Monday, July 15, 2013

The Five Stages of Having Your Manuscript Requested

Let's hope he's just sleeping.
I've discovered there is a lot more to having your manuscript requested than popping open champagne bottles and high-fiving yourself.  For those of you on the cusp of experiencing this phenomenon, here is a brief review of the stages you can expect to endure during the process.

Stage One – Shock

Short, personal responses in your inbox from agents whose taste you admire and whose opinions you value indicating that your query and sample pages were satisfactory enough to request a full can have an unsteadying effect on an already fragile nervous system.  It is recommended you have all windows closed and possibly accessorize your outfits with a mosquito net over your face (Lady Gaga has probably done this) during this stage as your mouth will be hanging open unattractively for a time.
Stage Two – Euphoria

During this stage, your mind will jump forward in time, to a point where you have already signed with one of the agents who requested your full, have sold your manuscript to a large publisher, had your work received with admiration on a global scale by critics and readers alike, and you are being spoken of in the same breath as Poe, Austin, and King. This stage lasts approximately four minutes.

Stage Three – Hives and Cold Sweats

This stage is relatively self explanatory.  As you wait for any of the agents with your full to respond, you experience the physical suffering usually associated with victims of exotic, air-borne jungle diseases, most of which will have been irradiated by Bill Gates by 2023.  These symptoms strangely will give you the uncanny ability to find every typo in your manuscript that was overlooked in the past nine hundred and seventy-two edits, resigning you to the fact that you've ruined any chance you may have had of getting an agent.

Stage Four – Self-Inflicted Delusion

After a month or so of waiting for replies, the highs of stage two and the lows of stage three will give way to a questioning of your own mental sanity and all things which you once believed you knew and understood.  The first thing to be questioned will be whether your manuscript was ever actually requested at all.  You will double check the emails asking for the full, rereading lines such as “I would like to see more” for an overlooked word that could drastically change the line's meaning, such as “I would like NOT to see more.”  This stage is a decent into madness and depression probably much like that experienced by Hemingway on a daily basis. 

Stage Five – Ambiguously Alive Cat

Well, I’m not actually to stage five yet.  It seems like it could go one of two ways.  I get an agent or I don’t.  Right now, stage five is the Schrödinger's cat of stages.  Until I open emails from all of the agents with my manuscript, my dream of securing an agent and getting my work published is both alive and dead.  Here’s hoping one of those excellent agents is a cat person.        

Friday, July 12, 2013

Missed Opportunities

There's no crying in working out!
Have you ever looked at a situation, thrown your hands up in the air and said, “Whatever!  Fine!  Not meant to be.  I get it.”

I went to the gym Wednesday night, and basically did this in my head.  Had I done it literally, I’m pretty sure I’d have been wedgied, and justifiably so.  Monday’s are the worst night to go to the gym, and I’ve learned Wednesday is clearly a close second.  I went up hoping to find a few people (preferably the older members who don’t use the same equipment or weights I do) milling around and basically staying out of my way so I could have an awesome workout session without awkward  waiting, without an audience, and without much wasted time.  Instead, I walk inside and discover other people (gasp!) having the audacity to use the facilities for which they pay dearly every month at the same time I wanted to use them.  “Whatever!  Fine!  Not meant to be.  I get.”

I walked around a little, observing that the stations I wanted to use were being used by guys who, while in less need of them than myself, had every right to be using them when I happened to want to be.  I sulked a little, I pouted, and I considered going home.  But after weighing my options, I recognized my whole schedule would be blow if I took off, so instead, I got to work. 

I picked less popular machines and did some different exercises on them.  My body was challenged and responded.   I also discovered ‘dips’, which were something I hadn’t really done to date.  My shoulders let me know I really need to be doing them.  I no longer felt like having a hissy fit.  After the first thirty minutes, the place was clearing out and I was able to get to some of things I couldn’t before.  Being appreciative to finally get to the equipment, I upped my weights.  By the end of the night, I had a better workout than I ever would have if things had been the way I imagined they should be when I first arrived.

When things go just the way we think they should, that can be nice.  But other times, what looks like a challenge or an obstacle is actually the stimulus we need to break through a wall or surpass a plateau we’ve been stuck on.

Not every problem you encounter is an opportunity waiting to be discovered, but rarely does the status quo contain any such potential.  Embrace a challenge and reap the rewards.  Shrink from one, and be left to wonder what you could have accomplished.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Gimmicks and Being Manipulated

How much more obnoxious is a smirk in 3-D?

I’ve decided, in general and with only a few exceptions, I’m not a big fan of 3-D movies.  Avatar was really special and I can’t imagine seeing it any other way, and I recently watched the new Star Trek and thought it was quite good in that format.  Other than those two examples though, I haven’t been impressed with the gimmick of 3-D in movies.

It’s kind of weird, because I really like 3-D in real life.  Helps me not bump into things or accidentally touch people’s faces when gesturing.  But so far in movies, the effect feels forced, out of place, and even manipulative.  It’s like a big, bright, pop-up book where one layer of scenery is connected by the next with a little cardboard tab between them, spelling out for me what I should be paying attention to and what is only marginally important in the scene.  And of course, you have to wear those funny glasses.

When watching Oz the Great and Powerful this weekend without the benefit of 3-D, I was drawn out of the story at various points when I could see a scene had been shot or an effect added specifically to maximize the third dimension.  I’m sure in the theater people ooohed and ahhhed, but in my bedroom, I just shrugged and thought about the technical aspects of how movies are made instead of the story unfolding before me.  Why do we need so many butterflies flying around right now?  Why is this air balloon ride taking so long?   

So, have you ever felt like you were being manipulated in a story you were reading?  Gotten to a spot where you stop, reread, and thought, “Where did that come from?”

Here’s the first example that came to mind for me.  If you haven’t read The Hunger Games series yet, spoiler alert issued now.  You may want to continue this article another time.

The impetuous for Katniss to volunteer for the games in the first place, the whole purpose behind her getting into a situation that became the whole story of this three book series, was to save her little sister, Prim.  As long as Prim was spared, the hardships Katniss endured for three slightly similar books were bearable because her sacrifice was noble and with purpose. 

Then we get to the end of the third book. 

And Prim dies.

 “Where did that come from?” I heard myself saying.  Feeling a little manipulated are we?  The author had a dilemma she had to solve and I wasn’t pleased with the technique she used to solve it.  She had painted herself into a corner with a love triangle that had developed rather lopsidedly, one that really should have Peetaed out in the second book, and now she needed an excuse for everybody to turn their back on Gale (including Katniss) and begrudgingly accept Peeta (like Katniss does).  How about having Gale complicit in the death of Prim?  We haven’t used Prim much since the opening of the first book.  The readers care about her but don’t need her, and they seemed to take Prim’s stand in Rue’s death pretty well.  That’ll work.  Sure, why not?

I’ll tell you why not!  It destroyed the noble purpose of Katniss’ sacrifice.  I could have stomached Katniss’ depressing fate a little more easily if her efforts could have been seen bearing fruit for her little sister.  Prim dying was a gimmick and a quick fix that didn’t fit in the overall story arc.  It was a weak link in an otherwise stellar story.

So, have you read a book where you felt a little manipulated or even downright cheated by a gimmick?  Let’s hear about.  And no need to make it pop out at us.  A good story sells itself.