Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Face-Lift 1091

Guess the Plot

121 Days

1. Patty Reynolds starts a blog. After 121 days of intense blogging, she dies, thinking, Christ, how does Evil Editor do it?

2. All that stands between Frank Linstead and freedom from the Keokuk County Jail are 121 days. Can he make it? Or will the unlocked, unguarded cell and jail be too tempting?

3. Sylvya swears that this semester, she's going to get all A's. But between the hunky vampire in her biology class, the hunky werewolf in American Literature, and the hunky chaos god who teaches pre-calc, the semester just seems to be slipping away in hunkiness and C-minuses.

4. Billy and Betsy Day have a rollicking time at the Day family reunion at Happy Times Campground, where they meet all their cousins, each of whom is profiled in their own literary vignette.

5. Jacob Frintz, CEO of Frintz Holdings, decides to boost morale by taking a different key member of staff to lunch each Thursday -- his "121" day. But when he invites corporate paralegal Mindy Swimley to the same restaurant her gorgeous twin sister works at, he sees the opportunity for a series of 122 afternoons.

6. C-List actor Alphonse DuReaux has 121 days till Thanksgiving, when his hypercritical family will surely lambaste his latest flop. Fed up, he gets to work writing, directing, and starring in an independent film that just might make him a cultural icon--and make every last cousin, aunt, and uncle eat their words. Also, it's a porno.

Original Version

As I lay [lie] here dying, I now [No need to say "now" when you've already said "as I lie here."] question everything I once believed. [Everything? Really?] How could something so strong, break so easily. [Exactly what I was thinking when I heard Rob Gronkowski, 1st-round draft pick and leading scorer on my fantasy football team, had broken his arm on an extra point play.] I never would have imagined I would go from something as boring and pathetic as lung cancer. I always knew it would be something tragic and dramatic, such as a car accident or overdose.” [It's not too late to go from an overdose.] – Excerpt from 121 Days

121 Days, [no comma] is the story of Patricia Reynolds, a 48[-]year[-]old woman that has her life changed [whose life changes] forever with a diagnoses [diagnosis] of cancer. Patty spends 121 days, [no comma] re-counting the events of her “so-called” life through the use of a blog. [on her blog] With the love and support of her 17[-]year[-]old relationship to “Her Joe”, [and] a 25[-]year[-]long relationship with her best friend Maggie, Patty is able to overcome incredible life events and memories she is forced to face. [Not clear if you mean she overcomes this stuff during the 121 days or during her "so-called" life. Also, not clear what you mean by "so-called" life.] [Also, it's the love and support of "Her Joe", not of her relationship. And why is "Her" capitalized? And if you put it in quotation marks, shouldn't it be "my Joe"? And why not say her husband Joe, or whatever he is?] [Also, you don't overcome events and memories. Perhaps you mean she relives incredible events as she blogs, or she blogs about obstacles she overcame. In any case, I'd much rather hear about her incredible life events than her blog.]

The story offers readers the chance to bond with a unique and diverse [multifaceted?] strong female character, and share laughter and tears, as 48 years of lessons learned are divulged. [If I gotta read 48 year's worth of lessons learned, I guess it may as well be condensed into 121 blog entries. Unless . . . Have you considered divulging these lessons in 121 tweets?] As the story unfolds, [There's a story? What is it?] Patty discovers true friendship, devout love, and what the true meaning of honesty is. 121 Days is full of heart breaking [heartbreaking] stories and the innermost thoughts of a loved and dying woman.

I have published a few articles in Savannah magazines, [Period, new sentence.] the idea of this novel, [No comma] came to me with great inspiration. [What does that mean?] Would you be interested in taking a look at this manuscript?

You can reach me via email, using the link below.


Is the entire book written in the form of a blog? If so, make that clear.

Start over. We want specifics. By which I mean specific examples of what happens in the book, not the specific number of years Patty has known each character.

Don't open with an excerpt. If the whole book is blog entries, you can include a sample entry/chapter with the query.

If you're trying to sell a fictional (or nonfictional) memoir, I'm not sure you want to describe its subject as someone who's had a "so-called" life.

It seems likely the book needs a good proofreading before you do anything with it.


AlaskaRavenclaw said...

According to the American Cancer Society, 42% of men and 38% of women will get cancer. Given those odds, you'd think people would be eager to talk about cancer, wouldn't you? Yet curiously, they aren't.

So I'm guessing cancer-based novels are a hard sell.

The blog format, if that's what you've got-- well, that's a hard sell, too. It begs the question "Would I rather be online, reading someone's blog, than reading this novel?"

Then there's the fact that novels are a form of entertainment. We don't generally grab a novel to get depressed, nor in hopes of learning some valuable life lessons.

Btw, scratch most of what I just said if this is a memoir rather than a novel. Though cancer memoirs are also a hard sell. Esp if already published as blogs.

khazar-khum said...

121 blog posts, so it's essentially an epistolary novel. Which, I might add, are hard to sell.

There's already a ton of disease-of-the-month survival, 'life affirming' blogs out there that can be read for free. What makes this special enough for someone to buy it?

none said...

We don't refer to people as "that". Try "who".

St0n3henge said...

Unfortunately, the many small errors distracted me from the content. If you make more than a dozen small errors in your letter, no agent will have faith in your manuscript.

There is a lot of stilted, awkward writing as well.


121 Days, is the story of Patricia Reynolds, a 48 year old woman that has her life changed forever with a diagnoses of cancer. Patty spends 121 days, re-counting the events of her “so-called” life through the use of a blog.

Compare to:

121 Days is the story of Patricia Reynolds, a 48-year-old woman whose life changes forever when she is diagnosed with cancer. Patty spends 121 days recounting the events of her life on her blog.

Problem: Even with the hyphens, commas and grammar fixed, the writing is still awkward. You should know, for instance, that we generally refer to a person as a "who," not a "that." Clunky phrases such as "with a diagnosis of" and "through the use of" should be kept to a bare minimum.

It shows a low level of writing skill. Perhaps the manuscript isn't written this way, but there's no way of telling that from this letter.

This is already going to be a tough sell. Middle-aged-dying-people-novels aren't flying off the shelves, so you're going to have to work that much harder.

Anonymous said...

Stylistically poor rather than grannatically wrong...


none said...

khazar-khum must've fallen asleep on the space bar.

Anonymous said...

I sure as heck don't want to bond with your main character. I'd rather poke my eye out with a stick.

Look, it doesn't matter what you've written, you need to figure out what a query should do. It is a business letter to entice an agent to request pages.If those are good enough, you get a request for a full. At that point you hope you haven't overlooked spelling mistakes and important stuff. Like plot.

Spell check is a very useful tool.

I like reading blog centered stories as much as books full of emails.

I want a real person in a real story to carry me through the night, turning pages.

With Evil. Start over.

Harsh, sorry about that. The link thing is tacky.

Resources are out there. Use them and good luck.

Anonymous said...

Hey author, it's hard to comment on anything other than the premise (and the grammar/punctuation), since you haven't let us know the plot. So don't take it to heart when we do criticize the premise. It's the details and how you approach this particular situation that will make the book shine, so put some of that into the query - specifics on Patty's particular goals and obstacles in the last days of her life. Did she change the locks and dump all Joe's clothes on the lawn a week before her diagnosis and now regrets it? Did she always want to find her birth mother but never got around to it and now it's extra urgent because a blood relative could donate bone marrow? Specifics like that will also give the agent a much better feel for the character than merely saying that she's strong or unique - you want to *show* that.

PLaF said...

Wait...EE has a fantasy football team?

Author, you haven't told us what makes Patricia different from other cancer patients. Is she some kind of athlete or celebrity? Does she participate in ground-breaking research? Go to the moon? What makes her story stand out?

none said...

I didn't say it was a question of grammar. It's more courtesy. That's are animals and things; who's are people.

Evil Editor said...

It's like that Buffalo Bill guy in Silence of the Lambs, who had his victim in a pit and kept saying stuff like "It rubs the lotion on its skin," instead of "Rub the lotion on your skin." Very discourteous.

IMHO said...

The query sounds as though Patty spends 121 days blogging about her life and then, on her death bed, suddenly questions everything she thought was true (i.e., the blog posts from the previous days). If you mean the blogging recounts her questioning and provides new-found wisdom, I suggest making that clearer in the query.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Author: Still there?

Okay, we've all been pretty rough on a book I'm guessing is dear to your heart. Maybe you've watched someone very close to you coping with a terminal cancer diagnosis when they were far too young to die. So have I. So have a lot of people.

Writing a book is all about the writer and what he or she wants to say. But getting it published is all about what readers want to read. Have you done your best to produce something that, objectively speaking, you would pay fifteen or twenty dollars to read if it was written by a total stranger?

The truth is everything is a hard sell in the publishing world. If your grammar and style are polished to the nines, and if your story is the kind that people love to read... well, then you've got a chance.

Otherwise, you've written something that was probably satisfying to you, which is a completely worthwhile and acceptable reason to write. If you put it up on amazon createspace, you can get copies to other people you think might want to read it.

Anonymous said...

Ah, the internet, where every opinion can grow up to be a fact...

Using "that" as a pronoun is a very common colloquialism in common speech and implies no disrespect whatsoever -- quite evident if you mix with the hoi polloi occasionally. Just doesn't belong in formal writing so much.

It's style, not courtesy.

none said...

Well, Anon, if you don't mind being a thing, I guess that's *your* style.

AJ. Deaton said...

I am the author and I have read each of your comments and love the criticism. The story is extremely dear to my heart and I feel that I very much may not have a story to be read by many. I am amateur, I would never claim to be anything but. I am usually behind a camera, not a desk. The person in this story is a person I loved, and I didn't pick to write. It picked me. Thank you again for all your criticisms, and comments. Best to luck to each of you on your endeavors. I look forward to posting a revised copy of the query letter, very soon.

Anonymous said...

Dear AJ,
Then speak from your heart.

Your phrasing is odd. Read more, if you want to write about your dear friend honour that friend with better sentences, no mistakes in spelling or grammar and show us why you loved that person. What made this sad for me is that you didn't do justice to -

St0n3henge said...

Thanks, AJ, for clearing that up. Somehow I had the feeling this was based on someone you knew. Luckily, very few writers are "born to write." The rest do it anyway.

Reading does help you get the rhythm of sentences in your head. Pick good authors, not just popular ones. I would not pick bestselling paperback authors simply because they publish so many books that quality can suffer. "Modern classics" are better.

A good book on things like punctuation and so forth is ol' reliable Strunk and White's The Elements of Style. It is easy to get a cheap copy of this book. Some argue that certain features are outdated but if you follow it to the letter (or comma) you won't get into trouble.

Another book you MUST have is Self Editing For Fiction Writers (Browne and King). This will help you clear up a LOT of elementary problems.