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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Books » "My Life as a Videogame Superstar" (finished work and title)

   
Author Topic: "My Life as a Videogame Superstar" (finished work and title)
Matthew Jonathan Wilcken
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I wrote this over the course of 2010 with a few edits during 2011. I feel that it is ready for professional editing. Chapters 1-6 are highly edited, chapters 7-30 are about 2/3 as refined, however. This work is contemporary science fiction. Please let me know what changes you would like to see. I hope it flows well enough to pass the agent's 13-line test. (Note: this is 13.5 lines at 12pt, Courier New font. Times New Roman places it back at an even 13 lines.)

No kicking this time. Alex Preston Grover was safely in the back. It was impossible for Mark and his gang to give Alex whiplash by slamming their feet against the backrest of his bus seat.

Alex took advantage of the rare calm, double checking his programming notebook to make certain a coding patch he had thrown together the previous night would fix a strange computer glitch that had nearly destroyed weeks of difficult work.

“There,” said Alex, letting out a much needed sigh. He ran his pencil below the most complicated subroutine, tapping the graphite tip on the word ‘END’. “If these changes don’t work, nothing will at this point.”

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Daniel_W
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Hey there Matthew [Smile] .

As I see it, your hook so far is 'bullied kid, having a problem with his computer code'. I'd read on for a little while yet, because I'm curious about the computer glitch, but I'd need more information soon to keep me going past the first page or two. Still, it's a novel, so you have more space to play with than just these 13 lines.

I had a few thoughts as I was reading, which I hope are of use:

It took me several rereads to figure out what was happening in the first paragraph, because I'd assumed Alex was in the back seat of a car (and my confusion stopped me getting to 'bus seat' at the end). I think a simple fix would be to move 'bus' closer to the opening: 'Alex Preston Grover was safely in the back of the bus.' and '... by slamming their feet against the backrest of his seat.'

Also, how old is Alex? At first, I assumed he was a kid - maybe 12-14 years old, getting bullied on the school bus. Coding a subroutine by hand in a notebook seems pretty advanced for a kid, so that made me rethink. He could be a kid, of course, but a little detail somewhere to clarify his age would have removed that pause for me.

Otherwise, I'm not a fan of full name introductions, especially ones that include middle names, but that's just a personal preference.

*

So far, my interest is piqued by certain little details - the kid who writes code, the glitch in the system, the bullies on the bus. As long as you can keep those little details coming in the first page or two, they'll join forces, and draw me in fully.

Hope this helps,
Daniel.

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Matthew Jonathan Wilcken
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Let's try this:

No kicking this time. Alex was safely at the back of the bus. It was impossible for Mark and his gang to give him whiplash by slamming their feet against the backrest of his seat.

Alex took advantage of the rare calm, double checking his programming notebook to make certain a coding patch he had thrown together the previous night would fix a strange computer glitch that had nearly destroyed weeks of difficult work.

“There,” said Alex, letting out a much needed sigh. He ran his pencil below the most complicated subroutine, tapping the graphite tip on the word ‘END’. “If these changes don’t work, nothing will at this point.”


I took your advice, Daniel_W. However, I cannot find a realistic way of identifying that Alex is actually a 16-year-old in the initial thirteen lines. This does become apparent within the first 27 lines, however.

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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For whatever it may be worth to you, Matthew Jonathan Wilcken, I don't count the spaces between paragraphs in the 13 lines, so you can add two more lines, if you like.
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Matthew Jonathan Wilcken
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Kathleen, please correct me if I'm wrong but I feel that I have piqued your curiosity. I have decided to include the first 17 lines. Here they are:

No kicking this time. Alex was safely at the back of the bus. It was impossible for Mark and his gang to give him whiplash by slamming their feet against the backrest of his seat.

Alex took advantage of the rare calm, double checking his programming notebook to make certain a coding patch he had thrown together the previous night would fix a strange computer glitch that had nearly destroyed weeks of difficult work.

“There,” said Alex, letting out a much needed sigh. He ran his pencil below the most complicated subroutine, tapping the graphite tip on the word ‘END’. “If these changes don’t work, nothing will at this point.”

Alex tilted his head. He stared outside to clear his mind. Rain streaked diagonally across the window. The water droplets looked


This opening scene takes place on north-bound Interstate 5 going through Seattle. I tried to keep the overt description of Alex subtle throughout the first chapter to keep the reader interested. I'd love to send you the whole chapter. I'll understand if you've got other projects that demand your attention. But yes, the book is complete. I may want to do one more pass of the entire thing. I think a full-blown professional literary editor is in order at this point, however.

[ January 23, 2012, 12:31 PM: Message edited by: Kathleen Dalton Woodbury ]

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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And this time, it was over the 13 lines, so I cut two of the lines.

What I am curious about, though, is how my commenting on the mechanics of your posting indicates that my curiosity is piqued (though I have to thank you for being one of the few so far on this forum to have spelled and used "piqued" correctly*) regarding the content of your 13 lines?

(*with word usage skills like that, you may not need professional line editing, at least)

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Daniel_W
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(not to stick my nose in, but I totally said 'piqued' a bit further up, KDW. Just sayin' [Razz] ).
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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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quote:
Originally posted by Daniel_W:
(not to stick my nose in, but I totally said 'piqued' a bit further up, KDW. Just sayin' [Razz] ).

So you did, Daniel_W, but not to me, so I didn't notice it--my apologies. Thanks for bringing it to my attention, as well as thanks for also using it correctly.

[Smile]

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Matthew Jonathan Wilcken
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Well, I just thought that I had piqued your curiosity, Kathleen. I have been hoping for a long time that someone would enjoy a work that I had composed. Perhaps I felt I was receiving some needed positive reinforcement.

Thank you for acknowledging the use of the word "pique". I do try to use the correct words in their proper contexts. I don't always get it right, however. That is why I think having a professional do a once-over might be helpful. Typos are a dime a dozen.

Creative writing's tough, as you well know. I think it's more a science of consensus than an individual art form. Else, why would we bother with established rules of grammar and punctuation? (Not to mention correct spelling and contextual meaning.)

Any suggestions for where to go or who to establish a business relationship with would be more than welcome. Anyone here is welcome to help if they have the time. I am busy with school work at the moment so it will be difficult for me to devote the same amount of attention to this project as I did in the past. I am also sensitive to the other forum attendee's time constraints with their own projects and lives.

That said, my gut tells me that this book is ready enough for more capable hands than my own.

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shimiqua
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My two cents.

No kicking this time. Alex was safely at the back of the bus. This doesn't seem very clear to me. Could you add a little clarity, for example, by saying something like... Alex walked down the middle of the bus, or sat down in the back, or you could mention the feel of the leather, etc. Like a simple tag that says what he's doing while he's thinking. It seems like you are inside his head so much, that you aren't giving the reader the chance to see through his eyes It was impossible for Mark and his gang to give him whiplash by slamming their feet against the backrest of his seat.

Alex took advantage of the rare calm, double checking his programming notebook to make certain a coding patch he had thrown together the previous night would fix a strange computer glitch that had nearly destroyed weeks of difficult work.Okay, cool. I like that Alex likes programming, but you aren't being very clear again. Difficult work trying to do what? And where? Is it the school computers, or his home computer, or what?

“There,” said Alex, to who? Aren't there a bunch of school kids still on the bus with him? letting out a much needed sigh. He ran his pencil below the most complicated subroutine, tapping the graphite tip on the word ‘END’. “If these changes don’t work, nothing will at this point.”

Now, those points said, I think you have a promising start. This line, " He ran his pencil below the most complicated subroutine, tapping the graphite tip on the word ‘END’.", really sells that Alex is as smart and capable as you are saying. I totally buy that. Like Daniel W. said, the bullied kid who's a brilliant programmer, is an effective hook.

I'm just not there in the scene with him. Tiny details would help, not only add clarity, but also give hints to the world outside Alex's head, and how he relates to it. For example, wouldn't it be bouncy sitting at the back of the bus? Are kids yelling, or giggling in front of him? Could he stop for a second and look out the window, and describe what building's he's passing... things like that will plant me into the scene, and help me to get immersed into the story. Right now, its not sticking its teeth into me, if that makes sense.

Also, speaking as a kid who was once bullied, wouldn't Alex be watching the bullies more, trying to see if danger, or embarrassment is coming for him. It seems like he worries for the briefest of seconds about being kicked, but then goes off into a world of code, and that's difficult for me as a reader to follow.

Good luck with it.
~Sheena

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Tryndakai
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I'd agree with Daniel about the first line being rather confusing. You fixed the confusion in the second attempt, but now it sounds choppy. Maybe combine the thoughts more? i.e. "No kicking this time; Alex was safely at the back of the bus." Or "No kicking this time. Alex was safely at the back of the bus, where Mark and his gang couldn't give him whiplash . . ."

The thing that bugged me more, though, was the uber-vaugeness of this line:
quote:
double checking his programming notebook to make certain "a coding patch" he had thrown together the previous night would fix "a strange computer glitch" that had nearly destroyed weeks of "difficult work."
It's so terribly obvious that you're generalizing here, making an effort to not get too geeky or whatever in the first paragraph, perhaps . . . it pulls me out of the story. I'd prefer some judicious geek-speak, even if I don't immediately understand it, because it would do more to convince me that Alex actually knows what he's doing, and that I'm nestling snugly into the back of his mind to watch.

Heck, even changing the "a's" for "the's" might help. Make it more concrete. Perhaps like:
quote:
double checking his programming notebook to make certain the coding patch he'd thrown together would work. That strange glitch had nearly destroyed weeks of difficult work!
(I also cut extraneous or redundant words. "computer" is implied in "glitch" and "programming," for instance.)
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Jess
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I was a little confused about the first part. I didn't know what kicking was going on. Maybe show the bullies and then mention the kicking? this is a cool start though. I love how he seems super smart and the fact that he's in school (at least I assume) is a cool thing.
the computer technological talk went a bit over my head, but it sounded cool so that's good. As long as it makes sense to someone who knows it (Or if it's made up stuff it makes sense in your world). the computer programming stuff really shows your character is a smarty which is great!

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