3rd SR Crapometer #26

Dear Miss Snark,
For your crapometer, I'm sending you a proposal for a romantic comedy entitled 'Working Title'. (I hate entitled. Just write "the romantic comedy Working Title"--and know too that romantic comedy is a description of a movie, not a book)

It's about a girl who gets mixed up with a racing scam in Saratoga and falls in love with the policeman who arrests her. (don't we all)

I have a background in racing and horses, and have been to Saratoga. I'm a published author of YA books and would like to branch out into romantic comedy.

I have the outline, synopsis, and first three chapters written (automatic no) if you are

Best wishes -
Aspiring Romantic Comedy Author

I don't take on unfinished novels unless the author is bringing some serious pub credits to the table. If I got this in the mail the first thing I'd do is google you and look you up on Bookscan.

This is what I tell my customers: "It's written in the cards." It sounds a lot better than saying, "Life is iffy." But life is iffy. For example, if I didn't have dyslexia, I'd probably have some sort of degree and a decent job instead of being a fortune teller. And if my grandmother didn't have
dementia and think she was still in 1940, and that the Germans were trying to kill her, we wouldn't have gone to Saratoga. And if I hadn't bet on Bittersweet Melody that day at the track, I wouldn't have ended up stumbling onto a drug ring and stealing a million dollar race horse.

"Ruby, there's a German under my bed again."
My grandmother was whispering, so I lowered my own voice and said, "Don't
worry, it's just Karl."

This was the story I'd concocted. Since my grandmother was absolutely convinced there was a German under her bed, I had to render him harmless. So I invented Karl, a fifteen year old soldier who wanted to defect. Karl, I informed her, was just a kid. My grandmother had been in the war in Normandy, she'd seen the soldiers. She'd told me how, as the war dragged on,
they got younger and younger, until sometimes they hadn't even started shaving and their skin had that translucent, taut look of adolescence. She'd told me stories about how she'd befriended a young soldier named Karl, but how she'd never seen nor heard of him after the war.
So I made Karl into the phantom under her bed, and that always settled her down.
"Well, tell him to come out when it's safe."
"I will."
She thought for a minute. "And offer him something to drink."
"That's a good idea. How about you?"
"A tea would be nice, if you can find some. With rations the way they are, it's a miracle if we can get good tea."
"I'll find some, don't worry."
"Do you still have your friends in the black market? What about Suzanne, the one with the horses?" My grandmother could remember the minutest detail about her life during the war, but the present was a thick fog where she wandered without a clue as to where she was. For some reason, she usually remembered who I was, and yet transposing me, her granddaughter, to 1940 didn't pose a problem to her addled mind. Dementia trumped logic. My whole life lacked logic. For a while I didn't care. I figured things would get better. Things could have been worse. I might not have any friends at all, be bald, obese, or chronically ill. In fact, I have good friends, my hair is strawberry blond, and I'm healthy. When I walk down the street I get
wolf-whistles, and once a guy walked into a lamppost because he couldn't take his eyes off me.
But suddenly I was a quarter of a century old. I took stock of my situation. It wasn't great. I was living with my grandmother, I didn't have a steady job, I'd never had a proposal from a man I loved, and my best friend was a jockey who kept trying to fix me up with other jockeys; and I'm nearly five nine.
I said to myself, "Ruby, you're not getting any younger. You have to get a life before it's too late. Why don't you go see your friend Suzanne at the track and maybe win some money?" And that's how it all started.

I cannot tell you how sick I am of hearing people describe themselves in books. When was the last time you gave one single thought to how tall you are? Well, unless you are trying to meet the height requirements for the rides at Disneyland.

Strawberry blond hair indeed. Give me a f/ing break. I hate to tell you this but MOST girls I know are not focused on how good they look, they only see the flaws. (I'm not saying that's a good thing or a preferred thing, but it's a TRUE thing. There's a hilarious scene in Mean Girls about just that...and we don't grow out of it after 8th grade).

You've got a good and funny premise here but we're spending too much time (if you'll pardon the pun) beating a dead horse. One quick comment about Karl under the bed and we've got the picture that Grandma is stuck in the time warp (she and the Rocky Horror Picture show guy make a cute couple).

I'm obviously not going to reject something cause of strawberry blond hair and description but at this point I'm not as excited about your work as you want me to be. Get Grandma out from under the bed, strap on your helmet and let's get racing.


Virginia Miss said...

I, too liked the premise, but I get bored easily if there's too much back story, too soon. Get to the action and conflict sooner.

I suggest you use some of the first paragraph in your query, especially the part about "stumbling onto a drug ring and stealing a million dollar race horse."

Anonymous said...

In all fairness to the crapometees, Miss Snark, you did put in the FAQs that we (they! Not me...I'm a chicken) could send a query and first pages from an unfinished manuscript. You know how close the dots need to be placed...Don't announce that in the query letter!

Anonymous said...

This is what I tell my customers: "It's written in the cards." It sounds a lot better than saying, "Life is iffy." But life is iffy. For example, if I didn't have dyslexia, I'd probably have some sort of degree and a decent job instead of being a fortune teller.

I'd forgive a lot of weaknesses for an opening like that. At least it puts me on the writer's side. And MS preferred the golf soporific? How did that go? "It was a clean slice down the fairway but sure to be a birdie on the 19th hole in the bottom of the eighth" or something? Geez.

Anonymous said...

There's nothing wrong with the writing, it's the story. Where does the story start? Not here. Not with Grandma and hair colour. Let's get to the racetrack!

But the writing is nice. Keep at it, Author; the novel probably only needs pruning and rearranging, rather than an overhaul.

Cheryll said...

I'd keep reading. I like the heroine's voice, her take on the world and all it's iffiness.

Also, and perhaps this is why, I am an older reader, from a time when books were long and wordy because readers had time to read.

Don't toss this one out. Polish and perhaps change the opening chapter to begin with a piece of action, and use this as background after...

Besides, I want to know more this person and her world.

Allison Wharley said...

Just wondering - if a 'romantic comedy' is a movie term, what do we call the novel? I've always refered to mine as a romantic comedy.
For what it's worth, I think this has potential but needs a good prune.
But I did cringe at the walk-into-lampposts-beautiful heroine. That is not typical of the genre, so you'd need a very good reason to make your heroine more beautiful than the readers who are supposed to be identifying with her.

December Quinn said...

I loved the first bit, and I loved Karl...but you lost me when we got into backstory and character description.

I would have kept reading, though, to see if we got back into anything interesting.

Anonymous said...

Aspiring Romantic Comedy Author-I loved your writing and love the whole scene with grandma. I agree with Virginia Miss. Start the scene with Ruby stumbling onto the racing scam, then backtrack to how she got there. Definetely include the first paragraph because it's a great set up and I love the voice.

McKoala said...

Same as DQ here, loved the start, wasn't into the backstory/hair colour. Keep it quirky!

Anonymous said...

This is a great story, just needs a little polishing. There are some wonderful parts to this and I like this character.
Nice Job!!

Wesley Smith said...

Just a note on the query.

We all know Miss Snark doesn't accept uncompleted manuscripts, but I think this is completed. I think the author was assuming that Miss Snark would ask for the first three chapters and saying they were available.

True, she didn't exactly communicate it effectively, but I think that's what she meant.

Ski said...

I already love grandma and your character. I'd keep reading, but I have to tell you that it seemed that someone else took over your pen when you described the "looks" of the character. Get rid of that and I'm in for the duration. This is minor - MINOR - keep going and I'll buy it when it hits the shelves. Karl...oh that's funny.


Anonymous said...

I laughed when I read this. It was the first one that I found amusing and entertaining.