Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Face-Lift 19

Guess the Plot

Murmurs of the Mad

1. A vampire has walked the world for centuries seeking a human strong enough to challenge him. Finally, just outside Sprangsdale, his path crosses with Jack's, and an epic battle begins.

2. When Mr. Hyde finally breaks away from Dr. Jerkyl, he must make a living. Under an alias, he opens a literary agency, that charges reading fees.

3. After five decades as a top Beltway journalist, Pam Archer decides to publish the secret recordings she has made of every Democratic National Convention since the Kennedy Administration.

4. King Dope dismisses the fortune teller's predictions--until these predictions begin to come true! The rebellion, the broken treaty... Now, the king fears, the worst prediction of all; the growth of nose hair down to his knees.

5. In Georgian London, Dr. Edward Pringle hopes to expand medical knowledge by using the inhabitants of Bedlam as experimental subjects to test his theories. But will the lunatics collude to overpower the doctor?

6. Brother Luke's penance for breaking his vow of silence is community service at a soup kitchen. But can he control his anger--and his voice--when he discovers what's really in the soup?

Original Version

Dear Mr. Evil Editor,

After reading hundreds of web sites, searching for the perfect literary agent who is fresh, ruthless, and looking to build a respected client list, I found you. [Lucky me.] [I had a feeling constructing that web-site was going to come back to haunt me.] Once I saw that you represent horror, fantasy, romance, and literary fiction, I literally frothed at the mouth. You and I, on paper, seem like a perfect match. [The list of mannerisms Evil Editor seeks in his perfect match is not yet complete; however, EE is confident that when it is complete, "literally frothing at the mouth" will not be on it.]

My novel, Murmurs of the Mad, combines horror, romance, and psychological thriller with urban fantasy. [My alternate title is, The Bride of Frankenstein Falls in Love with Norman Bates in the Emerald City.] It is set in a remote part of Undiscovered America in the late 1700’s. [What better setting for an urban fantasy?] The story encompasses 97, 518 words. It is the first of what I will be an on going series.

“Murmurs of the Mad” is not a story for the weak minded or the weak of heart; so if you are either, put the query down and send me your “thanks but no thanks” letter now without reading on. [Evil Editor would not like to have to count the number of his colleagues who would jump at this offer.] However, if you decide you can take the heat a little longer, let me ask you two questions. What do you want from life? [A good book, my health, and home-made tapioca pudding. Oh, and Angelina Jolie.] and If I gave you the means, would you pay the price to accept it? [Having looked ahead at the remainder of your letter, let me ask you a question: what do your questions have to do with anything?]

Greed is a deadly sin! [Explain somewhere why you are telling me this.]

Jallend, vampire, self-proclaimed artist, and humanities judge and jury, [He judges the annual art-and-culture essay contest for the Rotary Club.] has two missions; the first, to send the sinners to hell; the second, find someone worthy to rival him. Walking the earth three times over, killing for hundreds of years, left him with doubt that the human race would ever produce such a hero, but still, he wanders the towns, feeding and waiting -- life blurring about mundanely. [Uh oh. Any red flags that weren't up long ago have just hit the sky.] That is, until he stumbles into a town where he must confront his own deadly sins in order to escape with a human woman, someone he never thought he could love. [Angelina Jolie.]

However, Jallend’s story is not the only one told. Wandering the world just to see what’s out there, is Jack. Everywhere he has ever gone people love him. They all want him to stay, but he keeps on moving. [They call him . . . The Wanderer.] Never resting, always working. [Wandering the world just to see what's out there sounds more like never working.] When he leaves the mountain folks and heads on into Sprangsdale, [Ah, the big urban center.] however, his life changes forever. He finds himself caught in the wake of Jallend's on going massacres. Being righteous, Jack vows to stop the monster from slaughtering innocent people. But every town he enters he is too late. The dead stack up, and Jack’s mind corrodes, bringing life to the horrors from his past that has him running the world to evade. [Evil Editor has taken flak in the past for declaring, based solely on a query letter, that a novel needs a makeover, so he'll probably get raked over the coals for suggesting that this novel needs a makeover, based entirely on that one sentence.]

In the end, Jallend finds his match in Jack, but for reasons no one could have predicted. [They both literally froth at the mouth?] You’ll be shocked to see who dies in the big battle, and what happens next. [Suddenly I must know what happens next. Can you Fed-Ex the manuscript?]

For ten years, I've made my living entertaining; performing magic, palm reading, balloon sculpting, while on the side-line, writing. For the rest of my life, I plan to use what I have learned about people, natural perceptions, history and English to achieve publication. [You have achieved publication, publication of this letter, and it is being read by thousands. That's more than read most authors' books. Can't you settle for that, and move on to a less daunting challenge? Something like creating a life-sized balloon sculpture of the Battle of Gettysburg?] Once I jump that hurtle, I will begin the real work of selling every novel that has my name on it.

Out of everyone I wish to work with, Mr. Evil, I hope the subject matter interests you most. I look forward to hearing from you soon. If you find you like what you've read so far, I could have the entire novel in your hands within a week of receiving your go ahead. I do have this novel on submission to Medallion Press, publishing house. I expect to hear back from them this next month. [Medallion? You'll be lucky to hear from them in three years.] Thank you for your time.

Sincerely yours,


It's way too long, and two thirds of it isn't about your book. It has typos, misused words, self-promotion, buttering up of the agent, irrelevant credits . . . But worst of all, the plot description doesn't have much clear information. Does Jallend kill only sinners? Why does he want a rival? Who is the woman Jallend never thought he could love, and why do you never mention her again?

Look, here's the thing. The competition to get published is fierce. If Evil Editor tried to write a symphony, he would expect someone with an MFA in music to mock his first attempt mercilessly. If Evil Editor tried to create a giraffe or a Dachshund out of a balloon, you would laugh at his comic ineptitude. So it shouldn't be shocking when Evil Editor suggests that while what you've learned about people, natural perceptions, and history may be impressive, what you've learned about English, particularly the craft of writing (so far), isn't going to get you to your goal. Take classes, join a critique group, read a lot, and maybe ten years from now you'll read this letter and laugh. When you're not groaning. Sorry, my friend.


Anonymous said...

Evil Editor:

Is it possible I could send a query for critique without getting it published on your blog? I will now go hide, while you laugh at me ...

- Writer

Anonymous said...

Sure, but if you ever find someone to publish your book, don't let them.

And while you're not letting them, send 'em my way to fill the void. Please.

Anonymous said...


In short - no.

If you're at all familiar with this blog, then you knew what you were getting into when you queried EE. If you're not familiar with this blog, then you had no business querying without preliminary research.

Either way - sending the query implicitly authorized blog publication. You asked for it, you got it.

Be careful what you ask for. You just might get it.

Hide if you must, but stop whining.

Unsympathetic reader/lurker

Unknown said...

Wow... a query beyond even an Evil Repair?

I shudder at the thought

*yet, continue to spit seltzer on the keyboard as I read your comments*

John said...

I must take EE's invitation to mock mercilessly, pointing out that a musician doesn't get an MFA (Master of Fine Arts); she gets an MM (Master of Music). Not to be confused with the candy.

Although at this point chocolate would be more useful than my MM.

Evil Editor said...

True, but Evil Editor has always felt that music is as fine an art as . . . well, art. Is playing first violin in the orchestra not more fine than painting caricatures in a mall? Is composing a symphony not more fine than writing a limerick? It's time musicians got the respect they deserve, whether you think so or not, John.

Anonymous said...

When I wrote my first book, and was trying to write a couple paragraph synopsis, it occurred to me that if I couldn't sum up its parts in those two paragraphs (much less the ten pages needed for a real synopsis), then I probably needed to go back and trim some 80,000 words from the 150k ms.

A wise editor (not Evil Editor, but my first rejecting editor, who several books later became my real very own evil editor at a real major publishing house) told me that a writer should be able to sum up the plot of the story in just a couple sentences. Maybe the theme, as well. And if you can't, your novel probably has some serious flaws in it. That novel is still under my bed. I never could get it down to a couple sentences, and finally scrapped it and started anew. Again and again. In a completely different genre... I am about to have book 6 published. So I'm living proof that there is publication after rejection by evil editors.

Anonymous said...

Please, tell me this was a parody of a query letter. It's too amusing to be real.

Sponge Girl said...

Oh, Evil (any relation to Dr. Evil?)...

You make me wish I'd actually gotten around to finishing a book so I could have a query for you to criticise. I'd even spell czech first and everything.

Rei said...

As someone who successfully pranked Miss Snark on April Fools with a fake query letter, I can't even tell. It's bad, but not awful enough that I'd immediately suspect a hoax.

Wait, wait, I phrased that wrong.

As a plumber, scuba diving enthusiast, and professional emu wrangler, I have gained a great deal of insight into the nature of query letter hoaxes...

Sandra Richards said...

Wow, and I thought my query letters sucked! Honestly, if you can't keep it down to a one page letter, you've taken too much of anyone's time, even an Evil Editor's.

Anonymous said...

...musician doesn't get an MFA (Master of Fine Arts)...

You know, not being a native speaker of English, I always wonder at this acronym, and this may be the place to ask.

Does it really expand to Master of the Fine Arts? Or is that the polite euphemism, as in expanding RTFM to read the fine manual?

Somehow, Master of the F***ing Arts rings truer to me, so I wonder -- I wonder.

Anonymous said...

Rei: As the one who called you on your prank based on the number of jokes per line in your fake query, I think this one is real. I'm not 100% sure about it, but sadly, I think it's plausible as a query letter and not quite funny enough to be a spoof ;-)

To the author, assuming it's a real query: If you could use some honest yet encouraging words right now, maybe you should read this. You're not a teenager, but IMHO it also applies to the rest of us who wish they could write publishable things already.

Love and kisses,
A Minion

Mad Scientist Matt said...

Wow, this letter is a train wreck. I can see why you didn't want to try patching it up - some editor might get stuck reading a whole manuscript of that prose. Yikes.

Anonymous said...

Could you maybe use the return key a tad more often to break up those giant walls of text, or stop mixing blue and black type on a marbled background? I wasn't wearing glasses when I first got here, but now I think I might visit the eye doctor on the way home. Jeebus.

Somebody needs a good whap upside the head with an RTFM on blog design from Jakob Nielsen's useit.com .

Evil Editor said...

If you are seeing a marbled background, the problem is at your end. Try using Firefox (windows) or Safari (Mac).

Evil Editor said...

In view of how long it takes most publishers to reply, it's unlikely there's any data available--yet.