HH Com 162 (161 is toasted)

Candice Warburton's marriage is solid... like an iceberg. She doesn't realize how stuck in their ways she and her husband of five years have become until he leaves on a month-long business trip and the first man she ever loved makes her melt again.

Seeking a promotion, Candice can't tell her boss how uncomfortable she is working with the firm's new client, Kegan Underwood, whose abrupt departure from her life eight years ago left her shattered and insecure. She is determined to stay cool and professional, but Kegan proves to have other plans.

Candice awakens to how much is missing from her marriage and begins to weaken as Kegan's pressure intensifies until the night she lets things go more than a bit too far. Horrified at her own behavior, she agonizes over what, if anything, to tell her husband. Finally opting for the truth, she discovers that she wasn't the only one looking for excitement...

"Life, Love, and a Polar Bear Tattoo" is a women's fiction novel of 70,000 words.

Love the title. You've got the hook format down right but really you're going to need more zip than "they both slept around". We'll need some higher stakes here or it's just not compelling enough.

Start the second paragraaph with "Keegan Underwood" so that you have a smooth transition from paragraph 1 to 2.


tomdg said...

I like this - it sounds like a really good attempt to understand why someone might do something we (presumably) feel is immoral.

Some little details that bothered me:

"solid... like an iceberg" is an odd metaphor: icebergs are mobile and inherently unstable.

Five years' marriage makes her practically a newlywed in my book. It's not long enough to really get into a rut, and that kind of messes up the premise. Make it ten, at least. It doesn't matter how long ago that makes the other relationship: first love is eternal.

Finally, I'm a little nervous from your hook as to what the ending will be - I hope it's not an "oh, you've been doing too, so that makes it okay" ending. I'm hoping you portray the consequences of her action (and her coming clean with her husband) as honestly as you've portrayed her struggle leading up to it. I'm also hoping that she and her husband manage to work it through and the novel ends in the warm glow of forgiveness.

You see? I care about them already. I know zero about what's saleable, but with maybe a couple of cosmetic changes, this sounds like a really good book.

Crys said...

rarely do you see unfaithfulness played out within a romance novel, which is why i think it's an interesting (and realistic) angle. no matter how high-brow the books on my to-read list are, i am always a sucker for a good romance, and so this one is interesting to me.

don't like the name Kegan though.

reminds me of kegel.

shannon said...

I agree, as is there's not much happening here. But I love the dark horse guy-from-her-past Dr McDreamy thing, very spicy!

Is this author going to get criticised for saying "women's fiction novel" like someone else got a beating for "contemporary fiction novel"? I'm hoping not, it's seems a bit of a waste of time.

poezy said...

Miss Snark is losing it! Too much gin? Too many hooks? She let you get away with "fiction novel" Yikes. Poezy

Anonymous said...

Actually, 161 exists--it's down below, between 148 and 149. There's another 162 (different hook) between 149 and 150.

December Quinn said...

Actually, I thought "solid...like an iceburg" was really good, conveying a sort of looming menace built on a shifting, murky surface.

I would like to know more about what actually happens, but I think it sounds interesting as a concept. I remember seeing this on EE a while back, and I seem to recall more detail was given that made it seem really good.

Heather said...

Thanks for the comments, folks. I was trying to make sure it was tightly written, and I think I squeezed too much of the story out of the pitch. :)

It is a story of forgiveness and learning to get over the past, not a "well, we both cheated, so we're even, so yay us" kind of thing. They're both torn up over it, and there is anger on both sides (as well as a realization that "hey, do I have the right to be mad? well, I am anyhow").

My issue now is how to add the 'zip' that Miss Snark wanted without stapling an issue onto the story. It's about what happens with Candice and Kegan and Ian during that month, and I really don't want to add something along the lines of "and she has cancer!" as a hook. I know there's a way to do this without it. I'm thinking of books by Emily Giffen - "woman sleeps with best friend's fiance" - there's no "hook" in the way that I think some people are now expecting them to be, but there is definitely a "ooh! how will this turn out?" type of hook.

Any suggestions, oh great snarklings?

As for the "fiction novel" comment - I said "women's fiction novel" in the same way that one might say "science fiction novel". I believe this is acceptable, as "women's fiction" is presently considered a genre. (Although, if tomdg is a man, maybe I'm limiting myself?)

December Quinn, yes, it was on EE, ages ago. I thought I'd gone overboard there so tightened it up. I am a pendulum. See me swing. :)

In all seriousness, thanks for the comments, and if anyone else wants to comment, I'm ready to hear it. *dons flame-retardant undies*


Therese Fowler said...


You've accomplished a lot just getting this far--a finished novel is a real achievement! (it is finished, yes?)

While I commend your effort, I agree the story's not coming across as compelling. The work-with-new-client-who-is-past-lover thing is especially predictable, despite giving the story its "stakes."

My advice, not knowing more about the story, is to consider each of your major elements/plot points and then question them. Some ideas:

What if Candice is the boss, not just an employee?

What if her company is failing and getting Kegan's account would save it, but she hates him? Or still loves him and becomes indebted (and thus an easy target for Kegan's lust).

Or,what if Kegan isn't interested in an affair but she is--only for sex because her husband's a lousy lover? Or because a month w/out sex is just way too long for her?

What if she's surprisingly NOT horrified by her desire to sleep with him/the act of sleeping with him?

I'm sure you can think of more/better ideas, these are just off-the-cuff.

It's when the situation is UNusual and the characters out of the ordinary that a story becomes compelling. That and, of course, good writing.

Avoid predictability, avoid your first instincts, and see what happens when you do the "what if" brainstorm--that's my two-cents' worth!

writtenwyrdd said...

I think we need to see more of the downside of the affair scenarios Perhaps Kegger, er, Kegin, makes a pass at Candice's best pal or (even better) her *daughter*. Hubby drags home a problem, too? Dunno, but I felt like consequences were missing from this hook. Also, the polar bear tattoo must be significant if it's in the title; so I'd like to hear about that, too.

Sounds like on that'll sell! :)

Anonymous said...

Could you just say "[title] is women's fiction, with xx,xxx words"?

Wabi Sabi said...

I agree that it would be too sensational to bolt on some random issue to pep it up. If you really think that 'something more needs to happen', then it needs to grow organically from the plot you have already.

It sounds to me like plenty is happening in the novel - the emotional geography of it is complex enough (if it's well written) to keep your reader interested.

The iceberg simile worked instantly (solid, yes, but cold, frigid, dead).

Does the husband go off and shag somebody else? Could you make that something more leftfield, so you get your 'wow' moment there?

HawkOwl said...

Does it add anything that the new dude is "the first man she ever loved?" Because it sounds like any other walk-on dude would work just as well with your plot, and you could save yourself a lot of eyerolls by cutting out that cliché.

But I guess if "women's fiction" means "romance" and not "stories of real-life depth and character growth" as I thought, then Mr. Cliché is perfect.

And I was gonna comment on the iceberg thing but I'd be my own nitwit in the "this is SO done" genre, it seems. For those who got an image of stability and/or serenity, icebergs have a lamentable habit of breaking apart and what's worse, rolling over at unpredictable times. Plus they're also floating on the ocean, which isn't really a stable place to be.

tomdg said...

Funny, I liked this precisely because it felt like a story "of real-life depth and character growth". Maybe it depends on where you come from, but it all rang true with me.

And yes, I'm a man. Or so my wife tells me. And I like reading things about women. Am I so weird?

aries said...

I agree with wabi sabi, there's enough going on plot-wise without having to add more. The 'zip' in the hook needs to come from playing up the love triange conflict and the fallout. Spend less time talking about how Candice and Kegan hooked up and more on the fact that they did and the aftermath. Provided your pages are well written (natch), the book will sell. Even though this sort of thing might have been done before, betrayal is a tried and true theme that will never grow old or boring.

Heather said...

Therese, thank you SO much for those suggestions. Several don't fit but the one about the business being in trouble... I REALLY like that one! That fits in well with what is already there.

If the query reads like "any walk on dude" would work in Kegan's place, then it needs a rewrite because that is absolutely not the case. It has to be him. I'm not seeing how that makes him a cliche, but YMMV.

And I'm loving how some people see the iceberg thing as meaning it's solid and stable and others as that there are things shifting and roiling beneath the surface. It's both, and it's great that people are seeing it in different ways.

I'm so grateful for this feedback. There will be no stapling, but there will be one more round of revision (yes, the book is finished - it began life as a NaNoWriMo but it's been revised so many times that there might be 1000 of the original words left) and then it will go out with a revised hook as well. (thanks to aries for those suggestions, they will help.)

Anyone else? :)


Anonymous said...

Ugh, nothing bugs me more than people who know nothing about a book suggesting cosmetic changes. Hey, that book you have about the hairdresser sounds interesting, but what if she was an astronaut instead? ::rolls eyes::

And hawkowl, why does "romance" equal "Mr. Cliche" to you? I find that response to be rather cliche. "Oh, if it's romance, then who the hell cares about characterization!" Break out of the stereotype of genre snobbery.