I’ve been looking around the web, trying to find a site that maybe I can get some feedback through. I came back to that ole Scribophile site. I was there for a bit. But, like Fanstory, they suffer from a similar experience: people who are only concerned with HOW you can sell a story. And all those basic little “mistakes” first time writers make. An example of what I mean from one of these sites:
Putting this up, as I wrote it, the original text is, “SHE STOOD THERE, paralyzed. The hand around her throat pressing her face harder into the filth encrusted wall of brick and mud. She tried to stifle the sob desperate to unleash itself and braced for the inevitable violation of her body. She felt a grimy hand (calloused and not the least bit gentle), crawling up her thigh as her frilled satin dress slid up towards her waist. Her eyes clenched tighter, and the sobbing started breaking through.”
How the general reviewer response would be while reviewing this passage, “This is way too wordy. Try not to describe so much and just get into the basics. Why not something like this, ‘Her face was pressed into the wall. The hand around it clenched tighter. She cringed in fear as he pulled up her dress. She braced herself to be raped.’ As you can see, this description gets right into the action and doesn’t bother the reader with so much description. Let the reader get straight to the point. Don’t bog them down with unnecessary adjectives and long sentences. It’s extraneous and pointless.”
Now, there’s nothing wrong with the advice given with this passage (full disclosure: I did NOT actually post this to Scribophile. This is an example of feedback that I have received from the site and is exactly how the readers there review. I don’t have those old feedbacks readily available. So, I am giving an example of what is received while publishing there. Or, seeking advice anyway. And, should you seek out a website like this, expect similar statements). What’s interesting in this that I’ve found is that most people on those sites tend to stick to the perception of those industry standards that only look for straightforward works (this in spite of the ONSLAUGHT of multimedia projects such as: Resident Evil, Mass Effect, Star Wars, and any number of projects based off an already established product. Novels based on those entities such as Supernatural and Star Trek tend to not be very well written and only exist to get every last dollar. So, yay?) Here’s an example of that mentality straight from a blogger on Scribophile on the notion of selling your work to the mass market:
“If you dream of one day having your book at Barnes and Noble next to Wally Lamb or Mary Higgins Clark, you’d better learn this quick: It must show market potential—which means:
It’s engaging to read
It’s got an innovative, original concept
It’s written with clear, strong language
It plays to an audience that is currently buying books
If you’re an unpublished author and your work can’t meet these criteria, nobody in the publishing world will go near it.
Why? Because publishing is a business—a simple fact they don’t teach you in creative writing classes. When a project comes across an agent/editor’s desk, they’re only thinking one thing: Can I sell this? Although you may love and emulate books by Austen, Hemingway or Tolkien, you should realize—those books would never get published in today’s market!” (bold emphasis is mine but it IS italicized! BTW an aside. Clear, strong language is BS. What they want is simple, to the point language.)
That’s right, folks! Austen, Hemingway, and Tolkien wouldn’t be touched with a ten foot pole in the modern market. That means those famous authors (who, mind you, are the reason we even have a modern market) would have a helluva time trying to find a publisher to carry their works.
Let’s look at the very first paragraph of Tolkien’s seminal work, The Hobbit.
“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.”
To me, that’s a perfectly fine and exceptional passage. It immediately brings to mind a scene that suggests a small person hiding himself away under the ground. Safe and sound and secure. Yet, this passage wouldn’t even garner much more than a fleeting ‘eh’ from the modern editor (and, to be honest, Tolkien himself did actually have some issues with editors and publishers of his own time. Which was why Lord of the Rings ended up a trilogy rather than the single novel he had envisioned. But it would be even more difficult in this day in age, is all that I’m saying). So, what the MODERN editor is looking for, if you wish to be published through them, of course, would be something more in line with:
“He was a small person known as a hobbit. He lived in a small hole dug into the ground. It wasn’t dirty or nasty by any sense of those terms. But comfortable and safe.”
Now, again, there’s nothing wrong with this suggested edit. HOWEVER, I’m having a serious problem with our modern story telling conventions. They basically are saying there is no room for flourish (and I LOVE flourish). There is only room for getting to the point. And I find that sad. I think that might be the reason why we don’t have any modern day classics. Not like The Hobbit, and Lord of the Rings, and The Grapes of Wrath, or The Great Gatsby. No, our current day best sellers list includes things like:
The President Is Missing by Bill Clinton and James Patterson
The Outsiders by Stephen King
Line of Sight by Tom Clancy
The Pharaoh Key by Mike Maden
and Shelter In Place by Nora Roberts