Monday, May 15, 2006

Face-Lift 21


Guess the Plot

Anna and the Whale

1. After the disappearance of her husband Jonah, Anna is determined to explore every clue. But when she finally finds him, will acid reflux lead to tragedy?

2. History repeats itself. So does the bible. When Anna finds herself trapped in the belly of a sperm whale, will love find a way... out?

3. Morbidly obese Dan falls for beautiful Anna, not realizing she's a call girl Dan's boss hired. Now Dan, having accepted his "payoff" is expected to keep silent about the boss's numerous affairs.

4. Fifteen-year-old runaway, Anna Banana, takes up with Lester "The Whale" Brown, a 25 year-old mostly unsuccessful grifter who promises to make Anna a star.

5. After being dismissed from the court of Siam for excessive prudishness, Anna is sailing home to England. Her life changes when she spots a man adrift off the starboard bow who says his name is Ishmael.

6. Anna just couldn't help herself - she loved him. Sure he was overweight, and at 700 pounds could not get off the couch without the use of a crane. But there was just something about Shamu that she couldn't resist.


Original Version

Note: The author neglected to provide a title for the book in this query letter, so Evil Editor was forced to make one up.

Hello Evil Editor,

I probably shouldn't email here, but sod it. No doubt what I'm about to write will get posted ASAP as a prime example of how to really screw up a submission. Quite frankly I couldn't less. I am only sending this to you as my ex-girlfriend is making me... and yes, I did say ex. The crux of the matter is she that thinks what I write is profound and needs to be seen, whereas I write to fill my time and consider my “work” not much more than an overblown and frankly worthless etude. [So far, Evil Editor is on your side in this.] My ambitions are not to be published, I just want a quiet life and as means to an end I send you this turgid trash for the vindicating rejection letter. As I said: I couldn't care less. And if you're wondering how I came to be here when I've already twice stated I couldn't care less and am thus sounding a little bit hypocritical, [And repetitive.] my ex found the site... women. [and no, it's not a hook, or a handle, or bad ploy, some of us do actually speak the truth, albeit factiously.] [Surprisingly, despite having done nothing right so far, you have Evil Editor's rapt attention. But do you have a book?]

Well here goes, I'll try to summarise my dire tome. It goes without saying that I've never been published. Never even tried to be published. It's a first person tale told through the eyes of Dan and stretches to about 114,000 words. It's a bit James Joyce meets Jerry Seinfeld meets Bill Hicks. It's a vitriolic rant about nothing, [Your book? Or your query letter?] a book about life. There's a plot hidden there somewhere too, but damned if I know how extrapolate it in three paragraphs. [No doubt there's a title hidden there as well, though having scanned the entire letter, I'll be damned if I can extrapolate that.]

Dan is fat. Actually, Dan surpassed being a long time, he now lingers in the lonely world of the morbidly obese. Stuck eight till late in the basement of the faceless London bank, Dan works tirelessly on his computers whilst describing and lamenting the world which he feels owes him. His nemesis Robert Jenkins-Parker, fiancée to the boss's daughter, is a cretinous wretch whose only prerequisite qualification is nepotism. In return for Dan keeping his fat mouth shut about numerous illicit affairs he has eye witnessed, Dan is sent on a date with beautiful beau Anna. She is the first woman not to scorn him and she quickly becomes an all consuming obsession. However, when Dan discovers that he's been deceived Anna is nothing more than a call girl has hired to placate him his life falls apart and he's determined to take as many people with him.

Spiralling out of control, Dan faces Robert's wrath after confessing his secret. He's forced to run away into the rainy English country, and this is where the story actually begins, [And possibly where the query letter should begin.] where becomes the victim of a hit and run. Lying in his hospital a repenetant woman comes to see him. Confessing to drink driving, she offers Dan one favour in return for his silence... again. He sees no harm in asking, so he asks to made thin, so he can win his obsession, the nubile Anna.

Well, it's thin, but it has a murder at the end.... fuck it, it's complicated. If you want to read it, then read it, if not then don't... I send those usual first 2 chapters for a quick once over (barbecue) and hope that my venous text will bring laughter to countless EvilEditor readers. [Evil Editor suspects that your hopes will be realized.]

Thanks for the automated reply telling me I suck...


Revised Version

Hello Evil Editor,

No doubt what I'm about to write will get passed around the office as a prime example of how to screw up a submission. I'm only doing this because my ex-girlfriend is making me. She thinks what I write is profound and needs to be seen. Whereas, I consider my “work” not much more than an overblown and frankly worthless étude; I send you this turgid trash only for the vindicating rejection letter.

Dan is fat. Actually, Dan surpassed fat long ago; he now lingers in the lonely world of the morbidly obese. Stuck in the basement of a faceless London bank, Dan works tirelessly on his computers whilst decrying the world, which he feels owes him. His nemesis, Robert Jenkins-Parker, fiancé to the boss's daughter, is a cretinous wretch whose only qualification is nepotism.

In return for keeping his fat mouth shut about numerous illicit affairs he has witnessed, Dan is sent on a date with beautiful Anna. She is the first woman not to scorn him, and she quickly becomes an all-consuming obsession. However, when Dan discovers that he's been deceived, that Anna is no more than a call girl Robert hired to placate him, his life goes to hell. And he's determined to take with him as many people as he can.

Anna and the Whale is a first-person tale, told through the eyes of Dan, that stretches to about 114,000 words. It's a bit James Joyce meets Jerry Seinfeld meets Bill Hicks, a vitriolic rant about nothing. Two chapters are enclosed; if you'd like to read Dan's complete story, I'll put a copy in the mail. Thanks.


Notes

He asks to be made thin? Does he believe she has magical powers? Does she? If the book has fantastical aspects, that should be made clear in the letter.

Why is it that whenever Evil Editor gets a query letter that is preposterously bad, he finds himself wanting to take a look at the book? The writer has, despite the missing words, misused words, and misspelled words, an impressively vivid vocabulary. One suspects that the take-no-prisoners, straightforward style of the letter is an indication of what's in the book. Evil Editor even left some of the first paragraph intact, knowing that the very few editors who can get past that are the only ones who would look at this book anyway (though if you want the manuscript requested, you might consider entirely deleting that paragraph.)

Let's be reasonable. No editor would request the book based on the original query. And if an editor reads the revised version, requests the manuscript, and finds it in the same condition as the original version, he's not going to care how good the story is (and it does sound kind of cool). Editors aren't so hard up for books that they'll slog through an error-riddled rough draft.

Evil Editor suspects there's a spark hidden in there, something your ex-girlfriend spotted, so you're not getting the automated reply. Nyaah, nyaah. You're getting a suggestion that you spend a few months editing your novel to see what you come up with. Unless, of course, you don't care.

24 comments:

Manic Mom said...

He does care or else he wouldn't have wasted his time with the query.

I think he's using reverse psychology on Evil Editor.

Jessica said...

"It's a bit James Joyce meets Jerry Seinfeld meets Bill Hicks." Ah! How dare he! How dare he compare his work to James Joyce! James Joyce is . . . well strange but brilliant as well! James Joyce my ass!

Anonymous said...

And having just read a bit in a psych book about self-esteem ... he strikes me as a textbook (literally) example of someone with low self-esteem. [No wonder the girlfriend is ex.] Such people, so the text assures me, will sometimes set themselves up to fail, so (one imagines) they aren't too disappointed.

Still, it's an interesting idea he's come up with, it's no worse than many of the submissions (in my non-expert opinion). As you say, a lot of persisitence might get him somewhere.

Brenda Bradshaw said...

I have to high five manic mom on this one. He absolutely cares because to not care is indifference. Indifference takes no action, must less this extreme move of poking oneself in the ass and actually submit to an editor.

Sandra Ruttan said...

On the one hand, good chance this guy legitimately wrote after being prompted by an ex-girlfriend.

But writing, saying someone else believes in you (particularly an ex, unlike a current girlfriend - what else would you expect them to say?) is a way to bring people on-side. "Someone else thinks you have merit, not you? Well then you should get right on with that writing career Ye Who Should Have More Faith."

I'm with manic mom. I think he just doesn't want to admit he cares so that people won't think his dreams are being dashed if his work isn't any good.

Anonymous said...

This guy's full of crap. He wants you to request his manuscript and offer him a three-book deal. He wants to tell his friends, " . . . and I didn't even want to get published!" And then he wants all his friends to gasp in amazement and say how brilliant and clever he is.

David Baker said...

Mildly amusing; he's a good writer, but he's taking the wrong approach. Were I an editor, though, I'd request the manuscript. But then I'd also request my own manuscripts based on my latest queries, and since remarkably few agents have done same, I suppose my inclinations comprise an unreliable industry measure.

Sam said...

Tharrrrr she Blows!!


This is actually an interesting psycological study of the mind of a wannabe writer and his deepeset fear of rejection. Needless to say, one must get over this little hump if one wants to make a business of selling one's work.
Something in me really loves raw emotion and hopes fears of rejection will be overcome by dreams of second homes in the Bahamas and fast, shiny red cars...

Anonymous said...

It's good, but he should save the emotion for the book.
At some level, in order to function, editors and anyone in business need to take themselves seriously - and this fellow is taking the piss.

Anonymous said...

"...an impressively vivid vocabulary," or remarkably dog-eared thesaurus?

Anonymous said...

I agree with EE that he has a certain . . . style that intrigues me. Errors or no, he can yarn a tale. Or, is that tell a yarn?
-JTC

Rei said...

I'm somewhat confused as to what vocabulary that was used in this query impressed EE and anonymous. I don't consider words like "vitriolic" or "turgid" to be particularly unusual. Now if they had used words like "acerbic" or "fustian", I could understand. Perhaps it's just me, however; I was criticized recently for using phrases like "polychromatic specular reflection" in my novel.

Evil Editor said...

The vocabulary was described as vivid, not unusual.

His nemesis, Robert Jenkins-Parker, fiancée to the boss's daughter, is a cretinous wretch whose only prerequisite qualification is nepotism.

The following words, along with vitriolic and turgid, aren't unusual, but they paint a more vivid picture than the more mundane words that could easily be substituted:

profound, overblown, venous, lingers, morbidly, faceless, lamenting, all-consuming, placate. And Evil Editor's favorite: the "nubile" Anna.

nir said...

Methinks this novel is a thinly veiled autobiography. But I could be wrong.

Anonymous said...

rei, I didn't say anything about the guys vocabulary. I just said he has a certain style. Coincidentally, EE used one of the sentences that caught my eye in his response to your post.

Anon-in-a-million said...

Would an editor really request a manuscript that was queried like this?

Wouldn't this kind of approach be a red flag that maybe the author is high maintenance, or possibly in need of anti-depressants?

The query struck me as manipulative and narcissistic (other people think I'm wonderful which is why I must query you). The writing may be intriguing, but was it good enough that you'd want to have a business relationship with the author?

I'm just curious.

Anon-in-a-million

Evil Editor said...

Would an editor really request a manuscript that was queried like this?
Of course not. That's the point of these critiques, to shape up query letters.


The query struck me as manipulative.
If we agree editors would not request the manuscript, we can hardly claim they've been manipulated.

The writing may be intriguing, but was it good enough that you'd want to have a business relationship with the author?
The writer needs education, not only in English, but in the way the system operates. But what little we know of his story sounds interesting (though what sounds interesting to one reader differs wildly from what sounds interesting to another; it sounds interesting to Evil Editor--who would prefer not to have a business relationship with anyone).

Rei said...

Anonymous: Not you. The anonymous before you. :)

Anonymous said...

rei, Oh. ;~)

Philipek said...

Well, I am the guilty party. I never realized that I made so many mistakes in that submission. I should really cut back on the booze. I am not a cretin and had I been sober I would have corrected those hideous fuck ups before hitting the send button. But I was drunk, so I get stuck in the “can’t write for shit” paradigm. What you have here is an alcohol induced catharsis aimed more at my ex than Evil Editor. Actually I’m a bit disappointed. I really only came back here for the pure pleasure of being ripped to shreds, and instead I find that I’m complimented on my vocabulary. Life is brutal.

So Evil Ed, did you read the submission or not? That's a question I want answered! If so, how shit was it? :) Philip

Evil Editor said...

Evil Editor does not open attachments. He gets enough hate mail in comments, without having to worry that someone he savaged is sending a virus.

Nor can EE read manuscripts for one of his minions unless he's prepared to do the same for all. Perhaps that would be a good contest prize next time around.

Anonymous said...

Now I'm drooling. You realize a prize that fantastic would bring out the Lurker Minions? You think you get a lot of email now. Ha! and again, HA! There could be no self-scoring. We'd all cheat! We are after all, followers of Evil. ;)

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a fan of John Kennedy Toole.

S. W. Vaughn said...

This lurker minion will watch Evil Editor's blog ever so closely, now. Ooooh, EE, you shouldn'a said that...