Friday, May 27, 2011

Face-Lift 911

Guess the Plot


1. Meow Mix again? Fuggedaboutit! Get me Fancy Feast unless you want me to crap in your Manolos again, beeeitch.

2. He's the coolest cat ever, but when his human marries a chick with a snooty cat and a puppy, Jack's style is cramped. He tries to get the intruders kicked out, but when the three of them get lost, he realizes they must work together to find their way home. Then he can get them kicked out.

3. Tired of the owners who bestowed such stupid names on them, Midnight, Snowball, and Miss Fancy Whiskers set in motion a plan of violent and hilarious death. Only stray Geddowdamiyard! can save the humans - but does he really want to?

4. When Jeff Grant goes to work on a simple Internet upgrade for DARPA, he accidentally uncovers the horrifying truth: The Internet really is run by cats. Gopher heads, dead birds and mangled mice appear at his doorstep, catnip-filled envelopes are mailed to him, and when he picks up the phone all he hears is a loud purr. Can he escape his fate?

5. Meet Kitty Debenham, the humiliated socialite. With a wayward husband, a fortune to waste on extravagance, and self-esteem so low it could be a subterranean parking garage, Kitty turns to the best person she knows for advice on how to win her husband and her pride back – Jocelyn Wildenstein.

6. Chauncey organizes the biggest prison break in the history of Angora County. They haven't made the prison that can hold this cat burglar. Or should I say the kennel?

Original Version

Dear EE,

Jack, champion climber and mouser, knows he’s the coolest cat ever. Life was fine until Max, his human, got married. Suddenly, a snooty Siamese and a puppy called Bo take over his house. And a bossy lady who blames him for upsetting her pets.

Jack plots to get the others kicked back to wherever they came from. But getting them into trouble backfires, and the three creatures are banished to the backyard. Great! The only way to some peace from Bo’s constant yapping was [is] to make a deal: if he can be quiet Jack will teach him to climb. Jack figures he’ll never have to repay [pay off? Settle up? Make good?] because the dog can’t be quiet for more than a minute, but at least it’s a minute’s break.

But [No need for the word "But." You could just delete it or change it to "After" or "When" and let it flow into the next sentence.] New Year’s Eve fireworks terrify them down into the dark, smelly drains. Soon the trio are lost and face rats, hunger and wet fur. The only way to stay warm, safe and fed is to cooperate, and Jack starts to appreciate the others as more than nuisances. Bo follows the trail back to where they first entered the drains, but Jack is the only one who can climb out. Bo is devastated when he learns that Jack lied about teaching him to climb. Now Jack needs to use his superior intellect to rescue the others. Or will he abandon them and go back to a quiet house?

CATTITUDE is a 10,000-word MG novel.

Thank you for your consideration.


Based on the number of words per page in the two kids' books I happen to have handy (Holes and The Higher Power of Lucky), your book will be 30 to 40 pages, which translates to 15 to 20 sheets of paper. Unless it's loaded with illustrations. It does sound like a good candidate for artwork, but it wouldn't hurt to seamlessly expand it to fifteen or twenty thousand words.

Bo has an annoying bark, and a strong nose. What does the Siamese cat do that annoys Jack? What does the Siamese contribute to their staying safe when they're lost? Without knowing this, we may wonder why it's not just Jack and Bo in the story.

Once Bo leads them back, why does the Siamese need rescuing? Can't it get out the same way Jack does? If it can't climb because it's been declawed, then it would still need rescuing even if Jack taught Bo to climb. In other words, while the query is fine as it is, the climbing promise isn't that important, and could be replaced with answers to the questions in the previous note.


none said...

The query should probably all be in present tense.

Life for champion climbing cat Jack is fine until his human introduces a snooty Siamese rival, an annoying puppy, and, worst of all, a bossy lady who won't allow curtain climbing or chair scratching and who gets fur-wettingly teary whenever Jack tries to please her with a dead mouse.

Jack's plan to rid himself of at least two of these nuisances backfires, and all three animals are banished to the backyard. Out there, Jack can at least climb out of the puppy's reach, but he still can't make him stop yapping, plus he can't climb out of the Siamese's reach or get her to stop miaooooowing in a foreign language. Great!

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Ah, middle grades!

10k is way way short. 20k would be short.

My last MG was about 65k, and the hardcover is about 300 pages. It doesn't look fat on the shelf. It looks about the same as the (MG) books next to it. The contract I had before I wrote it called for 50k, I assume on the grounds that that's an average middlegradey kinda length.

There are much shorter MGs, but they tend to be written by writers so famous they can do whatever they want.

What are you thinking of in terms of age? Are you actually thinking chapter book? People get the two confused sometimes; chapter books are for roughly ages 6-8. This might be a good length for a chapter book. I think.

batgirl said...

The story sounds like fun, a mashup of The Incredible Journey with that Flushed Away movie.

Like others I'm boggled by the wordcount. 10k is a novelet or long short story. Or a picture book. Which worries me because it suggests that the author hasn't researched the market, though the query is fairly professional.

Jo-Ann said...

Thanks for chiming-in.

@ Buffy - lovely query! I might even borrow some, if that's ok by you.

@ Alaska - yeah, Chapter Book is probably what I had in mind, reading age closer to 7-9 years. Maybe I misunderstood but I always thought that MG was the age range between picture books and YA - of course, that covers many reading ages. But you seem to be saying that "Chapter book" is a specific category that comes between Picture book and MG.

Many children's publishers have imprints/ series of shorter stories for that age group- ie- kids who are starting to read independently. Their publishing guidelines don't actually call them "chapter books", each publisher has its own term (emerging/ independent/ confident reader and so on) but thankfully their websites do specify word lengths, and 10k is within the limits of many of these.

Some also publish titles specifically for the so-called reluctant readers, (older kids who would rather eat their own vomit than read) the stories are brief (8-20k), but the subject matter appeals to 10-12 year olds with a reading age of 6-8 years. I'm not saying Cattitude is such a story.

@Batgirl. "Picture books" tend to have a much shorter word count, less than 500, usually (I believe). Any longer and they call it an "illustrated text", as the text carries the content and the pictures just help boost the child's comprehension. And provide a respite from the daunting sight of pages crammed with words.

Jo-Ann said...

@ Alaska... you have published MG titles? Envy, envy! I had to check your blog, but - my curiousity went unsatisified.

How can I get to read your pubb'd pieces?

Dave Fragments said...

It is a cute story.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Jo-Ann, unfortunately to answer that I'd have to tell you my real name, and I'm reluctant to do that because I'm a pretty obnoxious person in my AlaskaRavenclaw persona and I probably p*** a lot of people off :). But if you walk into a public library in the U.S. my books will most likely be sitting there in the children's section not attracting very much attention. That, alas, is what success looks like, for the vast majority of writers.

It's true that technically chapter books could be considered a subset of middle grades, but they're generally called chapter books: think Magic Tree House or Junie B. Jones. Or Random House's Step Into Reading. To be a chapter book you really want to be around a 1st-2nd grade reading level. And of course that means not just the Flesch-Kincaid thing on the computer but stuff like concept density... I've never written a chapter book myself.

But, whichever, you do need to decide exactly what you've written and where it belongs. I'd advise going to the library, finding what's recent that looks like what you've done, and seeing who published it and as what. Do a lot of reading of this kind of book.

If you haven't done that already.

The hi-lo market's not a very big one. In fact, the reluctant reader market is, as you might guess, by nature not huge.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a fun story and appropriate for grade school kiddos. Cannot advise whether it would best fit the chapter book vs middle grade category so don't know if that's a good length or if more words are needed. Seems like the plot would work for either.

batgirl said...

Oh good, you _have_ done the research. And better than me! since books for very young readers are out of my skill range. Yes, illustrated text must be the genre I was thinking of, but I had conflated it with straight picture books.
Chapter books have illustrations as well, often. Dammit, why do so few adult books have illustrations? I still like my stories to have pictures.

Jo-Ann said...

Oh, AlaskaR, you're open and candid, and hardly ever obnoxious. If you really wanted to be abrasive, arrogant and inflammamatory you surely would have been AlaskaSlytherin!

But - is it true that published MG writers DON'T have hoards of screaming fans mobbing them wherever they go? They don't command million-dollar advances? OMG! That's it, I've abandonned that ambition. I'll start writing a vampire novel instead.

none said...

Anything you can use, you may have :).

Anonymous said...

Actually, the two chapter book series I mentioned above have hoards of screaming fans. There's big bucks in both chapter books and middle grades... for maybe one published author out of 100. Probably pretty much the same as any other genre.

You do need to zero in on what it is you've written, though ;)