Thursday, September 03, 2009

Sample Editorial Letter #3 Suspense/Action

The writing is good and the storyline is fascinating. There are portions were it’s a bit too technological or scientific but that is probably just my lack of knowledge in those areas so I wouldn’t change it unless you feel it’s too much for the layman.

Also, you have a habit of jumping from one scene to another very quickly without really saying much to add to the plot. Perhaps some of these shorter jumps can be combined into longer glimpses into the characters and their roles in the novel.

The characterization could use work – a little more background on the major players would be nice. You did a decent job of it with Fuentes, letting us know what he was all about which sets him up nicely to be your protagonist.

We had touched briefly on focusing on one or more ‘heroes’ for the story. In most great action/psychological/thrillers there is usually a hero or a band of heroes working together or individually for the same goal. Readers want to latch onto someone and watch him/her/them save the world. There are too many characters here, and many of them thing and forgettable (not enough stage time, if you will). Perhaps if you picked out Fuentes and one of the soldiers (your choice) to hammer home that hero aspect it would really drive the book forward more. Some of the characters can be combined into composite characters to serve more than one role to cut down on the confusion of so many players. It’s hard to give real depth to so many different people. Concentrate on the ones that are most important, give them more dimension and depth, build them into real people with backgrounds, histories, families (or lack thereof) and real problems, ideas, goals and drive.

The story does drag a little in the middle, but that can easily be fixed by combining some of the short bits into longer ones. It will cut down on the choppiness and create better flow.

You also could use some better segues into new scenes. Perhaps you could start each chapter or section with a date and time stamp as well as where it’s taking place to keep the reader better informed on the timeline. The timeline could use work.

As we discussed last week there needs to be a new beginning. Perhaps the prologue featuring the killings and infestation at the pumping station and then starting chapter one with Fuentes and his hectic hospital schedule. This would make for a more intriguing introduction to the novel – it sets the scene for terrorism and hooks the reader into wanting more – what will happen? Is it the end of New Orleans (or Philadelphia)? Etc. it’s a great hook. Then swinging back into the every day life of the American people (ie Feuntes and his girlfriend, the rest of the hospital staff, etc) sets the stage for the major upheaval in all things routine, familiar and calm. Of course if you want to go in another direction, other ideas can work.

By page 27 nothing has really happened yet. There’s lots of build up but there needs to be more action or purpose at this point. I think we the little bit that we have discussed you’re aware of this and have already addressed it. But I thought to point it out anyway.

Are you picking a date in time – say 2007 (which is when the book would be published if picked up in the next few months) or do you want to keep it anonymous with just the date but no year?

We also discussed the characters talking out loud to themselves to give background information. This is unnatural and awkward. You can do it using the third person giving them dimension and life without having the character actually doing the talking.

I think that beefing up the press’ role in the manuscript can really hammer home how it’s having a global effect and not just the local. Let’s see the press getting involved (and in the way – press can really add drama both good and bad – press make great heroes, villains and stepping stones for bigger things). Let’s see the President visit, the mayor, fundraising – like Katrina – the press blows things up and people want to get involved. By including the press you give an outsiders view of how things look and with the rest of the story you can show what’s REALLY going on. It could add great flavor to the book.

Your dialogue is natural and realistic for the most part. In some areas it’s a bit strained which I will point out in the page by page notes below.

Page by Page notes:

Page 3 isn’t ‘dope’ a bit dated?

Page 7: there is some technical talk here that I think may be too much for the layman (ie: me) it went right over my non-medical head.

Page 11: When Karen is talking about Ron it’s not a conversation – this is an info dump where she just gives the reader background info. This could be done in the third person without conversation and she can just briefly touch on it to let the readers know Fuentes’ staff knows his beginnings.

Page 18: You jump from Khalid to Atoomb – it’s the same person – pick first or last name and stick with it.

Page 23: Is this the same hospical? The name is not mentioned before – just the phrase ‘Charity Nurses’. Need to clarify. Also, the timeline is missing here. How much time has passed? What time is it? Same day?

Page 34: Where is this?

Page 39: You have a talking head here – you need action. Have a conversation, some action, pausing, something. It’s too dull just having one person rattle off a monologue.

Page 43: is this the same container mentioned earlier - the one with secret compartments? Needs clarification.

Page 58: You have two characters with the name Paul – introduced on the same page – that is confusing.

Page 73: This is great stuff: action, interesting, character driven, etc. We need more of this!

Page 86: Why hasn’t anyone gone to the water treatment plant yet? It seems the first place they would go. It hasn’t even been mentioned at all.

Page 98: he’s not really an actor – this is a bit confusing.

Page 100: this is all drawn out too much and drags the story down.

Page 104: let’s hear more of how they went into the plant and found the bodies, etc. Instead of relaying what could be a powerful and frighteningly real scene through a brief dialogue – bring the readers to the scene with Tower – show them what he saw – bring the horror of what can happen alive. It’s much more powerful to read these things first hand – draw the reader in.

Page 105: Loads of characters – it’s getting very difficult to keep track. Also, if the Navy Doctor says ‘ain’t’ in one sentence, the rest of his dialogue should less formal to match it. I’ve done light editing here to show you.

Page 106: he had a page? Or he was paged? Confusing.

Page 107: Here is a bit more dialogue spoken out loud by Marshall while he is alone. People don’t talk like this when they are alone. It doesn’t need to be in dialogue – it can be third person.

Page 114: The scenes are getting shorter and choppier. You’re jumping from one thing to another without resolving anything really. Needs more build up in the scenes. Consider lengthening them.

Page 120: Things are slowing down here. The disease seems to be under control. What’s going on here?

Page 123: There are so many characters you need to start reintroducing them. It’s very hard to keep track.

Page 129: Brown-nosed is not a verb (sorry – it’s the editor in me)

Page 130: I was wondering when you’d get back to the terrorists – it’s been a very long break since we’ve seen their point of view. It would be great to have both sides chiming in throughout the manuscript. If that’s the way you want to go with it. However, if you want to keep it as is – you need to keep the terrorists in the forefront – it’s been over 100 pages since they were last seen – that’s too long to keep them out of it.

Page 153: Again – here is a spot that a timeline could be used. You mention three days had gone by but gave no indication of this to the reader. It came out of left field.

Page 165: Things are starting to get interesting again – the story is picking back up.

Page 176: I don’t understand why they stopped Zarif before he reached his final destination. Weren’t they trying to follow him to the rest of his cell?

Page 193: How would the disease spread from one person to another if it is not airborne? Am I missing something here? Did the strain mutate or something?

Page 206: jumping from scene to scene too quickly again.

Page 220: How are they coping with the diarrhea? Remember the Superdome and the problems they had – borrow from reality and really paint a picture of how difficult and horrific the conditions are. Add drama and reality to the already dire situation.

Page 231: he says that his people are holding up but Karen is not. Also, who is speaking in some of these dialogue bubbles? They need to be attributed to a speaker.

Page 234: it’s not really clear why they are in Iran. We need a clearer picture of how this information was received. What’s the connection to New Orleans? We need a paper trail of information and a timeline. What are the many events leading up to this?

Page 235: We need a clearer picture of who Atoomb is and why they are after him. Storyline is a bit blurred but can easily be fixed. This is all great stuff, however.

Page 237: How’d they connect with him? Am I missing something? Surely he’s not alone in his mission – where is his team?

Page 244: They flew at an altitude of 15 feet? Isn’t that a bit low?

Page 247: What surveillance did they do? How’d they know who to go after?

Page 249: Give us details on how they knew it was ‘the’ van. CSI stuff – it seems to easy as it is written right now.

Page 250: Let’s hear how they got him to talk. Take us into the room, don’t tell us about it afterwards, let’s hear it first hand. Much more dramatic and effective.

Page 253: You need a better transition. I could not remember who McDonald was. Had to think about it.

Page 267: I like the way the president is getting involved now – this is good stuff.

Page 285: The ending is good – wraps all things up. However, how much time has passed? Seems that Fuentes took up a new girl mighty quickly. Other than that I think the ending was solid.