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YouWriteOn
 07 Sep 2015, 23:54 #185884 Reply To Post
Bloomsbury / Random House / Orion Critiques latest editor critiques for the last competition period.

We will add further editor critiques as received.


Random House Reviews


I Still Believe/J A Stevens


Congratulations on being one of the top rated stories, with this very confident, very strong opening to a novel. Interweaving fact and fiction can be very appealing to readers, and I think many people will be fascinated to read a novel that revolves around such a notorious character, although do just bear in mind that there are likely to be some readers who will hold strong views about the case, as she was a real person. I am not sure whether you intend for this to be a direct fictionalised biography or whether 'your' Ruth is more of a possible version of Ruth Ellis, but the latter may potentially be easier from a legal/creative perspective.

Characterisation:

I love the detail about Ruth granting her mother the gift of perfect English within her story, so that 'just for once, she isn't an outsider.' It's a beautiful detail which tells you so much about both women, and encourages us to feel sympathetic towards them both. It's the little details that really do bring characters alive for readers so I'd encourage you to think about what tell-tale detail might define each of your characters for a reader and allow us to step inside their lives; I'd have liked to have seen how Muriel acted after she returned home after the birth, did she, for example, ever show any tenderness towards baby Robert or any physical signs of how she was coping with her altered body? On a related note, I was a little surprised – although I imagine this is based on what actually happened – that Ruth was so quick to leave Muriel behind when she went to London with Edna. Would Muriel have felt betrayed by this? Was Ruth sorry to leave her older sister?

Although I always had a strong sense of the bond between Ruth and Muriel, I'd have liked to have seen a little more to suggest how the relationship between the sisters and their mother worked – did she feel guilty for what they endured at the hands of their father? Did she ever attempt to protect them? Did Ruth pity her mother, or was she angry with her for what was happening? I think the relationship between the women is a potentially fascinating one, so it would be lovely if you could tease this out a little further for us.

Quality of writing:

'I can tell by the way the sound slips and slides in his mouth that he's been drinking' I thought this was an extremely perceptive line, it really captures that slurred sense of someone who is drunk. I also thought that first scene with Ruth and Muriel at the seaside together was a very vivid, creative piece of writing, really capturing that first encounter with the sea and giving us such a strong sense of this bright, original little girl.

During the first attack on Ruth by her father, 'As if he's the one the pain' – I think there must be a word missing here, 'with the pain' perhaps?

Dialogue:

I think your dialogue is generally good, but just be wary of it sounding a little too modern for the setting: Ruth's line to her father about 'Here's how it's going to be' felt a little jarring to me. It can be a tricky balance to make sure that the dialogue feels natural and not too formal or too modern but I think you generally strike a good balance throughout.

Plot/Structure:

I think the quality of your writing is generally very good, but I did want to flag a concern I had about the conventional structure of your story as it stands. There's not necessarily anything 'wrong' as such in the way you tell your story and many books are told in a similar way and work very well, but the publishing world is so very competitive at the moment that you really need your writing to be as good and as original as you possibly can be so I would be remiss in not mentioning this.

The way your story opens, by essentially summarising Ruth's background from child to adult, tells us a lot about her, but it's not necessarily that exciting or that original to read – in some ways, it feels a little as if we're treading water to get to the main meat of the story and you never want readers to feel like they're just waiting for the proper story to begin. What generally makes for the more interesting and involving reads, is one that's able to blend the backstory into the main narrative so that rather than us being told a stream of facts all in one go, we pick them up as we go along and are able to weave them together to form our own understanding of the characters.

Your opening few pages are very strong – full of incident and intrigue and atmosphere and I suppose I was just a little disappointed that we then go right back to the start and work our way through Ruth's story in quite a conventional, chronological order rather than starting further on in the story, in London say, with Edna and Ruth and her father and allowing the details of Ruth's childhood to seep out throughout the story. Other readers may not have the same concerns I do about the structuring of your narrative so please don't feel this is something that you have to do, but as you are obviously a strong, confident writer, I'd encourage you to be that bit braver, that bit bolder with how you're telling us this story.

The final scene between Ruth and her father is fairly pivotal in that we suddenly see the balance of power shifting between them, and I think in some respects we rush through this a little quickly. I'd love to have seen you spending a little longer on this moment as we see Ruth confront the man who has been abusing her for so long and win over him – very few victims of abuse would ever have been able to do this so I think it's important to show how she was able to do this, especially if the argument is later that Ruth was manipulated and bullied into committing murder, which suggests someone a slightly weaker character, perhaps.

Conclusion:

I thought this was a very strong piece of work indeed and if I've made a series of recommendations, it's only because I think these are changes that you would be more than capable of and because it's important to make sure you're challenging yourself to produce the very best work possible. The world of publishing is very competitive, so show agents and publishers your originality and your talents.

Good luck!

Alison, Editor, Random House
YouWriteOn
 07 Sep 2015, 23:54 #185885 Reply To Post


Wildcard by David Greenwood

Congratulations on being one of the top rated stories – this was an interesting beginning to a story, with a very appealing setting in Jersey.

I think you have several interesting elements in the story as it stands and for the next stage, I'd just encourage you to focus on tightening it all up a little. Sometimes it felt – as, for example, when Ryan tells us about how he and Rachel are on very different paths in life– that you took several lines to say what could be summed up in just one. Several lines of description that essentially say very similar things actually work to dilute the impact of what you are saying, rather than to add to the impression you're trying to create, so I'd like you to be as critical as possible when you're working through this for your next draft and really be ruthless, pruning everything back unless it's completely essential. This can mean removing just a single word here and there, for example, in the line 'skin like antique leather' I don't think the word 'antique' adds anything to the description as we understand from the leather comparison how the person described will look.

On another Rachel-related note, journalist and illustrator is a relatively unusual combination; you do have people who write and illustrate but they tend to work in childrens’ books, for example, rather than in the national media. It just seemed slightly incongruous to me to hear Ryan describing himself as living the life of an 'impoverished artist' and Rachael as 'groomed' when most journalists, and especially illustrators are more likely to be living that impoverished chaotic lifestyle! Perhaps it might be better if Rachel was solely a journalist?

Good luck with your next draft, and with your writing in general.

The June Girl by Karen Milner

Congratulations on having one of the top rated stories.

The opening of your novel has the potential to be really very dramatic – there's obviously something very wrong with Angelique, but what? Who is the June Girl? – but in its current form it's perhaps a little cluttered, smothering the pace of the narrative.

I'd really like to see you pare back some of the writing to let a reader actually picture the scene clearly; there are so many details and quite a lot of descriptive material in these opening pages, making it difficult to know what a reader should focus on, and it feels that you're trying a little too hard in these pages rather than relaxing into the writing. A reader wants to feel confident in the writer from the very first lines so I'd suggest, as an experiment, that you try and write this scene again but just using very simple language to relate the action rather than trying to describe anything in great detail, and then compare the two versions to see what works and what could be cut back to benefit the story overall.

The same principles could be applied throughout – there are some great elements in your story, and there's a nice sense of menace developing through Camilla's stalker but sometimes it feels like they are buried under the density of the writing itself so I'd really encourage you to explore ways in which you can balance the demands of the actual plot and pace of the book – the elements that will keep readers hooked, turning the pages – with the need to create a sense of atmosphere and vivid characterisation. On another note, Camilla's version of Angelique does seem a little of a clichéd Ice Queen at points, although I can completely understand that this may well be how a teenager would see her mother at this point in her life and it may be that as the story unfolds her understanding of her mother deepens and becomes richer.

I hope these notes have been helpful, and good luck with your writing in the future.

Night Shadows – CS Lewando

What a great opening to a book! Tense, terrifying and very dramatic; it had me holding my breath as I read. And then the sudden switch to a very different, equally dramatic scene on Earth with no obvious connection at all.

If I had a minor quibble about the latter scene, I would say that I think you need to tread relatively carefully when writing more 'urban/street' dialogue as it can come across as a little clumsy/patronising so I'd like you to have a second look at Vic's dialogue in particular. Do also try and avoid repetition where possible – two uses of the word 'laconic' within a few paragraphs, for example – and language which might feel a little outdated, 'duffed up' and 'Bog off' both seems a touch old-fashioned for a journalist, for example. It's a very minor detail but I'm not sure of the date of your chapters, so would the pub carpet really be burnt as the smoking ban has been in force for a while now?

This was a very confident opening to a story and although I couldn't see how the unfolding scene on Earth linked to the opening scene, I found that intriguing and wanted to know what would come to link them. Helen is a brash, appealing central character and her relationship with Tom has the potential to be very interesting, knowing what we do about his murder of Vic. I’m sure many readers will be intrigued to know how it all comes together.

Alison, Editor, Random House
YouWriteOn
 07 Sep 2015, 23:55 #185886 Reply To Post
Fourteen Paper Planes

Dear Mike,

I’ve so enjoyed going through the sample chapters of Fourteen Paper Planes – you have created a really well-developed world, and there’s a great deal I like very much about these early chapters. I do have a few thoughts and suggestions and questions; I’ve outlined these below. Really, they’re about making more of what you already have – and it might be worth just really clarifying your USP and one-line pitch – but I hope they’re useful to you as you revisit the manuscript.

Your reader

In mixing what is traditionally a genre that’s very female orientated ( fairies), with a male human hero and some action-adventure, you have potentially got a very wide appeal here, but I’m wondering if you could do more to position your book from the off. Would some sort of prologue flashback or forward showing either past or future battles in the fairy world could really help to show readers that the book is not a traditional cutesy fairy novel.

What you’ve created is really well executed and conceived, but there are some familiar tropes in here (a magical book, a friendship between someone from a magical world and a human). This is in no way a criticism, but you should take every opportunity to pull out the elements that make your novel unique – in the writing, and in the way you describe your book going forward.

Your synopsis
The pace you’ve got in these opening chapters is great and I don’t want to make it flabby, but the 30,000 words you mention in your synopsis doesn’t seem quite enough for you to tell all you want to, and allow us to get to know your characters in a way that Middle Grade readers might want. If it feels as though some later sections are a little rushed, you shouldn’t be afraid to allow yourself the space and word count to do them justice.

Is this start of more books? Do you see it as a series? I don’t think you say in your synopsis, but I think acquiring editors and agents would be interested in this. It might be worth you spending a little time very loosely mapping out where else James’ and Starlet’s stories could take them.

James
I like very much how emotionally complex he is. Occasionally, however, I did find that his voice slips a little and he no longer sounds like a realistic twelve-year-old. He – as the human character – is going to really drive us through the book so he needs to be totally consistent and 3D.

I think you could take the space to allow us to get to know him better. If we really appreciate his loss and what a struggle he’s finding life in the real human world, then we will be really rooting for him when Starlet has him in her sights. Perhaps we could see him a little more in his human life before introducing he and Starlet to each other? I’m also interested in seeing his reactions to things more deeply and clearly. What’s he thinking and feeling when he first spies Starlet, for example?

Is there a personal arc for him/he and his father throughout the book? That would be a great sub-plot; you don’t mention it in your synopsis.

Starlet
She’s a potentially brilliant character, I think. I wonder if there’s just a little more to be done in order to really bring out her character and her voice for the reader. There are occasional flashes of her actually being a little too spoilt and unlikable. I imagine this is meant to come across as her being a very spirited character? It might help for us to spend a little longer in her life before she meets James so that we really understand why she wants to break out of the only world she has known.

Her hopes and fears are as key to the plot as James’s – why is ejection so awful? Does she have no friends and family in her world? What’s her set-up?

Seeing her interacting with peers might be interesting.

Your world
As I said above, this is clearly really well-thought-out, and the rules and facets of it are all strong. However, I did pick up some detail about the world and characters through the synopsis rather than the telling of the story itself. It might just be worth checking that you have woven in as much detail as you can – as subtly as possible – so that readers are really getting a 3D sense of your world.

I really like the hint of the bigger picture we get towards the end of these sample chapters, with the threat of pressing the intruder alarm mentioned. I think there’s maybe more to be done here in showing us how the fairy world and human world co-exist.

And I think that’s everything I wanted to mention here! Congratulations on being chosen for review. I can completely see why you have, and have very much enjoyed the chance to read and report on Fourteen Paper Planes (perhaps it’s worth mulling on a title that gets more of a sense of magical action across?). The very best of luck with it – and with all your writing.

Ruth
Penguin Random House

YouWriteOn
 07 Sep 2015, 23:58 #185887 Reply To Post
STEP UP by Will Miller

I found this a really interesting read that’s absolutely intriguing from the start. There are two potentially brilliant strands and characters in the sample I’ve read, but I do feel there’s the scope to make both work a little harder.

In general I’d love to see a little more rather than being told. For example – the scene where Lorelai searches the wardrobe and then finds the passports could be incredibly tense and exciting. I’d love to see her doing this. And with Jahangir being interrogated at the airport – I don’t feel we fully see how he feels and is reacting to what must be a terrifyingly tense experience. You’ve got a lot of dialogue in here, which is great in that it really keeps us zipping along, but I think you could allow for some more detail allowing us to really get to know these two characters, showing us their genuine reactions to what’s happening to them. This would also make their two voices more distinct from each other, I think.
Publishers and agents will want to know what inspired you to write about these gritty subjects. Is there a personal connection? These are two very dark and potentially controversial topics you’re covering (presumably for young people rather than adults based on the sample chapters) and so when submitting, you might like to prepare something that explains why you have felt compelled to write a book like this.
Finally –I wondered if you could get a more distinct title that reflects the content of the book and positions it for readers more clearly?


SOUL HOSTS by Joseph Issacs


This is really intriguing from the off, and there are some very strong voices in here. It’s clearly a very well though-out world too. Congratulations!

My main note on the sample I’ve read is that I did find it quite confusing and quite hard to follow in places. It’s obviously key to get real clarity in here so the world is as vivid on the page as it is in your head. Your dialogue is great – slick and snappy but it doesn’t always give us the info and detail we need. Wayden is vital in this as he’s the one who is going to lead us through the world, with its unfamiliar rules and language. Readers need to feel like they are being allowed to get to know him well and empathise with him. Getting more detail and immediacy into the flashback scenes would help with this perhaps – I did felt a little distanced. You might also want to look at the setting, I think. Is this a world parallel to our own world and time?

Your synopsis sounds just as interesting as the sample suggest it would be. There is a lot going on, though. I suggest you rigorously that every character and plot strand works as hard as it could. Do you definitely need them all?
Just for interest if you don’t know them, I think you would like both Jonathan Stroud’s Bartimaeus sequence, and Donald Hounam’s novel, Gifted.

YES OR NO by Tim Robson

This is lovely writing, and it’s atmospheric and intriguing throughout. Whilst you held my attention, however, I have to admit to feel confused about what this is and who it’s for. I wonder could you give a bit more away in the opening section along these lines?

Because it is so oblique in its style and nature, and we don’t know anything about the characters, I did wonder if there needed to be something a little more tangible in the way of plot to keep your readers’ interest piqued? It is a slight short story and I think it wouldn’t make it flabby to give us just a bit more substance in this way.

With writing that’s so atmospheric and literary in feel, at points it can feel repetitive. This is just something to look out for. But this is clearly lovely writing and I wish you the best of luck.

THE ICHTYS KISS by S. E. Dyne

I really like the very dynamic opening of this – you throw us straight in, and it works well. As we progress through the sample (and then obviously the book as a whole) I did wonder if you could do more with certain elements to make the most of what you’ve got here.

We want to be getting as many details wherever we can about Anaela, for example. We’re with her as she is piecing together clues about herself and this could be incredibly dynamic. Is she as panicked and confused as she would be? Does she ask as many questions? If she doesn’t buy the story about meningitis then wouldn’t she have her guard way up? Think about escaping?

I also wondered if you could make the nuns even more sinister and mysterious – they really add to the drama of this world Anaela has ‘woken up’ in and there’s scope to make them even more filmic, I feel.

There are some familiar dystopian tropes in here. They’re very dynamic, so this is not a criticism, but I feel it would be worthwhile for you to really pull out your USP. Is this your characters? If so – they need to be as 3D and powerful as they possibly can.

A small point, but I found your synopsis a little confusing. Why do we open in 2011, for example? You could use it to explain what exactly the Cronus Trust is, and why Anaela is taken to school in the first place if her Grandmother wants her all along. Your synopsis could really work at selling what a brilliant book you’ve got here!


Ruth, Editor,
Penguin Random House

We will add further editor critiques as received.


jonstevens
 02 Oct 2015, 10:33 #186655 Reply To Post
I have finally managed to access the critique and am very grateful for your comments, Alison. I will certainly take up your suggestion of trying to weave the backstory into the main narrative to better effect. I've got a fair amount of rewriting to do now but I know it will make the finished novel a much better one in the end! Many thanks once again.

Quote: YouWriteOn, Monday, 7 Sep 2015 23:54
Bloomsbury / Random House / Orion Critiques latest editor critiques for the last competition period.

We will add further editor critiques as received.


Random House Reviews


I Still Believe/J A Stevens


Congratulations on being one of the top rated stories, with this very confident, very strong opening to a novel. Interweaving fact and fiction can be very appealing to readers, and I think many people will be fascinated to read a novel that revolves around such a notorious character, although do just bear in mind that there are likely to be some readers who will hold strong views about the case, as she was a real person. I am not sure whether you intend for this to be a direct fictionalised biography or whether 'your' Ruth is more of a possible version of Ruth Ellis, but the latter may potentially be easier from a legal/creative perspective.

Characterisation:

I love the detail about Ruth granting her mother the gift of perfect English within her story, so that 'just for once, she isn't an outsider.' It's a beautiful detail which tells you so much about both women, and encourages us to feel sympathetic towards them both. It's the little details that really do bring characters alive for readers so I'd encourage you to think about what tell-tale detail might define each of your characters for a reader and allow us to step inside their lives; I'd have liked to have seen how Muriel acted after she returned home after the birth, did she, for example, ever show any tenderness towards baby Robert or any physical signs of how she was coping with her altered body? On a related note, I was a little surprised – although I imagine this is based on what actually happened – that Ruth was so quick to leave Muriel behind when she went to London with Edna. Would Muriel have felt betrayed by this? Was Ruth sorry to leave her older sister?

Although I always had a strong sense of the bond between Ruth and Muriel, I'd have liked to have seen a little more to suggest how the relationship between the sisters and their mother worked – did she feel guilty for what they endured at the hands of their father? Did she ever attempt to protect them? Did Ruth pity her mother, or was she angry with her for what was happening? I think the relationship between the women is a potentially fascinating one, so it would be lovely if you could tease this out a little further for us.

Quality of writing:

'I can tell by the way the sound slips and slides in his mouth that he's been drinking' I thought this was an extremely perceptive line, it really captures that slurred sense of someone who is drunk. I also thought that first scene with Ruth and Muriel at the seaside together was a very vivid, creative piece of writing, really capturing that first encounter with the sea and giving us such a strong sense of this bright, original little girl.

During the first attack on Ruth by her father, 'As if he's the one the pain' – I think there must be a word missing here, 'with the pain' perhaps?

Dialogue:

I think your dialogue is generally good, but just be wary of it sounding a little too modern for the setting: Ruth's line to her father about 'Here's how it's going to be' felt a little jarring to me. It can be a tricky balance to make sure that the dialogue feels natural and not too formal or too modern but I think you generally strike a good balance throughout.

Plot/Structure:

I think the quality of your writing is generally very good, but I did want to flag a concern I had about the conventional structure of your story as it stands. There's not necessarily anything 'wrong' as such in the way you tell your story and many books are told in a similar way and work very well, but the publishing world is so very competitive at the moment that you really need your writing to be as good and as original as you possibly can be so I would be remiss in not mentioning this.

The way your story opens, by essentially summarising Ruth's background from child to adult, tells us a lot about her, but it's not necessarily that exciting or that original to read – in some ways, it feels a little as if we're treading water to get to the main meat of the story and you never want readers to feel like they're just waiting for the proper story to begin. What generally makes for the more interesting and involving reads, is one that's able to blend the backstory into the main narrative so that rather than us being told a stream of facts all in one go, we pick them up as we go along and are able to weave them together to form our own understanding of the characters.

Your opening few pages are very strong – full of incident and intrigue and atmosphere and I suppose I was just a little disappointed that we then go right back to the start and work our way through Ruth's story in quite a conventional, chronological order rather than starting further on in the story, in London say, with Edna and Ruth and her father and allowing the details of Ruth's childhood to seep out throughout the story. Other readers may not have the same concerns I do about the structuring of your narrative so please don't feel this is something that you have to do, but as you are obviously a strong, confident writer, I'd encourage you to be that bit braver, that bit bolder with how you're telling us this story.

The final scene between Ruth and her father is fairly pivotal in that we suddenly see the balance of power shifting between them, and I think in some respects we rush through this a little quickly. I'd love to have seen you spending a little longer on this moment as we see Ruth confront the man who has been abusing her for so long and win over him – very few victims of abuse would ever have been able to do this so I think it's important to show how she was able to do this, especially if the argument is later that Ruth was manipulated and bullied into committing murder, which suggests someone a slightly weaker character, perhaps.

Conclusion:

I thought this was a very strong piece of work indeed and if I've made a series of recommendations, it's only because I think these are changes that you would be more than capable of and because it's important to make sure you're challenging yourself to produce the very best work possible. The world of publishing is very competitive, so show agents and publishers your originality and your talents.

Good luck!

Alison, Editor, Random House


ProfessionalCritique
 14 Oct 2015, 01:00 #186737 Reply To Post
Orion Editor Review of The Bogglewip



See attached for line editor critique.

There’s a lot to like in this extract. The writing style is straightforward and, grammatically, pretty spot-on. There are a few tweaks I’d make – everything is in the attached MS, along with my comments and thoughts. Just a couple of headline things:

The jump between the ‘bogglewip writing’ opener and the Princess’s chapters is quite jarring the first time. It gets better later on, as we get more used to the idea, but they do feel like they’re from two different novels. Without reading the whole thing, of course, it’s hard to tell if the concept is pulled off throughout, but certainly on a first read I was a little thrown.

Again, without reading the whole thing this is hard to judge, but 39k words seems short, given that we’ve used 7k of them to get to this point, which is really only the beginning of the plot. Do you need to tighten this up a bit, or expand that later sections, to avoid it being unbalanced?

Tone. Do you know exactly what age you’re aiming this at? The writing and some of the jokes are quite YA-friendly, but at times I felt you were aiming a little older. And some of the running jokes (like the way he’ll be cooked by Mr Grim) are perhaps played a little too often.

I realise the synopsis is for YWO, not submission, but I think you go into a little too much plot detail, and not enough about where you see the book sitting in the market.

I wish you the best of luck with it – comedic kids writing is hard, and you’ve done a very good job on the basis of what I’ve seen here.

Marcus, Editor, Orion

Attachments
YWO bogglewip MG version.doc (76Kb) - 157 view(s)
ProfessionalCritique
 14 Oct 2015, 01:02 #186738 Reply To Post
We will post the remaining editor critiques once received. Apologies for the delay, we had to reassign re the editor the remaining stories went to initially because of their workload. As soon as the remaining critiques are received we will add to forum.
YouWriteOn
 01 Dec 2015, 02:15 #187178 Reply To Post
Apologies for the delay for these ones, here they are ..


Random House Editor Reviews

The Shadow Beneath


This is clearly, accomplished writing with a sense of atmosphere from the beginning. On reading your full synopsis, however, I wonder if this opening section is impactful enough to be the perfect set-up for what is clearly a dark and deep multi-layered novel. Could you get more tension in here? Maybe you could even think about a short prologue before we meet Steve and Lucy, something that clearly throws your reader into a sophisticated murder mystery?

It’s clearly quite unlikely and extremely risky for a young woman alone to pick up a man as Lucy does here. Can we see Steve doing more questioning of the situation but being reassured enough by her that we are all lulled into a false sense of security? Steve observes everything and he does ask questions at the moment, but we get none of his reactions to them or more generally. I really wanted to get to know him a little better, and this is also something that will make his death even more impactful when it comes.

You’re clearly going on to tackle some big themes and action and the synopsis seems intriguing and well-balanced as well as having a different hook to the glut of murder mystery novels in the market. With this in mind I did just wonder if your title sounded a little too generic. Is it quite doing your interesting novel justice?
Congratulations!

Samuel Pepys and the Stolen Diaries

There’s a great deal to like in your sample chapters and synopsis, congratulations.

It works well to throw your readers straight into the action, but that does then mean that we don’t have any context to what we’re seeing, or the people involved, and so it needs to be woven in as you go along. I feel you’ve got the space in here to do more of this throughout, and particularly in these opening pages to give us more set-up to the novel and its premise. You’ve got lots of great dialogue in here that really is sparky but I feel we need more around the dialogue. More of the period atmosphere, a little more narration (without it feeling laboured) and more of your character’s personalities and thoughts and reactions to things would all add an extra 3D layer to our reading experience here.

Your synopsis sounds very well-thought-out and interesting, but I would just say that it seems potentially quite complicated in parts and you have got a large cast here. I don’t know where you are in your writing process but when revisiting the book, it’s always worth checking through that every scene and every character is completely needed and truly drives the plot forward.
I was struggling to completely position your novel and this might be something to think about, as once you have your book down in full, a positioning line can help to work out which parts of the novel to play up and also down. Are you seeing this as a historical thriller, for example? If so, maybe you could get a darker feel to the opening? Or do you want this to have a lighter feel? You’re in a great place to do this as your world is obviously so well developed.

White Roses

I have really enjoyed reading these sample chapters, which are very accomplished and full of atmosphere – congratulations.

You’ve created such interesting characters and it’s such an interesting setting that I think you could afford to relish in the atmosphere even more actually. I’d love some more rich period detail – dresses, houses, transport, people etc - even the smallest detail can really bring the period to life and are fascinating to readers of historical fiction.

Your dialogue is strong and the contrast between the characters good but I did wonder if we maybe moved away from Cecily too often in this opening section. As she is the heart of the plot, we really do want to get to know her and like her respect her. It would be good, I think, to be further along with this before we’re pulled away from her. All the political intrigue and courtly drama we will then be seeing clearly from Cecily’s view and we’ll understand how it affects her personally as well as the larger ramifications on the court and the country.
As you acknowledge in your synopsis, this area of the market is a full one, with Philippa Gregory as the market leader. Whilst the appetite for fiction in this genre is seemingly relentless and the War of the Roses indeed an especially appealing period, it is always worth thinking about the uniqueness of your book and pulling it out. This seems to me to be the introduction of magical realism through your fey character. Is it worthwhile doing more to establish this up front, maybe?


Global Wandering: Don’t Fly With Me, Argentinas

Your Global Wanderings idea is an interesting one and as you point out in your pitch, there’s a potentially wide readership here. For me, however, finding this wide readership is going to come completely once you’ve found the right narrative thread.

You can clearly write, and way you are intimate and relaxed with your readers from the off is incredibly engaging and warm. However it feels like you, as the narrator, need to open up more to your readers and allow them to get to know your personality. They are choosing to read this rather than buying a travel guide because of your unique take on the places you’ve visited and so we want you to share this with us. What have you learnt about yourself and the people you’ve met through your travels? I’d love to know.

Your descriptions are beautiful and there’s a lot of interesting information in here but it does feel rather episodic. Again, it’s you and your opinion as the hero of your own piece who is going to pull this together. Readers will want to know why you’re telling us the anecdotes you are, and feel like they are right there with you.

The very best of luck as you pull this really interesting book together.

Killing Venus

There’s a lot to like in here and your characters – Emma and Marie, particularly – feel very authentic. As Emma is such a strong character, I feel you could really develop her even more so that we feel we know her. I would love to have more of a sense of her anguish about what she’s going through (though I love the way you balance the bleakness through her lively friendship with Marie), and her thoughts and feelings and reactions to what is going on around her. When we first see Alfred attack her for example, we could have a heightened sense of fear and atmosphere if we knew what was going on in Emma’s head and how she reacted.

Alfred is an intriguing character and potentially fantastic. On reading your synopsis I wonder if we do give him away too early. Would it work for Emma to find him much more charming for much longer (although you might allow your readers some clues that Emma herself isn’t getting) so that the shock of his true identity is greater and more impactful?

I really like the idea of your interweaving plots, and your synopsis sounds intriguing. I did wonder if the ending felt as powerful as it could be, given how attached your readers will feel to both Emma and Polly by that stage. Parts four and five sound very strong but maybe there’s a little more to be done to pull your two plots together in part six? You’ve created such an exciting and interesting story here, so congratulations.


Ruth,
Editor
Random House

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