1. Simpson17866
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    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    "Is Your Manuscript Dead on Arrival?" test

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Simpson17866, Jul 31, 2016.

    I just found this test of 32-questions on Superhero Nation, and it seems pretty good.

    I scored 88/100, missing points for a) potentially overusing profanity, b) using a pronoun in the first sentence, c) using a brand name "Under Armour" instead of more detailed description, d) using conversational niceties instead of getting right to the point.
     
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  2. Spencer1990
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    Spencer1990 Contributing Member

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    That was really interesting.

    I often wonder about the brand names/pop culture references. Personally, I think it adds a bit of relatability? Maybe. I don't know. I could just be saying that because I've used a few brand names. Obviously, I don't use obscure references.

    Also the swearing question. If it fits the narrative, is that an issue? Gratuitous swearing is a turn off for certain people. But if the story/characters call for it, don't we have an obligation to remain try to the story?
     
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  3. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I got 84/100 but I had a couple gripes with the questions. Near the end of my book the POV changes to a transition character. The test suggested more than one POV was confusing but that doesn't apply to books that have separate chapters for different character POVs. The Poisonwood Bible, for example, makes excellent use of this technique, telling the story from different POVs.

    Pretty sure my story is unique, avoiding current fads. There are no mythical creatures, the protagonist doesn't have a destiny, there are no orphans, the relationships don't include any one true love at first sights. There is no war or revolution and the dystopia is closer to current reality than it is to a reborn devastated world.

    Two guys are attracted to my protagonist but one is her love and the other is only infatuated with her, who she may or may not have kissed once (that is never revealed). The one who loses out finds love in book two. ;)

    :agreed:
     
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  4. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I think brand names can add time and place to a period piece. I escaped that one, my book is sci-fi and Earth brands don't belong.
     
  5. Spencer1990
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    Spencer1990 Contributing Member

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    They do add a time and a place. That is the gripe with using them, I think.

    I had a creative writing instructor who went on and on about how it's bad form to do such things in fiction. He was of the idea that if it's not literary fiction, it doesn't belong on a bookshelf. Rather extreme, if you ask me.
     
  6. sahlmi
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    sahlmi Active Member

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    Got a 97, but most were painfully obvious. I only missed the first one and that's because it's totally fine to have more than one POV char. Not at all afraid of holding on to that, so it's 100 as far as I see it.
     
  7. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I scored 94. Most of the questions are inapplicable to me. Fight scenes? I have maybe one fight scene and it lasts one short paragraph. I do have a food scene, but it builds character because it involves a hunter and how he catches and prepares his food. And guess what? I got chastised by the idiot who wrote that questionnaire because I didn't use a thesaurus. I have a pretty damn good vocabulary and I didn't need one, thanks. This guy just assumed I should use one because he needs one. Argh. Besides, how is an agent or publisher going to know if I used one or not?

    :supermad:
     
  8. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    This quiz only applies to fantasy writers, right? I failed at the first hurdle. My book, which is quite long and is not fantasy, has four POV characters. Two are major, and two are minor. It's hugely important to my story that these four points of view are offered.

    (Following that guideline alone, Joe Abercrombie's First Law trilogy falls at the first hurdle as well. And many other hurdles, too ...including the one about battle scenes—his are classic. And damned if it's not a trilogy. Tsk. OUT. This will be instantly rejected by any fantasy agent who reads HIS submission on the first 5 pages. Won't it. Thankfully his agent apparently didn't read this list.)

    And what on EARTH does the number of words in a title have to do with the price of eggs? Obviously you don't want too many words to fit comfortably on the book cover, but surely dissing a book because its title is only one word is ...weird?

    And if one of your two precious POV characters needs to know what he looks like, for a story reason at a particular moment, how in hell is he supposed to discover this without looking in a mirror? But if he looks in a mirror for any reason, this gets your MS the automatic chop? Another blow in the back of the head to Joe Abercrombie? Give me strength.

    Is it just me, or are these knee-jerk implied 'requirements' becoming way way way too restrictive? Surely it's the quality of the writing, and of the story itself, no matter what genre, that should determine the viability of a book. Bloody hell. Why do I bother?

    I can't think of anything more dampening to somebody's creativity than sitting down with a list of 'don'ts' like that in front of you, then trying to write a book that sings.
     
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2016
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  9. Mumble Bee
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    Mumble Bee The writer formerly known as Chained. Contributor

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    I took this and got a yes/100.
    Not sure how letters got in there, but its too direct to have been a mistake...
     
  10. Spencer1990
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    Spencer1990 Contributing Member

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    I think this was meant to be more tongue-in-cheek than it is literal. Some of those questions were utterly ridiculous. I can't imagine this test was intended to be taken seriously to gauge the readiness/viability of your writing.
     
  11. Brindy
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    Brindy Contributing Member Supporter

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    I dropped points for saying my character has a mentor, but first-time time-travelling dogs need a little help. :superwink:
     
  12. obsidian_cicatrix
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    obsidian_cicatrix I ink, therefore I am. Contributor

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    I didn't bother scoring as my manuscript for a novel is well off being finished. At the rate I'm going, I might get it done within the next decade—it was still worth a look. As it stands, I'm partially guilty of three. I say partially because I honestly believe the plot and circumstance give me a bit of wiggle room. I have committed the 'sins' of having three PoVs, having 'a secret family member' and having an extended fight scene.

    The action takes place in two far off countries. I have one PoV for each, and one that bridges that devide. Personally, I think expecting a novel to have only one or two PoVs is not giving the average reader nearly enough credit.

    As for my family member, that is purposely hidden from one of the PoV characters by another. (He is the secret to some degree.) I but I let the reader in on it when in the bridging PoV very early on. It's a matter of parentage, rather than some deus ex machina I land on the reader with absolutely no warning. The knowledge should hopefully have the reader squirming somewhat at various points before that truth comes to light... I hope. But the proof is in the pudding isn't it?

    I do have a really huge fight scene of sorts. It's partially written up but not edited. I'm seriously considering doing a whole chapter of head hopping. I know, ALARM BELLS, but I honestly believe I can make it work. Maybe not now as I'm still finding my feet, but I have every intention of writing at a standard where I can get away with it by then. I want that chaotic feel coming to my climax... again, time will tell.

    Some of these are so basic, like the one appearance one. I've only seen absolute novices making those kinds of mistakes, or younger, less mature writers falling into them. Bad habits for sure, but every one has got to start somewhere.

    I find myself agreeing with you all on several things... @GingerCoffee's comments on establishing a feel of time and place using branded products, or at least ones unique to that time; on @jannert's dismay — I don't appreciate lists of 'don'ts' either; @minstrel's food objection — none of my scenes are food centric, but they serve to highlight the differences between my two main protagonists' upbringings to a degree. It's done for the sake of character enhancement; and also with @Spencer1990 —It's gotta be a bit of a piss take doesn't it? There I go with that foul mouth of mine again. ;)
     
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2016
  13. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Let's hope you're right. But I'm not sure that people will see it that way.
     
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  14. obsidian_cicatrix
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    obsidian_cicatrix I ink, therefore I am. Contributor

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    It was folks spouting so called 'rules' that nearly put me off writing in the first place. So yes... some folks will look at this and take the suggestions as gospel. Never a good idea. Context and skill are everything.
     
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  15. ChaosReigns
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    ChaosReigns Be Still and Know Contributor

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    amusingly got 64/100 in that, I'm surprised it's not higher, give that the piece originally started of as a rip off of the epic fantasy genre... i should have been all over that lol
     
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  16. Spencer1990
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    Probably, some people will see that and be turned off. It's a shame, really. But I'm not sure where the fault lies. As passengers on Spaceship Earrth, isn't it our job to critically evaluate the incoming flow of information?

    That being said, as with @obsidian_cicatrix , I was once turned off to writing by the rules. I was so mortified by "show, don't tell" that I couldn't proceed with any story because I was convinced I needed to find a way to show everything.

    It's so important for writers to think of rules as suggestions or tools to be used when appropriate. Even more important for us to know when/ what said tools are appropriate.

    It's all relative, I suppose.
     
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  17. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I feel we go in the wrong direction with stuff like this, for the very reason you state here.

    It would be better for writing in general if we concentrate on learning the basics of what makes a story work. What makes YOUR story work most effectively? What might you try doing, if things aren't quite working the way you want them to? How do you help your story reach more readers? Not in the sense of how to squeak it past agents and publishers, but in the sense of what will make your story more accessible and unforgettable to the people who read it.

    We really don't need another blooming list of 'stuff to avoid'—so you can either tick them all off and go away satisfied you've not made any mistakes—or go away feeling you're not a good writer because you've committed some of these so-called 'sins.'

    It's more important to understand the 'whys' of good writing than it is to understand the 'whats.' What you should do, what you shouldn't do. Instead, learn why something works in a particular instance, or why it might be better to change it, so it works better.

    However, I have a theory that learning at this level takes a while. Ticking down a list is quick and easy, and we DO love quick and easy, don't we?
     
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2016
  18. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Oh, I'm critically evaluating it, make no mistake! :wtf:
     
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  19. Spencer1990
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    Spencer1990 Contributing Member

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    o_O (Me when I see a list of writing snafus.)
     
  20. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    By the way, I didn't mean to give the impression that I thought @Simpson17866 's original post was a bad idea. I think it's a good idea to post something like this for critical evaluation. This kind of thing exists, and where else to respond to it but on a writing forum? That way everybody can have a look and decide for themselves how to deal with it.
     
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  21. obsidian_cicatrix
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    obsidian_cicatrix I ink, therefore I am. Contributor

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    For me, it was only when I started to get a feel for why, perhaps, it wasn't a good idea for me to do a certain thing, that my writing started to progress. It wasn't enough to tell me not to do it. I needed to know all the whys and wherefores in order to accept that any given notion may have had creedence. But most importantly, to know whether that line of thinking had any relevence to me and the piece at hand.

    Fortunately, I had loads of help figuring it all out. Bringing this stuff out into the open may help less experienced writers believe they are not flogging a dead horse. And that's got to be a good thing.
     
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  22. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    They got me, the one word title, I just can't believe it, and a virus on my hard drive as well. Also, plenty of MarySue in my prose, she is so pretty.

    The kind of challenge makes you want to break every one of the rules, then wearing our elven cloaks raid the university publishing house with baseball bats, destroy the copier, smear my excrement on the windows. Who's with me?
     
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  23. obsidian_cicatrix
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    obsidian_cicatrix I ink, therefore I am. Contributor

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    @matwoolf

    Only if I can describe my pointy ears while looking in a mirror, as I swing my bat. :D
     
  24. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm too scared to take this test.
     
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  25. matwoolf
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    [​IMG]

    Aye @Jud, meet Jello. Though seriously - try Arthur Lowe narration, will bring a tear to the eye.
     
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