3rd SR Crapometer #58

Dear Miss Snark:

What would you do if the older sister you idolized vanished from her college campus without a trace? Kelly Victor spends twenty years of her life searching, with no success, until she dreams of a traffic accident. The accident happens just as she dreams it, and though she's not certain if this is a gift or a coincidence, Kelly's excited to have a new tool in her search. It leads her to a new life in a small Northwest Oregon town, and eventually to a newspaper in Idaho that could have the answer she's dedicated her life to finding. It also leads her to people who just may
become the family she's longed for since her own fell apart when she was seventeen . . . and to her upstairs neighbor, the man who just may change her perception of love.

DEPENDING ON THE DAY focuses on Kelly's growth from obsession to happiness
and life on her own terms. DEPENDING ON THE DAY, at 65,000 words, is women's
fiction that explores how one unanswered question can affect a woman's life.

I worked at an independent newspaper as writer and editor for four years while living in a small Oregon town. Two of my short stories have appeared in XYZ Anthology. My next novel is in progress.

May I send you the completed manuscript?
Thank you for your generous time.


The day before my senior year of high school started I sat in the driveway, idling the 1965 Dodge Dart that used to be Hers before She went away to college driving a new Volkswagon Beetle. Everything I couldn't live without was in the trunk and on the seats around me. Mostly clothes. And The Lizard King.

I had to idle to do this right, because the radio would give me a sign. If Hendrix played first I'd drive north because he was born in Seattle, if The Doors played first then south toward Los Angeles, and if it was Janis Joplin -- east. The living room curtains moved, but nobody came out. I left a note.

As soon as I heard the first few notes of "All Along The Watchtower" I put the Dart in gear and pulled out of the driveway. The Lizard King meowed when the blanket he was curled up on moved. It seemed like a good sign that Hendrix led me north. She was last seen in Oregon, but the reality of it was that She could be anywhere.


I started feeling things again in the spring of 1990. First, surprise and disgust that we had four more years of Republican Rule to get through, (President Clinton was elected in 1992) and second, awe when I felt the first door open to the psychic part of my mind. I'd been living with a guy for about a year and had a few dreams that felt more real than they should have. Then one came true. Stu and I woke up on the first day of our two week vacation and I told him the dream. He laughed because I'd never even been to Oakland, California as far as he knew. Except for one trip to the Knowland Park Zoo and one Oakland Raider's game he was right, but I didn't tell him that. I told him that in my dream we were riding up a steep hill and a car came flying over the top of it, just like on The Streets of San Francisco, and it plowed right into
us. I didn't think it was funny, but I also didn't think it was a premonition of any kind, so we left on schedule.

We weren't in a big hurry, and I loved the feeling of freedom I got on the back of his big Harley, even wearing the tight helmet. I didn't forget about the dream, but I didn't dwell on it or mention it again.

Stu rode faster the closer we got to his old neighborhood, where his brother Mike and all their friends still lived. He turned onto Seven Hills Road, and I held on tighter. That road lived up to its name, it was like riding on a kid's drawing of the ocean or a small version of a street in San Francisco – just one hill after another with no flat spots in between. Everything around
us started to look familiar even though that was impossible. The buildings to our left, apartments or maybe condos, and an old red Toyota parked in front of a low brick wall.

You've got an interesting three paragraph start and then you cut away, to a dream no less.
Can you hear me screaming?

I can hear you saying "but ..but..this is the crapometer, it's only 500 words, you'd see more on the page" but I gotta tell ya, sometimes you have exactly as much time to get my attention in the slush pile as you have here. I don't know why you'd shift away from the narrative after three paragraphs but in a query letter with pages, its much better to leave the pyrotechniques off, and just give me straight narrative. Leave the scenery shifts for the partials and fulls. You don't have enough time here to do two scenes well. Give me one good scene, even if its not how you envision the finished book. Right now, all you want is my attention. The rest comes later.


caren1701 said...

No "but . . . but" -- just a big thanks for your time & comments!

I'm so happy to let out that breath I've been holding!

Anonymous said...

I started feeling things again in the spring of 1990. First, surprise and disgust that we had four more years of Republican Rule to get through, (President Clinton was elected in 1992)

Also, elections take place in November, so she'd be surprised about the outcome of an election in the fall, not the spring.

blaironaleash said...

I thought that was fantastic, and the only thing so far I would shell out hard cash for after scanning that first page. Lots of things that have been fawned over would have been straight back on the shelf for me after the third sentence.

Every word the right and only word.

Anonymous said...

disgust that we had four more years of Republican Rule to get through

Just something to consider ... Politics is one thing in political thrillers. But you run the risk of turning off half of your readers when you write such comments in regular fiction.

caren1701 said...

blaironaleash -- Wow, thanks a million! :)

Anonymous said...

Yeah, unfortunately the writer's ignorance of the electoral process would make me put this down right away. A shame, because it isn't terrible, but that turned me right off, especially because there was no reason to mention it to begin with.

caren1701 said...

About the electoral process (with which I am familiar, BTW) -- that passage was there to show the MC's disconnect from life (her own & society's), but it obviously doesn't have the intended effect. It's gone now, replaced by something MUCH better, IMHO.

Thanks Miss Snark, & snarklings, for your comments.

Marss said...

I loved the voice in the first three paragraphs. It really hooked me on the protag. If you can keep that level of the voice through-out, I think you have a winner.

JacklynKy said...

I really enjoyed the first three paragraphs. What a great start!

The other Cathy said...

Is there a time shift in there between the first part and the rest? That reads to me like a prologue ... I don't hate prologues like some people do, but hiding it in Chapter 1 is not the way to handle it. Either call it a prologue or start Chapter 2 at the break.

caren1701 said...

marss & jacklynky -- Thanks for taking the time to comment! :)
This is so cool.

Hi "the other cathy"

You caught me -- the first 3 paragraphs are either Chapter 1 or a prologue, depending on who's listening. I was pushing word count, so I left out the "Chapter 2" so I wouldn't get the old DQ. Maybe not the best strategy, but we all know how The Divine Miss S feels about prologues!

McKoala said...

Liked the first three paras, liked the writing throughout - but why does it have to be upper case 'S' on 'she'? Makes me think Rider Haggard!

BuffySquirrel said...

Having an older sister, I know EXACTLY why She was capitalised :).

I love love love the decision process in the car. More like that would be very cool.

You might get away with the disconnect part in a different environment where readers aren't on the alert for mistakes. It almost works. It's a big problem with critique groups and their ilk, in my experience, that they assume that anything that doesn't seem quite right is the writer's mistake rather than the character's.

McKoala said...

He, he. In my family I am the oldest princess, sorry, I mean sister.

Kara said...

Is anyone else bothered by the fact that most of these entries are so short? 65,000 words is the length of an average category romance, and not enough length to handle this type of plot in depth. I would think 90K would be a minimum for any type of mainstream novel.

That said, I liked what I read.

wonderer said...

Nobody's commented on the query yet? I thought it was very well done. Enough of the plot, but not too much. It pulled me in right away.

The word count was a red flag for me too.

Excellent start. The POV gets more remote after that, though - you begin to tell instead of show. Why not walk us through the scene where she tells Stu about the dream? (I wouldn't advise actually starting with the dream, though.)

You've clearly got talent. Good luck with this!

Natalia said...

Wow, this is really, really good so far. I love the premise. Lizard King is a great name for a pet. The shift from the action is annoying, even though I'm no agent.

Otherwise, good job.

Anonymous said...

delete the whole first part about how she will decide where to go. and the lizard king is her cat? that confused me at first.
and i'm really sick of reading republican bashing in books... and i'm a LIBERAL.

caren1701 said...

"Nobody's commented on the query yet? I thought it was very well done. Enough of the plot, but not too much. It pulled me in right away."

Thanks, wonderer (and everyone who helped me with the letter)! I stressed big-time over this letter, so it's nice to know it worked for someone other than me. Especially since I'm about to send out a bunch of personalized copies. :)

A huge thanks to everyone who took the time to comment! Is this fun, or what?