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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Books » The Beta Factor

   
Author Topic: The Beta Factor
CO Thompson
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I bare my soul . . . comments welcome (more or less) It will not kill me and might make me stronger


Meriwether Lewis TAN EXShip 001
2065-06-23 03:36 GMT
Tactical Station One
Transition shift 3/1: Ship Time 06:42

“Well that can’t be right.” Commander Sylvia Evans murmured comment was nearly, but not exactly sub-vocalized. She move through the precise and practiced series of key strokes; fingers the color of polished ebony danced across controls to initiate a level three diagnostic of the starboard scanners. At the same time, she took manual control over the zoom control of the optical scope and fine focused on the cluster of ‘rocks’ that had caught her attention while, simultaneously beginning another full spectrum scan of the material composition, mass and a more precise location of an anomaly.
Her movements and quiet comment caught the peripheral attention of Commodore John Williams. Nothing escaped his attention for long

[ July 02, 2014, 03:13 PM: Message edited by: Kathleen Dalton Woodbury ]

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Denevius
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Seems like some commas were missing. I don't know if the sentences are grammatically incorrect, but they read as if they're cobbled together. Like, shouldn't there be a comma in "near, but not exactly, sub-vocalized". And, the fourth sentence seems really long.

'At the same time' refers to typing, right?

quote:
'she took manual control over the zoom control of the optical scope and fine focused on the cluster of 'rocks' that had caught her attention'
Is she doing this while she's typing?

quote:
simultaneously beginning another full spectrum scan of the material composition
She's typing, she's taken control of an optical scope, and she's beginning another spectrum scan?

quote:
mass and a more precise location of an anomaly
And to be honest, I have no idea what this refers to, or how it fits grammatically into this sentence.

quote:
Her movements and quiet comment caught the peripheral attention of Commodore John Williams. Nothing escaped his attention for long
You've switched POV here.

So, you're starting the story (novel?) on a bit of a cliff hanger, which is good. What can't be right? And you've done some world building, though right now it feels a bit confusing. My two main concerns about the opening overall is that we aren't introduced to some type of conflict (emotional, mental, or physical), just a slight mystery. And there's nothing particularly intriguing in these first lines. It's all a bit generic, which doesn't kill the story, but it does make me think of many scifi movies I've seen in the past.

Which is more what this feels like to me. The opening of a movie, and not the opening of a novel. Despite that, my interest is caught enough that I would be willing to read several more pages of the narrative to see if the mystery or intrigue deepened, or if stakes became evident.

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CO Thompson
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Denevius,
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CO Thompson
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Well then, my first attempt to thank you did not go as planned Denevius.
All your points are worth consideration. Until today, it had not occurred to me how much cannot be packed into 13 lines of text, or how much can go wrong in the same space.
I expect that this is a bit of cliff hanger but in the draft, by the end of this scene, that is not so much the case.

What I have done,or attempted to do, is to entangle two primary time lines, the 'present day' and the recent past (15 - 30 years) with some ancient history sprinkled about to give some texture and background.

I guess that is a bit like trying to juggle one raw egg, one chainsaw (running) and one barn cat.

If I cannot even get the first 13 lines past an English teacher without all of this confusion, I really have a long up hill to push this stone.

Thanks

Charlie

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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quote:
Originally posted by CO Thompson:
it had not occurred to me how much cannot be packed into 13 lines of text

You don't have to see how much you can pack into the first 13 lines.

All you need to do is give the reader enough to make them want to turn the page and keep reading.

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Grumpy old guy
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KDW is correct, trust her in this. Although she may give me a quick smack in the back of the head, the first 13 refers to the archaic (well, not really all that old) practice of 'typing' up a manuscript and sending it off. The first page of said manuscript had the top 'half' of the page as white space so the Agent/Editor could make notes and this left 13 lines of text (courier 12 pt) to start the story.

The conventional wisdom expounded by oh so many people is: you need to hook the reader in to turn that first page. That doesn't mean, as so many people seem to believe, that you have to 'cram' as much into those 13 lines as your word processor, and your over-active imagination, will allow. A really catchy sentence or paragraph may do all the work that needs to be done, an information dump won't.

Phil.

PS: Don't forget that in space there are three axes, X, Y and Z.

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CO Thompson
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Thanks to each of you.

I'll likely take the week end to salve my wounds. "They are not so wide as a church door, nor as deep as a well" and I have learned the fine line between humility and humiliation.

Anyway, I asked for it.

Yes Phil, I remembered that there are three primary (X, Y and Z) axes and that concepts like north and south, east and west will be less accurate than (for example) 'above' or 'below' the ecliptic and sun-ward and outward.

If/when I get my story past an English major, about 30% will be taking place in the asteroid belt, maybe 20% on the moon and the rest on Earth at various points in history but most of that in the fifty years prior the June 23, 2065 date.

Sure, it is only a dream now, but . . . I finally reached a point where I don't have to do what I don't want to do and after a career that kept me too busy to do what I wanted. I figure I can waste my time trying to write and get my advanced degree.

Have a safe and happy week end

Charlie

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shimiqua
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I hope this doesn't come across rude, and please know that I am not directing this to simply you, Charlie. I'm actually directing this to the voice in my head that sounds like you, and some of the other newbies I've seen on this site.

You got to get past the love of your own writing.

Writing is not about people telling you that you are special.

Writing itself is what's special- not us who get to do it.

And if I may, if it stings to be a writer, it's worse to be an author. Just look at any review site, especially Goodreads, and you'll hear complaints about characterization, comma usage, endings, people calling stories boring or didactic. And that's just the review section of the best book you've ever read.

I've written, I think, three perfect sentences in my life. I'm on my way to a million words, so that's pretty rare, and in my opinion pretty darn impressive. When I've gotten something as close to good as I can get it, I let other people read it, and they point out the flaws, and that is a GIFT, to the story, and to me. I love when a beta points out something true and wrong in a story, that I didn't see. I will delete full chapters to get the story right. I have deleted a perfect sentence before, to get the story right. The story is sacred, everything else is you standing in the way.

If you're wounded over thirteen lines, then how are you every going to let anyone read your work?

There will come a time when you will realize how common thirteen sentences are, and how easy it is to write them. That is when it won't sting anymore.

So don't nurse your wounds. Write from the wounds. Then write from the boredom, and then write from the characters, and then write from the joy, and then just keep writing until you find a story so sacred that you don't want to stand in it's way, and do everything you can to make it live-- honestly, fully, and without you.

Because stories will one day leave your hands. They have to, that's what they were made for, and why the appear in our heads. They are contagious, at least the good ones are.

So turn your head and cough.

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extrinsic
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Fiction or prose is narrative, is a sequence of significant events in their causal order. More specifically, a narrow range of causally related events, settings, and characters striving to satisfy a dramatic complication. Dramatic complication is wants and problems wanting satisfaction.

The complication from this opening fragment of consequence, hence significance, is locating an anomaly in an asteroid field, though a vague and nondefinite want and without an implied, foreshadowed, or easily inferrable problem, except that not finding or finding an anomaly might or might not be a problem. Either at least a definite want or problem is essential for plot movement and a story generally to begin. Either a want or problem event upsets routine and emotional equilibrium such that readers want to read on: the function of Hatrack River Writing Workshop's Thirteen Lines principle.

Narrative is about a life complicating, life defining, life changing limited span of events, settings--including time, place, and situation--and characters. A narrative's beginning is conventionally a routine interrupted event such that emotional equilibrium is upset for a single character by a an antagonal, causal event, at least, and such that readers share that emotional equilibrium upset and begin to care or be curious about a character's life complicating events; in other words, tension. One or the other leads to the other: caring leads to curiosity or curiosity leads to caring.

This fragment breezes past a routine into a low magnitude, vague interruption. Consider lingering in the routine for the scene, though such that the interruption is foreshadowed: implied--and readers' intellects and, hence, imaginations are aroused and they want to read on to find out what happens.

The asteroid belt, worth noting, is comprised of many objects of many sizes; however, individual asteroids are many thousands of miles apart and of varying visibilities, generally invisible unless certain events bring one or more into observation. An asteroid family, a collision rubble group, may appear to a spacecraft's observer as a field of close bodies, as is often depicted in film. Generally, though, the asteroid belt is a very tenuous collection of bodies at great distances from each other.

The grammar and rhetoric of the fragment are clumsy. For example, the sentences generally are run-on sentences, missing or misused punctuation, and mixed tenses and typos. Style, which includes grammar and rhetoric, is a first signal to screening readers about the caliber of writing. Often, an acceptance or rejection is based on style. This fragment is an easy rejection based on grammar alone.

Consider acquiring a grammar handbook and using it. The Little, Brown Handbook is the most comprehensive U.S. English grammar handbook.

[ July 03, 2014, 03:01 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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kmsf
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Keep writing Charlie. We learn by doing. There is some good advice on here regarding grammar. I recommend John Gardner's The Art of Fiction.

Also, I suggest choosing one of your favorite pieces of fiction and pulling it apart to see how it works.

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Great pep talk, shimiqua. Thanks!
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CO Thompson
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Cough <blush>

Special word of thanks to kmsf, extrinsic and shimiqua!

I don't think I am nearly as wounded by critique as I may have sounded. This is my first attempt to have 'peer review' and it felt a bit like I walked into a plate glass where I thought a door was. I have known (intellectually) that getting an editor to read my/your/our work is the first gauntlet we have to pass. The 13 line exercise was educational in that it showed me exactly how difficult it will be to keep my work out of the slush pile.

Much of what extrinsic pointed out is not only self evident but covered by the time one gets to line 45 of my draft but the real gem is the grammar handbook. I know the tool in MS Word is better than nothing (just barely) and I constantly get green underlining with "passive sentence" or "long sentence" but I know there are countless other errors that have been part of my 'Stream of Consciousness' <AKA lazy method of> story telling.

I have been a wanna be story teller since I was in first grade. In elementary school kids called me Grimm (because of my fairy tales) and others <who lacked imagination or soul> called me a liar.

My entire career I wrote SOP's <no poetry in step by step instructions> and, now that I have time to do what I want to do, I need to learn how it should be done.

I am thankful for your thoughtful comments and I am taking the time to study your words for the truth you imparted.

Charlie

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ForlornShadow
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Charlie, I'm in the same boat as you. I started writing in sixth grade because of an assignment and my teacher thought it was the best in the class because my characters developed so well (for kid in the sixth grade). I got my a** kicked in college when I took a creative nonfiction class and realized I was going about the whole thing all wrong. But here's the good news. It gets better and easier. As for 'Stream of Consciousness' writing, that's the best way to get stuff on paper so you can organize it, like putting together a puzzle. Now on to the 13 lines.
I am the last person to go to for grammar anything so I'm not going to comment. What's important to me is, I am hooked. What in the world isn't right? I disagree with Denvius here, I feel there is a potential for a conflict. To me the anomaly could be an alien space craft, it could be a bomb ready to go off, that's what I want to know what it is. You have the right idea, keep it up.

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