Thursday, April 28, 2016

#276-revised once

Revision #1

Mira is a thirty-two year old writer in Brooklyn whose past relationship, soul-sucking job, and frequent writer’s block all drive her to drink. This would be very bad except the local bar owner is Tom, a smart, sardonic, self-made man who is easy on the eyes and who looks at Mira in a way that makes her knees buckle. Mira’s past keeps her from acting on her attraction until a beautiful woman walks into the bar and starts hanging on to Tom’s every word. Suddenly, it is no longer easy for Mira to keep her feelings for Tom at arm's length. But Tom has had enough of Mira's push and pull.

This is better than the first iteration, but let's look at what you're doing here: you're using a LOT of cliches. "Soul sucking job" is a good example. Unless your job is an actual dementor (and yes I had to look that up to make sure I was using the right word) this isn't a phrase that sheds much light on things. What makes it soul sucking? The people? The customers? The literary agents who critique your every memo and tweet?  

And "drive her to drink" is another. It's a trite phrase. How much is she drinking? What is she drinking? Is she pouring vodka in her coffee cup at 6am or is she having two old fashioneds at the bar instead of one Shirley Temple?

Details make a story come alive. Right now this is bland. Bland does NOT entice. 

At work, Mira is presented with a distraction - a girl from the neighborhood has disappeared amidst whispers of a local drug ring. Mira starts covering the story but unfortunately her snooping catches the attention of the wrong kind of people. After spotting Mira witnessing a shakedown gone awry, these gang members give her chase making Mira run to the first place that comes to her mind - Tom's bar.

You'll want to ditch that whole first paragraph and start here. Here is where something interesting happens, and that's a whole lot more enticing than trying to suss out what kind of hooch Mira is guzzling and when.

But, honestly, if thugs are after me, my first stop is the local police station, not a bar. You might think about whether it's the first place that comes to mind, or the first place she actually sees. Again, details are what make the story work. 

And it's "give chase" not "give her chase" meaning to chase after her. Give her chase means they're handing her a bank.

While the gang members now lay siege outside, Mira and Tom must figure out how to get past their heated emotions in order to escape and Mira must accept that feelings are not resolved by keeping them at arm's length.

Wait, what?? There's a siege in Brooklyn? At a bar? Call the cops! For starters, how is someone laying siege in this day and age? Well, ok, I've laid siege to my liquor cabinet but I don't think that's what you mean here.

And we've gone from being chased by thugs, to figuring out our emotions? Does this actually make sense when you see it written down like this? (no, it doesn't)  Here's where you need to step outside your writerly self, and read with an objective eye. Does this make sense? Is this how someone would behave? If it's NOT, why are they behaving oddly? If Mira and Tom are reviewing their relationship while being threatened by thugs, there must be a reason it's more important to them. 

THE CHRONICLES OF MANIA is an upmarket women's fiction complete at 70,000 words.

This is better than what you had in the first iteration, but you're still on the wrong side of bland. We also need a better sense of the plot.

What does Mira want? What's keeping her from getting it? What's at stake for her with that desire?

Query #1
It’s the late eighties in New York and Mira is a thirty-two year old single woman living in Brooklyn. She works at a dead end job writing corny ad copy for a living. Her evenings are spent drinking with the old bartender at her local bar and thinking about her past love. She has a strong chemistry with the bar’s owner, Tom but she actively ignores it and refuses to let him come close.

There's nothing technically wrong with this paragraph, but I'd stop reading here and send a form rejection.  The purpose of a query letter is to entice your reader (in this case, me) to read more.

Honestly, Mira sounds like someone I'd actively avoid. 

Think about it: if someone asked you what your book is about, would you tell them what you wrote in this first paragraph?

I have no sense that you love this story and can't wait to tell it.

Also troublesome: why is this set in the 80's? That's practically historical fiction for youngish readers, and for those of us who were actually there, why go back? It hasn't become chic like the 40's or the 20's, and unless you need to have Ronald Reagan or Duran Duran in the book, why?

This has all the hallmarks of a "based on my life" kind of novel. Remember, most lives don't let themselves to well-plotted enticing novels (and thank goodness!)  If you are using events of your life, remember, this is a novel. You get to make stuff up. In fact, you can make it ALL up.

When you hear "not right for my list" this is the kind of thing we mean. It's not grabbing me.

On New Year’s Eve, alone and drunk in her apartment, Mira decides to finally take charge and do what she had always planned to do with her life - she decides to write a book and gives herself one year .

The only thing more painful than writing a novel is reading about someone writing a novel.

But fortunately it doesn't look like Mira's novel is actually a very important part of the plot....

For the next twelve months, we see Mira constantly trying (and mostly failing) to write while having a series of misadventures. Her job duties become more unbearable, she meets Jim Buckley, a persistent drunk who brings disaster wherever he goes, Tom leaves for Italy and comes back with a beautiful girl, and Mira’s neighbor, Lollys, disappears one day raising suspicions about a neighborhood drug ring.

What does this have to do with Mira's novel? It's also a series of events, rather than a plot.
And I'm sure this is just me but a character who is a "persistent drunk" is so unappetizing I don't know where to start. Drunk people are funny if you're also drunk with them. Reading about them, or being around them sober is excruciating.

Through a bizarre twist of events Mira finds herself one night being the witness of a drug dealer’s murder. She is chased by the murderers into Tom’s building where for five nights Mira and Tom stay trapped without a telephone while armed thugs guard the front door.

Wait, what? What happened to the novel? I thought Tom came back from Italy with a girlfriend?

And "bizarre twist of events" leaves me shaken and afraid. It's code for "I'm going to do something awful to these people" or "I'm going to show you what deus ex machina REALLY looks like."  If I'm reading your novel, a twist is great, I love the twists. Bizarre turns of events are where I put the book down and say "yea, not so much."

“The Chronicles of Mania’ is a novel finished at 70,000 words.

The only way to save this query is to energize the writing. You can do that with sentence structure and word choice.  I'll read almost anything if it sounds interesting. Your job is to make this sound interesting.

Right now it's not.
It's not a red hot mess.
It's got the fundamentals, but it doesn't do the job.

Don't be afraid to be bold in your query. Get some sizzle on the page.


Irene Troy said...

I may not have the Shark's experience, but this sounds boring even to me. One rule that has been drilled into my head is the "show, don't tell" rule for writing. I think it is as important in a query as it is in the actual story. Here we have something of a list of things that happen. I have little sense of character or story. Mira doesn't have shape, she's just a name without character. So she's bored with her life, drinks too much and fears relationships. Okay, so what makes her special or worth knowing? If the story itself is as flat and cold as the query, then the writer has a problem. Assuming this is not true (and I hope it isn't) then think of how you can show Mira as a whole person with interesting traits and a unique nature. What makes her worth knowing?

The long list of her "adventures" needs to be shown as events shaping her story, not as isolated incidents as if a list of things. How do they relate to one another or to the advancement of the story? How do you show these events in the story? Why are they important? What is the single most important incident that shapes the story? Make this the focus of your query because this is the basis of the story. When you bring in secondary characters, make sure they must be included in the query. Putting too many characters into a query makes it confusing. [Think character soup] If the most exciting/strongest part of the story is the scene with the murder, then this is where your query needs to focus. All the rest may be backstory or scene setting. Think action, clear characterization and "color" (as in interest).

abnormalalien said...

It seems like everything leading up to being trapped is just backstory. Some of it might not be necessary; we need to know Tom's taken, we don't need to know that happened in Italy.

Start at the witnessing murder part. Tell us what Mira does about it (NOT what is done to her). For example, Mira doing: "After witnessing a brutal murder, Mira runs to the only place she feels safe, Tom's bar." Versus, stuff getting done to Mira: "Some murderers realize Mira witnessed their ill deed and chase her into Tom's bar." Tell us what her choice is. What happens if she chooses to do option 1? What happens if she chooses option 2?

The name of Mira's neighbor *shudders* Lollys! If you insist on keeping this name, please don't put it in the query. I kept going back to find out if Lollys was a dog. That got me really off track. I'm seeing a novel where the mc has a doggie sidekick that goes undercover into the drug ring. Of course, if the dog's name is Lollys, I'm feeling like the mc must be a child or teen. Like an Air Bud twist on the 80s flick K-9. Because I read the whole query, I know that's not true. But that's the mental image I got. Yes, that's a lot to get from a name! But names are important.

Which leads me to your novel's name. Here's where I went off track again. I see a parallel to Narnia, but why? Your novel is nothing like Narnia, so the parallel might be catching the eye of the wrong readers. People who love Narnia are not necessarily the same people who love perilous adventures of a drunk trying to land the man of her dreams. Also, mania is not something to be made fun of. You can have a maniacal villain. But implying manic misadventures (of a self-medicating, presumably undiagnosed mc) dangles precariously over the edge of insulting. Does the mc suffer from bipolar disorder? Are all of her adventures basically a hallucination?

Brittany said...

It's certainly possible to pull off a "series of wacky events in one person's life" story, but there's usually some structural component that holds everything together, and those events tend to be pretty consistent in tone. It feels like the novel writing could be that structural component; I'd actually find a certain appeal in using the writing of a novel to frame the events of a light women's fiction story. Like Bridget Jones's Diary, but with word count instead of calories and cigarettes. But Bridget Jones's Diary has a consistent tone and a clear plot through-line (specifically her relationship with Mark Darcy). I can't really tell what the plot of this is, except that it seems to veer off into thriller territory at the end, and the part about writing seems to have been totally forgotten.

Anonymous said...

hi everyone,

thank you very much for leaving your feedback. i really appreciate the time and effort. it seems that the feedback is pretty consistent about what is not working in this letter - listless writing, no clear sense of plot, no buy-in for the protagonist etc.

let me try to describe my manuscript. allow me some words. i have not been able to boil it down yet.

this is a story about mira - she is thirty-two and lives in brooklyn. mira has a bunch of problems 1) it's been four years since she broke up with her ex but she is still not over that relationship 2) she works at a dead end job writing cliched ad copy for a living 3) her mother constantly calls her from upstate new york asking mira when she will give up the whole city living idea for lost and move back to their little town 4) the neighborhood bar where mira goes every evening to drink herself down comes with the bar's owner, tom, who is handsome, a successful entrepreneur, witty. tom and mira have a lot of spark and once they had almost kissed but mira doesn't know if she can open herself to someone again plus there is problem number 1.

so, to combat all these problems, mira thinks what she needs to do is write a book. instead of trying to tackle all these issues in her life she buries them under the pretext that if she can only become a writer (what she initially moved to new york to do) somehow her life will come under her control.

this manuscript follows mira for a year as she is trying (and mostly failing) to write her book while more and more things start going wrong. first, her neighbor's ditzy daughter disappears and people start whispering about the girl's involvement with a local drug ring. then mira's boss asks her to write updates on the missing girl case for a newly launched weekly bulletin. this forces mira to go snooping around for information in unsafe areas of her neighborhood. on top of all this, tom had recently come back from italy with a beautiful girl who seems to be hanging on to his every word. mira hates this but she also doesn't know what to tell tom. is she ready for a relationship? no.

throughout this mess, mira keeps writing her book. she realizes as she writes that she is becoming more self-aware. when her ex pops in out of nowhere she is finally able to get some closure. but tom sees her with her ex and thinks she is getting back with him. he picks a fight with her and she walks away angrily.

while she is walking home she unwittingly becomes witness to a murder. it's a group of drug dealers in the middle of a shakedown. they see her and give her chase. she runs towards the first place that comes to her mind - tom's bar. tom lives next door to his bar and she sees him outside smoking. she grabs him, pulls him inside with her and locks the door and for the next five nights they stay trapped in tom's apartment.

this is basically the body of the story. it follows to the end what happens with tom and mira in those five nights, what happens to mira's book, and ultimately what happens to all of mira's problems as a result.

the manuscript is written from only mira's point of view. she is a neurotic and sometimes manic person so there are sentences like - "Looked up at the office clock. Noon. What the hell did I do for three hours? Bob was walking towards my direction. He looked determined. Whenever Bob looked determined someone had to work. Couldn’t be me. Had to look busy. Maybe empty trash."

if you have read this far, thank you again. a lot of things are happening in these pages with the one constant that mira is writing a book and the one stake, which becomes bigger as the manuscript progresses - will mira and tom finally get together? i'm having trouble conveying all of this in 250 words.

nightsmusic said...

Just a couple things.

a) What is this? Romance? Mémoire disguised as fiction? Chick lit? Suspense? Mystery? Thriller? I have no idea because it doesn't know according to your query though technically, you have all of those things here. However, they're presented as a series of thoughts or ideas rather than a cohesive story.

b) If this is all written in your MCs POV and there are more than the few short choppy sentences you've written here in that are her 'words,' I'm outta here. I can't read that.

4) You wrote your entire response to those who have commented, in lower case. Frankly, this bothers me because it makes me wonder how precocious the body of your work is. Or wants to be. ee cummings is dead.

d) This did not suck me in at any time. By the end, I was left scratching my head.

Decide what genre this is. Pick one. Just one. Write the query from that genre POV. If it still doesn't work, try writing it in another. You might find when you do that it will make your story clearer to you as well because 70K words of a scattered series of events is a really hard sell.

Good luck!

Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale said...

This sounds more character-based than plot-based. Yes, character-based stories can be fascinating, but only if you do them right.

Your query and your synop are not conveying that.

Mira is not an active character. She doesn't make things happen. She's a passive, where everything happens to her. This makes for a boring main character. This ennui is showing in your query & synop.

To be a successful character-based story, the character has got to change. I'm not seeing any change happening at all.

1. What does Mira want more than anything else in the world?
2. What is stopping her from getting it?
3. What does she do to overcome this barrier?
4. What does Mira need? (This is a different question than #1. Sometimes needs and wants are completely different things, and sometimes the resolution of a character-based story is the character realising what they needed was not what they wanted, and coming to terms with that.)

Mira's story needs to be about the one thing she wants or needs the most. Does she want to be a successful author? If so, the plot needs to revolve around that. It seems lots of stuff is preventing her from being successful. How does she overcome it in the end? You were rather vague about the ending in your synopsis. Do you even know what it is, or have you just rambled on vaguely until you reached a desired word count?

Does she reach a point where she says, "Frack this crap, I'm doing what I want for a change!" because that's what readers want to see. You made vague noises about what happens with Mira and Tom, what happens to her book and all her problems. That's not ending with a bang, that's ending with a whimper.

You want your query to hook us? Start off with telling us what Mira wants more than anything. Then tell us what one thing is preventing her from getting it. Yes, one thing. There is one single thing that is causing all of Mira's misery. When she solves the issues regarding the one thing, that's where the end of your book is.

You say she gains further self-discovery. What is it she's found out about herself? I suspect this realisation might be the turning point in your novel where Mira realises she's not as powerless as she believed herself to be.

Every novel has a turning point. What's yours?

Unknown said...

It sounds like you're starting this too early. All the stuff about her crappy life and even writing the book comes under back story. The story starts when the daughter disappears. If your novel doesn't start around here, you probably want to play around with your opening.

I agree with identifying your genre and using that to focus your query. A thriller is going to have a different emphasis to a romance, for example. Think about your book in a bookshop. Which shelf do I need to go to in order to pick up my copy?

I also agree Mira's passivity is probably why this is feeling flat. Mira should feel like she's driving events, through her desire to achieve her goals. Why is she getting involved in something dangerous like this, for example? I'm guessing it's more than just her boss telling her to do it.

Colin Smith said...

Hey there, chungkingexpress! You've been given some good advice above (note especially Heidi's four questions). I'd like to focus on what Janet said here:

Think about it: if someone asked you what your book is about, would you tell them what you wrote in this first paragraph?

Perhaps another way to frame this is: what do YOU love about this story? What is it that draws YOU in? Does either your query, or the synopsis you gave in your comment really communicate to me why you get sucked into the story every time you pick it up, and why I should read it expecting the same?

As has been said, you're introducing us to some characters, and you're telling us a series of events that happened to these characters. But you're not really telling us a story.

Thanks for subjecting your work to QueryShark. I'm paying attention to all this for my own writing's sake. :)

Elissa M said...

I don't want to pile on, but the commenters here have pretty much nailed the query issues. Based on the query and the brave author's synopsis in the comments, I'm having doubts that the manuscript is truly ready to query. I'm wondering if the author has gotten feedback from knowledgeable beta readers. If not, that's definitely where I would start.

From what I've read, it almost feels like the author sensed things were dragging and dull, and so threw in a murder to spice it all up. Not saying that's the case, just relaying the impression I get.

I agree (and I'm sure nearly every writer does as well) that it's super hard to boil down an entire novel into a couple of enticing paragraphs. The trick is, you don't try to pack the "entire" novel into a query. Use only enough to get across the gist of the story and pique a reader's interest.

While a query isn't exactly like back cover copy, that's a good place to start. Sometimes I go to the bookstore and spend time reading the backs of books in my genre just to get a feel for how to draw in readers. It can sometimes end up being an expensive way to do research though--seems like I can never leave without an armload of books.

Vaylianne said...

It's a matter of boiling your story down to the most basic plot. That will give you the space to liven things up. How you boil it down will depend on the type of story you've written which isn't clear in the query. I get the impression it's a romance above all else, because you mention the one stake is the will they/won't they between Tom and Mira. (They're trapped in an apartment by a bunch of murderous gang members, and the only stakes are whether or not they end up together? Eep.)

An example based on the info in your query and synopsis:

"Mira is a thirty-two-year-old Brooklynite whose dead end job writing corny ad copy drives her to drink. Which isn't so bad considering the local bar owner, Tom, is a silver fox whose talents lie in cheering up writers of corny ad copy at the end of a stressful day. A past relationship haunts Mira and keeps her from acting on her feelings toward Tom, but that's okay because it's enough just to know someone who's as easy to talk to as he is easy on the eyes. Until another woman enters the picture and suddenly it's not enough.

What Mira's life is missing is direction. Direction and distraction. That's why, when her boss offers her the chance to write a piece on a girl's disappearance, Mira jumps at the opportunity. Unfortunately, research for the piece comes with some inherent dangers. After not too subtly witnessing a gang shakedown gone wrong in a most homicidal way, Mira runs to the only place she feels safe—Tom's bar.

Mira and Tom hide, trapped in his apartment, forced to confront their feelings as well as Mira's past while gang members lay siege outside, ready to keep the murder a secret the old-fashioned way. Dead ad copy writers tell no tales, after all.


(Details are likely off and this doesn't necessarily match the tone of the story, but you get the idea)

The info you've given for the end of the story is so vague, it's difficult for me to come up with a last paragraph detailing the stakes beyond this. I wholeheartedly understand not wanting to reveal the end, but you do have to hint at the possibilities.

Is Mira forced to rely on her wits to survive, ends up feeling more powerful and in control because of it, and therefore doesn't need to write no stinkin' novel? Does she learn she's meant to be an investigative journalist instead of a novelist? Does she realize she's been writing in the wrong genre all along, and her passions veer toward romance, not suspense?!!? ;) If the story IS a romance, the last paragraph should also evoke the question of whether or not the two lovebirds will end up together.

I figure the 80's time frame = a cell phone would blow the entire plot away like the first little piglet's straw house.

I think you have plenty of potential conflict for your story, and I won't judge a whole novel based on a wip query. It's hard to avoid list-like writing while including every subplot and side character. It's also bound to make the plot seem disheveled. I'm giving the benefit of the doubt and assuming this is the problem here. Maybe a couple weeks break from the manuscript if/once it's finished will give you the distance you need to suss out what's most important.

Pragmatist said...

Does Mira have to be a writer? Could you maybe give her a more interesting passion where you could include some research? It might give greater depth to her character and readers enjoy learning about unusual jobs/crafts/skills.

Elissa M said...

Vaylianne, I love your "query". I'd read that novel in a heartbeat. :)

vcanfield said...

"Unless you need to have Ronald Reagan or Duran Duran in the book, why?" Ha, ha, it was worth reading the post just for that line.

Steve Stubbs said...

Unlike Ms. Reid, I would have kept reading and would probably ask for pages. The writer writes well, IMNSHO, but I agree with Ms. Reid’s analysis.

It seems to me this author could avoid the dull-eighties problem by making the book timeless. New York was a VERY different place in the seventies than it is today (as in dangerous). But the eighties were relatively non-descript. If you want an eighties themed book with an undercurrent of extreme danger, put it in L.A. I visited L.A. in the eighties and there was a gang war in front of my hotel in the middle of the night. I did not bring any guns, and the fun was over in less time than it would have taken me to get downstairs anyway, so I did not join in. But NY was very quiet during that same time period.

As for the autobiography-disguised-as-a-novel problem, I agree more than totally with Ms. Reid. I listened to some character on NPR one time saying he has written five novels “about different aspects of [himself.]” This is tough, but just speaking for myself, if he is a narcissist I don’t care. I wanted to say, “Get over yourself,. pal.” I say that because probably I am not the only one who feels that way.

Ms. Reid is right: a simple way to avoid the this-is-about-me feeling is to make the MC something other than what you are. An MC who is writing a novel is a dead giveaway.

You wrote: “Tom leaves for Italy and comes back with a beautiful girl.”

Could we change this to, “Tom brings a love interest home from Italy?” There is something irritating to me about the constant drumbeat about how men are just interested in beauty. I have to admit, if I wanted to be married again (I don’t) I would not want to wake up every day with a public eyesore next to me (although I do have friends who are not classic beauties and don’t need to be.) But “beautiful girl” has become a cliche.

You did the right thing by re-energizing a worn out trope by putting some twists in it. Baldacci’s book ABSOLUTE POWER is an excellent example of how to re-energize the very same trope you are using. It was a debut novel, a huge bestseller, and a hit motion picture by the same name. I would suggest you read it or watch the superb movie based on the book with Clint Eastwood and Gene Hackman. It is a great example of how to do what you are trying to do. Your description (Tom and Mira hole up in Tom’s apartment with an aemd thug at the door) needs some work. It may work in the novel, but the way it is written in the query makes no sense to me. Somehow I cannot see someone’s apartment as a medieval fortress.

Dpn’t be discouraged. The talent is there. Good luck.

Greg L. Turnquist said...

Is the focus that she witnessed a murder and is fleeing for her life? If so, start there...

"Mira was headed home. Another dull, listless day to work on her dull listless book. Until she witnessed a murder. In cold blood. On the streets. Fleeing for her life, she first hides at the familiar bar she visits every night. Maybe that decision to not leave the city was the wrong one. Doesn't matter now. Seeking help from her friend Tom, can she escape the Japanese mob, a group notorious for 'tying up loose ends'? Who knows. This JUST might be the inspiration she hasn't found after a year of wasted writing."

Your synopsis had me skimming just like the query, because they said the same thing. Her life being so dull, I got the impression her own writing was dull as well, almost like a journal. And I sensed this event might be the turning point for everything. Punch things up with the focus of the story, and boil away everything else.

In all honesty, it reminded me of Limitless, where the guy is trying to write a book, but gets catapulted into an action packed sequence of events.

Nina said...

I'm all for a story set in the eighties, but I'm not seeing The Eighties in this query. You need to throw us readers into a time traveling DeLorean and take us back to the year 1985 (or 1988, or whenever). Like this:

"Mira's life is totally lame, so she blows her savings on a brand new, state-of-the-art Apple II GS and starts writing an action novel . . ."

Nail the details, and we'll be there with you. I mean, you can't write "late eighties" and not show us a bit of leg warmer, right?

Also, I recommend reading Scene and Structure by Jack M. Bickham. It might help you articulate your story question and describe your plot in terms of cause and effect.

Party on!

Theresa Milstein said...

This reminds me of an excellent video I saw from the makers of South Park. Each scene affects the next one. They don't happen in isolation. Right now, this one sounds like a bunch of unconnected incidents.

Anonymous said...

I read this query. It's rather bland, to say the least.

If I understand the Query Shark's instructions properly, the query is essentially the blurb that goes on the hardcover book jacket in back, or the blurb on the back of the paperback copy. It should therefore entice me, the reader, to want to at least skim the copy, and in this case, the 'blurb' is dull and boring, and rather timid.

The 1980s were full of movies that wowed people: Indiana Jones went in search of the lost Ark of the Covenant; giant Alien cockroaches threatened people; ET phoned home; Stanley Kubrick gave us his version of the Battle for Hue City; the Terminator showed up looking for Sarah Connor; Ferris Bueller took a day off from school and had a parade in downtown Chicago.

The decade itself was rather placid, but setting a rather boring book in that time period means that you don't understand it at all. You have to go like gangbusters, like the Blues Brothers crashing their way through an empty shopping mall down in Romeoville, IL. Instead, the writer appears to be sitting on her thumbs.

Is this a takeoff on 'Barfly'? Just asking. Bump it up a bit.

DLM said...

Janet is right, novels about novelists are up against a well-deserved reputation for being kind of onanistic. There's zero hook in that, and it's true these characters are not appealing. And I don't know what the MDQ is, what the stakes really are, because there are so many crises here and yet so little tension.

As to the writing ... I am a great champion of adverbs, but here they seem only to add clutter and length, not so much feeling. In your excerpt in the comments above, you say "he was walking towards my direction" which is a long, odd way of saying "Bob walked towards me" or even "Bob was approaching." Unless you are pointing Bob in a direction, he's either walking in your direction or he is wlking towards you. We also get a repetition of his determination. This is not spare prose. For the picaresque this seems to want to be, leaner writing would be more immediate and engrossing.

abnormalalien, one of my nicknames for my first dog was Lolly.

I also agree with Rose, you're not beginning at the beginning, you're giving us backstory - and with nightsmusic, it is hard to tell what type of novel this is.

wolfmoonpressblog, I have to admit a bit of amusement at the idea that the 80s were a placid decade. There is no such thing. That's why there are always writers.