Thanks for sending me your manuscript—nearly finished, I hope!
It’s certainly some kind of achievement to literally capture your audience inside this sprawling dystopia. Your stakes recall the four horsemen, even your scenes of grocery shopping contain conflict, and you’ve dispensed with backstory altogether—a welcome innovation for most audiences. I myself have lost all track of the past, the future, and much of the present.
Not to mention your plot twists—you had me rooting so hard for Pfizer and Moderna, I was blindsided when many characters refused the vaccine! Shocked me more than Ned Stark’s death. Genius. Ned would have taken the needle.
Alas, there’s work to do before you query. Consider the following feedback:
A viral outbreak wreaks havoc worldwide—how original! It’s fine to embrace tropes, but blockbuster pathogens should be exciting. Where are my brain-thirsty zombies? Where are my superpowers? Sure, you give us grisly death—thanks oodles by the way—but otherwise you expect readers to stick around for the thrill-ride of…staying home? Endlessly? Characters binging Chunky Monkey until they can have friends again, that ain’t high drama.
This story sags like investment in optimism since 2016. If I’d had any choice, I’d have stopped reading after the prologue rather than endure hundreds more pages of He didn’t go out. His mask chafed. There were no hugs.
Now you’re drafting a fourth surge? Cut it. You’ve already nailed the Dark Night of the Soul—you’re a wizard with gloom, we get it—but the point is to break into Act III. You have heard of Act III, right? Sure, Waiting for Godot got away without one, but you’re no Beckett.
If you haven’t yet planned a conclusion, might I suggest a deus ex machina finale? Worked for the Greeks. And J. J. Abrams. Speaking of, maybe you could vanish and leave us wondering if all along we weren’t in a purgatory of our own minds? Or better yet, could your next mutation give us superpowers? (Sorry to harp, but magic sells.) I’m just spit-balling here. Dragons and unicorns are also big these days.
Paper dolls have more depth than your characters.
Take your presidents. That first villain was as flat as the emperor in Star Wars—what the hell did Palpatine ever want other than to brood out a big space window and occasionally use his lightning-fingers on somebody? (Again, powers, I’m telling you—at least lightning-fingers are cooler than Twitter tantrums.) On top of that, I simply didn’t buy we gave a game show host the nuke codes. Pat Sajack? Maybe. If Vanna were VP.
Now you’ve moved onto this new geezer who’s basically my great-granddad passed out watching golf. I’ve rarely encountered a character so thoroughly boring. Am I supposed to believe Father Time mobilizes voters? Maybe if he had the pointy hat and crinkled beard. Beards are also big now.
Is there one? At times it seems like no one is even in charge of this shitshow! If there is a narrator, why does he need to tell this story? When did he become a sadist? Does anything bring him joy besides tedium and suffering—penguins, a good look at Regé-Jean Page, those videos of kittens riding Roombas? I keep waiting for the story to soften his heart, but he’s like if the Grinch had such a blast stealing Christmas, he set to work pilfering New Year’s.
Your examination of isolation is effective—perhaps too effective. At times, this story literally went nowhere, and I forgot how to understand the characters because, well, I forgot there’s such a thing as other people. There are other people, right? Please get back to me about this ASAP.
Zoom? Zoom is not plot. #Zoomdick is not plot. Quit it with Zoom.
Don’t get me wrong. You’re hardworking and you’ve got an unprecedented platform—everyone has heard of COVID-19! You’re trending, baby! The problem is we’re all tired of you.
Maybe it sounds scary, but have you considered scrapping this manuscript? If you’re willing to rebrand, there’s no telling how successful you could be. Everyone loves a redemption story, and the world is hungry for hope.
Get in touch if you’re willing to start fresh. Might I suggest something with superpowers?
Your Reader on Zoom Waiting for Hugs (and Telekinesis!)