millions of pieces. I'll bet that would take a long time. And when you finished it, it would have to be a picture of something really huge. Like eternity.] The Blooms find themselves on a runaway train, [He shattered their lives, then he ripped them into millions of pieces, now he puts them on a runaway train . . . I'm drowning in metaphors. Don't go overboard with them. Ease up on the metaphor gas pedal, man] driven by Jeffrey, that speeds them through physical fights, self-deprecation, a near fatal car accident, [Their car was hit by the runaway train.] and finally ends when their house bursts into flames. [And wait till I tell you what happens on their bad days.] [The house fire was arson, by the way. One of the kids did it. It was an episode of Law and Order.]

The choose-who-to-trust, sharp narrative style of For the Love of My Family could appeal to those who enjoyed Bret Easton Ellis’ The Rules of Attraction while the heart and soul of the Blooms’ story will speak to fans of Wally Lamb's I Know This Much Is True. [On the other hand, this paragraph will not appeal or speak to anyone who hasn't read those books--nor to anyone who has read them, requests the manuscript, and decides (rightly or wrongly) that you've massively overestimated your book's quality] [Then again, maybe you should shoot even higher: This book will appeal to anyone who enjoyed The Bible. And it will speak to anyone who has seen The Wizard of Oz.]

Using a rotating first-person perspective, For the Love of My Family gives the reader four unique and contrasting accounts of the devastation of the shotgun divorce and the bitter days that follow it. In the end, it is up to the reader to decide whose recounting of the story (if any) is the correct one. [I've already narrowed it down to the three without Bipolar Disorder.] [Make sure you mention in Chapter 1 that the reader has to figure out the ending, so they take notes.] The book challenges the reader to take a side in the four-way battle, and then to stick with that opinion as the pages turn. [By now it's about time for this page to turn, which means this is too long.]

I am the head writer of the Internet arm of a public relations firm in Manhattan, [You are, to the Internet arm of your firm, what Rob Petrie was to The Alan Brady Show.] and have published short fiction in various electronic and print magazines including Velvet Mafia, X-factor and Frontiers. [Hmm? Oh, sorry, I was fantasizing about the episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show where Laura gets her toe stuck in a bathtub faucet.]

I am prepared to send you the complete manuscript of For the Love of My Family at your request. Should you have any questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to contact me via email or by phone. [Yes, let me put your phone number in my book, along with those of the other fifty people who queried me today. I'll be in touch.] Thank you for your time and consideration.


Revised Version

Dear Successful Von Agentson,

At the height of a manic streak on Christmas Morning, before the wrapping paper has even been thrown away, Jeffrey Bloom shatters four lives; he walks out on his wife of 25 years and their two sons. Jeffrey knows he is fleeing a hollow marriage poisoned by manipulation and deceit. His wife and children, however, know this is far from the truth.

My 96,000-word novel, For the Love of My Family, follows Jeffrey, a sufferer of Bipolar Disorder, as he rips his family apart, then demands that they pick up the pieces. As the Blooms endure physical fights, a near fatal car accident, and a house fire, it becomes clear that repairing the damage to their lives is impossible.

Through a rotating first-person perspective, For the Love of My Family provides four contrasting accounts of the bitter days that follow that fateful Christmas morning. In the end, it is left to the reader to decide whose perspective (if anyone's) rings true.

I am the head writer of the Internet arm of a public relations firm in Manhattan, and have published short fiction in various electronic and print magazines including Velvet Mafia, X-factor and Frontiers. I would be happy to send you the complete manuscript of For the Love of My Family. I've enclosed a stamped envelope for your reply; an email contact would be fine as well. Thank you for your time and consideration.


Notes

Suffering, anguish, torment, sorrow, desolation, pain, ordeal, misery.

Just wanted to give you a taste of your own medicine. Granted, the story you're telling is a downer, but does the letter have to be such a downer too? Does anything good happen that you could mention in passing? I mean, if an editor had an argument with her husband before leaving for work, and got cut off in traffic, and her jelly doughnut is stale, and then the first thing she picks up is this query letter, she's going to have to increase her Prozac dosage for a couple weeks. Evil Editor managed to remove the words "abuse," "self-deprecation" and "devastation" without the letter becoming overly cheerful; maybe you should make Jeffrey Bloom a circus clown, just for some comic relief.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

You are sooo good at this.

Thanks for the editor-inside thoughts. I think you are making me a better writer and reader by these posts.

And in an effort not to sound like I'm kissing butt (smack), I'll remain anonymous for this comment.

Anonymous said...

"But fixing the millions of pieces is impossible."

"Millions" and "pieces" can't go together in the same sentence any more without evoking thoughts of James Frey. This is probably not what you want an agent/editor thinking about as they read your query letter.

Rei said...

Anonymous #2: I thought of the exact same thing.

There was quite the "ouch" factor on EE's comments on this one ;) There usually are. Yet, we all step forward as though we were natives of some obscure tribe volunteering to march across the burning coals because we hear that it's more likely to get the Volcano God to favor us...

Brenda Bradshaw said...

Holy crap. I need a Xanax now.

Anonymous said...

I love reading these reworked query letters--thanks for taking the time to share them.

FWIW, I think this one--in rewritten form--is the first book I probably would pick up and read.

Anonymous said...

I'll stay anonymous for my dignity, but I think that book would bore me to sleep. I can't even tell what the plot line really is.

Another another note, is there any way one could submit a query for critique, yet not get it published on the site? I think I have an awesome query, and I really want EE's opinion, but I don't want my story to be on the web.

Anonymous said...

"...maybe you should make Jeffrey Bloom a circus clown just for comic relief."

Made me laugh, made me cry--because lines like this make me wish I'd never sent a query in to the EE. Don't know if I can handle his kind of truth.

Evil Editor said...

Presumably people take Evil Editor's "abuse" because it's more useful as input than the form rejection slip they get from other editors. Evil Editor has plenty of queries lined up, and will happily allow anyone who cares to, to withdraw. A few readers have already withdrawn their queries--believing, after reading the other queries, that they could submit a more polished one.

Anonymous #6 said...

Anonymous #4 - I don't want your story.

Does anybody else here want Anonymous #4's story?

Frainstorm said...

Would one lose their place in the queue if one were to remove their query to submit a more polished version.

I mean, I don't really care, but a friend wanted to know.

Anonymous said...

A friend. Riiiiight.

Evil Editor said...

Actually, there is no queue. Evil Editor chooses queries based on whether he thinks a critique will be entertaining. (To Evil Editor.)

frainstorm said...

Thanks for that note, Evil One. Answers my question very well. Time for me to get to work on a new & imrpoved query. This is getting more fun daily.

John

Anonymous said...

I think what you picked up on throughout the letter is the fact that this author (I'm fairly certain) is rather young and is still dealing with some emotional issues from a personal experience with the story. There is almost something too visceral about the letter that I would guess would only become depressing in an entire novel. You did great work on the edits in this regard.