Friday, April 2, 2010

B is for Breakdowns!

First of all, I want to thank those of you that emailed me or commented on my blog about the Alternate Version Blogfest that I participated in yesterday.  You guys are wonderfully supportive. 

Fellow blogger has issued a challenged to blog every day of the month of April (not Sundays) with each post topic starting with a letter of the alphabet. Its called The Blogging from A-Z Challenge. This sounded sufficiently insane for me to think it was a great idea!

So yesterday was obviously "A" for Alternate Universe. Today's offering is a bit more personal. Its "B" is for Breakdown...or perhaps that should be under "N" for Nervous Breakdown?? Not sure.  You see, I recently completed the first draft of my current novel, Ruby Dawn, and started revisions.  Great, right? Well, I read an article from my critique group about, "Hooks".  Not the fun fishing kind, but the literary kind.

To explain, the email asserted that one of the most common points of rejections that editors say influenced them to reject a manuscript is that the story doesn't hook them right away.  In fact, they apparently prefer for a hook to occur within the first 50 words...WORDS.  So I read my manuscript...and had a Breakdown...my hook is almost three pages in.  ARGH!
So I've gone to work, but I need your help. I've posted the original opening paragraph below followed by the revised "Hook-ed" paragraph.  I would love it if you read them both and told me what you think.

Original:
I was eight years old and newly born. A broken child found abandoned in a bus station. I lay unconscious for two days in the I.C.U. No memory of who I was, or who hurt me so badly ever came. There was no missing child report. No parents clamored at the reception desk begging to know my condition. I simply blinked into existence one morning. The nurses named me Ruby Dawn, after the color of the morning sky the day I opened my eyes.

"Hook-ed":
I should have known to stay away from dark corners. Nothing good ever happened to me in them. But it was my job to look and it was a good thing I did because the ghost I found that night belonged to me. In retrospect, the asphalt and the blood seemed fitting, considering my start in life.

A broken child found abandoned in a bus station. I was eight years old and newly born. I lay unconscious for two days in the I.C.U. No memory of who I was, or who hurt me so badly ever came. I simply blinked into existence one morning. The nurses named me Ruby Dawn, after the color of the morning sky the day I opened my eyes.

According to the article, a hook has to grab the reader with the promise of what is too come...sort of a literary teaser to keep reading.  I'll keep working and look forward to your ideas and input. Feel free to not only critique...but throw out some ideas.

Photograph by: Dave-F, Uploaded on February 4, 2006. Photograph by orangeacid, Uploaded on August 1, 2006

6 comments:

Erin said...

I knew it was within the first 1000 words and that was bad enough!
You reworked your hook well.

arlee bird said...

I liked the first version best. It hooked me. The introduction of of the "hooked" version felt too contrived and told me too much from the outset. The premise of the story's opening sound interesting though.
Lee

marielaurel said...

The "hooked" version grabs me more. The second paragraph helps to set up your story, but it just does not flow smoothly. Try to work out so much use of the "I" and start your second sentence with the word abandoned, cast off, neglected, void of vital love, etc.--just broken and abondoned isn't strong enough to describe that very moment. The last line about the nurses naming the baby Ruby Dawn is powerful, and if reworked a little stronger, perhaps it could start the paragraph. That's my two cents!

Carlos said...

I like the 'Hooked' version too. I think it makes better use of your character 'voice'. The first version is well written, but the second one seems more personal. Also, remember when you said "I'm giving up writing..." then jammed my email with 10 new chapters? Gotta love breakdowns.

prochaskas said...

I tend to like more straightforward, less "stylish" or "poetic" or "dramatic" writing -- so I liked the first version better. (Likewise I'm usually more interested in character than plot, and character seems stronger in the first version.)

However, it wasn't until the second version that I "got" the bit about eight years old and newly born. Skimmed right through it the first time.

Patricia Stoltey said...

Slightly off the topic -- your photo of the rooster makes me suspect he's a close cousin of my own squawking bird. I featured mine in a January post at: http://patriciastoltey.blogspot.com/2010/01/photo-essay-dancing-chicken-and-barking.html