YA – Weird is ALWAYS good

I barely had FREEBORN written before opportunities to throw it into a few contests arose. There is a *possibility* that the manuscript may not have been completed when I entered it into at least one of them… I’m not confessing anything here. I’m simply stating a basic rule of probability. So, before I have submitted a single query, these are the contests FREEBORN has entered:

  1. Strange Chemistry – Prize at stake: A 2 book publishing contract – Current status: Mss sent. Results unknown
  2. #WVTP – Prize won: Request from uber-agent John M Cusick – Current status: Mss sent. Results unknown
  3. YALitChat Pitch Slam 2 – Prize at stake – Requests from 1-4 of the participating agents – Current Status:  Comments in process. Agent ranking of their top pitches begins next week.
  4. We Do Write 3-2-1 Pitch Contest – Prize at stake – Full request from Natalie Lakosil of The Bradford Literary Agency – Current status: Pitch submitted. Entry period closes 6/8.
  5. Super Intern Contest – Prize at stake: Pitch critique and feedback. Possible mss request – Current status: Pitch submitted. Awaiting the ‘random selection’ of the the 30 pitches which will move forward. http://brenleedrake.blogspot.com/

I believe that’s all of them.

What’s interesting about the contest process is that it offers a laser-like focus on honing the pitch and getting feedback on it BEFORE querying begins. The process is highly recommended.

As for the YALitChat pitch Slam 2, there are two more agents who have yet to make their initial sweep. [UPDATE: I HAVE ADDED THE COMMENTS FROM THE REMAINING AGENTS.] The comments on the entries vary from “full of trope”, “you might want to work on a different project instead because this premise is played out”, “amazing pitch”, to “please send me a synopsis & the first 50 pages”. Here are the pitches I entered and the feedback so far:

 Reply by John Lucas Hargis

FREEBORN – YA / SF – John Lucas Hargis

The squirming in Katia’s gut means two things: she is infected with the dreaded parasite, and her boring life as a sixteen-year-old clone is over. She knows she should obey the Surgeon Generals and submit to their treatment, but claustrophobia has a way of pushing Katia to do crazy things—like accepting Adam’s invitation to a safe house full of infected rebels. As Katia’s stomach swells, she experiences feelings she has never known, discovers the truth about the parasite inside her, and joins the rebels in their insane plan to shift the power. The Surgeon Generals are proficient at ending the little uprisings that threaten their illusion of peace. Only, they have never been faced with the plan Katia and Adam are involved in—one that seeks to infect every man, woman, and child on the planet with the Freeborn parasite the leaders are seeking to destroy. Katia’s fear of tight places is nothing compared to her fear of what will happen to every clone in the world, herself included, if she and the other rebels should fail—or even more so if they succeed.

 Reply by Pam van Hylckama Vlieg

This sounds like stone cold scifi. Love it! Great work on the pitch.
 Reply by Tamar Rydzinski
Definitely an interesting pitch.

 Reply by Elana Roth

Very interesting. Some reservations about Alien comparisons or worms being good things but…it would get me to read on.

 Reply by Michelle Witte

The first sentence is a bit weak. What dreaded parasite? Is it the Freeborn parasite mentioned later? What does this parasite do—or at least what do the Surgeon Generals say it does to people?

Also, why would her claustrophobia keep her from seeking treatment? Right now it feels like an unnecessary trait tacked on, so make us see how it applies to the story.

If you can incorporate those things, your pitch will be solid.


Reply by John Lucas Hargis

Capritare: Discovery – YA Fantasy/LitFic Mashup – John Lucas Hargis

Capritare flexes his furry legs, clacks his new hooves against the stone floor, and hopes that in cycle two, he’ll get a big rack of antlers, or maybe even wings. Perhaps he shouldn’t worry about such a trivial thing since the three Ogen have made their expectations crystal clear. These seven cycles present his final opportunity to reach completion. Capritare vows to fight with passion, explore every nook of the colony, deal with the random appendages attached to his adolescent body, and—somehow—even find love. Although he failed miserably in his previous nine-hundred-ninety-nine lifetimes, he always knew he’d get another chance—and then another. If he screws up this time, there is only one thing waiting for him on the other side of failure—absolutely nothing.

Your stuff is just so weird! I love it.
 Reply by Tamar Rydzinski
This is kooky in a good way

 Reply by Elana Roth

Definitely kooky. I need a tad more grounding in the first 2-3 sentences that tell me more explicitly what’s going on, but otherwise, good tone and voice. 

 Reply by Michelle Witte
You’ve definitely got talent as a writer, but like Elana, I need a bit more info to be fully grounded. I can envision Capritare, but not his world, the other people/creatures there, or his place within it. Give us a firm sense of what he must do and how, and you’ll be golden.


I would [of course] prefer instant requests, but these comments are greatly appreciated and encouraging. They also lead into the second part of this post, which is expression of my goal for writing in the first place and what I believe my Brand is: YA Weird.

I can’t fathom wasting my time on the rehashing of a story that has been told before. Apparently, some authors seek that as their goal: to tap into the next big trend, or ride on the wave of a current one. Eff that. I want to write my own stories and create my own tsunami. I have additional encouragement on that front as well. It comes from a Twitter feed from earlier this week. #AADA or “Ask A Drunk Agent” hosted by my platonic-agent-crush: John Cusick.

Questions were flying as aspiring authors attempted to take advantage of a slightly “tipsy” agent willing to be candid with his answers. Many random things were discussed along with publishing–including this out-of-context tidbit: ‘I hear if you put your scabies in a box of rice, they will dry out.’ – If you get the reference, welcome to the fanclub!

Back to my ‘Brand’ of YA Weird. Here are the relevant Tweets from the hugely entertaining and insightful #AADA session.

John Lucas HargisJohn Lucas Hargis@gypsyroots

@johnmcusick Prognosticate for us in your stupor? The mss you would love to see 6 months from now would include…? #AADA

John M CusickJohn M Cusick@johnmcusick

@gypsyroots A totally original contemporary romance. #AADA

John Lucas HargisJohn Lucas Hargis@gypsyroots

@johnmcusick UGH. Never mind. #AADA


@gypsyroots @johnmcusick Luckily there is always a fair amount of weird out there too. I think you are still in good shape. 🙂 #AADA 

John M CusickJohn M Cusick@johnmcusick

@SnowmenWrite @gypsyroots Let me be clear: weird is ALWAYS good. #AADA

 Jamie CorriganJamie Corrigan@saphirablue84

@johnmcusick Amen to that! #AADA @SnowmenWrite @gypsyroots

 John Lucas HargisJohn Lucas Hargis@gypsyroots

@johnmcusick @SnowmenWrite YA Weird is my genre. The issue is pulling back from a LitFic vibe w/o going too simplistic w/ the writing. #AADA

I will always* [*While a definitive statement is being made here, I retain the rights to amend it at any time if I so choose] bounce around within the walls of Fantasy and Sci-Fi. The reason: those walls are nebulous and permeable. They span wide and allow for universe-sized tanks of breathing room. Anything can happen in that space. And that is the perfect breeding ground for the storytelling of John Lucas Hargis–author of YA Weird novels. 

[Let me throw in a shout-out to @fizzygrrl http://fizzygrrl.com/ & @christinaferko http://christinasbooks.blogspot.com/. They are amazing up-and-coming authors who were involved in the #AADA conversation, but weren’t part of the specific conversation used in this post. Much Twitter & website love to all the @s in this post!]

Publisher’s Feedback: Capritare

I haven’t sent out any queries for Capritare in over two months. In fact, with the new novel in the works, I haven’t referred back to my submission tracking sheet in a long while. Today, I received this unexpected letter from a publisher. It is–by far–the most indepth bit of feedback I have received.

Mr. Hargis,

Thank you very much for the chance to read CAPRITARE. We have reviewed the manuscript, and your story has promise, though could benefit from some additional work. I was very interested by the world you created and the core of the story. If you’re interested in revising the manuscript to resubmit, I’d be happy to reconsider it.

Some of the thoughts I had while reading:

  • By dropping us in the story with no lead-up, I was too fish-out-of-water in order to get a footing in the narrative. Since the story is about Capritare’s journey, start at the beginning and let us discover existence in this new world alongside him.
  • Too often I was confused by the names of people, places, and things, unsure of what was actually going on. You can smooth over the culture shock with a light description of things before naming them, so the reader has a more concrete idea of what the object is.
  • On the other hand, the lofty descriptions got away from me too easily. Your primary target audience for YA should be 15-20, with a secondary of 13-15 (20+ is good for YA, but something that comes naturally). I’m not saying to dumb down the narrative, but streamlining would go a long way to hitting the buttons you want with your intended audience. Try to strike a balance if at all possible.

While your submission isn’t quite right for [NAME] Publishing at the moment, you do have promising talent as a writer, and we would be interested to see more of your work in the future.

So, there are some good comments in there, as well as some great suggestions. These statements echo what many of my readers have noted. I want to keep the LitFic feel, so I believe that taking it out of the realm of teen readers is my best bet. Capritare was my first novel, and provided a huge amount of learning and experimentation for me. So, the question is: to do a major edit? Or lose the YA tag and self-publish?

FREEBORN is written in a much more ‘commercial’ style, so it has become my new arrow pointed at the mainstream market. Capritare may have to hang in the background and serve as my ‘loss-leader’.

Decisions, decisions…

Beta Comments: FREEBORN

Holy FREEBORN, Batman!

Apologies for neglecting the blog posting over the last couple days. I have been churning out a chapter a day on FREEBORN. So far, I have been receiving amazing feedback from my betas. There have been a few minor issues I have corrected, but no major flaws.

Tonight, I received this as portion of some feedback from Tamara Hickman  http://tamarahickman.wordpress.com/ based on the first seven chapters. Of course, I took out the few ‘suggestions’ and just left in the positives for public consumption. 🙂

HOLY CRAP, MAN! Where is the rest? I need it!

I was sucked in, and couldn’t stop reading. There are large sections with no notes, and those are probably the places where I was completely enthralled by the story. If something jarred me out of the story, I noted it.

All of my preconceptions about this story are gone. I didn’t think that I could enjoy the story as much as I did. I love the characters, and their interactions with each other are fluid. The dialogue is sharp, and I can see distinct personalities in almost all of your characters. The introduction of the infected candystriper is genius, and I can’t wait to see how it plays out.

Your story is extremely dynamic, and there is never a moment where the friction/action/conflict stops. There is always something going on, driving the story, and I could tell that right away when it forced me to stay up until 1:04am, reading to the very last word. And then I wanted to cry when there was no more. =)

Holy Handgrenades, Bat Man! Hurry up and finish this book so I can get my claws on it!


By chance, I happened upon an opportunity to share the first three chapters of FREEBORN with a stranger–Alexandra Davidoff. We ‘met’ in an online forum where I was seeking feedback on the Pitch. Things progressed from there, and I emailed her a draft. Today, I received this comment in my inbox.
Freeborn is an intriguing piece. I like your style of writing, there’s almost an element of poetry in with the descriptive parts that makes it easy for the reader to understand the thoughts and emotions of your MC. I’ve never read anything that’s similar, and that’s a good thing. You’re very unique. I loved the concept, it wouldn’t appeal to everyone but it’s originality made it addictive. I think the chain of events in the first chapter make for an addictive opening, and the interaction between the two characters, Adam and Katia is fantastic. I felt for Katia. Her sadness, her rage, her self doubt came alive with your narration. I loved how the infected bellies were vividly described. The scenes were definitely easy to see in my mind, and the characters were memorable. The dialogue was well balanced with the narration, not overpowering it; I personally like description over dialogue, but your style holds a great balance between the two and I think that would appeal to your readers very well. The plot is adventurous, filled with adrenaline. Things move fast but aren’t confusing. It was an easy story to read, and I found myself smiling back on certain scenes as I moved forward. You have a great sci-fi adventure tale in your hands.”
That kind of feeback is good to hear. It echoes comments from two other beta readers that have read through the first seven chapters. I am definitely encouraged to continue writing this story. On to chapter eight!

Writers Are Kooks!

This comes from a series of public online messages between another writer and yours truly. I found it, ummm, a bit disturbing. Names have been changed to protect the innocent. I shall refer to my conversation partner as “Saint” (as in Dymphna).

WARNINGS: 1) Compared to most blog posts, it has some length to it; but if you are in search of an interesting character study for your next novel… 2) It does contain some material of a graphic nature.


Saint: johnlucas, i have, as suggested, read some of your comments, and, though i have not read the books to which the comments pertained, i find your commenting to seem to be fair and forthright.

[another user] suggested that i contact you for a shared read, being as we both write fantasy. i would be interested if you yourself would have the time. i truly need an honest opinion of mine, for i have a rather, at least according to the opinions of some, unusual way of expressing things, which, i am finding to my great dismay, does not seem to hold favor with the majority of the readers on this site, if my studies and comparisons are anything to go by.

and i refuse to change my “voice” simply to fit popular opinion and tastes, for then it would no longer be mine, it would become little more than a carbon cookie cutter copy of a thousand other voices.

if you read what is on my opening page, where i inform the reader in an eyeball to eyeball, nose to nose, no holds barred statement, i am more storyteller than writer, i write using description and emotion, and any who are not “into” that would be best to leave their reading of my works to what is on that initial page, for if they do in truth read my story, and thus having been forewarned of the nature of its telling, should leave a hurtful, derogatory, cruel comment, then they will find that i very definitely am one “slightly past the age of majority” female east texas writer that will not hesitate to “stomp back”.

but i can, after reading your comments, fully see why [another user] recommended you as a possible “read swap”, for judging by the content of your comments that i did read, you are extremely fair in both your criticism and your compliments, and your criticisms are given in such a way that they are more helpful than hurtful.

so, i am inviting you to do a “read swap” with me. i will always comment when i do read, no matter how many chapters, so that you know i have been there, and would ask that you do the same

Lucas: Sure. Let me take a look at your profile & pitches and we’ll go from there. I can say that I noticed that the third paragraph in the mail you sent me was one uber-long single sentence… It went on and on and on with a lot of commas, but no periods. 😉
[I checked out the info. Although I was hesitant, I decided to proceed.]
Lucas: Well, I am willing to have a go at it. But, my current policy is that the approaching reader goes first. This rules out those that want their back scratched without scratching back! We are all crazy-busy, so that ensures my time is honored.
[Saint took me up on the offer, and left this Comment on Capritare.]
Saint: WOWSERS! That was intense! This is definitely going on both my watchlist and my bookshelf! And I will, somehow, be finding time to read more. I just hope you find mine even marginally as enthralling as I find yours. blessed be, Saint
[Honoring our read swap, I read the first three chapters and left this comment.]
Lucas: My first reaction when I came to the “Read Book” page was: “Oh crap! Sixty-nine chapters?” But, as I began reading, I realized that they were quite short. I was relieved! The shorter chapters kept me clicking along at a quick pace to chapter 4.

Here are some general comments. I will forward some specifics via a message.

– Characterization: Your characters are solidifying. I can’t quite see their physical appearances in their entirety yet, but I am getting a sense of their personalities.
– Plot: You are building a good level of tension regarding the prophecy and those bucking against it. Well done.
– General areas that can be tightened: paragraph condensing (there are many separate lines running in a common theme that should be combined to form paragraphs), avoiding the repetition of a few key ideas & phrases, correct the overuse of adverbs.

Overall, you have the setup for a great story. I need to read further to dig into the continuity and progressing tension. I look forward to both reading more, and seeing how the story develops as you incorporate feedback from others while still keeping your authorial voice.
[I then sent Saint a message, separate from the posted comments.]
Lucas: As promised, here are my editorial suggestions. As always, they are one guy’s opinion. You—as the author—must decide whether or not they will strengthen your story.

Overall, I was involved in the story as a reader. That’s good. What kept bumping me out of that zone was a series of repetitious things. By addressing these items, I believe you will tighten the narrative even further, and keep the reader where you want them–in the story! 🙂

– “time is not our friend” appears three times: in the king’s thoughts, then in the narrative, and again in his prayer/plea. The reader only needs to hear this once.
– We are told of the reputation the mage has fostered twice. It is explained in the narrative, and then he explains it again in the dialogue. Only one iteration is needed. Weeding out one will remove the sense of redundancy.
– The idea that the [Group] are trying to “thwart an ancient prophecy” is stated in chapter 1 and then again in chapter 2. As it stands, it forces the reader out of the story. “This again? I just read that…” I would suggest moving the reference in chapter 2 to the occurrence in chapter 1. This will condense the idea into a single location and flesh out the prophecy sooner.
– Look for the repetition of “clenched tightly” in reference to the King. It occurs, perhaps, a half-dozen times. You have an opportunity for synonyms here where you can describe the King’s tension and helplessness in other ways.
– You point out that the mage is the King’s “close personal friend” at least twice…
– Look for over-usage of these words: “grim, grimmer, grimness”, “somber”, “heavy” (used in conjunction with brow/face), “wry”. Try a simple re-write of these words to vary the ideas and strengthen the description.
– I noticed a LOT of adverbs. (Those pesky modifiers ending in “ly”). For instance, just in the first three chapters: easily, slightly, definitely, constantly, deliberately, simply, wrongly, considerably, utterly, nearly, actually, seemingly, morosely, plainly, strongly, finally, wistfully. Most of these can be wiped out completely. For the ones that you can’t remove, attempt changing the actual verb to a stronger one that carries the idea you are trying to convey without using an adverb. A good rule of thumb is to limit the use of adverbs to around 3 for every 500 words.

These are the speed-bumps that jarred me out of the story. If they hadn’t slowed me down & popped me out, I could have kept on reading—absorbed in the tale. And that, I think, is an author’s goal. 🙂

Saint: sir, i am releasing you from the read share, for you have done the one thing that i warn on the very first page of my site not to do…you have told me i must strip the very things that display and describe the emotional characteristics of both the scenes and characters.

also, what you call repetition is, if one reads correctly, the same things seen from different character’s perspectives.

as for the way the sentences and paragraphs are set up, that is for emphasis and weight, rather than having everything all jumbled together in a mish mash of facts and information. i used to do that, till at least three separate writers commented on it and told me breaking key events down would be better.

as i said, i release you from the read share, for i see that this is not going to work out, for i use descriptive words, pure and simple…something i warn the reader of right up front on my profile page.

you see, sir, i refuse to strip my story to the point where it is little more than lifeless, colorless, emotionless wooden puppets moving about a blank, empty stage with backdrops painted by a color blind three year old.

there will be no “the king was worried, upset, afraid, angry.” this or that character smiled, frowned, grimaced.

my story is not a “see spot run.” preschool primer.

also, i will not be reading any more of yours, and i am pulling it from both my shelf and my watchlist, for it contains two things i heartily deplore…references to both homosexuality and sex itself. sorry to have bothered you.

Lucas: I am really sorry that you reacted in this way. Either you misunderstood my intent, or you do not really want feedback at all. Please remember: you approached me.

Saint: john, you told me quite clearly that i needed to remove the very words used to describe the emotions and characteristics of the characters and situations.

i refuse to do that.

you suggest that i find other ways of saying the same things. i have reread the first three chapters, line by line, and there is no other way to convey what i wanted to convey.

i do not seek to offend, but i refuse to turn my story into an emotionless, wooden puppet character parody of harry potter, which i loath with a passion, for not once in the three chapters of the second book, which had been a christmas gift, did any of the characters think for themselves.

their emotions were described in flat, dry sentences…as though one were describing the latest stock market quotes…and if you took away the magic, all that remained was little better than a fifth graders book report, read in dry monotone.

i state quite clearly on my profile page that i use descriptive words, and that i use words to paint pictures of what i am seeing in my mind.

i also state on my profile page that i tell my stories from the point of a story teller, more than a writer. there will be places where there will be repetition, due to the same scenes being seen from different viewpoints, time frames (whether past, present or future), and situations. the ONE thing i will modify is the reference to the [Group] and to the king’s clenched hands.

but the paragraph structure will remain as it is, for it lends emphasis and weight.

there will be a page in the book, once it is finished, that will warn the reader up front that the story uses descriptive words, that it does in truth have places that will seem, for the casual reader, to be repetitious, but to bear in mind that those repetitions are either from a different character’s perspective or as a flashback.

i, in all truth, actually enjoyed what i read of your own story, and had planned on reading more of it….until i read the tags…and saw the words “gay” and “sexual”.

having been raped twice, one of those times when i was only eight, sex…any mention of it…is loathsome to me. i do not condone homosexuality, for my mother was bi, she tried, on more than one occasion, to force me into her warped, twisted lifestyle.

point blank… i do not read anything that contains those elements.

the man who raped me when i was eight forced me to go down on him, and then when i got sick after he went off in my mouth, he slapped me so hard he knocked me into a wall, dislocating my right shoulder. anything having to do with that type of activity, or sex period, is something i try my best to avoid, even to the point of having been celibate for the past twenty three years.

i am sorry to share information of such a personal nature with you, but i want you to understand that it is not you personally that i found at fault, but rather the fact that you all too plainly did not even read my profile page, or you would have known ahead of time that i use descriptive terms, and might therefor now have been so quick to tell me that i must strip nearly all of them.

i thank you for taking the time to read what you did of my story, but as i already stated, i do not think this is going to work out. were it now for the two things i mentioned about your own story, i would be continuing it, simply because i liked it. blessed be, Saint

by the way, i canceled the friend thing, because i did not think you would want to remain my friend once you knew where i stood.

[I thought it best not to respond. I had offered a balance critique which was obviously not well-received. The next day, this message appeared in my inbox.]
Saint: mr. hargis, this is a very contrite and ashamed of her behavior saint.

first, i owe you an apology, big time. i acted like a spoiled brat that had been told it could not have a favorite treat when you were kind enough to take time from your own life to read a portion of my story and share your wisdom, and for that i most abjectly apologize.

i do not know if it will mean anything, but, after i got over my childish fit, and my common sense kicked in, i realized that you were right, i had far too many of the very words you brought to my attention.

as i have stated, after i got over my snit, i gave serious consideration to your words, and, upon going in and re-reading the mentioned chapters, found that you were right…i did overuse the words, terms, and phrases you had brought to my attention.

the result of that discovery is that i revised the first chapter as a trial, and it is now posted on this site. i would be most humbly honored if you could take a look at it and let me know if it is any better for the changes. you will discover that, in addition to taking out most of, as you termed them, “those pesky ‘ly’ words”, i also took out many of the other words that repeated themselves, as in the word “concern”, which was in four places in two paragraphs. other changes were made as well.

i am hoping that you will find the changes that i instituted, based on your advice, to have been ones that did, in all truth, strengthen the revised section of the story.

once again, i most humbly apologize for the manner in which i responded to your help and advice, and hope that you will find it in your heart to forgive me, and to give me another chance, for i, after most serious consideration, feel that i could benefit from your obvious knowledge and wisdom. wishing you many blessings, Saint

by the way, as a result of my interaction with yourself, i now know how to use a thesaurus, for it was what i was referred to by a fellow writer whom i shared the revised story with, after telling them of my deplorable handling of my interaction with yourself. they, by the way, seemed to feel that the revision was indeed stronger. they were also the ones who noticed the overuse of the term “concerned” in the aforementioned paragraphs, and brought them to my attention, suggesting that i use the thesaurus to find alternative mean by which i could say the same things, but in a different, more effective, way.

Lucas: My hope is that your experience with me will help you be more open to future comments from others. Best wishes.

Saint: just wanted you to know that you were right about moving the part about the [Group] in chapter two up with that in chapter one, it worked very well, without requiring much alteration. and it did not interrupt the flow of the area in chapter two where i removed it. also, you were right as well about the “ly” words, i have gotten rid of the majority of them, and also the majority of the repetitions.

i just wish i hadn’t been so defensive, for i think i could have learned a lot from you.

once again, thank you for taking time to read. Saint

oh, by the way, because of my interaction with you, i now have nine hundred and ninety eight pages of story to edit before i can finish the last ten to twenty chapters of the sixth section!


If you made it this far: Congratulations!

I hope that Saint gets what’s she’s looking for. Although, I’m not sure what that is. Posting a creative work and asking for feedback is bound to open one up to both praise and criticism.

Each author receives feedback on his/her work in a different way. If I don’t agree with a reviewer, I simply let the critique slide right off. Occasionally, I receive an arrow that hits its mark. My novel is better because of this outsider viewpoint.

We are all kooks in our own way.

Capritare: Completion

I just finished the (almost) final round of editing on Book II in the Capritare series. Now, it’s time to reprint for one last perusal. At this point, my beta-readers also get a first look at it in order to check for holes in the story, pacing and any typos I missed.

This is the fun part–the part where others get to read the story that, until now, had only existed in my head and hard-drive. The feedback I receive from this next stage is excellent to either confirm, or rebuke, my own estimation of the story.

::: Minimizes internet window. Sets parameters. Clicks “Print”. :::

Two Cents

There is a great line from a Jay Brannan song that says:I should have million of dollars, ’cause every asshole’s put two cents in.

I have been receiving a lot of useful feedback from the authors & readers at Authonomy. Most of the comments have been helpful in pointing out issues that my myopic view of the story won’t allow me to see. These suggestions have helped me further polish the narrative to a lustrous sheen.

As with opinions on any topic, many can be disregarded outright. This has become most apparent when receiveing reviews from readers who don’t normally delve into the fantasy genre. One issue that has been noted, is that the storia begins in media res. The stage is set, the characters are already in place, and the reader is allowed to sit around a campfire-of-sorts and join a conversation which has already begun. The backstory unfolds for the reader as the characters discover the truths for themselves.

I feel strongly about dropping the reader into the midst of the opening scene where they begin to learn about the world from the characters’ viewpoint. Having just been “reborn” in a sense, the characters are beginning their journey, and we are taken along for the ride. I found an interview of literary agent Laurie McLean by Stacey O’Neale here . Laurie addresses this issue in one of her responses.

Q: With fiction partials, what makes you stop reading and start skimming-or stop reading altogether?
A: The usual suspects. Grammatical errors, misspellings, too much exposition, too little character revelation, using too many words to say something, passive verbs, too little or too much world building, slow pacing, backstory, etc. In this modern age, and especially with fantasy, you need to pack as much power into your opening scene as possible. Your world should be front and center, but not so much that you slow the pacing of the action to a crawl. Banish backstory in this scene. Instead feather it throughout the manuscript-exactly what is needed exactly when the reader needs to know it, not before. And make your characters compelling. If the reader doesn’t like the character enough to want to take the journey of a story with them, you’ve lost me.

I may very well be using this excerpt as a proof-text to prove that my instinct is correct. That’s okay. I can bend a little on providing a bit more explanation up front if needed. CAPRITARE: The Cycles Begin doesn’t currently have a “Prologue”, so I can always add a lead-in if need be. But, I am going to hold out and wait for that recommendation to come from an agent, not a non-fantasy-reading-reviewer.

I’m with Jay. I ought to be a millionaire.

A New Addiction

Authonomy is addictive.

I am a goal-oriented chap. Authonomy is a like crack to an overachiever like me. The site dangles the huge, yummy carrot of making it to the Editor’s Desk in front of hopeful authors. And we claw after it.

When the month ends, the top five books on the site make it to the ED, and recieve a review from Harper Collins. That’s it. While a professional review is a good thing, biting into Authonomy’s Holy Grail is not a promise of publication. I read in one of the forums that only four of the past ED books have been picked up by Harper Collins.

Still, we strive.

That striving takes on many forms; forum participation, shameless email pleading, promises of read-swaps, the targeting of both newbies and high-ranking members, etc. My personal efforts have been mainly offering thorough, honest critiques of authors’ first two or three chapters. I enjoy the analysis, and it keeps my editorial eye keen.

At this point, after signing up thirteen days ago, I have read more than ninety chapters. Unless the writing is completely indecipherable–or utterly boring–I provide specific feedback on both the contents and mechanics. About 75% of the authors have responded with their own comments on my novel.

So, as far as addictions go, Authonomy doesn’t have a lot of noticeable side-effects. It does, however, have some positive ones:

  • The more I read others’ writing, the better I am becoming at weighing the merit of my own
  • While the many of the resulting comments offer platitudes, a few contain solid feedback i have already implemented to hone my manuscript
  • The process definitely tightens up the self-marketing skills–which will be helpful once my novel is actually in print & e-reader format (YES! It will happen.)
  • There are some amazing, quirky authors on Authonomy, and it’s great to connect with like minds

[Disclaimer: These are probably just the ramblings of an addict trying to justify his addiction…]

Comments, feedback, a six-star rating, and placing my book on your Authonomy shelf are all welcome.

[Damnnit! There I go again.]

We’re Moving On Up…

Authonomy has a ranking system where other authors can back an unpublished book. The higher the novel climbs in the ranking, the more eyes look at it. If it makes it to–and stays in–the Top 5 for a while, it magically gets transported to an Editor’s Desk at Harper Collins.

Beginning as a brand-spanking-newbie two days ago, CAPRITARE: The Cycles Begin started at position 5,334. So far, it has inched up 233 notches, and is currently ranked 5,101.

Here’s to celebrating small achievements, and working our way to the top!

::: raises glass :::

Novel Feedback

Finally, I am getting feedback on my novel from virtual strangers. This means, they have no face-to-face connection to me, no reason to flatter or hold back their true assessment. These comments are from members of the CreateSpace & Authonomy communities.

“Lucas, great imagination!I feel transported to an intriguing mythical world, yet the kids are very much teens,as in real life. The end of the preview keeps you in suspense for what’s next.
The rating is actually 4 and a half stars (they don’t have 1/2 star here).
You have a well-written, enjoyable story that issure to delight many – young adults and adults.”
“I liked the concept thateach one has to solve a different puzzle; my personal favorite character wasNeelid. Found him funny yet cool. He supposedly solves his puzzle quickly, yeteveryone makes fun of him because of it. And he could not even get his shirtoff, which is even funnier. I was interested to find out more about it. I reallylike the concept. “
“Interesting story, even though thistype of fantasy is not my specialty… The imagery is wonderful. It begins in the storystraight away, which is great for first person POV (my personal favorite). Ireally like what you have so far and, even though it’s not my normal read, Idefinitely plan on coming back for more. Your creatures, in a sense, areequally intriguing! On my shelf to support some fine writing :)”

“The most original story I’ve read here. Very, very different. Part Lit Fic, part fantasy,part dreamworld. Imaginative, creative, greatdescriptions, and well written. I have no idea ifthis story will be popular here, but it is quality, and it is unique. Welldone. Recommended.”
It’s great to get this kind of feedback. Even though it is not from “professional” editors/agents, it is good to hear what the Everyday Reader thinks of my work.