3rd SR Crapometer #2

Dear Miss Snark:

Please find enclosed for your consideration the first page of my90,000 word "A Memoir of Lives Too Short". It is the unfortunately all too true story of a cocky, horny, stupid 17 year old city boy who unexpectedly becomes a cocky, horny, stupid 17 year old cowboy and
somehow lives long enough to write about it.

It is additionally the tale of an adolescent male who unsuccessfully balances two lives – a college life in the big city – and the cowboy life in the American West and in the various frontiers from Mexico to Peru and from the Orinoco to the Arabian Gulf.

It is also the story of the father who raised me to live the civic life of government and corporations and showed me how to do the right things in his world as well as the story of the nine cowhands who taught me the rewards of team work and how to do the right things in
the 19th-Century world they created for themselves once they discovered the 20th-Century had no place for them.

It is also the mercilessly comic story of my never-ending-battle to become less cocky, less horny and less stupid – and my on-going and never ending failures on all three counts.

But in the end, after the sudden and tragic end of those ten years, it is also about my realization of everything I had so unsuspectingly learned from them all and the incalculable debts I owe them.

Thank you for your time.


There's no hook here. It's a coming of age story. Everyone has one, even Miss Snark who contrary to her public image did not leap fully formed from Grandmother Snark's mother of pearl jewelry box.

When Lance presented me with a four-year-old Morgan stallion (sixteen two hands in height - tall for the breed – and pure black – even rarer for the breed), I was not sure what I was supposed to do with it. My new horse was an animal that had never been saddled nor worn a bridle, nor felt a bit or a blanket, much less been ridden.

While a fair to middling rider – on an infrequent best day – and even then only on a rocking horse of a mount, the idea of my breaking a still growing (not that any of us realized it at the time), already substantial-sized stallion – eventually to reach a staggering (by Morgan standards) sixteen and one half hands - was a concept I had a hard time grasping.

Well, it was not exactly the concept I had the difficulty grasping; it was more my total inability to grasp exactly how I was going to get my then 120 pounds of bone and skin (and not much else) onto - and stay on top of – 1,200 pounds of pure dynamite.

And each week, there was always more… horse…. but never much more of me, unless one counted my ever growing accumulation of scars, scabs and bandages.

Now as Lance had wanted this stallion to retain its spirit, my mount (to be) had been permitted the daily freedom of the open range far into his colthood – and beyond. And even then, even after my horse could no longer be trusted to return home with his mother and his
years of unbridled freedom were finished, Lance had still delayed my horse's being brought under the rule of the bit for as long as possible.

Seemingly, even before my arrival had ever been suspected, the conspiracy against me had begun.

When I first arrived in the Owens Valley on that now distant summer night, I was a physically unimpressive, not particularly athletic seventeen-year-old boy from Los Angeles's Wilshire District. I had just graduated from John Marshall High School only weeks before and
was scheduled to start classes at UCLA that fall, following in both cases in my father's footsteps.

I had also already spent a lifetime of weekends and summers traveling the West from a three generation owned family cabin in Wrightwood where the desert and the mountains crossed trails. But I had done so more as a comfortable, regular but nevertheless - visitor - and not as
a full time inhabitant of the region. I was also even less a member of its culture, even within its muted mid-20th Century incarnation much less the unrelentingly unrepentant 19th Century version I was shortly to live within and about which I now write about in these first years of the 21st Century.

I am now, however, one of the last to have – or will ever again have - a direct connection to the West at it once was… and will never again be.

There's nothing here urging me to read on. WHY the guy gave you the horse is of more interest to me than the what.

This story, even though its your own, is as familiar to us as morning oatmeal. You need to find the curry powder and spice it up a little.


Anonymous said...

First you say, When Lance presented me with a four-year-old Morgan stallion (sixteen two hands in height, but then you say eventually to reach a staggering (by Morgan standards) sixteen and one half hands. Two inches is half a hand, if that's what you meant, but you need to be consistant in how you present information (and be aware of how punctuation or lack of it affects your meaning); that last sentence, as written, could also mean one-half inch.

Morgans--old-style ones, anyway--do tend to be stocky, but since my ten-year-old, 16-hand appendix QH weighs about 1000 lbs, I couldn't help but think that 1200 lbs sounded awfully heavy for a still-growing four-year-old.

Many horse people say that they're so used to seeing writers get things so wrong about horses that the author has to convince them quickly that s/he does know what s/he's talking about if horses are involved. So even if you personally know a four-year-old, sixteen-two, 1200-lb Morgan, you have to understand that you're going to have to establish your credibility and sell it to your audience right up front.

I'm really feeling for the narrator. What a situation.

Anonymous said...

As a non-horse person, I'm afraid this mostly read as "blah, blah, blah" to me. The thing I noticed is (unfortunately) that there is nothing to make me want to keep reading.

That may be because I've never read a memoir and am expecting a narrative, but shouldn't there be something other than "I did this, then I did this, then I did this"? I think the book should make the reader feel that there's going to be a point to reading on, that the writer is building toward something. I'm not getting that sense from this excerpt, or from the query letter.

I am sorry for my lack of enthusiasm, but I do wish you good luck in getting your story published.

Chumplet said...

Even if it's a memoir, open it with some kind of action. Receive the horse, get on it, get thrown. Feel the bruises. Show us the look in the stallion's eye as he determines to get the scrawny kid off his back. Make us feeeeel!

Anonymous said...

Decent writing... unfortunately putting us to sleep instead of slapping us across the face. Why are we here in this particular moment? What about it changed your life for the better/worse? Make us acutely aware of the fact that you life is about to change in these very moments and let us witness that with you. Then maybe we will all want more instead of something else.

BuffySquirrel said...

Hmm, I'm a horse lover and I wouldn't read this. Although I liked the line about there always being more horse, but not more boy.

Show us the battle with the horse, don't just tell us about it. Come on, it's a HORSE.

Anonymous said...

There were a lot of parentheses, dashes, and phrases set off by commas that made it really hard for me to follow the meaning of your sentences. It might be helpful to mix some simpler sentences in there so your stupid readers like me don't get lost. I also agree with the others that a little more action would be nice. Show a little more and tell a little less. Hope this helps!

wonderer said...

I agree with 4th Anon. There are way too many parentheses and other parenthetical statements - it's hard to follow. Reading it out loud would help you see the problem spots: I tried to and kept getting bogged down.

luna_the_cat said...

I'm a horse person, or used to be, anyway.

No, the writing didn't really set me on fire.

And...a Morgan THAT big? Sorry, but you're going to have to be reeeeeeeally convincing from here on it, because you just about lost me right there. Maybe there are Morgans that big, but it isn't plausible fiction; Morgans are a notoriously compact breed, though strong for their size. Breed standard is 14.1 - 15.2 hh, with a lot of them pony-sized. Pick what you want to stretch your audience's credibility with carefully. Maybe consider your horse being a Morgan cross.....

Anonymous said...

It was a Morgan as far as I know - though it could have been a cross in the past - and the second sixteen was a typo when I re-typed it inot the email to get correct formatting.. It was supposed to be 17 hands.