Friday, January 05, 2007

A Hook for a Book

On the 15th of last month, an anonymous literary agent by the name of Miss Snark began accepting 'hooks' from unpublished novels written by the readers of her blog. For the price of on the house, she would apply her agent-tastic market sensibilities to each and every hook (which could be no more than 250 words), and offer suggestions on how to punch it up and make it more hook-y. If she liked it, she'd ask for pages, which later on she'd also post up on her blog, and then critique those. Even if she loved the material, she wasn't offering representation -- the process was intended only as a service to her readers and to supply her book marketing seminars with teachable material. She's done this sort of thing before, previously with first pages and synopses, and she refers to the whole exercise as a "Crapometer", which kind of presupposes the entries will all be crap, though, as with most unpublished fiction, that's a pretty safe assumption.

After a bit of hemming and hawing (who me?), I decided to take part in Snark's Crapometer and, at about 3AM on the morning of the 16th, I submitted a hook for my novel, "Claudine". (The rules stated that she would only read entries submitted between 8PM on the 15th and 8AM on the 16th.) All in all she received 682 hooks, of which mine was #617. She got to mine on the 29th of last month. This is what I submitted and what she reviewed:
"Miller Sturtevant wants a new house. He’s a handsome and slightly geeky CEO on the verge of a record-breaking IPO and he wants to trade up. Problem is his wife’s fine where they are, and he’s developed an irrational fixation on a gated community called Canaan Cove that’s never once put a house on the market. When a pair of residents die in a suspicious explosion, the neighborhood quickly offers Miller the newly-vacant house.

The moving trucks aren’t gone a week before Miller realizes there’s something’s very strange about his new neighborhood. The weird guardhouse attendant who never takes a day (or night) off, the dog next door that hurls itself against its chain all night long without making a sound, and cryptic, half-whispered mentions of a “machine” all have Miller wondering what the hell his neighbors are really up to. When a violent encounter with Christopher Rounsaville, the crazed President of the Homeowner’s Association, ends in a broken nose and a not-so-veiled reference to Miller’s role in Rounsaville’s mysterious plan, Miller’s suddenly thinking of ways out of Canaan. He soon discovers, however, that his captors have thought of everything. They need him for something and they’re not taking their eyes off him for a second.

A handwritten note promising a chance for escape changes everything. Soon after, Miller is immersed into a world of cults, murderous zealots, ritualized violence, and alternate dimensions that will reveal the terrible path Miller must travel to finally escape from Canaan Cove."

That took a few hours and 6 or 7 drafts to get to and even now as I read it, I want to re-write it. Two-hundred and fifty words is plenty for a log-line, but to hook someone's interest, it doesn't feel like a lot to work with. You can click here to find out what Miss Snark had to say about my hook, and then, if you want, click the comments to see what some other Snark acolytes chimed in with. She wasn't too hooked as you can see, but I'd say her comment fell somewhere in the middle range out of the other 681 submissions. For some a simple "WTF!?" sufficed, while she told others to re-think their entire books. So I'm weirdly relieved not to have gotten that kind of reaction. Anyway, thought I'd post it up and give the uninitiated a taste of what I've been working on for way too long.

Have a good weekend, folks.


Peter said...

Good for u.

I didnt know you were writing a book!

blankfist said...

Hey, I put a link in her comments section back to the inanities. I hope that is okay.

Speck said...

The reader comments all sounded fairly interested in reading the novel.

The question is when will Crane actually get the damn thing published...

harwell said...

That's a brave undertaking submitting to that woman. It seems as if the whole thing is sort of set up for her to knock people down. Granted, some of those hooks clearly needed knocking down but after reading fifty of those I imagine one would lose all capacity to be fair and generous. After 600? Forget it. You'd just want to do whatever is necessary to finish.

Reading through them though I admit I got a little scared. The odds of finding a hook that's exactly like every idea I've ever come up with (only better) were too overwhelming for me. I ran away scared back to the hairy bosom of the inanities.


Craig Moorhead said...

As one of the posters mentioned, I think the Home Owner's Association is the thing that sets this story apart. I've always thought they're inherently creepy - sort of a micro-Big Brother - but I don't think I've ever seen them really played up.

Plus, the reason people have seen and heard these creepy neighbor stories is because it's a universal truth that neighborhoods are creepy. All the people in my neighborhood are pretty nice, but you never really know what's going on in those houses, ya know?

Craig Moorhead said...
This comment has been removed by the author.