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  1. #1
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    MS running from A-B

    I got some really good and useful critique from a lit agent based in the UK who made several comments on changes/improvements to my MS.
    One of the suggestions was that my story runs ‘too much from A – B without side-steps.

    OK so I’ve thought about this long and hard and while there are few ‘turns and twists’ the truth is, my MS is an A –B story.

    I have thought about this long and hard and would like to know what others think. Looking at other tales of A –B (Pride & Prejudice for example) is really a bad thing?

    I have just finished watching the DVD of the Robinhood movie (with Russell Crowe) and that’s an A-B, as was Gladiator and American Gangster, (OK I’m a Russell Crowe fan) so will this be a death-nail for my story if it doesn’t twist and turn 1000 times?

    Considering my MS covers 1000 years of European history and has numerous characters, wouldn’t too many sub-plots just confuse the reader? Or am I being obstinate for the sake of pig-headed vanity?

    Opinions REALLY welcome.



  2. #2
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    Re: MS running from A-B

    This is a judgement call, so how can anyone possibly answer without having read your story?

    "Considering my MS covers 1000 years of European history and has numerous characters, wouldn’t too many sub-plots just confuse the reader?"

    Sure, if written in a way that confuses the reader.

    But if written in a way that does not confuse the reader, then it wouldn't. Right?

    "Or am I being obstinate for the sake of pig-headed vanity?"

    Do you really think anyone can answer that?

    In any case, maybe the agent is wrong. Isn't that possible?

    "the truth is, my MS is an A –B story."

    Doesn't that answer your question?

  3. #3
    Senior Member Keith .'s Avatar
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    Re: MS running from A-B

    Raven, at one time I had three editors offering to revise on spec with me. IOW, my agent submitted and they like the story, just not enough to buy. They wanted to give me an edit letter and see what I could do with it. We're talking Egmont, Harper Collins and Random House. One said my plot line was too linear, which is what I assume you mean by A-B. The second said I needed to dispose of some of the twists because the plot wasn't linear enough for the targeted age group! The third wanted me to write it younger.

    See what I mean? Totally subjective. Don't rewrite your manuscript based on one person's input, even if that person is a pro. It's all about taste and what the house is looking for at the time. Now, if you get several rejections echoing the same opinion, that's the time to consider a rewrite. I know it's frustrating.

    BTW, none of the above bought the frigging revisions and I wasted months. Tough business. Luck.
    km
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  4. #4
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    Re: MS running from A-B

    It's a mistake to compare your manuscript to movies, unless it's a screenplay. Even then, you'd have to obtain the screenplay to make any kind of accurate assessment. What is on the screen and what was on the page are often entirely different.

  5. #5
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    Re: MS running from A-B

    Thanks for the above comments guys.

    Robin, yes, you are right, I kind of did answer my own questions! thanks for pointing that out.

    Keith, yes by A-B I was meaning linear and given your experience, I think I should learn to listen to my inner voice. This is how I want the story told. I guess I just didn't want to be so stubborn as to miss the forest for the trees.
    Oh and how frustrating to have completed all those re-writes (to taste) with no commitment.

    Leslee, sorry I should have qualified my movie comments, I wasn't comparing my work with a screenplay, but rather the story 'type' being linear. Having read Pride & Prejudice (too many times to admit) and Gladiator, I also enjoy watching the movie versions and 'love' to re-watch ones that reflect my imagination of the story/ various scenes etc.
    I'm not comparing my writing skills, technique or talent to anyone, especially the great and the famous, I was merely saying I could see 'other' linear storylines which were successful.

    Thanks again, it really DOES help to voice a concern and have others take the time to reply.

    Raven

  6. #6
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    Re: MS running from A-B

    Re-reading this thread, it occurs to me that I'm unclear re what "linear" means in this context. For example, is "The Godfather" [film] a linear story? How about Godfather II, Godfather III? Citizen Kane? [Referring only to the stories.]

    Novel: Is Deliverance "linear"? What is it that characterizes a "linear" story from a "non-linear" one, at least according to this agent?

  7. #7
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    Re: MS running from A-B

    Hi Robin,

    I did ask her that also, because, like you, I was a bit confused. The more I thought about it, the more I became convinced that many novels are 'linear' - at least in my mind.

    She told me that 'linear' means going from point A to point B without any or few lasting sub-plots.

    To be honest, I struggle to find any books I have read that fit this criteria. Perhaps this is more to do with my choice in reading material, but like you I have questioned this.

    My MS does have some 'twists' and minor subpots but I come to accept that this is a story of almost straight lines.

    She didn't say it was necessarily a BAD THING, just a thought for consideration and to quote her words, "it makes for more interesting reading and engages the reader when he/she is taken on these side-steps"

    I have given this a lot of consideration and I have even attempted to incorporate this concept but to be honest, either my heart wasn't in it or my writing style doesn't fit this criteria. Either way, even I was confused and frustrated when re-reading the additions. I've discarded them now and am working on improving sections of the MS which were good already and now need 'fine tuning' to make them better.

    I just hope this decision doesn't reflect on gaining a lit agent and publisher when the final product is ready.

  8. #8
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    Re: MS running from A-B

    Raven,

    Its death knell.

    A death nail is when you drive a big nail into someone's head with a sledgehammer.

    RW

  9. #9
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    Re: MS running from A-B

    Thanks for that, hey may even be able to usee that somewhere

  10. #10
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    Re: MS running from A-B

    Hi Raven,

    Only commenting at this late date because there's nothing else. Does look like you answered your own question. But I wanted to bring up a couple of points.

    Agents, much like a critiquer, often don't know exactly what they mean when they fault a manuscript. There's something missing, disappointing, less than exciting; they put a label on it. But often the criticism is spot on in a general sense but not in the specifics. You know what I mean? You know how critiquers often point out a problem and recommend a solution, then you, as the author, understand the problem on a deeper level and the solution you come up with is way better?

    I've seen the too-linear mis-labed in a couple of ways.

    1. There's a lack of variety in the voice. The entire novel can come off kind of flat if the narrator's voice stays the same. Do you allow your narrator to sweep time and space and events up with an eye-in-the-sky voice in one section, then swoop into the mind of a particular character in another? In other words, is there variation in how the narrator tells the story? Or is it one note?

    2. Is the story best served with a chronological approach? Movies often either do straight timeline or do a bookend approach -- you know the MC as a boy experiencing something, then the bulk of the movie is him as an adult, then we get a bookend with the adult narrator remembering his boyhood again. Books, however, are far more fluid and can do a lot more with time. Playing with time can give a story a dynamic tension that straight chronological telling can't. When I get a good rough draft done, I like to list all my scenes on cards and just play with how I could mix up the time line to give more tension, more interest. If your story ends in with a contemporary time, play with starting there, then going back to the beginning, then forward. Stories are just events linked by cause and effect, so playing with the timeline to make those connections pop is not just fun, but can make a story do more of what you wanted it to do anyway. Plus, I've found, it's often very little work, after the brainstorming and rearranging.

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