Sunday, June 01, 2008

Writing Exercise


We haven't done this one in a while, and it's useful practice. Write a query letter for one of the fake plots on this blog. Choose the book title randomly (You can use a random number generator like the one here. Then find that Face-Lift number on the blog. Choose one of the five (or more) fake plots, pretend it's the plot of your book, and write a query letter. Don't use the real plot. If you make the book sound so good that the minions decide you should write it, do so.
250 words (no need to include anything but the body of the letter). Deadline: Sunday, 10 AM eastern. Don't send anonymously if you want credit. No more than two per customer.

36 comments:

fairyhedgehog said...

Can't you pick one out that you really, really like? Or does it have to be truly random?

Evil Editor said...

It's not like I'll know the difference. Just don't pick the same one everyone else picks.

Kiersten said...

I'm just having fun reading your commentary on old face-lifts.

fairyhedgehog said...

~ Just don't pick the same one everyone else picks. ~

Okay, that makes it so much simpler.

Random numbers it is.

Dave F. said...

Technically, none of those "Random Number Generators" are truly random. The are close to being completely random but they all contain some bias and some flaw. They should be called "Pseudo-Random Number Generators."

Even those floating ball things that they use in state lotteries have bias.

Be that as it may, For what ever that was worth, any random pick is possible. So pick a random plot and write a query to it.

Remember to add completely improbable events. Births, marriages, murders, sex changes, love affairs, even deaths.

Kiersten said...

Okay, it's official, I'm never getting anything done again.

I keep trying to pick random ones, but then your responses to the queries are so funny all I want to do is read more. I'm probably not going to get around to the actual exercise.

Scott from Oregon said...

Ahoy. I'm looking for a reader for some forty pages. I keep trying to get my carpenter boys to do a little critiquing but they all tell me I'm getting a beer gut and my hair is thinning and I keep telling them that's not what I mean. Apologies for the commercial interruption, now back to your regular programming...

Robin S. said...

Send them my way if you'd like, Scott.

Julie Weathers said...

Technically, none of those "Random Number Generators" are truly random. The are close to being completely random but they all contain some bias and some flaw. They should be called "Pseudo-Random Number Generators."

The two woman sat on their motorcycles watching the men. The taller one flipped her waist-length blonde hair over her shoulder and pressed a button on the bike. Multi-color lights whirred to life, flashing brightly in the small display panel. "It says thirty-seven."

The redhead scanned the crowd and pointed at a man in glasses, reading a book. "Thirty-seven. Let's invite him for a drink. We'll take him to the spaceship as soon as he's relaxed."

They dismounted and sauntered across the street. Three cars collided, two bicycles veered into traffic, four women slapped thier husbands and one distraught woman tried to hide her young son's eyes. It was the same everywhere they went, so there was no chance the man would refuse them.

He looked up and slowly laid his book aside. "I know who you are. You're from the planet Xyron."

The two women blinked at each other in surprise. "And did you know we were here to find a speciman to help us repopulate our planet?"

He wiped his brow. "Me? You want me to be a stud? Nothing more than a sex machine?"

They nodded and struck the classic hot woman pose.

He looked up as more cars crashed. "The odds of me being kidnapped as a sex slave are..." he got out his calculator, "approximately 1,373, 989:1. Allowing for a slightly variable due to it being an election year. However, my numbers might be off because there are two of you. Let me--"

"Our random number generator is obviously malfunctioning," the blonde said.

"Obviously," her companion replied. "Go grab that old coot with the whiskers. And make sure he doesn't have a calculator."

Julie Weathers said...

I keep trying to get my carpenter boys to do a little critiquing but they all tell me I'm getting a beer gut and my hair is thinning ~

*snickers*

talpianna said...

Remember to add completely improbable events. Births, marriages, murders, sex changes, love affairs, even deaths.

Death is improbable??? I thought it was inevitable!!!

Gee, the things you learn on this blog...

Plus, Julie, that was wonderful! I'll pay for your next tattoo.

Dave F. said...

looking for a reader for some forty pages.

I do not think that I could set aside my style for yours and still be objective. Nor am I sure that I can I can find your vision of your story and make meaningful comments on it. Neither of these situations would be fair to you or me.

Julie Weathers said...

Ahoy. I'm looking for a reader for some forty pages. I keep trying to get my carpenter boys to do a little critiquing but they all tell me I'm getting a beer gut and my hair is thinning and I keep telling them that's not what I mean. Apologies for the commercial interruption, now back to your regular programming...~

Blast, ignore the previous mis-post, EE.

Scott, if you want to do a critique exchange, Books and Writers has a Writers Workshop that does chapters and short stories.

Once I get things under control with the Rogan workshop, I am putting Paladin in there.

I would offer to read for you, but I am up to my butt in alligators.

And mold, did I say mold?

Julie Weathers said...

Plus, Julie, that was wonderful! I'll pay for your next tattoo.~

Eeeew. I told you, no pain.

Anonymous said...

I requested 3 random numbers between 250 and 500. The highest number was a Hoax so I went for the next one down. I forgot to mention death so I will have to send an edit by tomorrow! Thanks Dave & Julie for your randomness!

ME

talpianna said...

Julie, I'll buy you a book of stick-on tattoos at Dover. Heck, they're only a dollar.

Julie Weathers said...

Julie, I'll buy you a book of stick-on tattoos at Dover. Heck, they're only a dollar.~

Oh, I appreciate it, but body art isn't really my thing. Maybe an occasional game of connect the freckles, but that takes two people to be much fun and I am short one person.

Dave F. said...

Putting pseudo-randomness silliness aside, Picking any number that floats into your mind between 1 and 531 is reason and good enough.

Evil Editor said...

I tried that the first time we did this exercise, 11 out of 12 people chose 237.

Julie Weathers said...

So how will we know if we generated the same face lift as others?

Evil Editor said...

Odds are against it, and if you did, it's one out of five that you chose the same fake plot. And if you did, I'll wager your queries will still be remarkably dissimilar.

Julie Weathers said...

Odds are against it, and if you did, it's one out of five that you chose the same fake plot. And if you did, I'll wager your queries will still be remarkably dissimilar.~

If I was even remotely that lucky, I would be playing the ponies. Guess I'm safe.

Brenda Bradshaw said...

I think I'm too late for this one. If not, just assign me something. I'm tired and emotionally drained, yet need the distraction.

Scott: feel free to email brendabradshaw@gmail.com

Evil Editor said...

I decided to play golf this morning and just got in, so you won't meet the deadline, Brenda. However, since you might have if I'd been around, I'll assign you a title/plot if you want and you can be a little late.

Brenda Bradshaw said...

Fashionably late. That's me.

I'm actually pretty medicated up today, so don't worry about it. Thanks though. ~kiss~

Julie Weathers said...

Ugh, I feel terrible about screwing this up.

Methinks I will go into exile for a while now.

Julie Weathers said...

Not sure where to ask this, so I'll ask it here. I'm taking Paladin through Barbara Rogan's workshop. She focuses more on plot, characters, story arc, etc. and teaching you what to look for to punch up scenes and take out the chaff. It gets the overall story shaped up.

The Writer's Workshop covers about everything on a chapter-by-chapter basis. Some critters focus on line edit, some on dialogue, some on readabilty, etc. In other words, each person usually has a thing they are good at, but by the time you get through it you have a pretty good idea of what is working and what isn't.

Obviously, the author has to pick out what helps and what doesn't and apply.

After I get all that done, I plan on hiring Kiersten to do a final edit before I go to Surrey. Unfortunately, I am not educated and grammatically challenged. When someone says so-and-so has a dangling participle, I cover my eyes.

I figure by that time it will be as good as I can get it. If it doesn't find a home I will know I did the best I could for it and move on.

So, here is the question. A writer said a while back all the people who shove their books through workshops are only demonstrating their lack of skill.

Do you think this is true?

freddie said...

I don't writers reveal anything in submitting to a workshop.

Mostly it's a long hard walk. Sometimes it's a trudge through fog and you're scared you've lost your way and can't remember why you set out in the first place. That's Neil Gaiman says about writing (along with many other quotes on his blog).

I think the real skill in writing is learning to revise (at least for me), and that's what a workshop can help you do. It can also help you learn more about the story, based on the comments you find yourself agreeing with or saying "Ah ha!"

But then, I'm probably one of the writers that person was talking about. At any rate, hope this helps.

Julie Weathers said...

Freddie, I agree.

Even just the query workshop here. Once things soaked into my head I realized I had some design flaws I needed to address. Even something simple like changing Gentyl's name. It's now Caiohme (prounounced Kee-vy) and it means Gentle. The name is edgier, but the meaning remains, which is part of the story.

I wrote a new synopsis, which is close, I think. Some of it came from the Snowflake writing exercise. Some from Miss Snark's, some from here and some from my secret handshake hangout. All of the help was through workshops of one sort or another.

But then, I'm probably one of the writers that person was talking about. At any rate, hope this helps.~

No, she was writing about me.

No matter how many times I edit and revise, I still need to do it again.~

I thought so, too, but then I wondered if this is true that I am too dependent on workshops.

Dave F. said...

EE said: I tried that the first time we did this exercise, 11 out of 12 people chose 237.

That's 11 random decisions, unfortunately there is no guarantee that the result of twelve random decisions is random. The only guarantee is that the generation of is possible if the choices were made by 11 independent people.
This is probability and statistics. Stats give me migraines. I mean real migraines.

That's the reason I make fun of
a) "random number generators"...
b) that slot machine is due to hit
c) that card will turn up (poker)
d) I'm on a winning streak so I'll bet the mortgage money on the ponies

Explanation #1: The PA Lottery has the same trouble with triples 222, 333, 444, etc. Even 666 which was the result of the Nick Perry Fix keeps showing up. It's called statistical anomalies and it's why the people among us who really know statistics and have used it, make jokes about random number generators.

Explanation #2: Let me point out the criteria for a random number generator; it generates a list of numbers with no discernible pattern.
Patterns:
2,4,6,8,10
1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21
10, 100, 1000,
1,3,5,7,11,13,17,23
11,11,13,13,13,33,33,33,77,77,77,77
123456789012345678901234567890

None of those are random sequences. But I invented some of them randomly.

Using a random number generator guarantees that in a list of "N" numbers, you will not see a pattern. It does not guarantee that you will not have duplicate numbers. Duplicates can be random. So having an improbable occurrence like 11 identical numbers in a row made by 11 different, independent people not in communication with each other.
See, there it is.

Can 11 people come up with the same number? Yes. It is improbable. Not Impossible.
Will two people in a crowd of 30 have the same birthday. As the weathermen say - 70% chance of same (rain).

Sorry to have so much fun at your expense.

Julie Weathers said...

Shessh, Dave. You really need to get...happy. All those numbers make my head hurt. How do you do that and remain sane?

freddie said...

I remember some of this from a statistics class I once took. I remember the instructor saying something about how even educated people get statistics wrong when it came to independent incidences (there was another name for this, but I can't remember what it was). The example she used was a couple who had had a couple of babies, both boys, and wanted a girl. They were sure that this time they would get a girl, because their previous two had been boys. But there was always a 50/50 chance in each case.

Dave F. said...

PS, That doesn't solve the problem of picking fake GTP's at random.

I never said I could help with that.

;)

pjd said...

Everything I needed to know about probability I learned from Tom Stoppard. Everything I needed to know about fake queries I learned from Evil Editor. Two pointless pursuits that go great together.

Julie Weathers said...

Yes, I think herding cats is about right.

http://youtube.com/watch?v=Pk7yqlTMvp8&feature=related

Dave F. said...

Julie,
but that is me happy with math. It's my friend and buddy. I'm a chemical engineer and that's all math.

Freddie,
each act of conception and childbirth is independent of the previous act. You have the same two choices every time. Having a boy does not bias the next kid to be a girl. The woman's egg and man's sperm don't know about any other kids.

You see, each minion picked a number independent of the other minion and as EE found out, 11 out of 12 licked 437. YIKES that's spooky but still ... maybe EE should get a cat?