3rd SR Crapometer #8

Dear Miss Snark:

I have recently finished (HUGE RED FLAG) a manuscript entitled WHAT NORMAL LOOKS LIKE (95,000 words) for which I am seeking representation. I am a regular reader of your blog and thought you might be interested.

The Joy Luck Club, Waiting to Exhale, The Saving Graces, Sex and the City: these stories of female friendship hinge on the fact that they are groups of four. Four is a good number for women; it allows everyone a pair, and a flexible coupling at that. WHAT NORMAL LOOKS LIKE examines the lifelong friendship of three women .Three can be a disastrous number among females. The last sentence is all you need

Abby, Nora, and Maude have been best friends since they were twelve. For ten years they were plaited as tightly as a mountain climber’s rope, but over the past decade they’ve become a line unraveled with Abby desperately trying to weave them back together.

But when Abby and her daughter are in a tragic accident that leads to the amputation of the girl’s hand, Abby’s adoration of her daughter coupled with her grief launches an obsession so disturbing, she withdraws completely from her friends. (this is general twaddle..be specific.. does she convert to Scientology and marry Tom Cruise..what??) Nora, meanwhile, feels trapped in what increasingly seems like a marriage of convenience. ( I see we're back to Tom Cruise) She longs for a more meaningful connection with a man. The man she has in mind, however, is her first love, Graham, who is now married to Maude. Maude is a well deep with secrets. She’s engaged in a sporadic and passionate affair with the man she believes to be her adopted brother and discovers she’s pregnant. (Jerry Springer! Calling Jerry Springer!) When the prenatal tests produce a shocking discovery, (alien babies!!-does this occur in chapter 14 by any chance) she feels utterly alone without Abby and Nora. They are the only ones to whom she could possibly confide her secret.

With Abby entrenched in misery, Nora and Maude must bury the past if they are to exhume the lost soul of their friend. Maude is forced to confront the betrayal that splintered their threesome years ago, and Nora plots to right the wrong by taking back what was first hers: Graham. If they cannot find a way to rely on each other again, Abby will have no rope to pull her from the depths of despair; Nora’s contempt for her marriage and reignited infatuation with Graham will devastate the life she’s made for herself; and Maude will have no one to see her through the pregnancy she should not carry to term.

Thank you in advance for your time and consideration. I have included the first page; however, the full manuscript is available upon request.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely yours,


I'd stop here.
There's nothing enticing about this at all.
It's dreary misery.
Those books/movies you mentioned at the start? They were FUNNY! And sexy! And enticing.
I'm not sure misery would have ever been used in a cover letter pitching any of those books.
and of course a maimed child to top it all off.

1 Abigail Jane Hart

The thought came to Abby in a flash, and she pushed it out of her mind as quickly as it had come. It was hours after the accident, hours that felt like days, days that seemed so long ago it was as if they were from a different life completely. Abby had sent Peter home to shower and maybe rest, but she refused to leave their daughter’s side. Lucy – Luce – was in critical, if stable, condition. The surgery had taken longer than expected. They hadn’t been able to repair the damage; drastic measures were taken to save her life. But they couldn’t save Lucy’s hand. Abby’s head pounded. Sleep was unimaginable. She replayed again and again the moments before it happened. Maybe if she hadn’t been so anxious to get home. Maybe if they’d stopped for a drive-thru ice cream cone because Lucy was hungry. Maybe if her mind hadn’t been elsewhere. Maybe if Abby had done one thing differently, she wouldn’t have been at that exact place, at that exact time. She stared at the tiny figure, watched the gentle rise and fall of Lucy’s breath beneath the blue blanket on the hospital bed, looked at her face, her matted hair, at anything other than the bandages. Consumed with guilt and grief and regret, that’s when it struck her. But what entered Abby’s mind was so gruesome, so disturbing, she willed it away. And each time after that. And each time after that.

It had been a regular day. There were no omens looming, no symbols presenting themselves as they might in a book. The three of them had slept in. It was nearly nine when Lucy first awoke and padded into her parents’ bedroom announcing that she’d kept her sheets dry for the third night in a row. Abby pulled Luce into bed between them.

There's no action. There's no dialogue. There's nothing here but the wine-dark sea of remorse. The only thing that would make this less appealing is rain, a dead dog, and no gin pail in sight.


December Quinn said...

She’s engaged in a sporadic and passionate affair with the man she believes to be her adopted brother and discovers she’s pregnant.

Huh? Wouldn't you know who your adopted brother was? And if he's the brother she believes is adopted, why is she sleeping with him? Cuz that's just icky. I have a brother. If I found out now he was actually adopted, I sure wouldn't be thinking, "Great, because I've always wondered what he's like in bed."

Anonymous said...

Possibly nitwitty question: why is "I've recently finished" a red flag?

Wabi Sabi said...

What's wrong with 'recently finished' - is it that you think you're getting a first draft - not sufficiently polished?

Manic Mom said...

I thought it was a good opening of the novel in that she jumps right into the lost hand stuff.

Lots of drama here, which some might really love.

wonderer said...

Anon and wabi sabi - "Recently finished" implies "I've finally written the last scene, so here you go!" That means the novel hasn't been edited by the author, which is the last thing an agent wants to hear.

Anonymous said...

The writing is pretty smooth, and conveys what it means to. Author? Don't give up. What you need is just a little more understanding of what makes writing engaging (action is one thing, tension is another) and a tighter focus (you're using a lot of words to get your point across). If this is a first draft, then it's a damned fine one. You obviously have talent, but this book needs more work. Good luck with it.

Anonymous said...

Abby and Luce--what ARE they to each other? There's no hint of one being the other's mum. They could be sisters, friends, co-joined twins.




Ah-ooo-gah! Ah-ooo-gah!

Anonymous said...

One of my writer friends would LOVE this. Grief, remorse, depression; what better stuff to read?

B. Dagger Lee said...

OKay, I gotta obey copyright laws, how do I do this?

There's a song called "Reason to Believe" and it goes, "Seen a man standin' over a dead dog lyin' by the highway in a ditch / He's lookin' down kinda puzzled pokin' that dog with a stick..."

I like the Aimee Mann, Michael Penn version, and all versions end like this: "Still at the end of every hard day people find some reason to believe."

It's a good song, hooks you right from the beginnning. Miss S. is just not kidding when she says you gotta hook her right away. Me too.

yrs, B. Dagger Lee

Frainstorm said...

To give proper credit, b dagger, I believe that Bruce Springsteen wrote that tune.

I'm still a bit confused, I must admit, by "I've recently finished." Why does that automatically signify a first draft was finished? I certainly didn't make that leap. Is that just agents seeing the line so often with first drafts, they make the assumption now?

Interesting observation to hear, thanks for the cue.

A. M. said...

This boggles the mind.
You've got an accident, agony in the hospital, then the doc delivers the bad news - daughter lost hand.

All good stuff. Action, drama... YET

When do we get there? Hours AFTER the frigging accident. Why, I ask? Why are we there, live, so to speak, when the mother ponders her guilt and whatnot? Is it better to be told about all the action, ya think? Rather than being there and then have a chance to relate to what she's going through? Argh. I totally don't get why one would choose to start right there, right after the fact.

So the adopted brother's not really adopted? The only shocking thing would be if he was a blood relation.

If this is another tale where first generation incest produces birth defects then I seriously wonder if anybody does any research before writing on the incest topic. Ever. Incest that runs over generations in one family will sooner or later do a number on the genes, no doubt about that. But the birth defect risks for first-generation incest are similar to that of non-incest babies.

This is a good thing - think of all the artificial inseminations with sperm from anonymous donors. Who knows what could happen with people clueless as to who their real parents are. Just saying.

Re: "recently" finished. Yes, sounds like just finished this first draft, no need to rewrite or let it sit or whatever, now off with it.

Why not write "is finished at... words"? What does "recently" matter in the first place? Who cares if it was last week or last year? It ain't perishable, methinks.

Anonymous said...

This is very good writing, especially for a first draft, but I agree with other commenters that the starting place is a bit off. If the story started with the accident or at the moment the Dr. delivered the news that the hand would be lost, there would be a lot more showing and a much bigger hook. As it is...there has to be telling and a lot of backstory.

Jo Bourne said...

I know this seems trivial, but that paragraph was 244 words long.

White space.