Friday, August 23, 2013
Guess the Plot
Mark from Earth
1. After Mark gets his 200th form rejection he goes to Mars to start querying editors there. But Martians speak English backward in heroic couplets, so Mark will have to--ah, screw it, Mars girls are hot, and easy.
2. In a flip of the campy 80's sitcom, Mark leaves Earth on a mission to Ork. Shazbat! He's in trouble when Bindy takes him as her love slave.
3. If Mark had known that enlisting meant a one-way trip to Anteres, he'd have read the army's fine print. As jobs go, Galactic Emissary doesn't sound bad--until Mark is put on trial for Emperor Zuhl'li's murder.
4. Captain Thunderbird rounds up kids with special gifts from different planets for his academy to battle Prince Asteroid and his deadly Meteorines.
5. After moving to the moon, Mark comes into possession of an object that gives him great power and that could cause a disaster in the wrong hands. Unfortunately, on the moon there are no active volcanoes in which to throw it.
Dear Evil Editor,
Do agents like a query letter that gets straight to business (As advocated by Queryshark)? Or a long rambling letter (as suggested by so many query writing tip giving sites)? [Your interpretation of what "so many query writing tip giving sites" suggest may be inaccurate. Were those the exact words? "Long rambling letter"? I ask because "long and rambling" is not a complimentary description of a query. They might as well advise you to compose a vague, confusing letter.]
I have two letters: one straight to business, the other a long rambling affair. Tell me, please, do you like to get straight to business, Evil Editor? Or do you prefer a long rambling affair? [This already feels like a long rambling affair, and we haven't even started. And so far I'm not liking it.]
Mark is the boy from Earth who will need to choose between being a hero. . .and saving his friends. [Saving his friends seems heroic enough. At least to his friends.] [Also, a logline isn't needed in a query.]
Query: [No need to label each section of the letter.]
Mark lives in a dusty Australian town full of sleepy tractors, strict parents, and best friends who keep moving away. He hates it. So, like the trouble-making git he is, he takes his dad's 1942 stunt plane for a daredevil joyride. Naturally, he crashes it.
For some reason ("tenacious spirit" [?] or something), this get's [gets] him recruited to a hidden starfighter academy on the dark side of the moon. [If I were a trouble-making git and someone told me they wanted to send me to the dark side of the moon to a . . . starfighter academy! "Yeah, that's it, a starfighter academy . . ." I would suspect the dark side of the moon is Earth's latest answer to prison overpopulation.] Once there, Mark promptly makes enemies out of snobbish teachers and kids who hate Earthers. [Earthers. Bad enough we're considered the scourge of the galaxy; we're even hated on our own moon.] Thankfully, two people have his back: Lexe, who hates hoverboards, and Heath, who won't stop customizing his hoverboard. [Earthers are either dog people or cat people. Mooners fall into the pro-hoverboard or anti-hoverboard camp.] Together, they haggle with a blackmarket merchant [There seem to be a lot of people on the moon. What are they breathing?] over a hoverboard (for Mark, who desperately wants to ride one). Instead, the perfidious, swarthy little man cons them into a salvage operation at an industrial wasteland. None of them know about the jagged blue cube hidden there, or its guard of freakishly demented droids. ["Demented" is sufficient. I infer "freakishly."] That is, until Mark finds it, succumbs to its promise of power, and filches it. [Where are the freakishly demented droid guards while Mark is filching the cube they're supposedly guarding?] [This cube sounds suspiciously like the Ring of Power.]
Hunted for the cataclysmic power they've uncovered, [It seems to me that if you know a cube has cataclysmic power, you wouldn't store it in an industrial wasteland, guarded by demented droids who suck at guarding stuff. If the cube is intrinsically bad, it should have been rocketed into the sun or dropped into Mount Doom long ago. If it's good if kept in the hands of good people, it should be in an underground vault protected by a force field in a Buddhist monastery.] [Also, if the stakes include a potential cataclysm, I'm wondering why we had so much talk about hoverboards. We could start with three kids at the academy discovering a mysterious cube. An Earth-based book about a nuclear cataclysm may have scenes in which a character is a surfer, but I'd expect the query to focus on more important matters than what brand of fins he should use on his board.] the bickering friends must stick together as they unravel the mystery tied to the cube, even after it turns Mark into their greatest threat. For when the true nemesis steps out of the shadows, she will force Mark to make a choice: use the cube and be the hero…or save his friends. [This is why you don't need a logline. Inevitably you end up saying it anyway.] And he will need to decide quickly. She inked his name into her black book of mistakes. Mistakes she plans to burn. [Why doesn't she use the cube and be the heroine? And whaddaya mean, "use the cube"?] [Calling this being "the true nemesis" is no way to convince me Mark will be a hero if he uses the cube. She sounds perfidious, if not swarthy.]
MARK FROM EARTH. YA SF. 87,000 words.
Thank you for considering,
A LONG RAMBLING AFFAIR:
I dig your style. [What the--?] It speaks to me. [Next query.] You represent Book X. I can appreciate that. My book is like book Y, except my book leaves the toilet bowl steaming…because my book is the hottest shit. Sign me. [You're seriously asking if I or anyone would prefer this to a business letter? This is what you send when your goal is to add to your collection of rejection slips.]
Voice of Mark and friends:
Finn from Adventure Time makes friends with a daring Rory Gilmore and a young Ross Geller. [If that said Uri Geller slips Rory McElroy a Mickey Finn I would at least have some idea what you're talking about.]
Soon, Mark will be racing on a custom skyboard. He’ll be pranking a paranoid android, throwing shoes at a diabolical alarm clock, and sharing spicy food with friends from orbit colonies. [If you must list some really cool events in the book, come up with more intriguing ones than throwing a shoe at an alarm clock and eating spicy food.] But none of that can happen if he stays stuck on the only planet separated from a galaxy filled with people, the only planet without hoverboards: Earth. [Earth is in its galaxy and it has people. In what way is it separated?] [Hard to believe there are hoverboards on the moon but not on Earth.]
One day, Mark takes his dad’s 1942 stunt plane for a daredevil joyride, and survives crashing it. His tenacious spirit gets him recruited to SPIFF, a hidden starfighter academy on the dark side of the moon. He struggles to make friends at first, but ends up with two friends-for-life: Lexe, whose love of danger is a bad mix with Mark’s troublemaking habits, and Heath, a business-minded kid saving up for his first hovercar. Together, they explore an industrial wasteland where demented droids guard a jagged blue cube. That is, until Mark succumbs to the cube’s whispered promises of making him a hero, and takes it. Hunted by half-augmented humans, the trio must fight to unravel the mystery of the cube, even after it turns Mark into their greatest threat. For when the true nemesis steps out of the shadows, she will force him to make a choice: use the cube and be a hero…or save his new friends. [This paragraph (divided into three paragraphs) isn't bad, but I want to know why Mark's friends are in danger if he doesn't use the cube, and what happens if he does use it that makes him a hero.]
Douglas Adams and J.K. Rowling walk into a bar. [Christ. Here we go again.] They sit down to tea and create worlds. After four years and myriad empty cups, a whole world comes to life: Quirky professors teach curious subjects, lunchboxes instantly make food, and one paranoid android runs around with a fire extinguisher. Doug and Jo, discussing fears and dark ambitions, then write an elegant nemesis— A woman whose fascinating rise to power is revealed over the six books to follow. [That's a lot of space wasted on something that seems to have little to do with "style." Most writers would just say the style is "Douglas Adams meets J.K. Rowling," which is just as irritating, but mercifully briefer.]
MARK FROM EARTH is a YA science fiction novel complete at 87,000.
Is the next J.K. Rowling. [Ouch.] Pub credits include: 7th grade science project. I got a gold star. Also: everyone loves my book. Angels cry. [If you wish to show that the book is filled with this type of humor, do so in the plot description.]
All I'm looking for is a summary of the book that makes me want to spend time with the characters and lose myself in their story. In a letter that shows me the author can write well. In other words, I don't want the query to entertain me; I want it to convince me that the book will entertain me.
I wouldn't call the second version "rambling." "Annoying" would be a better description.
The story might be better for middle grade than YA.
If something is a cube, can it be jagged? It sounds to me like calling a circle oblong or a cone cylindrical.