Are you wondering whether you are ready to query your novel? You may be! It’s always a good idea to take a hard look at your one sentence pitch and your first 5-20 pages before you hit send. Sometimes, in our excitement, we query too early. When I was thinking about how to illustrate what happens when we query too soon, I thought about Joe Bob Briggs and his movie reviews.
Those of you outside of Texas, or who are too young, may not remember Joe Bob Briggs, a fictional persona who writes satirical movie reviews. He is actually still around…you can see one of his reviews here, and you can Google him and go find his home page if you really want to know more. Go ahead, I’ll wait…
In his heyday, he wrote a syndicated column that reviewed B-movies, usually, but not exclusively, shown at Drive Ins. His favorites were horror flicks. He had several signature phrases, but his most useful one for our purposes was about not allowing the plot to get in the way of the action. He always included a count of various features of the films at the end of the review, which might list the number of dead bodies, body parts, and whether there was any one or several varieties of XX-fu, which was Joe Bob’s way of poking fun at the silly fighting in the movie.
In homage to Joe Bob, I present a fictional satirical review of a fake book opening that might have gone on query too soon.
NOTE: This review is snarky—it is also completely fake, and there is no intended relationship to any actual writer’s work. The review mentions common issues with opening pages. If snark bothers you, please skip it!
The novel opens with a long description of the weather and what everyone is wearing. Of course, it is in first person, and the protagonist describes herself, because she is aware of the reader. Don’t we all describe ourselves in our thoughts?
Nothing much happens for about ten pages or so. It is just one long stream of consciousness and list of things that a person is doing that don’t seem to have any bearing on a story of any kind. And then, there is some dialogue, but it is unclear whether this is happening now or whether it is a flashback. There are a number of convenient coincidences that the reader isn’t supposed to notice. I noticed.
The next five pages are all backstory, because readers need to know every detail of the main character’s back story right from the get go. It’s important, so it has to be at the beginning. There are lots of names, but no connection to any action. In fact, there is not much action at all. So. Much. Thinking.
There is not much story getting in the way of the backstory here.
Roundup: Twenty unnecessary adverbs, twelve uses of the verb wink, at least five body part drops and/or clenches, and four questionable metaphors. Six lines of dialogue. Zero scenes, zero decisions, zero stakes.
All kidding aside, does your opening need a little work?
Whether you are just starting your novel or getting it in shape to query, consider coming to the Readerly Virtual Writing Retreat. It will be a great time! You can use the writing time to work on your opening and get coaching on it, too. 🙂
Find out more, including the schedule at http://readerlyfriends.net
The cost is $197 for the whole shebang, including the recordings and the follow up session. Best of all, you can attend in your PJs. 🙂