Thursday, November 03, 2016

Face-Lift 1333

Guess the Plot

Illustrated Desert Under the Elms

1. This lovely, lively book features dozens of ideas for your next quick pick-me-up with desserts under that big tree in your yard, where--wait--DESERT? Never mind.

2. Political corruption involving garbage contracts. In the suburban desert. With pictures. Think The Sopranos, but with camels.

3. Anna has always visited the elm trees at her family's farm, gazing out at the wasteland, imagining a new life. When the local Native American boy is found babbling about the "Darkness", she discovers her imagination is the only thing protecting her home.

4. In a post-apocalyptic future where random words from ancient scraps of paper are used as names, 13-year-old Illustrated Desert, on an everyday scavenging mission with her friend Mortgage Knife, stumbles upon a sealed dome containing a magical world of towering green things and unimaginable lushness.

5. A delicate yet subversive kunstlerroman featuring sensitive, alienated young landscape painter Celeste, who despises the manicured suburban greenery around her, and longs only to create scenes of parched mesas and barren dunes.

6. A scrapbook-obsessed helicopter mom maintains an extensive photojournal of her 3-year-old's stunningly precocious Lego and Polly Pocket tableaux, all crafted in their backyard sandbox.

7. A 1,000-word picture book explaining ecological devastation and the world as it will be when young readers grow up. Don't worry, there's one cuddly bunny that doesn't die.

Original Version

A noir vision of a former southwestern rural which has been turned into a suburban community. It's [Its] newer residents have effectively taken over and want the reminders of the past de-facto obliterated; but are not fully aware of that. Themes include political corruption, widespread duplicity, young love, garbage contracts, and gangsta wannabees told through the lives of eleven people who live there. It's a total of 150,000 words and a 259,000 word version also exists; the former being stripped of many digressions. it's difficult to fully describe, but if one can see the main theme of "Infinite Jest" being a symbolic apocalypse brought about by the cold; then this is one brought about by the heat. [I see the main theme of Infinite Jest as tennis, which would make your main theme . . . short-track speed skating.]

I write in many fictional genres ranging from literary to a crappy short dalliance with bizarro; and have about thirty titles completed. So, if you have a heightened interest in one area please specify. [Alternate history haiku. With ducks.] Also, be aware that at age 67 I am not open to touring or book signings. [67 is the new 43. Get off your ass and promote.] My only interest is your indicated seven-figure-deal- negotiating skills. [I knew it. You're like Citizen Kane if he was a character in Plutarch's Lives (volume 2).]


Anonymous said...

Well, I'm not sure I've ever read anything like this. Is it a query letter? It doesn't convey much plot information or any specific characters. And I don't think you're doing yourself any favors with a closing paragraph like that. Even if you're absolutely against book signings and touring, you wouldn't state that in a query letter. And even though I don't think you have to brown-nose agents all the time, I don't think highlighting their negotiating skills as your only form of interest is very flattering.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Assuming this isn't a hoax... No, I'm not going to assume that.

But for any lurkers who are new to this and wondering why this query doesn't work:

There are errors in all but two of the nine sentences.

There's no clear description of what the book is about. Only two-and-a-half sentences are devoted to plot; zero to the main character. A query should focus almost entirely on the main character.

Agents prefer to be queried for only one project at a time. Mentioning a large unpublished backlog isn't a draw.

Six figure deals are fairly rare, but they do happen to real people. Seven figure deals are unicorns. They occur only when the author, not the book, is the selling point. That is, the writer is either already an established bestseller, or the writer is a nationally-known celebrity.

The last paragraph suggests inflexiiblty, and most agents aren't looking for inflexible writers to work with.

St0n3henge said...


Who are your main characters, specifically your MAIN main character? What do they do? What's getting in their way? Do they have goals, needs or wants? What are those?

Please start over.

St0n3henge said...

So far, this is what I've got from this:

Jack Blank, a decorated cop in an unnamed big city is operating under a false identity. As an ex-felon, his career will be destroyed if anyone finds out. And they do. So now his career is ruined, but at least he can catch the guy who stole his car. Vinny is a relatively new Mayor who hopes to hang in long enough to score a lucrative garbage pickup contract, while Penny spearheads a gardening society and complains about nuisance trees.

So far it sounds like the gossip on my community Facebook page. Which is interesting enough, if you go by the amount of people commenting. But for a query letter, you're going to need some of the actual story.

Look at Stephen King's book The Stand, for instance. There are many characters, several of them main characters. But you can still condense the general storyline. A virus wipes out much of the earth's population. Survivors make their way to either Boulder or Las Vegas where they create two colonies. When the Las Vegas colony gets hold of a nuclear bomb, both colonies are threatened.

It's going to need at least a suggestion of what the story is and how it progresses.

Evil Editor said...

If you click on 2009 in the sidebar, and then on August, and then scroll down the posts to August 16th, you'll find the results of a writing exercise we did in which the object was to write a query that focused on one thing--anything other than the story. Most of them are pretty funny, and this query would fit right in.

Unfortunately, a query is not the place to demonstrate your vocabulary, flaunt your literary chops, list your themes, or insult the person to whom you are writing. It's an opportunity to tell someone who receives a dozen such letters every day:

What happens in your book.
Whether you can write at least one entire page that's well-organized, error-free, and informative.
That it's at least slightly possible you wouldn't be a pain in the neck to work with.

It's entirely possible the first person who reads your query will be an unpaid 20-year-old intern who doesn't get your wit, never heard of Infinite Jest, and broke up with her boyfriend last night. You think she's gonna pass this query up the chain of command?

Jeanne said...

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