Friday, July 8, 2011

Lose the Jeep

Posted by Melanie Jacobson at 7:35 PM
Or maybe not lose it. But we probably don't need to know it's red yet.


Nathan Bransford, former literary-agent-turned-middle-grade-author, offered a critique of a first page for someone on his blog the other day. It's a fascinating look inside the editing process from someone who knows what he's doing, so it's well worth a look for the handful of you writers out there who don't already follow his blog. I find his red line markup especially helpful. Anyway, you can check it out HERE. He makes a GREAT point about the difference between writing and being writerly.

Seriously. Go read it. Then come back.



Well, hey again.


What caught my eye in the author's submission was the last sentence in her opening paragraph: The telephone rang, awakening me from a deep Valium-induced stupor. A disembodied voice said, ‘the Inn’s on fire’, and then the line went dead. The clock read 3:00 - the witching hour. I grabbed my dog. Still wearing pyjamas and slippers I jumped into my red Cherokee Jeep, and drove to The Witch’s Inn. 


It's the very first thing people are reading about your character and her world and her voice. So what really, REALLY needs to be there? Do we need to know that she drives a red Jeep Cherokee? And if we do need to know that because it tells us something about her character, do we need to know it very first thing? Maybe yes. Maybe no. Probably no.


Maybe we never need to know at all. Most likely at some point, as readers, we would like this little detail because the profile on someone driving a late-model Lincoln Town Car is far different than the profile on the person who is driving the red Jeep. It's a helpful clue.


Just not opening paragraph helpful.

I think this really caught my eye because I recently won a 1200 word critique from one of my dream agents, Sara Megibow. I sent her the most polished pages I could bleed out. I really thought I nailed it. 



She liked it. She didn't love it. But I'll tell you what she said and why.


Here's my first paragraph: Jolie fingered the remnant of soft gray corduroy in the moldy pile of fabric and wondered about her odds. Could she yank it out without toppling the massive stack on top of it? With a quick prayer to the imaginary saint of crazy hoarders, she jerked it and ducked, ping ponging her way between a wall of newspapers on one side and precarious piles of nearly everything else on the other.
 




Here's Sara's response:

Writing – You are using lots of imagery in the opening pages. Your writing is interesting, engaging, full of life. I really “feel” the chaotic, cluttered world that Jolie is navigating. A suggestion – it feels a wee bit as if you are trying too hard on the first two pages to insert details. It’s not a deal-breaker, just an observation. If I were reading this from the slush pile, my response would be along the lines of “new writer, trying too hard, a bit too wordy, hopefully it smoothes out.” For example:

“I fingered the remnant of soft gray corduroy in the moldy pile of fabric and wondered about my odds. (soft gray corduroy and moldy fabric) Could I yank it out without toppling the massive stack on top of it? (massive stakc) With a quick prayer to the imaginary saint of crazy hoarders, (quick prayer, imaginary saint, crazy hoarders) I know this is just the opening paragraph and we think “goodness, that’s nitpicky” but it’s my observation. My suggestion would be to trim the details just a hair in order to make the narrative flow a bit more smoothly. ***

So, I'm thinking . . .yeah. Lose the Jeep.





1 comments:

Enjoy Birth on July 11, 2011 at 5:06 PM said...

Winning Google is the most important thing!

Post a Comment

 

Melanie Jacobson Copyright © 2010 Designed by Ipietoon Blogger Template Sponsored by Online Shop Vector by Artshare