Saturday, November 10, 2012

Evil Editor Classics


Guess the Plot

Saving Eden

1. All it took was one misheard word on the telephone - and the crack Dutch Cheese Rescue Squad was caught up in a situation for which it was completely unequipped.

2. Archaeologist Ellen Suree discovers an ancient apple tree after draining a quicksand pit not far from her dig site in the Amazon. When her research reveals the petrified plants are older than any known substance, she thinks she's found Eden. But can she stop it from becoming the next Disney World?

3. Angela has spent her entire life trapped in her father's home and garden, and has never seen another person. Now a group calling themselves The Amenders have taken over the US government, and Angela may be the only person who can save a world she's never seen.

4. Emily Watson loves plants and hates religion - which is why this gifted botanist is startled to be tapped to restore the neglected garden of Eden. Despite the general weirdness of it all, working in Eden is paradise--until she learns why the garden is being restored. But can one lone atheist convince the Big Guy to hold off on the apocalypse?

5. At fourteen years old, Eden already drank, smoked and had a tattoo of a fanged demon on her back. When she takes an after-school job at the Convent of the Trembling Martyrs, the first thing she does is kick Sister Mary Gentile's ass for bossing her around. Will Eden's attitude destroy the convent, or will the trembling sisters band together for the purpose of . . . saving Eden?

6. Eden is a teenager lost in the system. He sometimes thinks his graffiti tags are the only evidence he even exists. When his graffiti starts disappearing, his investigation turns up disturbing information about spray paint manufacturers. Can he dodge corporate assassins, while saving himself and other graffiti artists from erasure?



Original Version

Dear (Agent),

Imagine living your whole life separated from the rest of the world. [That does sound like Eden.] The only other face you’ve ever seen is your father, ["Father's." Unless your father consists of nothing but a face. Actually, that would be a cool character. A giant face with no torso or appendages. Sort of like a picture of the Man in the Moon. You'd have to decide whether it rigs up a robotic body for locomotion or if it just lies on a pillow while its kid feeds it grapes and pizza and eventually poison. Either way it's sure to be better than the actual book, and while it may seem astounding that I can say that after reading fewer than two sentences of the query, trust me. Make the father a giant face.] and he’s not giving you any clues to what life is like on the outside. [What does he tell me? He must have some explanation for why he's keeping me trapped. Why haven't I killed the bastard in his sleep?] What would happen to you if you suddenly found yourself in the middle of a big city, surrounded by strange and wonderful people? Is it possible that the real question should be what would happen to the people? [No. That question would never occur to me. And the real question should be How did I suddenly end up in the middle of a big city, and where's the nearest doughnut shop?]

In my young adult novel Saving Eden, which is 40,500 words long, fifteen-year-old Angela has spent her entire life trapped inside the confinements of ["]paradise.["] The only other person she has ever seen is her father, who built their home by hand [There are other ways of building homes?] and tends their beautiful garden daily. [You can probably do without the first paragraph, as you've just given us the same information and then some.] It’s the year 2201 and all that is about to change when Angela discovers Jessie, a seventeen-year-old boy from Chicago, sitting in the mist of her garden. [Her garden is misty? And this kid is sitting in the midst of the mist?] Jessie is a member of a secret organization determined to stop The Amenders, which is a group of people who have recently taken over the American government. [Their first order of business: amend the constitution to make it legal to go left on red and to make the Chicago Cubs World Series champions. Then they'll declare war on the Swiss.] [What did they do, march into Washington and say, "Okay, everybody out; we're in charge now."?] Angela runs away with him to help save a world that she always wanted to see but never had a chance to know. When Angela discovers the reason behind her secluded life she realizes she may have caused her father, her new friends, [She has new friends?] and herself to be in more danger than she could ever imagine.

After seeing the books you’ve represented like (Super-Awsome-Book), [I was gonna buy that one for Evil Jr., but I figured when he saw they couldn't even spell "awesome," he'd just toss it.] which I have read myself in the past, [If you've read it, we'll assume it was in the past.] I think you might be interested in representing Saving Eden as well as the many books I plan for the future. [This whole paragraph can go.]

I believe I should tell you a little about me. My name is "words-over-numbers" [Huh?] and I am a Ball State University student majoring in journalism with a minor in creative writing. I live in Indianapolis, IN [Convenient, as you're in school there.] and I have had a love for literature since I was a child. [In fact, my earliest memory is lying under the covers as Daddy read me my bedtime stories, classics like Madame Bovary and Justine and Lady Chatterly's Lover. I think he enjoyed those stories as much as I did!] Though I have some journalistic articles published in The Indianapolis Star and The Indianapolis Recorder, this is the first fiction novel [Okay, before everyone writes in to point out that you don't have to describe a novel as fiction, allow me to point out that henceforth you do have to, as I've just completed what I believe to be the world's first nonfiction novel.] I have written that I feel deserves to be seen by the world. [You can dump this paragraph as well.]

The full manuscript is available at your request. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,


Notes

Now that the query is much shorter you have room to tell us the reason behind Angela's secluded life. Right now her father seems like that Austrian guy who imprisoned his daughter as a sex slave in a dungeon for 24 years. If he had a good reason for secluding her (and for not revealing that reason to her), what is it? That seems to be the most intriguing element of the story, and you keep it a secret.

If Angela has always wanted to see the world, she must have some knowledge about it. Hard to believe she has no idea why she's confined.

Is Jessie there because he knows about Angela? We need to know what's special about her and we need more plot, specifically what happens after she gets out of paradise and what's at stake.


Selected Comments

Matthew said...Now I have the image of a giant face with a mechanical body stuck in my head. Hmm, it kind of looks like Robocop when he's not wearing his helmet.

Even though the whole query was one paragraph surrounded by fluff, I found the idea interesting--Hopefully there is a good story behind it.


Aimee Maher said...I like the idea of it, but the delivery is awful. Strange and wonderful people? in a big city? I understand the strange part...

"When Angela discovers the reason behind her secluded life she realizes she may have caused her father, her new friends, and herself to be in more danger than she could ever imagine."

I recently learned this lesson myself. Don't leave an agent thinking "What the f%$ DOES THAT MEAN?"


*Rachel*_ said...Is this a remake of "Rappacini's Daughter?" The beginning sounds an awful lot like it.

The Amenders sounds like a sissy version of the Avengers.

Two guesses as to why Angela has been in the garden all her life: she's poisonous, or her father's trying to prevent a prophecy the Oedipus way.

Take the second paragraph, throw away the others, and elaborate on the plot. I think it'll sound pretty good then.

I'd read it.


blogless troll said...The only part I understood was that in 2201 the Cubs still haven't won another World Series. Sounds like nonfiction to me.


Xiexie said...I echo Aimee. I really do like the idea of this story, but I'm not attracted by the query. I do like the rhetorical question, but I think there's a bit too many here. The real GTP is more intriguing to me than the query.


Anonymous said...This query made me think of that Austrian guy, too. And since not much good comes from thinking of that guy, the ick factor sort of stuck to your story as well. Better to explain and not leave us to our own theories.


Adam Heine said...EE, I'm intrigued by this nonfiction novel and would like to read more. Is it about the father-face?


BuffySquirrel said...How does Angela know the outside world exists? Seems to me the simplest way to keep her from being interested in it is never to admit to the 'world' consisting of more than the home and garden she lives in.

After all, millions of Americans apparently believe the US is 'the world'....


Ruth said...The query seemed really dull to me. Nothing made me want to read on because it was all some big secret, and just knowing that there is some big secret doesn't entice me to want to know what it is. If it's enticing, tell us at least a hint of it and make us want to know more.

The wording seems unnecessarily wordy to me, which (if it seems thus to an agent) is likely to throw up warning signals about your book.

E.g.:

In my young adult novel Saving Eden, which is 40,500 words long, fifteen-year-old Angela has spent her entire life trapped inside the confinements of paradise.

I suggest: In my 40,000-word YA novel, Saving Eden, fifteen-year-old Angela... etc. You don't need to round to the nearest 500 words.

The sentence structure/grammar is also weird for me with this: It's the year 2201 and all that is about to change.... I know what you mean, but the grammar of the sentence makes it sound like it's the year which is about to change. Is it New Year's Eve? Is there time travel involved? No? Again, while it may be clear what you mean in this instance, this kind of grammar may send up warning signals for the rest of the book.

I think you could keep the second last paragraph but cut it a lot shorter. From what I've read on agents' blogs, a lot of agents appreciate some personalisation.

If you do keep the last paragraph, cut the first sentence, cut the name bit (your name's at the end, it's pretty obvious what your name is), and just say "This is my first novel." Not anything about failed efforts or your thoughts on your previous efforts' value; just "This is my first novel."

An agent might appreciate knowing that you minor in creative writing, as it implies you may have a higher likelihood of writing well, and may be more open to criticism/learning etc. But I don't know.

Hope this helps! My main point: Be more specific, and we'll be more interested. :)


150 said...It would be worth describing what's so bad about the garden, or I tend to think she's just rebelling to be ornery.

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