Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Face-Lift 1221

Guess the Plot

Boats, Boys and Other Water Hazards

1. Sarah has had the hots for Rodney Reel since they were kids, so she's thrilled to land a job on his father's fishing boat. But can she navigate the uncharted waters of a relationship or will she and Rod drift through the doldrums like ships that pass in the night?

2. Against a hostile takeover bid by a worldwide amusement conglomerate, one family attempts to keep its privately owned miniature golf course afloat. 

3. Archie Spellman asked his bored teenage niece Shelby to write a booklet about the hazards in tourist-trap Lake Anglers. Unfortunately, she spells 'buoys' as 'boys'. Hilarity ensues.

4. Charlie has seen all types at her parents' time share on Lake Arrowhead. This summer will be different, though. She's 16, has her first real bikini, and right next door is a hot piece named Jacob.

5. Noise pollution in the marine environment has become too much for Swishy to cope with, and while contemplating suicide by beaching herself, she gets rammed by a boy on a jet ski. Forget suicide, Swishy embarks on a mission to clear the waterways of all humans by raising an army of sharks.

6. Do guys want to use Kate for her body, her dad's yacht, or both? What happens after college graduation and her trust fund/birthday party? Who poured bong water in a champagne Magnum bottle again? Who still smokes from a bong? Who's the dead guy in the head?

7. Donnie, sixteen, takes Bridget, fifteen, diving off the Florida Keys. A whale attacks their boat and it sinks. Donnie and Bridget lash themselves together. They’re carried further out. They fight off sharks. A storm blows them back toward shore. They cling to a buoy for twenty-nine hours. The Coast Guard rescues them. The shared experience leaves them hating each other.

8. During a weekend at the lake, Janine tries to impress her boyfriend with her mad boat-driving skills. It works ... until he falls overboard and gets caught in the propeller. He manages not to die, but everyone at school knows what happened, and now Janine's having trouble finding a new boyfriend.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Sarah “Plain-and-Tall” Conway [That's her nickname? Kind of unwieldy. I can't see people calling someone Plain-and-Tall.] has always fit snugly in the Good Box—good student, good athlete, good liar—and she wants out. This just isn’t how she imagined it happening. [I'm not crazy about the term "Good Box," as it could mean stuff she's good at or stuff that indicates she's a good person. If it's the former, wanting out makes little sense: she doesn't want to be good at history or volleyball? If it's the latter,  being a good liar doesn't belong on the list.] [As you haven't revealed what "this" is in that last sentence, and all we know about "it" is that it stands for getting out of this Good Box, I'm thinking we can do without the paragraph.]

When a motorboat meets a summer storm and catapults her into the uncharted waters of Orphanism, [When her parents are killed in a motorboat accident] she’s going to have to navigate the foster system, the open roads of Florida, and a boy with a secret all on her own: Sink or Swim. [All orphans navigate the foster system without their parents. Whether they have to do it all on their own depends. Does she want to do it alone? Does anyone want to help her?] [Navigate, uncharted waters, sink or swim... Don't go overboard with the nautical terms. On the other hand, I may join in, it sounds like fun.]

Enter the boy: Rodney Reel Treakle. Intelligent, a bit cocky, and freaking gorgeous, he’s been the stuff of Sarah’s dreams since they were kids. [How old are they now?] When she lands a summer job aboard his dad’s fishing boat, Sarah starts to find herself—the girl she knew existed, but never entertained: confident, steady, [even-keeled] and a bit rude. And Rod notices. [Basically, she's morphed from someone who's a good student, athlete and liar to someone who's confident, steady and rude. As good student/athletes are often steady and confident, the before/after comparison doesn't work. Was she unsteady, lacking confidence, polite before her transformation?] 

Armed with her notebook, [What notebook?] a pocket full of anger, and a well-hidden Jar-O-Mom, [What the--?] Sarah struggles to let anyone in. Even Rod. [Is she struggling to let people in? Or struggling to keep a wide berth?]  She can feel herself falling—but in love? Or is she just drowning?

An impromptu July road trip sends Sarah on a quest [voyage] for the truth. [The truth about what?] The truth about a certain wedding picture. The truth about Rod. [Time to deep six this bilge-sucking dog.] The truth about the Good Box.

Sarah-Plain-and-Tall may have been a lie, [She's actually only 5 foot 1.] but will Sarah be able to reconcile the girl her parents knew with the girl she may actually be? [Or will she remain trapped between the devil and the deep blue sea?] [Will she stem the tide or run aground?]

BOATS, BOYS AND OTHER WATER HAZARDS, my young adult novel, is complete at 105,000 words.

With a BA in anthropology and eight years of medical practice under my belt, I have spent my entire academic and professional careers immersed in other peoples’ stories. [Well, screw other people.] It’s refreshing to craft my own.

Thank you for your consideration.



I think you can inject some voice into the query without going totally adrift. Some of the attempts to be clever are better left for the book.

This is mostly setup. Parents die, girl takes job on fishing boat, begins finding herself. That's the setup, and a three-sentence paragraph can handle it. Then, though I know nothing about it, I suspect most of the summary should focus on that road trip. It's the part where something seems to happen. What wedding picture? What truth about Rod? These seem like crucial points in Sarah's growth or coming of age, so don't toss them out just to tease us. 


AlaskaRavenclaw said...

You're practicing medicine with a BA in anthropology? (See, that's the trouble with bios. They just raise snarky questions. Far, far better to leave them out.)

105k is long for YA.

Try for straightforward language. The metaphors and figurative language are just confusing. We will snark on them here, but the awful truth is editors and agents will snark on them too. It's better to try to rewrite this in clear, clean prose .

Dottie Davis said...

i agree with comments by EE and AlaskaRavenclaw.

not much else to add.

but... i LOVED guess the plot answer #5 !!

InkAndPixelClub said...

The query is jumping all over the place, there's so much in here - almost none of which is Sarah making decisions or doing anything - that I don't feel like I have a good sense of the characters of the story.

Axe the opening sentence. "Perfect girl is sick of being perfect, wants to live it up a little" is the plot of countless other stories and isn't going to grab an editor's attention.

There's too much in the first sentence of paragraph 2. The "uncharted waters of Orphanism line is a too obvious attempt at being clever, too potentially confusing to an editor with limited time to skim through your query, and too flippant for a description of a character losing her parents. then we're on to a boy and Florida without any sense of how they connect to what's come before. And is "Sink or Swim" the secret? Is it the boy or Sarah who has the secret? With everything that's crammed into this one sentence, I'm lost.

"Enter the boy" makes it sound like he's a new arrival in Sarah's life, but then you tell us she's known him since they were kids.

Either explain how Rodney's full name is a bad joke by his parents or leave his middle name out.

The remainder of the query is just throwing too much at me too fast for me to know where the story is going. First Sarah is developing a newfound confidence and rudeness, then she's having trouble letting people in. She gets a job on Rod's dad's boat, then she's off on a Florida road trip. All of this, plus a way too mysterious wedding picture and what I'm hoping is a jar of her mom's ashes, is adding up to a very convoluted story.

Go back to query basics. Who is Sarah? (More specifically to your situation, how old is she and what is her situation when the book starts? Does she still have parents at the beginning, or has she already been an orphan for a while?) What does she want? What is keeping her from getting what she wants? What is she doing to try to combat that? What will happen if she succeeds or fails? Write a draft that presents the story in the most direct way possible, then go back in and punch up the writing a bit.

CavalierdeNuit said...

Does Sarah look like Glenn Close? Is she actually plain, or kinda hot when she puts her makeup on and acts rude?

This does not remind me of Sarah, Plain and Tall, the book or movie, and I'm not thrilled about your use of it. It feels like you're trying to use Sarah, Plain and Tall's vibe without really honoring the original character.

Were you inspired by the children's book or movie?

Maybe if you went for something like Sarah, Hot or Not (Hot=rude with slut makeup Not=good girl with little makeup) it would make more sense. She's Hot Sarah around Rod, and Not Sarah at school in her Good Box.

Anonymous said...

From the Author: Thank you, Evil Ones! I LOVE the opinions of minions--so helpful. I may be re-posting with revisions at some point, but you have all given me excellent direction. And to CavalierdeNuit, I love the Hot or Not alternative nickname. Frankly, this book in no way pays homage to the character from Sarah, Plain and Tall. The nickname is truly just a mean-spirited attempt to describe my character's physical habitus. Her classmates are not-so-clever. Thanks again!

InkAndPixelClub said...

Given that Sarah's classmates are not in the query, I think a teasing nickname that they give her is only going to confuse an editor, since we don't know who calls her or thinks of her as "plain and tall" or "hot or not." I'd just leave it out completely.

Anonymous said...

From the author: Requesting feedback on a revision, if you are all willing to help! I'm not sure I've solved all the problems, and I may have veered on the side of boring. Any help?

Seventeen-year-old Sarah Conway seemingly has everything to lose: stellar grades, a spot on the varsity soccer team—and her virginity. But when a boat accident renders her an orphan, she realizes she has lost the only thing that matters: love.

With no family remaining, Sarah is placed in foster care, and finds a summer job aboard a local fishing boat. The boat also happens to be captained by the father of Rod Treakle, Sarah’s childhood crush.

Still mourning her parents’ deaths, Sarah starts to find her true self in the solace of the sea. A girl she had ignored: angry, slightly reckless, and a bit rude. And for once, Rod seems to notice her—the real Sarah.

But when Rod proposes a summer road trip, Sarah hesitates. She confides in Rod that she has nightmares about her parents’ accident, and he discloses that he has a nightmare of his own. One that exists—and one he’s willing to show her.

With the open roads of Florida stretched before her, and a well-hidden Jar-O-Mom to keep her company, Sarah seeks to re-assemble the life she has lost. But Rod’s past still looms ahead of her, and the revelation that Rod is no stranger to loss sends Sarah reeling. How can she love a boy she has never really known?

Can Sarah reconcile Rod’s past with his present? And more importantly, can Sarah reconcile the girl her parents knew with the girl she actually is? Because without love, there’s nothing to lose.

BOATS, BOYS AND OTHER WATER HAZARDS, my young adult novel, is complete at 106,000 words.

Thank you for your consideration.

InkAndPixelClub said...

This is much more straightforward and easy to follow than the previous draft. I agree that it may be a little too pared down, but now you've got a more solid framework to buil on.

I don't love the opening paragraph. You list a bunch of stuff that Sarah has to lose in her life - and at least one item she might actually be eager to lose - and then have her lose something you didn't mention in the next sentence. I feel like you're trying to say that Sarah has a seemingly perfect life until she loses the one thing she always took for granted, but it's not coming across clearly.

New Sarah was confident and steady in the old query, but now she's amgry and reckless. Are there positives to Sarah's true self or is it just her long buried not so perfect qualities coming out? Some examples of how Sarah demonstrates these qualities woild be great showing rather than telling. How does she shw that she's angry? What does she do that's reckless? Who is she rude to?

It sounds like this is the first time Rod has noticed Sarah, though you don't really say what their relationship was like before this summer beyond that Sarah had a crush n him. You don't have to give their whole life history, but it will mean more that he's noticing her now if we know that he never did before. I'd also like to know how their relationship is developing beyond Rod just noticing her.

I'm still worried that "Jar-O-Mom" strikes a tone out of tune with the rest f the query.

I'm getting a little more about Rod's big secret, but only enough to raise more questions. Calling it "a nightmare that exists" doesn't help and doesn't make a good contrast to Sarah's nightmares about a real event. I don't see how learning that Rod has a tragic loss in his life too is a major problem. Wouldn't it bring them closer together if they've both gone through losing someone important to them? Remember, unless finding out the secret is the whole point of the story, you don't have to hold your secrets back in a query. Since a big part of Sarah's problem is whether she can still have a relationship with Rod once she knows his secret, it would hel to know what it is.

Evil Editor said...

The first sentence doesn't make sense unless you provide a reason she might lose these things. Even with a reason, while good grades and a spot on a soccer team are nice, they hardly constitute having everything to lose. And her virginity doesn't belong on the list.

Everything after the nightmare paragraph is vague to the point that I don't know what you're talking about.

If you don't want to veer into boringness, be specific. We want detailed information.

CavalierdeNuit said...

Thanks! I'm glad I could help you think of a better one.

This query is much more straightforward. I second what Ink and EE said. But what is a Jar-O-Mom?