Sunday, December 31, 2006

Where's the Plot?

So that was the criticism and subsequent rejection in miss snark's latest crapfest. However, I don't agree that my novel Warm Front has no plot. It clearly does and I engineered it from page one. The premise itself under assault here from an Australian techwriter:

"Given this, I have to say a story where the public suddenly 'gets' the immensity of the problem because of a series of newspaper articles is somewhat hard to believe.

Maybe you could narrow the focus the message being delivered somewhat.[sic]"

Since some of the more colorful climate sceptic shills in the book are Aussies I'm not surprised this one doesn't get it. I called them the "Kookaburra Consortium" in Warm Front.

Alas, to no avail in snarkdom, and this sort of detail can't be explained in a quick hook very well, but then I have experience with my other nonfiction science journalism with Her Snarkiness as well so I'm getting an "environment enshmironment" view from this country girl agent. She brings a local bias (I won't say where, but I've worked there) to the table against this topic. Public perception really is skewed by propaganda from all directions, but ofttimes reality is exactly as it seems: The oil company is the villain and eco-terrorists aren't manufacturing false disasters like State of Fear. Occam's Razor invoked.


Blogger Peter L. Winkler said...

Dear Mark:

I have skipped almost all of Snark's Crapometer stuff, but when I read your post here I went and read your full query there as well as the comments. Had you not posted here about it, I would not have known you submitted to Snark.

I hope you will consider my comments in the context that I consider myself a friend and not an adversary of yours, though I suspect my status in your eyes will probably change after you read this.

From Encarta, we have a definition of plot: "story line: the story or sequence of events in something such as a novel, play, or movie."

Basically, I have to agree with Miss Snark. At best, what I see in your query is a theme or idea.
Pro-environmentalists attempt to clue general population on dangers of global warming, Artic Oil and Senator Shill oppose them. It's too vague and tepid, not compelling.

You say your novel has a plot, and not having read it, I can't disagree, but you don't communicate it well in your letter.

Two additional points relate to your reaction to Snark and the Aussie tech writer.

Since I don't recall anything negative about the Aussies in your query, I don't possibly see how his point is motivated by chauvinism, unless he's somehow read the novel, which I assume he hasn't. I also agree that newspapers would be an ineffecient and unreliable medium for widespread dissemination of the heroes' message, because newspaper readership is plummeting and electronic media have far more reach-remember, Al Gore made a movie to get across his points.

In response to Miss Snark's "no Plot," you summarized the plot of State of Fear and said it was absurd.

1. It may be absurd, but Chricton has a plot. That doesn't address the problem with you query's lack thereof.

2. Chricton can get away with all sorts of things you can't, because publishers think he's money in the bank. I once heard that Chricton sold Congo on the title alone.
There are rules for us, and then they just don't get applied to some people.

Nobody in publishing knows who you are. They aren't going to make allowances for your literary failings. If Chricton burbs, publishers bid for his acid reflux.

The initial temptation of every rejected writer is to reject the rejecters, but sometimes you really have to consider what they are telling you. It may be valid and you may have to reconsider what you've written.


3:07 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

Understood Peter. I'm pissed that I couldn't convey it in the letter. The book has the same plot as Crichton's only my characters find the right conclusion. I admit the letter failed as they often seem to. Writing a new query is necessary, but happily a new book is not.

This stuff is real and happening both before our eyes and behind the scenes. The Aussies have frequent sceptic op-eds refuting global warming. Like all newspaper articles they are published online blasted 24-7 on FOX and regurgitated back at us through relatives and others so politically inclined. It's a propaganda war. It's so warm there anyway they can't tell and they have a distinct conservative bent.

In addition, since the oil company senator, and thinktank shills are the villains, as in real life opposite of Crichton, this is too predictable for snark. And it may be againsy her politics as well.

Do you know who she is? I do and the list is, say, modest. I don't want to attack the rejectors per se though. Incidentally a major meteorologist for the Waether Wunderground read the book and liked it but said it needed a slower buildup. I suspect snark would have said it was too slow to hook her. I appreciate your input, but details of villainy and intrigue have to crammed in the first lead paragraph otherwise these things just fall flat as most of the submissions did. That's not the same thing as not liking the concept or subject.

5:04 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

This is my newest version based on this feedback trail. It does fail the 250 word cap though.

Query: Warm Front
“The Earth’s surface, atmosphere and seas are warming; ocean currents are slowing; ice shelves are melting faster than projected; spring is coming ever sooner; rainfall patterns are changing; the ability of the earth to self-regulate to resist warming appears to be waning,” NY Times (May 24,2006)

The Arctic is melting. Inupiat villages crumble into the sea. Welcome to the world in WARM FRONT a novel set in the midst of a mounting global warming crisis. Surrounded by the rapidly growing oilfields on Alaska’s North Slope, caribou biologist Jack Sheldon, monitors the dwindling Porcupine caribou herd, and Jake Elmore an environmental reporter for the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, embark on an investigation from the Arctic to Antarctica and back. Along the way, both are imperiled by the consequences of abrupt climate change that could end their lives and threaten the existence of life on the planet.

Through treacherous global treks with the scientists to remote camps, Elmore learns just how dire this phenomenon is and methodically lays out the case in a climate series widely read all over the world. After the first installment appears on syndicated websites, Op-Ed’s posted from Australia from previously unheard of “experts,” begin to appear challenging his findings. Elmore has increasingly frequent accidents and mishaps on his trips and near home.

Sheldon meets Robin Sampson a 28-year-old lawyer and head of the National Wildlife Association attempting to sue Arctic Oil Corporation for endangering the polar bears of the Arctic Wildlife Refuge. Against Sheldon’s better judgment they become romantically involved, but her father, Alaska Republican Senator Richard Sampson opposes them, throwing all his power and weight behind an effort executed by World Tech Central, a web of think tanks, to obfuscate the truth and discredit the scientists.

Then, Elmore disappears in Antarctica. Someone doesn’t like the conclusion. Will the message be heard in time?

7:52 AM  

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