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Author Topic: Plumbing as a Means of Grace
Member # 1469

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This is the beginning of my novel. It has been reject 18 times and counting. Feel free to comment on any portion of it.

[This message has been edited by okieinexile (edited July 17, 2002).]

Posts: 21 | Registered: Jul 2002  | Report this post to a Moderator
Member # 1469

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Plumbing as a Means of Grace


Paul Reasoner loves to preach, and so he has given up a job as a university professor so that he can preach full-time. There is a problem with this, however, as he discovers that there is more to being a preacher than just preaching. There are problems connected with being a minister, and God has a funny way of helping.

For one thing, even though the parsonage that his family lives in is beautiful, the plumbing is horrible, and the church had no money to fix it. Through the resourcefulness of the church secretary, a plumber is provided, but his girlfriend turns up pregnant, and Paul is called upon to perform a Western Welling for a bulging bride.

Then the family cat dies under the front porch and begins to stink. Paul can get the cat’s body from underneath the front porch, but in doing so he tears up a few things and gets the unwanted attention of an obsessive control freak that is in charge of the parsonage.

To make matters worse, a miserly old member of the church likes to use Paul for slave labor, and while in the process, Paul might actually be leading the skinflint back to God.

Add to the mix a secretary who is pursuing the destruction of an oversexed clergyman like Captain Ahab pursued Moby Dick and a churchwoman who is engaged in an adulterous affair, and Paul is not so sure that preaching is worth all of the trouble that it takes.

Will he continue preaching or will he go back to his old job? Only God knows.

Posts: 21 | Registered: Jul 2002  | Report this post to a Moderator
Member # 1438

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You have what could be a tender tale of the foibles and tribulations of pastoring, but you're losing it in an ocean of weak verbs. Go through your manuscript and highlight every "was," "had," "had been," and "could" to start, then get rid of 97% of them.

Pitch the first sentence. Never start any story with "It was a {whatever kind of} day." Look for more of a hook to draw a reader in, maybe something like:

Lots of folks feed birds in the winter, but Paul Reasoner's wife, Sophia, fed them all year long. Paul sat in his backyard, perhaps for the last time, sipping iced tea and watching a squirrel hanging by one foot from the bird feeder. Blue jays were strafing the interloper with dive-bombing precision, and Paul knew that he and Sophia would miss their backyard when they moved. Again, he questioned the sanity of their decision.

Work it in your own style, of course, but tighten it up. And pitch the "gay abandon"--cliches are a no-no, unless they're in dialoge.

This could be on the order of a Jim Herriott (spelling?) for pastors.

Reminded me just a little of one of my favorite movies, "The North Avenue Irregulars," about a pastor who assumes a church in a small town. The scene with Cloris Leachman and her fingernails is priceless--I laugh each time I see it.

Anyroad, tighten up and see what you have.

[This message has been edited by Kolona (edited July 17, 2002).]

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First off, I am going to agree with what Kolona said, use search and replace and look for the words had, had been, was, could, and that. The story is drowning in them. In one paragraph you have 7 uses of the word had. And the paragraph is only 5 sentences long. Read each sentence containing one of the above words in----do whatever you have to and get rid of the word. It will go a long way toward straightening and tightening.

Also, a great deal of the story is told in past tense. Paul is thinking of these things in the past as they “had” happened. Bring us into the here and now. When the pipe breaks show us Paul as he wades through water to find the source, perhaps slipping and sliding ect.

You need to tighten and look for unneeded words. Look for sentences you can combine to shorten the prose and give it more effect.

Example: However, he also saw signs that the money was gone, or that it was not being used. There was plaster that was peeling from the walls due to moisture coming in.

To start with you use the word “that” 3 times, the word “was” 4 times. Unneeded. Plaster peeled from the walls. Water stained the areas around each bare patch. Either the parish funds were depleted or they weren’t being used. By going through and looking for those trigger words you will have to think out a new way to word the sentences and your prose will be more effective.

It will be a major undertaking, but IMHO, you will not get a publisher or agent to look at the work until you have cleaned it up.

I also agree with Kolona on the first line, I have seen on many agents sites in there what I don’t want section—anything starting with “It was a dark and stormy night—or any other it was---

You have a good story buried in the work. Take the time to dig out the weeds and it will attract the attention it deserves.


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