12.19.2006

HH Com 179

*A Thousand Words for Green,* a Bildungsroman spanning the years between the first Earth Day (April 1970) and its twentieth anniversary, is the story of a woman and the two very different men whose lives significantly intertwine with hers, and – tragically – with each other’s. This sprawling (250,000-word) tale, set in the “Golden Triangle” (Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto), follows these three characters, as well as their close friends and colleagues, as they search for meaning and belonging in the time of acid rain, Three-Mile Island, and Chernobyl. Their stories are set against the backdrop of the local and global environmental movement: as it promises to become a major societal force in the early 1970s, then dips out of public favor as conservative leaders rise to power in Canada, the USA and Great Britain, and finally finds rebirth at the start of the hopeful 1990s.

oh dear dog recycle me now.

250,000 words is of course twice as long as any self respecting novel should be.

You're lost in character description here and formless blather. Be specific. Any time people start telling me novels are about issues I want to hit them over the head with a Jodi Picoult book (because I guess you could say she writes about contemporary issues but mostly she writes captivating stories about people I want to know more about)

What's the main character's name? What's her problem? Why are these two guys in lust with her?

If you are having a hard time figuring out how to write a hook for this, go read some Marge Piercy novels and write hooks for them. Practice on something that isn't your own work to see how to do it.

Then start again. And here's a a chainsaw for those pages. Apply with vigor.
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15 comments:

Dave said...

Out of general nerdiness I went and looked up what novels could possibly be Bildungsroman and found this partial, very partial list:

The entire Harry Potter series
# Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird
# Cormac McCarthy, All the Pretty Horses and The Crossing
# Michael McClure, The Mad Cub
# Carson McCullers, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter
# Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer
# Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon

Never once have I seen the word "Bildungsroman" to describe any of those novels.

And the hero is Global Warming and the environmentalism of Earth Day?

Please, make the book 80K and make it about the characters. Drop Earth Day like a hot potato.

Anonymous said...

This premise just doesn't churn my butter. I suppose that's not very productive and I'm sorry about that, but Canada? Yawn. Environment? Double yawn. "Sprawling"? OH NO.

Throw a virgin or a dragon in and we might have a different conversation. Perhaps that's pedestrian but hey, I'm the guy who buys the book.

HawkOwl said...

I feel like I'm reading a textbook. Grade 10 history or something. I'm also totally weirded out that a novel called A Thousand Words for Green would be set in Montreal, Ottawa and/or Toronto. How about A Thousand Words for Smog? No, I suppose not. Had I read the book, I'd know by now that the term "smog" was not coined until... Oh, hey, 1905. Isn't that something. I haven't even opened your book yet and look how much smarter I am already!

Ok, seriously. Now that I've learned something interesting, I'm actually inclined to read something about the global environmental movement. Actually, I'd probably like it a lot better than "the story of a woman and two different men." If you have something to say about environmentalism, don't pollute it (haha, a pun - I crack me up) with some blah love story. If it's just a love story, make the backdrop more discrete.

Good luck with it.

Anonymous said...

You may not have known how to write a hook when you sent this in, but you know now, right? You have 179 successes and failures to study.

Don't worry about getting snarked. Now you know better, so now you can do better.

Good luck!

batgirl said...

Golden Triangle? I thought that was an area in Asia where opium was produced.
Hmm...according to Wikipedia there is a Golden Triangle in Canada, but it's in BC, with the town of Golden forming one point.
I'm Canadian, and I've never heard this usage for those cities. Is this "the Golden Triangle of central Canada", in the way that some place might be "the Paris of Ohio"?
Oooh, word ver is celtbz - is that domain name taken?

HawkOwl said...

There's a Golden Horseshoe though. Toronto, Saint Catharine's, I don't know what else.

Amusingly, Margaret Atwood set a novel in that area, wherein the protagonist keeps refering to Sault Ste Marie as "up north." I was living in Inuvik when I read it.

xiqay said...

Now I understand why Miss Snark jumped on the hook about the woman who'd been raped and carried the baby to term.

In 1970, I participated in the first ever Earth day on my college campus (just call me grandma). So from the minute I read that part, I was hooked.

Find your story. Sure, focus. But here's one hoping you don't lose the Earth Day aspect (and that you can actually bring it to life).

tomdg said...

I'm not sure the word "sprawling" helps your case here - I see it as pejorative, meaning overlong, boring, and probably badly written. I hope your book isn't like that (your hook certainly isn't), but describing it as such isn't likely to sell it.

Just my two cents' worth ...

Linda said...

I feel like I'm getting a message piece. People read to be entertained, not to be lectured to.

The query letter wanders all over the place and says nothing, and with the novel at 250--way, way too long--it gives the impression the novel does the same thing.

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to say that I really liked the idea of this book and that you can clearly write, so you can definitely come up with a better hook. (There have been hooks posted here that might be perfect "how-to" examples, but I'd never want to read the book in a million years, whereas I'd definitely read yours!)

Anonymous said...

This is so not my thing. I guess if I wanted to read about the environment, it might be, but even then it doesn't grab me. "Sprawling" when talking about the dull story of three dull-sounding people is not a good thing.

Anonymous said...

The only way I'd go for it is if there was a dissaster looming, and I don't mean something mild. (I can't remember the name of that movie with Dennis Quaid and the title wave that leveled New York before the big freeze) Something on that order would catch my attention. I've followed three Canadians around for a week before, not much there to thrill me. If it's a preachy "here's my point of view on our disgusting destruction of our world", witout a (ooooo hold on, I just got an idea for a book.....) Thanks.

Ryan Field said...

Only one suggestion: Begin learning how to tighten and edit. I know at first it sounds impossible to do, that you'll be ruining everything you've worked so hard to produce. But once you learn how to edit (and when I say edit I don't mean spelling or correct punctuation...so many think that's what editing is all about) you'll be amazed at the results. Try going over the ms and just taking out the word "that" where you don't need it as a start. How many extra adverbs did you use? (Changing: he said angrily, to he said.)This is something that must be learned for a writer to survive these days because a lot of "editors" don't do much editing anymore. They want it pretty much ready for press.

the author said...

This hook is a stinker, for sure. I was so intent on keeping it short that I left out crucial info! Sigh. I'm learning!
While the modern environmental movement forms the backdrop, it is not about global warming (not so much an issue "back then"), or any impending disaster. It's about how people choose to devote their lives to the cause - and how that devotion takes many forms, not always selfless. I have never heard of any novel that deals with these ideas, but would willingly read one. I love seeing how people choose, or are chosen by, their professions.
Thanks to the few posters who might find this worth pursuing.
The length would be reduced by a minor degree if I pared down modifiers. Only major surgery would make a dent. The length is justified, in my mind, by the number of characters, and by the timeframe. When I tried trimming, I lost crucial elements.
A big fie to all those anti-Canadians. If we are boring, maybe you should consider why Americans are NOT. Ever heard of the Chinese curse, "May you live in interesting times"? Yes, a curse.

Ryan Field said...

Thanks to the few posters who might find this worth pursuing.
The length would be reduced by a minor degree if I pared down modifiers. Only major surgery would make a dent. The length is justified, in my mind, by the number of characters, and by the timeframe. When I tried trimming, I lost crucial elements.

Actually, I really like this...but to add to my comment, and to reply to the author's comment...I don't buy any of the excuses about not being able to cut it down, and I mean this in a very nice way.