Thursday, March 12, 2009

Thursday's Tourist

One of my favorite authors and friend, Anita Davison, is very busy getting her latest manuscript in order for her NEW agent and can't make a personal appearance today, so I've decided to hi-jack the topic she used on her blog yesterday, and as long as I give her credit, I doubt she'll mind. Or I hope she won't. *smile*

I'm secretly very jealous of Anita'a recent contract with an agent, but happy she's managed to achieve what some of us haven't. If you haven't read an Anita Davison novel, you are definitely missing out. Check out the reviews I've done here on Dishin' It Out for her Duking Days series. I would have been put off by the title because I'm not into that sub-genre of historical novels, but once I read an opening paragraph, I was hooked.

I'm quoting this directly from Anita's blog :

Editing is worse!

An acquisitions editor *may* give your chapter a two-page reading before consigning it to the slush pile. Many are tossed after one paragraph. Writers Digest 2008

Agents and acquisitions editors read so many opening chapters, their brains immediately focus on the basic mistakes we all make when we begin to write. They will not:
· Look beyond it and consider the work as a whole
· Assume any technical errors can be corrected during a later edit
· Take into account the writer’s novice status and ignore the grammatical errors and typos

No, no and no, – they will toss the manuscript.

This ends the high-jacked portion of the blog. :)

My biggest dilemma: How do you write a first chapter that reaches out and grabs someone's attention? When you consider how many hopeful authors are flooding literary agents with submissions, the numbers are staggering. I can only assume that everyone has followed all the recommendations and requirements before know: right margin allowances, header or footers, NO headers or footers, the correct font, paragraph indention or NOT, page numbers, the list goes on and on. If everyone has followed guidelines, then how many of them were as wrong as I've been in making the assumption I was ready for representation?

How disappointing is a form letter after you've gone to all the trouble? It angers me, but then I've already blogged about that too many times. I realize the workload for agents is staggering, but just one helpful hint would be nice. Not, "you suck," but maybe, "work on your tenses, or needs more emotion shown than told." Of course there is always a chance they plain don't like your writing style, in which case, I'd like to know that so I don't keep adding to their workload needlessly.

There are no hard and fast answers to all the questions we authors have. We just have to keep trying, trying and trying, to get noticed, and aside from finding a way to have my first page ignite when it's pulled from the envelope, I evidently don't know how to grab an agent's attention. My last hope is Nathan Bransford, but I'll have to submit under an alias because he'll most likely remember my negative post about agents. *lol* He seems like someone who genuinely cares for what authors go through and I love his sense of humor. And No, I'm not kissing up. He doesn't even read my blog. But...tell me this. If I sent him this first you think it would grab his attention and make him want to keep reading:

Chapter One

“Okay, Lang, strip!”

The guard’s bark made Carrie’s stomach turn. She cowered in the corner of the women’s processing area, unable to move. Her legs wobbled and her lips quivered under the blast of cold air from the ceiling vent.

“I said strip! Don’t make me have to tell you again.” The pudgy, uniformed female slapped a baton against her palm in a constant rhythm. In the empty room, the sound bounced off the depressing gray cement walls and echoed in Carrie’s head. She forced herself to take a faltering step out of her shoes. Her fingers fumbled with the buttons as she struggled to remove her pink cotton blouse. She unfastened her jeans and let them drop to the floor, then gazed helplessly at the woman, praying that was all she had to remove.

The guard’s deeply-furrowed skin and graying hair put her at well past fifty. She walked closer, stopping when her face was only inches from Carrie’s. Her breath reeked of cigarette smoke. Carrie wrinkled her nose and turned her head. How could someone she’d never met hate her so much already? Was there even an ounce of compassion buried beneath that deep sneer?

The older woman pressed the edge of her baton against Carrie’s jawbone and forced her face forward. Her stomach clenched. With an evil gleam, the guard delved the wooden stick under Carrie’s bra strap, slowly guiding the silky string off her shoulder and down her arm. Gooseflesh peppered her skin and she shivered.
“Stripping means everything, inmate Lang. Everything! Get it off. Panties, too, sweetheart. I’m a busy person so quit wasting my time.” The matron strode to the other side of the room, leaned against the wall and ogled Carrie while she finished undressing.

Lowering her head, she dropped her bra atop the pile on the floor then kicked her panties off next to it. Feeling the cold invade every pore, she wrapped her arms around her upper body. Tears blurred her eyes and threatened to spill down her cheeks, but she squeezed her lids together and tilted her head skyward. Oh Lord, what did I do to deserve this? Please, help me. You’re my last hope.

“Praying are you?” the gravely voice taunted. “It’s a little late for that. Put those hands down to your sides and look to the front, missy.”


Jannine said...

Ginger, thanks for posting Anita's blog. I hadn't seen it the first time around, and I can definitely feel for what a writer goes through.

And in answer to Anita's question, yes, I would want to read more.

Ginger Simpson said...

Actually, that wasn't Anita's was mine. The part I cited from her blog ended with the italics. Maybe I should go in and clarify that. :)


Maryann Miller said...

Ginger. I really liked the opening page. You do a good job of setting up the tension between the women, although I don't like the use of "bark" as a dialogue attributive. The words the guard used were strong enough that you don't have to tell the reader the guard barked.

How about?

"Okay, Lange, strip."

The command turned Carrie's stomach.

Or you could even make it stronger by something like: Carrie winced as the words slammed against her and her stomach churned.

Hope you don't mind me taking liberties with your words. :-) I have a good friend who reads my stuff and suggests ways to make it stronger.

Anita Davison said...

I don't mind you hi-jacking my blog Ginger, though I got a bit of a shock when I opened it! I seem to have struck a chord with other authors too and have had e-mails from agents [none who actually rejected me - yet] saying I had got it right.
I liked your opening page too Ginger, and an agent/publisher should pick that up and give it a chance

Ginger Simpson said...

Thanks for the suggestion, but I have to share that when and what to follow are just as confusing as finding an agent. :)
Story story has been through several people in a critique group. Someone suggested adding 'barked' to show the voice. Then someone suggested adding 'churlish' to describe the bark. Then I posted this on another site and someone strongly recommended removing churlish. Opinions are subjective, so who do you believe. I actually like having barked because the guard's word could be just monotone and routine, since it's something they say all the time...and trust me, they do. :) I appreciate the positive comments... and maybe I'll see if I get any other comments about 'barked.'



Latesha said...

I liked the first page blip you gave us. Has me wondering what Lang did to earn such contempt from the matron and what will she have to do to earn even some grudging respect. Thanks for sharing Anita's blog and your own talent with us.

Kim Smith said...

Hey Ginger! Loved reading your blog and Anita's as well. You ladies are great bloggers!

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