Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Face-Lift 1252

Guess the Plot

Spy Girl

1. Caught smoking in the girls' bathroom, Karen is threatened with a month of detention--unless she agrees to go undercover by joining the mean girls clique and snitching on them.

2. Fifteen-year-old Sacha is given her first mission as a government agent: infiltrating a prestigious boarding school before America's espionage network is seriously compromised, and bringing down a traitor. If this is what they give her as a sophomore, she can't wait till she's a senior.

3. Eighteen-year-old Juli, a high school senior, is incensed when a boy installs a nanny-cam in the girls' restroom. So she bugs the boys' locker room. The girls are amused to hear the boys talk about them. However, it results in romantic breakups and when Juli tries smoothing things over by putting it on the Internet, the FBI begins investigating child porn at the school.

4. After a plane crash, nine year old Petunia Higginbotham finds herself in the presence of a scythe-wielding man dressed in black, who challenges her to a game. Not particularly good at chess, she chooses I Spy. But, after solving "Black Box" and "Corpse", will she be able to figure out what Death is looking at with his little eye that starts with the letter G?

5. Henderson G. T. Thornbush is a man on a Big Bucks mission, a guy with a dream, a real top player. But life turns sour when he loses his hemorrhoid ointment and only Spy Girl can help him rediscover his mojo.

6. When the body of bestselling author Frank Stevens is found strangled by a lace teddy in the cabin of his yacht, homicide detective Zach Martinez knows two things: One, that really is Frank's teddy; and two--wait!--author of tough guy books like "Die Violently" and "Gun Guts" is the same person as romance writer Norma Macleod?

Original Version

Sacha Knox is a kick-ass, quick-witted fifteen year old who calls it as she sees it. Thanks to her unconventional father, she competes with the boys at her local Krav Maga club, speaks five languages, and can hit any target you dare her to shoot at.

Out of the blue, her father reveals the truth about her unusual upbringing: he is a spy. [It's taking Elizabeth an entire season of The Americans to break it to Paige that her parents are spies. This guy does it out of the blue?] And now, he needs her to become one too.

[Dad: Finished with your Russian, Chinese, Arabic, and Canadian homework?

Sacha: All done.

Dad: By the way, I'm a spy. And henceforth, so are you. Ready for your first mission?]

With knee-highs and Bambi eyes, Sacha can infiltrate where no adult agent can go. Add in her sharp mind and fiery attitude, and she might just have what it takes to complete her mission: to stop a rogue agent from selling the top secret identities of ten [American?] agents—a list that begins with [includes] her father’s name.

To succeed, Sacha needs to get close to the traitor’s charming and attractive teenage son at Kingston Preparatory Boarding School – home of tomorrow’s millionaires and [senators?] tomorrow night’s socialites. But Sacha wears jeans, not designer dresses, [Apropos of nothing, nowadays jeans cost more than designer dresses.] and she’s kicked more guys than she’s kissed. And with an interfering school principal and her target's snarky girlfriend getting in the way of her mission, Sacha begins to think her agency trainer might be right – she should stick to being a school girl and leave the spying for [to] the adults. But time is running out, and Sacha is the only option left. Can she pull off her cover, survive the dangerous world of subterfuge, and save her father?

Complete at 55,000 words, Spy Girl is a stand-alone YA novel with the potential to grow into a series. I have worked for the past eight years as a writer and editor of children’s books, with more than 30 books published by [Publisher #1] and [Publisher #2]. This is my first novel.

I believe Spy Girl will appeal to fans of the Veronica Mars and the Gallagher Girls novels, as well as anyone who loves to read about a strong female character juggling life-and-death adventures with being a teenager in high school. A few other agents are also considering this submission. Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Kind regards,


Not bad. I've designated a few phrases for possible deletion in order to free up space to tell us what Sacha has to do once she gets close to her target. As the list of names could be memorized or could exist in the "cloud," I assume the mission is not simply to steal it. Is she supposed to kill the rogue agent? Bait him into being captured? Kidnap his son for leverage? A bit more specificity about the mission would be nice.

If Sacha has such a sharp mind, how come she buys this story about her father being a spy? Teenagers never believe anything their parents say. Evil Jr. would have laughed me out of the room if I'd claimed to be James Bond.

Do the good guys know where the rogue agent is? I assume not, or they'd swoop in and take him where he'd never be heard from again.


SB said...

I'm really only surprised that your comp titles weren't Alex Rider (about a teenage spy) and I'd Tell You I Love You But Then I'd Have to Kill You (also about a teenage spy).

SB said...

And I just remembered that my second suggestion is part of the "Gallagher Girls" series, which you mention, so there ya go.

I don't really have anything to critique about this, really. Seems like you got the plot on the page. An agent/publisher who's into this sort of genre would probably be interested, I'd expect.

Libby said...

Author here,

Thanks EE. That really helped. I made the changes you suggested and clarified her mission.
SB, I was going to change "Veronica Mars" to "Also Known As," but I felt that, although Veronica Mars is about a school girl PI and not a spy, it feels more along the same lines as my book than "Also Known As." I chose not to comp Alex Rider because the protag is a boy. What do you think? Should I say an "Alex Rider" for girls?
Thanks for you help!

Unknown said...

I would avoid actually calling your MC a "strong female character" since it's become a trope in itself and there's a lot of frustration out there around "SFC"s from people who genuinely want to see more interesting women in fiction.

Especially because Sacha already rides the line of that stereotype with the whole good with a gun but hopeless with boys thing.

Just show Sacha doing kick-ass things and we'll get it that she's kick ass. Think about it like this: if you have to tell people you're cool, you're not cool.

I also think the title is a bit lacklustre but that's not going to break your query.

Good luck! I love spy stories--I hope yours finds an audience!

Libby said...

Thanks Kjl Hutton :)

InkAndPixelClub said...

In addition to getting some more of what Sacha will be doing aside from trying to get close to her target, I'd like to see some more of her personality. Right now, the only thing that hints at her character is the line about her being more likely to wear jeans than designer dresses. Does she like learning all of the stuff that will later be useful to her as a spy, or is Dad just not giving her a choice? How does she react when dad reveals that he's a spy? Does she want to be a spy?

Not sure if Veronica Mars is the best comp, as it's primarily known as a TV series rather than a book series.

It's certain;y not bad, but it needs some more detail and personality to stand out from the crowd.

Unknown said...

Just thought I'd add, Courtney Summers' new book ALL THE RAGE uses Veronica Mars as a comp. I'm guessing because it has a very specific cult following (it's not just any teen show off CW). So unusual, yes, but you're not the only one doing it : )

SB said...

As far as comping Alex Rider, I personally wouldn't think the fact that he's a boy makes enough of a difference to make it a bad comp. Seems to me like kids who are into spy kids books would read them regardless of the protag's gender (especially girl readers). I don't think you need to say "for girls" either. Your protag is a girl, so that's pretty clear. And saying "for girls" implies that girls can't or won't read Alex Rider, which isn't true.

I think the bigger problem with using Veronica Mars is that it's a TV show, and I've heard that you shouldn't use TV/movies as comp titles for books.

Anonymous said...

This novel sounds fun, but it also sounds like every other spy kid novel and Disney Channel Original Movie out there.

Heroine who's "not like the other girls" because she has a brain and a black belt? Check.

Hot, rich, popular love interest who's probably more complex than he seems? Check.

Love interest's witchy head cheerleader archetype girlfriend? Check.

Clueless adults who get in the way and unfairly treat the heroine like a naive child? Check and mate.

I'm sure your novel isn't as cliche as it seems from this query, but to see that we need more details. What makes this book stand out from the others in the genre? What makes the characters unique and interesting?

Libby said...

Thanks all for your advice. I'll have a look at rewording the query to make it reflect the more original aspects of the storyline (e.g. she doesn't fall in love with her target, and she's more "not like the other girls" because she's violent, rather than sassy.)
SB: Thanks for your thoughts on the comps. I didn't mean to say that girls couldn't read Alex Rider books. But as a female myself, I particularly like to read stories where girls drive the action, especially in such a male-dominated genre. But I agree, I'll leave out the "for girls" bit. I originally went with Veronica Mars, despite it being a TV show, because I've noticed on Publishers Marketplace that the books are often described as a cross between "X" TV show/movie and "X" book. But maybe the rules are different for queries. Thanks :)

PLaF said...

Zach Martinez! Yay!

PLaF said...

Sacha has skills which she may be able to use to get her father out of trouble, but what are her personal challenges?
Getting along with others her age? Finding a boyfriend?