Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Face-Lift 521

Guess the Plot

A Glitch in Time

1. When Glynda mistakenly adds time to a spell calling for thyme, she has no idea what will happen. But when bubbles start forming in the space-time continuum creating holes in history, she realizes she must fix her mistake or risk having her very existence snuffed out.

2. Lemuel Morkwort, master criminal from the future, has come back in time and threatened to blow up everything with his superbomb, unless he's made supreme ruler. Can cowardly Bill and dim bulb Walter save the world, or are we all doomed? Also, telepathic crabs.

3. When Time Magazine intern Carly Vixen accidentally replaces all references to President Bush with "Mister Poopy-Head," the vice president invites Time's Editor-in-Chief on a hunting trip. Hilarity ensues as Carly crashes the hunting party to try and save her boss from getting shot in the face.

4. Rawle Penderton finally finished coding on the top-secret Welles Project, but before he can relax, he's pulled back in. A bug has resulted in a scientific expedition being lost somewhen between the Crusades and the Revolutionary War. Now Pendleton has to go against military brass, the software management team, and a sexy saboteur as he tries to find one misspelling in fourteen million lines of code.

5. When 1 million solid gold Rolexes are made with thirteen hours on the face, quality control overseer Robyn's afraid she might be out of a job--until she starts a hot new romance with ad exec Edwin. Will their "There Aren't Enough Hours In The Day" campaign convince the world to change for them?

6. Physicist Ronnie Tate discovers that a glitch in the space-time continuum will cause November 4, 2008 simply not to exist. When he tries to alert the press, he's whisked off by the Secret Service to Area 51. Can Ronnie--aided by scientist Cindy Bigguns--escape and warn the populace?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor:

Two twelve-year old boys find that traveling through time is not a straightforward matter in A Glitch in Time, a novel for readers in the 10-13-year-old range. [That would be a better hook if it were generally assumed that traveling through time is a straightforward matter. As it is, it's like trying to hook us by saying A teenager discovers that Canada is North of the United States in my geographical coming-of age novel, Searching for Saskatchewan.]

Walter and Bill are best friends, despite having little in common. Walter is an ace student, prone to thinking deeply before doing anything. Bill is an obsessive baseball fan, and likely to act without doing any thinking at all. [This is too general to be interesting. "Doing anything," and "likely to act," tell us little. Specific examples would get the point across just as well. Consider the lyrics to The Patty Duke Show theme song:

Meet Cathy, who's lived most everywhere,
From Zanzibar to Barclay Square.
But Patty's only seen the sights
A girl can see from Brooklyn Heights — What a crazy pair!

Where Cathy adores a minuet,
The Ballet Russes, and crepe suzette,
Our Patty loves to rock and roll,
A hot dog makes her lose control — What a wild duet!

See how, through specific examples we get the point that Patty and Cathy are one pair of matching bookends, different as night and day? Do you think that show would have lasted more than four episodes if the lyrics had been

Meet Cathy who deeply thinks things through,
Whenever there's something she must do.
But Patty doesn't think a lot;
She always acts without a thought — What unstraightforward opposites!

Also note that the song contrasts dances with dances, foods with foods and homes with homes. You contrast scholarship with baseball obsession. It's like saying they're different because one likes chocolate ice cream and the other likes NASCAR.]

Their story, told in alternating first-person chapters, begins one summer morning, when they find a strange contraption that turns out to be a time machine. Soon the two of them are traveling backwards and forwards in time, and getting into all sorts of unlikely adventures. Bill finds himself tangling with British spies during the American Revolution. Walter gets captured by giant telepathic crabs in the far distant future, [This makes it sound like they're using the time machine one at a time. What's Walter doing while Bill is tangling with spies?] and is nearly thrown into a giant soup pot. [Giant telepathic crabs have notoriously bad aim.] However, there is more going on than fun and games and being eaten by crustaceans. Lemuel Morkwort, a power-mad criminal from the future, is also using the time machine. [How can Morkwort get access to the time machine when the kids are zooming all over time in it?] Morkwort also has a terrible weapon -- a bomb that can blow up everything -- which he intends to use to blackmail the world into making him the supreme ruler. [Anyone can claim to have a bomb that blows up everything. Proving that it works is the hard part.]

When Bill and Walter manage to steal the bomb from him, [You'd think a bomb capable of blowing up everything would be too heavy for two kids to carry. Apparently not.] Morkwort retaliates by kidnapping Bill’s sister, Jenny, and taking her back to the age of the dinosaurs, where he will keep her unless he gets his weapon back. [I've got a better idea, Morkwort. Use the time machine to go back to before the kids stole your bomb, and tell yourself to put it somewhere where they can't find it. Not only is it more efficient, you don't have to worry about getting eaten by an Allosaurus.] In order to rescue Jenny and defeat Morkwort, the two boys find they have to do the impossible: Walter will have to be brave, and Bill will have to be smart. [According to my dictionary, the word "impossible" doesn't come with much wiggle room. They'd better come up with a plan B.]

Time Twist is a 80,000-word novel, [Whoa! What happened to A Glitch in Time? You forgot your own title already? Do we need to come up with a new set of GTPs now?] and the first in a projected trilogy of books about Walter and Bill. Its mixture of humor and adventure will make it appealing [will appeal] to middle-grade readers who read Lemony Snicket. It is my first novel, but I have had my short play "The Little Death" published by Heuer Publishing of Cedar Rapids.

Thank you for your consideration,


Was Morkwort just abandoning Jenny in the time of the dinosaurs?

Possibly a better hook than time travel isn't straightforward would be to mention that the boys must stop a power-mad criminal from the future from blowing up the world.

I'd start this when they find the time machine, and end the plot portion with what they specifically need to do. Being brave and smart is vague. Besides, it goes without saying that heroes should be brave and smart.

I assume there's an explanation for why the time machine is sitting there waiting for Bill and Walter to find it.


Kiersten White said...

Nitpicky things--instead of saying your book will appeal to 10-13 year olds, just say middle grade.

Also, maybe you are actually aiming for young YA, because 80,000 words is pretty long for middle grade.

I'd jump that information up to the first paragraph so that your last paragraph can focus on you and personalization you want to add for specific agents.

You might want to be wary of comparing my book to Lemony Snicket, as this sounds nothing like his books. I know you're comparing the appeal, but I'd still avoid it. You've already said what age group it's for; the reference to Snicket is unnecessary.

Also, in the bio paragraph you have a lot of passive verbs. "I have had my short play 'The Little Death' by..." should be "My short play, 'The Little Death," was published by..."

And did anyone else read the names Walter and Bill and think Grumpy Old Men? Maybe that's just me.

But the story sounds fun and definitely action-packed.

Kiersten White said...

Also, I hear that geographical coming of age stories are really hot right now...

(Loved the commentary on this one, EE.)

DD3123 said...

"Besides, it goes without saying that heroes should be brave and smart." -EE

Unless they are zombies. But then again, I suppose it's all relative.

Sarah Laurenson said...

I immediately thought of Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, so maybe you should change the names to something that is not reminiscent of this or Grumpy Old Men.

It sounds like it could be a great action adventure, but there are a lot of plot holes in the query (as EE so nicely pointed out).

And you aren't leading with the strongest hook. Time travel on it's own is no big deal. Saving the world from the futuristic madman while bouncing around in time is much more interesting. Though that reminds me of Time Bandits.

PJD said...

I agree with all that's said, especially the bit about "good job EE."

Downplay the time travel as it seems adventure is the crux of the book, and as EE's comments point out, focusing too much on time travel might get people distracted by the theoretical aspects of it. You want them drawn in by the adventure.

Also, unless your style and voice are very much like the Lemony Snicket series, you might want to steer clear of that. Just because a couple of kids who liked that also like your manuscript, that doesn't mean they should be compared.

Otherwise, Kiersten and Sarah make good points. And listen to the wise sage (or rather, read his blue text with great attentiveness).

writtenwyrdd said...

I think there are some cool elements here, but it sounds like you have three time machines and the characters don't interact. I'm sure this is not the case, so perhaps revise the plot description so we know something of what goes on in terms of plot complications. The need to rescue the sister is fine; but what about the sister? Is she really small and helpless or can she act on her own as a not-helpless victim?

I also agree with what others said about calling it a middle grade book and not comparing yourself to Lemony Snickett.

Good luck in the revisions.

pacatrue said...

Others have covered my query thoughts already, so I' just like to add that I prefer Time Twist to A Glitch in Time, just because the latter is way close to A Wrinkle in Time. Though this could let you name the last one FUBARed in Time.

Julie Weathers said...

Fudge, I was going to play with this tonight.

Kiersten White said...

Wow, Julie, that's quite the avatar!

none said...

Maybe it's just me, but going from threatening to destroy the whole world to keeping a little girl trapped in a primordial swamp is something of a...well. Anyway, it all strikes me as highly implausible.

Julie Weathers said...

I pretty much agree with what's already been said, so no need beating a dead horse.

The bomb that will blow up the world has been done so much. I'm getting visions of Boris and Natasha here.

Having said that, setting kids off on wild adventures is fun. It's just up to the writer to make them wild and interesting as well as different.

Wow, Julie, that's quite the avatar!~

Thanks, Kiersten. I decided since Robin is doing sweet and innocent I would also.

talpianna said...

Hey! I'm sweet and innocent.

For an insectivore.

I agree with the critiques here and would add that there seem to be too many adventures for one book, unless it's at least as long as a Harry Potter. I'd cut a few of the gimmicks and save them for possible sequels. Maybe getting the time machine away from the villain in this book; holding the sister hostage in the next one; and the bomb in the third one. You then have the option of a recurring villain or an assortment.

BTW, EE: Despite the pronunciation, it's spelled "Berkeley Square." You know, where the nightingale sang?

Evil Editor said...

You don't think I typed those lyrics from memory, based on pronunciation? EE would omit them before he'd go to that much trouble. I merely copied them from one of the many sites that come up when you Google Patty Duke Show lyrics. A further check reveals that the other lyrics sites spell it Barclay as well, which may mean the lyricist spelled it Barclay. Possibly the lyricist was referring to one of the nearly 200,000 places (most of them apartment houses) that come up when you Google Barclay Square. After all, it's hardly worthy of remark that Cathy once lived in Berkeley Square, when she was from Great Britain.

Bonnie said...

Shoot, I was hoping it was going to be Glynda messing with the thyme. That sounds like fun.

talpianna said...

EE, this shows why you should not rely on Googled lyrics without checking carefully.

"Berkeley Square" is important because it's a classy address, as "Seven Dials," for example, isn't.