Saturday, November 25, 2006

Face-Lift 234

Guess the Plot

Mountain Echo's

1. It's mine! It's mine! It's mine! Sylvan Glen Echo and Green Glade Echo arm wrestle in a duel to the death for the possessions of the late Mountain Echo.

2. The God of Punctuation tells the story of his life and decline to an illiterate shepherd before throwing himself off a tall peak in sheer disgust.

3. 96-year-old village schoolteacher Miss Quadrille is just putting the finishing touches to her 1400-canto Spenserian epic masterpiece when she is throttled with her own typewriter ribbon. Can Miss Amelia Pettipants figure out what the rest of the title was supposed to be?

4. Echo is the size of a mountain. No wonder she's the class bully! Will Echo get the teacher's new shoes, or will there be a wrestling match?

5. A heated argument between Jake and Maggie leads to a night of passion, a betrayal, a car accident, a hitch as an army mercenary for Jake, a career in medicine for Maggie, and a reunion ten years later. Also, a mountain.

6. A bookkeeper, a secretary, a paralegal, and a dental assistant meet at Jack's Bar and Grill every Tuesday night to read their unpublished poetry and cry in their beer, until the remarkable evening a yodeling duo joins the group and changes all their lives forever.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor;

Mountain Echo's is a romatic suspence with 70,000 words.

Ten years ago, Maggie Hanson had been eighteen years old and hopelessly in love with her older brother Scott" best friend, Jake Donnegan. She thought her feelings were only one-sided, but a heated argument between them prom night changed all that [Nothing says I love you like a heated argument on prom night.] and they ended up spending a very passionate night together. Three days later, she went to Jake to tell him of all the plans she had made for the future. [Big mistake.] Coldly, he told her not to involve him in her plans. [Men. How do women put up with them?] It was one night and that was all he wanted from her. Fleeing his rejection, she left in her car with tires squeeling and tears running down her face. Resulting in a near fatal car accident, completely changing her life. She never saw Jake again. [Or at least not until the paragraph after next.]

Ten years ago, Jake Donegan, spent the most memorable night of his life in the arms of his best friend, Scott's sister. When Scott found out his sister was planning to throw away her dreams of attenting one of the best colleges in America for a future with Jake on his Horse ranch, he convince Jake to send Maggie away. So he lied to her and told her he felt nothing for her. He had no idea his rejection would end up almost costing Maggie her life. [I'm starting to think you spend more time on this prom night incident in the query letter than you do in the book.] Holding her unconscious body while waiting for help to arrive, he vowed to God that if she lived he would never hurt her again. In order to keep his word he felt he had to leave. As soon as the doctors assured them that Maggie would survive her injuries, Jake and Scott left for the Army. [They simply leave for the army? Had they previously enlisted? If so, how was Maggie going to join Jake on the horse ranch? If not, there is a certain amount of paperwork and other stuff involved in joining the army. And joining the army seems a drastic way to avoid hurting Maggie. He could just hole up on the ranch with his favorite horse until she leaves for college.]

Present day, Scott has been gravely injured, and as mercenaries he and Jake felt it was to dangerous to take Scott to the hospital. [What do you mean "as mercenaries?" Are they in the army? If so, whose army, and stationed where?] The men that were after them would stop at nothing to finish the job, therefore Scott tells Jake to call Maggie. After recovering from her injuries Maggie is now a Physicans Assistant and works for a local ER. She drops everything to help her brother but is scared to death to see Jake again. After a ten year absence Jake and Maggie are thrown back together in an intense struggle to save Scott's life and stay out of danger. Will true love be able to overcome a lifealtering betrayal? Will Jake be able to protect the only woman he has ever loved from the men that want him dead?

You'd be surprised what love can do.


No doubt the minions will rake you over the coals for the spelling, punctuation, and grammar problems (some of which would have been caught by spellchecking), which are bad enough by themselves to earn a rejection.

This is pretty much a synopsis, not a query letter. The only part that isn't summarizing the plot is the first sentence, which, by itself, has enough errors to earn a rejection.

I'm not sure where the title comes from, but amazingly, even it, by itself, is bad enough to earn a rejection.

I'm more interested in who's after Jake and why, than in his relationship with Maggie. They had one night of passion ten years ago as teenagers. Surely they've had other relationships since, satisfying adult relationships, and haven't been pining away for each other. How many women think back to the guy who dumped her after a one-night stand ten years ago, and wonder, How did I let that one get away?


Bernita said...

Afraid my suspenders snapped.
A standard plot, but there's a market for this sort.
Keep working on it, author.

Anonymous said...

Eh. Yeah.

Not yet ready for publication.

See the lamb. See the wolves begin to circle...

You need to learn how to properly use apostrophes, commas, hyphens, etc. You need to improve your spelling. Your sentence structure is occasionally incorrect and could stand to be made a little more sophisticated also.

Happily, all of these things are straightforward to fix; they only require good reference books and a bit of hard work on your part.

Put the manuscript in a box for a while (there's no point in querying yet, if the work is only going to be rejected) and take a month or two to really work on your spelling, grammar and punctuation. Then, pull out your manuscript and correct it. You'll be amazed at all the little errors that jump out.

Also, based on this query letter, the plot doesn't appear to hold together logically. That might be a problem only in the letter, not the book itself.

I don't know if you're a first-time novelist, but one of the most common errors that newbies make (I did) is to query before the book is ready. It's always a good idea when you finish the manuscript to stick it in a box for a month. Don't think about it; don't look at it.

That month gives you time to forget what you meant to say and start seeing what you actually did say. It gives you enough distance to be objective about the work.

It's too easy to feel so excited about being finished that you can't see all the places where the novel still needs work. Take a break of at least a month from the book, and use it to brush up on your writing skills (it's also a good idea to troll around Preditors and Editors and Writer Beware, to find out what other pitfalls can await a new writer.) After that break, re-read the manuscript not just to find typos and errors, but also to see if the plot makes sense and progresses logically.

Good luck with it!

Anonymous said...

This reads like a Harlequin book. If it is, okay. If it is not, then you're in trouble. One cliche after another. Also, check into mercenaries. Most of them now work for "private security" companies such as Blackwater. They're all over Iraq and Afghanistan for instance. They're not the romantic figures of novels and movies. If this is anything other than a harlequin you'd better have your research right.

Anonymous said...



Ten years ago, Jake Donegan, spent the most memorable night of his life in the arms of his best friend, Scott's sister.

This needs to be: Ten years ago, Jake Donnegan spent the most memorable night of his life with his best friend Scott's sister.

Nothing says careless like spelling your own characters' names wrong. Did you know you can customize your computer's dictionary to recognize the names of your characters. And that final comma indicates Scott's sister, not Scott, is Jake's best friend. I spotted several other mistakes of this sort--too many to list.

The novel itself may not be riddled with similar errors, but any agent reading this letter will assume it is.

As Evil said, even the title implies a certain lack of understanding of basic grammar. Did you mean Mountain's Echo? To be honest, that's what my brain read as the title the first time through--the eye often sees what it wants to see. Reading it now, I can only hope you were typing this into your email at 3:00 a.m. or something, and the original copy is better.

If not, please have a beta reader look at your manuscript specifically to pick out errors. It may be a wonderful story, but if it's anything like this letter, no one is going to publish it.

In the meantime, get yourself a book on the craft of writing, or take a night course, and keep plugging away at it.

GutterBall said...

I'm pretty sure the first two paragraphs could be summarized as "Maggie and her brother's best friend Jake had one steamy night of passion after prom. Three days later, he told her that he wanted no part of her future and left to join the Army. His rejection lead Maggie to a near-fatal accident that changed her life."

Then, you can spend two paragraphs (if you must) describing the present. Why are Scott and Jake mercenaries? I thought they were joining the army. Soldiers and mercenaries are different.

And why is someone trying to kill them? And what happened to the farm Jake was so gung-ho to settle down in that he didn't want it for Maggie? Isn't leaving the opposite of settling down? If he's willing to join the army to get away, why wasn't he willing to do something else so she could be happy with him instead of stuck on a farm?

These are pretty important questions from what you've given us. I dunno that they're all query material, but since you've raised them, you might want to answer them.

Word ver: tmfrmopu - C'mon. This is ridiculous. Do I hold the record for longest word verification, or what?

Anonymous said...

If this query letter is representative of your writing in general, I thnk your manuscript will be a long way from ready.

I second Bernita. More work!

Anonymous said...

author: The shpling mishtakes are funny for us evelings, but you want to polish brush your baby's curls and manicure its nails before you send it into the heartless world of publishing.

You have to polish it.

Anonymous said...

The tittle made me think it was another gutterball classic. A story about a rogue mountain...

Must misspell but NOT in my manuscript.

Anonymous said...

Is there a mountain in the story? Just curious.

Stacia said...

Ditto what everyone else said, but I'll add that people work in ERs, not for ERs. They might work for the hospital, but not for the ER.

This definitely needs work, but that doesn't mean you've written a bad book.

GutterBall said...

The tittle made me think it was another gutterball classic. A story about a rogue mountain...

Hey. Rogue mountains are nothing to laugh at. Just wait 'til one steps on your toe.

HawkOwl said...

What EE said. Except snarkier.

Anonymous said...

Let's assume we've rung all the changes on Not Ready For Publication, and ask the question that most deeply concerns us all:

When is the world going to see the surely to be bestselling mystery series starring Miss Amelia Pettipants?

Word verification: qpknxktu--even the bloggerbot has a comment on the punctuation, spelling, and grammar of the submission.

Anonymous said...

"Rogue mountains are nothing to laugh at. Just wait 'til one steps on your toe."

Happens all the time, in the subway. That's why I don't have any toes left.

Anonymous said...

Argh. I'm certain this person is sincere, but honey, you need to do a LOT more writing. A lot. The best thing to do is join a writer's group - and on-line ones are just fine if, like me, you don't live near any. There is a great deal about the technicalities of writing that you need to get a grasp on, as others have noted.

For example:
"Fleeing his rejection, she left in her car with tires squeeling and tears running down her face. Resulting in a near fatal car accident, completely changing her life."
Ow. Those are two sentences that dearly want to be shortened and reshaped into one.

Finally, please be sure you research what you are writing. If your characters are military, learn how the military works and how the different branches function. If they are mercenaries ... research what freelance soldiers do. As someone said, they're most likely to be working for one of the big security firms guarding oil fields or American contract workers over seas. Unless of course they've hired on to some African warlord, but that's a whole 'nother line of research.

The story's premise has been done, but I'm an optimist who thinks any premise can be revisted - if it's done afresh! So, get some more writing time, find an online writing group, be willing to take some hits in the way of critique, and you will learn. We all rote stoopid once. ;-)

Login: ukgystn
Good grief, is that a language?

Anonymous said...

Here is a good example of what a query letter can look like:

The query letter shown launched Lynn Flewelling's career.

Here's another actual query letter:

And another:

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

When Scott found out his sister was planning to throw away her dreams of attenting one of the best colleges in America for a future with Jake on his Horse ranch, he convince Jake to send Maggie away. So he lied to her and told her he felt nothing for her.

All of these people are stupid.

Scott is an interfering jerk. Jake is a doormat for letting his friend dictate to him who he dates and who he doesn't. Maggie is a moron for planning to give up college because of one night at the age of what, eighteen? Does a woman really exist who still thinks sex=marriage automatically, and she has to give up everything to be with the man who slept with her once? Unless you've set her up as not really wanting to go to college, this is just ridiculous, sorry.

Didn't any of them have the plain common sense to say, "Hey, why don't we try the long-distance relationship thing while Maggie goes to college?" Why couldn't Jake say, "You know, I really care about you, and think this could be great, but you have to get an education to help me run the ranch" or whatever? Instead of behaving like characters in a bad melodrama, why didn't any of these people behave the way actual human beings do--i.e. think about things for a minute, and discuss them with each other?

You have to make us believe all of this if the book is to work--and it's probably best to leave it out of the query as much as possible. Tell us they spent a night together. Tell us Maggie had an accident after a disagreement and she and Jake didn't speak for ten years. That's all. Let us find out what the set up really is once we're reading, when hopefully you've shown us why these actions are believable.

Anonymous said...

Stick this manuscript in a box. Put in in the back of a drawer.

Then spend some time with a grammar book and a good critique group (one with people further along than you, not one with people at the same level).

Write another book--one that doesn't depend on characters being stupid or wildly overemotional and irrational for the plot.

If you're still in love with the bones of this book then, pull it out of the box and rewrite it when you think you can do it justice. Don't try to submit it now.


Heather Dudley said...

I'm still trying to figure out what belonging to the mountain echo this whole damn book is about...

And to paraphrase a famous author: If you are a true writer, you won't let criticism like this stop you. You will only continue to write, and work harder to make yourself successful.

Rei said...

I'm not going to touch the grammar on this one with a ten foot pole. I'll simply refer the author to google for the following term: "Idiot Plot". Here's an example definition from the Turkey City Lexicon:

"A plot which functions only because all the characters involved are idiots. They behave in a way that suits the author's convenience, rather than through any rational motivation of their own."

Anonymous said...

"Will Jake be able to protect the only woman he has ever loved from the men that want him dead?"

Shouldn't Jake be more worried about himself than the chick? Nobody said they want HER dead.

I'm trying not to laugh at the image of Scott and Jake donning their fatigues and hopping into a jeep at the hospital parking lot.

Doctor: "I assure you, Maggie will recover from her injuries."

Scott: "Come on, Jake, get dressed! We can go through the express enlistment line at the base!"

Jake: "Iraq, here we come!"

Zany Mom said...


Now, do I dare let Evil Editor have a crack at my query? Or let Miss Snark shred my hook??

Hmmm. Decisions, decisions.

Keep writing, author. Your draft can't possibly be worse than mine (and I still have it!).

One place online that is good for critiques is Critique Circle. Good luck and happy writing!

Anonymous said...

For all the anonymi/ouses out there, let me remind you, stupid and wildly over emotional = least a fair number of them, anyway. And as I recall from the query, these characters are teenagers at the start of the story. However, that being said, I agree that there are other issues with character, plot development, etc.


Anonymous said...

spooks: true. That's how I ended up married to an ogre. Of course it all worked out, in the end.

Seriously. Real people do stupid things. Otherwise, there would be no wars, no crime, and so forth.

Anonymous said...

Spooks, Nut, yes, people do stupid, overemotional things all the time. However, a book that relies on a plot that requires all the characters to do stupid, overemotional things pretty much all the way through the book has a big problem. See Rei's link to the Turkey City Lexicon entry.