Saturday, April 29, 2017

Feedback Request

The author of the book featured in Face-Lift 1350 would like feedback on this revision.

Ziva Kritikos wants to grow up. Her best friends, Sophie and Abigail already have goals in mind for their lives. Kyle, a boy hooked on messing with her is headed towards his dreams while Ziva doesn't even have any. She doesn't want to be left behind, and her library's books won't help her find a path. Desperate for a change, Ziva relies on a shooting star.

When her wish is granted however, she gets a limitless supply of information at the tip of her tongue instead. Now holding the power to devour her written words, her hunger doesn't allow them to stay on paper. In turn, no one else can see them, leaving her once perfect grades at the mercy of blank tests and notebooks.

To make matters worse, the fourteen-year-old's body now only craves words, rejecting anything else. The more ink she eats, the more she begins to doubt if she's human. However, the only thing beastly about Ziva is her appetite.

As she indulges in her greed, the girl comes to a realization―her meals are memories stolen from humanity. She becomes terrified of what her loved ones would do if they knew, so she keeps the grim truth to herself. Seeing as how the stars won't listen to her pleas, Ziva decides to starve. She can prevent herself from stealing anything else while fading away in silence.

After telling Sophie and Abigail about her powers only to recieve fear-strucken [stricken] faces in response, Ziva confides in Kyle. He learns of her 'solution', but won't let her die so easily. After seeing her pass out from anemia, he brings her to the nurse's office. There, he makes her write his name in her sleep as a way of apologizing. However, he's ignorant of the consequences.

Ziva, now conscious and frustrated, has to make up for her reckless choices with one last decision: erase any trace of her existence or indulge in her greed without regrets?

A concoction of paranormal and fantasy, Words, a young adult novel is complete at 50,000 words.


While this is an improvement, it's still not clear. Lines I don't like:

a boy hooked on messing with her 

her library's books won't help her find a path (every library has books on careers. WHat more does she want?)

she gets a limitless supply of information at the tip of her tongue (that falls flat since you haven't yet mentioned that she eats words.)

holding the power to devour her written words
indulges in her greed(I would leave off the "in" if you must use this phrase, but I don't think it helps either way. And you use it twice.)

her meals are memories stolen from humanity(Meaning what? SOme of her meals were her school tests and reports. Were those humanity's memories. WHen she eats humanity's memories, does humanity lose the memories? IF she writes 2 + 2 = 4 and then eats it, do people no longer know what 2 + 2 =?)

he makes her write his name in her sleep as a way of apologizing (I don't see how that's an apology.)

These phrases obviously make sense to you, but I'm not sure what they mean.

It's gonna be hard enough to get readers to buy into this eating words concept. Explaining it in vague terms won't help.


Unknown said...

Wow, I thought All Mads would be read before mine. This is so tough, urgh. But, query writing is a feat I want to conquer!

Unknown said...

* hooked on messing with her. Hurm, it's basically bullying, so maybe 'make her days worse' will help?
* Basically she doesn't know what she wants to do and doesn't connect with anything her library has to offer.
* Damn, I'll rearrange it.
* What about 'gives into her greed'?
* Yes. Whenever she eats a word, like 'apple', everyone else forgets what it is, including the definition, appearance, taste, history, etc. So if she ate 2 + 2, humanity would then forget what 'two' and 'addition' are.
* As a way of making up for his actions, he feeds her when she's on the brink of death.

Now I just need to make these points clear. ^^;

St0n3henge said...

My thoughts on first reading this:

“Ziva Kritikos wants to grow up.” This suggests she has a fatal illness. Most kids pretty much assume they will.

“Desperate for a change, Ziva relies on a shooting star.” Do you mean she wishes on one? This sounds like something a very young kid would do.

“When her wish is granted” This is sounding more Middle Grade now.

“In turn, no one else can see them....” No one else can see them once they're devoured, or at all? You'd think she could leave the words uneaten long enough to pass a test.

“To make matters worse, the fourteen-year-old's body now only craves words, rejecting anything else.” That doesn't really make matters worse. As long as she isn't starving from lack of nourishment I don't see a big problem here.
You only have so much space in a query. Focus more on what happens in the story.

“her meals are memories stolen from humanity.” It's hard to make sense of this. Does this mean any historical fact she eats gets erased from humanity's collective memory? Or what? Be specific.

“There, he makes her write his name in her sleep as a way of apologizing. However, he's ignorant of the consequences. “ I don't understand why he does this or what the consequences are.

 “erase any trace of her existence” How can she do this? Write her life story and eat it?

Are those really her two choices? Maybe she can just nibble on silly stories, limericks and poems? Maybe she can just write words that make no sense and eat them? What has she tried?

This seems entirely Middle Grade to me, with the exception of the boyfriend. I don't see anything Young Adult about the storyline.

Anonymous said...

This is a bit long. You have what looks like three paragraphs of setup. Try reducing that to one.

You still haven't explained the bit about humanity's memories. Try a specific example.

Does she only have the one plan? Starve herself to death? Is there anything else she tries? Are her parents so distant/disconnected that they don't notice she's not eating? No one worries she's becoming anorexic? Are there other complications?

Anemia is a condition that has to do with a lack of healthy red blood cells (I know someone who almost died from this, I may be sensitive). She's far more likely to pass out from dehydration since I assume her need for fluids is also going to be taken care of by the words. (Have you talked to a doctor about the physical effects of starvation?) Yes, details like this matter.

By the time you get to the end, I'm not sure why I should care which decision she makes. How does word gluttony fulfill her desire to find a path in life? Either tie that in better, or explain the gluttony better, or give us a better idea of what the character really wants in life.

I don't know of any cases where paranormal isn't fantasy, so I'm not sure why you think you need to mention both.

Unknown said...

Nah, if she ate stories then humanity wouldn't remember every word from it she ate.

Originally I had the reason be that the world acknowledged her greed for knowledge and granted her wish. This seemed easier, so I may just aim for MG instead.
Ah, about the tests: her hunger/greed won't allow her words to stay on paper/screens, therefore only she can see them (they lift off whatever she writes on and go in her mouth).

Nah, she just has to write her name. It's supposed to symbolize her making up for her greed through charity. The overall theme is that you can't cheat through life without consequences.

St0n3henge said...

"hooked on messing with her. Hurm, it's basically bullying, so maybe 'make her days worse' will help?"
See, I took it to mean he was teasing her in a boyfriend sort of way.
You have a strangely metaphoric way of writing and that is leading to a lot of misunderstanding.
Do you talk this way, too?
I kind of doubt that, say, if your daughter was being bullied at school you'd call the teacher and say "There seems to be a boy who is hooked on messing with my daughter."

Try writing more like you'd speak.

Mister Furkles said...

Half again too long.

P1: All tell, no show. It is too vague. Sophie, Abigail, Kyle, Ziva: at least two too many characters for the first paragraph. Two of them have goals; what teen doesn’t? Ziva is present only in a very trite cliché.

P2: Whose wish? Can’t be Ziva because she “doesn’t even have any”? And ‘tip of her tongue’ is a cliché metaphor. It is extremely vague. Can’t imagine any agent or editor reading beyond this second paragraph.

P3: ‘To make matters worse’ another vague cliche’? And who is the fourteen-year-old? We have four names and none appears to be a main character.

It doesn’t appear to be YA either. Some agents and editors say YA is about young adults who are dealing with their first adult-world problems. YA may be read by middle teens but, typically, it’s about 18-25 year-olds.

Start with Ziva. Tells us specifics about her. Replace Sophie, Abigail, and Kyle with ‘her friends’. Revise the whole thing. Trim filler words. And no cliches.

Evil Editor said...

The age of a YA main character is typically 16 -17. High school. A year of wiggle room on either side, but if they've reached college age, it's New Adult.

Mister Furkles said...

Okay, I stand corrected by a professional who certainly knows better than I. Still, fourteen is not YA. But the terms are confusing. Either Young Adult or New Adult sounds like an adult, not a high schooler. Please pardon my confusion.

Unknown said...

Huh. I though YA was 14 to 17?

Anonymous said...

I also assumed from the first line that she was terminally ill. I then expected further explanation of this, but the piece veered off into other stuff so I still don't know.

Unknown said...

Hurm. Sticking with 'Ziva loves to learn' might be better, then. Or something else―I'll work on it.

Unknown said...

Okay, so I was told that YA refers to the age your marketing to, not the age of the characters. I guess they work together because a 16 year old wouldn't buy a book about a 14 year old.

Anonymous said...

So if she's eating the knowledge from her tests, why is she failing classes? The teacher would no longer have that knowledge and neither would any of the students. I'd expect the teacher to be looking for a good psychiatrist for having written nonsense questions on a test. Are you sure you've thought the implications through?

You talk about there being romance in your book (query first revision)
The guy you mention is a bully--abusive boyfriends are not something I'd want to read about. Or, is Abigail or Sophie actually a guy, and one of them is the romantic interest?

St0n3henge said...

"So if she's eating the knowledge from her tests, why is she failing classes? The teacher would no longer have that knowledge and neither would any of the students."
I didn't think of this, but...It's actually a very good question!

"You talk about there being romance in your book (query first revision)
The guy you mention is a bully--abusive boyfriends are not something I'd want to read about."
That's why I thought "hooked on messing with her" meant he couldn't stop touching/teasing her, because he liked her. Maybe the romance angle was dropped?

"Or, is Abigail or Sophie actually a guy, and one of them is the romantic interest?" Who said either has to be a guy? Lol.

Unknown said...

Oh no, he's not a boyfriend―Ziv and Kyle work out and become friends after he explains the reason why he bullied her (familial origin) and Ziva befriends/forgives him. As for the first question, that's a major flaw I've missed until now. Thank you so much for this! Without that question, I would've never noticed that. Now I just need to figure out how to work around that.

IMHO said...

I agree with Anonymous that you haven't fully thought out the consequences. If the world forgets the definition of every word she eats (both nouns like 'apple' and concepts like 'addition'), there would be chaos after her first few essay exams. Everyone forgets the meaning of "and", "the", "or", "yes", "no", "off", "up"? Electronic commerce and banking would fail, for starters. As soon as a basic concept such as addition is lost, so are all higher functions that depend on it, like algebra.

If she eats all the words on her exam papers, wouldn't she eat her own name causing everyone to forget about her?

How does loss of the word "apple" affect people who do not speak English?

Unknown said...

Actually, I almost forgot. Through most of her school time she stops filling out tests because there wouldn't be a point if they don't get seen. Should I include that?

Unknown said...

After the first few tests she realizes how pointless filling out they are and just pretends to do them until her parents/teachers get on her about it. That's why the world isn't as affected.
Language barries don't exist (for her words) as long as the definition is the same.

St0n3henge said...

Seems like you've got a major logic problem, here.

As IMHO points out, the first couple of times she does her homework she's going to remove words from the English language that are needed to understand the language. No one will understand each other. This is before she even realizes what's going on.

For instance, suppose Z. copies this:

“The sun comes up and the sun goes down,
The night mist shroudeth the sleeping town;
But if it be dark or if it be day,
If the tempests beat or the breezes play,
Still here on this upland slope I lie
Looking up to the changeful sky.”

We've already lost several words essential to understanding English, including up, down, sun, sky, the, but, if, it, day, night, here, I, on, and looking. And that's just the first stanza of a ten stanza poem. By the time she finishes explaining what the poem means, or whatever, English will be reduced to total gibberish.
So it won't matter if she stops doing homework or sending in tests once she realizes what's happening. It will already be too late.

I'm afraid you're going to have to change the premise of your book. Perhaps it is only the stories that disappear, or names and dates, or principle characters, rather than words. Or something else- I'm not sure what, but as it stands, this can't work.

Anonymous said...

These things don't need to be in the query, but they do need to be handled well in the book and the query shouldn't be allowing the questions to be brought up.

You also need to deal with knowledge acquisition. People aren't stupid. If they've forgotten 2+2=4, but they've got 1+2=3 and 3+2=5 they're going to be able to put 2 and 2 together, if you see what I mean. They're also going to notice something is messing with their minds. This is even if you're removing info from digital and paper sources as well as actual human brains.

Anonymous said...

As other commenters have said, it sounds like you need to step back from your story for a moment and think about the magic. Where does it come from, how exactly does it work? What are the consequences? How will these consequences ripple out throughout the entire story world?

As you answer these questions, you may (probably) need to rewrite parts of your story so that the whole makes more sense.

I'm curious, did you write your book in English or Hebrew? I'm just thinking about how those are two different audiences with two different expectations about and experiences with literature.

Evil Editor said...

If she writes 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 0, does that eliminate all numbers from existence? If so, can we reinvent a number system? If she eats the word apple, does that mean the word doesn't exist or apples don't exist?

Unknown said...

The word, not the actual thing. Yup, it sure would. Luckily, she doesn't.
Gah, I have so much to fix now.

Unknown said...

It's basically that the world has a system where if your desire for something is strong enough, it will grant it for you in some action or form. Like, if a cat wanted a warm, cozy home long enough, someone would pick it up.

English. Literature as in her name (since Ziva's name is Hebrew) and that it might be hard to pronounce?

Thank you for the tips!

Unknown said...

Well yes, but they wouldn't know what + or 4 or 2 literally are. Though, about the last part, that's something to note. Could hinting at it through the media (news of a 'mass amnesia' or E.T. cults voicing their thoughts) work?

Anonymous said...

Even if they don't know what 2 + = or 4 are if they see the string

0 1 squiggle 3 squeegle 5 6 7 8 9
I think they're going to figure out what squiggle and squeegle are -- and there are a lot of books out there with simple number, letter, object examples for the age 0-5 market.

The same with + and = even if they don't know the symbols or what they mean, they're going to figure it out.

Another thing you're going to need to deal with is your character slowly becoming unable to communicate with others because no one understands the same words she does. Or is she not immune from the effects of eating her words?

The possible solution of writing her name on a piece of paper to solve the problem doesn't work if, as someone else pointed out, she's already written her name on tests or homework. You've also said that writing words just makes people forget about them, it doesn't remove them, so the ending doesn't make sense either.

I think most of the points people have brought up are solvable in one way or another, so good luck with the revisions.

Unknown said...

Thank you! I'll do my best.

Anonymous said...

Person who asked about language of your book, here. I assumed it was in English. No, I asked about the language because Americans are so literal-minded*, and if you're querying American agents you need to be quite clear, straightforward and simple about explaining the magical elements of your story, even (especially!) when these magical elements are complex. So that you get the "oh, cool!" reaction you want rather than the "wait, what??" reaction.

*This is making no assumptions AT ALL about your background. Maybe you are an American, living in America. But I'm an American living abroad, so I am kind of an expert on being like "Americans this! Americans that! Ohhhh Americans."

I think it's no coincidence that probably the most famous figure in American fiction, Scarlett O'Hara, is also described as being incredibly literal-minded.

Unknown said...

Ohh! Yeah, I'm American living in the US, I just have a habit of using metaphors (maybe too much) in writing. I'll work on making it clearer, thank you.