Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Face-Lift 1322

Guess the Plot 


1. A self-help manual for those who aren't getting enough hugs or kisses.

2. Her classmates always called Makayla stupid and ugly. Then she landed a modeling career as the face of XO XO jewelry. Now her classmates are jealous. But they still call her stupid and ugly.

3. When LT receives a love letter, he is paralyzed with apprehension. What does “You’re next. XO XO” mean? Who has eyes on him? His commanding officer with one hug and kiss? Two kisses and hugs from that sergeant? Should he put it under his pillow or put Intelligence on it?

4. When the body of Univision's beloved kid show host Ana "XoXo" Gonzales is found in with the tigers at the LA Zoo, homicide detective Zack Martinez knows two things: One, none of the tigers can fire a handgun, and two, this will probably end up as a plot on one of his abuelita's beloved telenovelas.

5. Little XO XO O'Malley has captured the king of the leprechauns. But instead of a pot of gold, she wants the rainbow. The king manages to talk her down to seven color-themed wishes, which of course infringes on the genies' turf. Also, enforced tea parties.

6. After listening to John Mayer's song "XO," and Beyonce's cover of the same song, Justine still can't figure out why the title isn't "Love Me Lights Out." So she starts a online petition to change the title. Hilarity ensues.

Original Version

XO XO Is a middle grade novelette completed at 14,453. [I'm assuming that's your word count, but we normally round the word count off, so perhaps 14,453 is the altitude (in feet) you were flying at when you completed the book.] [If you do round it off I suggest rounding it to 45,000.] 

Every day at school, Makayla Massi is faced with her cruel classmates, Madison and Mya they call her ugly and stupid. [It's a bad sign when your first sentence isn't a sentence. Either make it two sentences or change "they" to ", who."] Even though they are always dressed in designer clothes and seem to have it all, for some reason they aren't happy. Things are so bad that if Makayla could make herself invisible she would. [Start a new paragraph here.] After a surprise trip, Makayla's dream of being a model finally comes true.  [It wouldn't take many words to explain how this trip is a surprise.] She couldn't be happier as the new face of Gems XO XO jewelry store. Makayla can't wait for the fashion show where she'll be able to walk the runway for the first time ever. [New paragraph.] As she walks the runway on her way to success she realizes that living her dream comes with a lot of jealously. She never imagined there wasn't a pretty side to modeling. [That suggests that there isn't a pretty side. I think you mean She never imagined there was an ugly side...] Her usually [usual] daily school dilemma [I would call it her torment or anguish.] only gets worse after the fashion show, [Continuing to torment the girl you were calling ugly, after she becomes a successful model, is like if the kids who used to mock LeBron James's basketball skills are still mocking him today. At some point you move on to an easier target, or you look like an idiot.] so Makayla handles matters with kindness by helping Madison and Mia, but things don't go as planned. Now, she's faced with an even bigger challenge and little by little Madison and Mya try to take away what little self- esteem Makayla does have until she discovers it's her self- esteem and no one gets to decide her self-worth, but her. [This last "paragraph" is vague. How does her dilemma get worse? Are her classmates doing worse things than calling her names? What does Makayla do to help Madison and May? What goes wrong when she helps them? What is her bigger challenge?]


 If Makayla has to go on a trip to land her modeling career, it seems odd that she's still in school in her hometown. Wouldn't she have to stay where the work is?

There doesn't seem to be any hugging and kissing, so apparently the title comes from part of the jewelry store's name?

While "novelette" describes a work of a certain length, it's not a length that anyone's likely to publish in book form. Maybe as part of a collection of your stories, but before it gets published anywhere you need to tell us what makes this story stand out.

The dream of being a model comes true with pretty much no explanation. 

XOXO is a brand name of watches and jewelry. Possibly they don't have their own stores. Whether they would be thrilled or annoyed to find their products in your story I don't know, but if they don't like it you can always argue that XO XO is completely different from XOXO. 

My research shows that XOXO means hugs and kisses. Does XO XO mean hug and kiss  hug and kiss?

The four proper names in the query are Mikayla, Massi, Madison, and Mya. This will annoy readers who have enough trouble keeping track of who's who when the names don't all start with the same letter.. 


AlaskaRavenclaw said...

I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that the writer is very young.

Taking that into consideration, I encourage her to keep writing. There's a lot to learn along the way, and the more you write, the more you learn.

This mansucript is too short for MG, and there's no getting around that. Manuscripts are like mattresses: Unusual lengths are almost impossible to sell.

It's important, too, to have your writing be as technically perfect as possible, both in the query and in the manuscript. One error might be permissible. It would depend on the agent. But more than that would probably be a dealbreaker for any reputable agent.

The plot, as I see it, is this:

Makayla gets picked on at school. Then she becomes a model. The bullies still pick on her. Makayla, however, is kind to them. Then she learns that self-esteem comes from within.

Now, there are two problems with this plot.

The first is that a protagonist who is continually mistreated, and responds only with kindness, is going to be difficult for readers to relate to.

The second is that stories in which the protagonist and reader learn an important lesson are not popular with readers.

I would encourage you to start working on your next novel.

Anonymous said...

Ditto on all the names of important characters starting with the same letter. Is there a reason you did this?

Likely I'm out of touch, but the themes as presented don't really seem to fit middle grade. How old are the characters?

Is there a reason you don't want to expand this into a full length work?

This reads more like a story summary than a query.
Give event specifics: what exactly does she do to try to solve her problems with M&M? What exactly goes wrong? During what event exactly does the self-discovery take place? etc?

Good Luck

AA said...

First of all, you're being too vague. What trip? How does she try to help them, and what doesn't go as planned?

This isn't a complete story as you have described it. Here's what you have:

Makayla is bullied by her classmates. She goes on a surprise trip. Then she comes back. Then she becomes a model. After the fashion show, she is still being teased, so she treats her tormentors kindly by helping them with something. This backfires. Now an even bigger challenge happens. But then she realizes that her self worth should be dictated by herself alone and everything is okay again.

As you can see, what you are missing is cause and effect. How does the trip relate to Makayla getting to be a model? Why would she help her tormentors? Is this a strategy to get them to like her? If so, say so. Also, how does she come to the realization that she does at the end?

PLaF said...

I think your protag's problem of middle grade bullies is right on the mark. Kids become more self-conscious about appearance and sooner or later someone decides what the "in" clothing brand is.
If the XO XO brand is "in," then becoming the face of that brand could be thought of as the answer to all of Makayla's problems. The trouble comes when she finds out it's not the answer or at least not the one she hoped for.
Share what she learns carefully - you've heard of "Show, don't tell," right? Here's where you do that or risk tuning your readers out.
I'll also add that I thought you did a good job NOT getting mired in setting up the story but getting right to the action.

JSF said...

I agree this is vague and confusing. Perhaps more cartoonish than bookish, so there is a blurring of events and when it comes back into focus things have changed. Dreamy. What surprise trip? A daydream where the revenge is her success? How is it that middle graders have it all? Chocolate milk for lunch? Extra recess time? When I was young a dream of success meant escape. You don't go back to be tortured more. Unless she now has an even bigger dream which requires more suffering. How did she end up with a jewelry store? Why not go to a private school or have a tutor now that she is a success? Self-esteem is a core issue for young people but I don't understand how these events will create that self-esteem. Young people that are successful in this fashion seem to have even more self-esteem issues. Anorexia, drug addiction. But I'm old. Maybe things have changed. Maybe the point of the book is her success didn't bring her the self-esteem she needed. So how did she create her self-esteem? There is something here but I just don't know what it is.

InkAndPixelClub said...

A query letter serves as a short sample of your writing, often the first one that an editor or agent sees. So it has to demonstrate that you are capable of writing and editing well. A high number of mistakes can get you rejected before the editor or agent even gets to what your story is about. Double and triple check your query for spelling and grammar mistakes. Try reading it out loud. Make sure it's as error free as possible before it goes out.

AA has nailed the issue I'm having with your story; there's no clear reason why one event leads to another. We need to see that each part of the story is happening because of what happened before. As it is, things just happen and I don't understand why.

It seems to me like you want to make this a story about Makayla figuring out how to see her own self worth. If that's the case, make the problem clear from the start. You have the bullies, but it isn't clear that the taunts are taking a toll on Makayla's self esteem.

We don't need to know that the bullies aren't happy, unless that's something Makayla notices. You want to stick to Makayla's point of view as much as possible. I'm guessing she's be more focused on how she feels than how her tormentors are feeling.

Present the modeling career as Makayla's dream solution to the problem early on, maybe in the first paragraph. Modeling doesn't currently have any obvious connection to Makayla's problem right now. You need to show that she thinks becoming a model will end the bullying and restore her feelings of self worth.

You will need to explain how a girl with self esteem issues ends up becoming a model and not just gloss over it as the result of a surprise trip.

I understand the jealousy that comes with Makayla's newfound success (though I'm not sure exactly who is jealous of her). But why does the bullying continue? And why doesn't it restore her self esteem? Wouldn't getting paid for her beauty hold more weight than a couple of girls calling her ugly? If the nature of the bullying changes, then say that.

There is no reason why Makayla starts being kind to her bullies. This is probably the biggest lack of cause and effect in the whole query. Why is Makayla trying this new tactic and why is she trying it now? Did someone she trusts suggest it? Did she get the idea from another model? Was it just next on her list of things to try after "become a model"? Why does she still care what the bullies are saying about her?

The remainder of the query needs to get more specific. You don't have to reveal the ending, but you do have to explain why being nice to the bullies doesn't work and what choices Makayla is faced with as a result. She can come to the realization that her self esteem needs to come from her, but there needs to be a clear reason why that happens when it does.

I'm not sure why the title is half of the name of the jewelry store, or why the jewelry store is so important that you're naming the book after it. Titles are easy to change and a clunky title isn't likely to sink an otherwise solid query, but if it's not clear what the title of your book means by the end of the query, you might want to change it.

I can see the bones of a potentially good story in here, but the errors and the unclear story progression are obscuring the positives. Focus on the main plot, Makalayla's problems, and what she does about them. Be specific about what happens. And proofread before you send.