Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Face-Lift 644

Guess the Plot


1. When Anastasia suddenly gains the magical power to summon fire, everyone in the city starts blaming her whenever something bad happens. You know, like people being burned alive.

2. Millions of people are entranced by the fairy simulation game "Mystica". But when 14-year-old Brad finds the game running, blood on the monitor, fairy wings on the floor and his parents missing, he realizes something is very, very wrong. Also, a jive-talking goblin.

3. Jane's daughter Sally spends all her time in her room reading epic fantasy and filling notebooks with scribbled fanfic novels. In 1967 this seemed infinitely better than having the girl run around getting high with every long-haired "Beatle" boy in the neighborhood, but now that Sally is in her 60's, Jane wonders if grounding her for life was a mistake.

4. As Reba drowsily toys with the antique bracelet Josh gave her just before he ran off with that bitch, Gwendolyn, and wishes she was in some really cool medieval nunnery instead of the sweltering burbs of Tucson, she dozes off. When she wakes up, she IS in a medieval nunnery -- and snow is blowing through the open window.

5. Mystica is Ellierose's dream: A store devoted to all things mystical and magical. When Avindar, a young faery prince, is hit by a car outside the shop, Ellierose takes care of him. But in doing so, she's angered Tratianna, queen of the Dark Fey. Can Ellierose and Avindar find true love, or will Tratianna destroy them all?

6. Mandy humors her son Timmy when he talks about imaginary playmates: the Knight, the King, the Princess and the Witch. But soon after Timmy starts talking about the Dragon, Mandy hears something in the basement and opens the door. A monstrous reptile runs up the stairs, pursued into the kitchen by an armor-clad man wielding a broadsword.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

MYSTICA is a completed 90,000 word YA fantasy tale where the strong heroine in A GREAT AND TERRIBLE BEAUTY meets the suspense and conflict in CITY OF BONES. [Though I wouldn't even attempt to count the number of times I've advised authors against comparing their work to popular books (as they are invariably wrong, and even if they were right, the editor will assume they're self-deluded and reject), it does no good, so at least let me ask why we need to toss City of Bones into the mix when A Great and Terrible Beauty has plenty of suspense and conflict. Also, there are three (at least) well-known books titled City of Bones. What if I'm familiar only with the wrong Cities?]

Anastasia never believed in ghosts, though they have always haunted her glamorous city. But then she encounters Duncan Fae – a charming druid ordered to suicide for treason years ago. [When you consider how much money has been wasted on junk like electric chairs and guillotines, it's a wonder the idea of sentencing criminals to commit suicide isn't more widespread. "Here's a prescription for sleeping pills. Take the whole bottle and you better not call me in the morning."] When Duncan declares himself her birth father, a deep anger resurfaces from within Anastasia’s memory, enabling her to unlock a power that is more of a curse than a blessing. [What is she angry about?]

Commoners and nobles alike fear her unique ability to summon flames – as well as her inability to tame them – especially when nobles are murdered and orphans vanish without a trace. [Wouldn't there be a trace if she did it, like ashes or charred teeth and bones?] [Wait, I have a suggestion for a better title: City of Bones.] Unsure of whom to trust, yet desperate to save her city, [From what? A few murders and missing orphans doesn't mean the whole city is doomed.] Anastasia must venture into a labyrinth of class war and forbidden love, a world of haunted vaults, abandoned ruins, and extravagant palaces. [Why does she have to venture into these places?] Duncan Fae is willing to do anything for revenge, and murder is just the beginning of his plans. [If murder is just the beginning of your plans for me, I don't really care what you're planning after that.]

My magical realism story captured 1st place in the 2009 Joshua Weinzweig National Postcard Fiction Contest, [Is that a contest for fiction involving a postcard, or fiction written on a postcard?] [I'm considering changing my guidelines to make it mandatory to submit query letters on a postcard. Decisions on requesting manuscripts will be based entirely on whether I like the picture on the front.] [You've heard of NaNoWriMo? I'm starting NaNoPoMo: National Novel on a Postcard Month. Of course it'll be February. If you need 31 days to fill a postcard, you're just not trying.] while my speculative prose poem [Prose poem? Is that an oxymoron?] placed 3rd in the 2009 OddCon Speculative Fiction contest. For more information, please visit my writing blog: __________________________

Thank you for considering my query.



It sounds like it could be a good story, but you aren't telling us enough about . . . the story. Who's being murdered? Random people? People who wronged Duncan?

Are the people chasing Anastasia with torches and pitchforks? Is she in danger, or just investigating? Has her fire summoning caused any disasters? What is her plan to prevent more killing? What's this about forbidden love? In short, What happens in your book? All we know is after Anastasia meets a ghost who claims he's her father, she develops the ability to summon flames, and is suspected when orphans disappear. Does she have a motive for doing what she's suspected of?

Replace your credits, which aren't impressive, with more about your story.


Kelsey (Dominique) Ridge said...

Things were going along very well until she got angry -- sort of without explanation. The next paragraph after that seems to be telling things without giving all of the motivations, which are necessary for me to understand how any of these things are important or interesting.

I like the story. I'd definitely read it.

Matt said...

It sounds like it could be good, but it looks like you tried shortening the query by replacing specific events with vague descriptions.

Just make a slightly longer letter.

Anonymous said...

Does paragraph 1 mean you used someone else's characters, combined with someone else's "world"????

Evil Editor said...

That's what it says, but I'm pretty sure that's not what it means. What it means is, rather than show you my heroine is strong and my story is suspenseful, I'll just name some successful books you may have read.

Anonymous said...

The reference to other books indicates you're recycling used characters etc. That does not distinguish your project from slush. Trunks worldwide are bursting with novels like that. It would be better to create the impression you wrote something Snark would have called "fresh and new".

batgirl said...

So EE's a fan of Libba Bray? But not of Cassandra Clare.

It's not a bad idea to link your book with others, to suggest that you know the market, but some agents find the X meets Y formula to be less helpful than you might think.
Maybe phrase it as something like 'should appeal to readers of Libba Bray and Cassie Clare'.

Evil Editor said...

It never occurs to me to conclude that a writer knows a market just because they can name a book. For instance, I never heard of Libba Bray, yet I managed to convince you I was a fan just by Googling the titles this author mentions.

_*rachel*_ said...

More plot. And if you end up keeping the credits, is it THIS story or another that won the postcard?

Strike the comparisons, please, and clarify the plot.

Of course, all plots are easier to follow without the humorous blue text.

Evil Editor said...

Yes, but who would come here if not for the humor? Not I.

batgirl said...

True, EE, but your hypnotic powers can convince me of pretty much anything, so I'm not sure you're a fair benchmark.
Anyway, yes, I'd suggest fewer specifics in the credits and more specifics in the plot. Maybe consider calling the druid just Duncan in the query, to avoid confusion whether he's human or Fae?

I liked every single Guess-the-plot, by the way - the minions were in fine form for this one.

Phoenix Sullivan said...

Apparently some agents like comparisons and even submit them as part of their deal win blurbs to Publishers Marketplace. And when pitching Hollywood, they are practically de rigeur. But the comparisons do need to make sense. And they need to be pitched to those who like them.

Sorry, but I'm really not sure what's going on in this story and there's not enough voice in the query to keep my interest.

Do please put up a revision!