Thursday, June 29, 2006

Face-Lift 90

Guess the Plot

Stephanie Steps Up

1. Bored with her tiresome literary agent husband, Stephanie decides to splurge on a depilatory regimen and try to bag a New York book editor.

2. Stephanie has spent ten years sweating at the bottom of the corporate ladder. When information that compromises the CEO appears in her inbox she blackmails him into making her vice president. Then she gets greedy.

3. Stephanie is a failure - financially, romantically, physically. When she finds herself a guinea pig for a revolutionary new exercise regimen, will things get better or worse?

4. Some say Stephanie should step somewhere. Some say Stephanie should step somewhere else. Still, Stephanie seems stupified simply stepping somewhere she shouldn't, silencing sophomore soccer standout Stephen.

5. Stephanie has always stunk at volleyball. But when her team needs a new player, she steps in and leads them to the elementary school league championship.

6. Second rate baseball player Stephen Norcross thinks he’s found his entry route into the majors . . . disguising himself as a woman and playing the Sexual Equality card.

Original Version

Dear Agent-who-I-really-want-to-have-represent-me,

For the third year in a row, sixth-grader Stephanie Marak isn't quite good enough to make the school's volleyball team. This year, she was the thirteenth best player at the tryout. Unfortunately, the coach only took twelve players. Stephanie asks for and gets permission to practice with the team to improve her skills for next year.

When the team's star player moves away mid-season, Stephanie is brought up to replace her. Replacing the best player in the school is terrifying, [Technically, Stephanie is replacing the 12th-best player on the team, who's replacing the 11th best player etc. Stephanie can expect to warm the bench, except when she's handing the good players their Gatorade.] but Stephanie receives anonymous notes in her locker encouraging her to keep trying. Will Stephanie step up and help her team win the championship? [Yes, her overhand jump serves and kills directed at the face of the opposing team's hapless 4th grader win the day. Of course, the 4th grader is ostracized for the remainder of her school days, until she develops laser beam eyes and takes bloody revenge on her classmates and community. But enough about the sequel, which should be much easier to sell.] [Maybe if you're going to ask this question, you should put a spoiler alert on the title.]

"Stephanie Steps Up" is a 22,000 word novel [Expect to hear from Dwight the Troubled Teen.] appropriate for girls aged 8 - 12. [That's one skinny book. Maybe 100 pages, which means 50 sheets of paper. Aren't kids in this age group reading Harry Potter novels?] [Not that I know any 12-year-olds, but this seems kind of tame for anyone over 9. Or are the anonymous notes in the locker from Chad, captain of the boys team, who has the hots for Steph? That's what this book needs, a romantic angle.] I am a certified elementary school teacher with four years of experience in the classroom and in coaching girls' and boys' volleyball teams. I understand the trials and tribulations of a team and the realities of middle-grade girls, and my novel reflects this. I am now a full-time writer with several published stories and articles to my credit.

I am including a synopsis and SASE as well as the first three chapters. Thank you for your time and consideration.


The query seems fine, if rather bland. If there's a villain in the book, you might bring that up to add interest. If there isn't, you might invent one (for the book, not just the query).

Oh, and the "only" should be in front of the "twelve," not the "took." That's a problem that's come up in about a dozen of these queries, so I thought I'd mention it finally. Jam the "only" right up against the word it modifies, or you change the meaning of the sentence.


Anonymous said...

Dwight the Troubled Teen (novella)will say it much better (novella) so I can't wait for his post (novella). What subliminal (novella) message? -JTC

Maybe this should be made into a book for children (say, 6-8).

BuffySquirrel said...

22k is a pamphlet. Methinks the book needs more plot, which in turn will generate more words.

nrzvcpv said...

I'm standing up for the word count on this one. I spent much of this week researching publishers in the Children's Book Council, and found the following on

Orca Echoes are 5,500 to 6,000 words. Young Readers are usually 13,000 to 18,000 words. Juvenile fiction manuscripts are usually 25,000 to 35,000 words. Orca Echoes are aimed at seven year-olds, Young Readers are aimed at eight- to ten-year-olds, and juvenile novels are aimed at nine- to thirteen-year-olds.

22,000 words isn't going to cause a fuss in this market.

first-time minion said...

how about an evil popular girl villain, possibly one with a crush on whoever's writing these secret admirer notes. jealousy and evil!

Dwight the Undead Teen said...

The way this query sounds, this seems like an article in the local newspaper--"Local Girl Steps Up in Big Game"--and not a novella.

BuffySquirrel said...

*slaps forehead*

Ah, it's the old "sixth grade doesn't mean what I think it means" problem. Nothing to see here, move along.

Brenda Bradshaw said...

Has the mother of a 12 yr old daughter, she wouldn't read this. She's reading things like Potter and heck, she even reads some of my books (after I or my older daughter make sure there's no out-and-out sex scenes.)

As the mother of a six year old daughter, her eyes would glaze over as she wonders why the chick even cares about vollyball to begin with, when she could be playing dolls or Barbie's instead.

Maybe ages 8-10. I don't have reading daughters that age.

A Reader said...

Yeah, it's not like evil=popular hasn't been done to death...aside from it not making much sense, if popular means well-liked.

Instead of a villain who means her harm--if the book needs one--what about an "old lady" next door, or even a parent, who criticizes her when she practices at home? Stephanie thinks it's because the lady doens't like her, but it turns out that she loves sports and just wants Steph to do her best. Maybe she even comes to watch her play. As most of us have experienced, even people who mean the best for us sometimes say the wrong things.

diwwdxa said...

Yeah, 22,000 words is right in line for a middle grade novel, which is what this would be--I'd be a lot more worried if it were 60,000 words.

I'd like to know more about Stephanie--what are her strengths, what makes her someone the reader cares about--someone who has the chops (not necessarily just in terms of volleyball skill) to save the day?

Anonymous said...

My 9-year-old DD would probably read this, and IMHO that's about the right length for a book like this. Lots of pictures and larger type will builk it up.

At one point we got all of her books in large print. Even Little House on the Prairie looked like War and Peace in 14-point.


anon2 said...

No, not lots of pictures, by 8-12 books. Maybe a few internal illustrations, more likely not. It's younger, "early readers," for the beginning to read crowd (like 6-8 year olds), that are bulked up with pictures.

Watercolorz said...

as the mother of a 12 yr old daughter, she wouldn't read this. She's reading things like Potter and heck, she even reads some of my books (after I or my older daughter make sure there's no out-and-out sex scenes.)

Ditto, Brenda. I love to encourage but I have to say that my 12-year-old wouldn’t bite either. Reflecting back on her reading taste I don’t think there was ever a time when she would have found this interesting.

It has been my observation that word count for the YA market isn’t as crucial as story. And the story isn’t here.

The plot sounds like something an adult thinks a girl that age should like.

I would like more relatable stories for my daughter, and so I like to encourage writing for girls.

But I wonder if the voice here is 12? As a suggestion perhaps you could focus on her life as a whole and how the problems that the girl is having with volleyball might be affecting other areas of life.

Perhaps teaching the lesson that wanting something isn’t enough. I know among my daughter’s peers this is a REALLY hard concept, having been taught for so many years that EVERYONE should get a shot because they want one.

I’ve observed that some of the kids are having a rough time with the idea that not everyone gets a shot no matter how much they try or want it.

I think 12 is a good time to learn the value at giving your all just to get a shot. And sometime just the opportunity is enough ~W

Manic Mom said...

Since my name is Stephanie, I've been waiting for this query to arrive on EE's pages. I wanted the plot to be choice number 2, but if I were a kid, I'd like the book, plus I could walk around and pretend a book was written about me!

Good luck to the author!

Anonymous said...

Her third year trying out for the Grade Six volleyball team?

Apart from the implications of the above, I'm frankly a bit skeptical of a heroine that young who has devoted 3 years to trying to get onto the volleyball team. Having been through the 9-12 stage with 3 children at home and umpteen more while teaching middle school drama, I am keenly aware of their milliseconds-long attention spans. I seldom see long-term devotion to any single cause (except possibly trying to trick siblings into doing a bigger share of the icky chores).

I vote with those who think the story doesn't have enough plot, as presented here, to hold the target audience's attention.

Anonymous said...

To me, this query screams out "Imortant Message" instead of "Interesting Story".

The volleyball angle is interesting, but is that enough to make someone pick the book off the shelf?

nrzvcpv said...

My skepticism is in the idea that fourth-through-sixth graders have to try out for their team. But then, I played for a rural high school where you could join anything just by asking.

I don't see an "Important Message" blaring, but I do agree that the query makes it sound bland (apart from the fact that I never would have read it myself). Is there anything unusual preventing Stephanie from stepping up? Cruel teammates, taunting classmates, a rival school? Or is it just a matter of her practicing and getting better?

Word ver is xtlph: It's Aztec and Greek all at once!

hhanvhe said...

It has been my observation that word count for the YA market isn’t as crucial as story. And the story isn’t here.

This isn't YA; it's middle grade. Two different genres. (Though their readers overlap at the older middle grade/younger YA end.)

Story still matters deeply for middle grade. I have no idea whether the story is here in this case, but it's certainly a story that's appropriate for the genre, depending how it's done.

Brenda Bradshaw said...

We had volleyball 7-12 grades here - Smack-dab in the middle of Dallas/Ft. Worth - huge school districts, to say the least, so definitely yes, we had try-outs, and they were brutal. And yes, we had about four kids who sat on the bench waiting to get in. I totally get all of that - but still. Unless she broke the setter's hand and has to deal with the guilt WHILE dealing with the "heroine saves the team!" stuff at the same time, it's kind of bland. And my 12 yr old still wouldn't read it. I do think if it spiced up a bit, it'd fall in the 9-10 yr old range.

TeenageGirl said...

I was an 8 to 12-year-old recently. (Well, probably more recently than others on this site.)
At age 10 I was reading the Hobbit, Harry Potter and books by Tamora Pierce. I would have put this book down immediately. It needs more substance. The biggest concerns in my 12-year-old-life were boys (well, one in particular) and trying (not) to fit in with the popular kids.