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ProfessionalCritique
 28 Aug 2014, 20:30 #182272 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 Aug 2014, 20:40 #182273 Reply To Post
Random House Editor Reviews

Random House Editor of Korsakoff and the Hovering Dogs


Dear Francis,
Congratulations on having Korsakoff and the Hovering Dogs chosen for review. It’s an accomplished piece of writing, and there’s much I liked about it. I do have some thoughts on a few areas I think could be worth looking at as you revisit your manuscript, and I hope they’re useful to you.

MIKE
He’s a potentially great unlikely hero but I think he could do with a little refining. His interactions with others are great – very immediate and realistic – but we don’t get so much of these sharp, funny reactions to things when he’s narrating without interacting. I think you could really allow yourself the space to make more of his thoughts and feelings as he carries us through the plot. With a quirky first-person narrator like this we really need to know your hero and identify with him, even when we don’t agree with his behaviour.

I would also suggest that you take a look at balancing out Mike’s negativity towards life in the opening section with a little more black humour. In the immediate opening, you’ve got this balance brilliantly – he has our sympathy but not our pity and we are interested in him, but as the opening scenes develop, he gets a little bogged down in negativity – and, as a result, so do we. Though I completely appreciate that Mike is an ‘everyman’ pulled into the mystery of the band almost accidently we don’t want to get trapped in the mundane, without him lightening this for us from time to time.

I wonder if we’ve seen enough of the life he’s left behind. It might work well for us to actually see the scene in the car with Sam and Alice (or a similar one). At the moment his wife and daughter don’t feel as fully realised as they could be, and nor do we fully appreciate the change in his life.

STRUCTURE

On reading these opening scenes I wondered if there might be a lot happening too quickly? As above, you could allow yourself a little more space to develop Mike. I think we need more of him to carry us from incident to incident.

I did wonder whether some sort of prologue could work to give us an insight into either where Mike is headed or where he’s come from. This would balance the immediacy of modern everyday life really well, I think. If you flashed-back maybe we could see Mike with Sam and Alice – or maybe even the Uncle Arnold he refers to (this would set us up nicely for the fact that he’s reminded of him when he meets the band).

On reading your synopsis I did wonder whether your proposed structure makes this a novel about the band rather than about Mike. It is an interesting story and the dynamic of the band-members sounds fascinating. Maybe there’s a bigger book in here? Maybe you could try a multi-narrative device; I’d be interested to get to know the band. In a way, Mike is always going to be an outsider from the group he is telling us about and that’s a very specific dynamic to get right.

PITCH
As always, it’s worth considering exactly who your novel is for as you go back through it. To me, Korsakoff and the Hovering Dogs would appeal to fans of Jonathan Coe and the interesting, quirky title and flashes of black humour work in this vein. Is this the area you were going for? If not, it might be worth making some tweaks so that the feel and the title fit with the area of the market you were aiming for.

And I think they’re the three main areas I would advise taking a look at. All the very best for your writing and for this novel – and thanks for a great read.

Ruth, Editor, Random House
ProfessionalCritique
 28 Aug 2014, 20:41 #182274 Reply To Post
Random House Mini Reviews

THE STORY OF MY LIFE BY SARA CATE
Congratulations – I enjoyed this read. I was drawn to Meredith and very intrigued by her family mystery, but I think we need more of her. I would suggest we need more set-up to the person she is in your opening pages so that we understand why she is drawn to Jacky. We don’t want to feel that our heroine is stupid, and at the moment it’s very difficult to see the good about her relationship or why she would have got into it in the first place.

Meredith’s voice feels authentic, but I’d love to know more of her thoughts and feelings. As above to understand why she’s in the position she’s in, but also so that we get to know her as she develops and so that we’re rooting for her as we go through the story.

I wonder if the story needs just a slightly softer feel in places. Not because I’m prudish but because I think you might attract a wider readership this way. At the centre of the novel you’ve created is the story of Meredith and her mother, and this is something with real heart. A little more warmth at points could really draw us into their story from the outset and keep us with them throughout.

All in all I really enjoyed this read, but I did just want to mention a couple of other much smaller points. One is whether the celebrity mentions will date the novel too much and the other is the title. You obviously can’t copyright titles, but I’m wondering whether the title of a One Direction song will attract readers in the way it should?!

FLAME BY PEGGY ROTHSCHILD

I was very interested by Beth and her story, but I think we need to know her a little better so that we know what she’s thinking and how she’s feeling. She takes us through incidents – which are interesting and well-told – but we don’t quite get to know Beth in the way I think we could. It would be worth going back through and taking a look at places where you could show us things rather than tell us. For example, we don’t need to be told up front that the Chief expects her to fail. Perhaps you could show her and the Chief to us?

You’ve written an intriguing opening and I enjoyed reading it. I especially like the dialogue and the interactions Beth and her mother and Carl, but in general I feel you do need Beth to lead us through things a little more.

I also like the juxtaposition of time periods, and you’ve created a good atmosphere in the teenage Beth section. Perhaps you could do a little more to position the 1986 narrative more definitely in a set time?
Overall, this is a potentially great read – congratulations.



Ruth, Editor, Random House
ProfessionalCritique
 28 Aug 2014, 20:43 #182275 Reply To Post
Orion Editor Review of Winter's Rage

See attached for Editor’s indepth line edit critique


There’s a really decent alt-history story trying to get out of here, but there are a few things that need to be tweaked first. All of my comments are marked up in the attached document, but a few of the more major ones:

The opening sections are fractured, and might confuse the reader. I’d lose the 2nd para and move it later on. It adds nothing at this point but mystery.

The author has a tendency to split metaphors and descriptions and make them nonsensical, and there are a few sentences where the pronouns become utterly confusing.

The opening introduction by Zoya to the hunting party is a bit ‘here’s a list of characters’ – I tend to think this, too could be dispensed with. It acts far better as an intro to Zoya – let the hunting party introduce themselves through action and dialogue.

On the positive side, there’s some very nice writing here, and it’s – apart from the pronoun/metaphor issues – very clear. There are almost no typos (which is great!) and its generally very readable.

Please don’t be downhearted by the flurry of comments in the first few pages – my manuscripts generally look like that!

The synopsis is too long and dense – it needs working down to make it more interesting, really focus on the characters and motives rather than specific details. It seems to me that there’s quite a lot going on for one book based on this, but then the proof is in the writing!

All in all, there’s a lot to be pleased with here, and it’s obviously been a lot of work. With a few tweaks and reworkings, and a cold look at whether all of the content is necessary, this could really work.

Attachments
The Winter's Rage MG version.doc (91Kb) - 189 view(s)
ProfessionalCritique
 28 Aug 2014, 20:59 #182279 Reply To Post
Many thanks to everyone.

Further critiques to be added when received from the editors.

If you wish to add any thanks etc for Editors you are welcome to add in the thank you forum. This change - posting there instead of in this forum - is only to avoid the critiques forum having spam posts about the latest handbags etc
scgc
 02 Sep 2014, 09:17 #182390 Reply To Post
Please thank Ruth on my behalf for her encouraging mini-review and helpful suggestions. I will definitely look at the points she raises, especially on bringing in more on Meredith. Also, thanks for the tip about the title - I had no idea it was a One Direction song!
Quote: ProfessionalCritique, Thursday, 28 Aug 2014 20:41
Random House Mini Reviews

THE STORY OF MY LIFE BY SARA CATE
Congratulations – I enjoyed this read. I was drawn to Meredith and very intrigued by her family mystery, but I think we need more of her. I would suggest we need more set-up to the person she is in your opening pages so that we understand why she is drawn to Jacky. We don’t want to feel that our heroine is stupid, and at the moment it’s very difficult to see the good about her relationship or why she would have got into it in the first place.

Meredith’s voice feels authentic, but I’d love to know more of her thoughts and feelings. As above to understand why she’s in the position she’s in, but also so that we get to know her as she develops and so that we’re rooting for her as we go through the story.

I wonder if the story needs just a slightly softer feel in places. Not because I’m prudish but because I think you might attract a wider readership this way. At the centre of the novel you’ve created is the story of Meredith and her mother, and this is something with real heart. A little more warmth at points could really draw us into their story from the outset and keep us with them throughout.

All in all I really enjoyed this read, but I did just want to mention a couple of other much smaller points. One is whether the celebrity mentions will date the novel too much and the other is the title. You obviously can’t copyright titles, but I’m wondering whether the title of a One Direction song will attract readers in the way it should?!

FLAME BY PEGGY ROTHSCHILD

I was very interested by Beth and her story, but I think we need to know her a little better so that we know what she’s thinking and how she’s feeling. She takes us through incidents – which are interesting and well-told – but we don’t quite get to know Beth in the way I think we could. It would be worth going back through and taking a look at places where you could show us things rather than tell us. For example, we don’t need to be told up front that the Chief expects her to fail. Perhaps you could show her and the Chief to us?

You’ve written an intriguing opening and I enjoyed reading it. I especially like the dialogue and the interactions Beth and her mother and Carl, but in general I feel you do need Beth to lead us through things a little more.

I also like the juxtaposition of time periods, and you’ve created a good atmosphere in the teenage Beth section. Perhaps you could do a little more to position the 1986 narrative more definitely in a set time?
Overall, this is a potentially great read – congratulations.



Ruth, Editor, Random House


morganlee860
 19 Sep 2014, 08:48 #182904 Reply To Post
Thanks for the information, I have just joined this group...looking forward for some more interactive information
ProfessionalCritique
 26 Sep 2014, 22:27 #182999 Reply To Post
Professional mini critique for The Waves and the Moon Revised by Sheralee

Congratulations on being well rated by your writing peers at YouWriteOn. I enjoyed reading your short story and thought it was well written and involving. However (and I wouldn’t be doing my job if there wasn’t a ‘however’!) I did think some passages were a little over-written. Remember that less is often more, particularly when it comes to descriptive prose.

I thought your protagonist, Sylvia, was an intriguing character, but I felt you could build upon her characterisation a little more. At present she seems more like a reluctant vessel for other people’s dreams and desires, while her own aren’t truly explored. There is a brief mention of a love interest in the form of Clive, but detail is scant so the reader is unable to gauge the significance of this. Obviously the short story form is constrictive in terms of being able to weave through context and background detail – it is more of a snapshot of a larger story – but you still need to provide insight into your protagonist and their motivations if the reader is to engage with them.


Professional mini critique for Waking the Sleepers by Anthony Irvin


Congratulations on being well rated by your writing peers at YouWriteOn. I enjoyed reading these early pages of your novel but did think they could benefit from further development. One area that I felt needed particular attention was your characterisation and dialogue. I found some of the character exchanges a little stilted, and consequently the drama and emotion of a scene became compromised. I also found Collette a difficult character to engage with. She feels quite prickly and melodramatic, and I wasn’t really pulled into her storyline in this opening pages.

You class this as an action thriller novel, and while it does have elements of both, I wouldn’t class your novel as either of those genres. It felt much more like a drama. It is important that you understand what kind of book you are trying to write, and in turn who your intended readership is. Any uncertainty will become evident in your writing and in turn distance the reader, which is what is beginning to happen in these early chapters. You need to grab the reader from the very first page.

You also tend to over-describe, using a few similar phrases when just one would suffice. Remember that less is often more, particularly with description. You want to transport the reader right to the heart of your story as sharply and concisely as possible.


Professional mini critique for A Puppet in the Hand by Sophie Six

Congratulations on being well rated by your writing peers at YouWriteOn. I enjoyed reading these early pages of your novel. I was impressed by the confidence of your writing. You quickly transport the reader straight into the heart of your story. You also keep them on their toes, flitting between unconnected scenes, to reflect your protagonist Tam’s own scrambled sense of passing time, due to her ECT treatments.

I didn’t find the second chapter as involving as your opening chapter. The Guardian is a shadowy figure, and it is hard to get a sense of who he really is, but the ambiguity of the scene and how it’s connected to the rest of the novel will keep the reader invested in your story and turning the pages.

You class it as both teenage fiction and women’s fiction and it definitely has crossover appeal. From reading your synopsis, it seems the story should avoid a predictable narrative route and will hopefully be full of drama and suspense, which should compel the reader to keep turning the pages.


Professional mini critique for Measure the Distance by Diana Leston

Congratulations on being well rated by your writing peers at YouWriteOn. I enjoyed reading the opening pages of your novel but felt they could benefit from further development. My main concern was the your protagonist’s portrayal wasn’t strong enough. Rebecca seems to lack character and individuality. If the reader doesn’t con

nect with her, their investment in her story will be compromised. You need to work on making her more of a distinct character and really get under her skin.

You class this as a mystery and a romance. While this has a romantic subplot, I would steer away from defining it as a romance. I also felt that the book lacked the pace and suspense of a mystery novel. The drama needs to feel a little more heightened, and the plot needs to have more intrigue, particularly in these early chapters when you need to hook the reader from the very beginning if they are to continue reading.

Best wishes

Natalie Braine
ProfessionalCritique
 26 Sep 2014, 22:28 #183000 Reply To Post
Editor Critique of DEAD MEN LIE

Dear Lin Forrester

Congratulations on being selected for a professional critique by your writing peers. I enjoyed reading these early pages of your novel DEAD MEN LIE and was impressed by the confidence of your writing. What I hope these editorial notes will do is provide you with some useful pointers as to how you can hone and advance 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. Writers often overlook how they structure their narrative, but it’s the groundwork of any good story.

From reading your synopsis, I wasn’t sure whether the entire novel will remain from Bee’s POV (point of view) or whether Part 2 will be depicted from Cary’s POV. And likewise with Part 3, regarding the infiltration of Monkey Business, will these final scenes be shown through alternate character POVs? I think it would be a good idea to make this clear in your synopsis, so a potential reader has a better idea of how the novel will be structured in that way.

As I mention below in my comments on plotting, you have incorporated other subplots into your story, which should help give your narrative more depth and interest, as it will provide relief from the main storyline and hopefully help keep the reader’s attention.


Plot:

I found these opening chapters engaging and involving, and always felt like I was in safe hands as a reader. However, from reading your synopsis, I have concerns regarding how the novel will progress. As I mentioned above, I was unsure whether the character POV would suddenly shift in the second part. If this is the case, and the story will then be depicted from Cary’s perspective, it is crucial that this transition doesn’t feel jarring to the reader.

The third part of the novel seems like it will venture into unexpected territory, becoming both darker (with the narrative suddenly focusing on a paedophile ring) yet at the same time it also seems like it might be verging on the farcical side. Perhaps this is just how it comes across from reading the synopsis, and the full manuscript will maintain the tone and pace of the rest of the novel. But again, it is crucial that as you build towards the novel’s climax, that your plotting doesn’t become melodramatic and over-the-top.

As well as the main storyline, which revolves around Bee’s pursuit of the truth in regards to her father’s true identity and going undercover to expose Monkey Business, there is also a romantic subplot involving Bee and Mike. From reading your synopsis, it seems that you won’t allow this secondary story arc to overshadow the mystery elements of your novel, given that Bee begins to question whether she can actually trust Mike and what his agenda might be.


Characterisation:

I thought Bee was a well-drawn and engaging protagonist. You very quickly capture her voice in these early pages


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.


Genre/Market:

You class this as adventure, crime, mystery and thriller. It’s important to know that all these genres are quite different in their style, and it’s absolutely crucial that as a writer you know what kind of book you are writing and just whom you are writing for. A book may of course have elements of adventure or mystery in it, but that doesn’t necessarily make it an adventure book or a mystery novel.

As I’m sure you’re aware, crime thriller fiction is an incredibly competitive area of the market and also very saturated, so a new book really needs to be something fresh and brilliantly told if it is to shine out from a very crowded arena. As I have discussed above, you have some way to go to achieve this. One of the best pieces of advice I can give you is to read voraciously, particularly in the area in which you wish to write. And read actively, rather than passively, being analytical about different areas of the narrative, such as structure, plot, characterisation, and examining whether you think each facet is successful, and if so, how the author achieved this. This in turn will help hone your own writing skills, as you’ll acquire an instinctive sense of what does and doesn’t work in your own storytelling.




Conclusion:

I hope these notes have been helpful to you. I think you show much promise as a writer, but structure and plotting cannot be overlooked. 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 sharpen your writing skills.

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


Best wishes

Natalie Braine
ProfessionalCritique
 26 Sep 2014, 22:29 #183001 Reply To Post
Thank you to everyone. Please add any comments or thanks in the thank-you forum and we will forward on. best wishes, youwriteon
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