The Incredible Race

Post excerpts from your works in progress and give feedback to your fellow writers.
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Re: The Incredible Race

Post by Username » June 6th, 2010, 6:28 am

It never occurred to me that by titling the chapters, and then listing them as an index, some people might mistake the novel for a collection of short stories - I suppose that if a person were glancing through books in a bookstore then they might make that mistake.

Maybe I ought to try that with this story? (I'm willing to try anything these days.)

Anybody able to think up any sub-titles for my chapters?

Chapter One could be... Death of a Toothpick Salesman... or, hmm, I can't think of anything good at the moment...

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Re: The Incredible Race

Post by Petronella » June 6th, 2010, 2:49 pm

I hope you don't mind my saying how much I enjoyed reading these opening chapters. For me they were just the right length and fit the humourous style of writing. I liked the characters, all of them, and wish I had more to read so I could learn more about them.

If I read through the chapters a few more times I might spot something to be nitpicky about, but that's not me. I have a hard time saying negative things about people's writings.

I start off with writing very long chapters like many of you. Afterward I divide them in half, sometimes in thirds, and even into fourths.

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Re: The Incredible Race

Post by Username » June 6th, 2010, 3:09 pm

Petronella, I also have a very difficult time in being critical of another person's work (a very, very difficult time) - at the same time, I realize that saying something good for the sake of saying something good isn't going to be very helpful to the author. The responses I've received in this thread have all been very helpful to me, and I'm super glad that I posted this. (I now know the difference between 'told' and 'informed' - hooray!)

I also think it's a sound strategy to divide chapters if they're too long. At the same time, if a chapter needed to be longer, then I would hope that my instincts would kick in and allow for that - in other words, I'm not sure an author should have any hard and fast rules. Dan Brown seems to follow one such rule - his chapters, without exception, are incredibly short. That feels like a rule to me.

Then again, what do I know - he's published, and I'm not.

I don't know anything anymore. Thanks, guys, for the comments. I appreciate you taking the time to read this nonsense.

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Re: The Incredible Race

Post by J. T. SHEA » June 6th, 2010, 10:22 pm

Don’t worry, Username, I doubt many people would mistake chapter title content pages as short story collections. I was just searching for reasons why more writers don’t use the technique. Perhaps the main reason is it’s a little more work.

I keep a file of potential chapter titles for my works in progress, riffing on themes and events and characters in the WIPs. Each of the three novels in my YA steampunk series has about 60 chapters. You have a much wider choice of titles for chapters than for a whole book. Quotations from the action or dialogue of your book. Famous book titles, used ironically. Etc.

I find the chapter list helps me keep track of where things are in my novels. Summarizing what happens in each chapter in a single line or so is a good way to build up an ongoing synopsis of the whole work.

Regarding Dan Brown, I don’t consider short chapters, or many other things, to be the special privilege of published writers, bestsellers or not. More white space means more paper, but I believe readers like white space and extra sales will more than offset any extra cost.

Criticism? Seek and give the constructive variety. Avoid the destructive. If I may point out the obvious.

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Re: The Incredible Race

Post by Username » June 11th, 2010, 2:38 pm

Something I deliberately held back from saying was that this novel has pretty much run its course.

I've submitted to every literary agency in The United States practically, and to date, nobody has requested to read the novel. I have 47 rejection letters in my desk drawer for this novel.

Here's the thing that's bothering me, somewhat, though.

Last year I gave this same excerpt to a person I know. I had a feeling that people just weren't reading my work. So when I gave the excerpt to this person I reversed pages 5 and 6, meaning of course that when reading this story he would've reached the end of page 4, and then turned onto page 6. If he had read the story then surely he would've readjusted the pages.

After a month had passed I asked this person for my writing back. When he returned the pages they 'felt' like they hadn't been read (pages that have been read just have a different feel to them than those that haven't) and sure enough, pages 5 and 6 were still out of order.

I then decided to try this out with a literary agent - just to find out what would happen. I had a feeling that the agents weren't actually reading my work. Sure enough, when the pages came back (along with my rejection letter) pages 5 and 6 were still out of order. I then did this same thing with the next 10 agents. Each time, my work came back to me with pages 5 and 6 out of order.

Some of you have actually read this work. Here's the question I've been struggling with: If the agents aren't prepared to read my writing (not even to page 5), then how can I possibly ever convince them to represent me?

At this moment, I have zero belief that I will ever be published. It feels like I can't win. It feels like no matter how much I learn, or what I write, I'm just not going to get published. I've now spent about fifteen years in isolation (and in poverty) teaching myself how to write (or at least trying to), and I'm just not getting anything out of this.

Does anybody out there have any thoughts or comments about this? Is there something about this excerpt that's just plain unprofessional? I had to move on from this work, because after 47 rejections it was kind of difficult to continue. The thing is, though, that every now and then I pick this story up and take a look at it, and I still have feelings for it. Usually, after I've been away from my work for a time, I think that it sucks, but this story I still like.

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Re: The Incredible Race

Post by rmorris » June 12th, 2010, 7:48 pm

A little confidence in your writing is a good thing. Sure, not everyone is going to get their work published, but if you're trying to get people to read it but including a negative disclaimer, it's not going to get anyone too excited about it.
I haven't searched the forums to see if you've posted a query for The Incredible Race, but why not post one here? Try and sell me on it. Sell it with utter confidence; that's the best advice I can give you.

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Re: The Incredible Race

Post by Username » June 12th, 2010, 10:04 pm

rmorris, negative disclaimer?

I'm not sure what you mean?

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Re: The Incredible Race

Post by J. T. SHEA » June 12th, 2010, 10:45 pm

You're not the first writer to try to trick agents that way, Username! And two can play that game.

Turning pages upside-down, sticking them together, dog-earing them, it’s all been tried before. Agents have been known to read the pages, then turn them upside-down again, or re-dog-ear them, or whatever, to confirm the writer’s suspicions. Some or all of the ten agents you queried may have read your submission in correct order and then swapped the pages back to the wrong order to trick you back.

I second R Morris regarding posting your query in these Forums' QUERIES section.

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Re: The Incredible Race

Post by Username » June 13th, 2010, 12:38 am

I don't actually have much of a query letter.

The novel's not actually 'about' anything at all. I was just having fun with this (I was kind of hoping that it would show in the writing). The novel's just about a race around the world. That's it. LOL!

Also, the last agent I sent this work to was a local agent, and she actually took the time to write a personal comment. Are you ready for it: "I did not find this to be compelling," is what she wrote. She actually marked up her own cover letter in ink to write that. She actually took the time out of her day to tell me that my writing was boring.

And ya know... that stopped me from writing for nearly four months. I was devastated by that letter. Why would an agent go out of her way to discourage me like that? I must've read that sentence about five hundred times.

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Re: The Incredible Race

Post by J. T. SHEA » June 13th, 2010, 2:18 am

Your having fun did show in the writing, Username, and that’s a good thing. Sometimes well-intended advisors give the impression writing should be a kind of penitential exercise, using more blood than ink, as it were. But if you sent 47 agents ‘(not) much of a query letter’ you made it all too easy for them to reject your novel.

Note ‘reject your novel’ not reject you. I know it can feel much the same. I too identify closely with my work, too closely at times. Likewise, the local agent spoke for herself when she wrote that SHE did not find the novel compelling. Yes, she is a professional, but no, she does not speak for all humanity.

Stopping writing for nearly four months? Rereading the sentence five hundred times? Sounds like you devastated yourself.

And a race around the world is something rather than nothing. Just ask Jules Verne. You can’t, of course, since he’s dead. But you’re not. Put your ‘(not) much of a query letter’ up in the QUERIES section and let’s see if we can suggest improvements.

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Re: The Incredible Race

Post by Username » June 13th, 2010, 3:34 am

Okay, I'll do it then - thanks!

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Re: The Incredible Race

Post by rmorris » June 13th, 2010, 1:55 pm

Username wrote:rmorris, negative disclaimer?

I'm not sure what you mean?
I'm sorry. All I meant was that you were all to happy to post your work up for us to read, but the disclaimer was that you felt it had run its course and were ready to give up on it. That doesn't make me jump and down to read it! But I did of course, and like everyone else, found it to be amusing and quirky. It's good, but you need to sell it that way too.

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Re: The Incredible Race

Post by Username » June 13th, 2010, 5:44 pm

Oh thanks for clarifying that - yes, I see what you mean now.

But to be honest - I did give up on this work. Maybe in posting the above excerpt here I'm working my way back towards giving it another go. But as mostly everyone else here has done with their own work, I invested a lot of emotion in this. I don't claim to be different than anybody else - far from it... actually, I hope that I'm just like everyone else - but I spent twelve months, day and night, working on this story, and this was at the end of a good long fifteen year apprenticeship in which I was writing the entire time (have you heard the story of Johann the churchmouse? - that's me, except that for me, writing is the music). Each rejection letter was crushing since I had such high hopes for this story. Honestly, I felt that this was the first professional story I had ever written. I felt that my apprenticeship was finally starting to pay off. I look back on some of the stuff that I've written, and I'm just appalled at how unimaginably bad it is... but this story has lasted... it's the only story I've written that I still care about when I pick it up again.

But after 47 rejections, for right or for wrong, I had to move on, and try something else.

Meanwhile, I'm working on a query letter for this story. Selling is not my strong point - I mean, obviously - but I'll post a query for this in the query section.

Again, thanks for the help, guys.

I'll try my best to help other people if I can. Thanks.

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Re: The Incredible Race

Post by JustineDell » June 16th, 2010, 12:00 pm

Username wrote:
But after 47 rejections, for right or for wrong, I had to move on, and try something else.
47 rejections is actually not that many. In a previous post you mentioned you "queried all agents in the US and have 47 rejection letters in your drawer." There are A LOT more agents you can query. On top of that, what did you query with before? In another post you mentioned you didn't have much of a query, so I'm wondering when you queried, if you did so with an actual query letter? I apoligize if you mentioned it somewhere in this thread, I didn't read through every post.

It's too bad you got all those rejections, but there are more agents you could query. Check out querytracker.net, or join a writers club (for your genre) that offers names of agents/publishers who rep your genre. I've sent 35 queries out...and I still have TON to go. Don't give up on it!

Sorry I didn't have time to read your pages!

~JD

http://www.justine-dell.blogspot.com/

"Three things in life that, once gone, never return; Time, Words, & Opportunity"

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Re: The Incredible Race

Post by Username » June 16th, 2010, 2:57 pm

JustineDell wrote:
Sorry I didn't have time to read your pages!
You're going to regret this when I become bigger than Dickens, Hemingway, and Christie combined.

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