Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Face-Lift 1224

Guess the Plot

Where Angels Weep

1. In God's gilded commode! He has way too many Grooms of the Throne. Any angel who gets the job knows why Lucifer quit, and Lucifer welcomes those who need a new position that doesn't involve holy sh*t. Gabriel is tempted. 

2. Fenway Park, Yankee Stadium, Comerica Park, Camden Yards, Dodger Stadium.

3. Someone killed Vi's father, and she needs to find the killer before he sends someone else she loves to the angels. But will anyone believe her when she reveals that all the evidence points to Cookie Monster as the killer?

4. When the body of softcore porn queen Cherie Sweet is found dragging behind a Los Angeles bus, homicide detective Zack Martinez knows two things. One, she didn't tie herself to the bus by her hair; and two, the Angels are in the playoff hunt and now might be a good time to take the kids to a game.

5. Angels must be perfect. In everything. But young Marielle is fat, her hair is a mess and her legs are hairy. Every day she tortures herself in “Heaven Sent”, a beauty centre. She runs on the treadmill, eats only ambrosia light and a beautician waxes her legs. But with a group of other overweight, not-so-perfect angels Marielle plans to take over Heaven Sent. And screw the divine standards.

6. Amy thought working in heaven would be awesome. Divine offices, fun coworkers, free donuts in the lounge. Like Google, only with harps. But it turns out God's a lousy administrator, and the Archangel Michael is an overbearing, self-righteous jerk. Can Amy survive Michael's micromanaging and climb up heaven’s ladder, or will she end up huddling in the stairwell...Where Angels Weep?

Original Version

Dear ________,

I'm currently seeking representation for my YA novel (with a bit of mystery) WHERE ANGELS WEEP. I thought it might be the perfect addition to your list since you were [are] interested in young adult fiction.


Vi Thorne has a confession to make. [If you open with the confession instead of the announcement of the confession you'll save space.]

She may or may not be in love with her best friend. [Was that the confession? As that's true of everyone who has a best friend, it's pretty lame as confessions go. If a detective is grilling a suspect and says, "You killed her. Confess and we'll take the death penalty off the table," he's not gonna be satisfied with a confession that goes, "I may or may not have killed her."] I mean, he should have known that giving a sugar-obsessed monster a cookie would seal his fate. [Seal whose fate? The friend's or Cookie Monster's?]

She even made a pact with herself: She'd confess her undying love to Lincoln, [So is that the confession? Does it count as a confession if it may not be true?] [Is Lincoln the best friend, or did the best friend get murdered?] they'd get married, have three kids and a dog named Speckles, live on [in] a beach house where she'd paint endless scenes of blue -- because red just reminds her of blood now -- and Linc could not have girls throw themselves at him every five minutes during his self-defense classes. [Not clearly worded. Also, if girls want to throw themselves at Linc, it's out of his control. Though in a self-defense class they're more likely to throw each other.] Clearly, she'd thought this through. [Wait, what happened to Cookie Monster?] [Is that the "bit of mystery"? Who killed Cookie Monster? I'm not sure Sesame Street will let you use Cookie Monster as a character, especially if he gets killed or turns out to be a murderer. But it can't hurt to ask. I for one would love to read a murder mystery in which the detective calls the suspects together at the end and they're all sitting in the detective's office wondering which one of them is guilty and wondering what Cookie Monster is doing there, as he hasn't even been in the book up until then, and the detective reveals that Cookie Monster did it, and Cookie Monster confesses that yes, he did it, but the victim had it coming because he put out a Pepperidge Farm cookie assortment at a party, but had first eaten all the Brussels cookies.] [Now that's a confession.]

Instead, she's trying not to run away screaming like a deranged monkey as her best friend tells her he's a killer and, apparently, so was her murdered father. [I believe the word for the father is "killee."] [Also, if her best friend is gonna be in the query twice, use his name. I assume this is the same best friend she may or may not be in love with? Lincoln? Once we know his name is Lincoln, call him that. Or is this her other best friend?] Of corrupt people, he says. But she should think not. [Not clear what that awkward sentence means. She doesn't buy that her father was a killer? Or doesn't buy that he only killed corrupt people? Or something else entirely?] And, through a series of unexpected discoveries that not only include a kidnapping, but also a noose, she finds out her father was not the person she thought she knew.

She was once told [by a raving lunatic] that sanity is best judged by those who lack it. Completely valid statement. Not valid for a person who dreams she is another person at night, a Tori Sommers, badass runaway. And it can't possibly be a coincidence that Vi started dreaming of the girl the night of her father's murder. Of course not.

Teaming up with her former best friend, [Is this "former" best friend the same best friend we've been talking about, except they're no longer best friends, or was this best friend her best friend before she moved on to her current best friend? I can't tell if she has one, two or three best friends.] Vi is on a mission to find this killer before someone else she loves gets hurt. In [From] a letter addressed to her father, Vi pieces together the evidence that led to his murder, realizing much too late that the murderer is closer than she thinks. [He's the postman.]

But, let this be a lesson to everyone: Life never happens the way you want it to.

Damn cookie [monster].


WHERE ANGELS WEEP is complete at 60,000 words.

Thanks for your time and consideration! [No exclamation point.] Should you choose to finish WHERE ANGELS WEEP in its entirety, I would be thrilled to discuss the (shocking) ending with you! [No exclamation points!!] [And no offers to discuss the ending.]


This is all over the place. You're trying way to hard to put voice into the query. Start over. Summarize the plot in clear simple sentences that a middle grader would understand. Let each sentence and paragraph follow logically from the last, with smooth transitions. Leave out Tori Sommers. Once you've done that, you can go back and add a few clever touches that show your voice/tone/style.

I'm more interested in what this YA novel has a lot of than what it has a bit of. It sounds like a YA thriller. Or YA mystery. Or YA romantic suspense.

If Cookie Monster isn't in the book, change the cookie to a candy bar. And get rid of all other references to cookies. Then remove the candy bar.


T. K. Marnell said...

Hi Author,

It looks like you're not sure what to prioritize in a query. It's simple: tell the story.

Very little of this is your story. A teenage girl dreaming of marrying her crush is not the story, unless it's first and foremost a romance novel. Cookies are also not the story, unless it's a novel about a frumpy divorcee moving to a small town to discover herself by starting a bakery, then meeting a hunky detective who falls desperately in love with her after his first bite of snickerdoodle.

In other words, I would scrap this query and start fresh.

1) Vi Thorne's father was murdered.

2) She discovers, to her dismay, that both her father and her best friend, Linc, were hit men for the mafia (or whatever).

3) She and Linc set out to find her father's killer.

Convey these points clearly, in a way that demonstrates your voice and your genre. That's all it takes.

(And please, take out the promise of a shocking ending. Agents/editors have seen every twist under the sun. They probably won't be shocked. They especially won't be shocked if it turns out that either Linc or Vi, in her split-personality sleep-walking state, did Daddy in.)

InkAndPixelClub said...

It took me three read-throughs to figure out that Vi is the sugar-obsessed monster. If you needed extra convincing to follow EE's advice and start with a more straightforward version of the story, that should convince you.

Also, did Vi seriously go from thinking of this guy as her best bud to considering him the love of her life with whom she wants to settle down on the beach with their three kids and a dog because he gave her a cookie? I'd hate to see what would happen if someone gave her a candy bar or an entire cake.

You're leading with the least interesting part of your story. A teenager who might be in love with her best friend is standard YA fare. You run the risk of having an editor put your query in the rejection letter pile before he or she even gets to the part that makes your query different from a run of the mill teen romance, which isn't even hinted at until well into the third paragraph.

In the next draft, use character names as much as possible. If you must reiterate that Lincoln is her best friend, write "her best friend Lincoln." Make it 100% clear which character you're talkng about, even if it sounds ridiculous. You can always go back and drop in some pronouns later, as long as it's still clear who's who.

Compress the first and last paragraphs into one, preferrably at the end. Agents already know you're writing to them to seek representation, so you don't need to say that. And you only have a few sentences to hook a potential agent, sentences that you don't want to waste on title, genre, and word count.

Kill the last sentence, with fire of necessary. You do not want to suggest that your reader might decide not to finish your manuscript and you don't want to tell someone that the ending is shocking rather than letting them decide for themselves whether they are shocked or not.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Yeah, rewrite this in simple, straightforward prose. As it is, this query gives the impression that your writing is going to be hard to understand, and you do not want to give that impression. You've got some verb tense shifts going on, too, so watch out for that on the rewrite.

Here's an example of what's not working:

She was once told that sanity is best judged by those who lack it.

You've give us a proposition to consider. We consider it. We decide we don't agree. Or maybe we do. Either way, we're not thinking about your story.

Completely valid statement. Not valid for...

You're contradicting yourself. You have 250 words to summarize your story. You have no time to contradict yourself.

... a person who dreams she is another person at night, a Tori Sommers, badass runaway. And it can't possibly be a coincidence that Vi started dreaming of the girl the night of her father's murder. Of course not.

You've got us thinking about someone else... Tori Sommers. Is that a character in your book, or a celebrity, perhaps an actor known for playing runaways? I googled. Doesn't seem to be a celebrity; it must be the name of the girl in the dream. Once again I'm distracted from thinking about your story.

Do not distract us from your story. Tell us your story.

Something like this:

The night of her father's murder, Vi Thorne starts having weird dreams about a girl named Tori Summers.

Also, try to limit the number of characters in the query. As far as I can tell, the entities mentioned are these:

- Vi
- Linc
- her former best friend, unless that's Linc
- the cookie monster
- the three future kids
- Speckles, the dog
- the late father
- Tori Sommers
- the girl in the dreams, unless that's Tori
- the person who told her the insane are the best judges of sanity
- the corrupt people her father killed
- the girls throwing themselves at Linc

That's quite a crowd. I know it doesn't seem that way to you, because you know what you're talking about. But remember that for us, everything is being presented for the first time. So anybody that's given weight in the query letter (eg the cookie monster) appears to be an important part of the story.

Don't mention anyone in the query who's not a major factor in the story.

So, try again. Write a single sentence, under 20 words in length, that tells what your story's about. Base your next query draft on that sentence.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

PS-- one other thing. Agents don't have lists (or at least not of books). Publishers have lists. It's best to avoid publishing jargon so as to avoid misuse.