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ProfessionalCritique
 28 Feb 2014, 23:25 #177453 Reply To Post
Each month on YouWriteOn.com editors from Random House, Bloomsbury and Orion, provide an indepth critique of up to three highly rated Top Ten novel openings from budding authors, and provide mini-reviews for the rest of the top ten youwriteon stories. Random House, Bloomsbury and Orion publish authors such as Dan Brown, Terry Pratchett and JK Rowling.
ProfessionalCritique
 28 Feb 2014, 23:27 #177454 Reply To Post
Orion Editor Review of Shared Skies

See attachment

This was actually very intriguing, and – although she needs to keep an eye on errant commas and changing tense within a sentence – I felt the author had done a very good job. Most of my comments are in the attached document, as normal.

I guess, on a wider scale, my concern is where the book goes next. These opening chapters are nicely creepy, and I think portray the world of one unusual girl and her distant father well, but from the synopsis the plot is going to move far away from this sort of thing (although the school scenes sound enjoyable). There’s nothing wrong with turning the opening into a multi-world alien invasion SF novel, but it’s impossible for me to judge how the author will manage that. I fear there’s a risk of disconnecting from what I liked in this section, but of course it will all come down to the execution.

Overall, though, I’m not surprised why this was picked – it’s got an intriguing premise, is generally well written, and there are some very nice passages indeed. It needs tightening in places, and I’ve done my usual hatchet job on the synopsis, but overall very impressive.

Marcus, Editor, Orion

Attachments
Shared Skies.doc (97Kb) - 198 view(s)
ProfessionalCritique
 28 Feb 2014, 23:29 #177455 Reply To Post
Orion Editor Critique of the Strathbungo Cellist

See attachment

I've done a close read on the first chapter, and read through the rest. My comments and tweaks are in the attached document.

First of all, congratulations. It's very readable and pacey, and you've got a good voice. There are a few bits where I think the logic of the plot falls away, or needs more clarity, but they're marked up. There's definitely a problem with tenses - you need to make sure that certainly every sentence has the same tense throughout, almost always every paragraph. I’ve marked up a few of the places where you seem to slip.

The setting is well evoked, although sometimes I think you’re laying it on a bit thick in terms of local colour. The characters are a bit clichéd (ageing gangster, prodigal son/son-like-figure, daddy’s girl with issues), but that’s OK at this point, as long as you work them up later in the book.

Reading the synopsis, I was almost saddened that you expand your focus out from the ‘infiltrate local Glasgow gang’ to the more international level – I was enjoying the scale of the setting, and the contrast with Aulay’s previous life. The flashbacks to how Aulay came to be where he is are good, but perhaps make sure that you don’t unbalance the book but flipping back to them and slowing down the momentum of the main plot later on.

The synopsis needs a bit of work – I’m not convinced that TOP BANANA is a useful name, as it just seems to jar with the grittiness of the surrounding material, although I know what you mean. I suspect it would work better in the book, where it will stand out less. I also think you gloss over what seem to me to be fairly major plot points quite quickly (‘The Ploy works’), although again hard to tell based on what I’ve seen.

But overall, a very impressive piece of work, which – with some tweaking – could really have a chance. One other thing, though – the title really doesn’t work for me. It doesn’t mean anything to anyone who hasn’t already read the book or the synopsis. It’s overly enigmatic.

I hope that helps, and good luck with it!

Attachments
the Strathbungo Cellist.doc (67Kb) - 221 view(s)
ProfessionalCritique
 28 Feb 2014, 23:32 #177456 Reply To Post
Random House Editor Reviews

FLINTSTAFF AND CRAMP: The Curious Case of the Case by Duncan Howard

Congratulations on being selected for a longer critique – I very much enjoyed your sample chapters and hope the following comments are of use.

Your opening scene is great and really transports the reader into the action from the off. The ‘breathless hush’ of the glade being completely shattered by the crashing arrival of Major Henry Flintstaff-Membrayne and Sergeant Arthur Cramp (both are inspired names!) heralds a lively, fast-moving, high-energy narrative, with plenty of sharp, witty dialogue which put me in mind of Steven Moffatt’s Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson. Cramp being described as diving forth ‘with all the courage and devotion of a Yorkshire terrier’ made me laugh out loud! Just one thing about this first scene: can we see more of the werewolf attacking, please, as a physical counterpoint to all the banter?

The introduction to Charlie (and Tom and Shini) in the modern world is handled no less confidently and humorously – very convincing, sparring dialogue between the two boys and poor old Charlie’s tongue-tied reaction to beautiful, sardonic Shini is really funny and painfully realistic! I see from your synopsis that these three kids will soon become embroiled in the tussle with the supernatural evil – really go to town on your descriptions and the encounters with the seven foot demon, goblins, vampires etc. We meet a figure from the Shadow of the Void in chapter 3, but it is only a brief glimpse and I’m not sure a real threat of danger is quite there. Could you describe the figure more – what it looks like, sounds like, how it moves. You could also give the reader more detail on the Rattus Vampiricus (love this!) – there’s loads of potential for some properly scary foes in this book.

Your dialogue is fantastic and really sparkles off the page – ensure that your monsters do too, otherwise there is a danger that the tone can be too unremittingly arch. Your young readers will need plenty of action and true dramatic tension to keep the momentum going - have the Shadows of the Void done anything particularly horrific to the Flintstaff-Membrayne/Cramp lines throughout history that gives both Victorian adventures and the three children even more impetus to battle them? I am intrigued to see what no nonsense Shini makes of the bumbling, chaotic Major and Sergeant – lots of barely-concealed exasperation and withering put-downs, I expect!

Time-travelling mystery solving and the war between good and evil are certainly well-trod themes in children’s literature – but you have a fresh, funny voice that really leaps off the page and I found very engaging. I wish you all the best with your writing!

Lauren, Editor, Random House






THE UNFORTUNATE ARCHIBALD MARBLE by Elizabeth Wright

This is great stuff: engaging, imaginative writing and a plot that is whipping along. Plenty here for young readers to find very appealing!

Your characters are superb – I have a particular soft spot for idiosyncratic Willard Crankshaw, who must be supremely irritating to be married to but who absolutely leaps off the page! All too often the adults/parents in children’s books can feel a little flat and underused, but I’m pleased to see you don’t reserve all the quirks and personality for your child characters! Stanley and Charlotte have a very credible brother/sister dynamic – Charlotte eyeing ‘her brother like a hungry boa constrictor’ is great!

Your descriptions of the old house, with the roof ‘bent under the weight of three leaning chimneys and a thick blanket of crows’ is so engaging – and what a treat to hear about the weird and wonderful objects inside – the caravan portaloo and mini-oven in the study! A treasure trove of potential discoveries and magic, a tangible sense that this house is special, ‘something that danced in his nostrils’.

After reading your sample chapters I am thoroughly charmed – and can see from your synopsis that when the action kicks off properly and we’re introduced to the talking fox Millicent and the evil, greedy Grimtons, you’ve got a compelling plot unfolding. I love the testing of the various potions on the family – plenty of potential for comedy here. I’m sure you cover this in the full manuscript, but what are the Grimtons motivated by? Why do they want this speech potion so badly? If it could be to wreak some really nefarious damage then so much the better – this would give the narrative a real shot of dramatic tension as Stanley is on a race against time to find Archie and thwart the Grimtons.

I was really impressed with your story so far – best of luck with your writing!

Lauren, Editor, Random House





MADAME ROQUET by Karen Snape-Williams

What an interesting, tightly paced and plotted, intriguing short story. Dark and witty – it packs a big punch in just a few pages, which is impressive. Short stories are notoriously difficult to pull-off – there’s no room for plot unfolding or character development; your idea must be crystallised and realised very tautly, which you absolutely achieve.

Edward escapes the humdrum of domestic life for one evening and gets far more than he bargained for during the encounter with Madame Roquet. A secretive, contraband venue adding to the excitement and shadiness of the build-up to the show – the reader wonders what on earth is going to appear on stage to provoke such fervour among the assembled men.

It is so interesting that Edward immediately categorises Madame Roquet as ‘ a woman of high emotion and low esteem’ and after her performance (!) gives ‘no thought to her suffering’ – she is paraded in this kind of freak show in front of these men purely for their own warped satisfaction, the monkey to the creepy Bazile’s organ grinder. But Madame Roquet has her revenge (I cheered!), frees herself from these stifling men and all is well – though Edward’s very unconvincing sign-off ‘My wife holds my heart. I have no secrets. I tell no lies. I am content’ leaves an uneasy, nasty taste in the mouth.

Brilliant stuff – reminded me of Angela Carter’s Nights at the Circus. I wish you all the very best with your writing!

Lauren, Editor, Random House


LOVE, REVENGE AND LIMONCELLO by K Johns


This is great – you pack so much into such a short text and make everything engaging, credible and interesting, no mean feat! I love the way I was constantly surprised as a reader – just when I thought I had the victim/persecutor roles of Joan and Araminta worked out, you subvert them by revealing Joan’s affair with Roger and Araminta’s genuine pain as a result.

Araminta is set up as such an unappealing character, with her bullying, braying manner, honking laugh and casual, dismissive cruelty when her and Joan were at university together. But mild-mannered, put upon Joan has a vindictive, nasty side too – it is so impressive how multi-layered and fascinating you make these two women within the constrictive construct of a short story. It is smart, cutting, perfectly paced and deliciously wicked – I loved it! I’m afraid this critique is rather short, as I couldn’t fault how you put this story together.

I wish you all the very best with your writing – you’re very talented.

Lauren, Editor, Random House



ProfessionalCritique
 28 Feb 2014, 23:32 #177457 Reply To Post
Editor Review of WOLF BY THE EARS

Dear Lexi Revellian

Congratulations on being selected for a professional critique by your writing peers. I really enjoyed reading these early pages of your thriller novel WOLF BY THE EARS. I thought that these opening chapters were engaging and tense. What I hope these editorial notes will do is provide you with some useful pointers as to how you can hone and develop the existing chapters, as well as give guidance on what to pay attention to as the novel progresses.



Structure:

Structure is the backbone of any novel. It helps to provide shape, focus and drive to the narrative. If your story isn’t sound in structure, the very foundations of your novel may become compromised. From reading these opening pages and your synopsis, it seems that the structure of your narrative will be linear and chronological in time, shown almost exclusively from Tyger’s POV (point of view). The obvious exception was your prologue, shown from the POV of an unknown character, which serves as an enigmatic opener that will leave the reader questioning where this scene will fit it into Tyger’s own story.

It was hard to tell from your synopsis, as it was so brief, but I wondered whether Tyger’s interest in Iain would develop into a romantic subplot? Or how Tyger’s friendship with Rose and Izzie will progress as the novel unfolds? It’s important that there are additional subplots that provide relief from the main storyline, to ensure the reader never tires of your narrative. Subplots help create texture and variation in your writing.



Plot:

I thought your prologue was fantastic. You drop the reader right into the middle of the action. It’s tense, intriguing and compels the reader to want to know more. This is everything an opening to a thriller should be. And the following chapter initially lulls the reader into a false sense of security with Tyger’s morning routine, only to erupt into an equally dramatic and tense scene. Your writing is concise and solid, which helps maintain the pace and flow of the narrative. And you know the importance of not revealing too much too early on, to keep the reader guessing and turning the pages.

But I found the following chapters paled in comparison to your opening ones. While I found the scene with Rose was engaging, and also quite poignant given that she clearly has psychological issues tied in with her hoarding, I did feel like this early scene didn’t have the drive or focus of the preceding scenes. And I think this is to do with the execution, which feels a little underwhelming. Even the most mundane of observations can be portrayed in a way that feels intriguing.

Likewise, the scene in the bar that sees Tyger and Izzie agree to compete for tips feels like a scene taken from an entirely different novel. This is more suited to the chick flick genre than thriller writing. Again, every scene, however ordinary in its events, can be depicted in an engrossing way. You need to maintain the reader’s interest throughout; don’t let your foot off the accelerator. Not every scene needs to be fast-paced or tense, but it does need to further the plot in some way, as well as build upon characterisation and, most importantly, entertain your reader.

A good exercise for getting a clearer overview of your plotting is to storyboard it scene by scene, as this allows you to look at areas where the pace or narrative intrigue may begin to slow or even flounder.


Characterisation:

Tyger is an intriguing character, and from these opening pages, she is a strong protagonist who should be able to shoulder the weight of the narrative, given that the story is told solely from her POV. But as I mentioned above, try not to segue into chick flick territory, as this tends to make Tyger’s portrayal feel more superficial. She needs more depth and her depiction more insightful. You need to expose what is unique about her. Avoid clichés or predictability. She needs to feel as memorable as she is real if she is to carry the story and really pull your reader into her world.



Setting:

Setting is of course only the backdrop to a story, but it can be a character in its own right too, helping build atmosphere and even influence the novel’s tone. While there is a reference to Tyger living in Kensington Olympia and a description of her bedroom, and of the billionaire’s row where she works, there is little in the way of descriptive detail to really bring this fictional world to life. There only needs to be flashes of detail woven through, rather than whole paragraphs of description, but it needs to be vivid enough to really transport the reader.



Tone:

Tone is one of the hardest elements of a narrative to master, but also one of the most important. If your tone is off-pitch, it won’t ring true with your reader, and so will compromise their engagement with your story. Thrillers are obviously darker in tone, given that they deal with life and death scenarios and are often more violent in their representations. As I mentioned earlier in my notes, I did feel like the novel awkwardly segued from a thriller to scenes that felt more like a chick flick novel, which in turn influenced the tone of your novel. Even as your tone changes as the plot unfolds, your overall tone should always feel consistent.



Genre/Market:

As I’m sure you’re aware, adult thrillers are an incredibly competitive area of the commercial fiction market, and so any new book needs to offer something fresh and imaginative if it is to stand out in a very crowded marketplace. While I think your writing has a lot of potential, at present I don’t think these early pages have the necessary ingredients to really set your book apart. The biggest piece of advice I can give you is to read voraciously. The first step in becoming a good writer is becoming a good reader, and that means not only reading widely, but also reading analytically. Assess what you think does and doesn’t work in each book you read. Take a moment to consider how they create and develop each facet of their narrative, from structure, to plotting, to characterisation, setting and tone. By becoming an observant and active reader, you will in turn become a more nuanced writer.


Synopsis:

As I have mentioned previously, this was a little on the short side. If you intend to submit your work to a literary agent, most agencies ask for a detailed plot synopsis that is one or two pages long. You need to provide an overview of the story, so a reader gets more of a sense of where the narrative is headed after the opening chapters.


Line notes:

‘As I spoke, part of my mind was registering what a well-built body he had’ – this line sounds like something out of a badly written erotic novel. Remember that less if often more…

‘pronouncing the name as if holding it at the end of tongs like a dead rat’ – great description!

‘Izzie is good to tell things to, as she listens properly and makes funny comments. She’s quite shrewd, too’ – this feels a little adolescent in its description here. Perhaps something else that is more insightful and more aptly put?



Conclusion:

I hope these notes have been helpful to you. As I have already said, I think these early pages mark a really promising start but there is room for development. As well as reading as widely as possible in the area in which you wish to write, have you considered joining a creative writing group? Receiving regular feedback from writing peers can be an invaluable way to hone your writing skills.

I wish you the best of luck in your rewrites, and hope you continue to enjoy writing.

Best wishes
Natalie Braine, Editor
ProfessionalCritique
 28 Feb 2014, 23:33 #177458 Reply To Post
Professional mini critique for The Hundred and Fifty-Eighth Book by Kate A Hardy

Congratulations on being well rated by your writing peers at YouWriteOn. I enjoyed reading you short story but thought it could benefit from some revision and development. For instance, I thought your opening could be much stronger if you are to successfully hook your reader. Talk of weather is rather pedestrian and underwhelming as a story opener. My other major reservation was your characterisation. Hamish feels somewhat underdrawn as your protagonist. I actually thought he was a woman initially, until Colette refers to him as Hamish. Lines like ‘not that I really give a poop’ make him sound almost adolescent and immature – not exactly what you’d imagine of an independent Bloomsbury bookseller… His thought process is also very meandering, making your story seem unfocused. And I found the ending a little flat. In short, while the premise of life imitating art is one that has much dramatic potential, I don’t think you fully capitalised on this. Have you considered joining a creative writing group? Receiving regular feedback from other writing peers can be invaluable in shaping and honing your storytelling skills.

A few small additional points to consider. It’s quite unusual for a short story to have chapters. Perhaps it would be better to structure your narrative in time breaks, or separate them with subheadings alone? Also, I wasn’t sure why you have in the subheading ‘(almost)’ regarding Bloomsbury, when it is in London? I not only found this a bit ambiguous but also quite distracting as a reader.


Professional mini critique for Safe Ground by Maggie Mayers

Congratulations on being well rated by your writing peers at YouWriteOn. I enjoyed reading the opening pages of your young adult novel but I did think they would benefit from further development. The early chapters of a novel are the most crucial, as they are the test as to whether you hook reader from the very beginning. And at present, I don’t think they are strong enough. There needs to be a greater sense of atmosphere and mystery to really pull the reader in. While your premise tackles important teen issues, the delivery of your storytelling needs attention, as it all feels a little ordinary and unremarkable in these pages. You have to question why the reader will feel compelled to read on. Every chapter has to feel precise and intriguing in its execution if you are to grip them.

In your synopsis, you describe the narrative as ‘well-paced and taut’. These are fundamental facets of a narrative, but I did think your storytelling could be much sharper and more concise. Writing is only the beginning of creating a book; editing and revising are just as important processes. You need to work on polishing your writing, making it more engaging and streamlined. The biggest piece of advice I can give is to read voraciously, and to be an active reader, rather than a passive one. Analyse what works and doesn’t work in books, and allow this to influence your own craftsmanship.


Professional mini critique for The Couch by Kate A Hardy

Congratulations on being well rated by your writing peers at YouWriteOn. I enjoyed reading your short story. It had a great premise, and one that has the potential for much scope (in terms of setting, era and social changes) as well as introducing an array of colourful characters. The sofa is portrayed as a character in its own right, not only silently observing those that perch on it, but also forming its own judgements and observations. I liked the final chapter, where the sofa functioned as a therapist’s chair, and thought this had the most dramatic potential, yet it felt like it was cut short.

I did find some of the characters’ stories less intriguing than others, and also quite predictable. In short, I don’t think you have fully capitalised on your story’s potential. It could be much more dramatic and involving, and have more to say about the period in which each vignette is set. Lastly, as I also mentioned in my review of your other short story, The Hundred and Fifty-Eighth Book, I do think that you choice to structure you short story into chapters is just an odd one. I think subheadings alone, indicating the change of year and setting, is more than enough.

Natalie Braine, Editor








Josephineob
 02 Mar 2014, 10:25 #177519 Reply To Post
Quote: ProfessionalCritique, Friday, 28 Feb 2014 23:27
Orion Editor Review of Shared Skies

See attachment

This was actually very intriguing, and – although she needs to keep an eye on errant commas and changing tense within a sentence – I felt the author had done a very good job. Most of my comments are in the attached document, as normal.

I guess, on a wider scale, my concern is where the book goes next. These opening chapters are nicely creepy, and I think portray the world of one unusual girl and her distant father well, but from the synopsis the plot is going to move far away from this sort of thing (although the school scenes sound enjoyable). There’s nothing wrong with turning the opening into a multi-world alien invasion SF novel, but it’s impossible for me to judge how the author will manage that. I fear there’s a risk of disconnecting from what I liked in this section, but of course it will all come down to the execution.

Overall, though, I’m not surprised why this was picked – it’s got an intriguing premise, is generally well written, and there are some very nice passages indeed. It needs tightening in places, and I’ve done my usual hatchet job on the synopsis, but overall very impressive.

Marcus, Editor, Orion


Josephineob
 02 Mar 2014, 10:43 #177521 Reply To Post
Quote: ProfessionalCritique, Friday, 28 Feb 2014 23:27
Orion Editor Review of Shared Skies

See attachment

This was actually very intriguing, and – although she needs to keep an eye on errant commas and changing tense within a sentence – I felt the author had done a very good job. Most of my comments are in the attached document, as normal.

I guess, on a wider scale, my concern is where the book goes next. These opening chapters are nicely creepy, and I think portray the world of one unusual girl and her distant father well, but from the synopsis the plot is going to move far away from this sort of thing (although the school scenes sound enjoyable). There’s nothing wrong with turning the opening into a multi-world alien invasion SF novel, but it’s impossible for me to judge how the author will manage that. I fear there’s a risk of disconnecting from what I liked in this section, but of course it will all come down to the execution.

Overall, though, I’m not surprised why this was picked – it’s got an intriguing premise, is generally well written, and there are some very nice passages indeed. It needs tightening in places, and I’ve done my usual hatchet job on the synopsis, but overall very impressive.

Marcus, Editor, Orion


Well, I am genuinely taken aback at the depth, quality and care of this review.
I'm so grateful to Marcus for his time, attention and thoughts, and to YouWriteOn for making this possible.
I'm greatly encouraged by his views, and his suggested edits(most of them!) are already in place.
You haven't heard the last of Shared Skies!
Josephine
spotty leopard
 02 Mar 2014, 12:55 #177529 Reply To Post
Quote: ProfessionalCritique, Friday, 28 Feb 2014 23:32
Editor Review of WOLF BY THE EARS

Dear Lexi Revellian

Congratulations on being selected for a professional critique by your writing peers. I really enjoyed reading these early pages of your thriller novel WOLF BY THE EARS. I thought that these opening chapters were engaging and tense. What I hope these editorial notes will do is provide you with some useful pointers as to how you can hone and develop the existing chapters, as well as give guidance on what to pay attention to as the novel progresses.

Structure:

Structure is the backbone of any novel. It helps to provide shape, focus and drive to the narrative. If your story isn’t sound in structure, the very foundations of your novel may become compromised. From reading these opening pages and your synopsis, it seems that the structure of your narrative will be linear and chronological in time, shown almost exclusively from Tyger’s POV (point of view). The obvious exception was your prologue, shown from the POV of an unknown character, which serves as an enigmatic opener that will leave the reader questioning where this scene will fit it into Tyger’s own story.

It was hard to tell from your synopsis, as it was so brief, but I wondered whether Tyger’s interest in Iain would develop into a romantic subplot? Or how Tyger’s friendship with Rose and Izzie will progress as the novel unfolds? It’s important that there are additional subplots that provide relief from the main storyline, to ensure the reader never tires of your narrative. Subplots help create texture and variation in your writing.

Plot:

I thought your prologue was fantastic. You drop the reader right into the middle of the action. It’s tense, intriguing and compels the reader to want to know more. This is everything an opening to a thriller should be. And the following chapter initially lulls the reader into a false sense of security with Tyger’s morning routine, only to erupt into an equally dramatic and tense scene. Your writing is concise and solid, which helps maintain the pace and flow of the narrative. And you know the importance of not revealing too much too early on, to keep the reader guessing and turning the pages.

But I found the following chapters paled in comparison to your opening ones. While I found the scene with Rose was engaging, and also quite poignant given that she clearly has psychological issues tied in with her hoarding, I did feel like this early scene didn’t have the drive or focus of the preceding scenes. And I think this is to do with the execution, which feels a little underwhelming. Even the most mundane of observations can be portrayed in a way that feels intriguing.

Likewise, the scene in the bar that sees Tyger and Izzie agree to compete for tips feels like a scene taken from an entirely different novel. This is more suited to the chick flick genre than thriller writing. Again, every scene, however ordinary in its events, can be depicted in an engrossing way. You need to maintain the reader’s interest throughout; don’t let your foot off the accelerator. Not every scene needs to be fast-paced or tense, but it does need to further the plot in some way, as well as build upon characterisation and, most importantly, entertain your reader.

A good exercise for getting a clearer overview of your plotting is to storyboard it scene by scene, as this allows you to look at areas where the pace or narrative intrigue may begin to slow or even flounder.

Characterisation:

Tyger is an intriguing character, and from these opening pages, she is a strong protagonist who should be able to shoulder the weight of the narrative, given that the story is told solely from her POV. But as I mentioned above, try not to segue into chick flick territory, as this tends to make Tyger’s portrayal feel more superficial. She needs more depth and her depiction more insightful. You need to expose what is unique about her. Avoid clichés or predictability. She needs to feel as memorable as she is real if she is to carry the story and really pull your reader into her world.

Setting:

Setting is of course only the backdrop to a story, but it can be a character in its own right too, helping build atmosphere and even influence the novel’s tone. While there is a reference to Tyger living in Kensington Olympia and a description of her bedroom, and of the billionaire’s row where she works, there is little in the way of descriptive detail to really bring this fictional world to life. There only needs to be flashes of detail woven through, rather than whole paragraphs of description, but it needs to be vivid enough to really transport the reader.

Tone:

Tone is one of the hardest elements of a narrative to master, but also one of the most important. If your tone is off-pitch, it won’t ring true with your reader, and so will compromise their engagement with your story. Thrillers are obviously darker in tone, given that they deal with life and death scenarios and are often more violent in their representations. As I mentioned earlier in my notes, I did feel like the novel awkwardly segued from a thriller to scenes that felt more like a chick flick novel, which in turn influenced the tone of your novel. Even as your tone changes as the plot unfolds, your overall tone should always feel consistent.

Genre/Market:

As I’m sure you’re aware, adult thrillers are an incredibly competitive area of the commercial fiction market, and so any new book needs to offer something fresh and imaginative if it is to stand out in a very crowded marketplace. While I think your writing has a lot of potential, at present I don’t think these early pages have the necessary ingredients to really set your book apart. The biggest piece of advice I can give you is to read voraciously. The first step in becoming a good writer is becoming a good reader, and that means not only reading widely, but also reading analytically. Assess what you think does and doesn’t work in each book you read. Take a moment to consider how they create and develop each facet of their narrative, from structure, to plotting, to characterisation, setting and tone. By becoming an observant and active reader, you will in turn become a more nuanced writer.

Synopsis:

As I have mentioned previously, this was a little on the short side. If you intend to submit your work to a literary agent, most agencies ask for a detailed plot synopsis that is one or two pages long. You need to provide an overview of the story, so a reader gets more of a sense of where the narrative is headed after the opening chapters.

Line notes:

‘As I spoke, part of my mind was registering what a well-built body he had’ – this line sounds like something out of a badly written erotic novel. Remember that less if often more…

‘pronouncing the name as if holding it at the end of tongs like a dead rat’ – great description!

‘Izzie is good to tell things to, as she listens properly and makes funny comments. She’s quite shrewd, too’ – this feels a little adolescent in its description here. Perhaps something else that is more insightful and more aptly put?

Conclusion:

I hope these notes have been helpful to you. As I have already said, I think these early pages mark a really promising start but there is room for development. As well as reading as widely as possible in the area in which you wish to write, have you considered joining a creative writing group? Receiving regular feedback from writing peers can be an invaluable way to hone your writing skills.

I wish you the best of luck in your rewrites, and hope you continue to enjoy writing.

Best wishes
Natalie Braine, Editor


Thanks, Natalie! I'm sorry not to have provided a proper synopsis - as an indie author I don't normally need one, and wasn't sure until too late that Wolf by the Ears was going to get a professional critique. Rose's hoarding does indeed play a part in the plot, as does Tyger's yearning for a small flat of her own. Iain is not the romantic interest (that role goes to a childhood friend of Tyger's) but turns out to have his own agenda.

Perhaps one day I'll write a novel that sticks to one genre. I confess, I think it's more interesting to mix them up a little. I'm glad you liked the prologue.

Lexi

Click here for my blog
kitkat
 03 Mar 2014, 09:08 #177569 Reply To Post
Quote: ProfessionalCritique, Friday, 28 Feb 2014 23:32
Random House Editor Reviews

FLINTSTAFF AND CRAMP: The Curious Case of the Case by Duncan Howard

Congratulations on being selected for a longer critique – I very much enjoyed your sample chapters and hope the following comments are of use.

Your opening scene is great and really transports the reader into the action from the off. The ‘breathless hush’ of the glade being completely shattered by the crashing arrival of Major Henry Flintstaff-Membrayne and Sergeant Arthur Cramp (both are inspired names!) heralds a lively, fast-moving, high-energy narrative, with plenty of sharp, witty dialogue which put me in mind of Steven Moffatt’s Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson. Cramp being described as diving forth ‘with all the courage and devotion of a Yorkshire terrier’ made me laugh out loud! Just one thing about this first scene: can we see more of the werewolf attacking, please, as a physical counterpoint to all the banter?

The introduction to Charlie (and Tom and Shini) in the modern world is handled no less confidently and humorously – very convincing, sparring dialogue between the two boys and poor old Charlie’s tongue-tied reaction to beautiful, sardonic Shini is really funny and painfully realistic! I see from your synopsis that these three kids will soon become embroiled in the tussle with the supernatural evil – really go to town on your descriptions and the encounters with the seven foot demon, goblins, vampires etc. We meet a figure from the Shadow of the Void in chapter 3, but it is only a brief glimpse and I’m not sure a real threat of danger is quite there. Could you describe the figure more – what it looks like, sounds like, how it moves. You could also give the reader more detail on the Rattus Vampiricus (love this!) – there’s loads of potential for some properly scary foes in this book.

Your dialogue is fantastic and really sparkles off the page – ensure that your monsters do too, otherwise there is a danger that the tone can be too unremittingly arch. Your young readers will need plenty of action and true dramatic tension to keep the momentum going - have the Shadows of the Void done anything particularly horrific to the Flintstaff-Membrayne/Cramp lines throughout history that gives both Victorian adventures and the three children even more impetus to battle them? I am intrigued to see what no nonsense Shini makes of the bumbling, chaotic Major and Sergeant – lots of barely-concealed exasperation and withering put-downs, I expect!

Time-travelling mystery solving and the war between good and evil are certainly well-trod themes in children’s literature – but you have a fresh, funny voice that really leaps off the page and I found very engaging. I wish you all the best with your writing!

Lauren, Editor, Random House






THE UNFORTUNATE ARCHIBALD MARBLE by Elizabeth Wright

This is great stuff: engaging, imaginative writing and a plot that is whipping along. Plenty here for young readers to find very appealing!

Your characters are superb – I have a particular soft spot for idiosyncratic Willard Crankshaw, who must be supremely irritating to be married to but who absolutely leaps off the page! All too often the adults/parents in children’s books can feel a little flat and underused, but I’m pleased to see you don’t reserve all the quirks and personality for your child characters! Stanley and Charlotte have a very credible brother/sister dynamic – Charlotte eyeing ‘her brother like a hungry boa constrictor’ is great!

Your descriptions of the old house, with the roof ‘bent under the weight of three leaning chimneys and a thick blanket of crows’ is so engaging – and what a treat to hear about the weird and wonderful objects inside – the caravan portaloo and mini-oven in the study! A treasure trove of potential discoveries and magic, a tangible sense that this house is special, ‘something that danced in his nostrils’.

After reading your sample chapters I am thoroughly charmed – and can see from your synopsis that when the action kicks off properly and we’re introduced to the talking fox Millicent and the evil, greedy Grimtons, you’ve got a compelling plot unfolding. I love the testing of the various potions on the family – plenty of potential for comedy here. I’m sure you cover this in the full manuscript, but what are the Grimtons motivated by? Why do they want this speech potion so badly? If it could be to wreak some really nefarious damage then so much the better – this would give the narrative a real shot of dramatic tension as Stanley is on a race against time to find Archie and thwart the Grimtons.

I was really impressed with your story so far – best of luck with your writing!

Lauren, Editor, Random House





MADAME ROQUET by Karen Snape-Williams

What an interesting, tightly paced and plotted, intriguing short story. Dark and witty – it packs a big punch in just a few pages, which is impressive. Short stories are notoriously difficult to pull-off – there’s no room for plot unfolding or character development; your idea must be crystallised and realised very tautly, which you absolutely achieve.

Edward escapes the humdrum of domestic life for one evening and gets far more than he bargained for during the encounter with Madame Roquet. A secretive, contraband venue adding to the excitement and shadiness of the build-up to the show – the reader wonders what on earth is going to appear on stage to provoke such fervour among the assembled men.

It is so interesting that Edward immediately categorises Madame Roquet as ‘ a woman of high emotion and low esteem’ and after her performance (!) gives ‘no thought to her suffering’ – she is paraded in this kind of freak show in front of these men purely for their own warped satisfaction, the monkey to the creepy Bazile’s organ grinder. But Madame Roquet has her revenge (I cheered!), frees herself from these stifling men and all is well – though Edward’s very unconvincing sign-off ‘My wife holds my heart. I have no secrets. I tell no lies. I am content’ leaves an uneasy, nasty taste in the mouth.

Brilliant stuff – reminded me of Angela Carter’s Nights at the Circus. I wish you all the very best with your writing!

Lauren, Editor, Random House


LOVE, REVENGE AND LIMONCELLO by K Johns


This is great – you pack so much into such a short text and make everything engaging, credible and interesting, no mean feat! I love the way I was constantly surprised as a reader – just when I thought I had the victim/persecutor roles of Joan and Araminta worked out, you subvert them by revealing Joan’s affair with Roger and Araminta’s genuine pain as a result.

Araminta is set up as such an unappealing character, with her bullying, braying manner, honking laugh and casual, dismissive cruelty when her and Joan were at university together. But mild-mannered, put upon Joan has a vindictive, nasty side too – it is so impressive how multi-layered and fascinating you make these two women within the constrictive construct of a short story. It is smart, cutting, perfectly paced and deliciously wicked – I loved it! I’m afraid this critique is rather short, as I couldn’t fault how you put this story together.

I wish you all the very best with your writing – you’re very talented.

Lauren, Editor, Random House





Thank you Lauren for your kind words and encouragemnet on Love, Revenge and Limoncello - much appreciated!
Best wishes
Katy
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