Something's wrong... Help please. [new version]

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BlancheKing
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Something's wrong... Help please. [new version]

Post by BlancheKing » June 25th, 2010, 1:06 am

Edit: Thank you guys so much. I made a lot of changes from your advice. The updated version is on the next page.
...
Waiting's driving me mad...
So I finally got one of my full's back today. Rejection, but it was a long shot anyways.
But the problem is that I get more than my share of requests... it's just none of them ever come back with helpful advice. I'm starting to worry that there's some serious problem with my manuscript that I'm not seeing. Here's part of chapter 1; can anyone find anything? Please and thank you if you do. =)

...
Last edited by BlancheKing on July 1st, 2010, 8:43 pm, edited 3 times in total.
One manuscript, One dream, One stack of stamps that needs to be bought...
Writing Process: http://blancheking.blogspot.com/

Matt_X
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Re: Something's wrong... I can't find it. Help please.

Post by Matt_X » June 25th, 2010, 3:06 am

Hi Blanche,

I thought this was fun to read, with a strong and consistent voice, evocative descriptions, and very interesting characters.

Of course better than any compliment I could give is the fact that several agents have requested fulls from you. That's fantastic! I haven't started querying for my novel yet and I hope I am so lucky. Keep it up and I'm sure you'll get a solid bite soon.

My suggestion for something to consider is the narrator's response to the otherworldly 'zap' that happens in the library. If this happened to me--

The whole library shook soon as I touched his sleeve. Books flashed in and out of focus as waves of hot and cold swept through the room. Everything was blue. The young man was gone, but my arm was outstretched in midair. I tugged at it with my other hand.
Two shadows appeared, one pulling the other towards itself. Dancers? No, worse…
With a sharp jerk, I freed myself and fell with a thump. The library popped back into view – books, shelves and all.

--it would affect me profoundly. Being struck by waves of hot and cold, figures appearing and disappearing, everything turning blue...after reality snapped back, I think I would need a long time to recover. I would wonder if I was insane, or sick, or drugged, or if I had just discovered the first real evidence in my life that something supernatural exists in the universe. It would really rock my world and I would need some time to think about it, talk to friends, etc. I felt the way that the narrator goes back to browsing books and is soon thinking about more mundane things might be a little jarring.

That's it from me. Intriguing start to your MS and best of luck!

Sea
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Re: Something's wrong... I can't find it. Help please.

Post by Sea » June 25th, 2010, 5:45 am

Hi Blanche

I'd be interested in seeing the query letter you're sending. Are you getting requests for fulls after the query letter, or do they request the first 3 chapters and then fulls? Because it seems like if they're asking for the first three chapters first, and still requesting fulls, we're probably looking in the wrong place!

You've got an interesting premise here, and a unique voice. I really like your opening lines:

"If there was one thing I hated about Thanksgiving break, it was the fact that there was never time for the break part. Somewhere between their research and yelling at the department heads, our professors looked into their grade books and realized they were as empty as their students’ pockets."

However, from there, it starts to get a bit messier / more confusing. For example: "The book was sticking out of the top shelf, just the corner, but it enough to make me wish I’d gone home for Black Friday." First, there is an error here 'but it ....was... enough to' - and secondly, maybe it's just me but I don't understand how the corner of the book makes her want to go home for Black Friday. If it's the annoyance that it's out of reach, or because it looks boring? I don't know, I don't think its very clear.

I can sympathise because by the time you've read your opening 300 times, and you know exactly what's happening, it's hard to step back and ensure it still fills in all the gaps for someone who has never read it before.

Then when the old lady comes along, she sounds kind of freaky but the narrator doesn't seem to feel unsettled by her. The instant leap to the idea that she's stalking the guy seems a bit far fetched as well. I also can't imagine going up to someone - while their apparent stalker is watching! - and telling them they're being stalked. Then when this line comes along: "The old woman rushed toward a shelf on the other side of the room. Crouching down, she fidgeted with the pocket of her floral-print dress until she produced a note card.
“Mine…” she said again" - "

And it doesn't do anything to convince me that she is *actually* stalking this man - she's running around clutching a card? I thought she wasn't actually watching the guy after all, and had been staring at the distant shelf the whole time.

I continue to be confused by your description of what happens when she touches the guy. And I only realised the main character was female about halfway through the excerpt, when the guy says something like 'are you the girl that knocked over the shelf'! Again, this could just be me.

I think you should get someone who has no idea what's happening to go through and read it, giving you their impressions of what they think is going on, what their questions are as they go along, etc. Make sure you're clear what you're trying to convey to the reader, and that they are asking the questions you're hoping they're asking ie 'who is this strange lady?, what's going on with the weird guy?' as opposed to 'is she actually stalking him? who pushed over the book shelf? how did the bass drum suddenly appear in front of her - was it magic or is it dark and she didn't see it?' I also recommend you proof it. For example, I noticed you wrote 'for good measures' whereas I understood it is 'for good measure' and desparately should be desperately etc.

Hope this helps. Congratulations on getting requests! That, more than anything else, should convince you that you're on the right track! Good luck

Margo
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Re: Something's wrong... I can't find it. Help please.

Post by Margo » June 25th, 2010, 11:07 am

I'll email you about this tomorrow, Blanche. I think I have some suggestions that might help.
Urban fantasy, epic fantasy, and hot Norse elves. http://margolerwill.blogspot.com/

lachrymal
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Re: Something's wrong... I can't find it. Help please.

Post by lachrymal » June 27th, 2010, 9:26 am

Oh my god, Blanche. I just spent over an hour working through this thing, and the freaking site logged me out and I lost the whole post. I just don't have the energy to retype everything again at the moment, but if you want, you can PM me and I'd be happy to go through this in MS word and track changes. I'll summarize my points.

Overall, this thing is adorable and charming. Tons of potential. Lots of clever bits that made me smile and laugh. When your sly sense of fun works, it really works. I think agents are seeing this both in your query and in this chapter. There's definitely something here.

There are numerous small errors--missing words, some punctuation errors, a mispelled word (desperate), etc. If there had just been one or two, no big deal, but if your ms is full of them, they might have the cumulative effect of making an agent think there's too much editorial work needed. I think you might want someone, preferably a person with expertise in this area, go through your ms with a fine-toothed comb, only looking for typos, grammatical errors, and punctuation errors. Get someone who's never read it before, because you and anyone who's already read it will be more likely to skim over those things because you've seen it so many times. Your brain habituates and compensates in a way a naive reader's wouldn't.

There are some points that are confusing (the whole mysterious event in the library--did frock-coat guy disappear and reappear? Why was he mad at her? Why wasn't she more freaked out? Why didn't she ask him about it when she saw him? Why doesn't she ask his name? Why is she freaked out when she hears his voice but then allows him to walk her back to her dorm without even asking his name?)

I am confused by Claudia. This is from her POV, and it refers to Sherlock Holmes, Victorian dime novels, and Berlioz. But then she doesn't recognize one of the most famous and oft-used phrases of Shakespeare. I wonder if this inconsistency has risen from your change of her character from nerd to cheerleader. Also, the very final para of this chapter left me confused. Why, if she's just met a total cutie, is she babbling about cheer squad and hair care? Why wouldn't she want to find out more about him? It makes her seem self-absorbed and less sympathetic. If that's your intention, fine, but she didn't seem that way until that paragraph, so it seems inconsistent.

Some of that first conversation between Claudia and nameless guy seems odd. It doesn't seem like a normal first conversation. They (she, especially) don't ask basic info about each other. He offers piano lessons and, without pausing to think of the strangeness of that, she accepts. He's weirdly rude to her, and she's weirdly uncurious about some basic info about him. She doesn't even ask him about the incident in the library, and seems surprised that he remembered it, even though it just happened. Anyway, there are just a few things like that that left me perplexed.

Overall, given the large number of requests you've received, who's to say you won't get an offer of representation tomorrow? You're doing fabulously. I hope these comments are helpful, and like I said, if you like, I'll go through it in more detail at another time.

RebeccaHamilton
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Re: Something's wrong... I can't find it. Help please.

Post by RebeccaHamilton » June 27th, 2010, 12:35 pm

If there was one thing I hated about Thanksgiving break, it was [the fact] that there was never time for the break part. Somewhere between their research and yelling at the department heads, our professors looked into their grade books and realized they were as empty as their students’ pockets. Following that was, of course, a ten-page paper due the Monday we return.
delete what is bracketed. It's making the sentence wordy and awkward to read. Try reading both options aloud and see if you notice the difference.
Annoyed, I stared up at the reference section. The book was sticking out of the top shelf, just the corner, but it enough to make me wish I’d gone home for Black Friday.
was sticking could be "stuck". If this is indicative of your usual style, you probably have a lot of words that can be cut from your book.
but it enough... missing a word.
Apparently the guy who built the library believed in tall shelves but not ladders.
Computers whirred in the background, scanning for the lost network. Downstairs, the electrician continued apologizing. His original plan had been to speed up the library’s wireless, not break it. Everyone else was gone, either at home or buried downstairs under piles of antique books. No one ever studied on the fourth floor; it smelled too much of musty plaster.
Overall, a great voice and witty lines of thought so far.
Out of habit, I glanced around for assistance. Someone had taped up paper turkeys for the holidays. The one on the closest window was smiling.
Was it always smiling?
Suddenly, a blur of red shoved me against the shelf, and I turned just in time to see an old woman shuffle by at an unusually fast pace. She stopped at the end of the aisle and peered around, her crimson fingernails tapping convulsively against the wall.
I don't mind adverbs, but the "tapping convulsively" didn't work for me. I think tapping against the wall is enough.
“Mine…” she said to herself.
I leaned over to see what she was looking at.
He was a tall, lanky guy about my age, engrossed in a thick manual and oblivious to the fact that there was a world around him. Judging by his complexion and frock coat, I’d say that he didn’t leave his room more than once a decade, though for a closet case, he wasn’t bad-looking. The guy had a distinctive face, unhandsome but intelligent, like Sherlock Holmes’s without the excessively long nose.
I didn't like the Sherlock Holmes reference. But that's me. It always seems like a cop out for someone to say someone looks like someone else. And, I don't know what Sherlock Holmes looks like lol



Overall, this is good. Just give it another polish and continue plugging away!

BlancheKing
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Re: Something's wrong... I can't find it. Help please.

Post by BlancheKing » June 27th, 2010, 2:45 pm

Thank you all so much for your comments. they really helped me edit. So far I've gotten:

@ Matt X: I took your advice in making the protagonist think more about the event by changing the part from going back to browsing books to thinking about the problem while attempting to hoist herself up by the edge of the bookshelf... subsequent events fit.

@ Sea: You're right, stalking may not be the first conclusion everyone jumps to. Changing it back to my original idea, which was: the guy seemed tall, why not ask him to get the book for her?

@ lachrymal: thanks for the character point. I don't know if it's obvious yet or not, but Claudia's a little scatterbrained. She knows a lot about certain things (music, fashion, Victorian literature...) but nothing about anything else. Please let me know where I can improve on this.

@ rebecca: thank you. changes made accordingly. The sherlock holmes tibit is in line with Claudia's limited range of knowledge, so i kept it, but your previous comments are really helpful =)

I will post the changed version in a bit
One manuscript, One dream, One stack of stamps that needs to be bought...
Writing Process: http://blancheking.blogspot.com/

Transitoria
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Re: Something's wrong... I can't find it. Help please.

Post by Transitoria » June 28th, 2010, 10:39 pm

I noticed an excessive usage of "was" and "were". You can eliminate a lot of it with some simple reworking.

Example: The book was sticking out of the top shelf, just the corner, but it enough to make me wish I’d gone home for Black Friday.

The book stuck out of the top shelf, just the corner, but enough to make me wish I'd gone home for Black Friday.


Example: The one on the closest window was smiling.

The one on the closest window smiled.

Example: He was a tall, lanky guy about my age, engrossed in a thick manual and oblivious to the fact that there was a world around him.

I viewed a tall, lanky guy about my age, engrossed in a thick manual and oblivious to the world around him.


Once you get into the habit of looking for extra "to be" words, it becomes easier to rearrange your sentences to eliminate them. I'm in the habit of circling all the "to be" words on a page. It gives me a quick visual that I might gloss over while reading. You can't eliminate all of them nor do I think you should. Hope this helps.

Congrats on your success so far. Well done.

lachrymal
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Re: Something's wrong... I can't find it. Help please.

Post by lachrymal » June 29th, 2010, 8:00 am

Hi Blanche,
Re: what you can do regarding clarifying the nature of Claudia--one concrete suggestion I have is to make your Shakespeare quote a little more obscure. What caught my eye was the use of a quote so famous that it's become common use. Also, you want to make the point that she knows about Victorian literature but not Shakespeare? That's an extremely subtle point to make. I guess it would become clearer the further one read, but I think you might have to draw the line a little more clearly to keep it from looking like inconsistency. I hope that's helpful.

I was also going to make the point of excessive use of "to be" constructions (before I lost my entire post), but I want to expand a little on what the previous poster said. The first set of examples he/she gives are changing passive continuous verb tense to simple past tense:
"was standing" becomes "stood".
The passive continuous tense is reserved for situations when one thing is happening WHILE another thing is happening. You see, in the previous sentence, I use present continuous tense to explain my point (is happening). If you don't specifically need that tense, it might make more sense to use the simple past to keep the sentence tight.

The actual "to be" constructions are things like "he was tall" and "the book was xyz"
When you can change these to eliminate that "was", it's usually better, like the previous poster recommended. However, I suggest you avoid adding things like "I viewed", "I saw", etc. to fix this problem, because then you have another problem--unecessary passive action verbs. You don't want to saw "I viewed the tall, lanky guy" when you could just say "The lanky guy thumbed through the thick manual, oblivious to the world" or something like that.

BlancheKing
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Re: Something's wrong... I can't find it. Help please.

Post by BlancheKing » June 29th, 2010, 12:21 pm

@ transitoria: thank you for pointing out the first one. it was already mentioned earlier by someone else, so i changed that one already. also thank you for the "was standing" catch. the rest of the "was"/ "were" you mentioned were intentional, sort of as a pace reference. To use active verbs would be to imply action. When there is none, it's confusing to use on description and conveys a sense of unnecessary speed.

I'm going to have to agree with lachrymal on the "i viewed". Phrases like that tend to lean towards awkward and throw people off the point
One manuscript, One dream, One stack of stamps that needs to be bought...
Writing Process: http://blancheking.blogspot.com/

BlancheKing
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Re: Something's wrong... I can't find it. Help please.

Post by BlancheKing » June 29th, 2010, 12:36 pm

New version. =) Thanks guys.
---


[stupid mistake... fixing]
One manuscript, One dream, One stack of stamps that needs to be bought...
Writing Process: http://blancheking.blogspot.com/

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