Friday, March 16, 2012

Face-Lift 1004

Guess the Plot

Bitter Angel

1. Buffy the vampire slayer is back! And she's got Angel in tow. He no longer has his own show and will appear in only 6 out of the 23 episodes, making for a very . . . Bitter Angel.

2. In the war between heaven and Earth, Kendra, the oldest angel, doesn't want to get involved . . . until her daughter is tricked into joining Satan's side. Now there's going to be hell to pay.

3. After a life performing good deeds, June winds up spending eternity saving the souls of the gluttons in the bulimia club. And to top it off, her disgustingly perfect nemesis Dora is assigned to sinners at the male strip joint. June begins to wish she never quit the Hare Krishnas.

4. Lucifer's daughter knew something was wrong when she didn't get her magical powers on her 16th birthday. All the other Demons got theirs. She's about to go apocalyptic, when she discovers that her father's actually an angel!

5. After escaping from a serial killer and then getting captured by him again, Lila declares that she's a failure as a human, and when she dies she'll be a . . . Bitter Angel.

6. Raphael's had it up to here with Michael and Gabriel getting all the attention. When he gets wind of demonic goings-on down on Earth, he figures he can do just as good a job as his brothers. Sharpen up the flaming sword, it's time for the other archangel to shine!

Original Version

Dear Agent,

Have you ever wanted a do-over? A rewind? [A Groundhog Day moment?] Of course you have. We’ve all wanted to right our wrongs, [win a free ball,] turn back the clock, ["Turn Back the Clock"--Johnny Hates Jazz] strike the black marks from our score cards. Will you get that chance? Probably not. But I will. [Because I have that Memento guy's condition.]

I’m Lila Spencer, nineteen, and I was lucky enough to land [my time machine] at a countryside college in TN with my two best friends, Heather and Nilah, as roomies. It’s Friday, and Jay, love of my life, is visiting from his fancy shmancy art school in Chicago. Problem is, it’s Nilah’s birthday. And I forgot. I have two choices: I can go party with my friends or stay in with my man. ["Should I stay or should I go?"--The Clash] I want to be a good friend, and Jay is sweet and understanding, so I decide to go.

But I also stay.

Confusing, right? [Yeah.] Yeah, for me too. Waking up the next morning, I remember doing both. Going and staying. [This is the plot of the TV show Awake.] When I went, we rocked it out, partied hard, and landed ourselves in a shitty apartment, drugged, hogtied, naked, ["Drugged, Hogtied & Naked"--The Lennon Sisters] and fighting for our lives. I confiscated [grabbed] a t-shirt, escaped, and was able to lead the police back to Heather and Nilah. We all survived. When I stayed, I went to sleep, safe and warm in Jay’s arms. [If this is two books, I wanna read the one about when you went.] But I had the worst nightmare. I was standing by my friends’ bodies in a field, then I was at their funeral. Jay’s hand was on my shoulder, and I started to cry. Blood, not tears. Their blood was on my hands.

As I’m coming to, I can tell it’s morning. Sunlight hits my face, and I’m waiting for the heavenly sound of beeping machines to tell me I’m in the hospital. To tell me we all made it. But to my horror, no. I’m in my room, and Jay is sleeping beside me. My friends are dead. They must be. [Because they were, in your dream?] And it’s all my fault. [Doesn't the killer get any of the blame?] Nilah comes into the room, freaking out because I’m freaking out, and I jolt. Nilah’s alive! Heather’s alive? [Are you asking me or telling me?] Jay and Nilah show me the date on the calendar. It’s not Saturday. It’s still Friday. So… I dreamed it? There’s no way. I felt Alpha’s icky hands on me. [Who's Alpha? We need an introduction before you toss his name out.]

I go to the bathroom for privacy, brave my reflection, and that’s when I see it. I’m wearing it – the t-shirt I escaped in. [Solid white with a crew neck.] My gut tells me this shitstorm has just begun.

Bitter Angel is a 55,000-word YA/Crossover novel that explores the scary Stranger Dangers of the clubbing world and the moral issues surrounding the what-ifs of a rewind. [If it was a rewind to a time before they went clubbing, I don't see how she has the shirt.] Lila’s friends are alive, now what? Is she going to let this happen to anyone else? [Anyone else? Her priority at this moment is not letting it happen to Nilah, Heather and herself. Are Nilah and Heather going to cancel the birthday celebration when Lila claims that they'll all be drugged, hogtied and naked before the night is out?] Hell no! [Exactly!] But she’ll cross that line at her own expense.

I have a Bachelor’s degree in Music Education from The Ohio State University, and recently returned to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in English. Known for being a girl with severe Peter Pan Syndrome: The College Years, I felt very qualified to write this novel. Bitter Angel is my third finished novel, and the first I am seeking publication for. I am currently working on my fourth. [These credits aren't needed, and the query is plenty long without them.]

Thank you for your time and consideration. At your request, I would be thrilled to send a completed manuscript of Lila’s story.


[Author's note to EE: The title of this book comes from a discussion Lila has with herself after she is captured a final time by the antagonist. Feeling completely defeated, she says she was a failure as a human and will become a bitter angel after death.]


This needs to be shorter. Besides dumping the credits, I think you can do without the first paragraph. It's basically a bunch of synonyms for do-over.

The plot is described from Lila's POV until the "Bitter Angel is . . ." paragraph, where "I" changes to "she." To be consistent, start that paragraph:

My friends are alive, now what? Am I going to let this happen to anyone else? Hell no!

Or you can eliminate all the plot after the shitstorm sentence.

You can close the query with one paragraph from your own POV:

Bitter Angel is a 55,000-word YA/Crossover novel that explores the scary Stranger Dangers of the clubbing world and the moral issues surrounding the what-ifs of a rewind. Thank you for your time and consideration. At your request, I would be thrilled to send a completed manuscript of Lila’s story.


Rachel6 said...

I'm confused. I understand from the first paragraph that her day is a do-over, but I can't quite grasp how she had both events happen to her.

I'm also curious about the serial killer. They wind up hogtied and she escapes...and where's the killer while she's escaping? Watching "Dexter" in his den?

Odd, but intriguing. :)

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Doesn't the killer get any of the blame?

lol-- EE, I wish you'd present this thought to the editors and reporters of the Anchorage Daily News. It'd be a new one to them.

Writer, welcome. I see you have a grasp of the mechanics of writing, and that's great. Unlike EE, I kind of liked the first graf (though it could be toned down a bit).

But the second graf didn't work for me. It seems like this girl blowing off her BFF's b-day because her BF is in town is going to be the main issue, and that's not very interesting.

Then, graf 3, bam, it's hogtied and naked time, and I've got whiplash. Huh? If hogtied and naked is the stakes, then with hogtied and naked shalt thou begin thy query.

Or at least get to it a lot sooner.

And while I appreciate that you're trying to show us the protag's confusion, you're actually confusing us. It's a fine line you're walking here. Walk it a few more times to get it right.

Btw, some agents post online that they hate getting queries from the character's POV. I guess they consider it gimmicky. Personally I don't see the problem with it, but then I'm not reading 100+ queries a day.

And yeah, no bio. There's only one qualification for writing a novel and that's writing the damn thing.

Oh, and there's no such genre as "crossover" (crossover to what?), so leave it off.

Anonymous said...

What they said. The query intrigues and confuses and seems likely to improve with revision. Can't tell if the book is brilliant or a royal mess.

Anonymous said...

First off, I really like this story idea and the themes you mention in the last paragraph. This is a book I'd be very interested in reading.

My "critique" of it, is that a lot of what you have here is backstory, or what leads to the action and main conflict of the story. I would limit this backstory of her waking up the next day etc to the first paragraph (ONE paragraph)to hook us and then lead into the basic bare bones..What does the Lila want? What is at stake? What is standing in the way of Lila getting what she wants? This query reads too much like a story to me and most agents won't read through it all just to get to the point of the book in the last paragraph. Think of an agent dashing out to a cab, reading emails on their has to be clear, easy to read and gripping.

Along with AlaskaRavenclaw, I too, have read on many agent sites that they will not consider queries written from any character's POV.

Good luck!

khazar-khum said...

The idea of living a day over and over and following a new possibility each time could be fascinating. It could also be pure Hell, and not in a good way.

Is it just the one do-over, or is it an endless string of redos?

none said...

The writer doesn't decide whether their novel crosses over from the YA to the adult readership. The readers decide that. Therefore, that term does not belong in your query.

The t-shirt doesn't bother me. It's the clue you need in this kind of story to show that it wasn't all a dream. What does bother me is querying from a character's POV. Am thinking this only succeeds occasionally. Better to hedge your bets with a more standard approach unless you can produce a more knock-em-out-of-the-water query.

sarahhawthorne said...

Hi Author! I like the idea of this - short term time travel stories can be a lot of fun.

Along with what Alaska said about agents not liking queries in the first person, I know at least a couple agents (Query Shark and BookEnds Wednesday Workshop) have also warned that they are not fond of queries that start with rhetorical questions.

This reads more like the start of a synopsis rather than a query. All we need to know is this:

Lila wakes up remembering two versions of Friday night: in one she saves her friends from sexual assault and murder, in the other she doesn't. But then she realizes that it's Friday morning again - and there's a sexual predator out there about to strike.

Then the next paragraph (and the main part of the book) is what Lila chooses to do next. Is she in a desperate race against time to get someone to believe her crazy story? Is she in a Groundhog Day type world where she's doomed to repeat Friday over and over until she stops the rapist? Or must she master her new power of time travel in order to stop this guy?

Good luck!

Chelsea Pitcher said...

Cut paragraph one.

Cut out everything after "Bitter Angel" is a 55,000-word YA novel.

Add the agent's name at the top and your name at the bottom.

Hit send.

No, seriously. I LOVED this. And while I know about the don't-write-in-first-person rule, I think this is an example of successfully breaking the rules.

Everything came to a screeching halt, though, when you started to talk about Stranger Dangers and morality and protecting kids from the dangers of clubbing. Suddenly we've gone from this totally awesome mind-F of a story with a rocking voice to an adult tale of the dangers of letting kids party. Maybe I'm reading that wrong? Either way, even if that IS the novel's message, I would let the story speak for itself.

Besides the opening and the unnecessary paragraphs at the end (unnecessary in my opinion, anyway!), you've got something really fantastic here. And I want to read it.

Anonymous said...

Very weird question for EE. I'm new to the site and I've been reading all of the old post (yes you're hilarious). In the past you used to typically rewrite the query and now you rarely do. Did I miss the reason why that stopped? It was always amazing to see how much better you could do it. You are wonderfully evil either way, but just wondering. Thanks

enya said...

Okay, here's what I want to know.

How is it that after one THOUSAND queries, each of which received similar advice from the minions, submitters are still including a full paragraph of N O T H I N G as their "credits"?

Look: the only credits agents care about are published writing credits. They don't care where you went to school. They don't care that you've written seventeen trunk novels. They don't care that you convinced your wife to uproot to Colorado so you could imbue your novel's setting with authenticity.

They care about WRITING. And maybe that you're a cop, if you're writing a crime novel, or that you're a physicist, if your protagonist is spouting theories on quantum mechanics.


And note: having a story included in your college's 32-page, black & white, photocopy-printed literary 'journal' is not a writing credit.

I know this is a snarky message...but come on. Still? Seriously?

Okay. Now for an actual contribution to this conversation. Gut reaction: interesting premise and good voice. But you should trash the first-person POV. Enough agents have spoken out in opposition to this gimmick that it's just too risky. Don't give them a reason to pitch your query after the first sentence.


AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Enya, the reason is that very few of those submitting queries have read the earlier posts and comments.

Anonymous said...

Hey enay, not enough folk read the archives.

With Sarah.

I love the writing, but lose the rhetorical questions. This isn't really query format.

I'd love to read this in 3rd person in conventional format.

But I'd like to read the story more.


Evil Editor said...

In the past you used to typically rewrite the query and now you rarely do. Did I miss the reason why that stopped?

I could say that I didn't want this to be a place to come to get your query rewritten, but rather a place to learn from reading the archives how to improve your query. But the truth is I just got lazy.

150 said...

They don't care that you convinced your wife to uproot to Colorado so you could imbue your novel's setting with authenticity.

Oh, I cannot believe I've been on this blog long enough to GET that. :D

enya said...

I should have written "from EVIL and the minions." Jeez. Apologies.

And 150: ;)


batgirl said...

Beginning with a rhetorical question (though I admit, it's a more likely one to get 'yes' than 'What if you were a secretly alcoholic FBI profiler with a rebellious teenage son dating a murderous psychic?') _and_ writing as the character? Yikes!

I really like this premise, and your voice, if you can trim out the redundancies.

enya said...

Right. You're hitting two-for-two in the category of Top Agent Irritants. Call your work a "fiction novel," and you might win an award.

(Not the good kind.)


Rashad Pharaon said...

I second commenter Chelsea above. Cut paragraph 1. A series of rhetorical questions hardly make a good beginning...

Megan said...

Thanks all for the awesome comments. I'm working on revisions as we speak.

To Enya, I do appreciate the advice, snark and all. However, the majority of us bring our queries to EE BECAUSE we have no publishing credits to speak of. If we had those, we'd probably have more query experience, or no reason to submit because we'd be PUBLISHED.

EE is a genius that doesn't charge an arm and a leg for a service that is downright GLORIOUS, and helps us wee little ones take our first breaths in this new world. For that, I thank you, EE.

And maybe you won't see this comment since I'm adding it a week after my query was posted. Why? Because I've been WRITING.

enya said...

But you missed the point(s):

If you lack writing credits, then you should just omit the credits paragraph...and if you'd read even half of EE's "glorious" archives, you would have known this.

Anyway, best wishes to you. You've got voice, and that's one of the biggest hurdles. And FWIW, I'd read this book.