9.06.2006

3rd SR Crapometer #81

Dear Snarkmandu: (ok, I'm laughing)

I'm offering a mid-grade contemporary novel, Midnight Run.

What do a brother and sister do when they sneak out of the house at midnight and witness a crime? Solve it, of course! But for these kids there's a twist: they have to help Mom run for mayor. And the election is less than a week away! (Im perking up here)

Midnight Run is a 40,000-word novel featuring humor, mystery and heroes. Twelve-year-old Ricky narrates the story, as he and his fifteen-year-old sister Rory (Aurora when she's in Mom's doghouse) become amateur sleuths. Key to solving the puzzle is a GPS bracelet all kids must wear to school. (oh yes yes yes, please dog, I hope you can write)

The story climaxes on Election Day when the protagonists use their wits to overcome long odds and a well-connected adversary: the current mayor. Fortunately, these kids are clever enough to thwart the guilty parties, save a classmate from evil kidnappers, and ultimately help Mom win. (oh dear dog, a plot, Im fainting with joy)

I've written a series of 12 half-hour, live-action DVD comedies ("title") aimed at a YA audience and due for a late 2006 release. I've also had two short stories published and written scripts for eight other live-action videos produced for elementary schools.

May I submit Midnight Run for your consideration? Hell yes you may.

Sincerely,
Beggar at the Gate
(you barbarian you)


Ms. Price stands in front of our class, arms folded, and waits.
Nobody dares to move. Twenty-two pairs of eyes stare unblinking at Ms. Price. All twenty-two pairs of lips remain sealed. And all twenty-two sets of arms and hands rest neatly on their desks. Except mine. My eyes turn downward, and I feel my right arm fight off gravity and rise into the air as if a puppeteer is gently tugging it upwards with a string.

Classmates squirm in their seats. A cough. The weight of my arm sends pain signals to my brain as though I am holding the entire class in the palm of my hand, which, in a strange way, I am. (you cannot have a sentence this long and maintain dramatic tension. Just can not)Can't Ms. Price see my hand? What is taking so long? I've committed my eyes to stare at my shoe tops so I don't allow myself to look up. It is so quiet, I can hear the second hand on the wall clock in the back of the room as it tick tick ticks a lap around the dial.
"Mr. McCallie."
At last! "Yes, ma'am?"
"You've taken William's backpack?"
William is not William. He is Billy which sounds curiously close to Bully and he strives daily to measure up to the name. He is only William if you are his teacher or his mother. To the rest of our sixth-grade class, he is Billy pronounced however you like. Right now, Bully sits in the principal's office whining his complaint and keeping the rest of us from gaining our freedom. The final bell chimed at least three minutes ago.
"Yes, ma'am, I took it."
"Step forward."
I finally lift my gaze and walk to the front of the classroom.
Ms. Price pauses and eyes the rest of the class with continued suspicion. "Did anyone help Mr. McCallie?" I'm at the front of the classroom so I don't dare look around, but apparently no one confesses to acting as my sidekick in crime. "The rest of you are dismissed," I hear Ms. Price say, and she turns her attention to me.
"Have a seat, Richard."
I do.
"Where did you hide the backpack?"
The question is more difficult than it sounds. See, I didn't take the backpack. I know who did, and I really care about her.(you don't have to tell us this...duh)
I think that's my first mistake.
Since I didn't take the backpack, I don't know where it's hidden. I hadn't anticipated this question so soon. Okay, okay, I confess. I'm trying to come to the aid of Lisa Branch, girl in our class, tell you about her later. Right now though, I've incorrectly predicted Ms. Price will dole out some petty punishment - do more homework or clean the playground or some such nonsense - and I'd trade my PlayStation for an answer to her question.
She misinterprets my silence. "We can call your mother, Richard. Maybe you'd rather tell her where you hid the backpack."
"I threw it out." So I'm not the King of Clever under pressure.
"Threw it out?" Ms. Price says, a note of skepticism in her voice.
"Yes, ma'am. I'm sorry."
"Threw it out where?"
"Well, the trash."
"I didn't think you threw it out the window, Richard. Which trash can?"
"Oh. The cafeteria." This is my second mistake.


This needs ruthless paring.
The query letter really got my hopes up.
I'd read more but most likely this is a nice note with "keep working, let me see a new draft that has been sheared".


19 comments:

Writerious said...

How about starting with the sneaking out of the house part? It got the query off with a bang. It'd probably get the book off with a bang, too.

Corn Dog said...

I think I recognize that query from Evil Editor's work, hmmm?

McKoala said...

I remember this from EE too. I think that the start is great until you start waffling on about Billy/Bully, and then it loses all its tension.

So-called writer said...

Would that it had been the other way around: Loved the story, not so much the query. Certainly an easier fix!

Tomorrow, the paring knife. Maybe the day after.

Thanks for taking the time. This process has been an incredible learning experience.

Author

Anonymous said...

Hey "Author"!
Congrats on NOT getting a form rejection from MS. That's a feat in itself! :~)
Maddog

Sam said...

Loved the query - felt a bit bored with the start of the story. Nothing thrilling about that. I'd start off with "Who took William's backpack?"

Catja (green_knight) said...

Sam, I disagree - I think the whole classroom sitting stock still and just _waiting_ for the inevitable is a good build-up of tension.

I'd cut on the internalisation, make the hole thing move faster, but overall, I like it.

But please, lose the 'novel featuring humor, mystery and heroes' bit - doesn't *every* good story?

Termagant 2 said...

Now, see, I dare to differ with Miss S on this one. This story has a PLOT, which I can see by the comments, many of these crapometer submissions apparently do not.

As far as the tweaking, which of us does not tweak, two, three, sixteen times between draft and contract? Revision is a fact of life. If the pub world took on only stories not needing revision, there would be nothing to read out there. Take on this author who can WRITE, somebody! And do it quick--my 12 year old wants to read the story...

T2, whose word-verification is kiddwk -- I hope this author sells this kid-work!

Anonymous said...

Like corn dog, I saw this before. The query certainly improved. :)

Virginia Miss said...

Author, your story sounds good, but at times you are beating us over the head with things, just tell the reader once.

If the backpack thing triggers the other action (sneaking out of the house, etc.) and you need to keep this scene, here are some quick paring suggestions -- this version is less than half the word count:

Ms. Price stands in front of our class, arms folded, and waits.
Twenty-two pairs of eyes stare unblinking at Ms. Price. All twenty-two pairs of lips remain sealed. And all twenty-two sets of arms and hands rest neatly on their desks. Except mine.
Classmates squirm in their seats. A cough. Can't Ms. Price see my hand? It is so quiet, I can hear the second hand on the wall clock in the back of the room as it tick tick ticks a lap around the dial.
"Mr. McCallie. You've taken William's backpack?"
William is not William. He is Billy which sounds curiously close to Bully and he strives daily to measure up to the name.
"Yes, ma'am, I took it. I'm sorry."
"Step forward."
"Did anyone help Mr. McCallie?" I'm at the front of the classroom so I don't dare look around, but no one confesses to acting as my sidekick in crime.
"The rest of you are dismissed." Ms. Price turns her attention to me. "Have a seat, Richard."
I do.
"Where did you hide the backpack?"
The question is more difficult than it sounds. What could I say that wouldn’t lead them to Lisa?
She misinterprets my silence. "We can call your mother, Richard. Maybe you'd rather tell her."
"I threw it out." So I'm not the King of Clever under pressure.
"Threw it out where?" Ms. Price says, a note of skepticism in her voice.
"The cafeteria." This is my second mistake.

xiqay said...

Of course the query letter got Miss Snark's hopes up. Those of us who hand out over at EE's have seen it, with this EE-spruced up version. I do love it and think the story idea is good.

Now I'll go back and read your page and see if I can offer any (helpful?) comments on it.

xiqay said...

Oh, I remember the opening from EE's blog, too. The 22 pairs of eyes.

Too much stuff between the dialogue. It saps all the interest/tension. Too much internal thought. A quick beat would do. The William/Billy/Bully stuff is way too much & boring.

Why does the story start here? Richard takes the blame to cover for a girl he likes. Okay. So are we supposed to think him chivalrous or dishonest? A kid making mistakes? But we don't care yet.

Renni Browne's book on self-editing. Get it. Read it. Use it.

Good luck.

tlh said...

"This story has a PLOT, which I can see by the comments, many of these crapometer submissions apparently do not."

Keep in mind, this author isn't really up against most of the other slushpile manuscripts. The real disasters were never in the running anyway.

Right now, he's in the odd position of being better than that guy who wrote "acept this or I keel u ded" in crayon on his query letter and not as good as the author the agent sent roses to along with a heart-shaped contract.

It needs work, but take heart -- you're not in that uncomfortable swamp of "this is uneditable, I can't even decide where to begin, so I'll just say nothing".

Pare away, and I'd suggest going over it with a critical eye for the one or two places where Ricky's voice falters a little ("curiously similar", for example, strikes me as a little out of place for a twelve year old boy; the next few pages might prove me wrong).

Those spots wouldn't be noticeable except you've got such a lively, smart voice going for him they stick out.

I like your characters, by the way. I'm already rooting for the poor, dumb, noble sap who is probably going to spend the rest of his life playing the fool for pretty women in distress. And if his sister is as likeable, I'm hooked, and I'm not even your target audience.

Anonymous said...

Know what would sound awesome?

"Oh." This is my second mistake. "The cafeteria."

Frainstorm said...

If I could send an email of thanks to so many of you, I'd do it in an instant.

Virginia Miss ... your post. The time you must have spent, and presumably I don't even know you. I just hope you come back and visit this post so you'll see my sincere thanks for that.

T2, likewise, I'm flattered.

I have work to do, that's for sure. It's so difficult to decide what changes to make when so many people give such varying responses.

But thanks everyone. I think my best course is to find a critique group. Good luck back to all of you, this is such a zany life we've chosen.

Author

Anonymous said...

22 pairs of eyes and 22 pairs of lips... how many people are in this room?

Anonymous said...

"Keep in mind, this author isn't really up against most of the other slushpile manuscripts. The real disasters were never in the running anyway."

That's not true, is it? The entries were selected randomly. Or, are you referring to non-crapometer slushpile manuscripts?

I'd hate to think mine wasn't selected because it was a real disaster.

tlh said...

I was referring to the real slushpile, which, honestly, is the one that counts.

Probably a bit unfair, since the original commentor was most likely restricting his comment to the crap-o-meter. But it's an important point, I think.

Anyway, the Crap-o-meter, from what I understand, was selected randomly. It is pretty interesting to see how the 100 entries break down, though -- I wonder if the proportion of not-quite-there to gems is roughly the same as in a regular slushpile?

Virginia Miss said...

frainstorm,

I write for younger readers, too, so I enjoyed doing it. You have some great stuff, just too much of it :) Sometimes it's easier to see an example than just being told to cut...Hope my humble suggestions help.
I loved your query by the way!