New Blog Novel - Waddya think??

Hi, new to this forum, I am a freelance writer. I started a blog novel a few days ago (I have never written a novel) and I would like to have some feedback on it. It is called 2219 and it is at http://2219novel.blogspot.com


I work full-time so I will eventually get around to adding some more graphics and color with Photoshop. Right now, I just wanted to concentrate on the writing.


I like this forum, and WFG is a good site too. Let me know what you think, I mean the writing only, I will improve the site when I have more time.


Thanks, nice to meet you all.


James


Whoops, double post. Sorry


The first thing that jumped out at me (and I'll admit I'm far from the average reader when it comes to prison stuff) is that Pelican bay is nothing like what you're putting forth here. Buses don't stop a the front gate (actually they don't at any prison I've ever seen...they go inside and unload) Buses don't have airbrakes, either.

There aren't bars on cells there, no cellmates, no crowd scenes at yardout. It's the super-max, total lockdown, one man to a cell.

If you're going to call it by name, you should research it. But I think it would be easier to choose another prison.


I don't mean that to be nit-picky. But if you are going to write about a situation you don't know, then you should make extra effort to get the picture. Unlike all those jillion CIA/Mafia stories out there by kids who have no idea what the reality is like.


Also, since the most famous book by a Pelican Bay inmate is titled "Monster", I think you're asking for it making such heavy use of the term in your story.

And I think that people a lot less familiar with this milieu than I am would have trouble with the idea that a guy who's been sentenced to the Bay would THEN be turned into a monster.


I kind of scoff at the "Write what you know" bit...though it's good advice for new writers, but "Know what you write about" is pretty solid advice. This has even less credibilty than "Oz" which anybody who's ever been down or been a guard would quickly dismiss as a fantasy.


This is pretty ambitious for a first novel and I would quickly suggest you try something closer to your own experience at first. But if you want to do this, you should really make the extreme efforts towards making it credible. People who read prison fiction, like thos who read war fiction, tend to know a thing or two about that reality and are quick to reject anything that violates it.


Okay, I agree about mentioning Pelican Bay by name, to be honest I didn't even want to name one but I put it down anyway. You are right about the bus, but are wrong about Pelican Bay not having a yard with exercise courts. The prison has half of the complex dedicated to holding Level IV inmates, and that is gen pop, and that has everything I said it has. The other half is the SHU, they are the side that has the concrete boxes for individual yard. My character never went to yard while in the SHU in my story. I happen to know a lot about prison actually. If I take PB's name from the story, which I did because you are right about that being a mistake (thanks for that), this could be one of many state prisons across the country, like Holmann or Brushy Mountain. Once I do that, what is so unbelievable about the things in the story? All the items I said he obtained are obtainable in prison. Men have smuggled in automatic weapons into prisons before, and explosives, but he used match heads. Prisons have machine shops and woodworking shops. 7 men escaped from a death row block in Texas. The older state prisons don't have the screen style fronts to the cells, they have the bars. Places like San Quentin, and most other prisons that have an open yard, and even indoor dormitories, are very much broken down into race. Sex offenders are targets all the time in prison. Troy Kell, who murdered a black man on camera for the world to see inside prison, was assisted by another white guy. Know what his original charge was? Check forgery. So yes, places like prison can turn someone into a monster I believe. After all, it is fiction and I can do whatever I want with the story right? As long as it has some basis in reality, and if you remove the "Pelican Bay" and "California" from the story, it works.


I suspect you're going to have a hard time getting honest feedback if you make a pretty good show of not really wanting any.


You don't have to agree with what other people say about your work. (god knows. Half the time it's better not to even listen to what random folks have to say about your work.) But if you ask for advice, you've got to be open to listening to it.


Not just hearing it. Listening to it.


If you don't agree, that's fine. But saying things like, "After all, it is fiction and I can do whatever I want with the story right?" is pure defense, and is going to shut down a lot of folks who might otherwise have constructive bits to suggest.


Listen first. Decide if it's valuable. If you think it's not--just toss it. Don't argue about it. (Unless you're talking to a friend or loved one--then argue all you want, and good stuff might come out of that conversation. But with strangers? It doesn't work.)


@Linton: "Know what you write". I love this. Thank you for sharing it.


The way it reads, he show up, goes to SHU and get's a yard out.

Yes, many prisons have bars. But not Pelican Bay.

I'm not calling into question that in a normal prison there are shops and drugs and all that stuff. Believe me.


But not in Pelican Bay.


I'm not saying I don't want feedback. You don't hesitate to tell me I am wrong about this and that, that the Bay doesn't have open yard, and groups; but it does. So why can't I point out that you are wrong?


"Logan got his bedroll after breakfast, and then was led up to his cell in general population."


He doesn't go to SHU and then get a yard out. He goes to his cell in general population and then goes to yard. Pelican Bay has several vocational programs with shops like auto mechanics, landscaping, maintenance, etc. There isn't drugs at Pelican Bay? Gangs get most of their income from dope fiends buying bags marked up 900%. That and gambling rackets, commissary shakedowns, and extortion.


I am not arguing with you, you are pointing out facts about the story and the prison that are incorrect.


I did listen to you, and I followed some of your advice and thanked you for it.


I'm sorry Linton, I thought amberlaine's post was yours.


Amberlaine, how am I making a "show" of his comments. If you wrote a story and asked me to read it and give you feedback, and I told you that you obviously don't know anything about stop signs because they are not red. Stick to writing what you know.


WOuld you not write me back and say "Um, actually they are red." or would you just "toss it". Of course you are going to say toss it, but I doubt that.


Guys, can we please dial this back? Thanks.


I feel like Chevy Chase in Funny Farm after he gave his wife the novel he'd been working on. "what should I do, change something?" "No, burn it!"


I probably shouldn't continue this at all, but what the hell?


You asked what people thought, and there were extremely resistant to listening to it. That doesn't help you or encourage more commentary.


I have BEEN to Pelican Bay. I was a member of a corrections officer union and also an inmate in the California penal system. Running into me on a writing site like this is a million to one shot: and you have a fit about my comments, instead of cultivating me as a resource.


You got very uppity about my comments on the setup there, and on careful reading I see that your guy wasn't originally sent to the The Unit. He just starts thinking about it immediately and I don't blush at drawing the inference.


Especially in light of SO MUCH unrealistic writing elsewhere. The whole M-14 thing, for instance. The idea that a guy could end up in the Unit on a first conviction is WAY out there. The whole depiction of prison life, his reaction, and his virtually instant morphing from innocent victim to avenging monster is hard to swallow.


I'm not going to go on, beyond my initial remarks that if you are writing about a world that is foreign to your experience, you have to really dig down and get to know that world.


You make it pretty clear taht you're not interested in information about your setting or characters, and really don't want to hear what people think about your project.


Good luck with it


Linton, you called into question certain facts about my story. Some were right, but some were not. Me telling you that you are incorrect is not having a fit, it is just discussion. I simply thought you were wrong on some stuff, so I speak my mind, much like you did.


Now, how is the guard having an M-14 SO out there? I really meant Mini-14 and thought they were the same thing, still not sure if they are or not. They do have non-lethal skip rounds and lethal rounds. I just don't understand how that is just so unfathomable.


Also, how could I cultivate you as a resource for Pelican Bay when you never told me that you've been there. If you had said, "Look, I have been to Pelican Bay, it is nothing like you say. If you want I can offer you some first-person insight into it," then I likely would have done so.


I'm sorry, I just didn't like you're approach is all. Did I get defensive? Yes, I did. One of my character flaws. Your comments about the instant morphing of scared inmate to monster rings true. Before doing the blog novel I had done some reading on the format, one thing that kept popping up as a recommendation was that things should happen quickly, develop quickly in the blog novel. That blog novel readers like tension and action.


So, yeah, I think that change should happen more slowly. Oz was a joke, I hated that series. They made it seem like every single inmate was homosexual and in 3 relationships inside the prison. I know that stuff does happen but not how they portrayed it.


Don't be so quick to write me off as someone who won't listen, because it isn't true. You seem like an intelligent person, and I actually did listen to everything you said. I just didn't agree with all of it, that's all. All in all, you did provide some good advice, and intend to put more effort into the authenticity of it. Likely I will rewrite the beginning.


Does that mean that every time someone tells me that I should change something that I would jump to do it? Absolutely not. Except in this case, whether you may think so or not, I agree with the bulk of your conclusion.


Respectfully, I think everyone should remember that being a writer is not only about producing content. Just as important is managing that content after the fact, especially editing it for any reason. We all know that feedback can make a story better, but I think we're also intimately familiar with the fact that you can't please everyone, and in the end the writer has to make the call as to what's best for his or her story. Sometimes we are the people who can't be pleased.


What jamesjunior takes away from a freely-given crit is his decision, one that we all have to make in that situation. Yes, perhaps he could've been more respectful when providing his counter-feedback, but getting offended that every suggestion isn't being followed to the letter shames only yourself.


Let's keep in mind that nobody is in the wrong here, and we can all stand to be a bit more civilised to each other.


Regards,

Ryan


Well, I have a hard time seeing anything uncivil here, actually.

And I don't think anybody ever expects anybody to "make every little change suggested" I tend to figure nobody ever makes any changes on feedback at all.


What I was saying was that when you ask for feedback, you should be a little gracious about what help you get and not harrangue people about it, or say things like "No, burn it".


One reason... it affects others and their willingness to give feedback.


See, Linton. That's why the internet is a real stickler. If you knew me you would know that me mentioning Funny Farm was my attempt to make a tense conversation lighter. When he wrote that horrible story about the poker bunnies. I quoted that movie because Chevy Chase got defensive much in the same way. I in no way meant that you are saying I should toss it, or that I should toss it. Have you seen that movie? If not then I understand the inference.


Now I've made a couple attempts here to apologize for getting upset, I've told you that I even agree with you for the most part, and I said thank you for your feedback.


I could just as easily not say anything and never come here again, but again, I think in the end it was good advice; I just got defensive, I am sure I am not unique in that.