One more at Shooting Stars

Go to Suzette Saxton and Bethany Wiggins’ site and make sure you sign up for prizes galore including a 40 page critique. I can’t express how much I want to win this prize.

I just endured another Flogging the Quill critique and I don’t know what to do. Last year a resounding 2/3 of readers disliked my opening hook (in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel contest) because it dropped them into the action too fast. They wanted to be submersed in the culture before being subjected to a body in the orchard. Ok, 2/3 of around 30 respondents is statistically valuable, so I re-wrote my hook.

Ray at Flogging the Quill and the only other critiquer make great suggestions and comments – I am not bucking what they’re saying as I always preferred my first hook. The problem is, what do I believe – the statistics or the professionals? I just don’t know what to do about this book. It’s impass time again and I don’t know if I’m interested in working the hook again without further professional input. I’ve spent 16 years of my life on this novel and without professional (but free help as I have no money) I’m done. Finite. Zai jian!

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8 Responses to “One more at Shooting Stars”

  1. Rebecca Lynn says:

    Hey, there! I'm so glad you commented on my blog and I got to get over here and read your blog. I read historical fiction and historical-based fantasy pretty regularly, and I really liked the opening that you posted on Flogging the Quill. My feeling is that when you have books with lots of worldbuilding going on, it's always better to start with some compelling part of the world (like I think you did).

    I have a friend who is also writing a fantasy with an Asian-based world. I'm going to send her here to your blog. She, like you, writes very well and has a penchant for Asian culture. She has also been working on her novel for quite awhile. I've read the opening to her novel, and I was actually going to go back on Flogging the Quill and post another comment about worldbuilding (basically what I said above, about putting us in the world).

    I love Flogging the Quill. I've always found his thoughts to be insightful. But I would say (as a fantasy/historical reader) that I thought he was wrong. You can always make something more at stake on the first page (giving the emotional reactions about the impending war that he was mentioning, for instance), but I think as a reader of fantasy, I would prefer the beginning you have right now.

    And definitely don't give up! I've read hundreds of beginnings on Flogging the Quill before, and yours is the only one that I would actually buy the book based on the first page. So definitely keep plugging away! It's fantastic.

  2. Rebecca Lynn says:

    Just had a second thought, too. I went back through my historical-based fiction series that I own, and read their first pages. Granted, several of them were written in the 80s or the 90s. But the two I've read that were written in this century both begin with worldbuilding.

    That's how I decided how to begin my most recent book… I went to the bookstore and picked up about six or seven books by authors I respected (or publishers I wanted to work with) and looked at their first pages. I write romance, so that whole action-based hook is much more important. But even the paranormal and fantasy romances have different rules for openings.

    Anyway, I just wanted to post that because I grabbed those books off my shelf and found more evidence for what I was referencing about your opening. I promise I'll stop posting now. 🙂

  3. Victoria Dixon says:

    Thank you so much for this. It was incredibly kind of you.

    Please do send your friend over. In addition to the blog, I have a Yahoo group that's for Authors of Asian Novels. We've put together a database with relevant works of fiction, nonfiction (resource material and memoir) writing books, a list of agents who have shown interest in Asian settings, etc. We're also a resource for one another, of course.
    I've gone to Ray before and I'm sure I'll return. He was helpful last time, too and I do think I can trim using his and Chris' comments. One of the things Ray suggested last time is to make things more specific and that's really what he and Chris were saying this time too, if you read between the lines. They seem to want me to increase the tension as far as my word-usage goes. If I can find a way to do that without losing forward momentum, I'll do it.

  4. Victoria Dixon says:

    LOL You just keep posting away. You're better than a cheerleading squad in my living room!

  5. Natalie Aguirre says:

    I would not give up. Writing is very subjective. Perhaps if you can go to a few conferences, you can pay for fairly inexpensive agent or editor 10 minute critiques. They may be helpful.
    At one of mine, Michelle Frey at Alfred Knof told me not to start my story in the middle of the action, but to start with a little back story. Once I did, my critiques at conferences were better. Though I did a Miss Snark contest and other participants didn't seem to like it that much. Go figure.

  6. Victoria Dixon says:

    No, I won't give up. I may put it down for awhile. Getting a sense of perspective on this stuff can be helpful and I've needed to do more research for the next story anyway, so that's where I'll focus for awhile.
    I've got the first 3 chapters with Shawna McCarthy right now. I'll hope and pray she gives me some suggestions even if she's not interested. ;D Thanks for the encouragement! The day started out rough, but has greatly improved.

  7. Jeannie Lin says:

    Somewhere between the two, is the answer.

    Wow, I didn't even mean to sound like a fortune cookie there. I know the frustration and challenge of finding the right opening. And it's so critical!

    The truth is you need both, worldbuilding and the compelling opening. But the compelling opening doesn't have to be a battle scene and the worldbuilding doesn't have to be paragraphs and paragraphs of background info.

    I was having a discussion with a writer buddy about traditional fantasy. We both used to love big, meaty books like GGK's and MZB's. Tolkien must have about 100 pages of worldbuilding in the Fellowship of the Ring before the action starts — leading me to form a thesis that he originally concepted a very different book. (I really need to find a geek convention somewhere where I can spout this theory some day. ) But now when we try to go back, the books are hard to get into. Writing trends have changed.

    Total personal opinion? The opening I liked best was when you had your hero staring at the scroll and realizing there would be war and he would be dragged in. I hope this is the same book you're talking about. Six of one, half dozen of another. 🙂

  8. Victoria Dixon says:

    Yes, Jeannie, it's the same book and the same beginning. (I decided against the optional beginning you looked at for me.) Thanks for the input! It means a lot that you also prefer that one.

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