Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Face-Lift 721

Guess the Plot

Immortal Island

1. On an island inhabited by warlocks, werecreatures, shapeshifters, witches, etc., Sarah's life is constantly in peril. How many times can she expect the strange angelic man who's actually a vampire to save her neck?

2. Isla de Santa Susanna is not found on any maps. When fat, homely Isabel washes up on its beach after a plane crash, she's surprised to find a colony of people only too glad to welcome her. But are they normal . . . or vampires?

3. When a plane crash lands Marsha and her two friends on a strange island, they know they're in major trouble. But, they didn't expect that trouble to include hiding from a mad scientist intent on capturing them to use as subjects in his human immortality experiments. Are they fated to die in pursuit of eternal life?

4. 13-year-old Danny dreads the annual summer vacation on Immortal Island. But this year is going to be different, what with the rumors of buried treasure, disappearing gardeners, suspiciously smart dogs, and the help of a cute pyromaniac named Kimberly.

5. In an alternate-history 1970’s, a small island off the English coast becomes a haven for wannabe revolutionaries and small-time crooks. When an international arms incident catapults the island into the spotlight, thief Jerome and rabble-rouser David must choose between their ideals and their love for each other.

6. The network has spoken, and they've voted off survival reality show host Guy Sly. In a plot of cold revenge Guy orchestrates a mass kidnapping of network big wigs and plants them on an remote island full of immortal beings. Which fat cat will be dinner first? Will Guy redeem himself during sweeps week? Vampires, zombies and faeries galore!

Original Version

Dear Evil editor,

Please consider my mss that I have completed entitled, ‘IMMORTAL ISLAND - Spellbound/Midnight Masquerade’ first book is part one and two. [Your first sentence is a sure deal killer--and not just because it isn't a sentence. The title is three titles; choose one. We don't care about parts one and two. Ms. is the abbreviation for manuscript. My mss that I have completed would be more concise as my completed ms.] [The good news is that you've got an excellent shot at the Least Effective Opening Sentence Award (an Evil Editor coffee mug), though you're in a tight battle with Face-Lift 333.]

It is about a young woman named Sarah Daniels who discovers secrets about her friends and family that changes [change] her life forever.

Sarah begins having visions that she cannot explain. At first they appear as dreams, but when she has them while awake she realizes what they really are. [Which is?] The first vision she has is of the parents [her parents'] death, when they don't return from their vacation she goes to the town sheriff to report them missing. [The sheriff of her town or of the town where they went for vacation?] She meets a handsome yet mysterious Undersheriff



named Chase Gavenport, who she has a unique attraction to. Things slowly start to unravel every day that she spends on the island. [What island? Immortal Island? I had no idea they were on an island.] Then a strange man dressed in all black begins to stalk her while at her parents [parents'] place. (Zadkiel). [Zadkiel? Is that the name of her parents' place? The name of the stalker? An exclamation, like Gadzooks?] When he finally reveals himself to her he tries to kill her but Chase comes to her rescue. They become close and Chase eventually reveals to her that he is a vampire and also tells her what the man in black wants. [(Zounds).]

Sarah’s ex-boyfriend decide [decides] to complicate things even more by adding himself to the equation. He reveals that he is still in love with her and wants her back. [The word "reveals" appears more often in the last four sentences than it does in the entire book of Revelations.] Sarah is torn and can’t decide what she really wants. [No need to say the same thing twice in one sentence.] They [Who?] share a house just off campus [Campus? I had no idea they were on a campus.] with close friends and things start to really heat up. She must choose but who will it be, the vampire who brings with him a life filled with uncertainty or her best friend and ex-boyfriend who loves her for everything he thinks she is. [Which is what?]

But now preternatural beings of Sarah's new world seem to be drawn to her. Her life is in constant peril, she cannot turn to her human friends. With witches, warlocks, were-animals, shape-shifters, [zombies, sharks,] to name a few, come to claim, and the power that dwells inside her begins to grow. [That sentence made no sense to me, apparently because I'm unfamiliar with the expression "come to claim."] A power Sarah does not know how to control.

Now Chase has disappeared and no one will give her any answers as to his whereabouts. [When you ask someone where the vampire is, you seldom get a straight answer.] Who will keep her safe from the nightmare that has become her life. Wait a minute there is always a white knight…Right? Erick the strange angelic man. Who always seems to rise to the occasion mainly when she is in harm’s way? Three times he saves her but why, he is a vampire too. [Making your most compelling character a vampire is a mistake. I liked him better when he was just Erick the strange angelic man. In fact, my desire to read more about Erick the strange angelic man leads me to insert this week's writing exercise here. Write a scene involving Evil Editor and Erick the strange angelic man. Don't make Erick a vampire. 300 words max; deadline: Sunday, 10 AM eastern.]

Then one night after giving up all hope she receives a mysterious letter. A Midnight Masquerade ball? Being thrown by the vilest of creatures out there. He has no sympathy for human kind and would rather rid his world of them. [Naturally she accepts the invitation.] Sarah must do what she can to save her life and the life now inside her as she comes face to face with the man who will take her life…Chase? [You're asking me?]

Sarah survives the Masquerade but not before her unborn child or is it children are infected with vampire blood. Now it's a waiting game. To see whether or not her children will live and be vampires killing her in the process with their savage birth, or if they are healthy and unharmed by the blood that was so easily given to her by the same vampire who on many occasions attempted [to] take her life. Ambrose and Sarah will forever be connected from that day forward. [Ambrose? Who's Ambrose?] Now she must tell the father that his babies could be vampires. How will Jeff [Jeff? Who's Jeff?] take the news that vampires exist and that his unborn children may be one [two] of them?

Turns out that the twins are affected by the vampire virus yet in different ways. Alaina is half vampire and half human, she prefers to drink blood. Wyatt is human but has all the abilities a vampire has, [If you have all the abilities a vampire has, you're pretty much a vampire.] however he is more unique than they know... His blood is the key, the cure to vampirism.

This is four parts all together book two is complete but not ready for viewing just yet.

Please contact me if you would like to review my complete mss.

word count -> 84,328

Urban Fantasy fiction for YA or Adults. There are intimate scenes that can be altered to fit YA.



A query letter should fit on one page. Trash the whole thing, start over, limit your plot summary to ten sentences.

It's riddled with errors. This leads the reader to assume the book is also riddled with errors. Even if cleaning up the query got a request for the manuscript, no one will read far into a manuscript full of spelling, usage and grammar errors.

Your opening hook is that this is a book about a woman who discovers secrets about her friends and family that change her life forever. Her family isn't in the query at all as they disappear while on vacation and never get mentioned again, and the only friend in the query is her ex-boyfriend, and I didn't see any secrets about him.

The hook might be something like this: Pregnant with twins, Sarah Daniels attends a masquerade ball at which she is bitten by a vampire. The pregnancy, birth and aftermath sound like they could make an interesting story. The witches and werecreatures and island and parents and campus and man in black and Zadkiel are cluttering the query. And possibly the book.


150 said...

I was reading this at work and actually had to close the browser because it was getting too funny.

Anonymous said...

whoGave up the struggle to get through that about 1/3 through, partly because I looked to see how much more there was, and it was too daunting. More expertise in English grammar seems to be needed. Maybe you can find a class.

Dave Fragments said...

GTP #4 sounds like lots of fun for a MG or YA novel.

But to the query...
Is there an English as second language problem here? I've had to help coworkers translate scientific articles and I was getting all sorts of DEJA VU while reading this.
If that's the case, the writer needs an reading group or editor to whip this into shape.

Unknown said...

It seemed like you were trying to cram too much teen angst into the query and possibly the book.
This was really hard to follow. You have an MC that can't make up her mind about which guy to date but she's sleeping with at least one of them and gets pregnant. Seems to me that she made up her mind. Otherwise she might be too much of a nit for me to care about.

Try to condense the main plot line down to 8-15 words. It's hard but it helps focus you and your query.

Khazar-khum said...

Undersheriff? You mean Deputy?

And all this happens in less than 85,000 words? Wow.

_*rachel*_ said...

Ditch everything and start over. Be clear and concise, and go slowly. Double-check every comma, word, and sentence.

Other than the plot, you need your wordcount rounded to the nearest 1000, genre (just say Urban Fantasy), and publishing credits (don't worry if you don't have any).

EE's right--I do wonder about the novel after reading this. First drafts are allowed to be messy. For your sake, I'm assuming this query is a first draft, unedited. That's fine. Start over.

What I really worry is that this query has been edited as much as your novel has. If you haven't yet spent months, and I mean MONTHS, editing your novel, you're not ready to query.

Anon 12:05 had some good advice. A grammar class, writing class, or critique group could help a lot. I'd recommend them in that order.

I know this must be hard, but keep working at it. Someday you'll look back at this and laugh. We all do that with some of our work.

Eric said...

Agreed-- Do yourself a big favor and devote at least a solid year of your life to studying the craft of writing and English grammar. (What are they teaching them in schools these days?) Take a class, find a tutor, whatever you like. You will be very glad you did.

Whoever came up with the idea that vampires are angelic, attractive, and romantic? Oh, right.

However, I do hope we will see a lot more of Erick the Strange Angelic Man around here. (I almost fell over laughing when his picture came up, by the way.)

Steve Wright said...

I'm afraid I can't add anything to what others have said; this is one heck of a mess, and your best bet is to scrap the whole thing and start over.

The errors in basic English are a worrying sign; you really, really need to work on these. The query letter is your book's introduction to an agent or a publisher, and you only get one chance to make a first impression. (And the thought that the book might be filled with the same sorts of errors... well, I find that thought too terrifying to contemplate.)

Chelsea Pitcher said...

Awww, the picture of Erick the Strange Angelic Man is precious. I love it.

Author, I would like to know how Sarah gets from searching for her possibly dead parents to trying to decide which guy to choose. This sounds like a mix of the mystery and fantasy genres, which could be really interesting. I just need a bit more about how things are connected.

Xiexie said...

As to what everyone else has said, I co-sign.

Follow their advice. This was absolutely confusing.

Stick and Move said...

I don't intend this in a mean-spirited way, but the query reads like someone who only knows "texting" grammar, with the omission of commas, semis, periods, etc.

Author, don't let the critical comments here discourage your desire to create. Take the good advice along with your lumps. Learn how to use the tools of your craft. Good luck and keep writing.

Stacia said...

The hell with a scene. I want to write a whole novel in which Erik the Strange Angelic Man figures prominently.

SL Ross / Sabrina Ross said...

Thanks, I didnt edit my query like th way I did my novel. I have been working on it for over a year the novel not the query. The query I have re-written SEVERAL times with 4 different formats, and I get its too long or not long enough. OR doens't describe enough or I have info that doesn't follow. but how do I get all that in the query to make sense. EG; like with jeff he is an important character, but I say something about him in two lines. he is the ex-boyfriend and father of the babies. ERick is half vampire and half angel. I didn't want to give that away right away so I call him the angelic man. so how do I not give away but give away the plot, of the story to make it work in a query. So far the hardest part of writing is the bloody query!
thanks for all your comments. I know you cant 100% judge the novel on a query, just like you cant judge a worker bye their lousy resume skills. I have had others comment in other forums and had less negitive feedback but this was ths latest rewrtie for me and i was frustated at the same time I do plan to re-write it again just need to figure out how........ the novel itself has been edited several times in the past year. With an english friend of mine. maybe its time see looks at my query letter.

Kelsey (Dominique) Ridge said...

This is WAY too long. I'd suggest cutting most of the back story and simplifying all of the subplots. The query should feel punchy and short (Max 300 words), so I wonder how you fit so much plot in such a short book. Now I'm just wondering how you wrote a book under 100K.

By the by, word counts should be expressed in the nearest 1000.

Adam Heine said...

Agree with all of the above, and:

I was unclear as to whether this was the synopsis for book one or both books or parts one and two or what. The query letter needs to only be about one book. If there are more books, you can say, "IMMORTAL ISLAND is a standalone novel with series potential," and that's about it.

Don't say you're working on the sequel. Don't even talk about the sequel. If Book One is not standalone, make it so if you can. It's very difficult for debut authors to sell more than one book at a time; there's no guarantee anyone will want the first one let alone the sequel.

Steve Wright said...

Half vampire and half angel? How does that work, exactly? (I'm guessing his parents spent a lot of time in marriage guidance....)

Tanvi said...

Judging from your query, and the comment you left, Sabrina, grammar is a problem.
If you could only work at it, you'll see for yourself how to clear up this mess.

SL Ross / Sabrina Ross said...

Immortal Island - Part One

okay so here is one that is 235 words. it is just about part one which is what someone else where suggested.

~Sarah’s parents live on an island called, Coffman’s Isle. What she doesn’t know, is that it is full of immortals. Sarah has visions of people and places she has never seen before. Her best friend Jeff; is also her college roommate and ex-boyfriend, who doesn’t hide the fact that he still loves her. Sarah’s parents are missing, so she goes to the Coffman’s isle police department to report it. That’s where she runs into the mysterious deputy named Chase. They have an instant attraction, but he appears to be secretive. Things become very hectic and Sarah’s life is in constant peril. There is a man in black named Zadkiel, who appears out of nowhere whenever she is alone. Chase tells her that Zadkiel is a vampire which he knows because he is one also. Chase is summoned to the council for breaking the law, leaving Sarah to fend for herself. She meets a high priestess, who is murdered by a pack of werewolves before they are able to piece everything together. With every turn there is a life or death situation, which forces Sarah to face the man who wants her dead. Sarah is at the end of her rope and the police cannot find her parents. Chase hasn’t returned from the council and now Zadkiel has requested her attendance to his masquerade, where she has no choice but to play his game or die. ~

end of part one. ~<- inbetween these is all i send to agent.->~
pls feel free to comment this one

batgirl said...

Sabrina, it's okay to give away the plot in a query letter. Agents and editors want some proof that your story HAS a plot and an ending.

So you want to provide the _main_ plotline and an idea how it ties up. Who is your main character - Sarah? What does Sarah want? What does she _do_ in the story?
Or is the story about the twins and Sarah's adventures are backstory?

Sarah Ahiers said...

well this is better, based on the fact that it's shorter, but it still needs a lot of work.

One thing you need to work on is your showing verses telling.
Don't tell us her life has gotten hectic, show us how it's gotten hectic.
There is so much you can cut, just based on your telling - you write "Sarah’s parents live on an island called, Coffman’s Isle. What she doesn’t know, is that it is full of immortals." this is pure telling. You could probably cut these this completely. Starting the Query about how Sarah has visions of unknown people and places is actually a pretty good hook (though I have no idea how this fits into the plot of the book...)

And who is Erik? He's not even in this new Query - I'm so confused.

It sounds to me like there's 1-2 storyline conflicts, the MC has to find her parents, the MC has to find who is trying to kill her.
Focus on one of these and build the query around it.

you wrote "I know you cant 100% judge the novel on a query, just like you cant judge a worker bye their lousy resume skills" but the problem with this statement is, the Query letter is not just showing the agent what the book is about, it's also showing the agent what your writing is like. As a writer you will, and should, be judged on the Query.

I think you should scrap the whole thing and build a new query based on the character's motivation and the story conflict.
Aim for under 300 words, anything else is too long.

Ellie said...

I agree with everything batgirl said. I'm not sure if the problem is just with the query or with the story itself, but Sarah comes across as very passive. The whole plot looks like things just happening to her: a vampire following her, Erick saving her from every danger, an invitation to a masquerade. What does she actually DO?

You should be able to fill in the blanks: Sarah wants/needs A, so to get it, she does B. This causes C consequence, so she tries to fix it/overcome it by doing D. Now she'll get X if she succeeds, Y if she fails, and has Z standing in her way.

Sarah Laurenson said...

Writing the query is damn hard. I agree. Sometimes it does seem to be harder than the book. The trick is to start simplifying. First, try taking out all of the other characters and just bring it down to Sarah. You don't have to include everyone in the query and it just makes it too hard to do.

Here's a 152 word example. It includes some of the other characters, but the main focus is on Sarah.

In Sarah’s dreams, her parents die. When she cannot reach them, she travels to their island home and discovers they have vanished. This is not the first time her dreams have come true, but this is one vision she doesn’t want to believe. She reports their disappearance to the very attractive deputy, who also happens to be a vampire. The longer Sarah remains on the island, the more she realizes it’s overrun with werewolves, vampires and other assorted immortals.

Working with the local high priestess, Sarah tries to piece together what happened to her parents. Solving this mystery puts her in constant danger, especially from one vampire, Zadkiel, who loves to stalk her. The deputy is dealing with legal problems of his own. The high priestess is murdered by werewolves. And now Zadkiel’s requested her attendance at his masquerade ball. Sarah’s left with no choice but to play his game or die.

I don't know how true this is to your story and it's choppy and still needs work, but maybe this can help you to focus your query down to the simplest version.

Adam Heine said...

This isn't directly about the query, Sabrina, but it's in the interest of helping you become a better writer. I read the novel excerpt on your blog, and I see a big disparity between your comments/posts/query drafts and that excerpt. Namely, the excerpt has few (or no) errors, while the former are riddled with them.

Now I realize that the excerpt has been edited repeatedly, probably with help from multiple people. But even so, the message coming across -- on your blog, in your comments, and in your query -- is that you don't care about writing well.

Now, I believe you do care, as evidenced by the near-perfect excerpt. But I think you would do yourself a great service by putting that much care into everything you write, even blog posts and comments that "don't matter."

Compare your comments to all the other comments here. The other comments aren't perfect, but there is a huge difference (in terms of spelling/grammar errors) between your comments and the others. I'm really, really not trying to put you down or make fun of you or anything like that. I really want to help you. Choose to care about everything you write, and it will show in the stuff that matters.

If I'm coming across as an arrogant jerk (a risk I'm taking, I know), please forgive me. That's not my intent. I just want to help a fellow writer. It's the only reason I come here.

Well, that and Evil Editor makes me laugh.

SL Ross / Sabrina Ross said...

WOW, okay the query is under 300 words as of what i posted its 235 exactly. and yes I take more care in writing my novel than I do my comments or blog entries. however I do look for spelling errors and such cause there is nothing worse than trying to read something and it is riddled with spelling errors. With my blog I am not trying to win an award so if its not perfect I dont let it upset me. the blog isn't what I am trying to publish. my novel is what I nit pick constantly and change. and work on.

BATGIRL -> the thing is, the book is in two parts and the first part is everything that I put in the recent query... Erick doesn't show up till the second part of the book and people have said to me ->who cares if its in two parts just say what its about, so if I put the query in for both parts the query ends up being over 300 words, well more like 700 words to explain all that happenes. so I am quering the first part and stating that it is in two parts.

Sarah is the MC, Chase is the one she chooses and it is clear in the book who she chooses. Jeff is her ex and he tries to complicate things for her. first book is about her becoming aware of her special abilities and the supernatural world around her. PLus in the meantime does what she can to find answers as to where her parents are. which she doesnt till the end of part two. and dont forget all the attempts at her life.

If I could write a query in point form it would probably be clearer and shorter. lol
I have one agent reading my manuscriptright now. she recieved a completly different query than the two I posted. I am very nervous but I still plan to polish my query in case she says no. or says exactly what ya'll are saying. I have had several read my story and didnt point out as many errors as my query and some were from a crit group who were english majors and found minor errors which was nice to hear. and yes I have a habit of telling rather than showing. that is one thing they pick out and what is great about the crit groups I am in, is they highlight the mistake area so I can work with it.
so I am looking to make my work better, I dont think it is perfect and that is why I am in crit groups. I love to write and my goal is to share it with everyone else.

thanks to all. :)

batgirl said...

Sarah, that was damn good! (word ver is sping - my heart goes sping to read that synopsis)

Sabrina, see how much of Sarah's you can use - remember, it's okay to leave out big chunks of sub-plot and even of main plot. You're just following Sarah and the most important things she does.
A thought - you say you could write a synopsis in point form. Well, why not post that, and let the minions see what they can do to help you turn it into narrative?

SL Ross / Sabrina Ross said...

Thanks batgirl I will consider that. I think I need a break from query writing, it angers me. LOL

K said...

My teacher had this terrible assignment every time we wrote a short story for him. We had to say what the story was about in one sentence. Often times, if we couldn't, there was something amiss with the plot.

I recommend trying that exercise on your novel. It helped me with mine a lot.

Good luck!

Adam Heine said...

"We had to say what the story was about in one sentence."

That's a logline, and it's often a great place to start focusing your query (or your novel). Here's a page with some good tips.