Saturday, December 29, 2012

Evil Editor Classics


Guess the Plot

Sticks and Stones

1. Schoolboy Harris Whittle learns the hard way that you should never respond to name-calling with a phrase that gives the bully an idea.

2. The first book in my trilogy (to be followed by Broken Bones and Words Will Never Hurt Me) about spoiled, mean students and the misery they cause.

3. French Neanderthals debate whether or not it's time to take a break from sex and go ask what the neighbors are gathering all those weapons for. They decide it isn't.

4. What's that Neanderthal doing with the hand ax? Will Gupple ever make fire again? Would the volcano stop spewing fire if they quit tossing virgins in? Ergig must answer these questions, and more -- or his tribe won't make it through the Pleistocene.

5. Dale Green has never been a good private detective; he'd rather be at the track than on the case. But when favorite Sticks and Stones collapses and dies on the backstretch at Aqueduct, he realizes that the perp from one of his unsolved cases has returned.

6. When the levees break, the peasant cottages made of sticks are washed away, but so are the landlords' manors of stone. When the emperor tours the devastation but offers little help, the rich and poor must work side by side to rebuild their city. Along the way, they learn many things that just might lead to revolution.


Original Version

Dear [Agent],

I have read that you represent literature for young adults. I would like to ask you to consider representing my YA novel Sticks and Stones. Having read (Book You Rep), I feel you would be a good fit for my novel. Sticks and Stones is complete at roughly 70,000 words.

Evelyn Grant has had more crazy assignments for the George Washington Academy's school paper than she cares to recollect. Her latest? Infiltrate the Academy's secret society, The Rose and Thorns, and find out what they're up to. Evelyn thinks it's a waste of time and repeatedly refuses efforts made by Jack, her student editor, to talk her into it. That is until she becomes romantically involved with Scott Howard, one of the society members Jack tried to recruit Evelyn to spy on. Scott isn't the spoiled jerk Evelyn had assumed he was, but the more she gets to know his friends, the more she realizes that they are. [She refused to do the story when she thought everyone in the society was a spoiled jerk. Then she discovers all but one of the members are spoiled jerks, and decides to do the story? I would expect some momentous discovery to change her mind. This is pretty much nothing.]

Evelyn has had to do a lot of strange things for stories before, [You keep saying that. Like what?] but she's never had to endure so much for those stories as she is to be with Scott. His friends are the 'it' crowd of their school, and they don't take kindly to outsiders, especially Evelyn. Evelyn has taken every opportunity to make their lives hard. [What has she done? Explain.] It seems they remember this all too well. [This suggests that she was making their lives hard even before she got this assignment. Of course they would remember what she's done recently.]  [How does one infiltrate a secret society? Walk into their secret meeting and announce that you want to join? Since "Evelyn has taken every opportunity to make their lives hard," why would they let her join? It would be like George Bush trying to infiltrate al Qaida:

GB: Who do I see about joining up?
AQ: You look familiar.
GB: Yeah, I get that a lot.
AQ: Wait, I've got it. Aren't you that guy who's been taking every opportunity to make our lives hard?

GB: Hey, I just do what Cheney tells me to do.]

As inconvenient as their attempts to drive her away are, she's sure she can hold her own against them. They may not like Evelyn and she may not have the designer clothes and sports cars they do, but she doesn't care. Scott doesn't seem to either, and that's what's important to Evelyn. [If Scott cared at all about her, he'd buy her a designer wardrobe and a Corvette.] They're going to have to do a whole lot better than dumping drinks on her, backhanding her, and pushing her in a pool if they think they can get Evelyn Grant to give up. [Finally some specifics. Up to here this paragraph (which begins up at "Evelyn has had...") was too general and wordy.] When Evelyn has a near miss with a sports car in a parking lot and the local police are less than helpful, she begins to investigate just what privileges the society members have been enjoying. The more she finds out the more she begins to suspect this might have something a little less to do with petty rivalries and more to do with deeply covered secrets that someone doesn't want exposed.

In all the secrets Evelyn digs up there is a story, one about secret traditions at the academy that Jack would love to print. Still, she hesitates to write the story. Evelyn likes Scott and while his friends are spoiled, mean, and get away with a lot, it's not like they're hurting anyone. Is it? Is the story really worth driving away Scott, someone she really cares about? [You're spinning your wheels. Get on with it.] When she discovers that the secret The Rose and Thorns have been working to hide involves their responsibility in hurting someone close to her, she knows she can't look away from the truth. Could Scott be more like his friends than Evelyn thought? Can Evelyn put aside her feeling for Scott and write the story she's been trying to avoid? [And if things are this bad in fifth grade, what's it going to be like in junior high?]

I am writer from western Michigan where I live with my fiancé and cat. [One of them has to go. Here's a chart to help you decide:

...................................Cat.................Fiancé

Noises.....................Purring........Snoring, farting

Batman
character he

reminds me of.......Catwoman..........Joker

Totally devoted to......Me................Himself

Fave movie.............Lion King.........Porky's II

Spent last night....On my bed....In my sister's bed

Is like my 
character..............Likes me for......Won't buy me
Scott because........who I am............Corvette.]

Sticks and Stones is my first novel. It has not been seen by any editors. It could be sold as a stand alone novel, but ideally is part of a trilogy. The sequel entitled, Broken Bones, is in the first draft stage and the last book of series, Words Will Never Hurt Me, is in the planning stage. [Meaning I'm planning to write it some day.] My novel is ready to be emailed in partial or full should you choose to request it. Thank you very much for your time. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,


Revised Version

Please consider representing my YA novel Sticks and Stones, complete at roughly 70,000 words.

Evelyn Grant is a reporter for George Washington Academy's school paper. Her latest assignment? Infiltrate the Academy's secret society, The Rose and Thorns, and find out what they're up to. But Evelyn is romantically involved with Scott Howard, one of the society members, and she doesn't want this assignment to drive Scott away.

Scott's friends in the society are the 'it' crowd at their school, and they don't take kindly to outsiders snooping into their business. But they're going to have to do a lot worse than dumping drinks on Evelyn, backhanding her, and pushing her into a pool if they want her to stop. When she has a near miss with a sports car in the parking lot, she realizes she may be in over her head.

As Evelyn investigates just what privileges the society members have been enjoying, she begins to suspect they may be hiding something more serious than petty rivalries. She learns that the secret they've been hiding is that they murdered her best friend, Lorna Doone. Can Evelyn look away from the awful truth, or will she put aside her feelings for Scott and write the story she's been trying to avoid?

Sticks and Stones could be sold as a stand alone novel, but ideally is the first book in a series about Evelyn's adventures as an ace reporter. Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,


Notes

It was way too long, and didn't say much that isn't in the revised version.

Okay, they didn't actually kill Lorna, but if you don't tell us what they did do, we may think they spilled chocolate milk on her new jeans, and Evelyn's overreacting.

What, exactly, is secret about the secret society? Everyone seems to know it exists and who's in it.


Selected Comments

Anonymous said...love the cat vs boyfriend chart. it's too true.

I couldn't figure the age of these people in your book or the age of readers it's aimed at. You seem to be all over the map in that regard. Which is not good. The title sounds like grade school kids, especially if you do a trilogy with the titles mentioned. A lot of the behavior and concerns seem to reflect junior high maturity, but driving around is high school.

Blabbering about other unpublished manuscripts, especially if unwritten = wasted space, as discussed in numerous Facelifts prior to this.


Robin said...Love, love the chart. I think I may have dated the fiance's relative a long time ago.

And loved the mention of Lorna Doone - "Okay, they didn't actually kill Lorna".

The story could be good, but the query meanders. I recognized the style immediately, having written one of these meandering guys myself.


pjd said...Halfway through this, I stopped reading and started skimming just so I could get the context for EE's humor. It's way too long and rambling, and as I read it I thought it sounded less like a sales pitch and more like an author's brainstorming notes. For an example, this entire paragraph:

In all the secrets Evelyn digs up there is a story, one about secret traditions at the academy that Jack would love to print. Still, she hesitates to write the story. Evelyn likes Scott and while his friends are spoiled, mean, and get away with a lot, it's not like they're hurting anyone. Is it? Is the story really worth driving away Scott, someone she really cares about? When she discovers that the secret The Rose and Thorns have been working to hide involves their responsibility in hurting someone close to her, she knows she can't look away from the truth. Could Scott be more like his friends than Evelyn thought? Can Evelyn put aside her feeling for Scott and write the story she's been trying to avoid?

Perhaps you meant it to sound like those urgent questions before commercial breaks in old cartoons, but to me it sounded like you just hadn't figured out the plot yet. Maybe it's because the questions aren't terribly compelling.

What's at stake for Evelyn besides her high school boyfriend? We all know that Scott will dump her when he goes off to Harvard anyway. And it's just the school newspaper. What's Jack going to do, fire her if she doesn't get the story?

I sense that you're driving to a moral dilemma that runs deeper than "HS boyfriend versus HS newspaper," but it does not come through in the query. I don't read YA now that I've passed well out of the "Y" part of life, but I suspect that the YA audience will identify with moral choices between the easy way out and the right thing to do. It seems you've got a story here, but like Evelyn you're afraid to actually write it.


Rei said...You're kidding: it actually *was* #2? Ouch. Let me guess: the next trilogy will be "I Am Rubber", "You Are Glue", and "Bounces Off Me, Sticks To You"?


Anonymous said...Infiltrating a secret society? That is a pretty standard plot. I'd want to see a good twist before I would read it (eg. in Secret Society Girl, a girl who wasn't interested in the society is tapped to join as one of the first women in the group, and ends up helping them reform their chauvinistic ways).


Anonymous said...I have got to get me a cat!

Author, the language and style of this query reads more like an older middle grade novel rather than a YA. That the romance is a bit center stage, though, throws it into YA territory, as does the word count.

If your story sounds anything like this query, it will be too unsophisticated for a YA crowd and too "romantic" for the middle-grade set. And if an agent or editor can't pigeonhole it ...


pulp said...[The more I see of romance, the more I heart my cat.]

I agree with pjd, particularly about the query's resemblance to brainstorming notes. That's what mine look like, anyhow. It seems as if a lot of submitters don't even try to write a good query; they just want EE to write one for them. Only guessing.

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