Saturday, July 15, 2006

Face-Lift 118

Guess the Plot

Pushing Leaves Towards the Sun

1. Astronaut Spiff Pushing accepts the most dangerous challenge in NASA history: a mission to land on and map the sun.

2. A 29,000-word romance/adventure novel targeted at the grief-stricken, with self-help/psychology features to ease readers through times of personal tragedy. Includes song lyrics.

3. As the greenhouse effect turns Earth into a jungle, a band of landscapers and scientists embark on a daring scheme to preserve New York City inside the world's largest igloo.

4. Terraforming has never been more boring, and botanical geneticist Thelma Griffin, stuck alone in the space station, has nothing to do but tinker. When the scientist unwittingly creates sentient plants, will she neglect her duties to tell her new friends all about her life?

5. Tired of the endless NYC winters, a stockbroker takes off for a new life in Arizona. There, he stumbles upon an ancient cult of Huitzilopochtli that's looking for a fresh sacrifice.

6. Using it as an excuse to catch a little alone time away from his nagging wife and five kids, Joe rakes his yard westward by hand, vowing not to stop raking until he reaches the sun.

Original Version

Ms. X,

From the short synopsis of your past/present clients on it appears that you represent exactly the young adult genre of my recently completed novel. More specifically, my book Pushing Leaves Towards the Sun is nine days in the life of two young adults rebuilding their lives after losing their best friend in a motorcycle accident.

Two years after the accident, Billy and Lindy have different coping skills and live in a duplex with Spy, Dog, Roxie, and Just Dan. [I'm sure there's a good reason the nine days you've chosen to chronicle take place two years after the death, rather than two days or weeks or months. You might mention in the query what's so significant about these nine days.] Billy now sees life as being short and he is playing hard. [How about a couple examples of what he's doing differently now?] Lindy is still in counseling and using her emotional rollercoaster to create her second musical effort “Studying Psychology, Mostly as a Patient” [Which is . . . a song? Symphony? Commercial jingle for a psychiatric hospital?] and break into the recording industry. [Actually, commercials probably would help fill some of those empty and unprofitable psych ward hospital beds.

Commercial voice over: Would you prescribe meds you've never taken yourself?

2nd voice over: Would you commit patients to a ward where the television is permanently tuned to the cartoon channel, if you've never lived there?

3rd voice over: Why pay for a psychiatric education when you can experience it first hand?

Chorus of singers (to the tune of "Suicide is Painless"): Studying Psychology . . . Mostly as a Patient.]

This is a (29,000 word) book of fiction but it incorporates all I have learned about grief, psychology, and recovery from the countless volunteers and professionals that I met with after losing my fiancée in an airline tragedy ten years ago. A synopsis is attached.

Anyone who has ever wrestled with a personal tragedy in their own life is my target audience. [Anyone period? Or any Young Adult?] Life comes at Billy and Lindy fast while they are simultaneously dealing with grief. [Even two years after the fact? What's the plot? Is this the nine days during which Lindy makes it big? Billy nearly kills himself? Ghost Rider comes through town and sets them on the right path?] It is a crossover novel between adventure, psychology, self-help, and romance. [Nothing in the query indicates that there's any adventure or romance in the book.] In addition to publishing rights, the lyrics in my novel have music rights considerations. [Are they your lyrics, or someone else's? Don't get too attached to putting someone else's song lyrics in your book unless you already have permission.] I’ve enclosed the first 3 chapters and 19 chapter titles (and a SASE) for representation consideration. [The sentences in this paragraph don't have much connection with one another.] [I'd be interested in your chapter titles if this were nonfiction . . . though not all 19 of them.]

Cheers! [Grief and tragedy, tragedy and grief . . . Cheers!]

Revised Version

Ms. X,

My recently completed novel, Pushing Leaves Toward the Sun, chronicles nine days in the lives of two young adults who lost their best friend in a motorcycle accident.

Life comes at Billy and Lindy fast while they are dealing with their grief, and each copes differently. Billy now sees life as short and he is living each day as if it's his last, cliff diving, wing walking, and even wrestling sharks. Lindy is in counseling and drawing upon her shifting emotional states to create her second CD, Studying Psychology, Mostly as a Patient, hoping to break into the recording industry. After Billy convinces Lindy to climb Mount Everest with him, they become only the fourth couple to make love at the summit.

This 29,000-word Young Adult novel incorporates all I have learned about grief, psychology, and recovery from the countless volunteers and professionals that I met with after losing my fiancée in an airline tragedy ten years ago. Any young adult who has ever dealt with a personal tragedy is my target audience.

I’ve enclosed the first 3 chapters and a synopsis. Thank you.


Evil Editor has stressed the young adult aspect, because this is too short to be called a novel for "anyone." Actually, it seems too short for the 16 - 18 crowd, and the younger teens might prefer to have characters from their own age group. Two years after a motorcycle accident would seem to indicate your characters are at least 18 now. Maybe they should be fourteen, and their friend was killed in a bungee jumping accident. Or maybe you should pad the book with an extra 40,000 words.


Anonymous said...

Actually, that's the type of tittle, that would get desplayed at my local library.

Author, PLEASE, listen to EE. If there is ANY adventure, or romance, show it in the queery. Otherwise, it sounds like self-realisation book.

(word verification sptqxbk - spit quick x book?)

Anonymous said...

Nooooo! I misspelled my own name!

Anonymous said...

Actually, given that your name is "illiterate", that's really funny. :D

This book sounds like therapy rather than a novel. If writing it has helped the author overcome his own pain, that's wonderful, but before trying to publish it, he should take a very hard look at his manuscript and decide whether this would be gripping reading for anyone other than himself. There does seem to be an absence of plot, at least based on the query letter.

Anonymous said...

Good night! This word count makes my WIP look like a fantasy epic!

Brenda said...

My EE t-shirt is really comfy as I read EE's blog.

It helps ease the pain.

I highly recommend them. And I think there should be fictional EE shirts too, to ease fictional characters' pain. I think it'd work.

Kanani said...

See? You lost me ....too many names in a small amount of space:
Billy and Lindy have different coping skills and live in a duplex with Spy, Dog, Roxie, and Just Dan.. Call me a simpleton. I just want to know what's going to happen to the protagonist(s). And when I read "Dog", I immediately thing.... Oh! Ribsy!!

So it's good that you can see what EE did by centering it only on the two main characters Billy & Lindy.

The idea that you have almost sounds like a movie. Perhaps you do need to through a rewrite the book, adding more to your characters and their experiences.

Mt. Everest and just getting ready for it should be worth at least another 40,000 words. But.... if you're going to have your characters climb Mt. Everest then you really do have to get it "right." This should provide you with lots of good research hours, even a trip if you haven't already.

I also wonder why you seem centered only on appealing to young adults who've suffered a tragedy? As far as I'm concerned, everyone suffers tragedy, life doesn't hold back for anyone in this regard. So maybe you just want to tell a compelling story that will appeal to everyone.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

It's hard to tell what really goes on in this novella but I can't help thinking that I'd like it...

EE and the minions had some good suggestions though, if they could be incorporated.

Kanani said...

Apologies for all the typos and such..... the COFFEE MAKER is broken today.

Tragedy! Grief!
*limps off to Starbucks in 105º weather*

Lightsmith said...

I agree with EE that placing the book two years after the friend's death seems a little odd. Several months after the death would be better. That way, the characters would be past the initial shock, but would still be well in the midst of their grieving process.

This book sounds like it has potential to me, but still may be in a somewhat raw state. I agree with Whitemouse's comment that you need to make it sound more interesting to anyone who does not personally know the people involved. Right now it reminds me of those letters that mothers include with their Christmas cards ("Cletus is still playing the banjo, Luanne is taking a line-dancing class down at the community college"). Also, having a plot will probably make it easier to sell the book. Not every book necessarily needs a strong plot, but it certainly helps, especially for an unknown author.

Regarding the title, I like it. However, a nit-picky grammatical note: You probably noticed that EE changed the word "Towards" to "Toward." I see that you signed off your letter with "cheers," which tells me you are either British, or, as is more likely, simply pretentious, but just so you know, the word "towards" is a Britishism, like saying "whilst" or having a mouth full of rotting teeth. (Just kidding, Brits!) The correct American usage is to leave off the s.

Toodle-oo, Guvnah!

Anonymous said...

This does look like journaling therapy loosely disguised as a novel.

If I'd known last week that kudzu vines can grow 35% faster when carbon dioxide increases in their vicinity (and their stalks an unknown percentage thicker/stronger, so that they can survive winters as far north as NY State), I'd have sent in a very different 'guess the plot' entry.

Now, to get these paranoid images out of my head, I'll have to write a futuristic story about the vines that swallowed New Jersey and the psychological trauma suffered by a pair of middle-aged refugees as they wait in a squalid squatter camp on the Canadian border, hoping for permission to cross the St. Lawrence River before the kudzu catches up.

Anonymous said...

Altar boy,

I doubt the author is British, because we don't have duplexes and we spell counselling with two 'l's.
I thought I knew lots about the differences between British and American English, but I've never noticed anyone saying "toward" before. Just goes to show..

Even here, I think people say "cheers" a lot less than they used to - it was fashionable slang among students in the 80s, so I bet it isn't now.

PS I only have one filling!

Anonymous said...

whitemouse: you're right about my name, why did you think I picked it? Then again, maybe I should change it to something sorter... Damn! Nut got the shortest name... Wait a minute, what if I call my self BUM? That would be tricky to misspell.

Anonymous said...

“Studying Psychology, Mostly as a Patient”

Call me nuts, but I do like that part. If there's more stuff like that, than its cool.

Luna said...

Is it coincidence that Patsy Cline's "Crazy" popped up in my media player as just as I began to read this query? I think not!

(BTW, 29,000 words is really frickin' short, even for YA.)

Anonymous said...

Author should beware,
Lest her masterpiece becomes
A haiku novel.

Stacia said...

Chorus of singers (to the tune of "Suicide is Painless"): Studying Psychology . . . Mostly as a Patient.]

Okay, and that is the moment where my crush on EE turned into a raging, mad crush on EE.

Plus the Ghost Rider reference. Have you seen the previews for the movie? We thought it would be awful but it actually looks really good.

Anonymous said...

Instead of a vague "the accident," could we have a reference to who they're mourning? It feels like a different story to me depending on whether it's their mother, best friend, infant they were babysitting, or saintly third-grade teacher.

Anonymous said...

I was passed by a crazed infant on a crotch rocket just yesterday as I cruised along on my Nomad. Those infant motorcycle riders are just friggin nuts. -JTC

I agree. Two years is too long.

Alys Sterling said...

...and here I was, about to ask if it's legit to steal the fake plots, and then I scroll down and discover it is!

So, dibs on plot 4, above. (Just in case you really are keeping a list, EE.) It's so me.