12.17.2006

HH Com 138

Set primarily in North Carolina’s Crystal Coast, Only to Dance is a contemporary fiction novel

SPLAT

that tells the story of Emilia Lawson. Emilia has foraged (odd use of that word) through life trying to feel as inspirational as everyone says she is. Though she keeps her chin up and manages to keep the general public in awe of her ability, Emilia’s brave exterior belies the inferiority she feels inside. She is an amputee whom has spent most of her life feeling untrusting of everyone from herself to friends and family. A divorce and new career prospects have given her a new lease on life – or so she thought. Once Emilia is on her own, however, insecurities return, and she begins a tumultuous journey through discovering the stuff from which she’s made. Though many tribulations, such as victimization at the hands of the “bad guys” and government cutbacks, make it seem as though the fates never planned for her to survive, each one eventually opens a window of opportunity and helps her grow into a realization about her self-worth. Finally, she meets newspaper editor Kevin Mason. At first, she keeps Kevin at a cautious distance despite his interest in her. She is skeptical that anyone can have a romantic interest in someone as imperfect as herself. Eventually, she decides to trust him. Their relationship has a rocky beginning, but through Kevin’s patience, she learns that she is worthy of being loved – and more.


She's an amputee? So what? People with odd numbers of appendages do amazing things like climb Mt Everest and play rugby.

She's beset by travails in life? So what. Who isn't?

She finds out people are mean nasty and horrid? Who hasn't?

You've got no plot and a character who sounds like Mrs. Joe Btfsplk

29 comments:

Dave said...

I hate to be mean but SO WHAT?
I've known a few amputees, paraplegics, Cerebral Palsie people, (etc...) in my life and none of them are as you describe. I found myself being offended by the text.
You can't create a novel by painting the disabled as victims. Sorry, no way to say that with any sugar coating.

michaelgav said...

Kudos to Miss Snark for the Al Capp reference.

Anonymous said...

I see what you're doing here. Your story is a bit quiet. I mean it's so small it may not be interesting enough in today's market. Americans are an Internet browsing, Wii playing, fast-food ordering, grab-and-go kind of culture. Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass while explain to you why small stories are difficult books to sell. Maas can give you some suggestions to plump it up a little and make it more garb-and-go friendly. I actually don't think your story is too far off, but find the Maass book anyway. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

I thought Dave was blocked. He should be.

Geminipen said...

Actually, I am the author and the main character in that novel is me, up to a point. I am an amputee and am not “making up stuff” about how an amputee deals with life. It’s all first hand. We’re all different and we deal with things in different ways.

People may have disabled friends or family with positive outlooks. People believe that of me, too. I find it difficult to believe that the physically challenged don't have more of the feelings that I portray in this novel. Yet (like Emilia) they put on brave faces. Emilia (nor I nor any other physically challenged person I know) does not stay locked in a room feeling sorry for herself, but that doesn’t mean she (or we) don’t get frustrated with the challenges -- even if we don’t say so and even if we don't harp on it. This delves into the psyche of one disabled person.

Don’t be offended. Unfortunately, there’s not room on the HHcom for an author bio, so people will not know this about me or my book.

If the novel stinks, then the novel stinks. But I refuse to be ignored because agents think this novel is all about a person feeling sorry for herself. Since it's anything but, I need to work on the hook. That’s what this exercise is for!

Geminipen said...

I also want to say THANK YOU to Miss Snark. I knew when I posted that this wasn't her genre (hence, I assume, the SPLAT). But where else was I going to get feedback from someone in the trenches?

THANK YOU, MISS SNARK! You gave me the best gift I'll get this year.

There should be a Nobel Pieces Prize for you. :)

angie said...

Author, you've got the right idea. If what you're trying to say isn't coming across, then you just need to re-work it. It's all about communication & the thing about writing is that we never know if we're on target until we get feedback from readers.

Happy writing!

Anonymous said...

I've known a few amputees, paraplegics, Cerebral Palsie people, (etc...) in my life and none of them are as you describe.
This is the type of comment I was referring to in my comment under #115. "None of the amputees I know are like this; therefore what you write doesn't work." Why can't he/she write about a disabled victim, especially since, as the author pointed out, the protagonist does not sit around passively accepting the hand that was dealt. Obviously, the amputee angle was not thrown in there to substitute for character development, so I would assume from this hook that it is used intelligently.

So, touche, author-who-is-also-an-amputee!

michaelgav said...

Good reply, Gemini. And good attitude. If it stinks, it stinks. If it sounds like it's immersed in self-pity, work the hook. Both seem like reasonable responses to me.

HawkOwl said...

Well, that explains everything then. You're writing the story of your life. That's why it hasn't got a plot.

Realistically, this MO doesn't work. It's not you. We've all done it. It's just not entertaining enough. If you really think it's worth selling, at least call it a memoir, not a novel.

Bill Peschel said...

OK, if you want to work on the hook, consider your word choices.

I'll italicize the ones that set my teeth grinding.

manages to keep the general public in awe of her ability

given her a new lease on life

at the hands of the “bad guys”

opens a window of opportunity

In each case, these phrases rely on cliches, and should be replaced by specific details which can matter to the reader. Not just "the general public"; is there someone specific who she's hiding from? Who are "the bad guys"?

You may wish to reflect on this: fictional life is not at all like real life. It's a heightened experience. Events are more compact. Emotions are heightened. Senses are more acute. And underlying it all is story, story, story.

Anonymous said...

Oh no, no, no! Just because it's "real" doesn't mean it makes good fiction. Novels are not about real life. Of course they aren't! If you want to write about real life, write some non-fiction or a memoir or a personal essay. Using your life as fiction food for a novel will not result in anything worthwhile. This is a common mistake, actually.

This is also exactly what landed James Frey in hot water with Oprah. He realized his "real" life, as dramatic as it was, just wasn't the stuff fiction is made out of so he had to upgrade it.

Rethink, research, and rewrite.

Good luck.

Lorra said...

I find it curious how some people believe that having friends who are disabled gives them insight into the psyche of the disabled person.

I believe the fact that geminipen is writing a full-length memoir (novel?) is proof of a very positive outlook on life. I congratulate him/her and encourage them to learn as much as they can about the business of publishing and to keep rewriting until they have a product they believe will sell. Don't get discouraged.

I'd also like to say that until someone actually walks in a disabled person's shoes or sits in their wheelchair or wakes up in despair after dreaming they can walk again only to find they cannot, they have no right to speak to the deep emotions, often hidden from the public, that a disabled person may or may not be experiencing.

Instead, everyone should thank God every morning that they wake up and can see the sky and hear the birds and walk without assistance.

WitLiz Today said...

Dave

Advice. Delete your first sentence, and never write those words in a commentary again for as long as you live, unless you want to look astoundingly ignorant, not to mention boorish! For instance:

"I hate to be mean,(trans, this is about me) but so what? (trans, I don't give a flying fuck!)

I found myself offended (trans, this is about me) and you can't blah blah whatever, (trans, Says Me)

To the author of this hook. Carry on. You will have an audience for your work. I think these kinds of stories are inspirational, and I enjoyed reading your hook.

I do however, think it's important that you understand that MS will be on life support much of the coming week, because of the overwhelming amount of entries.

I won't put words in MS mouth, but I think it would behoove EVERYONE who submitted to this COM, to understand that she's doing the very best she can.

Be grateful for the time she's putting in, so that when you read her analysis regarding your entry, you will have an open mind, and be much more objective, and less inclined to take offense!

Anonymous said...

Gemini,

Miss Snark went SPLAT because you called your book a "fiction novel" which is a sign that you are total noob, i.e. neophyte. If it's a novel, then it's fiction. That's how novel is defined. Calling something a fiction novel is like saying ATM machine or PIN number. Miss Snark has ranted about how much she hates this lots of times in the past.

Also, if Emilia has been married before why does she think she is unworthy of love? That doesn't make any sense.

And basing a novel on your life is usually a really bad idea.

shannon said...

The wording is clunky and the "plot" is vague. It was hard to tell just what this story is really about - or rather, where it starts. How much of this is just background info? There could be a really interesting story under it all...

oh, and it should be "She is an amputee WHO has..." not "whom". Try reading it out loud.

Anonymous said...

Author: I think the important thing here might be to tell us what's happening to Emilia. Your last few sentences indicate that there's an emotional journey going on, but they give us no external reasons why. Start your hook at the point where SOMETHING HAPPENS to change the direction of Emilia's life. The divorce? The bad guys? It's not a bad idea to start the book there too.

You have only to read some of dave's work to learn how seriously to take his comments. As with us all.

Geminipen said...

The novel is me, "up to a point". It's not a memoir. The character's day-to-day functions are experiences I've had. I know how amputees work. I don't know how able bodied people work. People constantly tell me to write what I know. Do I or don't I? Regardless, the MC's story is completely fictional. Sorry if I didn't get this across well. If no one has picked up on it yet, I'm new at this. ;)

Things DO happen to her. Things that move the story along. And in reference to the above post, she was in a loveless marriage because she thought no one else would take her. It also happened to be a marriage in which she wasn't treated very well.

Redundancy is also one of my pet peeves. Since I still falling in the nitwit category where publishing (and apparently hooking) is concerned,though, I committed a grievous error. My humblest apologies.

HawkOwl said...

"I believe the fact that geminipen is writing a full-length memoir (novel?) is proof of a very positive outlook on life."

I don't. I always feel like writing up my life, in a more or less fictionalized way, when I go through a major depressive episode. When I'm having a positive outlook on life, the last thing I want to do is write a "y'all need to understand me better" account of my life.

Writerious said...

There's a danger in styling the main character after yourself, and that's creating a Mary Sue character. While Mary Sues are a lot more common in fanfic and in SF&F, they can pop up in any genre. Basically a Mary Sue is an idealized "self." The way to avoid Mary Sue-ism is to be aware of the phenomenon and work as diligently as you can in letting the character be herself.

I'm not saying your character IS a Mary Sue, which I can't know without reading your manuscript. But it is something to be aware of.

Geminipen said...

I also have a pet peeve for people who don't edit their grammar. (TEE HEE)

Since I still FALL in the nitwit category... (and just dropped yet another notch, methinks)

Hoyt Peterson said...

will some one tell me what BTFSPLK stands for in case she puts that on mine. I think it's bad but maybe, just maybe it could stand for Blurb
That
Frequently
Snarks
people
liking
kipling?

Just a thought.

Stargazer said...

Let the writer who is without nitwitticisms cast the first Strunk.

No need to apologise, Geminipen, none of us are word perfect. This is a learning experience for everyone, including Miss Snark.

I just hope her gin pail is refilled before she gets to mine.

Stargazer said...

Dang, just realised 'humble apologies' was sarkily meant, not heart rending beating-of-brow stuff, and hot footed it back to Miss Snark's to beg her to withdraw my comment. Too late.

Falls off charger and returns to cooking lunch.

Anonymous said...

A previous commenter has already mentioned this, but...

'Fiction novel' is really, really bad - and it's come up remarkably often in past crapometers.

It's a clunky, horrible phrase, which doesn't make any sense.

To reiterate: there is no such thing as a non-fiction novel; all novels are fiction.

I know it seems like a trivial thing to go on about - but it really does make a bad impression.

On the plus side, it's a very easy thing to fix for future submissions!

HawkOwl said...

She didn't say "fiction novel." She said "contemporary fiction novel." In the same way that one might say "commercial fiction novel" or "science fiction novel."

Anonymous said...

She didn't say "fiction novel." She said "contemporary fiction novel." In the same way that one might say "commercial fiction novel" or "science fiction novel."

'Science fiction' is a genre. 'Science fiction novel' makes sense.

'Commercial' and 'contemporary' are not genres; they're descriptions of other attributes a book might have (i.e. it has the potential to sell; it was written recently).

'Contemporary fiction novel' is a phrase that richly deserves a SPLAT.

Anonymous said...

Hoyt,

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joe_Btfsplk

Geminipen said...

Hey anon -

So glad you have found room in your heart to narcissitically and haughtily spit on me when I have already admitted to making a newbie mistake. You must tell me what it's like to be perfect!


Stargazer -

You interpreted the humble apologies right the first time. It wasn't meant snarkily. It was sincere. The whole experience has been humbling. In some instances, it has even been humiliating, thanks to those critics like anon, hawkowl, and dave.

To the rest of you, thank you for your support and advice. I won't give up. Besides, I'm only at 15 rejections (and YES - one request for a full from this very hook. So NYAH!) :)