Thursday, August 20, 2015

Charles Dickens, Meet the 21st Century

Letter from the Editor
To: Charles Dickens, Esq.

Dear Chuck,

I got the first two chapters of your new book, and you have a lot of work to do.

First of all, the name is a real downer. “Bleak House”? Sounds like the most dismal funeral home imaginable. What kind of word is that, anyway – bleak. You need something that grabs the reader, something sexy or catchy. See if you can’t come up with a better title. Do you really have to use the word “house”? Could be it “castle” or “palace” instead? “House” is so bland. Or how about “Something Abbey”?

You simply have to stop stringing so many descriptions together in one interminable sentence and get to the point more quickly! And break those paragraphs … you can’t expect to hold a reader’s attention past the first page if it’s just one paragraph and all you’re doing is describing fog! I know you know lots of words, Chuck, but you don’t have to use every single one of them on the first page of the book.

You don’t have even one line of dialogue for page after page, and you need to get the reader involved with your characters right off the bat. The reader is going to be asleep by the time the first character talks. Oh, yeah … about that. Is the Lord High Chancellor one of the main characters? It doesn’t seem like it. You need to introduce at least one of the main characters right at the beginning of the chapter so the reader knows who this book is about. Especially since you’ve named the book “Bleak House.” What does that have to do with fog and the Lord High Chancellor?

I skimmed through the second chapter and see there’s a “Lady Dedlock” (after an overabundance of description about the weather and some talk of her house … is this “Bleak House”? Never mind, we’ll get to that later). Is Lady Dedlock a main character? Maybe you should just cut the first chapter and shorten the beginning of the second and introduce the Lady Dedlock, but she needs to talk right away. And she needs to say something pithy. You know what I mean. Something that makes the reader sit up and take notice. You have to hook them on the first page of the book, Chuck. I’ve told you that before.

Why don’t you start over and try writing it in the first person? It helps the reader get into the characters’ heads. You’ve got to forget the omniscient narrator. There are other ways to write, Chuck. We’ll put this one on hold until you give us something better.

P.S. Have you figured out what genre this book is? You know that’s important. Check the lists on Amazon. And watch your word count. Try to contain yourself and keep it under 100,000 words. 80,000 would be better.