7.28.2005

C-Rap Rations for the Hippest of Snarklings..part 1

One very very brave Snarkling has sent her page to the "is it crap" meter here at SnarkCity. (Miss Snark admires that kind of bravery)


The fresh smell of damp earth caressed Kariba's nose as she stood at the edge of her father's vineyard. The rain had come unexpectedly in the middle of the day -good news for the grapes, but bad news for a restless girl who had been trapped in the house during the best part of the afternoon.


1. fresh smell of damp earth ..caresses? Miss Snark prefers to not kiss or hug the dirt. Not every smell needs an adjective.

2. "had come" "who had been"...AGGGGGGGGG. This is one of Miss Snark's most common complaints: double verbing.
Any time you see "was" "had" "were" with another verb you can probably remove it and spiff up your writing 100%.
as in: "came" and "bad news for a restless girl trapped in the house during the best part of the afternoon."

We KNOW she's not in the house now so you don't have to spell out the past tense. Readers will make intuitive leaps with you.

One of the biggest problems I see is writers who think they are filling out police reports and have to include every fact, every look, every causal link.


Kariba reached toward the nearest vine and plucked a single, deep purple grape. Popping it into her mouth with the nonchalance of a seasoned vintner, she chewed -and grimaced. The grape wasn't quite ready for picking. She would have to wait a few more weeks until the harvest, when she would get her fill of all the sweet grapes that bounced out of the baskets and onto the soft grass. "Gleaning the grapes" she called it.



1. The first sentence can be shortened to "Kariba plucked a single deep purple grape". The rythm of your sentences is almost as important as the actual words. Shorter sentences at the start, building to a longer one in the middle, falling off to shorter ones. Not an ironclad rule, but good form to practice before you do something else.

2. Popping it into her mouth with the nonchalance of a seasoned vintner she chewed and grimaced.

again, over writing. Once she plucks the grape, she can pop it and grimace. We don't need the chew. Cutting down on the extraneous stuff keeps the energy of your writing from dissipating over too much text.



Kariba's father, Quillius Korfarb, owned the finest winery in Bajornia, as had his father before him. His wines were prized throughout the land, and even traders from beyond the Southern Ice Field were known to fill their holds with the fruits of Korfarb Vineyards. Kariba thought wine was horrible, and she wished they could use the grapes to make raisins or delicious jams instead. Still, at twelve years of age, she was old enough to understand that there was more money to be made in a winery than in a fruit stand -and to be perfectly honest, she was proud of her father and his fine reputation.


3. forgive me dear snarkling but..blah blah blah. This is both backstory and tedious. You've got us in the grapes, caressing the dirt. Let's see some action.


"Stealing Father's grapes again, Little Kiba?" Her older brother appeared from behind, on his way to the house after his day's work.

"I'm not so little, Quantuck," Kariba replied. "It only seems that way to you because you're so tall."

Quantuck laughed, a rich, cheerful sound without malice. "Were I a full half-length shorter, you would still be as small as a woodland sprite."


Aha! Here is where your story actually begins. Action, some conflict and a brother who should probably be doing something other than teasing his sister. Although if it were Miss Snark's brother, she would have said "blow it out your ear bucko".

Ok, in conclusion. This doesn't pass my threshold. I would say no, it's not quite right for us. There's nothing here that captures my attention, makes me want to read on.

For a really good look at more on this topic take a look at
A Literary Agent Reads The Reviews by Nat Sobel. It's a pdf download.

And oh Brave Snarkling Writer, I hope this is of help.

13 comments:

kitty said...

It was helpful to me! Examples are always beneficial, if you want to learn. Someone once said, "Writing is a process and writing crap is an important part of any author's career."

Thank you, brave writer.

kitty said...

Oops! I didn't mean to imply that this piece is crap! I'm terribly sorry if the brave writer mistook what I wrote. I'll shut up now.

Anonymous said...

In terms of e-publishing, I have noticed that certain literary journals allow you to choose whether you want to submit to the online version or print (usually not both). Would the online version be credible in terms of publishing?

The journals I am speaking of are small.spiral.notebook, atlantic unbound...etc.

Also, thanks for your wonderful blog, I read it daily and find it very informative.

Anonymous said...

1. fresh smell of damp earth ..caresses? Miss Snark prefers to not kiss or hug the dirt. Not every smell needs an adjective.
CONSULTING A GRAMMAR PRIMER MIGHT HELP YOU UNDERSTAND THAT WORDS LIKE "CARESS" ARE VERBS, RATHER THAN ADJECTIVES. THE ONLY ADJECTIVE USED HERE IS "FRESH", MODIFYING SMELL. COMPLAINTS HERE ABOUT KISSING AND HUGGING SEEM EXTRANEOUS, SINCE IT DIDN'T OCCUR. YOUR SNARK MIGHT HAVE MORE ZIP IF PURGED OF SUCH EXCESS REFERENCES TO YOUR INTIMACY ISSUES.
2. "had come" "who had been"...AGGGGGGGGG. This is one of Miss Snark's most common complaints: double verbing.
A SIMPLE "AGG" WOULD HAVE BEEN SUFFICIENT. THE USE OF EXTRA NONEXPRESSIVE CONSONANTS (SEVEN, HERE) IS ONE OF THE BIGGEST PROBLEMS I SEE TODAY WITH BEGINNING SNARKERS.
Any time you see "was" "had" "were" with another verb you can probably remove it and spiff up your writing 100%.
as in: "came" and "bad news for a restless girl trapped in the house during the best part of the afternoon."

We KNOW she's not in the house now so you don't have to spell out the past tense.Readers will make intuitive leaps with you.
WHAT THE TENSE CLARIFIES IS THAT IT NOT ONLY RAINED, BUT IT STOPPED, NOT THAT SHE WAS IN THE HOUSE. GETTING A PRIMER ON GRAMMAR MIGHT HELP YOU NOT MISTAKE THIS (OR OTHER) USES OF "HAD" AS SIMPLE PAST TENSE OR THE NONEXISTENT GRAMMATICAL ENTITY OF "DOUBLE VERBING".

One of the biggest problems I see is writers who think they are filling out police reports and have to include every fact, every look, every causal link.
LOCATING A GOOD GRAMMAR PRIMER WOULD DEFINITELY BE A GOOD WAY TO BRUSH UP ON SUBJECT/VERB AGREEMENT. THE REST OF THIS CRITICISM IS SPOT-ON, THOUGH, SINCE NOT NEARLY ENOUGH WRITERS ARE STILL WRITING LIKE THOSE 80'S MINIMALIST MASTERS LIKE TAMA JANOWITZ AND JAY MCINERY. HOPEFULLY MORE PEOPLE WILL TAKE YOUR ADVICE AND START WRITING LESS LIKE TOLSTOY AND MORE LIKE PEOPLE MAGAZINE. YOU KNOW. LIKE YOU.

Anonymous said...

Anon at 3:37. You are an idiot. That is all.

Anonymous said...

Anyone who thinks Tama and Jay are masters at anything AND types in all caps clearly has nothing to say on the matter.

That is also all.

Miss Snark said...

Well, Snarklings, you now see know why most agents don't offer helpful rejection letters. This kind of response usually coupled with "I'll show you when I win the Nobel Prize" or "yer ma wears Army boots" are precisely what leads to formulaic "it's not quite right for me".

Pam said...

Well, Anon, if you put your primer down long enough to read the initial comments again, you'll see that Miss Snark's last sentence refers to a different subject from that of verbs. Separate sentence, separate thought.

Redacted Agent may be giving other agents a bad name, but you're doing the same for us unpublished writers. Obviously, your ass hasn't been planted in your chair long enough to develop the necessary callouses.

PS When you return to your beloved primer, look up the word "hopefully," and read with care. You might also check out the section on subject/verb agreement.

Anonymous said...

Miss Snark,

I have received your comments and criticism with an open and thankful heart (especially since you prefaced the whole thing by calling me "very very brave," which is far better than "very very stupid").

So, to counteract the over-snarkified responses to your critique(s) here: You rock! A successful writer is born from a balance of maturity, thick skin, knowledge, and skill. In that sense, you have added to my growth. By taking what you've shared here and weighing it against that which I've gleaned elsewhere, and by continuing to WORK, I will eventually "be" where I want to be.

Not many busy agents -- not many busy anybody, really -- would take the time to share wisdom the way you did. And all for the sake of a blogful of faceless writers whose passion will either propel them forward or be the means of their complete downfall.

I will choose the former. :) Thank you very much, Miss Snarkity Snark!

Anonymous said...

Kitty, don't worry -- I didn't read it that way at all! LOL And I like the quote.

kitty said...

Oh, THANK YOU! I can't tell you how badly I felt when I realized what I had done. I was thinking of Miss Snark's term "crap" and was reminded of the quote.

apprentice idiot said...

Too much useful advice here. Ouch! Naturally we'll need to pick apart your grammar and simile, etc. Or we might accidentally write something someone will read without struggle. We might accidentally communicate with each other. And that would foil the evil CIA/Satan plot to prevent same. I suppose it's too late to post this anonymously, huh? 'Nice knowing you.

Anonymous said...

About point 2.

I hate sentences that starting with -ing verbs. They sound stilted and often they describe things that can't even be done at the same time (which is what the construction implies).

Please just don't.

If I see any sentence that says: "Opening the door, he walked in." or something similar, I'm going to treat Killer Yap to gourmet meal at the author's house (if Miss Snark allows me to).