Why The Book will never sell

…a study in self-criticism.

To catch the three or so people who may be reading the Pic-Dem now but weren’t a few months/years ago–The Book is a fantasy novel, kind of (see below) that’s currently sorta-13, sorta-14 chapters in length and is currently going through its… oh, third… series of birth pangs as the whole story gets reimagined and largely rewritten. And were it to get finished (a laudable but misty goal), were it to get picked up (miraculously and/or by a publisher with a death wish for his/her business), it still. would. not. sell.

Just a few reasons why:

  1. It doesn’t have a title. Or a hope of one. Titles are hard, man. Anyone know of any good title-creation tips, techniques, how-to screeds or automated generators? (On my hard drive, it’s been called "Dallia and Friends" for about three years.)
  2. The first chunk of dialogue is in dialect. And I hate reading dialect. But I can’t help it; it’s how these characters talk. No random misspellings or lavishly sprinkled apostrophes here, though; it’s a rhythmic, agrammatical street cant spoken at different levels of non-standardness by different characters. Frex, our heroine retains the pronoun "him" but the child she’s speaking to uses "he" for all third-person masculine references. He/him/his=he/he/he. Also, the use of novel compound pronouns such as "somewhat" instead of "something," e.g., "you got somewhat for eat?" Seriously, I can’t help it. I saw them talking in my head and I just wrote down what they said.
  3. No noble characters; no baseborn characters discovering they’re secretly noble; precious little in the way of motivation other than raw survival. At least not in the first few chapters. At some point La Protagonista is going to discover that sometimes one needs to fight when one is not willing or ready to fight to protect things that are Important. (Yes, this theme is gleaned directly from the lyrics of the Flaming Lips’ "Fight Test." Because all true and correct philosophy comes to us via the mouthpiece of Wayne Coyne.)
  4. No magical whizbang whatchamagigs. No Ring, no Blade, no Blade-Ring, no Sling-Blade, no Orb of the World, no Rod of Holy Wrath-Expression, no Hand of Glory (though I might drop a Hole of Glory into one of the more salacious scenes, depending), no Mighty Dragon-Slaying Sword of Mightiness.
  5. Also, no dragons.
  6. No elves, either.
  7. Ditto for dwarves. This is a totally humanocentric story.
  8. Or swords or sword battles. I must write what I know, and I know nothing of this heavily armed foolishness. (There is a part about someone sticking someone else with a knife, though. But she does it and reacts to it pretty much exactly as I think I would; in other words, in a moment of panic, followed by copious nausea and lingering guilt.)
  9. Or talking animals. Horses, hawks or kittens–they’re all pretty much silent, and I think there are no horses anywhere in the story and only a short bit about a hawk. And it’s not really a hawk, anyway, but–hsst! I say too much! There is a cat, though, because there has to be, doesn’t there?
  10. The ending ain’t happy, either. It’s rather more Remains of the Day than Notting Hill. But you expected that, didn’t you?

So–hey presto, there you go. Ten damned good reasons to not buy my book. The eleventh, of course, being that it isn’t and probably shan’t be published… but still. Still.

(What do you want to bet I’ll never get sent on a self-promotionalizing book tour, either?)

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About Molly Newman

Writer, cook and trivia/spelling bee hostess, living it up in North Portland.
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8 Responses to Why The Book will never sell

  1. mum says:

    You have had this story in various forms in your soul for a long time. What might be causing you Writer’s Agony is the fact that the story is there and needs to be written. Don’t think about selling it (although I have every confidence that it WILL sell, because you have a real and true story to tell).Just think about giving those characters a chance to live their lives on your pages. And the only way they can do it is through you. So there!

  2. sam says:

    Based on Fight Test? That might have sold me on its own, without the rest of the description. That may be my current favorite song.

  3. Helena says:

    Hey, Lois McMaster Bujold said she’s had completed manuscripts go to the publisher without a title.

  4. Sam Masson says:

    You could try generating a title, by scrolling down to the bottom of this page: http://www.monzy.org/wesley/

  5. Mimi says:

    Your mom rocks, Molly, and so do you and your book!

  6. azureavian says:

    heck, that description actually makes me *want* to read it. can’t wait, but then you knew i perverse like that didn’t you?

  7. Laelaps says:

    Although my book isn’t a fantasy novel (although some creationists might consider it as such) I can relate to what you’re saying here; I started it with the intention of naming it “We Can Be Friends With Dinosaurs” about the intersection between evolution and faith, but then I found out Ken Miller had already written “Finding Darwin’s God” and I lost my desire to try and reconcile faith & science as a main theme (as if such a think were even possible by me, to boot).
    My book project has become something of a monster too, for every time I learn something new I want to include it but require more resources, but I know if I write something akin to Gould’s 2000+ page treatise “The Structure of Evolutionary Theory” no one will read it. Plus, microbiology/genetics are my primary fields, so it suffers for my lack of knowledge on those fronts.
    Still, even though I don’t believe in a vitalistic force that causes books to be written, you obviously have it in you and I certainly would read it. If you’re really worried about getting published you could turn it into a book relating to Christianity and then it’ll be sure to get published (just kidding). Like some of the other commenters here, I think you should stop worrying about what the book should be; write it to satisfy what you intend in your mind to accomplish.
    “No noble characters; no baseborn characters discovering they’re secretly noble”
    This reminds me of Terry Prachett’s character Carrot, who essentially is heir to the crown but doesn’t want to be and the Patrician prefers it that way anyhow. Granted, Pratchett has already used the device as a move away from the Aragorn-esque storylines you speak of, but don’t fret that there is no come-uppance for some noble character.

  8. RedMolly says:

    Brian, I think you have the book in you too–and I can completely sympathize with the problem of there being rather more book than time to write it. The inspirations keep coming hard and fast, and even though you know each of them would make it a better book, they threaten to swell the poor tome to epic size.
    (Love the Terry Pratchett. An excellent counter to the typical fantasy novel about the typical swelled-head fantasy protagonist.)

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