Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Face-Lift 1076

Guess the Plot

Rise of the Fall

1. The fall of America from its position of greatness to second-rate nationhood, as seen through the eyes of those responsible, the CEOs of Goldman Sachs and Lehman Brothers.
2. Casey is supposed to start classes at NYU in the fall, but suicide bombers start targeting New York City. So Casey moves to her beloved grandfather's farm in Wisconsin, but then World War III breaks out. And then her grandfather succumbs to a bioterrorist attack. Casey can't wait for the rise of the winter.

3. Every year, the mighty oak Shlorepterson wages a battle against the changing seasons, fighting valiantly to protect his home and the lives of the other trees. Will this be the year he finally wins?

4. All across the valley, leaves are changing color, air-conditioning bills are dropping to reasonable levels, and people are starting to dress in layers. It just won't do. Can Old Man Summer stop this horrifying trend before pumpkins go on sale at the old general store?

5. Rainfall has increased every month in Morgantown, until the only home that hasn't been destroyed by flooding is Jedidiah Crowley's mansion, at the top of the hill. Crowley has refused to take in any of his now-homeless neighbors. Maybe he'll get his come-uppance if sharks move onto his property.

6. Fall has always been the least respected of the seasons. Known mostly for raking leaves, lame costume parties, and eating dry turkey with relatives you hate. But all that changes when fall agrees to a merger with summer, and its beach vacations. Now Sumfall is the longest and best season of all!

Original Version

Dear Agent,
Seventeen-year-old Casey Willow is an overachieving ex-gymnast [If she's already an ex-gymnast, she sounds more like an underachiever. Or did she retire after winning Olympic gold?] who wants nothing more than to graduate high school and escape to NYU. But life never got that memo. Because suicide bombers have infiltrated America and Manhattan is their prime target. To make matters worse, Casey’s best friend, Michael Shepherd, leaves school to enlist in the navy but not before he professes his everlasting love for her.

But only fools fall in love. And Casey’s no fool. [I'd dump those two sentences. I don't see what they add to the query.]

A brush with death and a happenstance hero, none other than Andrew Tate (the richest, most obnoxious boy in Casey’s senior class), propels Casey on an obstacle course that leads straight to the man responsible for the terrorist attacks. [Is it Donald Trump? Because I doubt anyone will believe that.] To survive, Casey must do the unthinkable─trust Andrew. Casey must be out of her mind to agree to flee New York with him. Even crazier, she convinces her workaholic mother to allow Casey and her genius little sister, Gina, to leave the city with Andrew and her two best girlfriends. [You keep using terms like "unthinkable," "out of her mind," and "crazy" to describe things that don't seem all that unthinkable or crazy. Perhaps you should just tell us what happens and let us judge for ourselves if it's crazy.] They head to the happiest place on earth as far as Casey’s concerned─her grandparents’ farm in Shirebrook, Wisconsin.

Casey soon discovers that leaving the city is not enough to keep her troubles at bay. She can’t shake her growing attraction to Andrew. America enters into World War III [Does World War III really belong on a list of troubles a high school kid can't keep at bay?] [Also, usually there's more of a buildup toward entering a World War. This feels like Casey moves to Wisconsin and thinks, Okay, I'll be safe and happy here, not a worry in the-- WTF?! World War III?!!!] and an economic tailspin that trickles all the way down to Shirebrook. And just when Casey thinks life can’t possibly get any worse, Grandpa Cliff─her favorite person in the world─succumbs to a bioterrorist attack.

Casey must find the faith and courage to save him. [It's too late to save him, he already succumbed. Or is that "succame"?] But can she do that without losing her heart to Andrew in the process? [If you're going to ask that question, you need to make clear the connection between finding the faith and courage to save Gramps and losing her heart to Andrew.] [Also, how is faith/courage useful in saving someone who's been exposed to a deadly virus?]

RISE OF THE FALL is a contemporary YA novel with series potential, complete at 89,000 words. While this is one of my first submissions, I do want to let you know I plan on submitting to other agents in the coming weeks. [I've found that threatening agents rarely has a positive effect. Unless your goal is to get your rejection slip at warp speed.] Thank you for your consideration.



A new title is in order.

If Andrew is the romantic interest, Michael doesn't need to be in the query.

You might want to mention in the opening paragraph that the world is on the verge of WWIII.

Is Casey living in New York City while in high school? I can see parents wanting to get their kids out of the city if they're in harm's way, but telling us she wants to go to NYU doesn't mean she lives in Manhattan. She could live in Montana.

I'm not sure meeting the man behind the bombings needs to be here. The bombs are motive enough for fleeing the city.

If the main plot is what happens after they get to Wisconsin, you could condense all of this setup to:

With the US about to enter WWIII and suicide bombers bringing chaos to Manhattan, Casey Willow leaves high school and moves, with her sister and three of her friends, from NYC to her grandparents' farm in Wisconsin.


150 said...

I'm not following this plot at all, and I suspect it's because you're holding back details in order to keep from giving it all away. But you're not querying spoiler-averse readers, you're querying agents. Be specific!

khazar-khum said...

I don't understand how Andrew figures into this. Does he have family in Wisconsin, too? Why doesn't Mom say "Later Manhattan, I'm gonna work in Madison now"? I mean, if she's sending her kids off to Grampa, she might as well go too.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Hm. Well, writer, you have a firm grasp of sentence structure. I always like to see that.

Here's an important thing to know about agents: It is impossible to impress them. So don't try. I feel like that's what you're doing here. Take "none other than", for example. "None other than Andrew Tate?! Not THE Andrew Tate?!" thinks the agent, as she hits the "reject" button.

Remove all such larger-than-life language. Never mind crazy. Never mind out-of-her-mind and none-other-than. That feels like you're trying to convince us this is a reallyreallyreally exciting story. Instead wethinks the lady doth protest too much.

Just tell us the story, straight. Casey is all excited to be going to NYU, but terrorist attacks break out. She, her sister and some friends escape to Grampa's farm in Wisconsin, but they can't escape from the spreading violence and the... tanking economy?

(The last two world wars did our economy buckets of good. Granted, they weren't on our soil.)

And yeah, agents will assume you're doing multiple submissions. End your query letter exactly the way everybody else does.

BuffySquirrel said...

Having her favourite person in the whole world in danger gives Casey's story high stakes, but it doesn't give her a dilemma. It's like that bit in Day After Tomorrow where Science Boy goes back to save the girl he fancies. *Of course* he goes back for her. Now if instead of her being in danger, it'd been the (perceived) rival for her affections, something interesting might have happened. The whole "can she save her grandfather without falling in love with Andrew" makes no sense. Why can't she do both? It just doesn't come across as an either/or thing to me.

Now if both Gramps and Andrew were sick and she could only save *one*, and her Gramps was her favouritest person ever but Andrew was the obnoxious guy who could maybe save everybody else (ie a bunch of strangers), then we'd have a dilemma. As it is, you're stuck with fudging a false choice.

And that's passing over the probability that WWIII would be over in about sixty seconds and the survivors would be left to pick up the pieces and occasionally wonder about who won.

AvidReader said...

Thank you for all of the feedback. I realize this query needs tons of work and I'm grateful for the help!

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Great attitude, Avid. Good luck with the revision.

150 said...

Good luck! And, as always, if you post a revision here in the comments, we'll take another look.