Wednesday, October 14, 2009

31 Secret Agent

TITLE: “Between Clubs”
GENRE: Commercial/sports fiction

If you were going to draw up a perfect day for golf, it would look like this: a sparkling spring afternoon in northern California, warm with a light, fresh breeze. A lush green carpet of a golf course, threaded with groves of trees and dotted with bunkers like whitened teeth. In all directions are rolling brown hills, azure sky and sunshine. For millions of golfers this would be paradise. But for the guys I was playing with, this wasn’t paradise. It was just another day to post a score or barf on their khakis.

The course was deserted, except for the eight of us. One group was walking up the eighteenth fairway, tanned legs and polished shoes pacing the final yards, their heads bowed, their faces in shadow.

Our group was at the seventeenth. Mike O’Hearn stood with his arms crossed and his gaze fixed in the middle distance. It was so quiet I could almost hear him grinding the enamel off his teeth. Casey Blanton angled the weight of his slender body on his hip, rolling his golf ball through his fingertips and examining it for minute imperfections. I wandered over to my golf bag, grabbed my towel and brushed a few grass clippings off my wedge. So much of golf was silent ritual, the proper way to mark golf balls, repair divots and pull flagsticks, a tacit code of deportment regulating when you spoke, where you stood, and how to avert your eyes when watching became unbearable.


  1. No matter how you slice it, starting with the weather, real or imagined, is tough to pull off. Maybe I don't get sports fiction. I'm not hooked.

  2. I love to play golf, but watching it is worse than falling into a cactus hedge, reading about it would be even tougher.
    Unless you're aiming, specifically, for a golfer's readership, this doesn't work for me.
    I did like the line "It was so quiet I could almost hear him grinding the enamel off his teeth." :D It does paint a good picture, your writing is fine, I just don't know how wide an audience it would grab.

  3. Like the title.

    Needs more action. Describing the golf course and the weather isn't too interesting. You might consider starting with:

    "It was just another day to post a score or barf on their khakis."

    Dialogue between the players might add some oomph.

  4. Not so hot on golf, so that may be my issue.
    Did really enjoy the barfing on khaki pants line, maybe use that closer to the beginning as a lure and then get to the hook of the story. Not sure what is going to happen to the MC, what it's about.

  5. Needs more action or dialogue. You have great descriptions, but it goes nowhere. Put some action in the scene and anyone--golf lover or not--will read it if it's good. Best of luck!

  6. Not hooked. I love golf, but this is telling me nothing.

    Definitely needs more action.


  7. This is going to be a hard sell for non-golfers. If you want to reach them you have to find a way of making golf more than just a game...look at Netherland by Joseph O'Neill. I hate cricket but I loved that book.

  8. All right, so I'm sticking my neck out a bit here, but I'm going to disagree. I liked the first paragraph (although the verb in the "rolling brown hills" sentence bugged me, since the sentences before it were just free-wheeling subjects), liked the tone it set. And I want to know what sort of people barf on their khakis.

    It doesn't have much action, admittedly, but not every book needs or even should have a car chase to start. The writing is solid enough that I would keep reading, at least for a few more pages.

  9. I hate golf. But even if this was about fishing, which I love, such drawn out description without more characterization would bore me to tears.
    I do like your description of the course in the beginning though.

  10. "It was just another day to post a score or barf on their khakis."

    Start here. Build on it. It's the only interesting part.

  11. When a story starts with 'If' I often feel like I'm being given a choice as to what to think or believe. I also somehow feel challenged.Maybe IF I was going to draw up a perfect day for golf it would not be a sparkling day in California. Maybe it would be Ireland. Maybe it would be Hawaii. Maybe I don't like golf.

    I'd rather it begin "It was a perfect day for golf..." giving the narrator a strong and definite voice and opinion.

  12. Where is the conflict? The contrast between the barfing and the beauty (another perfect day... another chance to barf)? Is this line clever but meaningless?

    As a golfer it is clear you love and understand the nuance of the game. Is the ritual in the final paragraph the point?

    You begin to build some character with the players at the end but it needs more, more quickly. Long descriptions of the weather never work.

    I'd read more but only because I play the game.

  13. I was a little put off by the opening description, I think perhaps because that paragraph ended with the line about barfing on the khakis. The first few sentences are melodic, the last comedic. I'm not quite sure what to make of the voice so far here.

    I'm sorry, not hooked. But best of luck to you!

  14. I thought the writing was good and I liked the opening paragraph, but it was just too slow for me. I wanted something to happen at that seventeenth hole, and maybe it does and we just haven't gotten to it yet, but there's nothing here to carry me to that point.

    Maybe this isn't where you should be staring the story?

  15. First paragraph: I really liked this. Yes, it's talking about the weather but it's setting the scene well.

    Second paragraph: This one confused me. After re-reading it, I'm guessing the eight are split into two groups of four? At first though, it made me wonder why one minute it was deserted except for the narrator's group, and the next minute there were two groups. If others give similar feedback perhaps you could change 'One group' to 'Four of us' or something similar.

    Third paragraph: This is where my attention started to wander. The scene has been set and I'm waiting for something to happen. So far though, it hasn't. I also liked the enamel line, but could you cut some of these details to get to the action faster? From the title and genre I'm guessing there'll be a lot of golf in the novel, and perhaps some of these details could be inserted later.

  16. I could echo everyone else and say a golf novel is going to be a hard sell, and part of me agrees with that—but isn’t it your job to make me love your novel even if I’m not into golf? If you’re working with a subject matter that’s naturally going to be more difficult in terms of engaging readers, it just means you have to work even harder to create an intriguing story. Unfortunately I don’t think this is working.

    Starting with the weather, a description of landscape, and a group of guys silently doing pretty much nothing is not the way to make a golf novel interesting. The way to do it is to completely avoid description, reflection, and backstory in favor of action and dialogue. That’s it. You need to start something happening from the very beginning or I don’t think the novel has hope.

    You could open with “Casey Blanton angled the weight of his slender body…” and then go on to describe more action. Do not explain that golf is a silent ritual, or talk about the weather or the scenery. Give us a story.

    You do have a really nice way with words and your sentences flow smoothly. Put that talent to work giving us action and dialogue, and you might just be able to sell a golf novel.