One of the things I'd like to accomplish with "Tales of the Easily Distracted" is to get some feedback on my fiction, with your kind indulgence. I'm currently going over my first novel, The Paranoia Club, with ghost editor Nicole Bokat in order to make sure that when we're done, PClub will be as high-quality as possible before I start marketing the manuscript to real live editors. Susan Shapiro's "Secrets of Selling Your First Book" seminar was a big help in crafting my query letter copy. Here it is, for your consideration:
Surviving a fire at New York's most celebrated therapeutic preschool as a child, Sean Wilder hasn't let the odd recurring nightmare keep him from growing up a capable young man in a family of eccentrics. Now two decades later, Sean is overjoyed by the return of his childhood sweetheart Claire, but horrified to learn that people connected to that long-ago fire are turning up dead. Coincidence? Are Sean and Claire next? His fugitive brother Gordie might have the answers, but can their detective sister Cori pin him down long enough to ask the questions?
The Paranoia Club is a character-driven New York-set thriller with an undercurrent of humor. The story unfolds from the third-person limited viewpoint of protagonist Sean Wilder. Think of it as Donald E. Westlake meets Andrew Klavan.
I also have a list of critical criteria which I started just to keep me focused (I am, after all, easily distracted :-)), though my friends and fellow writers in LinkOnline and First Draft Online, among others, have also found it helpful. Here it is, in case y'all find it helpful, too:
Dorian’s Critical Criteria
1) Does the story hang together well?
2) Are the characters engaging and/or realistic? Do you care what happens to them one way or another?
3) Are the characterizations consistent without the characters being one-note? Is their behavior in keeping with their established personalities?
4) Is the dialogue bright and snappy — or powerful — without sounding phony or stilted?
5) Does the story have a good pace?
6) Does it accomplish what it sets out to do; e.g., did the comedy make you laugh, was the thriller suspenseful, etc.?
7) Is it unpredictable without being uneven?
8) Is it holding your interest?
9) If something comes up in a chapter that doesn’t seem to have anything to do with anything else, just take it for granted that it will be important later. Having said that, if I’ve introduced the new element in question awkwardly, feel free to suggest more graceful ways to work it in.
Next time: Chapter One of the most-polished-to-date draft of The Paranoia Club, just so you can see what I'm blathering about! :-)
(Photo taken in New York City by Isarda Sorensen, August 2010)