Bad Dreams, Worse Wakings (A Rant!)

This bit of snark is aimed at authors who --

A) Open with Protag Wakes With Hangover (TM)

B) Open with a Protag has a Dream (TM) and THEN Wakes With Hangover (TM)

Listen up, darling writer peeps: if your book or story has such an opening GET RID OF THE EFFING THING!

Seriously. Ditch it. You don't need it.

I know your own personal experiences of waking with a bad head and other unpleasant morning body function problems are probably a life-changing and psyche-scarring thing for you...BUT WE'VE ALL BEEN THERE, DONE THAT, AND HAVE THE T-SHIRT.

If you think your book absolutely MUST have such an opening, that it would be wholly ruined without it, then you're not ready to play in the pro leagues.

Let me relate my own effort at trying to sell such a story:

My protag woke s-l-o-w-l-y on a cold windy beach at night, s-l-o-w-l-y and painfully drags himself to his feet, can't recall what's happened to him, and gosh, the moon sure is bright, the stars are bright, and he guesses he better walk toward that big town over there . . . are you asleep yet yourself?

This glacial drek went on for about a thousand words, four to five pages. Many agents read about five pages of a submission and if you're wasting their time describing a protag's bad waking, they close the file and paste in the rejection message. They'll never see the rest of your submission, however good it gets. You blew it.

I wasted five pages and two years sending that opening out, collecting two dozen+ rejections. Until then I'd honestly convinced myself that the Waking Up scene was necessary, since that's when the story began for the hero. He was Waking Up to a new phase of his life, right? It made sense!

And it was bloody boring.

I finally, in desperation, cut those five stupefyingly dull pages and opened with Jack Fleming, fledgling vampire, getting hit by a car.

THAT'S when the first Vampire Files book finally sold.

While I'm sure many of you will point out OTHER books and stories you dearly love that open with characters waking up or having bad dreams, I don't care.


Get your protag clear of the damn bed, out in the world, and doing something that has a connection to the plot.

Even Bilbo Baggins had finished his breakfast and was sitting outside his door when Gandalf first strolled by. Gandalf didn't pound on the door to wake up the little Hobbit. Our Hero was AWAKE and OUT and ripe for plucking up for an Adventure.

In the slush pile I find about half the stories seem to have Protag Wakes With Hangover / Protag is Dreaming.

I rejected every one of those.

If you don't know enough to start your story with a real hook, you're hosed. You are not the special little exception because your inspired wordage makes you better than anyone else in your writing group. You. Are. Hosed.

The idea is not to be a better writer in your group, but to be a better writer than your own best most favorite pro writers on your reading list.

In the submissions for critiques pile I've found SIX OUT OF SEVEN books open with Protag Wakes With Hangover/ Is Dreaming. That's a much higher percentage.

So I slam those poor writers square in the nose with my editorial brick.

They've wasted precious wordage -- you only get to send me 2500 words -- of their crit on a damned hangover. When an opening deals with that cliche, there's no room left to start the story, so I'm unable to comment on anything else. You've shot yourself in the foot.

The only comment I CAN offer is GET RID OF THAT OPENING.

I'd really rather help you out on your story/writing, but can't do that while the protag is staggering around moaning and groaning like a dozen others from Clicheville.

I don't care about them or their pain. I don't. I have a tough time most mornings, too, so big fat hairy deal. Leave me out of the protag's pity party.

"B-b-but what about a regular non-hangover waking up?" you ask with a mixture of hope and panic.


Don't bother listing favorite titles with such openings to prove that such things can sell -- I've already told you to be better than those writers.

Now get out of here and start rewriting. And think of me when you need an editor.