Thursday, October 20, 2011

Face-Lift 964


Guess the Plot

Zeitnot

1. Gesundheit.

2. World-famous knitter Norma Knicker knows knots: slip knots, French knots, and purl knots. But when she comes across the Zeitnot, will it leave her needles gnarled? Also, a gnu.

3. German scientist Ernst Bloch has invented the perfect acne cream: “Zeitnot” guaranteed to clear up a virgin’s face! But now, neo-Nazis are after him for the formula. Seems they’ve dug up Hitler’s body, and are trying to get rid of the blemishes. Will Zeitnot become Zeitnaz, or can Ernst “Bloch” their acquisition?

4. Someone has killed the CEO of NuMagic and installed a mole in the company. But why? It's just a rinky-dink technology start-up. If Matthew, the other CEO of NuMagic, can't get to the bottom of this before it's too late, he could be the next victim.

5. Retired undercover cop Zeitnot takes up writing crime fiction based on the cases he put away. But a series of murders bearing the signature of the serial killer he put away ten years ago terrorizes the city, and the evidence points to Zeitnot. With the cops chasing him, he has to find the copycat who hacked into his files.

6. Time is running out for Louis Vlabinder. His girlfriend Natalie has long kept a secret. Two of them actually: Bob and Abernathy, her other boyfriends. Infidelity has been fun, but seriously, they're all over 40 now and if one of these cads doesn't find the inspiration to marry her by Christmas, she's going to dump them all and get someone from that matchmaker's catalog of Poles and Russians.


Original Version

Dear Evil Editor:

I am sending the query for my novel ZEITNOT. The name refers to the fact that the protagonist is always pressed for time while making crucial decisions. [Though only chess enthusiasts and those who look up the word will get it. Is the word used in the book?] The course of events in the novel take place over 15 days.

Matthew, a CEO of NuMagic - a fast growing technology company, hires a private eye to investigate the circumstances of a sudden death [Murder. He was murdered, right? You don't need a private eye if he choked on a piece of ham.] of his partner and close friend. [I assume that's one person. Just call him partner.] At home, Matthew is facing marital issues and sickness of his children. His younger son Joshua is battling a hematological disorder. Older son David [What happened to the plot? I assumed the first sentence of this paragraph was the topic sentence, the one the rest of the paragraph builds on. You've swerved off the road and if you don't hit the brakes quickly you may drive off that cliff up ahead.] has an unusual gift masquerading as autism. Sickness of the children takes its toll on Matthew's wife Janice and strains their marriage. With a help from a doctor, Matthew finds out about David's true gift, which enables him to understand his son and save his marriage. [Screeeech! Aiiiiiieeeeeee!]

Investigation of partner's death uncovers a plot against NuMagic. [A plot to do what?] Matthew learns the identity of the mole. However, the mole himself is just a pawn in a bigger and more sinister game. [What are the stakes in this game?] Matthew is getting close to solving the puzzle. But ignoring David's warning [What warning?] puts him and his son [Which son?] in danger when the ruthless killer strikes again. [Maybe you should have stuck with the family. At least it was clear.]

ZEITNOT is Commercial Fiction and my first novel.
The complete manuscript of 55,000 words is available upon request.
Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,


Notes

This is a mystery/thriller. You're devoting as much query space to Matthew's family life as to the main plot. Get rid of Joshua and Janice and the doctor. If David's only contribution to solving the crime is the warning that Matthew ignores, you can drop David too. If David's gift is instrumental in solving the crime, tell us what his gift is.

Focus on the crime:

Matthew Matthews, CEO of NuMagic, hires a private eye to look into the murder of his partner. The investigation reveals that there's a mole in NuMagic, a mole who's part of a sinister plot to bring down the world economy. There's no time to stop the plot . . . unless . . . Matthew calls upon his son David, the mutant superhero known as The Savant.

We need to know the goal of the sinister plot, and what NuMagic does that would make killing their executives and installing a mole useful. What will happen if Matthew fails to solve the "puzzle"?

18 comments:

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Titles are important. A title should be memorable and make people want to pick up the book.

I know there's a popular meme out there on the writernets that editors are just going to change the title anyway. Not true in my experience. None of my titles has ever been changed by an editor. Picking a good one is the writer's job.

The last two sentences of the second paragraph contain errors in articles-- a missing "the" and an extraneous "a". You might want to check your manuscript for these errors.

On the rewrite, separate the subplots from the main plot. Leave the subplots out.

Dave Fragments said...

[Screeeech! Aiiiiiieeeeeee!]

I almost choked to death on my shredded Wheaties laughing at that.

If this is a murder mystery then that is the plot and the query must focus on the murder mystery,

Anonymous said...

Readers of murder-mystery-thrillers and people who love childhood-affliction-melodramas do not shop in the same part of the bookstore. Where does your novel belong? You need to make a decision about that and then revise the stray subplots out.

Plus, 55,000 words too short.

BuffySquirrel said...

Your book is too short for commercial fiction. It needs to be around 100k. Plus, it isn't entirely clear to me which subgenre of that large pool of work it falls into. Private eyes and murders suggest crime or thriller, whereas Special Gifts suggest Fantasy or SF.

The plot--what we see of it--comes across as pretty standard. What makes your novel stand out from the rest?

In thrillers, it's pretty much a given that the protagonist will be up against time pressure (and as many other pressures, conflicts, obstacles, problems, and guns as the writer can concoct). Nothing in the query suggests that Matthew is up against the clock.

If chess enthusiasts pick up your novel, will they be disappointed? If so, you may need to change the title.

Matthew MacNish said...

I'll admit, I had to look up ZEITNOT, but once I did I think it's kind of cool. Obscure, sure, but cool.

However, with this query being this all over the place, I thought for sure we'd be talking about a MS of at least 100,000 words. I can't comprehend getting all these different plots across in so few words.

chekurtab said...

I want to thank our Evil Editor and all you guys for the comments. I'll revise the query to concentrate on the main plot. I may even change the title. How about 'Zeitgeist'?
LOL

vkw said...

[What happened to the plot? I assumed the first sentence of this paragraph was the topic sentence, the one the rest of the paragraph builds on. You've swerved off the road and if you don't hit the brakes quickly you may drive off that cliff up ahead.]


[Screeeech! Aiiiiiieeeeeee!]

I can't stop chuckling. I'm going to use this line the next time someone rambles.

It is so funny, I can't remember what the plot was about. Apparently, the author couldn't either.

Fill in blanks

My plot is about a top-secret organization who is trying to take over a company because a specific reason by planting a mole and killing the CEO. My character's job is to uncover the plot and he does so by using his son't special gift. It becomes complicated when my character discovers the mole is really part of a more disasterous scheme.

He is pressed for time because

Now fill in the vagueness

top-secret organization
company
why/what is at stake
killing the CEO by xxxxx
My character
son's special gift.
more disasterous scheme

pressed for time because

BuffySquirrel said...

Zeitgeist always makes me think of a section of the Guardian newspaper that always made me want to throw the paper violently against the wall. 'Zeitgeist: the men who know'.

But that's just me.

Author said...

Dear Evil Editor:

Matthew Horowitz, a co-founder and CEO of NuMagic - a fast growing chipset company, hires a private eye to investigate the circumstances of an apparent suicide of his partner.

Investigation of partner's death uncovers a plot against NuMagic. The partner had been set up and blackmailed prior to his death. The blackmailer - a low level crook - had been murdered. The design of NuMagic’s leading product had been secretly altered by a mole within the company. The production of the faulty chipset have already begun and threatens to ruin NuMagic.

Matthew learns the identity of the mole. However, the mole is just a pawn in a bigger and more sinister game. He is murdered before Matthew can find out who hired him. A powerful and desperate player connected to NuMagic is waging big bets in the stock market against the company and its vendors. He is set to profit handsomely at the expense of Matthew and NuMagic. He is the one who hired the blackmailer, the mole and a professional killer who eliminated them. Matthew’s own life is in danger when he discovers the identity of the evil mastermind. Help comes from Matthew’s 6-year old son David. David possesses an unusual gift masquerading as autism that saves his father’s life.

FIFTEEN DAYS OF SPRING is Commercial Fiction and my first novel.

The complete manuscript of 55,000 words is available upon request.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

This version is a lot more lucid, but the writing is really choppy and there are several grammatical errors.

150 said...

Okay, to pick the low-hanging fruit first: it's not commercial at 55k, and "Fifteen Days of Spring" sounds like a coming-of-age romance, not a high-tech thriller.

Everything here sounds run-of-the-mill, and the language isn't crisp enough to elevate it. Why should anyone publish THIS book when there are so many existing books and manuscripts that are long enough, have exciting prose, and feature original twists? "So I can be a real author" is not a good enough reason. Make this book sound interesting. Presumably the twist lies in the not-autistic son. If that's it, show your hand; you're not gaining anything by playing coy.

BuffySquirrel said...

When Matthew Horowitz, CEO of NuMagic, hires a private eye to look into his partner's apparent suicide, the investigation turns up a plot against the fast-growing IT company. A mole has corrupted the design for their latest chipset, which is now in production.

The mole is uncovered, then murdered before Matthew can learn who is so desperate to ruin NuMagic that they're wagering hugely against the company in the stock market.

Help comes from an unexpected source: Matthew's six-year-old son David. Wrongly diagnosed as autistic, the boy has a special talent that can save NuMagic--provided Matthew's prepared to risk his son's life.

Unfortunately, if the novel is as clunky as the query, it will need to be as comprehensively rewritten.

Evil Editor said...

P2: No need to say "of partner's death." You've already told us what's being investigated.

Drop the blackmail and the low-level crook and get to the mole.

In the last two sentences, change "had" and "has" to "have."


P3: Drop sentences 2 and 5.

The last two sentences sound like a deus ex machina, coming at the end. Why haven't you described David's ability? Is David even needed in the query?

chekurtab said...

Thank you all for the comments.
I'm afraid that if I get rid of the blackmailer, David and every subplot I have, the only thing left in the query is run-of-the-mill crime drama.
I would rather expand the query to include Matthew's marital problems and David's gift, which would explain the last two sentences. Hopefully, I can do it without screeeeech and aiiiiiieeeeee.

Evil Editor said...

If david's gift sets this apart from run of the mill crime stories, just tell us what the gift is so we can appreciate how it would be useful in staying alive or solving the crime.

chekurtab said...

Dear Evil Editor: 

I really appreciate your critique. I don't know if I got it this time, but I feel I am getting closer.
 
Matthew Horowitz, a co-founder and CEO of NuMagic - a fast growing chipset company, hires a private eye to investigate the circumstances of partner's suicide.
 
Investigation uncovers that the partner has been set up and blackmailed as a part of a larger plot against NuMagic. The design of NuMagic’s leading product has been secretly altered by a mole within the company. The production of the faulty chipset has already begun and threatens to ruin NuMagic. 

At home, Matthew's 6-year old son David exhibits extrasensory perception misdiagnosed as autism. The problems at work and sickness of children are straining Matthew's marriage. With his career and family life on the line, Matthew designs a plan to flush out the mole.       
 
Matthew learns the identity of the mole. However, the mole is murdered before Matthew can find out who hired him. A powerful and desperate player connected to NuMagic is waging big bets in the stock market against the company and its vendors. He is the one who hired the blackmailer, the mole and a professional killer who eliminated them. Matthew’s own life is in danger when he discovers the identity of the evil mastermind. Help comes from Matthew’s son David, whose unusual gift saves his father’s life.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Evil Editor said...

Better. Too much about the mole, who's dead before he can be useful. I would do something like:


Matthew Horowitz, co-founder and CEO of NuMagic, a fast growing chipset company, hires a private eye to investigate the circumstances of his partner's suicide.

The investigation reveals that the partner was set up and blackmailed as a part of a plot against NuMagic. The design of NuMagic’s leading product has been secretly altered by a mole within the company. The production of the faulty chipset has already begun and threatens to ruin NuMagic.

At home, Matthew's 6-year old son David exhibits extrasensory perception misdiagnosed as autism. The problems at work and sickness of children are straining Matthew's marriage.

With his career and family life on the line, Matthew discovers that a powerful and desperate player connected to NuMagic has bet against the company in the stock market, and will stop at nothing to bring NuMagic down. Matthew’s life is put in danger when he discovers the identity of the mastermind. But Matthew has an unexpected ace up his sleeve: David.

chekurtab said...

We have a winner!
Really appreciate your help.