Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Face-Lift 213


Guess the Plot

When an Angel Falls

1. They didn't call him Cathetel the Klutz for nothing, but they thought if they kept him out in the garden he couldn't do any harm. However disaster looms for both Heaven and Earth when he steps on a rake and falls into some bushes where Azazel is working on creating the Nephilim.

2. Iquiem is the clumsiest Seraph ever to crash head-first into the Pearly Gates. But when the time comes for the annual Pinhead Ball, she is determined that this time, she will dance with the best of them. Even if she has to sell her soul to the devil.

3. Everyone thought Sedona was the most peaceful place on Earth, but when Saffron suggests that Amelianne's figurine of Ambriel is made of glass, all Hell breaks loose. Literally

4. In this heartwarming holiday sequel, little Zuzu Bailey thinks it's a wonderful life until a drunken Clarence loses his wings and falls through the Bailey's ceiling. Now George has another problem on his hands.

5. Felicity is only 13 but she has it all: Wealthy parents, the sweetest personality and talent. But when she slips and grazes her pretty little knee, her tantrum releases the beasts of Hell.

6. Laura the Arrogant Angel falls from grace and learns valuable life lessons as she struggles for redemption and forgiveness.


Original Version

Dear Mr. Evil Editor,

I have written a spiritual book about a subject that appears, in varying degrees, within most religions that have been held by man throughout history. The story explores the realm of angels.

Most literature regarding the subject of angels is in the form of descriptive reference material, or events centered around the effects of an angelic presence on mortal lives. My book takes a unique and bold approach by offering the reader a glimpse into the world beyond mortality through the trials and growth of an angel. [There are numerous novels featuring angels, including fallen angels, so it's probably best to let someone else describe your approach as unique and bold.]

When an Angel Falls is a completed manuscript of 130,000 words. It is a work of religious fiction that takes place beyond our planet, encompassing the war in Heaven, and the expansion of known Universe. The story examines the life of an arrogant angel called Laura. It details her fall from grace and her struggle for redemption.

[Laura: I don't like to brag, but I have to admit I'm a damn good angel. Possibly the best angel ever. Certainly better than these other cretins.

God: I banish you to eternal torment in the lake of fire.

Laura (after ten seconds in the lake): You know, I'm probably barely in the top fifty percent of angels . . . OKAY, OKAY, I'm the worst @#&%$# angel ever. I suck. Now get me the hell outta here!]

When an Angel Falls is a story that reminds us that shame can be overcome with hope and patience, and that the path toward forgiveness does have an end. [That's your plot, your last three sentences. Replace the middle one with specific details. Why did Laura fall from grace? What's involved in her struggle for redemption? Are there any humans in the book? Who are the other important characters? In short, get rid of all the vague description of the book, and tell us what happens.]

Thank you, Mr. Evil Editor, for taking the time to read my query. I have enclosed an SASE for your response.

Sincerely,


Notes

That's an awfully short query for an awfully long book; I'm guessing you could cut it to 90,000 words without losing anything vital.

Why am I pulling my punches? Do I subconsciously fear that if I'm critical of a religious book query, I'll be struck down in mid-sentence? Surely there's no reason to wor

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

Ah, nothing like the EE to start the morning. People in other cubicles wonder why I'm laughing. Keeps them on their toes.

Anonymous said...

The author has read "Paradise Lost", right? A well-done modern adaptation of that might work, but this query's too vague to decide. Although I get the willies whenever anyone starts off saying how bold and powerful or [insert overblown adjective] their book is. It's like going to the used car lot and hearing the salesman say how wonderful a certain car is--Lemon Alert!!!

Cathy Writes Romance said...

An angel named Laura? The name sounds oddly human. Then again, so does Michael, Gabriel and Lucifer... Ok, maybe not Lucifer.

I was thinking about Paradise Lost, too.

I don't think the query is vague, I just don't think it makes the book sound like I want to read it.

Anonymous said...

Great. My first real chance at publication in the Novel Beginnings book and it is destroyed because EE is struck down by God.

Where is Sainted Editor's blog?

Anonymous said...

I don't think the query is vague,

Really? So I guess you can write us a complete plot description then.

HawkOwl said...

By "Laura the arrogant angel" I immediately assumed one meant Laura from Project Runway. Cause she could sure use some redemption.

I love Guess-the-Plot one. It seems bold and novel. More so than my Heaven story, even, and mine is pretty damn bold and novel. To wit, my protagonist's name is Michael, not Laura.

I'm not inspired by this query at all.

Rhonda Stapleton said...

LOLOL - that was funny...keep it up, EE!

Dave said...

I can think of several pieces of fiction beyond Paradise Lost (and Paradise Regained)..
Taylor Caldwell - Dialogues with the Devil
Constantine - (Hellblazer comics)
Dante - Hell, Purgatory and Paradise

What is the nature of Laura's redemption? That is what we are talking about, isn't it? Loss of Faith, rejection of belief and finally redemption through some act of will.

Do you have another vision of Heaven and Hell besides Milton's or even Dante's visions? Does Laura have to give (sacrifice) something to be saved?

Tannhauser presents redemption through love. So does Faust, in a way. The Nun's Story is also a tale of redemption of another type. Even Hitchcock's Vertigo is a story of loss, depression and (tragically) resurrection.

I hope this helps you think about what you wanted your novel to say to people.

Anonymous said...

The author can take comfort knowing the query provided an outlet for EE to entertain the minions. That's all we're really hoping for anyway. -JTC

writtenwyrdd said...

I generally like stories that are told with epic settings and situations, but this one struck me as blah. I wasn't the least interested. Perhaps it's the vague description of the story, or perhaps it's how the setting seems to be the only real detail you mention.

If you can make the plot need an angelic setting and characters to tell the story, that's great. But, as described, your setting is being used as the hook to make the story interesting. That won't keep a reader.

If the setting doesn't add anything unique to the story, and this one doesn't seem to, perhaps reconsider it.

Gerri said...

The name of the angel is enough to make me not want to read this book, tbh. A minute amount of research shaws that the name Laura has a Latin origin meaning laurel. Bad start. That's got way too many ties to Apollo, who chased down Daphne, the nymph, who out of desperation to escape him, turned herself into a laurel tree. Apollo, grieving, made the laurel his symbol. He also is the god of athletics, esp. the Olympics, which is why laurel wreaths are used to crown the winners.

A quick surf of Angel of the Day shows that most angels, if not all, have names that are from either Arabic or Hebrew.

Worse: Laura is too common of a name. People know that the names Michael and Gabriel were associated with angels and have meanings associated with the Judeo-Christian-Muslim God. Laura, well, doesn't.

Worst, anyone who claims they're unique, isn't. And that first sentence is just soooo darn clunky.

Steph_J said...

My turn came too fast! I wasn’t even caught up with the other writer’s submissions.

This is a great site. I’ve learned so much from reading through it and participating in it. I appreciate Evil Editor’s expertise, and the time he took to review my query. I appreciate the comments from other posters as well. They have helped a lot.

Yes, I’m familiar with “Paradise Lost”. Even though John Milton’s great work begins with Satan in hell, it is primarily a story about angels’ influence on man. My story begins on Earth, and then moves out to other parts of the Universe. It is more about the angels’ relationships with each other than with the mortals they encounter.

“Paradise Lost” is Christian based. Because many different religions incorporate celestial beings to some degree, I chose to encompass a variety of religious beliefs in my story. Obviously, many spiritual beliefs may be common among different religions; some are not. There is no Messiah in my story. I realize that this is going to make it more difficult to sell my novel, because it seems most of the publishers specify a particular religion for the type of material they are interested in (Jewish, Christian, Hindu, etc.).

I’ll re-write my query tonight and submit to a couple more agents tomorrow. I’m not even sure how many agents I’m suppose to send to at once. I’ve only contacted two so far.

Thanks again for the help,

Steph

(BTW, Guess the Plot #4 was my favorite!)

Dave said...

Steph,
Part of the confusion you see in the comments is due to the fact that you don't have a Messiah. Most of us have background in religions with the Messiah having come and we are awaiting his second coming - the resurection and redemption.

However, religions without a Messiah are few and far between. That is an entirely different metaphysical discussion and exploration than your query letter leads us to believe.

I suspect that Laura's failing is not the failing of Lucifer, that is to raise himself above his creator, and is not even close to the failing of Adam that is merely one of disobedience (free will). What is the nature of her failure and then her path back to grace (if I may use a religious term). That would give an editor a chance to understand your plot and the metaphysical impacts.

Anonymous said...

That's a pretty long book. How is it arranged? In my experience, folks don't read religious books cover to cover - they just dip in at random and read a paragraph or two, maybe once a week...

Gerri said...

Steph, I've got no problem with angelic stories that don't involve a messiah. I've got no problems going cross-belief systems. The name is turning me off before I get any of that, though.

The name Laura? I stopped right there. Seriously. Naming, especially in a religious book, is vital, and you've picked a name that is associated with nymphs, not angels.

Every genre has certain conventions, and that name doesn't live up to convention at all.

And at 130K, trimming probably is called for.

Anonymous said...

Laura? That's a perfectly snicker-worthy name for an angel.

My story begins on Earth, and then moves out to other parts of the Universe. It is more about the angels’ relationships with each other than with the mortals they encounter.

You're still being vague. Tell us what your plot is. What's the main conflict? What's the protagonist trying to acheive? What steps does she take to get what she wants? What stands in her way?

There is no Messiah in my story. I realize that this is going to make it more difficult to sell my novel, because it seems most of the publishers specify a particular religion for the type of material they are interested in

Don't worry about this. Worry about the quality of the story before you worry about the marketability of it. A good story will sell, ground-breaking or not. Agents won't care whether there is a messiah in your book; they will care about whether there's a good story in it.

I’ll re-write my query tonight and submit to a couple more agents tomorrow. I’m not even sure how many agents I’m suppose to send to at once. I’ve only contacted two so far.

You're a gleaming newbie. If you don't know the answer to this, then you should put the manuscript in a drawer for at least a month, and start researching the publishing industry so that you know what you're getting into and what the pitfalls are.

Major pitfall to be aware of? There are scam artist out there who prey on naive newbie writers. Do some reading at the Preditors and Editors and Writer's Beware websites.

Also read Miss Snark. Also go to the library and read books on writing, on publishing, on what literary agents do for you...

Educate yourself. Take a full month.

I'm not pulling that time frame out of the air, either. When you finish writing a book, it's a good idea to put that puppy away for at least a month so that you can reread it with a fresh and dispassionate eye.

Because: one mistake newbie writers consistently make (I did) is to query prematurely. When you're too close to the story, and are excited about having finished it, you're incapable of seeing its flaws.

That month should be enough time for you to get sufficient distance from the work to be able to see what needs to be fixed still.

Finally; 130 000 words? The book has to be brilliant from page one, or agents won't request it. They could read two 65 000 word books in the time it would take them to read yours, so they won't request it unless they see a lot of promise in your sample pages.

Anonymous said...

Does this mean there's an opening for a new EE blogger?!?!

bonniers said...

It sounds to me like we start on earth with Laura-the-human, who then dies and becomes Laura-the-angel, which is why we have an angel with a human name. But I really can't imagine what Laura is doing if she's not going around helping people out. Jostling with other new angels for the next promotion out of the front office? Sitting around on pink clouds trying to figure out how she's supposed to play the harp with stupid angels who learned their tuning systems in another religion and won't admit the truth of Drop D? Engaging in thunderbolt practice while she trains for the Angel Olympics?

Yeah. Need some details.

Naomi said...

I heart angels, demons, religion, Paradise Lost, Lucifer and the whole kit n' caboodle. But the minute I saw an angel named Laura I lost interest. A little bit of research can give you miles of Hebrew names that are better suited for angels, especially if you're weaving in a lot of Christian mytholgy.

writtenwyrdd said...

To play, ahem, Devil's Advocate, an angel named Laura could work. However, I'd expect an immediate explanation (which works) as to why. Another commented mentioned assuming Laura was from Earth, died and thus begins the story. Done well, that might do it.

Truthfully, though, with the vague details presented, I also don't believe the name can work in this book.

GutterBall said...

...trying to figure out how she's supposed to play the harp with stupid angels who learned their tuning systems in another religion and won't admit the truth of Drop D?

Those heathens! Submit to the beauty and majesty of Drop D!!

If you don't believe it, I submit to you the heavenly strains of The Doobie Brothers and Black Water. 'Nuff said.

Oh, and I saw "Laura the angel" and fled. Sorry. Even if she's a living human in the beginning who dies and becomes an angel, it just doesn't ring for me. I don't know why.

Word ver: whmqlvj - the delicious shiver you get from listening to someone play in Drop D.

Anonymous said...

gutterball, don't forget Van Halen and Metallica! Drop D forever!!! -JTC

GutterBall said...

Drop D forever!!!

Preach it to me! Gods of Rock forbid that we forget Metallica and Van Halen, without which we dwell in the bowels of Alternative and Bubble-Gum Pop.

pacatrue said...

As James Brown said, "When I gotta groove like this, I gotta get in D. Down D, funky D, dog D."

To actually respond to the author, I agree very much with one of the anonymous' advice to step away from the manuscript and the query letter for a month or so. Hopefully, you aren't depending on the immediate proceeds of selling your novel to keep eat. The time away will help you not only evaluate your own work with greater clarity (130,000 words is really long) but also become an expert in the publishing business. If you are passionate about your book as you seem to be, then you need to make sure that you are presenting it and yourself in the best light possible. Take the time and good luck.

shelby said...

Drop the name Laura. Ew. It's like going with something trendy--Madison the Angel, Emma the Angel, etc. There are plenty of baby naming sites that offer suggestions from one cultural history or another.

Have you read Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials series? He does some interesting things with angels and God and whatnot sans Messiah.

barbara said...

Chamiel, by Edward Pearson, "A heroic fantasy of the War in Heaven in which the forces of Michael's court, with the young Chamiel, banish but do not vanquish, the forces of evil of Zareal, the Black Angel," might be worth checking out to see how the angel names are handled. I believe they're mostly Hebrew?