Monday, August 24, 2009

3 Days Later

I know, it's not three days later since my original post. The title above is just the name of the second chapter in Book 1: Dramatis Personae.

Everything I've read about writing a query letter - because that's what you do when you finish your novel and reread it, and proofread it, and fix it, and then write it again, and then proofread...well, you get the point - says that I've got to explain my book in 3-6 sentences. So I've got it down to four.

The story takes place in the year 3096, against a backdrop of war between two alien species, the Mags and Howlas. Led by their respective leaders, the Magna Beast and the Howlamega, the two species have found themselves on Earth where they have settled into an uneasy armistice. With the murder of his father, fourteen-year-old Briok Cwartel now rises to the mantle of Last Magna Beast, forced to contend with the trials of adolescence, his half-human, half-Mag ancestry, and the amorality of his ancestor’s war. The task is not easy, and Briok’s early time as the last Magna Beast is marred by gangland warfare between competing Howlian mafias that could become the biggest threat to his life, and the lives of many others.
Does that sound interesting? I'm talking to empty space, I know. I'll try to be brave and post this on Twitter or something, but there's something in my gut that tells me not to. It could be my insecurities, or it could be the fact that my story just isn't worth the time. I think that's the issue of the day. I've been feeling so incredibly pessimistic about this damn book. I understand that, essentially, I was born with this thing rollicking inside my head. I just can't remember a time when I wasn't obsessed with the Magna Beast. Everyday, a new facet of his history comes into my head, parts of the story are scratched out, characters are repositioned. I spend so much of my imagination on this, and I still don't have an iota of confidence in it.

That could be because I gave it to a couple people to read, and they just weren't turned on by the first chapter. I've revamped it since then, cut out several awkward parts, changed character's names, whole introductions even. And I haven't gotten up the courage to give that renewed first chapter back to people. Then again, I'm sending my work to my peers, who are going to college and have better things to do than sit in and read someone else's work about a battle between good versus evil. Since when did that become childish? To write about yin and yang, about balance and humanity's constant discourse with our darker side. I'm not sure.

I expect no one to read this, I really do. Because I'm not brave enough to fight for this, I'm not brave enough to face the criticism. Maybe I'm being uncomfortably honest and raw, but that's just how I feel at this moment. I really can't explain it any other way. I remember when I gave the original version to my best friend at the time. She said she loved it. She also turned out to be a chronic liar, but I did feel genuine pride from her in me. But I've been blind before. I also gave the whole original version - which was only 150 pages, whereas this new version is at 300 - to another person who was close to me at one time. She said she loved it, and gave me honest criticism. I've used that criticism since then, but we don't talk anymore, and I can't send it to her. In fact, I'm pretty sure we're not even on looking at each other terms.

I've also had my old english teacher/Yearbook advisor read this. She also gave me honest criticism. So did her brother's agent. Her brother works at a publishing house in Seattle I guess, I'm not sure if it's a publishing house, but it does publish material, and the man was nice enough to give a fifteen year old boy's work to a reader. Both gave me the most honest criticism I've received in a long time, and said they loved it and the potential/ambition. Well, look at me. I can feel my confidence growing. Maybe I will post this on Twitter. Hell, I'll scream about it. Thanks. Until next time then.


  1. Again, here I am, procrastinating. :) What a surprise.

    First off, since we’re talking about query letters, do you feel like you’re ready to publish? Like, if an agent approached you now, would you feel comfortable handing over your manuscript? As for the query letter itself, I wouldn’t be too interested, even though I do know that I liked your novel idea. This means that the discussion style summary from your first blog post offers more appeal, mostly because it is more authentic and expressed more of the ‘feeling’ of the story, thus making it more engaging.

    I’m not sure how much back-and-forth you want here in your blog, or if e-mail or something would be more convenient for this part of it, but I'll just say to try to explain the story like you would to someone who had never heard of it before. I know that's what you're doing here in your query, and I'll clarify: explain it like you would to a friend, or to someone you just met who asks about your story. With a more relaxed setting, you’re going to leave you the formal-sounding approach and instead explain it in a way that you know will be interesting to them. Tell all the new people you meet that you’ve finished a novel; smile at their surprised looks and wait for them to ask you what it’s about. Listen to yourself explain it to them, and remember that when writing a query. I would bet money that the way you would describe it to this potential new reader or someone who appears interested in your work will be WAY more engaging than what you have here. Here, it sounds like you're trying to sell it to an agent. You could just type out a candid description, then take out the excess words and phrases and nonsense, and see what you end up with. I'd offer more specific advice but I'm not sure where one book ends and the others begin, so until I know more I’ll leave my advice there.

    That being said, your story is DEFINITELY worth the time! I'm anxious to read this and know more and I don't even know who you are so you can't be all, "Well she's my friend so she is just saying that."

    I'm in the same place; some days I get so down about my writing but the thing is that I think authors kind of have to be that way to make sure that we produce the best work that we're capable of. By you sitting there and worrying about the quality and the worth of your novel, I would bet that when you do publish, it'll be amazing, unlike a certain piece of drivel that was written in three months and features a certain sparkly vampire. Basically, it is worth it, it is good, and everything is going to be great. People are going to love what you've written. I know I'm kind of blowing smoke at the moment but the thing is that anyone who has spent so much time thinking and creating this world cant go wrong. Why? Because all you have to do is worry about semantics and syntax! Writing, as in the actually formation of words on the page, can ALWAYS get better. You can take classes and get advice and be mentored and so on. You can improve bad writing. The thing that you can improve is a bad or weak idea. Coming up with a solid, engaging idea is not something that just anyone can do and you’ve already got that. You're good to go. :)

  2. Again, a similarity: my first chapter was awful and it didn't draw anyone into my story. If you could get past the first part, it seems it got interesting but the first part was drivel. I knew this and first was sad because no one liked it but then I realized that I simply had to change the beginning, like you did. There’s nothing wrong with revamping. The great thing is that even bad comments are constructive; on the flip side, the problem is how much first impressions mean. There are so few people, even among friends, who will read a second attempt if the first attempt was less than impressive. So, maybe you didn't lose much by not re-handing it out. And yeah, we are all busy students and we have better things to do but those of us who love reading always make time for it somehow. I think maybe you just need to find the right group of peers, if that makes sense. Go make friends with some English majors; that seems to help quite a bit. :) And of course, not everyone is cut out to give critique or really formulate opinions that help us authors in any way.

    Oh, and your concept IS NOT bad. The fight between good and evil isn't and shouldn't become childish; though, it will always be childish in a way. I say that because things are rarely 'good' and 'evil'. There's always a motivation from both sides and one can often sympathize with both, which is such a fabulous thing. Like you said, it isn't about good and evil but 'humanity's constant discourse with our darker side' and I'm firmly of the belief that no matter how old you get that is certainly a relevant topic!

    Magna, you ARE brave enough to fight for this and you are brave enough to face the criticism. It's really not as bad as your mind has probably constructed it to be, I promise. I have gone through this same process, of giving it to friends, hearing them tell you they love it but not knowing whether they mean it or not. Or not being able to show them that you made it better. It is stressful but you can tell by body language and word choice how they really feel about it. (Oh, and for that friend you don’t talk to anymore: you could send a copy of the book to her when all is said and done with a little note of thanks in the cover. That way you've shared it, but you haven't encroached on the no-speaking contract because she can read it but she doesn't have to respond. :))

    I know I've only read the snippets that you've posted here, so I really can't say that I know for sure that this story is excellent but I just have a feeling in my gut that it is. I am of the mind that writing is a special kind of art form, a very awesome kind, because we can always go back and 'fix' it. We can always change it, make it better, assuming we have the drive to do so. I think the simple fact of you FINISHING A MANUSCRIPT at fifteen shows you have the drive; going back and doubling the material, putting yourself out there to be heard... I think you can definitely do it. I think one day very soon I'll be going through my local bookstore and your name is. The point is that people have read it and liked it or at the very least liked the story behind it and because you don’t have to worry about the idea, just the sentence structure or pacing or whatever, it’s only a matter of time.