Monday, October 01, 2007

Face-Lift 430


Guess the Plot

The Wreck of the Nebula Dream

1. On its maiden voyage, the most luxurious spaceliner ever built is involved in a titanic wreck. With insufficient escape pods, the survivors are doomed, unless one passenger--disgraced black-ops mission commander Nick Jameson--can get them out before the ship explodes, and before aliens capture them for their inhuman experiments.

2. Sure, 'Black Hole Nine" wasn't the most original novel out there, but did that bastard editor have to rip it to shreds? Now Larry will never win that award!

3. Big Johnson was an unpublished Sci-Fi writer, just as his parents said he would be. However, he had a plan. He scoured Evil Editor's blog and purloined queries, broadcasting them to every editor alive, and many who weren't, hoping one would give him a thumbs up. Little did he know that Evil Editor posted only the crappy queries, holding back the ones he wanted to shop.

4. Tristy Donovan, single, Brown educated, creative writing MFA from Iowa fresh on her wall, has written a how-to book to help women gain the trust fund men they want. When another author threatens to reveal that 'Tristy' is really Chauncy from Sheboygan, will someone have to choke a bitch?

5. The tale of an unpublished manuscript penned by Stephen Hawking and Carl Sagan and how it came to be . . . unpublished.

6. Harold Jackman's development of the Nebula, an affordable hydrogen-powered car will revolutionize transportation, end our dependence on oil . . . and make him rich, rich, rich. But not if the auto-makers and oil companies have their way. Can Harold stay alive long enough to prove his car works?



Original Version

Dear Benevolent Editor,

After commanding a disastrous black-ops mission where his best friend was killed Captain Nicholas Jameson, distraught and disgraced, knows his military career is over. As a parting gift his commanding officer gets Nick a ticket for his ride home on the maiden voyage of the most luxurious space-liner ever built - The Nebula Dream. [Hey Nick, man, I noticed you've been a little down ever since you blew our cover, got three of our best men killed, screwed up the mission, and destroyed your career. So I got you a little something.]

Reminiscent of the works of Andre Norton, “The Wreck of the Nebula Dream” is a classic SciFi novel, of 100,000 words in length. [Maybe it's just that I'm old-school, but I feel a book should at least be in print before it's labeled a classic.]

Nick, haunted by his failure and ill at ease among the splendors of the ship is unprepared when the spaceship is involved in a massive wreck comparable to the Titanic disaster [I don't think it's necessary to point out that a passenger on public transportation is unprepared for a massive wreck.] on Earth so many centuries before. [It was inexcusable that the captain failed to avoid that iceberg in the Kuiper Belt.] Insufficient escape pods and malfunctioning machinery all over the ship leave Nick and many of the other passengers stranded on the wreck without hope of escape or rescue. Nick does the best he can to help in the crisis and manages to save a few others from the steadily worsening conditions of the ship. With a group of 6 other survivors the Special Forces captain navigates the wreck, leading them to a potential escape route he has discovered. [Considering that two sentences ago they were "without hope of escape or rescue," they got to this escape route pretty fast.]

On their journey through the ship’s bowels Nick and his friends [encounter noxious gases and waste material, and ultimately] face off against violent looters, crumbling wreckage and a raid of the ship’s contents by the Mawreg, some of the nastiest aliens to ever pollute the universe. [If the Mawreg want what's in the ship's bowels, I say let 'em have it.] Nick fights to get himself and as many other survivors as he can safely off the wreck [To where?] before The Nebula Dream blows up or the Mawreg capture them all for use in their unspeakable experiments with humankind. [Hey! That's the best part, and it's unspeakable?]

A synopsis, first 50 pages, and SASE for your reply are included. I look forward to sending you the complete manuscript. Thank you for taking the time to consider my work.

Sincerely,


Notes

I wonder if comedians in the 23rd century will be doing jokes about the lousy food on space liners. How would you like to catch the 4.3 billion km. flight to Neptune and have a crying baby sitting next to you the whole way? Flying on the Nebula Dream isn't bad, except for having to spend a six-hour layover on Uranus.

If you're going to send 50 pages, you may as well send the whole book.

No need to mention the Titanic. We're all thinking that anyway, when you say maiden voyage, luxurious liner, massive wreck.

The first paragraph is basically just explaining what Nick is doing on the ship. You might start with him on the ship. We don't care if he got his ticket as a gift after being disgraced, or if he's heading for shore leave on Uranus. We just care that a black ops guy is aboard when the ship hits the iceberg and when the Mawreg show up.

21 comments:

Andrew said...

EE's right. Ditch the first paragraph and replace it with a hook, which is -

Special ops guy is on a passanger spaceship that crashes amongst a bunch of aliens that turn humans into crap 80's popstars (or whatever their experiments are, not that there are many worse than waking up turned into Boy George)

That allows you also to strim a lot of "this happened and then that, and then..." out of the main body, meaning you can focus on the good stuff, trying to get off for a start, how the group dymnamic works (is one of them autistic, one a psychopath, one an engineer...basically the cast from 'Cube)

If your plot is Hero guy legs it before the aliens graft gills onto his knees, your agent is going to be asleep. Pick out the other things in your book that have weight, Jack Nicholson's (sorry Nick Jameson's) inner conflict: does he at first shun leadership because of the death of his colleague (this is where you bring this up). Is he secretly married to a Mawreg?

Oh and never use a sentance like "some of the nastiest aliens to ever pollute the universe". Why? Because they do unspeakable experiments on humans for one. Secondly, they are your antagonists, if they are nice and cute and help them off the ship there isn't a story. Plus taken on its own it sounds cheesy.

This sounds like a classic action plot like 'pitch black', actually its a hell of a lot like 'pitch black', so it can work if your hook is good enough. The query needs to be trimmed and re adjusted, then with more about Nick added making us want to read about him specifically, not just about any old disgraced Hero guy.

Evil Editor said...

What it reminded me of was Under Siege. Only in space.

Dave F. said...

Be careful when you refer to the "bowels" of a spaceship. This is from South Park's episode "The Death Camp of Tolerance" ...
(yes, the potty mouthed little kids can reach even into EE's realm),

But the true comedy comes from the journey Lemmiwinks takes through Mr. Slave's bowels, aided by the spirits of animals who've perished there before (The Frog Prince, The Sparrow Prince and Catana Fish), all set to the tune of a song parody of music heard in the Rankin/Bass productions The Hobbit & The Return of the King. Will Lemmiwinks become The Gerbil King? Tune in and find out.

Bernita said...

Sounds like the Poseidon Adventure in space.

Phoenix said...

Ooh, now see, you'd get a lot more mileage if you post a version, wait for feedback, revise, then post that revised query elsewhere. Nothing I can add that wasn't already said on the COM. I mean, Goblin was even kind enough to offer grammar advice. And EVERYONE thought there was a bit of overkill in the Titanic comparisons. And I was looking forward to reading an action-packed revised version.

EE gave you a tremendous gift -- the GTP plot summarization. Use that as your hook, and build off it. I'm sure we'd all love to see a revised version -- but, please re-read the COM comments as well as these and DO revise.

EE, can you please explain what you mean by:

If you're going to send 50 pages, you may as well send the whole book.

I've run across numerous agent guidelines that request just that -- 50 pages. Or first three chapters not to exceed 50 pages. Usually, these are snail mail requests. Ahh, I think I see, these agents are getting a kick-back from the US Post Office.

Evil Editor said...

If I'm still reading at page 50, I'm likely to want to read the whole thing. Normally I quit by page three. Anyone who wants 50 pages from everyone who submits a query must be really into origami.

Of course the letter was addressed to an editor. Agents have much bigger offices.

Anonymous said...

Phoenix, it takes a bit longer for EE to get a query up than for the Crapometer to do so; this query may have been submitted to both sites at the same time. The writer can't know how much overlap there is between the audiences for the two sites, so by submitting to both, he or she is just ensuring they get lots of opinions--which is good practice.

Anonymous said...

Author here: In reply to anon 12:19, that's exactly what happened. I submitted them at exactly the same time and now it's been on COM for WEEKS. So, I did revise already off those comments.

*goes away to revise again off these feedbacks- will be back later to post results*

~Scott D.

Anonymous said...

AUTHOR HERE AGAIN:

Ok, keeping in mind these notes and the ones from COM, here is the New and Improved Query Letter. Please let me know if it's better than the first one or if I'm going in the wrong direction.

Dear Benevolent Editor,

On its maiden voyage, The Nebula Dream, the most luxurious spaceliner ever built, is involved in a wreck of Titanic proportions. With insufficient escape pods, the survivors are doomed, unless one passenger- disgraced black-ops mission commander Nick Jameson- can get them out before the ship explodes, and before enemy aliens capture them as slaves- or worse.

Reminiscent of the works of Andre Norton, “The Wreck of the Nebula Dream” is an adult SF novel, of 100,000 words in length.

Once it becomes obvious to Nick that the ship isn’t going anywhere this lifetime, the Special Forces captain teams up with a D’vannae brother, one of an order of tough and well-trained mystics who are usually hired as high-class bodyguards or Grade A assassins. (Nick’s just glad Brother Khevan is on his side this time). The two of them are moments away from making it onto an escape pod when a beautiful woman named Mara comes running down the corridor begging for help. Two young children are trapped in crumbling corridor. Nick and Khevan are the only ones who decide to follow Mara and attempt a rescue. By the time the three of them have gotten the kids out it’s much too late to catch an escape pod. Working their way through the ship with Mara and the children, Nick and Khevan also save a flighty young socialite from the unwanted attentions of seven men at once. After attempting to hire Khevan as her personal bodyguard the girl, Twilka, reluctantly joins their ragtag band of survivors.

During an unpleasant visit to the remnants of the ship’s bridge, Nick discovers from probing the ship’s Artificial Intelligence that none of the Dream’s communicators are working. Worse than that, though, is the fact that not only was a distress call never sent, but the Dream is floating in the middle of enemy space belonging to the Mawreg- some of the nastiest aliens to ever pollute the universe. Nick knows there is no hope for any of them if they can’t get a message out to someone. The escape pods don’t have enough fuel to make it to the safest sector. Without help, and quick, all the survivors of the wreck are going to find themselves unwilling participants in the Mawreg’s cruel and unspeakable experiments with humankind. The group is depending on Nick’s level head and quick thinking to get them out. He is determined not to fail these people, not to let them die if there is any way he can prevent it.

A synopsis and SASE for your reply are included. I look forward to sending you the complete manuscript. Thank you for taking the time to consider my work.

Sincerely,
A Writer

pacatrue said...

The ship's bowels joke had no right to be as funny as it was. I am an adult, or so I thought.

December/Stacia said...

Curse you, Bernita, that's exactly what I was going to say!

This needs more commas. Seriously. Some of the sentences don't make sense without them.

Also, how does a spaceship crash? How does everyone aboard not die if the integrity of the hull is breached? Wouldn't that create an oxygen vacuum and kill them all in like thirty seconds?

Evil Editor said...

I don't see this fitting on one page with those two lengthy plot paragraphs, so I copied them here and removed what I thought you could do without:


Once Nick realizes that the ship isn’t going anywhere this lifetime, he teams up with a Khevan, one of an order of mystics who are usually hired as bodyguards or assassins. The two are moments from boarding an escape pod when a woman named Mara comes running down the corridor begging for help. Two young children are trapped in a crumbling corridor. Nick and Khevan follow Mara, but by the time they get the kids out it’s too late to catch an escape pod.

On the ship’s bridge, Nick discovers that no distress call was sent, and the Dream is floating in Mawreg space. Without help, and quick, all the survivors of the wreck are going to find themselves unwilling participants in the Mawreg’s cruel and unspeakable experiments with humankind. Nick is determined not to fail these people.


This version does lead me to ask why the ship would have been in the Mawreg sector in the first place.

Bernita said...

I like the new-and-improved version.
Though a query must excite an agent, as a reader I would likely buy the book.

Pete said...

I like the newer version okay, even if I *do* keep thinking "Poseidon Adventure" meets "Starship Titanic" by Douglas Adams and Terry Jones.

Lemmiwinks said...

Reminiscent of the works of Andre Norton, “The Wreck of the Nebula Dream” is an adult SF novel, of 100,000 words in length.

Not sure that anyone reads Norton these days, but the title is reminiscent of the 2003 SF novel by Michael Flynn, “The Wreck of the River of Stars”

stick and move said...

The revised version reads like a synopsis to me. You introduce so many characters and list so many events that you're using up valuable word count with details not required in a 300 word query. Like this:

The two of them are moments away from making it onto an escape pod when a beautiful woman named Mara comes running down the corridor begging for help.

You can't afford the words to tell us she came "running down the corridor". That's just one example. I think you could cut it in half by removing unnecessary words and phrases like that.

Of course, with my query writing ability and a strong wind, you could fly a kite.

Anonymous said...

AUTHOR HERE:

Ok, here's the latest, somewhat minor tweak, building off EE's base.

Dear Benevolent Editor,

On its maiden voyage, The Nebula Dream, the most luxurious spaceliner ever built, is involved in a wreck of Titanic proportions. With insufficient escape pods, the survivors are doomed, unless one passenger- disgraced black-ops mission commander Nick Jameson- can get them out before the ship explodes, and before enemy aliens capture them as slaves- or worse.

Reminiscent of the works of Andre Norton, “The Wreck of the Nebula Dream” is an adult SF novel, of 100,000 words in length.

Once Nick realizes that the ship isn’t going anywhere this lifetime, he teams up with Khevan, one of an order of mystics who are usually hired as bodyguards or assassins. The two are moments from boarding an escape pod when a woman named Mara comes running down the corridor begging for help. Two young children are trapped in their crumbling cabin alone. Nick and Khevan follow Mara, but by the time they get the kids out it’s too late to catch an escape pod.

On the ship’s bridge, Nick discovers that no distress call was sent, but, worse than that, the Dream’s unscrupulous captain, in a dangerous effort to make the Inter-space Speed Record, took a shortcut through territory belonging to the Mawreg. The Mawreg are a race of bloodthirsty and evil aliens who’s one desire is to conquer the universe- by any means necessary. Without help, and quick, all the survivors of the wreck are going to find themselves unwilling participants in the Mawreg’s cruel and unspeakable experiments with humankind. The group is depending on Nick’s level head and quick thinking to get them out. He is determined not to fail these people as he failed his sergeant and men on his last disastrous mission in the Special Forces.

A synopsis and SASE for your reply are included. I look forward to sending you the complete manuscript. Thank you for taking the time to consider my work.


Sincerely,
Scott D.

BuffySquirrel said...

So the men are tough and well trained and the women are beautiful and flighty. It's the seventies!

Anonymous said...

I liked the second query, particularly after EE cut out the paragraph I felt was unnecessary.

I really feel the reference to Andre Norton can go. She is known for her young adult novels, so I immediately assumed that's what you were writing (even though you said it wasn't).

stick and move said...

Author, if you insist on keeping your reference to Andre Norton (I suggest losing it, but that's just me), please move it to the beginning or end. Putting it right after the first paragraph totally destroys the flow you've built with those first few sentences. Maybe make it the first paragraph or the second to the last.

Anonymous said...

Obivously not a lot of Andre Norton fans. Anyone ever heard of the Witch World, Beastmaster, The Time Traders, etc? NONE of those are Young Adult and I would say those are some of her most famous works. So, I'm not sure which works anon 5:22 is thinking of...

Author, I love Andre Norton and anything that's reminiscent of her stuff sound good to me.

~Moth