Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Face-Lift 151

Guess the Plot

Cheaters Never Win

1. The new high-tech security system at Purdle's Casino showed everything. But Chief of Security Brad Road wasn't ready to see what went on under the craps table with his wife and the new croupier.

2. Lenny and Denise have been scamming Vegas tourists for years, and finally just stole a pile of cash from the Bellagio casino in an untraceable, high-tech confidence scheme. Wait, what is the title again?

3. Muriel and Tolbert meet in Reno for a fling away from their spouses. But will this vacation end in quickie divorces or just a call at the Cash Advance window?

4. A klutz and a cop cooperate on a case, but their "cop-ulation" could keep them from catching the crooked con.

5. Lori just won the Powerball Lottery - then discovered her boyfriend playing the bongos, naked, with her sister. Can they convince her it was just a lark, or will she cut them out and keep all the winnings for herself?

6. Third grade isn't all it's cracked up to be for little Iggy Miller. Caught cheating on his vocabulary test, Sister Medea shows him the meanings of "torment" and "anguish."

Original Version

Dear Agent

I am writing to you because you sold Eileen Dryer’s novel A MAN TO DIE FOR. [Not a good start. First of all, we can discuss Eileen later, let's start with you. Secondly, if you don't know the correct spelling of Ms. Dreyer's last name, perhaps you shouldn't mention her to her agent. And lastly, the book is fifteen years old, and you've made no connection between it and your own.]

I have written an amateur detective novel set in present day Columbia, South Carolina, entitled CHEATERS NEVER WIN. My klutzy protagonist is driven to find the murderer of his best friend and client. [Amateur detectives have clients?] Incidentally, the protagonist [Incidentally, if you'd name the protagonist, you wouldn't have to keep calling him "the protagonist."] knows that an insurance policy worth $800,000 was placed on the now deceased friend. Who would want the money [Who wouldn't want $800,000?] and who would want this guy dead? [The antagonist.] Along the way he develops a very intimate relationship (OK, they have sex) with a female cop, who helps him solve the mystery. ["Intimate relationship" was fine. Then you had to drag it into the gutter with the "S" word.]

I am a member of Mystery Writers of America and the Cincinnati Writers Project. The first fifty pages of this novel were reviewed by the MWA Mentor Program. The first twenty pages of this novel were also reviewed by three editors/agents at the Murder in the Grove writing contest. All reviewers liked my novel and made only editorial comments. [Actually, what they liked was the first few chapters, and this agent doesn't care much what anonymous people thought.]

I have written a character into this novel that gets whacked in my second novel, MURDER IN MAUI. [Is it a character who gets whacked, or a novel that gets whacked?] [So, this character has no useful role in the book? It's just your signature move to include a character in each book that gets whacked in the next? Like Hitchcock appearing in his films, like Chef Ramsay with his signature dish.] [If I were a character in one of your books I'd be sweating it out, thinking, Give me some lines, some action, anything.] [Being a character in one of your books who seems to play no role is like being a Star Trek actor who gets sent on an away team with Spock, Kirk, and Bones. You know he's not coming back. And you know you're getting whacked in the next book.] You can contact me at my e-mail address____________ or call me at my home phone__________.



I don't think there's enough here. I want more plot. What's the klutz's real job? How does he know about the insurance policy? What's his name? Who are the suspects, and why are they suspects?

MWA membership is worth mentioning, and if this book is a lot like Eileen Dreyer's book, you can tell the agent at the end that that's why you're contacting him. We don't need to know that people have liked the beginning, or what happens in your next book.


Luna said...

"All reviewers liked my novel and made only editorial comments."

'Editorial comments' could encompass anything from "Send this now" to "I noticed you write entirely in lowercase, using only umlats for punctuation."

Leave it out. Personally, I wouldn't pick this up because your slim plot summary leaves out all stakes for the main character--you forgot to tell us why he cares about this client and why it is essential he solve the murder.

Oh, and the cutesy (OK, they had sex) makes it sound like the query was written by a giggling teenager. "Intimate relationship" says enough.

Anonymous said...

EE makes great points in his editorial asides on the text. Agent Kristin Nelson has a good blog where she talks about how she's judged contests, participated in conferences (possibly mentoring, too) and why mentioning wins or what others "said" really means very little to her. Worth looking at (archives-possibly March or April).

And she recently posted a query that was successful and talks about what she liked (for comparison with our own). (And EE, she gives a nod to you and all your hard work on our queries.)

But given the problems with the mechanics of the writing in your query, I think you should go back to your novel and carefully check through it for similar problems. Just a thought.

Anonymous said...

Concerning the "anonymous people who liked the beginning" either this author totally ignored Miss Snark's advice or it is one hell of a coincidence and this author needs to visit Miss Snark's blog.

As far as the book goes, listen to EE, aav, and xiqay's advise. Don't give up on it. -JTC

Anonymous said...

I think it's standard practice these days to include the actual names and places in query letters. Editors were getting so confused by every author using, "This guy went somewhere and did something."

Anonymous said...

Don't give up, but take out the dirty parts, you pervert. There's enough smut out there already.

braun said...

The author's unnecessary "clarification" (they have sex) reminds me of this.

Anonymous said...

Raising hand! Yes, I have had an editor call me after receiving my query letter. And, yes, I sent an SASE, but my phone number is on the letterhead.

After a conversation, I was asked to submit two mss.

Evil Editor said...

If writers would put all contact info up top, they wouldn't have any need to waste space in the letter itself.

MaNiC MoMMy™ said...

EE said: Show of hands please, everyone who's ever sent off a query letter and received a phone call in return.

Me! Me! Oh, me! Pick me! (Hand waving in front of EE's face as I sit in the front row)

I got an actual phone call from an agent after I sent my query letter. She wanted me to email her the complete manuscript.

In the end, she turned it down, but let me tell you, I about cracked when I saw Caller ID say NEW YORK from the call because I knew it was going to be an agent.

Anonymous said...

Coincidentally, last year I sent a query letter to the VERY AGENT this query refers to, who sold A MAN TO DIE FOR, and he did call me to request the ms. I nearly fell out of my chair. Alas, he declined to represent me.