9.02.2006

3rd SR Crapometer #29

Dear Miss Snark,

Macaroni and Cheese are girls desperate for adventure, but their small Michigan town isn't terribly forthcoming. That is until they meet a mysterious old woman in the woods near the lake. Rumors about Miss Elizabeth abound in town, but Macaroni and Cheese must discover for themselves whether she is a crazy axe-wielding maniac or just an eccentric old spinster.

I am seeking representation for my 52,000 word young adult novel, "The Adventures of Macaroni and Cheese", and I am appreciative of your consideration. Below is the first page of the text, per your submission guidelines.

I am an editor at Idy-bidy Publishing, and have had three short stories published in "Short Stories R Us" and "Random Stories" magazines in the past two years.

Thank you for your time. I look forward to hearing from you.

Best regards,

Eternally Hopeful Writer


Great query. I'm ready to read.

The Adventures of Macaroni and Cheese

"Macaroni. That's a weird name."

"Oh yeah, like Cheese is any more normal? Besides, you gave it to me."

"So, you didn't start calling me Cheese until I started calling you Macaroni. And anyhow, I think Macaroni sounds lots better than 'Mac'. Mac sounds like a truck driver."

(as you know Bob)
"Whatever. Here we are, Macaroni and Cheese, with the whole summer before us. . ." Macaroni said sweeping her arms dramatically.

"And we're bored to death," said Cheese.

Macaroni plunked back down on the step and sighed. "You're right. Greenbrier is such a boring place."

The mid-June sun warmed the morning, promising another not-too-hot Michigan day. Greenbriar, the home of both Suzanne Margaret MacIver, also known as "Macaroni" and Anne B. Brewer, also known as "Cheese". Anne—er—Cheese refused to reveal to anyone, including her very best friend Macaroni, just what the "B" stood for.

School had been out just a week, and already Macaroni and Cheese were feeling like they'd depleted their store of creative summer activity. Of course when you're eleven and have just finished the fifth grade, kids' stuff just isn't what it used to be. But what with the way
Macaroni and Cheese looked sitting on the back steps of Cheese's house, you'd think they lived in the most boring place on the planet.

In fact, Greenbriar was not at all boring. Located on a small lake, bearing the same name as the town, Greenbriar was teeming with summer activities, for kids of all ages. There were the big "kids" with their speedboats and water skis. Younger kids with their bicycles and
roller blades. And the oldest group of "kids," who derived their enjoyment from watching all of the others play from lawn chair vantage points.



Tell tell tell.
Show me.
Show me
Show me.

Stay on Mac and Chee and give me THEIR POV. Don't step back and start sounding like Grandmother Snark pointing out the advantages of a small town. Gimme junior high ennui.
I'll help you paint your toes silver, and you can dye my hair magenta while we discuss B-O-Y-S.

This is the classic disconnect of a good query and a disappointing first page. Y'all drive me to gin I swear.


20 comments:

Virginia Miss said...

11 year old protags -- isn't this more middle grade than YA?

Author, we need something to hook us into the story. Small town boredom doesn't cut it. Is there a spot later in the ms where it gets fun??

Anonymous said...

I can't tell Macaroni and Cheese apart. They are the Borg.

But I liked your query a lot! Wish I could write 'em that well.

Anonymous said...

The Name Thing.

I can't get around it. Really, really can't.

It's a cute gimmick for about two minutes, but plowing through 52K words, not so much.

It doesn't help that I hate mac & cheese as a food but I bet the marketing dept. would love to splash a nice blue cover on this one.

Names that cute belong to the sidekicks, not the heroes.

By coincidence, being on my way to old spinsterhood, I am laying down plans to live in the woods and start swinging an ax like any good maniac. I'm really looking forward to it!

lizzie26 said...

I agree. It's middle grade, what with the age of the MCs. And where is the hook? Too much going into the Macaroni and Cheese names. And as Miss Snark said, more show, less tell.

Anonymous said...

For me as the author, the point of this exercise was the query. This book is actually my first work, which lives in a box under the bed where it belongs.

I read non-fiction queries (and frequently reach for my own gin pail) every work day. I can write one of those with both hands tied behind my back. I didn't know if I could write a decent fiction query.

Thanks, Miss Snark. You gave me exactly the feedback I needed.

BTW, everyone else, yes, this is a "needs more show and less tell" book. But it was my first effort, so cut me some slack. Also, yes, meant Middle Grade; not YA. My bad. Finally, sorry for those who don't like the girls' names. Too bad for you. In terms of plot, it works for the story.

JJ said...

The problem with a story where the characters are SOOOOOO bored is that the reader gets bored immediately, too. Start the story on the hike through the woods to the crazy lady's cabin or something.

The kids' names feel like a gimmick, but it could work if they pay off in some way. Do they?

Elektra said...

Bit agitated, to be honest, that a sub would be sent that isn't in or going to be in circulation--one for which you already know the problems--when the COM was a limited thing.

Then again, it's still your right to send in whatever you want that meets the guidelines, I suppose.

Anonymous said...

At first, I thought this was going for the dramatic--that the characters seemed to know they were "on stage" and were being overly dramatic because that was the intended style. However, as I read on, I realized this was not the case.

The gimmick of the names is fine. (cough*Encyclopedia Brown*cough) I vaguely remember characters named Peanutbutter and Jelly from some YA novel of years past, but I can't find anything on Google. Anyway. Personally, I wouldn't leave the idea in a box under the bed.

Show us how they got their names. I would like to read about how that happened. I wish more about the actual story was present in the opening. The writing seems quite competent otherwise.

Author, you posted an interesting comment. You wanted feedback on the query alone. Why? The point isn't the query, as that will never be published. Even though the query is a part of this exercise, the query is not the point of it. That perspective is not seeing the forest for the trees.

When you send out a query, you send it along with your pages. Even a bad query can get someone interested in your work if the writing is exceptional. How many great queries and bad stories do you think are out there?

McKoala said...

That was one perky query letter. Every word worked.

Uuma F. Tqx said...

Author, you posted an interesting comment. You wanted feedback on the query alone. Why? The point isn't the query, as that will never be published. Even though the query is a part of this exercise, the query is not the point of it. That perspective is not seeing the forest for the trees.

I'm not the author, but I don't se what the problem is. Of *course* you want the best package (query letter + pages) as possible, but getting feedback on just a query letter is a valuable part of that. Did Miss Snark not critique *only* query letters in an earlier Crapometer? Was Miss Snark missing the forest for the trees?

A masterful query letter requires slightly different skills than masterful pages. As with anything, practice makes one better.

Also, a fairly substantial subset of agents request *only* a cover letter, in which case "even a bad query" letter is going to get you doodly-squat.

Frainstorm said...

Here's just one person's thought on the nicknames. Mac obviously is short for her name, which is maybe real-life accurate, but kind of boring like the town. Why not show us in the story how Cheese gets her name (who knows, maybe she's smiling in the photo on page 1 of the paper after she gives the old lady in the woods -- Lizzie Borden? -- some lessons on the axe) and then she can name her sidekick Mac.

That way, you won't have to start where you've started, but somewhere further into the story.

Great query, though. Short and sweet.

Anonymous said...

Author: But it was my first effort, so cut me some slack.

*grumble, grumble* Sorry, but you get absolutely none. You're officially the first person I resent for getting into the crapometer instead of me. I don't mind someone sending in crap if they don't know any better, but why send in crap on purpose? You wasted a slot that could have been given to someone who actually cared.

Anonymous said...

The author here again. For the record, I don't think M&C is crap. Never did, or wouldn't have sent it. Yes, it lives under the bed ... it's a first novel. BUT that doesn't mean that I don't have hope to resurrect it someday.

The reason I chose to send what I did was primarily because I worry more about queries than the quality of my writing. If that makes some resentful, again, that's your problem; not mine.

Miss Snark is always going on (and rightfully so) about how critical the query is. I've been having serious troubles with my queries, and I respect her persepctive. (Honestly, I don't think EE has the same value added that MS carries. EE's just TOO jaded.)

I really like and care about M&C; I always will. And actually, Miss Snark's comments (as well as some of you in the comments trail) have inspired me to give the story another look.

We all took the same chance in sending stuff to MS in this round. I was gleefully lucky. Don't spoil this with sour grapes. Please. Have more respect for yourselves and the rest of us who are all just trying to make our way in this world as writers.

wonderer said...

Author: I don't resent you sending in your query. You got what you needed to out of it - MS said she liked your letter - and as a bonus, you were inspired to give the novel another look. I don't believe that first novels are necessarily irredeemable (most likely after extensive revision), and yours sounds interesting enough from the query. Good luck with it!

Bonnie said...

Okay, maybe I am missing the heat of this debate, since I didn't get off my keister (or, I suppose, on it) to even enter this round of COM, but I think #29 is totally legit in wanting to use the contest as a means to get feedback on her query. That's just as fair game as the people who only really wanted feedback on their pages/writing, as far as I can see. Both are part of the process; both have learning curves; both can make or break your submissions.

lizzie26 said...

Am I missing something here? Writers who submit their queries and first pages should realize that they'll be critiqued by almost anyone who cares to do so (most of us are published writers). Critiquing is a subjective thing, not to be taken so personally (it shows, author, in your responses, even if you are trying not to). If you truly aspire to be a published writer, you're going to have to have thick skin.

Anonymous said...

lizzie26 dear, one word for you: Whatever.

Consider knowing what/who you're talking about before approaching the keyboard.

Just a thought.

Anonymous said...

Well, I thought Lizzie26 had something sensible to say. Is that last anon the sniffy author again?

Anonymous said...

Nope. Wasn't me (the author). I do have a thick skin when it comes to my writing. My whatever lizzie was picking up probably had more to do with the sour grapes folks. I have no patience in that area with being attacked.

I've been edited for too many years to get boo-boo when someone issues an opinion on my writing. I take what I find useful in opinions and let the wind take the rest away.

Anonymous said...

I am glad to hear that. :)