Thursday, October 19, 2006

Face-Lift 218

Guess the Plot

Blind Side

1. After George's boating accident leaves him blind, he fears he'll have to give up his career as a NASCAR driver. Can Mary, his lovely pit crew leader, convince him to keep driving?

2. Pegleg Paul is the most brutal pirate captain to ever terrorize the Bering Sea, ruling the waves unopposed until a valiant Aleut warrior realizes that the eyepatch isn't just for show.

3. Taking advantage of an Equal Rights ruling, Ted got accepted into dental school despite being blind. But now that he's graduated, he can't understand why he's having so much trouble building a practice.

4. The Scarlet Letter meets The Village in this historical novel based on music by the Swedish rock band Blindside.

5. Only a quarterback could truly love a left tackle. When the coach finds out just how much his QB Brad loves the left tackle Don--and just how hard Don works at covering Brad's blind side--he considers trading Don for a big tight end.

6. A one-eyed supermodel fights to be photographed on the left (it's her good side), despite the missing orb.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor:

Blind Side is, basically, as Tolstoy once put it about his novel, Anna Karenina, a novel about an affair, and the devastating effects of it. [Tolstoy certainly had a way with words.] It follows a widowed August Pahcon, 31, living in a constant state of guilt from the death of his wife, the result of an affair with the tragic Rivka Svetchite, [I'm starting to think it would be easier to pronounce the names in Anna Karenina than in this book.] not so long ago. Set in the 1680s and ‘90s (a parallel to our 1780s and ‘90s), in the farce land of Homstail, [Unclear what the point of calling it a parallel is. Why not just call it the 1790s in a world just like ours, instead of the 1690s in a world just like our 1790s?] it has hints of The Scarlet Letter, The Crucible and “The Village” as we follow August in the village of West Tale [Already I see the hint of The Village: it takes place in a village.] as he tries to learn to love once more, and forgive himself for his wife’s death and his own sins. On the anniversary of his wife’s death he meets the mysterious Blaise Sylen, carrying her own secrets, and soon, her own guilt. Through her he tries to learn to love and to live once more, but her own secrets, the fact that she is a witch and the cousin of August’s most hated person, the village cleric and his brother-in-law, Mr. Atholl, [I can't tell if she's the cousin of one, two, or three people.] thwart their love, and an attempt is made upon their lives, leaving them separated from each other for ten years. [I've read query letters shorter than that sentence.] August ends up in Scoebrinn, the capital of Homstail, living with his sister-in-law [I'm not sure whether you mean he's living with his wife's sister or with his brother's wife; either way, he's in trouble with someone.] and the beguiling Rivka, in a new state of guilt, under the notion that Blaise has died because he could not save her. Still searching for some comfort, August gives into temptation once more, and his second affair with Rivka begins. But when he hears news that Blaise is alive, as well as depressed, blind and vanished from West Tale, he leaves to find her,

[August: I'm leaving you for another woman.
Rivka: What?! Again?! Who is she?
August: She's depressed, blind, invisible, a witch, and I haven't seen her in ten years. But I'm sure to be happier with her than with you.]

and what love may still be there. When he finds Blaise, however, what happiness he thought would be there is absent, as Blaise denies loving him, [seeing him,] or even knowing him at all. We are left with August pondering whether to stay with Blaise, to try and resituate what love was there, [Resituate?] or if he should leave, realizing that his marriage to her was a mistake, [His marriage to her? You didn't say they were married.] and the only woman he has ever truly loved was Elina, the woman whose death is his culpability.

Blind Side is pensive, dramatic and highly original. [Well, original except for the parts that are like The Scarlet Letter, The Crucible, The Village, and Anna Karenina.] It would attract not only readers who enjoy the classics, but fans of the band Blindside (as such it was named after). [If that works, I suggest you title your next novel The Beatles.] Their album, Silence, released in 2002, helped me create the novel, including the plot and reasoning behind certain characters and their actions. Each song on the album has been used in the novel, [With permission?] each song becoming a chapter, the lyrics infused within the writing. Any fan of Blindside’s could easily find the lyrics imbedded, [You realize you can't just imbed (or even embed) song lyrics you didn't write, right?] but one does not need to know the music to understand the novel. I believe it is the first novel of its kind, and because of its originality [I don't get how a book closely based on a record album can be called "original." Doesn't that make it completely derivative?] and fascinating plot, it could draw readers of all ages and interests, [making it the bestselling book of all time.] including many fans of Blindside from America and Europe (seeing how Blindside is from Sweden, and has a marvelous following overseas as well as in America). [Did you call the book Blind Side merely in hopes of selling books to fans of Blindside?]

Being female, and just sixteen, Blind Side was a fun, and interesting challenge for me during the eleven months I spent writing it, [even if it did cause me to miss my junior year, but who really cares about chemistry and geometry and French?] especially seeing how the main character is about twice my own age, and then aged to my parents’ age, and mainly, male. It is a literary fiction/historical fiction novel (as much of the culture is Puritan) at 226,050 words. It is not the first novel I have written, but it is certainly the longest [I hope so. I hope half of it is the longest.] and most serious. I’ve not had anything published before, and I am quite exited to have Blind Side be my debut! [So excited, I can't remember how to spell "excited."]

Thank you so very much for taking the time to read my query letter. I look forward to speaking with you.


Tolstoy wrote novels shorter than this query letter.

It's not a good idea to compare your book to classic works. Let reviewers and editors make the comparisons. Also, let others decide if your book is the first of its kind, fascinating, highly original, etc. Your opinion of your book will not be seen as unbiased.

Your book is going to be 800 pages long. Some people won't even be able to lift it.

Shorten those long sentences. Longer isn't always better, as your boyfriend will try to convince you after you finish laughing.

You stick the phrase, "the fact that she is a witch," in a list of facts about Blaise, and move on like it's as natural as saying she's a seamstress. If one of your main characters is a witch, you might want to elaborate.


Anonymous said...

"Being female, and just sixteen, Blind Side was a fun, and interesting challenge..."

I love misplaced modifiers. (Or whatever this is called, as I'm sure someone will reach out and slap me with the right term.) Unless, of course, the band Blindside actually was female and just sixteen. (Sixteen members?)

pacatrue said...

Wow. OK, it's very possible that people are going to be rough in the comments, so I hope the author takes them in stride and doesn't get discouraged about her writing.

It's really hard to see how you have a novel that can be sold here. I think you have two rough choices:

1) Turn this into chaptered fan fiction which the fans of Blindside can read and enjoy their praise. Then move on to your next project.

2) Forget about Blindside and rewrite your book to be the best book it can be as if there were no Blindside band.

Option 1 is certainly the easiest, but I think you might be more interested in Option 2, so let's think about that.

As EE mentions, you cannot legally use as much Blindside material as you seem to have done, so you are going to be stuck removing almost all of it. Moreover, I don't think the band is a big enough draw to move more than 100 copies. I had to google them since I never had heard of them, and it's not clear at least from the Wikipedia entry that they are huge. So, I'd say to forget them and their album and their lyrics and just write a great book about your main hero and his wandering ways.

It's almost certainly going to be a lot shorter, because no one is going to take a novel of that length unless it simply blows them away. Your target should probably be around 100,000. To get to 100,000 you are probably going to just start writing again from scratch, but this time chapters won't match songs, and everyonce in a while you will discover that you can grab a short scene from the current book that'll work OK.

The new one will just be a great book about complex issues, and you will be an even more amazing person for having created something truly original and new. In other words, let your love of the Blindside album inspire what you write, not dictate what you write. And, now, let your first draft inspire you to write a new and 100 times better draft.

pacatrue said...

sgikwm, I guess that would be a dangling participle. :)

Dave Fragments said...

220,000 words in 11 months is amazing That's twice what I can produce a month. A good day for me is 500 words edited once. Ah youth, Youth is wasted on the young ;)

The plot sounds involved but good.

However, like others have said, cut half the words. Make an outline of the various chapters and then start cutting ruthlessly. Look for repititions in character and location descriptions, repeated discussions and cut, cut, cut. Don't feel bad if you throw away a page of text or cut out every other sentence.

Your aim should be to make as few words as possible say what you want, as eloquently as you want.

Anonymous said...

Dear Author:

I'm amazed that you can crank out over 220,000 words in under a year, but you should be aware that it will be almost impossible to convince a publisher to buy something that long. Agents will also be hard to interest with this.

The music industry in North America is incredibly aggressive about copyright. Even if Europe is different, no North American publisher will consider taking on a book if the author hasn't got permission to use the song lyrics that are featured in the novel. You will have to get those permissions before you start querying.

Query letters are hard to write and don't always reflect how good the book is, but regardless, this query did NOT make the book sound interesting to me. The witch was the only truly unusual-sounding thing in it, and that hardly gets mentioned. Also, while the query letter's writing is technically correct, it sounded very pedantic and archaic. If that's due to you not speaking English as a first language, I'd suggest you spend a few years reading lots of contemporary books written by English-speaking authors. Really pay attention to how they use the language, and try to see how your writing currently differs from it.

If you're sixteen, you have plenty of time to get started on a writing career, but based on your query letter, I honestly don't think this book is publishable. It's very long, it has copyright-infringement issues, and your query letter implies that your use of the language isn't very smooth yet.

Keep writing and keep learning about writing. While you're at it, learn about the publishing industry. It will help you target your next book if you're familiar with what sorts of books are selling well right now.

Anonymous said...

Author, you are amazing. I congratulate you on having resolve enough to write a 226,050 word novel at your age.

I wish I’d started writing a few decades earlier.

Anonymous said...

I have a question about the song lyrics too. My novel contains song lyrics from a popular singer. I was told that once the novel is finished, I could pursue obtaining rights to the lyrics. Is this impossible?

Evil Editor said...

It's possible, and not uncommon. But whoever owns the rights to the lyrics may want to be paid. Paid or not, they may want to read the book to confirm that their lyrics aren't being used in pornography or as a serial killer's inspirational tune. All this takes time. Sometimes it's easier to make up some lyrics for your singers to sing.

Anonymous said...

A sixteen year old writing ANY kind of novel is impressive.

I want to encourage her, but I don't want to her either.

So first off:

Keep writing! Its the best job on earth! To have finished a novel at your age is a true accomplishment, especially if it is anywhere NEAR the size of something Tolstoy wrote. The sheer willpower involved for a 16 year old to write 70,000 words--let alone 200,000-- is amazing.


Wow. Rewrite! REWRITE! The ONLY thing about that query letter that is even REMOTELY interesting is that you have a complete novel and are sixteen. While *I* am impressed by this, a busy agent, or a publisher, will only be interested if the Quality of your work is Sellable.

A famous author once said we have 1,000,000 words of absolute garbage to write before we begin writing well. You're off to a good start.

Read. READ! Mimic styles you like at first; nothing you're writing is wasted, even if it sits in a drawer forever.

Write big. Write huge. Write as much as you need to get every last drop of the idea out of your head and onto paper.

Then, when its all over and the smoke has cleared, put it away. Do something else.

Then pull it out and edit. Edit small. Really small. Waste not a single word. If you can say it in 200,000 words, you can say it in 50,000 words, and you can say it in a single sentence.

And if you CAN'T, its because there is an inherent problem with the story.

Good luck!

HawkOwl said...

Oh great, sixteen. Now if we say anything, the parents will be after us. Woe!


Really, if you go ahead with this, I would take out the "being female and just sixteen" part. And the "fun and interesting challenge" part, unless you're marketing it to the Girl Scouts. The agent doesn't care about your age or sex (which is likely obvious from your name anyway) or whether you enjoyed writing the book or how long it took. What the agent wants to know is: how do I sell this book? No one will buy it because a) you're female, b) you're sixteen or c) you like the book. So you don't need to mention any of that.

I'd also take out all the repetitions and echoes. Like "as we follow August in the village of West Tale as he tries to learn to love once more, and forgive himself for his wife’s death and his own sins. On the anniversary of his wife’s death he meets the mysterious Blaise Sylen, carrying her own secrets, and soon, her own guilt. Through her he tries to learn to love and to live once more, but her own secrets, (etc)." It sounds like a broken record (though not to you, I guess). Don't give the same information twice, except for your name and phone number.

And if your novel style is similar, you can cut your word count in half by doing the same thing there.

EE already mentioned the fact that it's ironic using four classics and all the lyrics from somebody's album and calling it "original", but I'll add that I like classics, and I've probably read a lot more of them than you, and this does not attract me at all. It sounds more like a soap opera than a classic, and if I were to read it I don't think I'd find the character development plausible.

Not only that but I found Anna Karenina really jejeune, so your query lost me from the first sentence. And I don't think it's such a good idea to name another novel before your own in a query letter.

And yeah, I am harping on your age, because it does have something to do with it. Sixteen may not be too young to write a novel, but judging from your query letter, you sound too young to write a novel about adult relationships that will appeal to adults. Maybe do some adventure stories for now, and re-read this manuscript in two years (ok, eight) and see if it's still the cat's ass then. (Oh, and, yeah, odds are in eight years, no one will remember Blind Side the band, so unlike a classic, this method isn't going to age well.)

Good luck with it.

writtenwyrdd said...

The mention of Tolstoy was unfortunate. All I could think about as I slogged through the query was how much I hate Tolstoy and how much this reminded me of it.

Your letter is very long and doesn't give up anything significant about the book except by sideline references. Pacatrue gets to the meat of the Blindside matter and the other things I would have said.

I am not sure what else I can say on this, as the letter is another example of too little plot information given. Good luck with it however; I am always glad for another book with witches in it!

Anonymous said...

Dear Author,

If you're writing such deep, lengthy novels (did that sound sexual?) at your age, and keep it up, you will be a novelist earlier in your life than most of us will.

Good for you.

I read your love of the band, Blindside. However, no one will care. I suspect you will find that hard to believe, but it's true. Decide if you want to be a novelist or groupie (I'd go for novelist) and go for it.

Also, the length of your query letter (mine was long too) suggests you're not accomplished at tightening yet (me either), which explains why your novel is so long.

If this is a romance, join Romance Writers of America ( - use the money you spend on albums to join) and follow the advice of the many professional and aspiring novelists.

Good Luck

Anonymous said...

226k?!??! Holy $hit!

I was really thinking ill of the author until I found out she is only 16. Now, I'm just impressed. She has a lot to learn about writing -being technically proficient and all that jazz, but I personally think she has beaten the challenge that most of us never will, and that is just having the discipline to sit down and write -a lot.

So, I say kudos to you, future best-selling author. Just take the advice you get here from EE and his genius minions, continue to study and learn, and I think you'll get where you want to go with your writing. -JTC

Kate Thornton said...

Author - I am very much impressed that you finished a novel of this length. That's a wonderful accomplishment. Now get to work on the next one: you will see how much better it will be.

You have elements of real interest here, but rather than spending a year re-writing, I would put this one away and get on to the next one. You know you can do it. And so do I.

Catja (green_knight) said...

I suggest you title your next novel The Beatles

Why not make it 'The Rolling Beatles' and appeal to an even wider audience?

Author: Yes, it's a great achievement, but I suggest that next year you write a 110K novel and read, read, read the rest of the time. From a Fantasy writer's point of view there was nothing about your story that had to be set in an imaginary country/world.
'Farce', [better 'farcical'] means that it's not real and that you're making fun of it - that was not the word you were looking for.
If you want to use a made-up world, it needs to be an important part of your story, and your story needs to be one that can only happen _there_.

(Verification lpardl: this story would not be improved by the inclusion of a small leopard.)

Unknown said...

A full novel at 16, huh?

Good for you. Keep up that kind of commitment, and you've got a good start on things.

I've been writing novels myself since I was around 12 or 13. Were they marketable? Absolutely not. Had I been brave enough to actually submit them, they would have been summarily rejected, and rightly so.

Get thee to a critique group. You need a lot of editing, a lot of support, and I think in a few years, you can try again. IN the mean time, remember that fanfiction is almost never published... unless you're solicited for writing Star Trek novels or something.

Anonymous said...

I'll add to the voices suggesting you put this aside for now. You are not really in any hurry, even if you think you are. Eleven months spent on a novel is nothing -- and yeah, I'm impressed you did it, but the object isn't to write the longest book in the least amount of time (at least I hope not -- I have really blown it if that's the object -- my book took five years to write and two to rewrite!). This book may be way better than the query makes it sound. Still, any book can use a little time to sit. You need to give this a break, look at it with fresh eyes in a few months, decide if this is really a quality piece of work you want your name on, and if it's worth the time, effort, rejection, and tedium of submitting to agents and publishers.
Good luck. Don't rush yourself. And listen to pacatrue.

HawkOwl said...

Catja - Are you kidding? A leopard would be worth all the rest put together!

Stacia said...

I'm sorry, but it's essentially really long fan fiction. The problem with saying you've based the events in the book on songs is that you're basically telling a potential agent that this book is in no way character-driven; that instead, you've created people and forced them to do what the songs say they're doing. It makes the events seem unnatural and stiff. (Is the album even a story? I hope not, because if it is then yes, this whole thing is a big violation of copyright) (It also makes me think, without a trace of fondness or nostalgia, or previous bad story/album hybrids like Yes's "Tardis" or Roger Waters' [I think it was him] "Radio KAOS"). I admit I do question the ability of a sixteen-year-old girl to write a convincing older man, but I will give the benefit of the doubt.

You are to be commended highly for even getting this far, author, and I mean that sincerely. By all means get some other opinions on this--you could have a sensation on your hands. Just don't expect that to happen, and start on another project right away--and don't be discouraged or give up!

Anonymous said...

A farce world...

I'm picturing a region skewed sideways and to the left of Heaven, populated by the characters from Monty Python, Frasier, and Moliere.

It's where you go when you die laughing.

(got two rejection letters this week so now I am the Peon of Pulp)

Anonymous said...

eh. 220K really isn't that long once you find out the last 150K are "Blindside Rocks!" written over and over again.

This is fanfic and you should post it (serialized of course) to a Blindside message board if such a thing exists. I'm sure the fans will enjoy it.

The fact that at your age you have the concentration and resolve to finish a work this long bodes well for your development as a writer.

Unknown said...

Yikes! And I thought I wrote "big" books. :/

At 16, your discipline and commitment is to be commended. Yay, you! Now go educate yourself on the market and what sells/what doesn't sell. If you're mature enough to have written this huge book then you're certainly mature enough to do a bit of research. My suggestion, find a mentor.

Do what the others have suggested -- fanfic this puppy and get busy on your next project. The more you write, the more you learn.

Once again, yay you!!!


I'm not posting my wordver -- it's rude and then I'd have to say excuse me.

Stacia said...

Duh. Mental blip. I meant, of course, "Tarkus", not "Tardis", which is Dr. Who's ship or phonebox or something.

Anonymous said...

Duh. Mental blip. I meant, of course, "Tarkus"...

And you meant Emerson, Lake and Palmer, not Yes, right?

GutterBall said...

I'm not even gonna tell ya'll how long my first finished novel was. I, too, am a former victim of elephantus librus. However, I found an excellent cure and am now happily writing within the 80,000-100,000 happy-book zone.

Short stories.

Even if you never sell a single one, the practice in being concise and saying exactly what needs to be said and nothing more is invaluable. And if you're any good at all, you'll find some place to publish, even if it's just in e-zines or even blog-zines. You may not always be able to list them in a query letter -- my best publication credit went balls-up after a year, darn it -- but you'll get that "Dude! I'm published!" feeling and the confirmation that you can, in fact write.

Then, when you've worked out the need to tell every little detail, try another novel. You don't always have to plot, but you should be aware of what needs to happen in a story for the beginning, middle, and end to come about in a reasonable amount of words/pages.

If you can crank out 226K as a 16 year old, I can't wait to see what you'll do with 90K concise.

Word ver: xjpftzp - Gezundheit.

Anonymous said...

By the way, EE's plot description (The Scarlet Letter meets The Village in this historical novel based on music by the Swedish rock band Blindside.) should be the new entry in the dictionary under the term "non sequitur".

What the [heck] does a Swedish rock band have to do with Puritan, colonial America? Once again, EE's brilliance dazzles.

ver word: tzyym
Yet another name from a fantasy novel that would be better spelled backwards.

Anonymous said...

Author, I agree, you've accomplished something by finishing a novel at 16. I started a novel at your age, but stopped around 20K. I read it again recently and had a good laugh.

I may be a minority, but I think that a Christian Rock song could be a great inspiration for a novel, especially set in a Puritan-esque society. (BTW, I know people who base novels on strange dreams, a cartoon drawing, or a random snippet of conversation, so don't ever knock your muse) But if you use actual chunks of lyrics and follow the songs point-by-point, it will feel choppy and read like Fan-fic.

Put it aside for a year and then look it over again with a critical eye. You'll be amazed at what you find wrong with it.

And if English isn't your first language, definately make sure you run it by a critique group (with a native speaker).

best of luck and keep writing!

Anonymous said...

Duh. Mental blip. I meant, of course, "Tarkus", not "Tardis", which is Dr. Who's ship or phonebox or something.

Darn, and I was going to run out and buy "Tardis". I loved Dr. Who as a teen. And that disappearing sound would be really cool in a song...

Stacia said...

And you meant Emerson, Lake and Palmer, not Yes, right?

Gaaah! You progrock pedants! :-) Weren't they members of Yes? I mean, I know it wasn't a Yes album, but please tell me I wasn't that far off.

My brother had the album when I was young. All I remember about it was that stupid tank with the bunny head or whatever it was.

Anonymous, that would be a good song.