Monday, March 31, 2008

Face-Lift 508

Guess the Plot

Tony's Horrible Journey Throughout the Universe

1. First, the spaceship only served Lox and Bagels and they weren't even the good bagels, they were the cheap kind. Then they lost his luggage in a solar flare. Now, they can't even find his planet?

2. Tony's pizza business has gone sour since Vito's moved in down the street. Now his quest to find the best pizza recipe in the universe takes him on a perilous journey across seven galaxies and through Hell itself.

3. From the polyp clusters of Mucodromeda to the fecal swamps of Slakkbauul, android Tony is pursued through the cosmos by badly programmed cyber-harpies hungry for the 43.7 grams of pure Cerebretanium at the molecular core of his carapace.

4. Tony, a sub-microscopic ion, recounts in crisp and snappy monologue his birth at the center of a flaming plasma-jet in deep space, and his subsequent journeys being squeezed through the glowing torturous hell-like plasma threads that lace the universe together until he arrives at Earth's gentle sun and is spat toward the planet.

5. A decade of study with Tibetan monks hasn't prepared Tony Declan for the reality of enlightment. Turns out, the universe literally IS God...and life's journey is through His alimentary tract.

6. When Tony makes a wish--to get out of town--he has no idea his wish will be granted. And he definitely has no idea how far out of town he's about to end up. Or for how long. Or that he'll endure so much human torment he'll wish he was never born.

Original Version

Dear Agent or Publisher,

"Tony's Horrible Journey Throughout the Universe" is a middle-grade novel complete at 30,000 words.

Poor Tony is unhappy with life. Four older sisters and bossy, no-good parents....UGH! So when he makes a wish to get outta town, Wink-the-mouse happily obliges with his magical powers. Trouble is, Wink is a bad, bad seed, and he loves getting into trouble. Every time Tony makes a wish, Wink adds his own personal touch. [For instance, when Tony wishes his sisters and parents were dead, Wink kills them, which is good, but then he frames Tony for mass murder, which is typical Wink.]

Tony doesn't realize the depths of Wink's mischeviousness (sp.) until it's almost too late. When they both find themselves in the midst of the most horrible adventure of their lives, they will have to work together to arrive home safely. Will they make it? Will Mother Mouse put Wink in the time-out of his life for tormenting a human kid? [Spoiler alert.] Probably yes to both.

Time-outs have never worked for Wink, and there are lots of kids wishing they could start over with nicer parents, better brothers and sisters, and definitely cooler toys. This could be a series that goes on forever. Or at least until Wink grows up. [This makes it sound like the series will be about Wink but not Tony. If that's not the case, I'd replace "and there are lots of kids wishing they could start over with nicer parents, better brothers and sisters, and definitely cooler toys" with "so". If it is the case, I think it's Wink and not Tony who deserves his name in the title.]

Thank you for considering my work.


There isn't enough about what happens. What's "no good" about Tony's parents? How about an example of Wink's "personal touch" when granting a wish? What's the "most horrible adventure of their lives" that they find themselves in the midst of? What's this about "throughout the universe"? For all we can tell they don't get past the county line.

In short, more specifics.


Nancy Beck said...

What stood out for me is that Wink seems to be the center of attention, not Tony - is that the case? Is Wink really the MC? If not, you'll have to turn this around so that it's more Tony-centric.

Nancy Beck said...

Forgot to say -

Oy vey, loved the idea of No. 1's plot.

Because life is too short to deal with crappy bagels. ;-)

Dave Fragments said...

The Most Horrible Journey Throughout the Universe I ever had was getting an intestinal blockage on vacation with four kids, my Mother, my aunt and a dog. I survived, they survived and that was that. I wouldn't write a book about it.

What is Wink and Tony's adventure? Fire breathing dragons? Klingons spinning around Uranus? Bad hair day? Forced vegetarianism?

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with EE: more details, please :)

As another MG writer, I have to say, I imagine this is probably a great book!


Chris Eldin said...

Thanks EE!
I am a good amount into this project, but it's not finished. I agree about the specifics. This query is missing a paragraph about that most horrible journey because I haven't written it yet. I hope that fleshes it out more.

I have a few questions for anyone who may be lurking in between book chatting....

1) This book is about Tony. But if it's a series, the common element will be Wink. Each child will be different. But Tony is the center of this adventure. How can I portray this?

2) The title of the book:
Should I use the word "Horrid" instead of "Horrible?" And "Across" instead of "Throughout?" For example:
Tony's Horrid Journey Across the Universe

Any other comments greatly appreciated!!

Now, off to see teh book chat...

Evil Editor said...

I'm not crazy about horrid or horrible. Across is better unless he goes to numerous places all over the universe.

If Wink is the star of the series, but his name isn't in the titles, it's like each Harry Potter book having a different character in the title, none of them Harry Potter. Maybe each book should be about both Wink and Tony. Kids will come to identify with Tony, not a mouse.

Anonymous said...

Why are you messing with writing the query if you haven't finished the book?


Chris Eldin said...

Anon- Same reason I'm on the blogs.

Thanks EE! That gives me something to think about....

Whirlochre said...

I'm with you on the first paragraph and like the set-up. It's a variation on the Useless Genie theme, but I think you have enough to avoid the cliche trap.

The problem begins when you say 'When they both find themselves in the midst of the most horrible adventure of their lives...' This appears out of nowhere. Either it's the result of Wink's irksome varmint meddling - in which case you should say so - or some external event that unfolds to the detriment of their bizarre symbiosis - in which case you should say so.

So - you dangle a perfectly good idea in front of me and then whisk it away into some vague ether.

After this, I have no idea what your book's actually about.

However, having seen extracts (as NBs, if I recall correctly), I can see there may be mileage in this - so you need to detail 'the most horrible adventure of their lives' in the query' or you won't get heard.

talpianna said...

As for the book title, I'd suggest litotes--something like "A Series of Unfortunate Events."

Kitty said...

What age is considered "middle-grade"?


Stacia said...

I love the title, but agree we need more story details. As for the series being about Winky, how about something like "Tales of Winky: Tony's Horrible..." Which is kind of stinky but you get the idea.

Anon, I start working on a query at the same time as the book, and continue to mess with it throughout the writing. It helps me give the story focus, and gives me plenty of time to fine-tune the query. I don't think I'm the only one, either.

Chris Eldin said...

Thanks Whirlochre! Working on it...

Tal Pal--Got it! Tony's Series of Horribly Unfortunate Events. With Wink.

Kitty, the important thing to remember is not confusing middle grade with middle age. They sound the same. And basically the two age groups act the same. But one knows about sex, and the other doesn't know much.
MG is roughly 8-13 year olds. It's a big time span in terms of reading capabilities, so there are delineations within middle grades.
I'm writing mine for the 8-10 year old set.


Now, can someone seriously give me a title? You'll be footnoted if it's used and if it's published...

Anonymous said...

Don't worry about the title. Whatever you come up with will most likely be changed by your editor, anyway.

Phoenix Sullivan said...

How about:

Tony's Horrible Journey Across the Universe:
Adventure 1 in the 40 Winks Series

Might as well be optimistic :o)

Your first paragraph is good. I really love the bad, bad seed, which is different. Although I do wonder if having a series protag who LIKES getting into trouble will work. If he inadvertently always finds trouble or his efforts always seem to get him into trouble, maybe that would be a better way to go for this age group?

After that, yeah, the query does flounder a bit. And I think when you speak to the series potential, YOU know each book will be Wink and some other kid that's not Tony, but that doesn't come through for the reader. It's kinda implied, but you have to work hard to "get it" and it's doubtful any agent/editor will work that hard for it.

More to come later :o)

GTP 1: *snort*

Gail Dayton said...

The first thing that hit me was that tony's parents and siblings get KILLED. That's a major nightmare for middle-grade aged kids. You might want to mention that they don't stay dead--unless they do, and that makes it a totally different sort of not-so-fun book...

Evil Editor said...

Um...New here, Gail? The blue words in brackets are Evil Editor's asides, meant to convey a message (in this case, "Give us a specific example.") while also being amusing (in this case failing miserably). Ignore the blue to read the author's query letter as it came to EE. In short, you'll be happy to know the bossy, no-good parents are fine.

Polenth said...

In short, you'll be happy to know the bossy, no-good parents are fine.

Maybe the parents did die, and turned into zombies. That'd make them hard to live with. You want to invite your friends round, but you're worried they might find bits of dad's ears on the carpet.

Chris Eldin said...

The first thing that hit me was that tony's parents and siblings get KILLED.
Wink gnawed them through to the bone. Started with the eyes (because his name is Wink and he thought that would be funny) and kept going til it got crunchy.

Welcome to Evil's site. You will soon build up a tolerance to the blue text. :-)

(Sorry, I couldn't resist!)

Sarah Laurenson said...

Forced vegetarianism? Oh Horrors!

Hey Chris - Having thoughts not sure any are coherent. I'm thinking about Bruce Coville and his series that features a different kid in each book. Starts with Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher. So each book title features that MC kid. I think something magical was the common theme. A ring perhaps? Dunno.

My 2 cents - stick with Tony as the focus and sell this book. The series can come along for the ride once you get your foot in the door with this one. Not to say you shouldn't mention the series possibility, but I think focusing on Tony and his story will help here.

Playing with titles can be fun and a pain. I came up with A Treeling Grows in Brookland for one of mine, but I'm not sticking that in a query.

What was Tony's nickname that he hated? Would that help having it in the title? I'll get back to you if I think of anything remotely usable.

Chris Eldin said...

Sarah, Thank you!
I actually met Bruce Coville at a conference two years ago when I first started writing. Have never read any of his books though. But now I will.

Anonymous said...

I love that somebody thought there was a double murder and a frameup job in this children's book.

Welcome to Evil Editor!!!

talpianna said...

Maybe a gimmick tying Tony and Wink together for the series? Otherwise I'd think Tony would take out a TRO against the rotten rodent. Some quest that requires both of them to complete, or something involving Tony that has to happen in order for Wink to straighten out?