3rd SR Crapometer #18

Dear Miss Snark:
Below are the first 715 words of my novel FAINTING IN COILS, the misadventures of a naive Southern girl who graduates from a provincial art school in 1979 and moves to New York in hopes of taking the art world by storm.

A thousand thanks from your most humble & obed't servant,

is there a plot?
a word count?
a category other than novel?

FAINTING IN COILS [OK to post this title]

For the third time, Becky anxiously rearranged the crackers and cheese on the round china platter her mother had brought from home. She wanted everything to be just right for her senior show, the final requirement for a BFA at Carolina College. She had scoured all of sleepy little Tarville the day before, searching for Stoned Wheat Thins, a wedge of Brie and a half-dozen bottles of Folonari Soave. Becky wasn’t so sure that she actually liked the Brie--it had a pungent, not altogether pleasant tang that reminded her vaguely of something; she couldn’t quite think of what. But she had to have the Brie and Wheat Thins because they were served at all the gallery openings in SoHo. She knew, because she and the nine other senior painting students had spent the past spring break there, camping out on the floor of the cavernous loft that Eldon Kingsley, Carolina’s most--in fact, only--famous alumnus, magnanimously made available every year for a hefty fee.

Becky wasn’t sure that she cared for the taste of the Soave either, but then she’d been off wine ever since an unfortunate episode a couple of years before, in which she’d downed an entire bottle of Lake Country Red and awakened with her first hangover and a strange guy, and then had to spend the day hammering copper to finish a jewelry project. (She’d been put off making jewelry ever since then, too.) But the Soave was also served at all the SoHo galleries, so Becky knew it must be good, and carefully poured it into the rows of stemmed plastic glasses she’d lined up next to the platter on her mother’s shaky old card table.

She took another look around the walls at the end of the floodlit gallery where she’d hung and obsessively rearranged her twenty best paintings over the last week. Even though she had stared at each piece for countless hours, Becky still got a frisson of surprise and pleasure when she looked at her assembled work. It was good, even if at her final critique her faculty advisor had noted a few too many allusions to DeKooning in the splashy brushwork--though DeKooning never painted such earthy, sensuous figures.

“At least my paintings aren’t fake Diebenkorns like that jerk Kingsley’s,” she muttered fiercely to herself, recalling how their host had shepherded her group to his show at the Frank Fennell Gallery on Madison Avenue, where his pastel-streaked canvasses sold for $20,000 and up to Texans with more money than taste. Then she sniggered, recalling how a puffy middle-aged Fennell salesman had rapturously declared, “It would be great to have a couch and a fireplace here, to really set off the paintings.” Kingsley had made some noncommittal sound and stalked away, leaving Becky and her best friend Liz bursting in their efforts to keep their faces straight.

“What are you laughin’ about?” Liz appeared at Becky’s side and gave her an affectionate nudge. Before Becky could reply, Liz spotted the platter. “Ooh!” she squealed. “I just love Brie!” She flipped aside her long honey-colored hair and popped one of the cheese-topped crackers into her mouth. (Becky worried that the Brie was getting too runny under the hot gallery lights.) “Mmm,” Liz moaned throatily and smacked her lips. “Tastes like cum, don’t you think? And don’t tell me you don’t know what I’m talking about because I know you do.” She washed it down with a gurgle of wine.

“Well, um, now that you mention it, there is a certain similarity,” Becky admitted, noting rather glumly to herself that it had been a long time since she’d been qualified to make the comparison. The past year, while very productive artistically, had been a total dud for romance--or even just plain old sex, which, if a suitable partner had presented himself, she would have settled for now and then. She must have looked a bit forlorn, because Liz patted her arm and crooned, “Don’t you worry, honey, when you get to New York City you’ll have all the cum you want.” “Gee, thanks, Liz, you sure know how to cheer a girl up,” Becky replied with a grimace. She glanced at her watch. “Hey, it’s a minute to three. The doors are about to open.”

and she steps to the mound, spits on the ball, winds up...and winds up...and winds up.

You're spending a lot of time telling us she isn't a virgin, doesn't know much about cheese and is fresh off the (not dairy) farm.

Can we get a fast ball, spit ball, or knuckleball over the plate in the first 250 words please??

Since we don't have a clue about plot from the (abbreviated I'm sure) query letter, I'd pass.


Anonymous said...

I never thought I'd see the word "cum" used outside cheap stroke books. Ick.

Anonymous said...

I'm beginning to regret thinking that working on my writing was more important than praying for a random shot at this...

For some strange reason I'd had the idea that the submitters would have learned from the blog and taken the chance that was offered to them, to study and work on their stuff and try to improve to catch Miss Snark's eye.

Reading these now, I'm very sorry I didn't jump at the chance to do this. Fiction's not my thing but I do have several novels I wrote through NaNoWriMo and I would have given my firstborn to get constructive feedback -- FOR FREE -- from a real agent.

I'm embarrassed. Mortified, even. Not only because I could have done so much better than what I've read so far, but because it's pathetic how Miss Snark has provided a shitload of advice already and so few people have taken it.

No wonder people say things like "I think I'll be a writer when I retire" or other bullshit things. They have no clue of what it takes to get published, and it appears that the people who get a clue for free just ignore it. Damn, that's sad. Worse, because I'm an idiot for believing otherwise.

anonymous said...

I second anonymous #2.

Anonymous said...

You lost me at "cum."

Ditto to everything the second anonymous said. Miss Snark, if the crapometer is representative of what you receive by snailmail at the office, I don't know how you do it.

Anonymous said...

“Mmm,” Liz moaned throatily and smacked her lips. “Tastes like cum, don’t you think?

...noting rather glumly to herself that it had been a long time since she’d been qualified to make the comparison...

“Don’t you worry, honey, when you get to New York City you’ll have all the cum you want.”

Ewww. Ewww. Ewww. This sounds like some guy's fantasy of how much women loooove giving oral sex, not real women talking to each other. I'm going to go brush my teeth now. And rinse out with some minty-fresh Scope.

Anonymous said...

I submitted to this in the hopes of getting real, valuable feedback - both from MS and other commenters - and I got bumped for this????? Talk about a cruel twist of fate. This person should be slapped with a runny wedge of brie...

And Miss Snark, you ought to be up for sainthood if you wade through crap like this five days a week...

word verification - euiac - how I felt after reading this entry :)

Rain-soaked anonymous

Bernita said...

One supposes the gobbler reference is supposed to be shocking, but it just comes across as grungy and uninteresting.
But, brie-slapped and rain-soaked anon, this writer has as much right to feed-back generated by random choice as you do.

Anonymous said...

The writing was pretty decent, but the story goes nowhere, and yes, comparing brie to cum was a serious "gak" moment. Where does your story really start? At what point does the protagonist realise something is getting in the way of her happiness and she needs to take action to remove it? Once you've found that point, start the story there. Good luck, Author.

And I think the other Snarklings are being awfully harsh, and probably some of that stems from jealousy over not making it past Miss Abacus' Dice Roll o' Doom. This excerpt has some problems, but you might be overestimating how wonderful yours would be in comparison. Try to be kind, or failing that, at least helpful about what's not working. There's no reason to flay the author just because you're disappointed that it couldn't have been you instead.

Author of #18 said...

Thanks for the reality check. I should have known that my real number (86) was an omen that my work would be 86'd. Contrary to commenters' beliefs, I am now & have always been female. And my writing is supposed to be humorous, so apparently I have some fixing-up to do.

I don't know how Miss Snark can bear to do this either.

Anonymous said...

i'm with rain-soaked on this - sure, the writer has just as much of a right as any else who's submitted, but come on!

anonymous 5 is right on the money.

Don't be so self-righteous - everyone has the right, but that doesn't mean crap isn't crap

JJ said...

#18, if you're still reading these overly snarky comments - IMHO, they're mostly reacting to two things - the cum bit and... your writing is actually pretty good, but it is a bit bloated, by which I mean that you're taking a lot of words, albeit well-assembled ones, to say very much. If you're going for humor it needs to be much snappier. But don't be discouraged. You have to expect polarized reactions to the whole brie scene.

And the rest of you, lighten up. This is not ready for publication, but it's still among the better writing (not necessarily story) I've seen on the Crapometer so far, and of course EVERYONE has the same right to be here.

Kim said...

I thought this was ok - until I reached the whole 'cum' thing, which was a major ick factor right there. Still, it's salvageable. Maybe on a subsequent editing/rewrite, the author would have also done the 'ack! what was I thinking?' and taken it out. I know I've done it and I'd bet there are very few authors out there who haven't.

Constructive criticism is far more valuable than out and out trashing and I think that's why most people submitted to the crapometer. It's easy to trash, but try offering a way to improve instead. Or, there is always the old cliche if you can't say something nice...

JRBrown said...

I quite liked the first three paragraphs, and then I started to think "how long is this going to go on?"

I'd cut paragraph 4 (“At least my paintings aren’t...") completely, loose the cum reference (the ick factor is way too high to offset the few who will find it funny) and the whining about her love life, and trim the dialog with Liz so you can get on to whatever happens next (the gallery opens and... people hate her work? love it? she meets the man of her dreams? I'm guessing this is chick lit).

I always think Brie smells like old sweat socks. And tastes like ambrosia.

class-factotum said...

The part about the couch is very funny (sort of the reverse of buying art to go with the sofa). The part about the girl trying to be sophisticated and having Soave because that's what they have in New York is very funny.

The part about cum is not. It's not funny on its own and it doesn't fit with the naive Southern girl. Keep working on this, though! You've got a good start and you can make it better!

Author of #18 said...

Thanks for the additional comments. I guess I ran w/ a raunchy crowd, because many of my girfriends talked like that Back in the Day. FWIW, the Brie & who does & doesn't eat it is a running joke throughout the chapter. A few pages later, the heroine's fairy godmother (i.e., long-lost aunt from NY) comes to the show & later invites our girl to stay in her Greenwich Village apartment. Whereupon mostly hilarious complications ensue. I wouldn't call it chick lit; more like a modern Candide-cum (oops!)-fairytale.

Anonymous said...

Points for using "frisson," as I rather like that word.

Negative points for boring me with observations about cheese, crackers, and booze. If she wants to make a memorable spash in the 212 have her shock everyone with Bud-Light, Cheez Whiz, and fried pork rinds.

I've helped with art shows myself, and the catering is usually not the artists' problem. They're too busy making sure their works are hanging straight, the paperwork is in order, and the lighting shows things off. They eavsdrop for egoboos and lurk about sneaking looks at patrons viewing the art, hoping to SELL something before the rent comes due.

December Quinn said...

jrbrown, I was starting to think I was going to be the only one to say brie doesnt taste anything like what I, even in my raunchiest writing, refer to as "seed". NEVER "cum"--I cringe even typing it, and I'm an advocate of other c-words (I even wrote an article about it).

Aside from that, this wasn't terrible. I was interested in what happened next. It might need a littlw rok, but it isn't a bad start.

Author, do you and your girlfriends really sit around and talk about "getting all the cum you want"? Really?

Author of #18 said...

Not any more because I get plenty. But seriously, note that it was the heroine's best friend who made the comment & the former was rather put off by it. (BTW, I loathe the other "c" word; also the synonymous "p" word. Each to her own.)

Also note that this was the graduating senior exhibition at an art school, not a NY gallery show, which is why the artists provided the refreshments.

I went to art school in the south, and my fellow students may have been naive about many things, but definitely not sex. And they knew better than to serve pork rinds at a reception.

Thanks for the helpful comments. I know this isn't ready for publication; sent it in just to see what I could see.

class-factotum said...

Author #18 -- perhaps you could leave the Brie joke in, but make it more subtle. It's the word "cum" that's so tacky. Keep the joke, but make it an inside joke. If the reader gets it, great. If not, oh well.

a real erotic writer said...

As soon as I read Ms. Quinn's comment that she uses "seed" I knew she was a romance writer.

Try to put that in a *real* scene. "His seed tasted good and a swallowed it all." What...sunflower seed? Pumpkin seed?

This from someone who calls Pricness Diana a "dumb bitch" and is a fan of Price Charles, the author of the ewwiest erotic quote in recent history... the one about wanting to be reincarnated as Camilla's tampon.

Makes swallowing ... seem not so unattractive.