Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Face-Lift 676

Guess the Plot


1. When the package arrives, Ernestine believes it is her long-overdue oven-mitts, until a vaporous genie wafts out and volunteers to fix her problems with Stan. Unsure about trusting her love-life to a mirage, she suggests they start with a new career in optometry and the genie agrees. Hilarity ensues.

2. When Santa and the reindeer crash on Christmas Eve, all the cavemen are excited about the sudden abundance of free food. Mugoo fires up the barbeque while Santa searches the snow for his broken time turner so he can get back to the right century and save Christmas. Plus, seven angry elves.

3. Laura Lowman is a genius high school student. Bullied mercilessly, she welcomes the chance to join a local community organization for other brilliant but asocial teens. When it turns out the organization is planning a bloody revenge on the dumber students, will Laura join in or help her classmates?

4. "Gifted" Anna Foster has to build Wankel rotary engines in the cellar blindfolded just to get her parents' attention. She's ready to end it all, until science club co-geek Brian Flanders spots her in the drug store and stays her self-destructive hand as it reaches for the blond hair dye.

5. Fresh out of high school, Celeste Hopewell is offered a position leading an organization that serves people with supernatural powers. What the heck, it's gotta be more interesting than going to college.

6. Something sinister is afoot when the insurance office does its Secret Santa drawing and everyone draws Lucretia's name. Lucretia gets 35 gifts -- and a bullet in the head. Only mailroom boy Clark Cooper can both solve the mystery and deal with the Returns office at Macy's.

Original Version

Dear Ms. ___________,

I recently read the write up on the Paranormalcy book deal to HarperTeen in Publishers Weekly. I believe that you will find my book fits in a similar vein commercially.

Celeste Hopewell, a telepathic ‘09 high school graduate, is forced to discern [decide] whether she should act for the greater good or pursue her own dreams when she is recruited as the successor to an ancient and clandestine organization [One person is recruited as the successor to an entire organization?] that protects the secrecy of Gifteds, a race of people who have supernatural powers. [TMI] [Usually when I say TMI it's because people are telling me things about themselves that I really don't want to know. In this case, however, it's because that sentence contains more information than the average agent can process without losing consciousness.] She finds love, both encouraged and forbidden, in two vastly different men and is forced to choose between the two [If you're given two choices, and one of them is forbidden, there's no problem at all:
when the existence of Gifteds and humans is threatened. GIFTED is a 90,000 word young adult adventure novel steeped in romance with a strong female protagonist.

I started my own business at age 22, Puppy Cake, LLC, using my degree in International Business and Marketing from Grove City College (’07). [TMI.] Channeling my vivacious imagination [No no no no no. If you want the agent to know you have a vivacious imagination, demonstrate it by summarizing a vivaciously imaginative plot.] and the flexibility of entrepreneurship allowed me to write my first novel. I currently live with my husband and two [extremely fat] dogs in Pittsburgh, PA.

I greatly appreciate your time and consideration. More information about GIFTED and the first three chapters are available on my website _____________. I am prepared to send the full manuscript upon request. [If there's any information on your website that would make me want to read your book, it should be in the query where there's a chance I'll see it.]



You have three sentences about you, and two about what happens in your book. Admittedly one of the latter is long enough to be a paragraph, but all we know is that Celeste is a high school grad who must decide between the good of the many and the good of the one, and between the sexy bad boy and the nerdish nice guy. And we already know nice guys finish last.

I want to see a mix of eight simple and compound sentences in which you tell me what happens. Here are some things you might bring in: Why is Celeste chosen? What does she use her telepathy for? What are these supernatural powers the Gifteds have? Is one of them Aquaman? Who are these two men vying for Celeste's love? And most importantly, what is it that's threatening the existence of Gifteds and humans?

Protecting the secrecy of the Gifteds' existence doesn't seem so important now that I know everyone's about to die. I thus assume revealing their existence is what puts everyone at risk. If that's the crux of your plot, explain it. What's the danger, who's the bad guy, and what's our plan? We do have a plan, right, a million-to-one shot at survival?

If you're an ancient organization charged with keeping a secret from the world, the last thing you're gonna do is tell a seventeen-year-old kid the secret.


_*rachel*_ said...

True--why don't they recruit her to be a low-level office gopher and give the leadership to someone who's been with them a lot longer?

Scrap it all. Genre, wordcount, title, audience (if it's YA or younger), plot. Publishing credits if you have them. But the plot is what you need the most.

Anonymous said...

Celeste's dilemmas are too general (greater good versus own dreams describes every fantasy story ever; safe versus forbidden love describes every romance ever). You need the specifics of your story because it's the way you've handled these two themes that make your story appealing. Similarly, the plot as given (teen is heir to a supernatural secret crucial to human existence) is too general.

Some things you may not realize that you haven't conveyed to the reader: Why Celeste? How are humans threatened? By whom? Are the Gifted the threateners or the solution? Why do the supernaturally powerful need a teenager to protect their secrecy; why can't they handle that themselves? Is Celeste Gifted? How?

I don't think you need the bio paragraph - it tells nothing about writing credits and that's all they need to know at the query stage (they keep saying). Most advice I see says skip it if you have no writing credits.

Eric P. said...

So let's see. There's a love triangle, an ancient secret organization, a teenager with superpowers... and the fate of the world depends on the romantic choices of a high school girl. These are all seriously shopworn motifs. When can we get to the vivaciously imaginative parts, please?

Since so much depends on her, I have to assume there's no one around with greater supernatural gifts (such as controlling the weather or flying or super-strength or something). But her telepathic ability can't even help her figure out which one of her crushes really cares for her. This is not looking good for humanity.

"Gifted" reminds me of those classes they put the smart kids in and made us solve logic puzzles. So they're ancient, they're superhuman, and they're working on vocabulary exercises?

Sarah from Hawthorne said...

I was really hoping it was 3.

To me, this reads more like a cover letter with a resume than a query letter. Your focus at this point should be selling the product - the book - not selling yourself. You make the case that you're a savvy businesswoman, but that doesn't say anything about whether or not you can write a book.

Start over, and keep this for your author bio if and when "Gifted" gets published.

Wes said...

Author, you are getting good advice.

Chelsea Pitcher said...

Because this is young adult, the use of the word "men" bothered me. Are Celeste's love interests much older than she is? Or am I reading too much into this?

Anonymous said...

Sorry, but yeah, plot that ranks low on the originality scale but that's not a problem for some of the big Romance publishers who actually value the ability to produce books taylored for narrowly defined niche markets. They need oodles of nurse romances, single mother romances, secretary romances, XXX lesbian werewolf motorbiker romances, etc. So maybe you can request author guidelines from Harlequin or whoever publishes that stuff and see if this fits one of their labels and if not, adjust to fit.

Shelton said...

On the other hand it made me google Puppy Cake and check out your products, so good job with a free plug at least.

Kathleen said...

you've received great advice above, which I can't top.

And even though I agree with the suggestions to jettison the bio paragraph, I can't resist commenting on this sentence "Channeling my vivacious imagination and the flexibility of entrepreneurship allowed me to write my first novel."

Are you channeling the flexibility of entrepreneurship? or is both channeling and the flexibility what allowed you to write your first novel. If the former, it's weird. Can you even channel flexibility? Either way, you have serious agreement issues as channeling is a verb and flexibility is not. Or "my imagination" is a noun, and flexibility is not. It reads very awkwardly.

I admit agreement is a pet peeve of mine, but I think it's important because, IMHO, it's an indicator that the writer understands language. Mistakes on agreement are a sign that the writer doesn't.

good luck!

batgirl said...

Besides the lack of specifics (what do the Gifted need to be protected _from_ if they have supernatural powers? who/what are Celeste's love interests?) I was worried by what look like word usage errors. EE noted 'discern' where 'decide' or 'distinguish' should be, and I suspect 'vivacious imagination' should be 'vivid imagination'. In the case of 'successor', I have no idea what word it should be.
If this malapropism figures into the text of the novel, the copyeditors won't be happy.

Anonymous said...

XXX lesbian werewolf motorbiker romances

*raises eyebrow*

So where can I find thess? You know, for, uh, market research purposes.