Saturday, July 08, 2006
Guess the Plot
Papa's Secret Wish
1. I'd like to tell you what the book is about, but it's a secret. I promised not to tell. I can tell you it's about a secret wish. But you'll have to ask Papa, if you want to know what his secret wish is.
2. Mr. Borden wishes his daughter Lizzie were more like other 19th-century girls, but it seems she has an ax to grind.
3. Papa regrets telling the Santa Claus at Macy's what he REALLY wants for Christmas...when he discovers Santa is really an undercover vice squad cop.
4. He never wanted a real little boy… but undoing the Blue Fairy's magic would take the help of an even more powerful witch.
5. An older gentleman desires more than anything that Smurfette would run away with him to a land far away. The trouble, of course, being that it would mean the end of their entire civilization.
6. An ailing Greek family patriarch wants to dance at his daughter's wedding. But he has six months to live, and his daughter wants a June wedding. Too bad it's only October.
Papa Secret Wish, A Remi and Savannah Adventure is a current fiction, fantasy adventure, about 11,400 words. Mixing real people and facts with fantasy, it is intended for readers 8-10 years old. I have enclosed the first three chapters, per your guidelines in the Children’s Book Insider newsletter and on your website. I chose you because I have enjoyed The Boxcar Children.
Papa’s Secret Wish is a story about Remi and Savannah, two little cousins born just six days apart. Papa is Remi’s Grandfather, who lives in England. Papa will be taking the girls with him when he returns to England as a special birthday surprise. [For his pet ogre.] When Remi and Papa are alone, Papa tells her he has had a secret wish since he was a boy. [Which is?] Before Papa will tell Remi his wish, he makes her promise she won’t tell anyone else. Remi decides it is up to her to make Papa’s secret wish come true. [What's the wish?] Remi struggles to make this happen. She is conflicted because she needs help to make Papa’s wish come true, [What's the wish?] and must break her promise. When Remi finally sees what she feels is a great opportunity to make Papa’s secret wish come true, [Don't tell me you aren't going to reveal the wish.] she puts herself in danger. [She's on the edge of a cliff? Is it sharks? Is this a secret too?] She moves so quickly, Papa and Savannah are unable to stop her. Papa, fearing for her safety, tries to reach her, but can only watch and wait. Remi’s continual desire to make Papa’s wish come true, [I give up. Apparently, revealing the secret wish would be a national security risk. Evil Editor is beginning to doubt the secret wish is revealed even in the book itself.] her disappointment when she feels she has failed, and when she finds one last chance and takes it, all show her love for Papa. Also, when she has an opportunity to ask for a wish for herself, she doesn’t. This teaches not only a lesson of love, but also of unselfishness.
I have been a children’s caregiver for 14 years. During that time I have read many children’s books to the children in my care. One night, after reading a story to my niece, I remembered how much I love writing. Every writing assignment I have ever written, composition, short story, or play, both in high school and college, received an A. Once I started writing my book, I checked out many books at the library on how to write children’s books, creative writing, and how to use dialogue. [Did one of them have a chapter on specificity?] [This paragraph isn't needed in your quest to sell the book. You're competing with professional children's book authors, so you want to sound like one of them.]
I have enclosed a SASE for your reply. I look forward to hearing from you.
Evil Editor is sorry to report that your streak of "A"s is over. Hey, even DiMaggio's streak ended eventually. The query letter sounds like it is directed toward the same audience as the book: children. Simple sentences, simple vocabulary. Remember that the letter is going to an adult who is judging your writing ability.
As it's described, I don't see nine and ten-year-old kids going for it. It sounds more like a picture book for seven-year-olds. (And at that length, it may need to be a picture book to have a spine.) Though you call it "fantasy adventure," the letter brings out nothing fantastical or adventurous. (Except the ogre.)
The most glaring problem, of course, is that it doesn't reveal Papa's secret wish. Without knowing the most crucial--the only crucial--piece of information, how can an editor determine whether the story works? And how can Evil Editor revise it? It's totally vague as it is. If we knew the wish, much of the vagueness would become clear. We might even be able to guess the other piece of information you neglect to tell us, namely what Remi does that's so dangerous in her quest to make Papa's secret wish come true.
For other queries in which authors' characters keep secrets from each other, and the authors feel obliged to hide those secrets from Evil Editor as well, check out Face-Lifts 23 and 28 in the May archives.