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.


AlaskaRavenclaw said...

I'm guessing that the querier is very young, and possibly not a native English speaker.

What EE says is true: all the errors in the query are going to suggest to anyone who reads it that the same errors will be found in the manuscript. Since hundreds of error-free queries are coming in, the agent is going to simply reject this one.

This is a very, very competitive business. It takes years to polish one's skills to the point of being ready to enter the fray.

Finish this manuscript. You can't send a query for a work-in-progress. Put it aside for a while. Go back and polish it. Make sure it's error-free. Then, if you decide it's good enough to send out, work on your query. Read the archives here and at Query Shark.

Then send it out, and start on another, unrelated manuscript. (Not a sequel!) Meanwhile, study the craft of writing. There are many good books on the subject. Stephen King's On Writing is a good place to start.

InkAndPixelClub said...

Putting aside the various errors, since they' ve already been commented on, the term "forest ranger" is throwing me. It suggests a modern day realistic fiction story, and I wasn't fully aware that this was a fantasy novel until paragraph 2, when we start getting into sword duels and noble's sons. Could you come up with another term for Gil's job, one that might suggest a fantasy setting right away?

Way too much time and word count is spent on Gil's duel with the noble's son and its aftermath. All we really need to know is that Gil gets into a duel with a noble's son and unintentionally humiliates the brat, the brat then tries to kill Gil (I assume that your mention of a "true-edged sword" means they were previously using non-lethal blunted weapons, though it took me some thinking to figure that out) and that Gil's life gets difficult because of it.

I'm not getting the sense of a full fleshed out fantasy world here. It feels kind of generic. If forest rangers are all that stands between the city and total destruction by encroaching jungle, wouldn't they be highly respected citizens? Wouldn't it take more than one pissed off noble to wreck Gil's life?

If Gil survives the accident, it wasn't fatal either.

I do not get the sense from the rest of the query that Gil's problem is that he does not believe in himself and his decisions. Gil's problem is that he embarrassed the son of a noble for no good reason and can't think of any way to stop the noble from harassing him short of leaving town forever.

Take AlaskaRavenclaw's advice and finish the manuscript first. You can't work wth EE's suggestion to cut the setup down and put in more about what happens after Gil leaves to search for the Panacea if you haven't written it yet. Edit, edit some more, and then tackle the query again.

Anonymous said...

hello,this is the author.
I am, as you can tell, a complete neophyte in writing.
I am reading that "Writing fiction for dummies", when i'm finished, I will read the Stephen king book.
Yes, english is not my mother tongue.
Thanks for the tips and feedback

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Anonymous, we see people from time to time here who aren't native English speakers. It shows. Even though you're obviously fairly proficient in English, you don't have a native-like feel for it. And you're planning to compete with people who do have a native-like feel for it, in a field where language proficiency is everything.

There are several successful English-language authors who aren't native English speakers. They all have one thing in common, though. They all live in English-speaking countries.

Do you? If not, I would strongly suggest writing in your first language.

InkAndPixelClub said...

The one other idea I can think of is to find a writing partner, preferably someone who speaks fluent, natural English and at least decent...Potuguese, I'm guessing? Somebody who can take your writing and rewrite it into a more natural English and communicate with you well enough to ask what you mean if some parts of your story become particularly confusing in English. It'd be a big job and you'd probably end up sharing writing credits and any financial rewards that come your way.

You're still going to have to do some editing of your own though. It's tough to tell from the query what's a story problem and what's a result of your issue with English. (To be fair, your English is way better than my nonexistent grasp of any other language.) But misspelling the main characters name twice in a query is probably not a language problem and is something you could solve with some editing.

And you still have to finish the book first.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Anonymous, come to that, most people here don't read either. But the New York Times isn't always right, although you won't read that in the New York Times. In fact, on matters literary they're kind of contrarian.

Oddly, most of the non-native speakers I've run into online who want to write in English are from Brazil. Either you're all the same person, or this is a real trend. You should all get together. (Okay, I realize Brazil is a huge country. But online, maybe?)

While Ink and Pixel's suggestion-- getting a native-speaking writing partner-- might help with the errors, it's still an after-the-fact, stop-gap approach. What you need is a better feel for the living English language before it goes into the book, so that it will inform your writing.

I really don't think that can be achieved without living in an English-speaking country. I met a Brazilian guy at a writing workshop who was in the US trying to achieve that. His English writing was error-free, at least by the time he brought it to class. He spoke English beautifully too. But he still ran into a problem with the narrative expectations of English being different from those of Portuguese. He was working on that but found it quite frustrating.

I'm trying to think of an example of someone who lived lifelong in a non-English speaking country and achieved success as a writer in English. All I'm coming up with are people who either 1) got published in their first language and were translated or 2) moved to the US, UK, Australia, etc and then wrote. (Or wrote after returning home from time spent in an English-speaking country.)

Sorry to be so discouraging. I'm just trying to put you in the picture here. There are steps you can take to increase your chances. They're drastic steps, obviously, and you may not be free to take them.

Evil Editor said...

Also, according to the article, the average Brazilian reads two books a year from start to finish. With a population of 200 million, that's 400 million books a year. Some of those 200 million are too young to read, but let's not quibble. Young adult is a genre frequently translated from English to Portuguese, largely because of the Brazilian market. Those who read them may be hungry for more home-grown authors.

KJ said...

@AlaskaRavenclaw There are plenty of Indian authors who write more than proficient English (Vikram Seth, Arundhati Roy, Chetan Bhagat etc) - unless of course you're counting India as an English speaking country - if so, fair does!

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Of course I was counting India as an English-speaking country, since it is one.

khazarkhum said...

Author, NaNoWriMo has a Brazilian presence. When you join with them, you'll meet other writers in Brazil, and maybe someone who will love partnering with you.