Monday, August 29, 2011

First Page Shooter #10--REVISED

78,000-word urban fantasy

We have a revision!

Revised Text


Graham’s memory wasn’t getting any better. The car accident happened more than six months ago and when he woke up in the hospital to doctors questioning him about his phone number and address, he couldn’t give them more than a single name—Karl. There were no faces or happy memories from his childhood, there was just a name; and soon it was lost to become yet another hole.

When he was discharged from the hospital, the doctor told him the recovery process could be slow and he would need to be patient, though he never mentioned his mind would grow so weak he would be practically living hour to hour. Key moments in his life, like his graduation from high school or his first kiss, gradually started coming back, though they were never clear and Graham saw these images from a distance. He was certain these events had taken place at some time—they had to—but the more he tried to attach himself, the less he belonged.

After his past was filled with enough cracks to keep him locked in his apartment for fear that he wouldn’t find his way home, Graham knew it was time to start researching; but no matter how many times he renewed the library books on medical disorders or scoured the internet for similar amnesia cases, he couldn’t find anything that would help his memories come back. Most of the advice was the same—follow a healthy diet, get more sleep, drink hot beverages, practice relaxation techniques—and for several months, Graham lived by these regimes, convinced he would find his way back.

With Suzie's Comments



Graham’s memory wasn’t getting any better. Still love this first line! The car accident happened more than six months ago. I like that I know how it happened, but this sentence felt really jerky. and wWhen he woke up in the hospital to doctors questioning him about his phone number and address, he couldn’t give them doctors more than a single name—Karl. Huh? But his name is Graham. Who's Karl? This is more confusing. There were no faces or happy memories from his childhood, I like this! there was just a name; and soon it was lost to become yet another hole. This is too vague or too metaphorical. Karl is lost?

When he was discharged from the hospital, the doctor told him the recovery process could be slow and he would need to be patient, This clause is a very generic "this is what doctors say in a case like this" statement. As a result, it should be said very quickly (Doctors told him recovery would be slow,) and then move on, readers want to know what makes this story unique. though he never mentioned his mind would grow so weak he would be practically living hour to hour. Clear up the pronoun usage here--it's hard to read and understand who all the he's are. And how is his mind growing "so weak"--what does that mean? What does living hour to hour mean? Is this like in the movie Memento where he has to write notes to himself because he can't make new short term memories, or is it something different?  Key moments in his life, like his graduation from high school or his first kiss, gradually started coming back, they do come back? This seems contradictory to the "his mind got weaker" statement. though they were never clear and Graham saw these images only from a distance. Tighten your sentences. (Though I'm not entirely sure what from a distance means).  He was certain these events had taken place at some time—they had to—but the more he tried to attach himself, the less he belonged. What does this mean?

After he remembered enough to get over the his past was filled with enough cracks to keep him locked in his apartment for fear that he wouldn’t find his way home, Graham knew it was time to start researching.; bBut no matter how many times library he renewed the library books on medical disorders or scoured the internet for similar amnesia cases he found on the internet, he couldn’t find anything that would help his memories come back. This sentence is entirely too long. I got lost in the second clause. (My edits are just an example of how you might make it more readable). Most of the advice was the same—follow a healthy diet, get more sleep, drink hot beverages, practice relaxation techniques—and for several months, Graham lived by these regimes, convinced he would find his way back. Is he convinced? This last statement seems at odds with what he's been feeling for the last few paragraphs.


So we definitely have more information about Graham and what's going on with his memory, but everything is still "telling"--and there's more of it now, which makes it feel more like an info dump.


My new suggestion is start with:


Graham's memory wasn't getting any better.


[Show us him standing at the bus and feeling whatever it is he's feeling since he can't remember what's going on]


[Have him decide to walk home]


[On the walk home, give us the info about the accident and those six months of more memory loss]


All in all, I think you need to decrease the narrative distance and allow readers to get more in touch with Graham.

Original Text
Graham’s memory wasn’t getting any better.  Entire sections of his past were still missing from his thoughts and no matter how many times he renewed the library books on medical disorders or scoured the internet for similar amnesia cases, he couldn’t find anything that would help his memories come back.  For the first few months he tried to ignore the ridiculous sites that told him to eat marinated almonds or peppered honey—he may as well have danced naked at the full moon—though soon he was willing to try anything.  Most of the more reliable sources said ‘time’ was the best cure, but time was something Graham didn’t want to give up.  Every day, every hour, his memories slipped away until he would find himself open-mouthed in the street, trying to remember which bus would take him back home.

He stood there now, watching as the thirty-one bus came and went, followed shortly after by the thirty-four and the thirty-five.  He read the flashing neighborhood signs on the buses’ windshields, knowing that at least one of them would show him the destination he was hoping for.  When he saw it, he’d know it was the right one.  Wouldn’t he?

After waiting forty-five minutes for the bus he was sure stopped at his corner every ten, Graham decided to take the five-mile trek back to his apartment.  The bus schedule may have been emptied from his mind, but the familiar city streets were not something he was likely to forget after training his muscle memory for the last twenty years.

With Suzie's Comments:

I picked this entry for first page shooter because the writing is well done and I'm interested in Graham's situation, but if the author did a few things different I would be so much more interested.  Right now the excerpt is too telling. Especially in the beginning.

Graham’s memory wasn’t getting any better.  I love this as an opening line.  It gives us the problem right away. There's something wrong with his memory! Entire sections of his past were still missing from his thoughts and no matter how many times he renewed the library books on medical disorders or scoured the internet for similar amnesia cases, he couldn’t find anything that would help his memories come back.  This is where I want MORE. Here I'm being told about his memory issue, but it's vague. I would be so much more interested, if I got more specific, unique, details about what was going on. "Entire sections of his past were still missing"--like what? how big are these sections? If they're still missing, how long have they been missing? Is this is a new problem? Is it getting worse? Is there a specific example of when he realized some of his memory was gone? Give me more details--really develop them so I can get a sense of the character and feel something for his situation.  Next, he's done all this research and found nothing. Has he gone to a doctor yet? Again, I want more details--show me his frustration/his angst. For the first few months he tried to ignore the ridiculous sites that told him to eat marinated almonds or peppered honey—he may as well have danced naked at the full moon—though soon he was willing to try anything.  I like the concept of the desperation here, but again I want more. What sites did he start with? What things did he try first? What was the moment he decided it would try eating marinated almonds--what drove him to that? Most of the more reliable sources said ‘time’ was the best cure, but time was something Graham didn’t want to give up.  Every day, every hour, his memories slipped away until he would find himself open-mouthed in the street, trying to remember which bus would take him back home. Does he know what precipitated his memory loss? Was it an accident or did he just start forgetting stuff? What kind of things (other than the bus) has he been forgetting? We need more of a frame of reference--is the bus something that should be easy to remember? (I for one have never mastered the NYC bus system). 

He stood there now, watching as the thirty-one bus came and went, followed shortly after by the thirty-four and the thirty-five.  He read the flashing neighborhood signs on the buses’ windshields, knowing that at least one of them would show him the destination he was hoping for.  When he saw it, he’d know it was the right one.  Wouldn’t he? This is an interesting paragraph, but it falls a little flat.  Get me more inside his head. How does he feel? As a reader, I need the author to show me what I should be feeling for this character through his own thoughts/feelings. Is he annoyed/frustrated/sad/scared/disillusioned? What?

After waiting forty-five minutes for the bus he was sure stopped at his corner every ten, Graham decided to take the five-mile trek back to his apartment.  The bus schedule may have been emptied from his mind, but the familiar city streets were not something he was likely to forget after training his muscle memory for the last twenty years. Again, he seems pretty nonchalant about this, which undercuts any tension you've built up in the first paragraph about the memory loss.

Overall, I probably wouldn't keep reading. I like the flow of the writing and I would be interested in checking out other projects this author was doing. But as is, this hasn't grabbed me though I was intrigued at first.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Good Trailers?

Recently, I saw The Help.



No I'm going to admit, that it wasn't at all as good as the book. I should have known. I loved the book, and a lot of times I see movies that just aren't quite the same. But I was completely taken in by the movie trailer. I saw the trailer a few months ago when I hadn't even known they were making a movie (yeah, I don't know where I was on that one), and when the trailer ended, I wished I was sitting in the theater for The Help rather than whatever other movie I was seeing at the time. I couldn't wait for it to come out. I even went home and looked up the movie on IMDB in order to find out more details.

Obviously, for me, the trailer for The Help did it's job. It made me sit up, pay attention, and want to see the movie. It did it so well, that I saw the movie the first week it came out and tried to convince several other people to go with me.

With movies, there are some great trailers (I've seen great ones for bad movies, and great ones for great movies) and of course there are a few duds (any idea what that new move Warhorse is even about?), but  people talk about them, look forward to them, and at least the people I know, use trailers to help decide what movies they go to.

Obviously book trailers are a marketing tool with similar goals. Which got me thinking. Specifically about book trailers. I can't think of one trailer that made me want to buy the book. 

One caveat to those statements is that my favorite trailer is the one for Lauren Oliver's Before I Fall. If you haven't seen it, click here and watch. It's pretty awesome. I watched it after I'd read the book, but I think it might have convinced me to check the book out if I hadn't seen it.

So I haven't bought a book because of a trailer. But more than that, I can't think of that many book trailers that I really liked.


But both of those things might be because I won't watch that many of them. I buy books I hear about from people I know, or from announcements in PW, or from the image on the cover (I know, I can't help it!). And I only watch the trailers if I stumble on them on someone's blog or if someone emails it to me. 

But I think there are some really great things that can be done with trailers.  Recently I saw an article on (another Lauren Oliver) book trailer--for Delirium--that is interactive. How cool is that?



I want to know more and check out some more cool trailers.

So what I want to know from you is twofold.
1. What are some really good book trailers you've seen?
2. Are there any book trailers that have made you go out a buy the book?

And of course, any of your other thoughts are welcome!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

More Fan Videos of HUNGER GAMES

This is the same film company that previously did The Katniss and Rue video and the Katniss and Peeta video.

This one is taken from scenes in Catching Fire. Beware, there are totally spoilers.




Thanks to io9.com and @dankrokos for helping me find this.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Tips on the Evil Synopsis

So, as most of you are very well aware, we at Team Townsend are not great fans of synopses: they spoil the plot and they are often quite boring. I believe Suzie’s exact words were, “they’re evil.”

Despite our dislike of synopses, we also know that sometimes they are necessary, whether the agent you’re querying asks for one, whether your editor wants to know what your next masterpiece will be, or whether your agent needs one for subrights purposes. Janice Hardy has a great post on how to write a synopsis, in which she lays down some of the basic rules (third-person present, length, etc.) and breaks down the document into plot-structured sections, but here are a couple of additional tips we’ve found useful in polishing up that sucker once the first draft is down:

1. Conflict and tension are key.

Though by its tell-rather-than-show nature, a synopsis is inevitably less exciting than your actual novel, this doesn’t mean it should be flat-out boring. After all, you are using your synopsis to try to convince someone to read your novel. You know that delicious dose of torture you mete out to your characters and readers—that oh my god, all is dooooooomed, nothing will ever work out! as your characters are faced with obstacles to their goal? Well, as you’re polishing, keep in mind those central conflicts, those plot twists that contribute to the sense of impending doom, and try to keep up the tension vis-à-vis them throughout the document. You can even use those paragraph breaks for cliffhangers.

For example, let’s say your main character is a teen time traveler who is trying to keep his girlfriend from being fatally shot two years in the future, and he’s just gotten stuck in the past. (No worries, guys, this is all from the cover copy.) You probably don’t want to say, “Jackson gets stuck in 2007, so he decides to do what he can from there to save Holly.” Blech, that’s boring, and totally lacking tension. What about, instead: “Panicking, Jackson jumps to 2007. But once he’s there, he’s stuck—and has no idea how to save Holly.” Paragraph break, and then tell something that Jackson does to try to save her. [*] This is all essential plot info, but gives us hints about character motivation and with the structure has managed to keep us wondering what will happen next. (I hope!)


2. In making sure the stakes are as clear as possible, simplicity is key. 

As Janice Hardy points out, you don’t want to bog your synopsis-reader down with too many names (stick to the most important characters, and you don’t necessarily have to identify them all by name). Likewise, you want to provide enough world-building to give context for the plot and character developments, but not so much that it detracts from either. So while making clear that your coming-of-age story takes place over several summers at the family beach house is important, your synopsis probably isn’t the place for those gorgeous oceanfront views.

You want to streamline on a sentence level, too: make it as easy for your reader to understand what’s going on as possible. Imagine how confusing synopses would be if they were written Virginia Woolf style!


3. Lastly, though you needn’t worry about it in your first draft, as you polish don’t dismiss the possibility of infusing your synopsis with your novel’s tone and your narrator’s voice.

Here’s what I don’t mean when I say this: I don’t mean adding asides or clever remarks simply to convey your narrator’s voice. Here’s what I do mean: looking for places where the plot can be expressed in a way consistent with the narrator’s voice and the tone of the novel, just like you do in your query letter. (Everything in your synopsis should move the plot forward.) Stealing phrases from your novel can be a great way to do this (again, if it moves the plot forward and makes the stakes clear).

So if in your story world your main character uses the expression “sofa king” instead of a certain curse word, you might be able to work it in: “Keek’s dad is hardly around, which is sofa king unfair because if he hadn’t been so deceitful and depraved she wouldn’t even be stuck here.” (The “deceitful and depraved” bit is also from the novel.) This line introduces one of the conflicts—Keek’s mostly absent father—and also makes us want to know: what did her dad do that was so deceitful and depraved? Plot, tension, and voice.


Have you written synopses? What other useful tips would you offer?

[*]Full disclosure: This, and the remaining examples, are all clients of Suzie's. But don't their books sound awesome?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Query Hiatus (9/1 to....TBD)

And it's happened, again.  I've managed to bury myself under a pile of requested material and client manuscripts and of course those TBR books, and I'm pretty sure I might not be able to move around until I read my way out.

There are also several conferences and exciting things coming up for me this fall so after torturous amounts of deliberation, I'm going to take a brief query hiatus starting September 1st.


I'm not a hundred percent sure when I'm reopening yet. But I'll keep you posted.
This means any query that comes in while I'm closed to queries will get response saying something along the lines of "Hey I'm on hiatus" and will then be deleted from my inbox. While I'm closed, there are some fabulous people to query instead of me right here in suite 500. 


But in the meantime, I'm still open to queries until the end of the summer.

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Five Random Things About Suzie

1. I drink so much orange soda, it's probably running through my veins. I've been known to go through a twelve pack of diet sunkist in a day.

2. I'm legitimately nocturnal (or a vampire). I will be so exhausted at two pm that I'm falling asleep standing up - it has happened before, at Six Flags no less - but as soon as the sun goes down I'm wide awake.

3. I have a gorgeous unused $6000 Reem Acra wedding dress hanging in my closet, and it showed up on my doorstep the same day my (now ex) fiance broke up with me. And thank God for that. I wouldn't have wanted to waste that dress on him.

4. Social anxiety plagues me daily. I write a script and practice in front of the mirror when I have to make a phone call, but most people who interact with me have no idea how nervous I am (or perhaps they lie) because I've worked so hard to try to overcome it.

5. I'm actually worried that I will never love my children (when I do have them in the far off future) as much as I love my dogs. I just like animals better than people - they're sweet and innocent and soft and furry - is that so wrong?