Cesario’s finally found his All-Time Groove: he has the girl of his dreams, he’s just had his first short story published in The New Yorker, and his agent is fielding calls from editors who are betting that Cesario has at least a solid novel or two in him.
The crazy part, Cesario's not even finished with undergrad.
The kid is practically gilt-edged.
But then things quickly turn Achebe (read: fall [the heck] apart).
And just like that, he loses his girl to a DJ with water-boarding-worthy musical tastes.
And then his Mom’s breast cancer, which everyone nicknamed Donna (the cancer, that is, not his Mom), makes a comeback so furious that other cancers will talk about it for years to come.
And suddenly, Cesario couldn’t write himself out of a crappy, meandering sentence if Raymond Chandler was reincarnated as Cesario’s dominant hand.
Which is to say, Cesario has a few things on his plate.
Unlucky for the plate, and for cancer, and for word documents, and for disc jockeys with bad mp3 collections, Cesario is hungry as hell.
And worse, he’s too stupid-smart to stop there.
The Glorious Mis-Education of Some Stupid Smart Kids checks in complete at just a shade below 90,000 words. I thank you for your time and consideration!
uh...yea, that's exactly how it's done.
After two years of doing his time at community college, Cesario’s at last accepted into the university of his dreams, and he sees his chance to not only escape his childhood zip code, but also maybe even write the next Great American Novel in between classes.
To boot, he’s developed a foolproof marketing strategy for his unwritten, unsold book:
1. Initiate a public feud with a fellow author. Slap them across the face in front of TMZ cameras. Do this preferably with the hardcover version of their latest bestseller.
2. Stage a book drive-by. Pepper an unsuspecting street corner with paperback copies of your book. Do not aim; throw the books indiscriminately at all passersby.
3. Commission a special effects guy to come on your book tour. Have him set up a laser show, ceiling-high flames, and a cannonball center-stage. Have a fire extinguisher on stand-by. Do your own stunts, and emphasize that, despite the obvious dangers, your passion for writing is second only to your love of your fans.
4. Write a novella-diss against a popular writer’s latest book, and when asked why, tell everyone that you take the literature game very seriously and you felt like that author’s work was a blatant disrespect against paper itself, not to mention a total affront to agents, editors, and publishing houses, an indictment on the entire industry. Be sure to play up that you’re just one humble person fighting a much bigger struggle, and that you don’t expect, or want, any personal attention. Instead, all glory and honor to whatever Higher Power you believe in, and all that jazz.
However, to Cesario’s surprise, writing a book is harder than he thought, and not even a change of address can put him far enough away from the superhuman reach of his family’s craziness. But perhaps that’s a good thing after all.
And maybe, rather than just writing The Best Novel Ever Written About Real Love, Cesario might finally get his chance at the real thing.
The Glorious Mis-Education of Some Stupid Smart Kids checks in at just over 90,000 words.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
uhh....what? This query bears almost no resemblence to what you've sent before, and honestly there's no plot and no sense of the character.
Dear Query Shark,
Just as Cesario's Mom finds out about his new relationship, she falls gravelly ill. And although Cesario, a born skeptic, knows it's ridiculous to truly consider, part of him wonders whether there was truth to his Mom’s curse. The idea unsettles him, but his Mom's health continues to deteriorate. Following an unexpected break-up with Gerren, Cesario is heart-broken, without a plan, and with a Mom still sick. Coming to his senses, he reminds himself that it was his Mom who'd taught him that the best part about love was its knack for overcoming obstacles. With his Mom's life in the balance, Cesario knows love may be the only defense against even the most formidable curse, and even after learning Gerren is involved with someone else, Cesario is determined not to let her go twice.
The Curious Curses of Cesario M. Benjamin, a novel about family, race, and of course, the L-word, is complete at 73,000 words. Thank you for your time and consideration.
You're awash in words and events here. You're saying a lot of things three and four times in different ways. His mom doesn't want him dating white girls. She says it will be the death of her. He does, she falls ill. You don't need much more than that because that is all setup.
Focus on the choices Cesario has to make and the consequences of those choices.
Get rid of all the setup. We'll see all that in the pages. Get to the heart of the novel in a query.
Finding love can be tough enough without a curse. Unfortunate for Cesario, he's got the extra baggage. Since he was eight years old his Mom promised that if he continued to date white girls, it would someday be the death of her. So Cesario did what any I love my Mom and don't want to hurt her type would do. He dated behind her back.
Ok, so this lad is eight years old and dating girls?
Now that he's off to college, it's become much harder to keep his relationships secret, especially when it becomes clear that Gerren Edwards is not just any girl. She just may be, gasp!, The One. And of course, the scandal!, she's white.
As Cesario prepares to break the news to his Mom, she falls gravelly ill, and Cesario reluctantly ponders if perhaps there was any truth to her promise. Conversely, he wonders if dating non-white girls would improve his Mom's health. Following an intense break-up with Gerren, Cesario commences Operation: Date Brown Girls. However, after a series of good-intentioned relationships fall flat, Cesario is left heart-broken, without a plan, and with a Mom who is still sick. He concludes true love may be the only defense against even the most formidable curse, and even after learning Gerren is involved with someone else, Cesario is determined not to let her go twice.
The Curious Curses of Cesario M. Benjamin, a novel, is complete at 73,000 words. Thank you for your time and consideration.
I still don't have much sense of Cesario other than he dates girls his mum doesn't approve of, then he dates girls his mum does approve of.
What we have here though are one-dimensional characters. We have no sense that Cesario's mum loves him, and wants to protect him from the certain and difficult challenges of marrying outside his race or culture. She's his mom; she wants to protect him.
We get no sense of why Cesario likes girls who aren't brown. And we have NO sense of Gerren at all.
(city state zip)
What have I told you about your address at the top of queries? DON'T DO IT.
Dear Query Shark:
Ceasario M. Benjamin has been cursed by his mother. If you keep dating these white girls, she promises, I will fall over and DIE on the spot. Literally. To top things off, his estranged father, who Ceasario has dubbed The Coupon, is trying to make a comeback in a family that has done its best to move on without him. And when crazy things start happening to each member of the Benjamin clan, is Ceasario’s secret girlfriend, who coincidentally happens to be of the white persuasion, really at the heart of all their troubles? And is it truly possible that Ceasario’s dating habits will impact the fate of the entire world, as the shadowy agents at C.O.L.O.R. would have him believe?
This is a mess. You've got FIVE people introduced: Ceasario; the soon-to-be-dead Mum; the mysteriously-nicknamed-Dad; the secret girlfriend that isn't so secret to Mum it sounds like; and some agents who are of course shadowy.
In other words, too much.
Think of characters as headgear. One thing on your head is fine, two might work, and but three is too many. Plus three and you're past calling the Fashion Police, we're calling the guys with nets. Pare down. Focus.
A novel written for those of us who’ve ever felt helpless about whom we love, and maybe even a bit cursed, The White Girl Curse: The Curious Curse of Ceasario M. Benjamin, is complete at 64,000 words.
This belongs at the end, and you can leave out the movie-announcer-phrases of who you think the novel will appeal to. It doesn't actually say much about your book, and your book is the only thing I care about.
As someone who found himself in a similar harrowing position, choosing between true love and family ties, I feel aptly qualified to tell Ceasario’s story.
Stop right there. You don't need to be qualified to write your novel. It's a NOVEL. You get to make it all up. You never have to be in the same situation as your characters to write about it. Stephen King didn't need to be kidnapped and tortured to write MISERY. Margaret Mitchell didn't need to shoot a Yankee to write GONE WITH THE WIND. Sean Ferrell didn't need to pound nails in his palm to write NUMB.
I’ve had the good fortune of receiving the (redacted) Scholarship award, the very first year it was presented at (redacted) I hold a BA in English Literature. I’m also just as proud to be recognized in my hometown and honored as a (redacted) County Star Writer.
None of these are publishing credits. If you aren't published, I don't care. Filling up your pub credits paragraphs with this is just wasted words. Leave it out.
What's the book about? This is a form rejection based solely on the fact you have not told me a single thing about what the book is about. Start over. Read the damn archives. Pay attention.