Wednesday, July 30, 2014

New Beginning 1029

The trees didn’t say a word. They never did. They watched. They always watched. Well, today, I watched them right back. I stood in the middle of the dog park, staring at the woods in the distance. The trees huddled together like giant aliens, studying me for some crazy experiment. The leaves flickered in the breeze as if a million green fingers were reaching out, begging me to come inside.

So weird.

Sure, Mom’s warning blared in my head for the millionth time. I mean it, Cody. It’s too dangerous. Gangs and drug addicts hang out in those woods. You’re never to go in there. Understand? Never.

I stared at the trees. Never? Like never ever? But my friends would be stinking jealous if I went in the woods without them. This time, I’d have all the great stories to tell when they got back from summer camp.

Sweat dripped down my face and I wiped it with my t-shirt. Matt and Zach left for camp yesterday. They were probably swimming in that freeze-your-toes-off lake right now. Lucky turds. The only water I’d get to swim in was in the bathtub.

But that wouldn't be so bad if it was the giant alien trees' bathtub, cause it would have to be as big as the lake, only deeper and there'd be whales I could ride and I'd have my own personal submarine with torpedoes to blow up sea monsters and save the world from Aquaman's enemies now that he's too old to be fighting underwater supervillains like The Malignant Amoeba and The Human Flying Fish and Aquabeast. Plus I'd have my own enemies like Sharkwoman and The Electric Eel, and Captain Piranha. And there'd be pirates, of course, and crocodiles and daily sharknadoes and my weapons would be spear guns and rubberduck grenades and I'd have a sidekick named Squirt and they'd call me--

"Cody," Mom yelled. "Time to go home for your bath."


Opening: Diane Adrian.....Continuation:Evil Editor

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Synopsis 41

Ratman's Revenge

When eleven-year-old CODY feels left out and alone [abandoned] by his too-busy divorced parents and his off-at-summer-camp friends, he ventures into the woods for the first time. There he meets two kids who claim to live in a city deep below the surface of the earth where everyone has amazing paranormal abilities. Of course, Cody doesn’t believe them. [Of course. But later when no one believes Cody about seeing a man-sized rat, he won't understand how they can be so dense.]

The next day, Cody’s mom bails on him when she starts dating a new guy, and Cody’s dad says he’s moving to across the country with his giggly girlfriend. Cody has had enough and storms off to the woods. This time, he begs the kids to take him to their underground city. Even though [when] they warn him [that] once he goes down, he can never go home again, Cody is all-in. [He can never go home because it's against the rules or because it's physically impossible?]

With strange caves to explore and plenty of new friends with crazy abilities, Cody thinks he’s scored the perfect new home. Except outsiders from the surface are not allowed. [So the kids who brought him down and the plenty of new friends he's made are unaware that surfacians aren't allowed?] But when Cody is discovered by the Council of Elders, instead of executing him, they ask for his help. [If execution is the usual penalty for being there, you'd think that would have been mentioned by the kids who brought him down.] With his knowledge of the surface, he may be able to find out what happened to their missing Detectors, the citizens who protect the underground city by patrolling the surface.

As a way to find the Detectors, the council wants to teach Cody paranormal abilities and create a psychic link between Cody and the Detectors. [Have they tried creating a psychic link between the two kids Cody met in the woods and the Detectors?] Cody is determined to help his new home [friends]. The problem is, he’s failing his simplest paranormal classes, and a man-sized rat, RATMAN, attacks [him] every step of the way by using paranormal abilities to create Cody’s dangerous “accidents.”

Since Cody is the only one who sees the giant rat, no one [else] believes Ratman exists. So while Cody struggle[s] to find the Detectors, he wants to figure out who or what Ratman is and why he’s attacking him.

When Cody finally develops visions in his meditation class, he gets glimpses into the mind of Ratman. He discovers [that Ratman is usually thinking about cheese.] there’s a real man behind the rat illusion, [If you're gonna create the illusion that you're an animal, you oughta be able to come up with something better than a rat.] and that man is a vengeful council member, KIRK, who has been using the missing Detectors to locate a mysterious power source that can create an earthquake. Cody fears Kirk is about to get his revenge for the death of his family by destroying the city with a man-made earthquake. [This is the plot of that Star Trek episode where Kirk destroys the planet Romulus as revenge for some Romulan woman digging Spock more than she digs Kirk.] [Also, how did this Elder's family die? Unless everyone in the city was responsible, destroying the city seems like overkill.]

But when the entire Council of Elders is the next to disappear, it’s up to Cody and his friends to stop Kirk. [I see we've decided to call him Kirk instead of Ratman. If Ratman is an illusion and is actually Captain Kirk in a rat costume, maybe the title should be Kirk's Revenge. You'd see huge sales to Trekkies who think it's fanfic.] Despite their best efforts, one of Cody’s friends is killed [The one in the red uniform shirt.] and the remaining friends are held under Kirk’s hypnotic spell.

As the earth begins to shake, Cody is left to face Kirk’s wrath [The Wrath of Kirk] alone and save his new home. Cody draws on the simple talents he had on the surface—quick thinking and telling a convincing lie—to deceive Kirk and refocus the power source to kill him. [Quick thinking and lying may be useful talents, but do they allow you to refocus a power source that's causing an earthquake so that it kills one wererat?] The council and the Detectors are then freed from Kirk’s control.


If these other kids are able to come to the surface, why wouldn't Cody be able to come back and go home?

Are the people who were unable to see Ratman able to see Kirk?

Hard to believe they pin all their hopes on an eleven-year-old stranger who fails even the simplest paranormal classes, just because he has some familiarity with the planet's surface. It would be easier to have Cody teach someone who aced his paranormal classes about the surface.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Face-Lift 1212

Guess the Plot

Ratman's Revenge

1. When Batman's latest movie is turned into a laughing stock thanks to a typo, the caped crusader goes on the rampage, clad in garments sourced from the gutter. Can the Joker persuade his nemesis to get real for the good of comics buffs worldwide? Or will he too run afoul of the errant wordsmith, and forever be cast as...the Poker? Or the PUKER?

2. When he discovers an awesome underground city with crystal caves and super-powered friends, Cody is thrilled. He's ready to make it his permanent home. Now, if only that mutant man-sized rat would quit trying to exterminate him.

3. In a damp cave where all God's creatures used to scurry and play, one lone rat hides. With one arm in a sling and two whiskers singed to the nubs, he waits, plotting his revenge.

4. Detailing Andrew Ratman's lifelong campaign to wreak vengeance on anybody who does so much as snicker at his name when introduced.

5. Ratman has successfully defeated the Diddler, Shoe-Face, and Gnatwoman. But when DC Comics lawyers coming knocking at the Ratcave door, can he convince them that he's not infringing on their copyrights? Or will Ratman meet his end at the hands of Cease-and-Desist Man?

6. Exterminator JC Bardley hasn't had a good day. His wife left him for the deli guy; his daughter called from Swarthmore, telling him she needs more money; and his son got thrown off the track team for something that happened in the showers. So when his accountant calls to say the tax man cometh, he heads for the company truck. It's time for the . . . Ratman's Revenge.

Dear Evil Editor:

When eleven-year-old Cody sneaks into an underground city, he battles a giant rat with paranormal powers determined to exterminate him. [We don't need this sentence; it's all repeated later on, except Cody's age, which can be added at the start of the next sentence.]

Cody is fed up with feeling [feels] left-out when his friends go off to summer camp and his too-busy-to-care divorced parents bail on him again. He ventures into the woods for the first time and discovers a tunnel leading to a city hidden underground with crystal caves, slugs-and-bugs soup, and new friends with awesome abilities like reading minds and seeing visions. [In some cities, seeing visions is considered less an ability than an affliction.]

Best. Home. EVER. [A place where people can read my mind doesn't sound so great to me, but of course when I was an eleven-year-old I probably didn't constantly imagine my teacher naked.]

But Cody’s new adventures take a pants-wetting turn when the people who protect the city, the Detectors, start disappearing. [That doesn't sound like a pants-wetting turn. More like a mere downturn or setback.] Without their warnings, the city could get blind-sided by earthquakes, floods, or invasions by deadly beasts. Using their psychic abilities, the city’s leaders discover someone is controlling the minds of the Detectors, but they have no idea who or why.

Cody isn’t about to let his new home come crashing down around him, but every time he tries to help, a mutant man-sized rat attacks him. Ratman roasts Cody with a hot crystal, pushes him down the Devil’s Mouth hole, and tries to drown him in the river. [Now those sound like pants-wetting turns.]

But Cody can’t stop. His clues point to Ratman as the one controlling the Detectors. And since Cody is the only one who sees the giant rat, no one else believes the freaky fur-face even exists. [Not that it matters, but is Ratman invisible to others, or does he attack only when no one else is around?]

It’s up to Cody to trap Ratman in time to save the Detectors and the city from whatever this whiskered weirdo is plotting. Or at least before Ratman’s next attack actually kills Cody.

RATMAN’S REVENGE, 76,000 words, may appeal to readers of Brandon Mull’s Fablehaven and Jeanne DuPrau’s The City of Ember. I am enclosing the synopsis below per your guidelines.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Best regards,

(my info)


Usually when you seek revenge, it's on someone who's wronged you. If no one even believes Ratman exists, how will anyone know why he wants revenge? How satisfying will Ratman's revenge be if no one knows what they did to incur his wrath? In Revenge of the Nerds, the revenge wouldn't have been nearly as sweet if the Nerds had simply bombed the jocks' frat house and the jocks all died never knowing what hit them. In Revenge of the Sith . . . well, I never saw that one, having given up on Star Wars after the Jar Jar Binks episode.

All of which is why you should change the title to Cody Cooper and the Mutant Man-sized Rat. This makes it easy to name all the sequels, i.e. Cody Cooper and the Mutant Man-sized Porcupine.

Other than that, it does sound like something kids would dig. Although it's often said that kids like to read about older kids, so if you want your audience to include 11-year-olds, you could make Cody 13.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Evil Editor Classics

Guess the Plot


1. Bored with the other vampires in the nest, Lisle goes hunting for fresh companions. Soon she's swarmed by hipsters and wanna-be's. Will she have to bite them all to find the one she wants to keep . . . forever?

2. While gazing at her latest painting, artist Alysse is literally drawn into the fantastical world she created in her head. For the first time ever she's happy. But will she be happy when she finds out she may be trapped inside her head . . . forever?

3. Jack Miller is living a normal life in the suburbs of America until his wife receives a call that will change everything. Her mother has been bitten by a vampire and cast out of her neighborhood. Now the mother-in-law-turned-undying-demon must live in Jack's guest bedroom . . . forever.

4. Katie Holloway always signed her love letters to her hockey goalie fiance Malcolm Daley “Forever yours”. The words take on a new meaning when Malcolm dies in a freak Zamboni accident and is buried in the newly opened Eternal Springs cemetery where the residents don’t rest peacefully. Can Malcolm prove his undying love, or will Katie convince him once and for all that “forever” doesn’t mean spending the rest of her days as a zombie bride?

5. High school seniors Katherine and Michael hook up, make the beast with two backs, and believe they are destined to be together "forever". Then Katherine gets a job at a summer camp, meets a hot tennis instructor, dumps Michael, and finds herself destined to live on the ALA list of Most Challenged Books... forever.

6. The diary of a leprechaun. Complete details of his interest in milkmaids, his campaign to rid the isle of wee pesky elves, his fear of vampires. Plus, a pot of gold, two dozen silly sheep, and an unreliable talking fish.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Alysse is expected to do well at everything she does, all because she is an only child. Her parents are very strict, claiming that they gave up everything for her to be successful. Nevertheless, as much as Alysse tries she cannot understand Maths, speak Greek or run a marathon. [We give up everything for you, and you crap out after twenty miles?!] The only thing she can do is paint. Her favorite thing in the world is drawing out whatever is in her mind, usually resulting in what looks like scenes from a different world, which are so fantastical, you cannot help but stare. When her mother discovers that she was not accepted to any college but the Academy of Art, Alysse realizes what people mean when they say words can kill. [The Academy of Art? You pathetic no-talent fool, we wanted you to go somewhere where you'd learn to do something useful. Like speak Greek. How are you gonna survive if you move to Greece and don't know how to say, "Where's my government handout?] She finds herself staring at her latest drawing, the most absurd [Bizarre? Wondrous? Awesome?] of them all. After a few minutes a strange force begins pulling her towards the painting. [I once wrote a short story in which a strange force was pulling me toward Carthage. Or was it Corinth? The cool thing about strange forces is that anytime you need a character to go somewhere (like into a paining) but you can't think of a logical way to get them there, you can just have a strange force draw them there, and no one can complain that you have a plot hole because strange forces override everything.] Her body crosses the portal between the real and the invented when she finds herself in the little world originated in her mind. She thinks she is happy for the first time, but it is not long until she realizes that she can never leave that place again. [At long last I've found true happiness. Get me the hell outta here!] She is stuck inside her head, [If this were a Twilight Zone episode, which is what it sounds like, it would end here with Alysse either horrified as she realizes she's stuck inside her head forever or happy as she sits in a padded room humming a tune and playing with finger paints as her doctors look through the window and shake their heads.] and she has less than a day before the exit is closed FOREVER. [You just said she could never leave. One sentence later you say she can.]

I look forward to hearing from you.


Presumably you are merely seeking feedback on whether your plot is hooking us, and are aware that a query letter needs word count, genre, and a more obvious indication of what the book's title is.

Paragraphing would be nice. It shows that you have some basic organizational skills. Plus some editors would rather reject you without reading your query than slog their way into a paragraph that they might be trapped in . . . FOREVER.

This is all setup. We know who Alysse is and we know what her situation is. We want to know how she handles her dilemma. Are there people in her new world? Does anything bad happen there? What are the consequences of staying versus getting out? If staying is bad, is there a villain trying to keep her there? The main character is in her happy place; why should she (or we) care if she never gets out?

What is her body doing when she's stuck inside her head? Is it in a coma? Does she have any control over it?

Selected Comments

T.K. Marnell said...If Alysse's parents are immigrants, I would mention that before the disappointment that she can't speak Greek (and if they're not, then I'm very confused). I'm also a little confused by the "words can kill" can be poetic in the novel, but here the point is that she and her parents fight. You can easily tidy up the whole thing and leave more room for what happens after being sucked in with something like this:

"Alysse is expected to do well at everything she does. As her immigrant parents' only child, she's supposed to be brilliant at maths, run marathons, and speak Greek fluently, but the only thing she can do is paint. When she's rejected by every college but the Academy of Art, her parents are sorely disappointed. Alysse escapes to her room to work on her latest painting, a fantastical scene that looks like it could be from another world. Suddenly, as she stares at her canvas, she's pulled into the absurd world created in her mind...[rest of query here]"

No offense intended, but this sounds like the stories I wrote in high school. I tried the trapped-in-her-head track for my first novel in senior year, and it was a total bust. I'm not sure there's enough material here for a full-blown book. If there is, it isn't presented in this query. Is Alysse the only person in her made-up world? Or does she develop alter egos? Is there some magical being responsible for the mystical force that she can fight or fall in love with? I can't tell whether I'd like the story yet because you haven't told us anything substantial about it.

BuffySquirrel said...It's hard to work out what's wrong with this query--aside from, as EE says, it being nearly all setup. I think I find much of the setup hard to accept. Yes, there are such pushy parents, but I think we don't need much beyond 'Alysse has two very pushy parents who expect her to excel in all subjects'. It's not because she's an only child. It's because they're barmy.

Further, children learn. They can't help it. Why then is Alysse unable to learn? What's wrong with her? What happens when she tries to learn Greek or to run? Or does she literally spend all her time drawing? In which case, I'd think her parents have bigger problems than a lack of college places.

The questions raised by the early part of the query make it hard to engage with the story that's being presented. It's not about answering those questions; it's about preventing them being asked.

Alysse has two very pushy parents who are never satisfied, and when they learn that the only college prepared to give her a place is the Academy of Art, they freak. Then Alysse gets drawn into the fantasy world. Then...whatever happens then.

PLaF said...What is Alysse’s real problem – her parents? Failure to excel? Accidentally uses magic paint? I assume she’s in high school, so where is the drama? How does crossing the portal between the real and the invented change this problem? Who does she meet that can help or hurt her in trying to solve this problem? What does she learn? How does she apply what she has learned to solve the problem? Is Forever the real title? Are there vampires in her artsy wordl?

khazar-khum said...Once she's in the happy place, does she find out that this is really where she was supposed to be? Is there a changeling, a fantasy Alysse who only speaks Greek and is the bane of her Flawenty-speaking parents? Do they change places? Can Alysse paint changelings into their proper homes?

I'd read that.

sarahhawthorne said...This is an old story, but one that can still work - IF Alysse's surrealistic world is amazing enough.

Compare your story with "Coraline," "Spirited Away," "Labyrinth," or even "The NeverEnding Story." The 'real world' problem is only a framing device to the fantasy world, which is where the heroine must complete her quest.

Start over: Alysse's parents expect her to excel at everything - sports, academics, languages - but all she's really good at is painting. After another epic fight with her mother, Alysse sits down in front of her canvas... and suddenly finds herself transported into the world of her imagination.
And then what happens?

vkw said...I thought the premise was good, but it is all set-up. Alysse's parents are expecting her to be something she is not. She escapes her shame/guilt/anger by allowing/being/ pulled into a painting where she is happy.

she soon finds out (how? tell me its a changeling. I just don't think we have enough changleing stories out there) that if she doesn't escape her fantasy world by tomorrow at midnight, she will never be able to leave. And, the problem with this is? (If someone lives in heaven, why do they want to leave?)

khazar-khum said...Maybe her real parents in her new land have been desperately searching for her for years, and this is an answer to their prayers.

Jo-Ann said...Ancient and Modern Greek are very different languages, and I suspect she's being pushed to learn Ancient Greek to read classical literature in the original, a skill which screams "expensive education" but has no practical application in the real world... other than to impress others with an expensive education, and therefore fast-track her to a managerial career in the British civil service (yes, minister). In which case, living in her own head sounds like a much nicer alternative and I can hardly blame her for choosing this option.

The classical Greek stuff might tie-in nicely with the world-in-head if its inhabited by the pantheon. Except she flunked Greek and can't converse with them, but that's ok, it's in her head and they kindly learn English for her benefit. Or speak in tongues, hey, they are gods, after all.

Ok, that was a diversion... what was I going to say? Yep, what the rest said, your story has potential but it's all set up.

Dont give up, start over and have some fun with Alysse and her paintings.

Mister Furkles said...Every story needs a main story problem that the MC will try to resolve. Other than being in a dream world, she doesn't appear to have a main problem to solve.

A. M. Perkins said...My biggest question was definitely at the end: she has a terrible life with terrible parents who verbally abuse her, yet, when she's pulled into a world of pure happiness, she freaks out that she might be trapped there.

Color me confused.

While it may make sense in your book, I'm not understanding the truncated version. Here it sounds like a choice made to further the plot, not a choice your character would actually make.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Friday, July 25, 2014

Evil Editor Classics

Guess the Plot

Don't Date a Bro

1. In the grim darkness of the future, an attempt to carbon-date the last member of the Sigma Epsilon Chi fraternity goes horribly awry, loosing a horde of dread demons upon the world.

2. Number seven in Leon "Ladies' Man" Phelps's advice series: Dating Rules for Straight Bros.

3. Gayree Gayun goes gargantuan when looking for love by way of the newly developed Random Reality Transcendentalizer. That's when he learns, the hard way, that bro isn't a condensed form of the word brother ... in Brontosaurus Land.

4. When Leila realized after three months of dating Jackson that he was an alcoholic, sexist, belligerant, narcissistic asshole (aka a bro), she decided to dump him. But is her new boyfriend a step up or a step down?

5. This rhyming picture book explains the hazards of incest with cheerful, upbeat color illustrations.

6. When the body of Z-list actor/singer/dancer/model Chad Hunkley (real name:Ralph Snodgrass) turns up in the dumpster outside a gay bar in Northridge, detective Zack Martinez knows two things. One, this kid is a looong way from Oskaloosa, and two, the frat boys at CSUN are getting a little too randy.

Original Version

Dear _________,

Thank you for taking the time to consider my work. Don't Date a Bro; is a 47,000 word young adult novel that follows the sarcastic and slightly awkward Leila Jayne, an acclaimed soccer player and GPA whiz, who realizes after dating her popular baseball player boyfriend for three months that she is dating a Bro. [To aid those unfamiliar with the term "bro," I've spent a few hours on Urban Dictionary and Google compiling traits of a bro: An alpha male idiot. White, 16-25, inarticulate, belligerent, talks about nothing but chicks and beer, drives a jacked up truck that’s plastered with stickers, lives off his rich parents, constantly uses the word "chill" (as a noun, verb or adjective), wears wife beaters or no shirt, constantly smokes weed and drinks and parties with his fellow bros, so sexist you'd think he's exaggerating normal sexist guys to be satirical except he's not being satirical, he's that sexist, thinks women are good for nothing except making sandwiches for bros and providing bros with "dome," which is oral sex; for instance, a bro might brag, "Today I was getting road dome from a chick and her parents gave me a dirty look from the back seat but I told them it was chill."] [Also, dating a guy for three months and then realizing he's a bro is like taking three months to realize you're dating a warthog.] The problem is that she's not exactly the Bro type - she hates parties, likes to read, and enjoys "me" time - but has been faking it to fit in. To add insult to injury, her best friend has abandoned her for spending too much time with her boyfriend Jackson.

When Jackson's not be as interested in her as when they first started dating, [Suddenly you're talking like a bro.] Leila thinks it's because of her Catholic guilt and her desire to not want to have sex with him anymore. [That would do it. Also, I'm guessing she's refusing to make him sandwiches. Or to chill.] It isn't until [a] new senior boy arrives at her Catholic prep school who actually interests her – an atheist, an intellectual, [If this atheist is so intellectual, why can't he find a school that's not affiliated with a religion?] and a self-proclaimed loner – [A self-proclaimed loner is several steps up from a bro, but can't she find a boy who actually wants her around?] that Leila embraces what makes her unique and accepts that she must  break up with her boyfriend. And when they kiss one night, even though she's still dating her Jackson, [Actually, she's dating his Johnson. That's the way it works with bros.] she has to make things right, come clean, [chill,] and ditch the Bro for the guy nobody seems to notice.

Thanks again for considering my novel, and please feel free to contact me if you would like to see more from me.



The whole plot is: girl realizes she's dating a bro, and decides she'd be better off with the new kid in town? Where's the conflict? Dumping a bro is an obvious choice if you have any self-respect. Most women would dump a bro faster than they'd dump a serial killer. In fact, consider making the new kid a known serial killer, so that when Jackson gets dumped for him, it's a bigger blow.

This is all setup. We know Leila Jayne's situation. Now we want to know what she does about it and what goes wrong, and what she does about that. Does Jackson do anything when Leila breaks it off? Besides chill? Give us a reason to care about Leila. If you have an interesting story, show us.

Selected Comments

BuffySquirrel said...It's a cute moment in Truth About Cats and Dogs when the Uma Thurman character realises her boyfriend is a loser. But it's not a moment that's expected to carry the whole film.

Usually tension in these situations comes from the woman being madly in love with the wrong guy and unable to see the attractions of the right guy. Here you have someone who's reached that point when the book starts. So...where's the tension going to come from? How can people root for Leila to spot boyfriend is a bro and choose the bright boy instead if she's already pretty much done that?

Also, if her Catholic guilt didn't stop her having sex with him initially, why should she believe it's turned her off it later? The bro's supposed to be the stupid one.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...Yeah, I agree. Choosing between a guy who's not right for you and a guy who is? It's like choosing between an ice cream cone and a broken arm. I'll take the ice cream, thanks; next question?

But I'm actually more concerned about the grammatical and punctuation errors. Don't know why EE didn't mention them. Triage?

Evil Editor said...I rarely mention every little error I spot, especially if I feel the query will be rewritten to the extent that the sentences they're in will be gone. In this case I noted one problem by saying "Suddenly you're talking like a bro," and another by adding the word "a."

Delete the semicolon after Bro. Put a hyphen after 47,000. Rewrite and resubmit.

Rachel6 said...I kinda feel like you summed up your entire story with the title. That's a bad thing.

And hey, does anything happen with the best friend? Maybe the friend introduces her to the new guy, maybe the friend helps her see why she should dump Jackson? You mention her briefly at the end of the first paragraph, and then never again, so I'm a little curious. :)

khazar-khum said...If there's one thing I'm tired of seeing, it's the "Atheist=Intellectual" meme.

Richard Dawkins, biggest proponent of that, is a mysogynistic jackass; Hawkings is right there with him. That's not a good thing.

Unless, of course, Leila intends to challenge him on it. That would add an interesting dimension to their story, possibly making it deeper.

Golfball said...The Bro needs amping up, he needs to become a crazy psycho-stalker after protag dumps him, big fangs and sucking protag's (or protag's new squeeze) life energy are strictly optional.
And then you'll have conflict, you have something going wrong.

 Chelsea Pitcher said...I didn't get atheist=intellectual here, but I think the problem is we're not told why the atheism is relevant. Do Jackson's religious beliefs contribute to his bro-ness? If we understand that, I think we'll better understand why New Boy's atheism is appealing.

Is there a story besides Leila ditching the wrong guy for the right guy? If there is, I'd love to see it come through in the query. There's some interesting stuff here, but I'm definitely getting the vibe that Leila defines herself in terms of who she's dating, which doesn't work for me personally.

AA said...If this was adult literary fiction, I wouldn't consider the premise too thin. I'd assume a lot of soul-searching, flashbacks, and possible experimentation with sexual orientation.

But in a YA fiction, stuff's basically gotta happen. Stuff's not really happening here. I'm assuming stuff does and you've just left it out.

I'm concerned about the quality of writing, even sans typos. For instance: "It isn't until [a] new senior boy arrives at her Catholic prep school who actually interests her – an atheist, an intellectual, and a self-proclaimed loner - that Leila embraces what makes her unique and accepts that she must break up with her boyfriend."

Besides sounding like the start of a joke (An atheist, an intellectual and a self-proclaimed loner walk into a bar...) it's just one blamed awkward sentence.

If you remove the interruption you've now got two phrases that could come out completely: "It isn't until a new senior boy arrives (at her Catholic prep school) (who actually interests her) that Leila embraces what makes her unique and accepts that she must break up with her boyfriend."

...and on top of that you've got that list clause. When you're cobbling together sentences from phrases and clauses you need to sit back, take a deep breath, and ask yourself,"What am I trying to say?" and "What is the most straightforward way of saying that?"

Consider: "The problem is that she's not exactly the Bro type - she hates parties, likes to read, and enjoys 'me' time -" Well, you've lied. The problem isn't "she's not EXACTLY" the bro type. The problem is she's NOT AT ALL the bro type. She is the opposite.

And this: "her desire to not want to have sex with him anymore" is confusing. At first I read it as "her desire not to have sex with him" but that didn't seem right. It doesn't seem right this way, either. It's the "to not want to have" that ruins it. If what you're trying to saying is "She wishes she didn't want to have sex with him anymore," then just say that.

I think you need to clear your mind and stop trying to be writerly. Then rewrite this as if you were describing the plot to a friend. Polish that up a little bit and you'll probably have it.

Dave Fragments said...I might be closer to kids than others because there are three kids I "listen" to -- boy 17, girl 15, and girl 10 -- and DATING and all that ANGST is not a small thing in their lives.

There is no way this is too thin because each of these kids has dating in their mind. Teens reading about teen angst is a big deal.

Girls getting involved with boys who are not their types or not good for them is definitely the problem. I saw that with these three kids parents and I see it again with the children.

Fix the words of the query because dating and sex is like, about the most important thing, yanno, like, in their life. Except when adults ask, then it's whatever.

AA said...I have no doubt you're right about teens, Dave. The problem is that this is a story, not real life, and in order for a story to carry an entire book there must be some type of central conflict or important decision.

This is the story I get out of this: Teen is dating wrong guy. Teen realizes this. Luckily, there's a new guy who's perfect for teen. There is no really important obstacle to them getting together, so they do. The end.

I'm assuming there's more to it than that.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Face-Lift 1211

Guess the Plot

Wyverns of Mass Destruction

1. A disabled American carpet salesman is tricked into leading an air force of dragons against the US military.

2. When the King orders the Dragon Defense Program dismantled and all dragons and dragon-like creatures killed, it's up to Grahm Merrikon to find peacetime applications for his beloved flock of wyverns.

3. US forces rekindle the ire of worldwide Geekdom when they raid an Iraqi warehouse looking for wyverns of mass destruction but find only... dragons.

4. Galankitus has found his perfect weapon: Wyverns of Mass Destruction. But General Lossone can't figure out how to pronounce it. Is it Wivverns, or Whyverns? And if he orders the wrong group into battle, what will Galankitus do to him?

5. Miles Carmichael directs B grade (ok Z grade) movies. His small cult following (emphasis on the cult) frequently volunteer as extras. Unfortunately their shennanigans have gotten him trapped in his latest film while the monsters terrorize Hollywood. Can a ditzy actress rescue him? Without a raise?

6. A Catholic mass is interrupted when giant serpents rampage through the vestibule. Signior Adorno assumed the horsemen would arrive on, you know, horses, but either way, he's gearing up to stop the Apocalypse—with the help of his childhood love and a homeless Shiba Inu.

7. Johnny always knew he’d start the apocalypse. It wasn’t because of the hoard of Wyverns he was raising and equipping with enriched uranium, it was because he was born on the 6th of July 2006. Wait, July is the 7th month, maybe it was the Wyverns.

8. Physicist Boris Fridkin never expected his government's secret nuclear tests to unearth an ancient cache of reptilian eggs. When the irradiated eggs begin to hatch, revealing monstrous creatures from another age, Boris must race to find the finest knightly re-enactor from all the renaissance fairs in the world - the only person capable of stopping the . . . Wyverns of Mass Destruction.

9. The story of a hyperactive dragon with concentration problems, who is seeking a…Hey! Is that a squirrel?

10. Princess Jessica vows to hunt down the fierce Wyverns of Qari. After many adventures, Jessica is faced with the most important decision of her young life -- whether to admit she knew all along that Qari WMDs never existed

Original Version

Michael Boorley thought he was fighting for his country. Tell that to the American soldiers he’s killed.

The last thing Michael’s father said before driving into a semi was ["Aughghghghhhhhhhh!!!] that Michael didn’t deserve to join the Air Force. The resulting accident crippled Michael’s right hand [Manually disabled] and ended his dream of becoming a pilot until twenty years later, when brilliant young scientist Phyllis Harper invites him to join the next generation of combat pilots: a group calling themselves the [Afflicted Airmen? Prosthetic Pilots? Lofty Lefties?] First Wing. He’s pretty skeptical about how she’ll transform a middle-aged carpet salesman into a soldier, but when a beautiful woman invites you on an all-expense-paid trip, you go.

But Phyllis’s vision for the future of air warfare doesn’t involve planes. Instead, she modifies his DNA [This is why, when a beautiful woman invites you on an all-expense-paid trip, you don't go.] and binds his brain to a genetically-engineered dragon. Since the pilots of the First Wing were assembled from a cast of fugitives, drug addicts, and all-out rejects, Michael has no clue why Phyllis recruited him in the first place, [In the kingdom of society's dregs, the carpet salesman is king.] let alone why she assigned him to ride the Wing’s alpha dragon—five hundred pounds of wings, muscle, and a bad attitude.

But when the Wing’s territory is invaded by armed drones and commandos, Michael discovers that shooting down aircraft from the back of a giant reptile is a great way to earn the respect of the Wing’s other pilots. Six weeks later, he’s appointed the Wing’s field commander. [In the kingdom of bilateral upper extremity paralysis, the one-handed man is field commander.] Even his father would be proud of that.

Then he’s captured. He learns the invaders belong to the real Air Force—[Shouldn't he have noticed the insignia on the planes he was shooting down?] and Phyllis is working for a terrorist group dedicated to exposing America’s greatest vulnerability. [Our vulnerability to a dragon air force.] His captors offers [offer] him a deal: spill the Wing’s battle plans or face execution for treason. With hours to go until the Wing is extinguished, Michael’s got to choose between helping [the] country his father would have died for—or risking his life to escape and save the only place where he’s ever felt like a hero. [Won't he feel like a hero if he prevents these terrorists from destroying America with dragons?] [If the Wing is going to be extinguished within hours, why does the US want Michael to reveal their battle plans? It's like sinking a pirate ship and when you capture the one survivor you ask him who he's planning to attack next.]

WYVERNS OF MASS DESTRUCTION is what you'd get if Tom Clancy wrote 'His Majesty's Dragon'. [Novik's dragon air force attacking ships and ground forces in Napoleonic times was nothing compared with your dragon air force defeating modern fighter jets.] It's 200,000 words long and told from seven different points of view.

Thank you for your time and consideration,


Michael isn't the only one wondering why Phyllis recruited him. What's he got that other potential terrorist dragon pilots don't?

A crippled hand doesn't strike me as so horrendous that I'd be an outcast and would agree to let someone modify my DNA. I think you need to explain how Mike gets talked into this. Whom does he think he's fighting against before he finds out it's the US?

Exposing America’s greatest vulnerability sounds like a good thing to do. Phyllis is doing more than exposing it, she's attacking it. Whatever "it" is. I suppose if America were conquered by a dragon air force tomorrow, Republicans would blast Obama for not seeing it as our greatest vulnerability.

If you can't shorten this by half, can you find a stopping place near the middle and turn the rest into Book 2?

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Evil Editor Classics

How Manuscripts Get Recycled, Part II

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Face-Lift 1210

Guess the Plot


1. Tin Woodsman, a cyborg with a dark past, is sent to Oz intergalactic prison to pay for his crimes.

2. Just when the Karkonians and the Malabahians are about to go to war, Laura White, the cruel and ruthless teenaged warrior leading the Karkonians, must contend with her own sister's rebel army. Is destroying your own sister good tactics, or just . . . heartless?

3. Are all men as cruel as the one who just burned Ellie? We're about to find out, because now it's her turn to hurt someone stupid enough to believe in love.

4. When a man is found dead with his chest ripped open and his heart missing, homicide detective Chris Sanchez knows two things: the guy didn’t die from natural causes, and the guy isn’t his AWOL partner Zack Martinez.

5. Curmudgeonly New York editor R. J. Calhoun is gravely ill. Without a heart transplant, he won't live more than a few weeks. Fortunately, his gifted cardiologist is Dr. Tracey Spellman. Unfortunately, Calhoun recently rejected the good Doctor's manuscript.

6. Rupert is a golem. Except for a heart, he has everything any golem could want: a strong body of stone and steel, eternal 'life', and a brain as sharp as a tack—in fact, made of brass tacks. But while Goldberg, Rupert's sorcerer, was off getting him a heart, priests caught Goldberg and burned him to death. Now poor Rupert wanders the Earth searching for a heart.

7. Cynthia's older sister Prue steals and uploads Cynthia's personal diary to the school website. She makes out with Cynthia's boyfriend at her own sweet sixteen and donates Cyn's brand new dress to the Goodwill. Ready for bloody vengeance, Cynthia discovers a voodoo spell which means she can torture Prue in any way she wants on the condition she promises to give her heart away. Trouble is, Cyn doesn't realise that's literal.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Laura White has been destined to become Karkonia's queen since her childhood, when her older brother renounced his claim to the throne and her older sister betrayed the family by joining a group of rebels aimed at destroying their father's imperialistic reign over the country. [Usually in these stories if you're "destined" for something it's from birth and not dependent on other events. The brother and then the sister were destined to take charge, and look how that turned out. Just because you're next in line doesn't mean it's your destiny. As Prince Charles would attest.] Now, at age seventeen, [Put her age in the first sentence; it doesn't work here.] Laura has been raised to be a cruel and ruthless warrior who will lead the Karkonian Empire to a victory against their neighboring rivals, the Malibahians, [Usually in these stories, when the countries are named Karkonia and Malibahia, the main character is named Lorelle or Liliana, not Laura White.] [Also, once Laura becomes heir to the throne, it's hard to believe she'd be allowed to continue in her role of ruthless warrior. In the first place, she might get killed, and in the second place, the Malibahians won't exactly be quaking in their boots when they hear that Laura White is on the warpath. The Karkonians need to keep Laura in the castle and send Aethelgyth the Disemboweler to handle the ruthless cruelty.] and extend her country's rule from coast to coast, a job that she takes with great pride. [I wouldn't call that a "job." A task or a goal maybe, but you don't take pride in a task or goal until you've completed it.]

 Everything goes according to plan- [Not clear to me what goes according to plan. It sounds like she's well on her way to extending her country's rule from coast to coast, but the rest of the sentence suggests she's barely started.] until Alicia returns with a new and improved rebel army, prepared to usurp the rule of Peter VII. Along with the help of her new and unwanted bodyguard Shane Kage, who is secretly a rebel himself, Laura searches [seeks] to destroy her sister and protect her country at all costs.

Lies come to light, loyalties are tested, war is on the horizon, but Laura's future has never been more unclear. She is faced with the most important decision of her lifetime: whether or not she should remain loyal to her power hungry father, or sacrifice everything she loves for the country that she was born to rule. [What do you mean by "sacrifice everything she loves"? What does she love?] [It seems to me that if the rebels win, and there's still a throne, Laura's sister or brother would sit on it. So if she was born to rule, it's an easy decision. Stick with dad and destroy sis.] [Furthermore, in the previous paragraph she was planning to destroy her sister to protect her country. Now she's apparently considering siding with her sister . . . to protect her country.]

HEARTLESS, at 75,000 words  is a young adult novel about strength, love, and sacrifice set in a medieval-dystopian world.  My first novel was published by a small press company in 2011, [Specifics?] and I am currently pursuing a minor in creative writing at the University of Louisville.

Thank you for your time and consideration.



If you want us to believe Laura has an important decision, you have to give us reason to believe that she's not cruel and ruthless, that she sees the rebels' side, that she has some redeeming qualities. Right now I'd rather read Alicia's story than Laura's.

When your sister shows up with a new and improved army, you need more than an unwanted bodyguard to destroy her. The way it's worded, it sounds like it's just the two of them against an army.

Several instances of slightly off word/phrase choice, while they don't interfere with my understanding, would have me worried.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Evil Editor Classics

How Manuscripts Get Recycled, Part I

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Evil Editor Classics

The Law

Click strips to enlarge.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Evil Editor Classics

Summer Jobs Evil Editor Sucked At

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Face-Lift 1209

Guess the Plot


1. A chronicle of Colorado's rise to world dominance through it's "Pot to the Military" program.

2. Forest ranger Gil has, through no fault of his own, lost face in his city. In hopes of restoring his good name, he leaves on a quest to find the legendary Panacea, which can cure the miasma that has decimated half the population. 

3. When Rotton Johnny didn't get the breakfast he'd ordered, he slapped his forehead. "I ordered pancakes! You stupid djinn. I'm hungry, not a world savior." Now the world looks up to the man who can't keep a job. And worse, he has to figure out how to employ all the medical and war materiel people he put out of work. And even more tragic, he's still hungry.

4. When trolls accidentally brew the perfect shampoo from a cauldron of distilled farts they are pursued across the galaxy by beauty-crazed nymphettes packing laser pistols. Can Ug explain away his species' momentary teen-style lapse or will trollkind forevermore be enslaved by the trollop-dressed-as-mutton industry? 

5. When billionaire film director Cam Jameson is found bludgeoned to death on the set of his new sci-fi epic Panacea, homicide detective Zack Martinez knows two things. One, that alien weapon looks awfully substantial for something supposedly made out of plastic; and two--wait, did that creepy alien monster dummy just move?

6. Davey Dixon is all about the ladies. He wakes up one morning to discover his penis can talk! Turns out he banged a witch and she cursed him. The only cure is a rare panacea. He now has three days to find it, before his big porn shoot! Oh the irony! 

7. Was it Panacea Bread where Bill's wife told him their soup and sandwich order would be? Who cares! The glowing green rock he found outside his back door this morning is giving him the strength to outrun the men in lab coats insisting he holds the cure.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,
Gil is a twenty years old [twenty-year-old] forest ranger in the city of Borderwoods, [Why would a city have forest rangers?] his work is to scout the city outskirts and stop the encroaching jungle from invading the city. [It was a rhetorical question, but since you've answered it, those don't sound like duties of a forest ranger.] [Admittedly everything I know about the duties of a forest ranger I learned from watching Yogi Bear cartoons, so there may be duties beyond preventing bears from stealing pic-a-nic baskets.] Most of his earned money is spent on medicine and treatment of his mother, because she, like almost half of the population has a fatal and incurable disease called miasma that is slowly decimating the realm.
One day during the training melee in the barracks, [I've never heard of a training melee, but if there is such a thing it wouldn't be staged in the barracks. And it would be conducted by riot police, not forest rangers, who I assume rarely deal with melees.] a noble's son, wanting to show his swordsmanship to his friends, proposes a training duel with Gil, that accepts it. [challenges Gil to a training duel.] [Why would the son of a noble and his friends be in the forest rangers' barracks in the first place?] The noble's spoiled son is easily beaten, and feeling humiliated, attempts to defend his pride by attacking Gil with an [a] true[-]edged sword. Again Gill [Gil] severely beats him this time sending him to the doctors.
The next day Gill [Gil] is Judged by a Court Martial and accused of violence against a nobleman, but is found innocent because of the sheer number of eyewitness [eyewitnesses] during the duel. Gil thinks that he is safe but the noble whose son he beat uses his connections and power to isolate him from his friends and mom and soon after, Gil almost dies in a fatal "accident". Facing a powerful enemy, Gil makes arrangements for the future treatment of his mother and decides to abandon Borderwoods. [Our hero.]
But as he is leaving the city he encounters a [an] expedition that claims to know where [seeking] the cure to the miasma, the legendary Panacea, can be found. Hoping to find the cure for his mother's disease and prove his worth to the people of the city, Gil joins the expedition in a difficult and dangerous Journey through and beyond the jungle where he will have to learn to believe in himself and his decisions, or let others decide his future and [that] of his family. [I suspect he will make the obvious choice: to let others decide his and his family's future.]
PANACEA is an underway fantasy novel more or less 55,000 words long
Thank you for your attention.


The large number of typos, punctuation errors, and incorrectly used words (many of which I didn't bother pointing out) would mean certain rejection, as the same density of errors would be expected in the manuscript.

Also, this is all setup. Condense this into one paragraph and you'll have room to tell us what happens after Gil slinks off in search of the Panacea.

Basically, here's what you've told us: A forest ranger is challenged to a duel by some idiot, wins the duel, and then decides to leave town with his tail between his legs because all of his so-called friends desert him. And the only way to regain his standing in the city is to cure cancer. We want to know what he plans to do, what's stopping him from doing it, what will happen if he fails, and why we should root for him instead of wondering why we're reading about this wuss.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Face-Lift 1208

Guess the Plot

Not Fully Human

1. Okay, okay, not at all human. It's a dog. But those cute expressions and the thoughts I feel certain he's thinking have convinced me he's just like you or me. Like the way he stares at me when I'm eating, as if he's looking into my very soul. He's always there for me when I need a friend, unlike my cheating bastard husband. I mean, which one is really the animal?

2. Sixteen year old Hunter has never truly belonged in her Colorado High School. So when fae prince Jukuluyuh appears to tell her she's really, half-fae, she gets as bored of this goddamned plot as everyone else and shoots his pansy ass.

3. Genetically altered with Neanderthal DNA and kept in a holding center with other human/Neanderthals, Mea escapes and vows to help all Neanderthalia have equality with the humans who buy and sell them.

4. Sharee longs to shed her gills and tail to be able to walk on dry land like a regular girl, but then wouldn't life be dull if she could no longer lure ships onto rocks and watch sailors drown. What to do?

5. Ethiel, a half human, half demon hybrid has stayed too long in the human world and is losing her powers. She planned to return to the netherworld months ago to rest and recharge, but she did the dumbest thing a hybrid could ever do. She fell in love. Now with that foolishness over, she heads home, but when she reaches the gates, all the guards see is a human. She consults the inter-world hag, who tells her love is changing her DNA and if she doesn't gain access to the netherworld soon she will--horrors!--become completely human.

6. It's another day in the life of a cyborg everyone thinks is human. Watch him bathe out of boredom, try to eat, admire human women, sort of smoke a cigarette, and parkour with ease around DUMBO. Until he meets Jeanette. What's love? Do they feel it?

Original Version

Genetically altered with Neanderthal DNA to correct multiple life threatening defects, Mea Gifford is faster, stronger, and has heightened sensory perceptions. [NFW.]

Two years ago, a plague linked to genetic engineering led to violent unrest. To quell the violence, all NFH were made wards in Holding Centers. [As you have yet to mention anything with the initials NFH, I'm forced to visit, where the most likely candidate is Neighbors from Hell. Although, based on the first paragraph, I'm inclined to go with Neanderthal-Female Hybrid.]

Mea and Carrie Mathews, her friend and fellow NFH look after each other at the Ardmore Holding Center  [AHC]. So when Carrie discovers management’s plan to sell Mea on the black market, they escape to Paradise Valley, Texas.

Expecting a short stay, Mea is unprepared to find friends, a budding romance, [But should she tell her new crush that she's a Neanderthal? Or should she risk that he'll find out from someone else? If this is her dilemma, I can suggest a better title: I married a Neanderthal.] and a job she loves [as a wooly mammoth rancher].

Everything is perfect, except Paradise has a missing teen problem, and that is a problem she can’t ignore. [Is Mea a teen?]

Brashly pursuing leads, Mea triggers a deadly game of cat and mouse which results in her capture and torture [Apparently she was the mouse.] when she interrupts the plans of her creator, Dr. Sean Adams and the Assistant Director of the Ardmore Holding Center, Dr. Dianne Meyers to experiment on and sell NFH. [Is there a big market for pet Neanderthals?] [The one place they escape to just happens to be the place from which the mad scientists are kidnapping Neanderthals to sell to . . . those who want Neanderthals?]

Pushed to her limits and with her abilities suppressed, Mea fights not only to free herself and the teens, but to stop Dr. Adams from covering his tracks by killing everyone in Paradise. [All of which would be easier for Mea if they hadn't captured her and suppressed her abilities. Is she imprisoned? How can she fight to do anything?]

NOT FULLY HUMAN, a Young Adult novel set in an alternate universe in a timeframe slightly ahead of our own. The novel is complete at 78,000 words.


It sounds like Mea could have found a better place to escape to than Paradise, which seems to be where Adams hangs out. Is he there because Paradise is where all the escaped NFHs go? If so, they need a witness protection-type system that sends each escapee to a different remote place, not a valley they can congregate in. Apparently, the speed, strength and sensory perception that Neanderthal DNA gives NFHs also gives them Neanderthal intelligence.

DNA experimentation goes on in our universe and in our time. What is it about this book that requires an alternate universe/time setting?

We need Mea's age and why she chose Paradise to escape to. Also, who buys NFHs on the black market, and why do they want them? As slaves to do the housework? As soldiers to help take over the world?