Chat log for December 26, 2005SFWW--Submission for Critique

DaveK enters this room

[anneliese] Hi Dave!

[DaveK] Hi guys

Elizabeth enters this room

[aweiss] I think it will be.

[Elizabeth] hello there!

[anneliese] Hi Elizabeth!

[aweiss] Hi Dave, Elizabeth.

[anneliese] Wow! What punctuality!

[anneliese] Did everyone have a good holiday?

[Elizabeth] lol! That's what happens when I actually get a day off. Smiling

[aweiss] It was good.

[Elizabeth] Had an excellent holiday.

[Elizabeth] But I'm more than ready for kiddo to go back to school.

[anneliese] I hope it was a nice day off. We spent today packing. The move is tomorrow.

[DaveK] Very good

[Elizabeth] good luck with that, Anneliese.

[anneliese] He has 7 buddies to help with the move, so it should go well enough. The only problem for me is going to pick up the truck at 6:30

[Elizabeth] bleah! I hate early morning manual labor!

[Elizabeth] Early morning computer work is bad enough.

[anneliese] Manual labor is a bit easier for me. There is no way the brain will work at that hour!

[DaveK] My body wakes up before my mind

[anneliese] Same with me, Dave.

[Elizabeth] so are we about ready to begin chatting about the submission?

[anneliese] I'm ready

[aweiss] I'm ready

[Elizabeth] before we begin, Andrea, do you have any questions or comments for the group?

[aweiss] Nothing that i can think of right now.

[aweiss] Just that, how does one log the chat?

[Elizabeth] copy and paste is the only way I know of. Anneliese may know of something else.

[anneliese] There's no logger, per se. But you can save the chat to an HTML page.

[aweiss] Okay, I'll do that.

[anneliese] Just show all the lines (I do something like /show 300), then save.

[aweiss] Got it set up.

[aweiss] Actually, that works better.

[Elizabeth] I found the basic idea of this submission intriguing, Andrea, and I do like a lot of the details you've put in about this world.

[Elizabeth] You've obviously put a lot of thought into the world and the characters.

[Elizabeth] The trick now is to figure out where in the story to put all of these bits you've created.

[aweiss] Thanks. It's been ten years inthe making, this novel

[Elizabeth] There's a lot of backstory, historical explanations, flashbacks, etc., which slow the story down, and most of which we won't need until later in the story.

[Elizabeth] And there are so many characters introduced in this first chapter that, frankly, I had some trouble keeping track of all of them.

[Elizabeth] The function of the first chapter is to introduce the main character, their setting, and their problem, and to make all three of those compelling enough that the reader will want to keep reading.

[aweiss] Okay. All of the backstory and the other things were there beucase others felt they were needed. I'd felt that people would get it without that. But I decided at one point that some should be there.

[anneliese] The backstory probably needs to be somewhere... but figuring out the best place is the hard part.

[aweiss] Yes. I'd felt that with the other charcters, it was important not to show Jo being alone, that she had friends and family, a girlfriend.

[aweiss] And the conflict.

[Elizabeth] I like Jo as a character, and I can sort of sympathize with her relationship with Louise...she's a teen in her first serious relationship, and her girlfriend is planning to leave.

[anneliese] The folks that suggested more backstory... how much had they read?

[aweiss] The first three chapters, and they felt the story would be improved with an explnation of how reproduction happens on a gay and lesbian planet, for instance.

[Elizabeth] But even the dialogue between Jo and Louise doesn't show that much conflict. Louise ends up reassuring Jo, and kissing her, and making Jo feel like everything will work out. The chapter ends without any real conflict, any suspense to hook the reader into the next chapter.

[Elizabeth] And at this point I don't believe her feelings for Curt at all. There's a paragraph in there about her "sexual frustration", but she spends far more time and energy worrying about what will happen between her and Louise.

[aweiss] It want the suspecnce to be very quiet and ordinary. But with a twist.People think things will be okay. but their not.

[aweiss] She wants Curt to be in the back ground

[aweiss] But in the second chapter, Curt steps onto the stage. And Jo almost gets beaten by a mob that Louise sets after Jo.

[anneliese] Think about this. If Curt was never mentioned but for the poster, what would that do for the flow?

[aweiss] Not sure what you mean by the poster.

[Elizabeth] the poster of the rock star?

[anneliese] (I almost wondered if Louise was the Differo)

[Elizabeth] No offense, but if everything seems to work out by the end of the first chapter, IMO, people will stop reading.

[aweiss] Okay. I could do that, it might improve things.

[Elizabeth] And I'm not sure an explanation of the reproductive technology is needed right away.

[Elizabeth] The mere mention of Jo

[aweiss] I wanted everything to seem to be okay. But it really isn't.

[aweiss] I could take out the reproductive explnation

[Elizabeth] of Jo's two moms, and an off-hand remark about her dads, would imply to most readers how families are set up on Jo's world.

[aweiss] Yes it would. Familes are mostly composed of two moms and dads.

[DaveK] I apologize that I haven't been doing any critiqueing since nanowromo. I did a quick scan of this chapter and I agree with the two sentiments expressed so far. oo much info dump9ng and not enough conflict.

[Elizabeth] Likewise the conversation Jo has with Mama Beth (which was one of my favorite parts of the chapter, BTW). Shows the way relationships work on their world, and also shows the loving, caring relationship between Jo and her birth mother.

[Elizabeth] Something, I'm sure, that Jo couldn't bear to lose.

[DaveK] Although I'm not sure what markent you're going for so I'm not sure how much conflicy is needed at this point.

[Elizabeth] Hearing Mama Beth talk about something that Jo has fantasized about, or experienced lately,

[aweiss] The reason there isn't much conflict at first isthat I wanted it low key at first, otherwise things would get dark way too fast.

[Elizabeth] and condemn it, or show her own bigotry towards differosexuals, would be a tremendous source of conflict for Jo.

[aweiss] Thanks Elizabeth

[Elizabeth] She loves and respects her mothers, wouldn't do anything to hurt them,

[Elizabeth] but is drawn to do and feel things that they find repugnant.

[aweiss] I'm going for more of a mainstream market then hardcore SF.

[DaveK] It doesn't have to be the major conflict of the story, it can be some side issue that grwos into the major point.

[aweiss] That's exactly what happens Dave, that the issues put forth in the first grow into more conflict.

[Elizabeth] Maybe have Jo and Louise, instead of a kiss-and-make up discussion, have a full-fledged fight.

[aweiss] As for her moms, That isse of not hurting them comes out in a later chapter, when she comes out as difero to them.

[Elizabeth] Or have one of Jo's friends make a snide remark about how much time she spent with Curt after lessons.

[anneliese] I actually like the kiss and make up discussion, but I wonder about hinting that Louise is not fully honest.

[aweiss] They reject her at first.

[DaveK] Issues aren't conflict.

[DaveK] At least to my male brain.

[Elizabeth] lol Dave!

[aweiss] I think for Jo and Louise to have a big fight would be too childish for them.

[Elizabeth] But there can be conflict in the sense that, if these people knew what Jo was really feeling and thinking, she would be in some sort of danger.

[aweiss] But the issures do in later chapters

[Elizabeth] Or if she struggles to maintain her "normal" life--school, girlfriend, etc.--and go against her real feelings.

[aweiss] Exactly. In later chapter, people do, and she nearly gets beaten. And raped.

[anneliese] IMO, there oughtn't be much of a hint that Jo is a Differo in the first chapter...

[Elizabeth] I guess the reason that the danger doesn't come through right now is that you tell about differophobia, instead of showing it.

[aweiss] But that's the conflict I wanted to get into straight away.

[anneliese] ...unless you want to start the story with the gang attack in Chapter 2.

[aweiss] Hmm, showing it. A differophobic music video then maybe.

[Elizabeth] Stuff like, "I'd seen articles with differophobic viewpoints in Mama Beth's office". Do Jo's mothers read this stuff? Quote it?

[Elizabeth] Make offhand remarks about differos?

[aweiss] To start the story with the gang attack would be too negative.

[aweiss] I could do that with the aritcles and her moms.

[anneliese] I agree. Which is why we might want to only have the conflict of the relationship in Chapter 1, and the inklings of being differo later.

[aweiss] or off hand remarks.

[Elizabeth] "Another one of those women was in the shop today. Three children, a fourth on the way, trying to herd her little beasts on her own before her *man* came home. No sense of self-respect, no self-control..."

[Elizabeth] "How can you expect to raise children with just two parents, for goodness' sake?"

[anneliese] I like that, Elizabeth!

[aweiss] I could. But the point I want to get across right now, is that to show someone with internal conflict, it exactly what a gay person goes through on earth.

[aweiss] I could do that Elizabeth.

[DaveK] What you want is to keep the reader reading past the first chapter.

[Elizabeth] Or have one of Jo's dads tell her about his younger, more experimental days, and how he almost made a horrible, horrible mistake with a differo girl.

[aweiss] See, I want to tell stright people that if they had to come out, they wouldn't be so homophobic.

[anneliese] You have so many other things confusing this poor girl! Should she break up with her girlfriend... peer pressure with the clique... etc.

[Elizabeth] Which will come out, I think, if you tell your story well.

[aweiss] I do. But not in awhiz bang, screaming and yelling sort of way. More real life and ordnary.

[Elizabeth] If you try to hammer the point into the reader's heads, you will lose most of them.

[aweiss] I do. And those conflicts carry over into the next chapter.

[Elizabeth] If, on the other hand, you give them a character they come to like and care about, and show her struggling with these problems...they may sympathize with her, and begin to see things differently.

[aweiss] The clique, for example, is very differophobic

[aweiss] That's exactly what i want to do Elizabeth.

[Elizabeth] Maybe the first place you should show Jo is with the clique. She's uncomfortable enough with them as it is.

[Elizabeth] What if they start telling differo jokes or something like that, while she's right next to Curt?

[aweiss] I could expand on the clique a bit, show a scene, maybe from the second chapter.

[aweiss] They do.

[DaveK] Are the schools sexually segregated?

[Elizabeth] Is her main problem with Louise really that Louise is going to a different school next year, or has Jo started to drift apart from Louise in terms of her interests and beliefs?

[aweiss] No, their not Dave.

[aweiss] Both Elizabeth. Only Jo Doesn't realize that yet. She will though.

[anneliese] Even if Jo doesn't realize it, you can certainly show your readers.

[aweiss] I could

[anneliese] A scene with the clique will do that, as can the homework date.

[aweiss] Okay

[anneliese] Or even the phone call with her other friend.

[aweiss] All right

[Elizabeth] Although, IMO, you should probably cut down on the number of people you introduce us to in the first chapter.

[Elizabeth] Maybe just Jo, Louise, and their mothers.

[aweiss] I could, but I'm not sure who i could cut, and keep the story together. I was thinking of Nell. But I also wanted to show Jo and her friends.

[Elizabeth] A side mention of Curt, maybe. You don't want to introduce so many characters that the reader has trouble keeping track of them all.

[aweiss] Okay. I hadn't realized so many would be confusing.

[Elizabeth] You can show Jo's friends (the good friends and not-so-good ones) through a scene with the clique.

[anneliese] Curt can certainly be introduced later. You could use Nell as counterpoint to the clique... esp if she isn't in it.

[Elizabeth] We don't need to see all of Jo's life at once.

[aweiss] I could. maybe by taking the scene with the clique from the second chapter and expanding on it.

[aweiss] I wanted people to ge the full picture of Jo's life, is why I did that.

[Elizabeth] Yeah, I like Nell as a character. She seems to be a real friend to Jo.

[anneliese] If you could tell Jo's full story in one chapter... it would be a short story Laughing out loud

[aweiss] She is.

[anneliese] Nell is so different than Louise... you can use that to advantage.

[aweiss] LOL, Anneliese

[aweiss] I could

[DaveK] Maybe you're trying to cram too much intothe first chapter. 7000 words is a bit long. Maybe cut it down and focus on one or two points.

[aweiss] All of this has given me a lot to think about

[aweiss] I could Dave

[Elizabeth] I agree with Dave. The first chapter is pretty long.

[anneliese] Just remember... it's YOUR story, not ours.

[aweiss] It is, but it's the intro

[aweiss] I know Anneliese. It's just that there is alot riding on this. A writer friend offered me an intro to her agent if she liked the MS.

[DaveK] The first third of the book is the intro.

[anneliese] And we all want to help you.

[aweiss] That and this book has been work over a lot too. I've been editing it with a freelance editor.

[aweiss] It is Dave.

[Elizabeth] The advise I got once, in a novel-writing class, was that you have about 1000 words to get your reader interested in the story.

[aweiss] I know you do.

[Elizabeth] And agents and editors are pickier readers than most.

[aweiss] I can do a lot with one thousand

[Elizabeth] You want to have the whole MS ready, in case they do like it and want more, but those first chapters have to be really polished.

[aweiss] I do. I've been working on the first four chapters the most.

[aweiss] But especially the first

[Elizabeth] My main advice for the first chapters would be to tell less and show more.

[aweiss] Okay

[Elizabeth] There's a lot of narrative and explanations where you could have action, or dialogue, that would do a better job of informing the reader.

[aweiss] That's always been on of my problems, showing vs telling. But I'm wiorking on that.

[aweiss] I could

[DaveK] Go through the ms and higlight all the telling parts. Then rewrite them.

[aweiss] All right

[Elizabeth] Or figure out which explanations can wait until later in the story.

[aweiss] As I say, there is a lot to think about here

[aweiss] I just felt that all the explnations just were part of the set up.

[Elizabeth] I hope our comments have been helpful. I like the idea and the characters.

[Elizabeth] What you need to work on is showing vs. telling, and keeping the narrative flowing.

[DaveK] I remember one writing book I read. In it the author gives a short story and then tells how he wrote it. One think about showing vs telling is a scene where he does a flashback in order to give the history as a scene instead of a info dump.

[aweiss] They have been very helpful. Thanks

[aweiss] I do.

[Elizabeth] Remember that flashbacks can be very useful, but they can also slow down a narrative.

[Elizabeth] But they're always better than info dumps.

[aweiss] I knww. I'd just been warned off flashbacks form eariler crits

[DaveK] Info dump acceptablility depends on the genre. It is more acceptable in SF and less in mainstream.

[aweiss] Of prior versions.

[aweiss] Okay, that's good to know.

[Elizabeth] Also remember that the reader doesn't need to know everything right away...as long as they have a basic idea of who this person is, and what their problems are,

[Elizabeth] a little mystery or uncertainly will only increase the reader's interest.

[aweiss] Okay. I'll remember that.

[DaveK] I second that point.

[aweiss] Okay

[Elizabeth] They'll want to find out more about this person if 1) you can get them to care about the character and 2) you don't deluge them with information in the beginning.

[Elizabeth] I hope we haven't been too rough on you.

[aweiss] I know. No, no one has.

[anneliese] As Elizabeth said, you've got the makings of a good story here.

[aweiss] Just that it's alot to take in.

[aweiss] Thanks

[DaveK] We may be rough but we're (I hope this comes across) not mean.

[aweiss] Cool.

[aweiss] Not mean at all.

[DaveK] I don't know how much SF is acceptable in mainstream. Myabe you should find a book like that and see how it handles telling the back story.
[aweiss] Okay

[DaveK] ANyone, do you know of a SF book that madfe it big in mainstream?

[aweiss] The Left Hand of Darkness

[anneliese] Dune

[Elizabeth] 2001: A Space Odyssey

[Elizabeth] Or try Margaret Atwood's books. Especially Handmaid's Tale or The Blind Assassin.

[aweiss] Okay.

[Elizabeth] Or Oryx and Crake. She writes speculative fiction, but because she's a mainstream novelist, it doesn't get lumped into the category of SF.
[aweiss] I'll mkae a note of her.

[Elizabeth] Plus she does a wonderful job of handling backstory and character.
[aweiss] Okay.

[DaveK] I thnk Orsen Card just wrote a fantasey book targeted for the mainstream. Forget the name.

[Elizabeth] It's been a good chat...I'm glad you were able to show up, Andrea. Any last words before I sign off for the evening?

[Elizabeth] Dave, was that Magic Street?
[DaveK] Right, Magic Street.

[aweiss] It has. So am I. I just wanted to say, that i had a great time, and a lot to think about.

[Elizabeth] Good night, everybody!

Elizabeth exits from this room

[aweiss] Night everyone

[DaveK] Good night E.

[anneliese] Nighters everyone. Good chat!